On opportunities and trust


This past week, I almost signed up for a course that sounded really good to me. In fact, it sounded awesome and perfect. I know the creator of the course is amazing, and I’ve been wanting support in the area of the course material, and the pricing was just right.

It seemed like a no-brainer, but when it came to signing up, I was on the fence.

The deadline loomed and I couldn’t make up my mind. A part of me was convinced that if I didn’t take this course I’d regret it. And yet I couldn’t get myself to press the sign-up button.

I became really curious about what was going on for me here. I noticed that my mind was telling me it sounded great and it might be just what I needed and it was so inexpensive how could I not take it?

But when I dropped down from my mind, into my body, the idea of participating in the course felt heavy, even exhausting. It felt unnecessary. You don’t need it, my body said.

My mind started chattering, but … but … it has all these things you’ve been saying you need! It’s a chance for more learning, more connection, more growth! And it’s affordable! What’s wrong with you that you’re not signing up? The deadline, the deadline …

I dropped down into my body again, and got this message: We have enough learning, enough connection, enough growth for now. For right now, we have enough. Nothing more is needed.

I sat with this and I began to feel how supported I already am — even though my mind often tells me that I need “more support.”

As the deadline came and went, my mind did a wild, frantic dance. How can you pass up this opportunity? You must be mad. Mad, I tell you! You are going to regret this, bigtime!

The saner, quieter part of me sat and mused about all the noise my mind was making.

I saw my mind’s belief that the “right” opportunity only comes once, and that if I don’t grab it, I will be filled with regret. Forever.

I saw my mind’s belief that the “right” opportunity could totally transform my life. Forever.

I saw my mind’s belief that I need more of what I already have. Learning, connection, growth. Even if, at the moment, I feel “full.”

Then I thought about how the “true right” opportunities for me have usually had an organic feel to them. Like there was no decision to be made; the decision was making me, as Byron Katie might say.

When I am heavily on the fence, when there’s a forcing quality to a decision, usually the timing is not right — or perhaps I do not yet have enough information about the opportunity. Or, maybe, I just don’t need or want it.

Sometimes, it is difficult for me to say “I don’t want that.” And maybe even more difficult to say, “I don’t need it.”

But … what if I want it later? What if I need it later, and I don’t have it?

This comes up for me a lot when I decide to donate clothing or other things (which I’ve been doing a lot of this year). I’m convinced if I let something go, I’ll later regret that choice, or I’ll suddenly really need it and be without it.

What if that were to happen? What if I decide to let go of something and later realize I want it or need it? What then?

Can I tolerate the feeling of wanting? Of needing? Can I find alternative ways to meet that particular want or need?

(What more typically happens, at least with letting go of material things, is that I let go and never think of them again. This is not always so for other, more complex types of letting go.)

As for the course I decided not to take, my body is still fine with my decision, whereas from time to time over the past several days my mind has had a little fit — you should have signed up! What might you be missing out on?

The truth is, right now I don’t know exactly why my intuition (body wisdom) guided me away from this particular course. I may discover why later (maybe another opportunity that feels like a true YES will present itself). But, as I’ve written about before, intuition doesn’t always give us a reason. It simply knows. It’s trusting it that’s the tricky part.

And there’s something here, for me, about trusting that my needs will be met — sometimes, often, not in the exact way I think they will be, but they will be met. How many times do I consume more than I need because I am afraid that at some future point I will be deprived of what I need?

I think about the squirrels I see out and about all the time now, burying sustenance in the ground for the cold winter months. I’ve read that squirrels often forget where they bury things. I am like this, too, stocking up on things just in case and then forgetting.

What do you notice about trusting in your intuitive sense of what is enough for you? Is it difficult for you, too? I’d love it if you’d share, in the comments.

Image is “Squirrel with Peanut” © Kathy Davis | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Are You Really Procrastinating?

I had planned to write my next blog post on the subject of overwhelm, but inspiration took me in a different direction. Recently I was chatting with my wonderful friend and fellow coach Mackie Schaars about how “procrastinating” and “waiting for the right time” have different energies. “What a great topic for a blog post,” she said. Well, here it is. (There will be plenty more on the subject of overwhelm in coming weeks.)

In our “Just Do It” culture, it took me a while to really get that “not doing it” does not necessarily equal “procrastinating.” There was a time in my life when I firmly believed that if I wasn’t taking action on something, I was procrastinating. Then I would really beat myself up, which inevitably, eventually, led to further, worse procrastinating.

I like to refer to this type of extreme procrastination, triggered by extreme rebellion, as rebellinating. Way back in my teens and up through my early twenties, when I was a dieter (and my inner perfectionist had a deep preference for starvation diets), rebellinating would show up as bingeing on lasagna for six and an entire box of Twinkies after a week of carrots and sugar-free Popsicles. Rebellinating is a good tip-off that something bigger, something deeper, is probably going on.

Because here’s the deal: Sometimes, when I’m not taking action on something, it truly is procrastination. I’ll give you an example: I am long overdue for a visit to the dentist. We’re not talking months here, my friends. How do I know I am procrastinating on seeing the dentist? Because it feels really simple: I want to take care of my teeth, but I’m not doing it. There’s not going to be a “better time” to take care of my teeth. There’s nothing complicated going on. I know it’s a need I want to meet, and I’m not meeting it.

Sometimes, though, a situation feels a little more complex. I might tell myself I’m “procrastinating,” but that might be a lie. I need to look a little more closely. I need to ask questions.

Many years ago, I was having a rough time and I moved back in with my parents. I didn’t have a job, and my attempts to find one were few and far between. I felt lousier and lousier and started hating myself for procrastinating. I made some half-hearted attempts to job hunt, but my energy seemed to be repelling work. When I did get work through a temp agency, I left in the middle of an assignment, in the middle of the day.

