Posts Tagged ‘discouragement’

A Re-booter Rx

March 20, 2014

As I’ve struggled with both looking for employment and managing the discouragement that has accompanied so many poor outcomes, I’ve taken to seeking out “signs” that I’m on the right or wrong path. My quest to re-boot has been so prolonged that I no longer trust myself to know if I’m on the right track. I must summon a huge amount of energy to refrain from despairing that this wilderness period reflects a lack of worth on my part. It’s all so impenetrable that I question my every choice. Some days, I just want somebody to tell me what to do.

Sound familiar?

We’ve all had periods of struggle or instability in our lives where we feel ground down and unsure if we have the stamina or strength to shove that boulder up the hill one more time. Whether it’s staring down ten or more years of child rearing, a seeming lifetime before we can retire and collect our paltry pension, or yet another weekend of that nincompoop we’re living with, sometimes it feels nearly impossible to move forward. Overwhelm is a good word for it. Yes, that sums things up nicely.

It’s times like these when we need to stop thinking. Full stop. Rather than dissecting all the ways we’ve gone wrong or made bad choices, we need to do the very thing that feels most dangerous: we need to forget our woes and go have some fun. No, that does not mean getting drunk. (Yes, you heard me, correctly.) Now is the moment to have an evening of revelry with friends, to take that day trip to a beautiful landmark, to indulge in a river raft adventure, to laugh a lot. When was the last time you truly laughed?

This prescription successfully enables us to heal by re-booting our re-booting process. Logjams happen to everyone and when we get caught in the eddys of such dour minds, it can be tough to break free. Of course, the problems that swamp our thoughts are real and require concrete solutions, so a lot more’s involved than merely changing how we think about a challenge. But, when feeling frustrated or discouraged, we have a tendency to see less options rather than more, so we’re now in the worst possible mind frame to see a new path out of our mess. Having fun enables us to escape the web of misery we’ve woven. It’s often when we’re not even thinking about an issue that we receive clarity about it. Have you ever noticed that your best ideas usually come to you when you feel happy and relaxed? Do you recall what it’s like to feel that way, anymore?

So, whatever it is that oppresses you—forget about it! Give yourself the weekend off and plan something fun, instead. Your problems aren’t going anywhere, they’ll be waiting for you when you return. But what you will gain is a booster shot of joy, a reaffirmation that your can feel happy and fulfilled in the right circumstance. It’s exactly the dose you need.

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Realistically Speaking…

February 25, 2014

As re-booters we are forging new ground for ourselves—this is not easy work. There is lots of rocky soil to till, boulders to overcome, and demands for new irrigation. Re-booting demands an enormous amount of blood, sweat, and tears and the entire time, we are highly susceptible to questioning ourselves and our choices. Such notions are most dangerous when we receive the (jealous) “wisdom” of others.

 

With any sort of change, there are those who will feel threatened or even repudiated by our efforts to move in another direction. They will resort to many a desperate tactic to dissuade us from our new path, and, occasionally, this deterrence or criticism will come from those we trust.

 

It’s difficult to know how to balance our aspirations with pragmatism and the hard won wisdom of those we go to for guidance. They may listen and fold their arms, punctuating our monologue of dreams with the occasional frown or chuckle, and then, they tell us what they really think. “Uh, oh’” we worry to ourselves, “they think we’re crazy or wildly impractical to head in this new direction,” given my age…the already saturated marketplace…the experiences of prior advice seekers…what have you. We worry that we’re delusionally arrogant to imagine trying this. If we probe further as to the basis for their opinion, sometimes they get angry. “Oh,” we privately cringe, “my chances are even worse than I imagined.”

 

But, the fact of the matter is, it’s just as likely that what we’re trying to achieve in our lives triggers all sorts of personal discomforts for them. Maybe they want to escape their current reality and become a fly fisherman or an arbitration expert or sell their art work. Instead of encouraging us, they tell us how hard it is to make it, or how our temperament and outsized ambition make it unlikely we’ll succeed–how there’s no market for what we’re peddling. “I’m just being honest,” they shrug.

 

The challenge for re-booters is that we’re already nervous and doubtful about our chances. We already torture ourselves with questions about our sanity and arrogance. We’re nervous nellies who understand that what we want is elusive—but we act out of hope. So then, how do we balance our goals and dreams against the discouraging advice of others? Can we benefit from their cautionary wisdom without being deterred? Can we make sense of what people who seem to know more than we do when they tell us we’re overreaching?

 

How?

 

In many respects, I feel like Lab Rat A in this experiment. For over the past two years, as I’ve uprooted my life and reversed course in my career, I’ve been blindly stumbling along a foggy path where I’m not 100% sure of where I’m going or what I’m doing. I’ve launched a blog where I share these adventures and observations, but who knows if it’s had any impact at all. I read articles about the exponentially diminishing prospects of the long term unemployed. The world is a hive of activity and I’m stuck in a beaker, looking out. So, what do I do? I do what I can. I do what’s in front of me. I follow conventional wisdom about what I “should” be doing, but add in my own private efforts for the parts that really interest me. And I only selectively listen to those who tell me they’re being honest about my chances.

