Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Thoughts on being stuck. (No, I'm not procrastinating)

Lots of time people ask me how I get so much done. But what lots of people don't realize is that there is always more I'd like to get done, and a lot of stuff that doesn't get done at all. Its a work in progress.

I used to get really unhappy with myself, and judgmental, and mean and angry at myself when I didn't accomplish the things that I felt I needed to, or if something fell through the cracks, like my house was really messy, or I had to cancel on a friend, or let someone down when I told them I'd do something.

Integrity, doing what you say you are going to do, not telling someone you are going to do something if you can't do it... those have been big, oppressive things in my life. They were so important to me, that I became hyper perfectionist about things, to the point where I couldn't get things done at all. At some point, I crossed over a line where I became paralyzed, and procrastinated, because the task before me needed to be done, because I said I'd do it, and needed to be done perfectly, because that was how I measured my worth.

At some point in the last three years since I started skiing, (and started really dedicated myself to getting healthy), I came to realize that I COULDN'T accomplish any of the things that I wanted to when I was so down on myself all the time.

Even if I accomplished something, I could have done it differently, or better, or there was something else that didn't get finished in time... the list went on and on. And consequently, I was, underneath, just kind of unhappy with myself all the time.

I now know that those feelings of inadequacy and supreme guilt about not doing something as well as I wanted to, or not following through with something I felt I needed to, were like little software packages that were installed in me by a parent who had their OWN issues, and who, rather than being a guardian to me as a child, and helping me set up reasonable expectations and the ability to follow through with them, set me up to never be able to succeed with any sense of happiness.

I think that a lot of us experience similar issues, and we've all learned how to cope with them to some degree or another, but deep inside, there is often that nagging voice, you should have, could have, done it better, different, sooner...

That mini negative voice is a toxic remnant from your past, usually, and something that can and should be excised like a cancer.

Sometimes it takes help in the form of therapy, sometimes it takes a gentle shift in your belief system, sometimes it takes a support group of friends, but mostly, I think, it takes honesty and transparency.

Here's how I started on it. After I "weeded my friend garden", I started by telling my support group the truth: I often feel that I've let people down, and that I over commit myself, and come off as a flake, but often times, I've given everything I have and am empty, out of energy, and unable to continue.

Because I told the "shameful" truth to my friends, they helped me understand that my energy is my energy, and that someone else's energy is their energy. So I can be next to someone who is hurting without giving away my energy, and I can be next to someone who is hurting without taking in their energy.

This first, crucial step was a big one. It put a little plug in my energy leak, and suddenly, I was able to accomplish more, because I didn't feel drained all the time. The only problem with this is that I was now able to spend MORE time and energy not doing things as well as I wanted to, and over committing myself even MORE.

The next thing I needed to do was to learn to say no. And to learn to say "I'm sorry, I should not have said yes." as SOON as I realized I was unable to complete a task. Facing the music is never pleasant for anyone, facing the music when you are afraid of failure is very very unpleasant, and for me, on this side of terrifying.

I couldn't learn to be brave enough to face the music, or to say no, until I learned to care for myself a little more. I needed, with the help of my support group of friends, to learn that I was a person with intrinsic worth.

I was afraid to do this, because I thought that caring about myself would mean that I was a selfish person, I had been raised to think that only when you give your entire self away to another person were you coming close to your worth. My sense of self was tied intimately to my ability to put myself aside in favor of someone elses pain or issue.

When I look at it that way, with some historical perspective, its obvious that you can't really give to a friend who needs you if you aren't caring for yourself. You won't have anything to give, you will be depleted, and you will eventually resent it.

So eventually, I came to a place where I recognized myself as a person worth caring for... by me! Its still a work in progress, but I feel much more comfortable in my own skin, and therefore, I'm able to forgive myself when I make an error.

I still feel that meeting my obligations, professionally and personally, is very important, but the difference is that I don't beat the crap out of myself internally when I fall down any more.

I am going to fall, because I am a human, in progress. While I do ask myself how I could have avoided the problem, or taken better care not to get into the situation in the first place, I am finally in a much more forgiving place, which allows me to take the lesson from the problem, and leave it behind me, and keep moving forward.

I am so grateful to my network of friends, to my mom, who was able to take this journey with me, to my sisters, who had to go through the same thing, and to my teachers, who were able to gently point the way to a kinder way to live my life.

I still face the problem of getting over booked, and of hitting a procrastination bump, which can still be paralyzing, especially if the mountain of work that needs doing is daunting. For instance, I really needed to call the State Board in California to deal with an old tax issue from the climbing gym that Tom and I used to own in California.

While today would have been a good day to do it, because I was unexpectedly home, I was having trouble getting started today. I was on the couch in my PJs with my precious boys, both home from school because Ethan wasn't feeling good. We were drinking tea and watching "Meet the Robinsons" together.

I knew that I had a list that was six pages long of things I need to do; emails, netowrking, coaching, things I told friends I'd do, booking of massage, I'm way behind on a project for Bridger Bowl, I have about five weeks of homework, three exams to get ready for, a couple of presentations coming up... my house is an unholy mess, and I need to cook some food and spend time with my kids.

Because I've been going a hundred miles an hour for a few months, a day at home felt really really good. I've been going to sleep at 9:30 for the last few nights, and feeling slightly guilty about it, as I should be doing homework to meet that obligation, and I should have got up at 6am and gotten right back to it.

But what I realized as I was sitting on the couch with my boys is: I was accomplishing one task, I was spending time with them, and recharging myself. While I feel guilty for sleeping a lot in the last few days, my body needed the rest, I've been training really hard.

Yes, I have a lot of things I could have accomplished today. But rather than kicking msyelf for not getting more done, I've finally learned to take my wins and be proud of what I did get done: time with my boys, time caring for my body, dishes, emails, and posting... not a bad day, actually.

Yes, I still have a list I need to do, and no, there won't be a convenient time to get it done before I leave for Aspen. Yes, I'm stressed out about making enough money before I go to cover my expenses while I'm out training for my Full Cert exam and writing an article at Cliff Hucking Camp. But today is today, it has the amount of time in it that it has, and tomorrow will be more productive for the care I took of myself today.

Its a journey in progress, but I'll share this with you: I still don't get as much done as I wish I could, but I'm happier with myself, and because of that, I get more done than I used to, and I'm happier about it most of the time.

I'll take that as a win!

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