stress

Trading Dread for Gratitude

Something in me changed last year. I can't explain it. For someone practiced in the habit of pushing the boat out, I did something very out of character. Readiness

I'm a bit of a control freak, a fixer... a need to always feel on top of, if not ahead of where I'm at.

As if readiness suddenly arrives, announcing with total confidence that a journey may begin.

It's a well rehearsed worry, based in the belief that I'm not ready, not good enough...yet'.

Then almost a year ago, I kind of threw myself out the door only half dressed. It was a fit of inspiration and I've been running around like a half naked women trying to dress herself in motion ever since. (Might explain the dreams)

So, what I realise now is that the not ready...not enough, has to be part of the journey. You can't wait for that to expire first, before beginning something.

You have to start somewhere. Although it's a hard habit to break, what I also realise is that when inspiration strikes, you get infected by something more powerful than worry. When truly, deeply inspired, the driving seat is reclaimed.

I'll be honest. I'm easily overwhelmed. It doesn't take much to stress me out.

Yesterday, as I traveled between 3 meetings, covering over 300 miles, I absorbed a huge amount of information, support, guidance and assistance. My mind, although stuffed, also (as usual) found room for question and doubt.

I spent my day with 3 people, non of whom question my readiness or ability. Each took time out of their day to help me navigate the next steps on this path, they only see my potential. This has been the case not just yesterday but over the past few months. I have had nothing but believers, encouragers and teachers show up for me!

"Oh my god, what have I done!" I confided in one, who is a friend I've know a long time. "well, you can't give up" was her response. Simple. That was NOT an option.

You know how they say sometimes we can't see the wood for the trees? Well, my friend saw me struggling in the thickets, she grabbed a strimmers and she hacked.

Taking out her phone, she googled something I had been 'unable' to find through my 'I can't' filter, made a call and within minutes, we had a plan.

As I was driving home, my heart still racing, my throat tight and the knotted ball in my belly, I got so sick of myself and this reaction to challenge. Stress and overwhelm... it's exhausting and it does me no favours.

So I had a re-frame. I asked myself "why am I the only one worried about my ability?". "Why am I driving home from a day filled with guidance, inspiration and challenge with a feeling of dread?"

"Why don't I reach for gratitude instead?" And so I did. And suddenly, everything felt better, it all felt right.

I only have where I'm at, now, today. Where I'm headed is dictated entirely by me embracing that. I have to stop worrying about the lack of a woods because there 'aren't enough' trees. There will be, in time but only by planting them, one by one, by one.

One tree at a time... that's my plan.

I want to follow this up with a practice, so that I don't just arrive at it via anxiety anymore. I want to cultivate Gratitude, make it my go-to. I've spent too many years cultivating dread... I'm done.

If you have any suggestions on cultivating gratitude please let me know! I love music and audiobooks, so suggestions are welcome :)

 

Plot twist! How to craft a self-love story from a shitty script.

Every Little Thing is Gonna be Alright Have you ever listened to the lyrics of the Peter Gabriel song ‘Don’t give up’?

Such a heart wrenching depiction of a man at his wit’s end, bereft of his pride, his identity, lamenting the loss of his usefulness, his place in the world, belief in himself…‘I never thought I could fail’. It’s about a man adrift, amputated from his spiritual home.

I find this song so real to life and deeply moving.

It seems he’s struggling with expectations, an implied hand-me-down measure of success, ‘taught to fight, taught to win’ and he believes he has reached a point of ‘no fight left, or so it seems’. It’s a failure story.

First, you have to hear it

Do you have a failure story you tell yourself? I know I do. There was a time I was unaware of it, didn’t realise it was a story. I mistook it as a fact, a personal truth, a dirty secret. Everything I did was an attempt to conceal this truth from the world. I didn’t know it was a product of another burden, the fear of judgement, and that only with perfect behaviour, achieving perfect outcomes, could I have any sense of immunity.

News Flash… there is no immunity from Judgement!

