You know what pisses me off? The idea that feelings can be wrong. That emotions are inherently good or bad.
I SO disagree with this. Every emotion is valid. Every emotion has a purpose. The challenge is for us to –
Recognise the emotion
Figure out what it’s telling us
Be conscious of how (or if) we act on it
For example, there’s absolutely nothing inherently wrong with being angry! But there is something wrong with taking our anger out on people. (Don’t get stabby. Stabby is bad.)
If, though, we can recognise that we’re feeling angry and pause to figure out what that’s about, we can then decide whether or not we need to act on that anger.
So on that note, what’s on my mind today is how as Kiwis we’re still not that great at expressing our emotions (or that comfortable with others expressing theirs). And in a country where we have disgustingly high suicide rates, this feels to me like a simple, tangible thing we can all be working on.
It’s also super relevant while we’re on national lockdown here in Aotearoa New Zealand. Cos lockdown is all kinds of mindfuckery.
But sharing how we’re feeling is an act of generosity! It’s a gift to those around us and it’s a gift to ourselves.
I have an amazing team of people who care for one of my daughters. One of them recently told the rest of us about something personal going on in her world – the anniversary of the death of a child – and how that was bringing lots of things up for her. It wasn’t a huge announcement. It wasn’t some big disclosure. It was a “Hey guys, If I’m a bit teary or my emotions are close to the surface at the moment, here’s why.”
We were SO GRATEFUL to her letting us in. I was so grateful for the gift she gave us – the gift of us understanding what was going on with her. The gift of not worrying if she was quiet, or teary. The gift of being able to give her the right space or the right words or the right listening ears.
So I wonder if we could all commit to telling people how we’re feeling today. And maybe again tomorrow.
Even just saying – I’m having an emotional reaction to that, and I’m going to take some time to work through it.
I’m feeling anxious.
This is not being needy. This is not asking for anything. This is not being weak or broken. It’s sharing information. It’s a GIFT to those around us so they can KNOW. So they can understand. So they have the information they need, so they can decide if there’s anything they want to do in response.
You know what else might happen?
They might feel less alone. The words you’re brave enough to say just might be the words they wish they could say. Your example might be the greatest gift you can give them.
And I don’t usually. I hardly ever have. Like, ever.
You see, as a full-time working single mum for years and years, my goal was to simplify and streamline every aspect of my life. Reduce stress, reduce workload, make things manageable. And I couldn’t FOR THE LIFE OF ME understand why anyone would try to fit in hanging freaking washing outside on the line in amongst everything else they have on their plate. Like, seriously. You go to all that effort (time, baby, TIME), and then half the time it ends up raining before you get home from work and then, well fuck.
And yes, my privilege is showing. Not everyone can afford to have and run a clothes dryer.
But I’m a big believer in owning our own truth without having to validate it against the experiences of others, so here I am, reflecting on the clothes currently hanging on my washing line.
Anyway, I was opposed. I thought hanging out washing wasn’t smart, and I’m a smart person.
Roll on 2021, and my desperate desire to use my body, be more present, and commit to less. Suddenly, hanging out the washing on a sunny day while I’m working from home is an exercise in mindfulness. It’s claiming a few peaceful minutes out in the fresh air, breathing. It’s become a thing that helps me live the way I want to.
And that, m’loves is what I think our lives should be all about:
Do what’s right for us, our body, our spirit
Know that “what’s right” changes. Constantly.
Remember that reflection and being present enough to notice things is where huge amounts of our growth and power reside
Is there a position you’ve had on something, a belief, an opinion, that you could revisit given your current stage in life?
I don’t have the answer, but I wanted to ask, while I reflected on how for me, today, hanging out washing is something that’s really good for me.
I’m working super hard on emotional regulation at the moment (aka holding my shit together in healthy ways – more about that in my upcoming tour). And so I wanted to share with you just a little reframe that’s helping me right now: I get to or I have to?
Oh but first you need to know this: After 17 years on antidepressants, I’ve stopped taking them recently. I don’t think I’m living with depression anymore. I’m a very different human than I was for many of those 17 years. But OMG you guys everything is so feely! I am feeling EVERYTHING.
