These words, this way of seeing, of being. Transformational and simple enough, right? But for most of this week, my mind was crazy-focused on What Isn’t.
On what my body isn’t – buff and toned and twenty. On what my kids’ schedules aren’t – creative and intuitive and funky and homegrown. On what my libido isn’t – sexy hot, spicy ready. On what my house, my drawers, my surfaces aren’t – clutter-free, organized. On what my sheets aren’t – clean and smooth or even tucked-in. On what my mood isn’t – positive, blessed, grateful, abundant. On what the weather and this Northern climate aren’t – easy, amenable, effortless, Vitamin D-full.
It is a rabbit hole, this place of seeing only what I think should be. It comes with so much pressure. Today when a coaching client who lives 4,000 miles away was talking to me about feeling leaden, like every step forward was heavy and weighted and that what she needs is more helium, I was nodding vigorously. Helium.
The kicker, the heaviest part of all, is the self-judgment, the second dart, the struggle against myself, the perception of What Is as seen through the thick lenses of What Most Decidedly Isn’t. I mentioned my state ever-so-briefly in an otherwise effervescent Inauguration post, mostly as a nod to being honest and real: Even in the face of the happiest freakin’ day in our nation’s history I was still fighting the winter blues, the mind noise, the self-recrimination that is the oldest habit in the book. Now that’s a book worth burning.
But I don’t burn books. And I’m always encouraging clients not to outright reject the things they struggle with or fear, but to get curious about them, take a step back and observe them from a more detached place, or maybe just lovingly sequester them for a while, on a shelf, in a box, tied up with a ribbon and bow even, a physical manifestation of containing them, setting them aside, shifting the power center.
There I was yesterday home with my kids, who early in the morning had both looked so punky and sounded so sick that it felt like the Path of Least Resistance indeed to keep them home for the day. But by 1:00pm, Aviva had changed her mind. Not only did she want to go to school (I said no, it was too late), but she was having a full-blown meltdown. “IF I CAN’T GO TO SCHOOL, THEN I AM GOING TO ALASKA!!!!!”
If she’s six now, what am I going to do in ten years? What had I done to create this miserable situation and how I could possible get myself out of it? I found myself looking back on the decision-making process that had led us to stay home, questioning it, and only feeling worse than I would have felt without the regret, the loopy rethinking.
All week, I’ve been thinking a lot about how Barry Schwartz wrote a whole book to explain to himself why he felt worse after buying the best pair of jeans of his life. How having a gazillion choices paralyzes us, makes us wonder what we’re missing, makes us ask if some other experience or product or choice have been better. So that even if we have superior choices from one perspective, we wind up worse off, less satisfied, less present.
This is a gross simplification of what I gleaned from his TED talk, which I found so relevant, so right-on, that I am including it at the end of this post so that you can watch the whole thing without even leaving the comfort of this page. Such good food for thought.
What Is. The simple phrase derives from The Work of Byron Katie, with which I am only nominally familiar. While I don’t adhere to any particular school of thought when it comes to inquiry or coaching or personal growth – and if anything tend to be suspicious of anything that seems dogmatic or commercialized (The Secret, anyone?) – Katie’s approach resonates for me and strikes me as true.
Enough already! I declare. Why can’t I just get over myself? But even that is more of the same, adding insult to injury, salt in the wound.
Seeing What Is brings me smack-dab into the present moment, the real-ness of whatever my senses can attest to, the sounds, smells, emotions, discomforts or pleasures, sights, demands, etc. of the actual real-life-ness of the moment. Everything else – my mind-talk, fears, labels, stories, scrambling – all of it is distraction, nails in the coffin.
You know something? Most of all, you know what helped me yesterday? Picking up the phone when a friend called (instead of not picking it up – you know who you are). Telling her I was fighting myself, my day, my life. Sharing, being honest. Her saying, “I love you, you human being,” then instructing me to be “A Slob” for the rest of the afternoon. She called back moments after we hung up to clarify: “A Beautiful Slob.”
It actually worked. Not right away, but over the course of the rest of the day, every time I found myself feeling down about what wasn’t, I remembered that I was supposed to be A Slob who didn’t have to be productive or accomplished or happy or patient or even nice. It was freeing. And then, at 4:00pm, I called a sitter with a big loud S.O.S. and made a beeline for downtown. I met up with Greg at his office. We walked the dog down by the lake, then had a very spontaneous dinner out where I ate every last bit of the cream sauce.
Today was a new day, once again. And I was new, once again. And What Is, is. I am still a bit the Slob. Mysteriously, I also feel like I got a little helium back in my boots. And what do I do now? Write about it. Name it. Share it. And keep practicing.