I spent a huge portion of my life trying to avoid judgement. Ironically, in my quest, the unconscious strategies I employed invited lots of it… I attracted the very thing I was pre-occupied with. Isn't that funny (Eh, No!), but that’s what happens. Wherever your energy is invested, life also issues cheques from there.

If you’re invested in avoiding anger, be guaranteed your pay checks will be full of it. Same for disappointment, disapproval, conflict…whatever. These are the arenas of judgement, ruled by a panel of critics.

Retire the Peanut Gallery

The world is full of critics. Oh yes, chalk that down. The thing is, the critics aren’t just out there, in the world… the social phenomena of internalisation brings them much closer to home. That's how we get inner critics.

If enough people are mean to, or hard on you, even if it’s just one (but influential) person and it threatens your lovability, you learn to be mean to or hard on yourself. Same goes for disapproval, expectation, regard, neglect. In it’s simplest form, it’s a case of ‘Monkey see, Monkey do’.

So you pick up the cues, internalise the habit and critisize yourself relentlessly in the hope that this strategy will produce the ‘right’ behaviour to ensure the outcome of complete protection from judgement.

That’s how it worked when you were small right? Your behaviour was shaped to suit those in power. Your job was to avoid upsetting the adults. The unspoken instructions of ‘Be a good girl so I can be happy with you’, really meant ‘Don’t blow my cover child, I’m trying to appear in control here’.

Want a Plot Twist?

Break the pattern! You can’t expect or wait for the hander down of this pattern to change their position before you change yours. You can’t control that, so you have to do the work on what you can control.

Stop waiting

As Jesus said ‘forgive them, for they know not what they do’. It’s the only way to release yourself from a story where you’ll always be wrong. You may design scenarios in your head where you argue your position, get to have the upper hand, correct the offending party and bring them to the realisation of their wrongdoings (or is that just me?). In real life, I bet you’ve never have that satisfaction, the outcome that would grant you vindication and peace. Sorry to burst your bubble but it ain’t gonna happen, not that way anyway.

You have to make your own peace. Waiting for another to suddenly see the light and take it all back still won’t undo what is done. It’s kinda like the artist Prince becoming Prince again, still doesn’t change the fact he went off and became a symbol, something we couldn’t call him for a while. Waiting for your peace to be granted only perpetuates the powerlessness that keeps you locked in a cycle of grievances.

Put the stick down

Stop critisizing yourself. In fact, stop criticising others too. Believe me when I tell you this is key, when you do this you’ll be amazed at the amount of energy you’ll free up from operating the default position of always ‘correcting’. Don’t let that be your purpose in life. It’s exhausting, stop it. Use the same habit cue to practice compassion instead.

I’m not suggesting you become a robot here and deny your emotional stress reactions, you’re not perfect, nobody is.

The other day I spent hours on to customer service, trying to resolve an issue with my phone line. My call was repeatedly dropped and eventually I lost it, I screamed the house down in pure anger and frustration before calling back. Calm and composed I was not, so I’m not going to pretend there aren’t days my shit is far from together. You’ll lose your shit too, just remember to forgive yourself, recover and move on.

It’s gonna be alright

If you know the song I opened this post with above, you’ll know Kate Bush carries the chorus. She represents the voice of compassion, arriving to interrupt the protagonist’s failure story with another perspective. Her message is one of love, hope and encouragement, a reminder that he is loved, cared for, supported, that there’s no burden on him to prove himself, no need to be ashamed.

Be like the voice of Kate Bush in this song, develop a compassion mantra. You don’t have to come up with an original one, borrow one from a song or poem or story you like. A mantra I absolutely love to use is borrowed from Three little birds by Bob Marley, ‘Every little thing, is gonna be alright’… Keep it simple.

P…lots of P!!!

Practice, patience, persistence, repeat. I’ll never forget the first time I actually experienced compassion for my own self. I had been ‘in practice’ for about 18 months before it finally came to me, but when it did I was so humbled by it, it’s a beautiful experience.

If you want to read a little about that, I’ve written about it in this post, but I mention it here now because I want you to know it doesn’t happen overnight, you have to do some emotional work and prepare for it. To arrive at self compassion after having been foreign to it is a big moment, very moving, overwhelming really, but in a good way.

