Life was feeling hard. Crawling out of my skin felt like a good option; I couldn’t remember what it felt like to feel good inside my body and mind.
I believed that I was facing too many challenges at the same time.
Trapped, is a good word to describe how I felt. The prison was my mind. The warden was a harsh master. Everything I did was wrong.
Talking to friends usually helped. It didn’t. I already felt so anxious and overwhelmed. It really was a rocking chair kinda situation — I was doing a lot of stuff. And I wasn’t going anywhere.
I had a belief that wasn’t helping. At all. It was something like, “There should be no problems in my life, and any problem is just that. A problem. I have too many and I don’t know where to begin.”
So. I didn’t begin anywhere. Interacting with the world felt hard, because everything I encountered felt wrong to me. Once I called it wrong in my head, I clamped down and resisted it. Maybe you’ve felt this feeling. It’s often an invisible feeling, something rising up. Bubbling from nowhere. Making you want to change the way you feel. But nothing you do makes it feel better.
I lived my problems on repeat. Only in my head, though. Perhaps you’ve been here.
Then, it hit me. Less in a flash of insight. More like a slow, grinding realization. Having an enjoyable experience of life isn’t a result of experiencing no problems or challenges.
Life presents us with “worthy challenges,” that are set-up to make us grow.
It doesn’t really matter what the thing is.
What matters, I saw, is how I responded to the thing.
I choose a new way. Satisfaction with life isn’t about the ability to clear the deck of challenges and problems. It is to realize that satisfaction with life is directly proportional to one’s ability to see themselves as an effective solver of problems and challenges.
Words and the way we use them, mean so much.
The shift was subtle. I went from:
A problem haver.
A problem solver.
And my newly discovered, or re-discovered mission to was seek out and embrace worthy challenges.
Decision making was full- stop paralyzing to me. I had a minor meltdown when all I had to do was choose my seat for a plane ride. That might give you a sense of how deeply I felt pulled into this.
Challenges were stacked to the sky, in my eyes. No one’s advice or coaching landed. I found everything wrong and dumb with what I was being told. All solutions felt like new problems.
I manically scrolled FB and IG to stop the thought-tsunami.
Photo by Gabriel Matula on Unsplash
That doesn’t work. At all.
Out of the chaos, I wondered to myself “what does it even feel like to be decisive? I can’t remember that feeling”
If other people’s valuable input didn’t move the needle, and I couldn’t decide on anything, what was left, I wondered?
What was left was to open myself up to the invisible, subtle, silent parts of myself that had a lot of value to contribute. I just had to find out how to wake them up.
In the last three weeks, three people told me that I give really good advice.
They wouldn’t have said that if they realized how poorly I was treating one of the most important people in my life. Myself.
Something a friend told me bubbled up in my mind.
There isn’t just one “you.”
“You” are comprised of many things.
Relating this to myself, I saw what she meant.
The 5 year old Frank isn’t gone, 27 years in the past. He’s still in there. He’s got pretty interesting things to say, and valuable feedback to offer.
How do I find out what he has to say?
The 100 year old future version of you isn’t a figment of imagination, you’re building him now.
What would he have to say about this?
Why Journaling Was An Answer. For Me.
I say “an” answer rather than “the” answer intentionally. People telling you they have the answer are selling something.
I’m selling something too. It’s just not bullshit.
There’s lots of ways to do what I did.
Self-coaching. I first went through a self coaching process while taking a bath a few weeks ago. More on that in the future.
This was a self-coaching, through journaling practice that I decided to pursue when nothing else was working.
My aim was to tap into the parts inside of me that “knew” what I wanted. That knew what was really going on.
These other parts of me felt so covered by nonsense. Time to let their ideas be heard.
I gave 5 year old Frank a voice, through journaling.
The simple process was:
Breathe and be present to what I was doing:
“Asking” 5 year old Frank inside of me (it helped to really committ to the exercise and not overthink it)— — “Frank, what advice do you have to tell 33 year old frank. What do you want. What are you scared of. What would be fun for you. What do you want to share?
Here’s some things I came up with:
- I love playing outside and being dirty. Can we play more?
- I really miss Grandpa. I miss the things we did together. He always supported me and believed in me. He was my rock. And just because he’s not physically here, doesn’t mean that his unconditional love and support of you is gone.
- I feel unsafe when people get really loud and angry.
- I know it’s okay though. Disagreements don’t mean that people don’t love you or love each other. We’re safe.
- Doing your best is really important, Frank. Are you doing your best?
- And a large amount of cleaning crying followed. It was cathartic to see these kind words bubble up from inside of my head. A place that just a few minutes ago seemed so inhospitable.
When tapping in into little Frank, I really got that I was scared and hiding.
And I felt a lack of love. While I was living with this resistance to life, I was having a lot of disagreements with people. After journaling, I reminded myself that having a disagreement has nothing to do with being loved.
Now old Frank got a voice. 100 year old wise Frank, what am I missing? What’s important? What should I pay more attention to, or less attention to?
- Spending time in solitude is a great practice, young Frank. It can charge your batteries. Spending time with the people you love and who love you is what I remember most, though. Charge your batteries just enough so that you can be fully present with, and in love with your loved ones!
- You spent some time resisting things, Frank. As I reflect back, being in resistance to your life was a big waste of time. And it’s okay.
- You can say things that aren’t funny and people will still love you
- You don’t have to always be strong to be loved
- You don’t have to adopt outrageous ideas to be unique and get loved. You are loved.
- You really don’t have to do anything to get love. You are love. And are loved.
- You get to behave in these ways, funny, strong, outrageous — if you choose! But doing or not doing these things doesn’t mean love or no love.
- How’s all that sound, Frank? Give yourself some grace.
- Love women. There is no need to withhold love. It’s not finite. You can’t waste it on the wrong woman.The source in infinite. It won’t dry up. Feel free to use it as much as you like!
- Don’t be a miser with love, withholding it, and refusing to spend it. Spend freely.
- You don’t have to “close your heart for business” when you’re in conflict. Open it wider.
- Go boldly, young Frank. There is so much road left on your path. Adventures that you haven’t even dreamed of yet are in front of you. Wake up every morning with that Christmas day energy — curiosity, positive anticipation and delight. Get present to your life!
I discovered through this practice that I wasn’t confused about which strategy or tactic to use on this or that. Or that I didn’t know what plane seat to choose or what to have for dinner.
This beautiful process left me feeling:
You aren’t just “you.” There’s lots of you’s in there. Tap into all of them. Give them voice.
I wasn’t treating myself very nicely. Tapping into “other versions of me” allowed me to give myself the kindness, grace and love that I deserved.
The child me wants to play.
You’re building who that old man will be. He’s counting on you.