The temp agency called and left an angry message. How dare I leave an assignment in the middle of the day? Yes, I thought — how dare I? What is wrong with me? I am ruining my life!

I called my therapist for an emergency session. What became clear as I spewed my stuff to her was that I was really, really tired. It was October, and back in April my immune system had shut down. I’d been sick with fevers for weeks, then months, and had finally ended up in the hospital for a few days when I could no longer eat or drink. Little by little, I’d gotten better physically, but my inability to work when I’d been sick had created quite a bit of debt, and that’s how I’d ended up back in Mom and Dad’s house.

My therapist pointed out that I hadn’t really rested that entire year. “Are you kidding me?” I said. “I’ve spent half the year lying in bed.” “No,” she said with a smile. “You’ve spent half the year fighting an illness.”

She instructed me to go home and dedicate myself to at least two full weeks of true relaxation. No job hunting, no beating myself up for procrastinating. I laughed at her; it was one of those laughs that came out like a snort. Yeah, right. I’d never known how to truly relax. My inner perfectionist enjoyed it when I ran myself into the ground (which, I was beginning to realize, was a big part of the reason I’d gotten so sick in the first place).

But I felt strangely light and free after the therapy session. I did the best I could to put job hunting out of my mind for a full two weeks. Maybe it was three.

What happened over those weeks of not thinking about looking for a job was that I realized I’d been desperate. I hadn’t even had much idea of what kind of job I wanted. I was just throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what would stick. The desperation was still alive in me, but I managed not to act on it. Since my therapist had given me permission (and sometimes I truly need permission from someone I view as very wise to allow myself what I most need), I spent a lot of time curled up in bed and a lot of time taking very long walks.

During that time, I got clear. I got clear on the fact that I was tired, my body still wasn’t at its best, and I needed to respect that. I got clear on what kind of job I wanted. I got clear on why I wanted it. I found some job listings for a couple of jobs that sounded very much like what I wanted. Applying for them didn’t feel heavy or desperate. It felt kind of right.

Within a month of that eye-opening therapy session, I was offered both jobs. Apparently, I was no longer repelling work.

When our energy is aligned, there is movement toward what is right for us. If you think you are procrastinating, it could be that you are not aligned with what you most deeply want. Maybe you don’t know what you most deeply want.

Before you beat yourself up for procrastinating (and I suggest never beating yourself up for any reason if you can possibly avoid it), get clear. You’ll know what your truth is because when you’re in it, no matter what it is, you’ll feel free. If I tell myself I’m procrastinating and my deepest self says, “Yep, that’s right,” I know it’s true. I can then start taking small steps toward whatever it is I want.

But if I tell myself I’m procrastinating and it feels heavy, icky, and like I’m trapped in very tiny box, it just might be a lie. That’s when I need to investigate, to gently ask myself, “Hey, what’s really going on here? Let’s take a look.” It’s always worth it to take that look.

I Ate the Cake: Making it Too Big

So, given the title of my blog, is it a surprise that I procrastinated on my first blog post? My inner perfectionist was perched on the corner of my desk, her little half-glasses sliding down her nose at me (she looks very much like my fifth-grade teacher), saying, “You have to do it right.” Is there a right way to write a blog post? I asked this question of my wonderful mentor Jenna Avery, and she said, “Don’t try to get it right — just be authentic.” Ahhhhh. What a relief. Wanting to do it right stops me in my tracks way too often. I want to do relationships right, I want to do writing right, I want to do coaching right, I want to choose exactly the right brand of cat litter, and I want do it all at exactly the right time. Then I screw a lot of it up anyway, and most of my screw-ups end up leading me exactly where I need to be. (More on this is a future post.)

When I was in the wake of my inner perfectionist wanting to “do it right,” I became intensely overwhelmed, and my inner procrastinator took over. This is usually what happens. My inner perfectionist and my inner procrastinator have a highly symbiotic relationship. They’re like two kids on a see-saw and when one flies up into the air, the other plunks down hard on the grass and says “Ouch!” The perfectionist wants so badly to do it right, and is so married to its perfect vision, that before I know it it has severely overwhelmed me. Now everything seems insurmountable, and this is where the procrastinator comes in to take over. “Screw it,” says the procrastinator. “It’s too hard and it’s not worth the trouble. And by the way, I’m feeling really sleepy.”

When my inner procrastinator (who is a silky, shape-shifting, slug-like creature who just wants to lie down all the time) took the reins the other day, I found myself on the sofa watching Netflixed episodes of “Big Love” while eating an enormous amount of pink frosting off a chocolate cake. This could have been a highly enjoyable way to spend a Tuesday night if I hadn’t been doing it to try to go unconscious, to distract myself from my guilt about what I wasn’t doing. And why hadn’t I done it? Because I’d made it too big, too hard, and I didn’t know how to do it “right.”

So I backed up, a lot. I broke things down into small steps, “turtle steps” as Martha Beck calls them (SARK refers to them as “micromovements”). In fact, I recently completed life coach training with the fabulous Martha Beck, but how quickly I forgot about turtle steps. Actually, the truth is, I didn’t forget about them. It’s just that my inner perfectionist doesn’t have time to break things down into turtle steps! I’ll never get anywhere that way! In fact, for me, making things “too big” is a great way to never get anywhere. Making things too big is a great way for me to drown in the sea of overwhelm.

So this is it. This is my first blog post. It feels a little truncated to me (is that my perfectionist talking?), but it is what it is. I made it “small” enough to get it written. In my next article, I’ll go into more depth about how I get myself to the point where I’m drowning in the sea of  overwhelm, and how I get myself out. And the next time I eat the pink frosting off a chocolate cake, I promise myself, and you, that I will be present for every second of it.