A few years ago I was feeling “off”. Looking back, I’m not sure I could have narrowed it down to one specific feeling. It wasn’t that I was unhappy – I had a great life, great family, friends, job, house, etc. And it wasn’t that I felt like something was missing. I just had this feeling like there was something more. I started looking for things I could change, so I started looking for a new job. After a couple weeks, I felt totally uninspired and discouraged. It was the end of 2012 and I had just started following Gabrielle Bernstein after her appearance on Super Soul Sunday. She was offering a free teleconference focused on goals for 2013. I signed up and dialed in. Gabby is a fantastic speaker. Even over the phone, unable to see her, you could feel her energy and passion. After only a couple minutes, I grabbed a pen and started taking notes. Then, as if she were speaking directly to me, she said – “It’s not about the job, the title or the company. The most important question you have to ask yourself is how do you want to feel?” And with that one question, my life changed forever.
How did I want to feel? That was a good question. The question followed me everywhere I went – driving in the car, making dinner, drying my hair. I turned to my journal, my trusty old friend. I started writing and like many times before, the answer I was looking for appeared on the page. I wanted to feel the excitement and synergy of working as a team on a project. I wanted to feel less tired and less frustrated with my children. I wanted to feel supported. And I wanted to feel more connected with the people in my life that were so important to me. Boy, it sounds like I was a total mess! It certainly didn’t feel that way being in the middle of it, but when I finally slowed down enough to listen to myself, I could clearly identify why I was feeling “off”.
When you see someone and ask “How are you?” what are the responses you usually hear?:
“Busy! We’ve had a different activity every night.”
“Things are just crazy for us right now.”
“The weeks feel like they just fly by.”
Sound familiar? I’ve caught myself saying, one or all of these things multiple times. It’s weird because without even recognizing it, your routine, calendar and to do list start to take over the management of your days. Your entire day becomes one big checklist from morning until night. And then you wake up the next morning and do it all again. Despite all the technology gains and efficiencies, we’ve somehow managed to come up with more to do instead of less. In our frenzy to get everything done, we stop questioning why we are doing it all in the first place.
I had known that something was “off” for quite a while, but I left it on my to-do list as something to dig into at a later time. There’s always a “but”. I know I will be so much happier when I’m able to (fill in the blank) BUT…….. I’ll do it when school gets out or when this project at work is done or when baseball season is over or when the kids are a little older.
It’s hard. Really hard. I know, I’ve been there. First it’s hard to allow yourself to get quiet and listen. (I had originally typed that it was hard to find the time, but that’s not true.) The time is there for you, you just have to have the courage to face yourself, to ask yourself “How do I want to feel?” It is important to do this without judgement. You can’t be your own devil’s advocate and talk yourself out of why you should not want to feel that way. For me, this is why writing it out is so helpful. In my head I can get in this back and forth banter, but when I see it written out it there is more clarity – it’s harder to allow the other side to “argue” with your gut/heart instinct.
Deciding how you want to feel is just the first step, albeit a big one, you can’t just stop there. Once you know what the desired feeling is, you have to take action. You have more control of your feelings than you realize. For me, I wanted to feel more connected with my friends and family. Each morning, I told myself that I was going to do things to feel more connected. I set reminders in my phone to go off every couple hours in case I got too busy and forgot. I made small talk with the barista (not something I’d normally do). I complimented a co-worker on a beautiful blouse. In the middle of the day I sent a text to a friend, just to let them know I was thinking of them. Imagining their face as they read it brought a smile to mine. These all started out as small connections, but grew into something more.
I know these examples sound simplistic. The actions that you need to take do not necessarily have to be difficult. The challenge comes when you incorporate this into your everyday life on a consistent basis. You can’t act from a place of feeling and let your to-do list run your life at the same time. This involves creating a new habit where every day you commit to yourself how you want to feel and make small strides throughout the day to achieve it. Start today, set aside the but and ask yourself - how do I want to feel?
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.