 

And then, I hope.

 

What about you?

A Recipe for the Return of Resilience

August 29, 2013

Ok, boys and girls, up and at ‘em! My most recent post was dedicated to the real-world acknowledgement of just how bleak our lives can feel at times, but now is the moment for us to hop back up on our horse and giddyup.

 

Sometimes, the only way we can even contemplate hoppin’ back into the saddle is to go through our standard routines—whether we feel like it or not. As I have progressed through the years, I’ve come around more and more to the conclusion that my feelings about something are less important than our culture would have us believe. We should take a lesson from the Brits—that stiff upper lip bit has a valuable purpose! Legal types will recognize the phrase “pattern and practice” used to describe how one party behaves under ordinary circumstances, such as, “It’s my pattern and practice to signal whenever I turn a corner.” When we are at a loss, emotionally, our routines help us get from one moment to the next, thus aiding us transition from a dark place to a more neutral frame of mind. As tempting as it can be, sitting in the dark bemoaning our fate doesn’t do much other than make things worse.

 

As I have posited previously, I champion the “fake it ‘til you make it” approach which can result in a gradually improving mood and enthusiasm for whatever it is that I’m doing. I smile and brush my hair and maintain a civil expression on my face. Step #3 in this recipe for cultivating resilience involves a whole lot of self-praise. In fact, I spend quite a lot of time congratulating myself for accomplishing the most mundane of tasks—from the polite tone of voice I use when speaking to someone who annoys me to finishing my exercise routine to thinking up yet another topic for this blog. If I don’t feel positive about the little things, it makes it that much harder for me to feel good about my long term prospects.

 

And then I stop.

 

When you are struggling to pull yourself out of a funk, respecting the limits of your psychological, emotional, and physical energies is critical. If you don’t feel like talking to anyone that day—don’t! There’s only so much you can expect yourself to accomplish when feeling fragile or discouraged. Baby steps, remember? Although I, personally, am not like this, I know many people who push themselves too hard, who say yes to too many things, consequently running themselves into the ground, wondering why they are miserable. You’re a re-booter: you know this.

 

Ok, well, I have no idea whether what I’ve written here has been the least bit interesting or helpful, but I hope so. Alas, it’s a formula I’ve been working on for years. I hope it’s something you can use—you’re way to valuable to mire yourself down in misery, no matter how burdened you feel right now. Trust me when I say that I take my own medicine. It’ll get better; it always does. Hop back up in that saddle—a Re-booter somehow summons the strength to try.

Going Through the Kitchen Door

January 10, 2013

OK, well, enough of the holiday hiatus. I’m back as a regular contributor, bringing Dignitary’s Retreat readers home spun wisdom, cautionary tales, and that sliver of hope when you sometimes feel desperate enough to believe it is slipping away…

So, how’s January treating you so far?

I want to tell you a story. The point of this story is to encourage you to believe that things can work out, even when your life feels bleak; but success requires your cooperation, courage, and a willingness to try against-the-odds strategies. What makes this difficult is the immediate fear that things won’t get better, that you’re bound to remain in the bad place you find yourself, and the terror of feeling like a fool. But you can’t know unless you try, right? Right.

So, as most DR readers know, I have been looking for full-time employment for quite some time. Having moved across the country to increase my odds of success, each of the applications, efforts, networking events, etc that I made have resulted in closed doors. Murmurs of occasional interest punctuated by total silence. It has been frustrating and disheartening to say the least. I have teetered on the verge of despair multiple times and it is only due to my stubbornness and underlying belief in my talents and abilities that has kept me wading through this swamp instead of giving up.

Have you ever had a time in your life when you kept trying and trying and trying and no door seemed to open? Yeah, that’s how it’s been for me, too.

Well, last week I happened to see an opinion piece published in a national newspaper written by someone who I had heard speak last summer. I resonated with his message and had thought about his remarks several times since then, admiring the course of his career and silently supporting the work he has been pursuing. But this is a well established individual who gives speeches and writes books and expostulates. (I may do all of those things, too, but my audience base is significantly less apparent. Ha ha.) This is not someone you “just approach.”

Except that I did.

Somehow, against all odds, I managed to get his personal email address and that of his wife’s. So, despite the knowingly random nature of my communiqué, I sent them an email explaining who I was, that I admired his work, and that I was seeking out interesting volunteer opportunities and did he, perhaps, need some assistance with one of his projects? By the way, he lives a good thousand miles away from where I am. I sent off my query, not expecting to get a response.

Doors opened.

Less than thirty minutes later, I received an enthusiastic reply from his wife. We’ve subsequently had a terrific, hour long conversation, a few email follow ups, and will meet later this month. They do need help. They have many irons in the fire. There are some people, locally, I should meet.

What does this have to do with you?

I share this with you because I want you to keep in mind that most household activity occurs in the kitchen. So go through the kitchen door. Climb through the air vent, if you have to. Even if polite company enters through the grand front entrance accompanied by a marching band, those gates aren’t opened very often, but the kitchen door is usually unlocked.

What back entrance might you try to pursue your dreams this year?


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