And so that’s where this story starts
I had to pop down the road to get my car serviced, which would have been fine, except #roadworks means the 10-minute drive was more like 45mins. And it was fucking freezing. Who knew Rotorua has such heavy frosts in Autumn?
I would have liked to be rugged up in my office getting shit done. But instead, I had to go out in the icy morning to sit in traffic for ever. If there’s anything that triggers me, feeling like precious time is being wasted is one of those things.
So I’m in the car, shivering, waiting for it to warm up, and watching the cars creeping along. Getting grumpier by the second. I waited for someone to let me into the line of traffic, and I got more and more critical of the people who were, well, being irritatingly human while they drove. Following too close. Not moving fast enough. Not watching what’s happening. Breathing. You know, shit like that.
And I could feel my shoulders getting more and more tense. And I could feel the pressure building up at the base of my skull. And I could feel my breathing was shallow.
So I took a deep breath. Dropped my shoulders. Loosened my neck. Lifted my eyes, and breathed.
And I thought: How good is my life? I get to take this morning slowly and make sure my car stays reliable and safe. I get to feel the sunshine and have the heater blowing on my toes. I get sweet hot milky coffee. I’m comfortable. I’m safe. Life is good.
It’s a simple reframe from I HAVE TO, to I GET TO
I have to sit in traffic becomes I get to have a relaxed morning and take things slow. I get to enjoy my coffee and breathe and listen to a podcast.
I felt much less stabby.
Strange how that happens!
I find myself doing this pretty often.
I have to bring in firewood becomes I get to use my body and keep it strong by carrying firewood.
I have to catch a plane becomes I get to have a break from my everyday responsibilities.
I have to join a zoom meeting becomes I get to spend some time with cool people!
Even if I’m sick… I have to stay in bed becomes I get to rest and recover.
Spoiler alert – not mine. Because, whose problem is that? Beeaaatch – that sounds like a you problem and not a me problem.
First of all, credit where it’s due – my friend Tracy Hemingway said these words to me in conversation recently, and I just stole them.
If you want to make your finances not an anyone problem (ie fix them), you should talk to her – she’s the Debt-Free Diva and she’s AMAZING.
But anyway, back to my story.
The weight of others
Most of us spend our lives influenced to a great extent by what others think of us. We can extend that to include their expectations, their judgment, their opinions. We choose (subconsciously) to make all of those things our problem. We take on the weight of their expectations and act accordingly.
In particular, my experience has been that I allow other people’s emotions to be my problem. I feel responsible to make people happy.
Well, let me tell you, that’s a recipe for disaster.
Calling all the people pleasers and the ones with the over-developed responsibility gene. And actually, if I’m honest, calling all humans.
Can you imagine how POWERFUL it would be if you lived the way you want to, not the way others want you to?
Now, there are two things I’m not suggesting:
What I’m not suggesting #1: That you’re all oppressed and living miserable lives
We can be living fairly good happy lives and still be able to live more powerfully. I mean, when you went out last Sunday and didn’t wear that dress you considered wearing – why not? Because of what other people might think? When you got your hair cut yesterday because short back and sides are considered professional and even though you were enjoying it a bit longer you thought you’d better toe the professional line? Yeah, those things.
If I put it simply, you’ll never know how it can feel to stand in your truth, be fully and authentically you, if you don’t try it. And every tiny decision we make based on other people’s opinions is a brick in the wall that stands between us and our most powerful selves.
What I’m not suggesting #2: That you should never care about anyone’s feeling but yours.
If you did that you’d be a psychopath, and the world doesn’t need more of those. There’s a pretty clear line (once you look for it) between giving no fucks and only giving selective fucks. I’m encouraging the latter.
I believe we all have an obligation to move through our lives in ways that don’t cause harm to others. Be a good human. But there’s a difference between being a good human and being a people pleaser.
You want the night off from cooking dinner because you’re tired and you’re not a slave and the other humans in your house are completely capable of having weetbix or toast? Oh, and they’re upset about that? That’s not you causing harm. They own their response to your self-care, not you. Their emotions are a them problem, and not a you problem.
And that’s what I wanted to get to, really.
That sounds like a you problem and not a me problem
These days I try to live my life very aware of the potential consequences of my actions and my words (or my inaction and my silence). I am powerful in my world when I can live my truth, see that others have opinions on that, and choose not to make their opinions my problem.