Show up

Unlearning self bashing and developing compassion requires a leap of faith, you have to hope, keep going, keep believing, you will get there. I’m not saying it will take you the same amount of time as it did me, just don’t expect miracles of yourself or the universe and don’t expect to arrive without the required journey on your behalf.

Nobody else can walk your road for you, but know that you’ll never be alone, on this adventure you’ll meet many fellow travellers, each at various stages, each seeking, so remember to be kind and let kindness be.

Take your time and for now, just promise you will at least show for up yourself, as you are.

State your intention out loud with me now…

“Dear (Amanda), I promise to show up for you”

How does that feel?

Always, Amanda xoxo

If you have an experience to share on this or questions to ask, leave a comment here or you can always email me hello@amandagraceart.com, I’d be delighted to hear from you.

P.S…. Check out my links page for some amazing resources to get you on your way home

Why birds don't get angry! What I learned from our feathered friends

Have you ever listened to birds call and respond each other? An ancient species, with 150 million years of existence to their credit, birds know how to survive, why? Because no bird call goes unanswered, if it does, the bird dies. We are not meant to live this life unheard, unable to call and unable to respond. It's not natural.

I just saw this image in my Facebook feed and it sparked a reminder to a time when I spent my days drinking poison, because I was unable to call, unable to respond.

I spent long enough in this state to really taste the bitterness of unresolved anger.

The root of this anger for me, lay in poor communication skills. Once resolved, I discovered how not angry, but passionate a person I am, some would call it spirited, I often find myself propelled by pure emotion.

Emotion = Energy - in - motion

The way I understand it now, is that when we encounter new situations, our energy shifts and creates a disequilibrium in our being. Our sense of what to do with this disturbance depends on the fundamental relationship you have with yourself. The nature of that relationship is most accessible to you when in a stressed state. In the past, under stress I always had a disconcerting feeling of wrongness.

At it's most basic level, we are always measuring our being against a sense of right and wrong. Right = I'm ok / Wrong = I'm not ok.

How do you feel under stress when you believe you're ok? Passionate.

How do feel under stress when you believe you're no ok? Angry.

When I'm under stress now, I recognise it as disequilibrium, that's all. I'm aware that what I'm encountering is something I don't have a call or response for, yet... and so I become a pupil of the birdsong. I open myself to learning through call and response. I realise my stressed state is the place where I can learn the most. I may never have the answer, but at least I can send out a call... It will be answered.

The origins of self 

Your sense of self as right or wrong is informed by an accumulation of past experiences and an evaluation system that most often has been internalised from some other source, usually the culture of the day.

In our culture, Irish catholic... the culture of the day was reserved obedience. This was enforced with the tactics of shame, fear and oppression. 'Children should be seen and not heard'. We were born to original sin; our being was wrong and it was our job to make it right.

Excuse me, but fuck that. The damage this has done!

Assumed power is a dangerous thing 

There was a time I felt powerless, completely. Mostly because I couldn't seem to make my being right. There are times I still do feel powerless, but I no longer feel it completely and I no longer feel it in relation to my being. I've taken back my power, I found a way for my being to feel right. I found a way to call, to respond and I've learned how to listen for the calls and responses of others.

But it is not my desire to dominate with my call or to see any response as an oracle of truth, it is purely to communicate, to keep moving, because to move is to survive.

My power lies in this ability. To call and to respond. To express and process experiences with others, so that I may stay close to me, to others, to spirit, to love. I know what it's like to not be able to express myself. It sucks...

This is my message to you - ooh - ooh

How do you see yourself in the world? Are you ok? Why? Because someone else says so? Same goes for the alternative, are you not ok because someone else dictates it? Fuck that. Take back your power. YOU ARE OK... you will be ok, always. You have a right to be seen AND heard.

For me now, it's simply ok to be me, as I am, as I was and as I will be. That way I'll always be ok... even when circumstances may not.

Anger too, is an ok place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there!

So what about you? Have you found your bird call?

Always, Amanda xx