An exercise in pausing, and changing the dialogue
Today is Wednesday. Not particularly significant to this narrative, if only to give context that two days ago was Monday. Not just any Monday, but one that fell at the very beginning of March. You know, early March, that time we tend to mistake for the coming of Spring, the wind down of winter, or even more poignant – the end of February. And to our silly and misguided anticipation, ends up being more-often-than-not a disappointment. Once again, this past Monday was exactly that. Not necessarily in a conscious way, but in a deep-seeded way that inhabits our subconscious.
Suffice it to say, Monday felt like a shitty day from the moment I woke up. For no apparent reason at first. Just plain grim, cold, wet, and with nothing to feel good about. Fear not, though, I quickly found things to ‘stick’ to this vulnerable state I found myself in, and it happened in mere seconds.
Work, as it typically does in my case, became the culprit. And my (bad) habit is to begin to ask myself a series of questions in rapid succession, without even trying to pause and try to answer in any objective, positive, or logical way.
The conversation goes something like this:
Me: So, it’s Monday, Huh?
Me too: Yep. It’s Monday.
Me: What’s the plan this week?
Me too: Well, work, I hope. Have we got any of that?
Me: Not really.
Me too: What do I mean, “Not REALLY”?
Me: I’ve got lots in the works, couple of pitches, a few calls, and helping a few people out that can’t really afford me… But it’s all good. Right?
Me too: Why am I asking me? IS it all good?
Me: It’s all good… isn’t it?
Me too: There I go again. Stop asking me. Is it all good or not??
Me: It’s not bad. It’s not good, but it’s not terrible. I’m not worried.
Me too: WORRIED? Why am I worried? Is there something I need to worry about?
Me: Dumb question for a self-employed 50-year-old creative guy who just wrapped up a big project, with little to nothing on the horizon. I HAVE to worry. It’s my job. Stop judging me.
Me too: Ok. Relax. I get it. Now I’m worried. Shit.
Me: Well, we agreed that this was the perfect time to start on the personal projects I’ve been holding off on because I needed to focus on paying work. I thought I was in a good place. Wasn’t the plan to get that rolling, and then rethink how I would make money? You know, a new stream of revenue that would be about something I’m passionate about?
Me too: You mean the rebranding, the blog, the public speaking stuff?
Me: Yeah. Don’t make this all my fault!
Me too: WTF was I thinking?! I’m not getting paid for any of that. And all that time I’m spending helping others, I’m giving it away for free. STUPID!
Me: Stupid. We’re gonna starve…
Me too: Yes, we are. I need to get busy making money…”
Me too: Fuck… At least we agree on something.
FYI, I’ve been awake for 30 seconds and haven’t gotten out of bed yet.
Needless to say, thanks to the discipline I’ve practised for so long – as many of us have as adults – I got out of bed and began my day like any other.
I went through all the daily motions knowing that no matter what, I MUST do the things I have made my good habits in my ongoing battle with anxiety and depression. I took my 30 minutes to just read and focus on me, I made our typical healthy smoothie breakfast, got ready for the gym, drove my daughter to school, went to said gym to do my workout, went to Starbucks to get my coffee, got home, had eggs, and got to work – meaning I went downstairs to my office and kept the momentum going…
I got part-way through writing a blog post that was negative and going nowhere. Then, and only then did I begin to get the focus I needed, and know I always eventually achieve when days, weeks, or months start like this. It’s not easy, but it’s practiced, and I know it always works. More important, I know it doesn’t EVER work when I stop practicing this ritual. Every. Freaking. Day.
Today it’s two days, and two daily rituals, later. I find myself in a really good place, even though very little has changed – externally, that is. What HAS changed is my perspective on the exact same scenario. Not necessarily consciously either, more as a result of my faith in the process – what, as an ‘armchair Buddhist’, I call my practice.
I practiced, giving myself the space, the time, and the patience to pause. Only after that did I choose to revisit Monday’s self-dialogue – two days later – with a clearer perspective, to rethink and restart the narrative:
The conversation now sounds more like this:
Me: Is that the sun in my eyes?
Me too: Yup. Nice eh? (Canadian-ism intended)
Me: What day is it today?
Me too: Wednesday, I think. Why?
Me: No reason. I like Wednesdays.
Me too: How come?
Me: Dunno. Doesn’t matter.
Me too: What’s the plan for today?
Me: Lemme think. Got lots to do this week. A blog post to write, two podcasts recordings to listen to, see if there’s anything there to salvage. I need to put together an estimate for this project that’s coming. I’d forgotten about it. I have to do a final review of the RFP response I’m working with my former colleague on. We’re sending it today, looks really good, and was fun to work on, even if we don’t win it. A good connection to have.
Me too: Wow, yay me!
Me: Oh I’m not done: I need to do final prep on my presentation for tomorrow night’s event I’m hosting at Staples – feeling nervous and excited about that; update my LinkedIn with one more promotion of it; and I need to think about a topic for my next podcast recording session.”
Me too: Ok, should I be stressed? That’s a LOT.
Me: No need. I’m lovin’ it. S’ all good.”
Me too: Are we sure? Kids good? What about the tax stuff? When was my last invoice?
Me: I’m not having this conversation right now… Go away. You’re bugging me
Yup. It IS all good.
Because WE CAN decide it is. But only after a pause and taking the time to own the conversation.
Me: You know that annoying saying about turning that smile upside down?
Me too: Ugh. Yes.
Me: Well, I think just did that with this conversation.
Me: You’re welcome.
Until next time, Pausers!