I recently had a client make a decision about my services that I didn’t agree with. I had a lot of emotions around that decision. I had feelings of failure and fear and embarrassment. Most of all, I disagreed with their decision. I thought they’d got it wrong and they were heading down a path that wouldn’t get them the outcome they wanted.
After taking some time to process my emotions, I created a list of what was mine and what was theirs:
The right to run their business the way they want
The right to change their mind
The right to hire and fire me as they wish
The right to have opinions about the quality of my work
The right to decide they could get more value elsewhere
The obligation to pay me for my services
The obligation to deliver what the client asked
The right to get paid for doing it
The obligation to let them know if professionally, I thought they were creating risk for themselves
The obligation to respect their wishes once I’d said what my professional integrity drove me to say
The right to give NO POWER to any opinion they might now hold about me
The right to give NO POWER to my emotional responses because they were just that – emotional responses, not truth
The right to close a door on the whole situation and just let the rest of it be a them problem and not a me problem
On New Year’s Day 2017, I wrote advice to my children. Four years later I decided to sit down and do it again – a bit of an experiment to see how my advice had changed over 4 years.
As it turns out? A lot. The advice I gave them in 2017 remained true but it was refined, honed, concentrated. The broad principles have become more focused.
I think probably what I’ve done here is encapsulate MY greatest learnings of the past 4 years. Thought I’d share them with you.
1 – Have boundaries
We can love more, love more wholeheartedly, and love in wellness when we have boundaries.
2 – Disappoint people
Don’t live your life to please others, not on any level. So disappoint me, disappoint your grandparents. Disappoint your boss, your neighbour, anyone you need to, in pursuit of not disappointing you.
3 – Know you can do hard things
and then do them.
4 – Be brave
Take risks. Calculate the risk so you’re prepared for any outcome, but then be brave and do the thing. Miracles will happen.
5 – Feel all your feelings
That’s what they’re for. Sit with them. Give them voice. Honour them. And then:
6 – Write your own resourceful truth
When you’re done feeling those feelings, explore them. Understand what beliefs and meaning are at the root of them, and then ask yourself whose belief that is, if it’s true, and if it’s helpful. If the answers to those questions are not: mine, yes, and yes, then change it. Write yourself a resourceful truth.
In every moment. Because if you can’t do that, you’re keeping your happiness over the cognitive horizon and you’ll never get there.
8 – Understand that life is a series of THINGS
Some of those things we create, yes, but many – oh so many – just happen. Our challenge, then, is to understand that there will always be another thing. DO NOT spend your life waiting for the current thing to end: A pandemic. Your financial stress. A broken heart. If you wait for it to end, then as it does, or before it does, or soon after, there’ll be another thing, and you’ll spend your life in miserable limbo, waiting for the thing to end so that you can be happy.
9 – Own your happy
Understand your happy is in your full control and never give it away to anyone else. In that truth, you’ll always be powerful.
I want this for you.
Want to know more? Haven’t really got to know me yet? Weird, but ok.
Then there were the long periods where I put plants in the #letsnotevengothere box right along with pets (which are still in that box, FYI), because keeping tiny psychopaths alive was fucking hard enough, thank you very much.
Surviving or thriving
So for over 20 years, when I look around my house, I’ve been surrounded by either no plants or dead or dying ones.
That screams to me: SUR. VI. VAL.
I’m surviving, not thriving.
Now I find myself with an empty nest and the absolute luxury of committing time to self in ways I never have before.
Even so, running a business doing what you LOVE and being admired and respected is alluring when it comes to giving people your time. So much validation. So much praise… So much allure to say YES. And so, even without the in-my-face demands of children minute-to-minute, I’ve still struggled to find the right balance of space for me.
But my lovely people, right now I’m finding it. I’m in the VERY privileged position of being able to choose ONLY the work that is 100% in my joy. So in 2021, I am training and I am speaking. And that is IT.
Oh baby, look at them now!
And tirohia! Look at my plants!
Look at their glorious green lusciousness!!! They tell me this is working.
I’m thriving. #fuckyousurvival
Want to know more? Haven’t really got to know me yet? Weird, but ok.