Laughable Plans: Finding Control When There Feels Like None.

Laughable Plans: Finding Control When There Feels Like None.

Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration

If you Google search “top 10 most stressful life events,” there are a few repeat offenders that pop up on list after list. Death of a loved one. Marriage. Divorce. Starting a new job or losing a current one. Financial problems. 

And then, there’s MOVING.

For the last few months, this one’s been my Stressful Life Event de Jour. And not just moving. Buying.

(*and yes, it’s admittedly a HUGELY privileged Stressful Life Event to even be able to buy — especially in New York City, which has been touted as one of the hardest places to buy due to its many….uh…let’s just call them *quirky* barriers to entry.)

But this letter to you today isn’t about buying a home: it’s about everything else it’s been bringing up for me, and I suspect life has been bringing up for you, too.

PART 1: LAUGHABLE PLANS.

Let me give you some context: I am no stranger to moving. For the majority of my adult life, I moved almost every single year. I think my own personal record was around 2009-2011, where I somehow fit four apartments into a span of 2.5 years.  And then I met Jeremy and started living in apartments for 2-3 years at a time. Apartments that didn’t feel like a “place” — they felt like a home.

About a year ago, we decided that after all these feelings of “home,” it was time to actually make moves and buy one of our own. Knowing a more permanent situation was on the horizon, we decided to take advantage of the “Covid deals” in the city and rent one last time. I don’t have kids (well, human kids — Frankie totally counts!), but I imagine the mindset we had was similar to that of pre-parents who take a “babymoon” before life changes forever: our plan was to have an “adventure year” in an area of the city we’d probably be priced out of during any other moment in time, while saving a bit more in the meantime. You know. Have one last “hurrah” before a new chapter began. Especially because, of course, things in the world would “get better” soon.

Well, there’s an old Yiddish saying. “We plan, God laughs.”

So, you’re welcome for the comedy show, God/universe/whatever you want to call it.

Without getting into all the nitty-gritty details of every single not-exactly-hurrah-worthy event, what I’ve finally realized is that after two years of SO much uncertainty and lack of control over the state of the world, I think we thought we could “control” our way out of it all. That we could put a surplus of concrete plans in place like in “before times” and it beat the system.

What’s ironic is that the surplus of plans we put in place actually worked in the opposite way we wanted them to. Instead of providing us with more security and ease, they made us more on edge and unsettled than ever. We weren’t loving our neighborhood. The pandemic was faaaaaaar from over. Buying was proving to be even harder than the “hard” we thought it would be. Maybe in a different time it would have all panned out differently, but we don’t live in another time. We live now. Everything began to feel fragile and calculated. 

What’s even more ironic is that it all felt exponentially harder to work through mentally and emotionally than in 2020, the year so many of our lives literally changed overnight, and so many of us felt like we had the most uncertainty.

PART 2: AFTERSHOCKS.

If you’re nodding your head, I want you to know that you’re a) human, and b) not alone. When you have so much uncertainty thrown your way for so long (and two years is definitely so long!), any opportunity to seize control can feel like not only a lifeline but the rarest of opportunities.

It’s not that uncertainty is the enemy, though. Or control, for that matter!! It’s not as simple as good vs. bad. Both certainty and uncertainty have their pros and cons, sometimes in the same breath.

But as a recovering perfectionist AND recovering self-help junkie, I’ve historically had a tendency to either think that you need to totally control every aspect of something in order for it to “work out,” or you need to completely let go. The latter being a favorite of self-help culture: everything happens for a reason, blah blah etc etc.

This is obviously not how life works. You can’t just always have one thing all the time.

So what do you do when you feel like you have no control at all and everything’s spinning haphazardly?

The answer to lack of control, I’ve learned, isn’t total control. It’s finding a way to feel (and stay, even?) grounded while the floor shakes under you and the aftershocks keep rolling. And I’m from Southern California. I KNOW earthquakes. When I was seven, an earthquake hit our city so big that entire houses fell off of their foundation. My friend Joey’s whole house was flooded. My aunt (pregnant with my cousin Ben, so also, my cousin Ben) had to literally climb out a window to get out of her house because the doors were blocked with debris. Phone lines went down, electricity went out, and parts of the freeway collapsed. People died. This was 1994 pre-social media, when all we had were newspapers, TV, and radio — the latter of the two you might not have had access to if your power had gone out. So for days, so many of us….just….didn’t know….so much.

And the aftershocks kept rolling.

But we got up. We got creative. We did what we could. We helped where we could. We climbed out windows and rebuilt freeways and mourned the losses while we moved forward, knowing very well the ground could start shaking again at any moment.

Whether it’s an earthquake, a globally traumatic event, a relationship beginning (or ending), a job ending (or beginning), or a move, there are times in life that present us with what feels like more not-knowing than we can handle.

Whenever I feel like “nothing” is certain and I start to not only fear but expect the proverbial aftershocks of a moment in time way outside of my control, I do ONE thing that IS.

Whether it’s moving my body in the warmth of my little living room on a cold day, or being intentional with my words during a difficult conversation, or doing that one thing I’ve been putting off for weeks  — that little thing ALWAYS brings me back to myself.

No, it doesn’t fix the situation at hand. But it reminds me I have a sliver of agency, during a time when I often forget I do — and that control isn’t an all-or-nothing event.

PART 3: THE DANCE.

I said earlier that there were multiple “not-exactly-hurrah-worthy” events over the course of the last year. But what I didn’t mention is that there were plenty of “hurrah-worthy” ones, too. Going to the theatre more than ever. Cooking so many new, delicious meals. Home workouts (who knew they’d become so fun?!). Weekend mornings uptown. Midday coffee breaks in Madison Square Park and Washington Square Park and Fifth Avenue. Runs through the streets of Chelsea and Soho. Multiple big work WINS. New friends. 

The thing that all of these moments have in common is that they weren’t in the plans. Even the things I DID expect to happen and DID plan for didn’t happen on the timeline I’d set for myself. I had control in the moment, but that control didn’t come from a strict guidebook I was following. The uncertainty actually enhanced these experiences, come to think of it. I appreciated them more. And eventually, allowed myself to go with the flow with the other stuff rather than fighting the tide.

I have no new news to report on the homebuying front, other than the fact that I’m finding peace in doing what I can and then letting the rest be. Like in life. Sometimes control will be there, and sometimes it won’t. Trying to force everything to line up perfectly isn’t the answer — but neither is letting go so much that you’ve lost the hope and joy that comes with expectations. You’ll be able to control certain things, but not all the things. Internalizing and accepting the presence of both those things as simultaneous truths is key to making the moments matter. An investment in both the attachment and non-attachment. An ability to move forward with plans and accepting they might not work out but moving forward anyway.

So many times we try to control our way into the fullest, truest life we can imagine.

But a full and true life isn’t about being in total control.

It’s about controlling what you can, then letting the rest unfold.

A dance between knowing and not-knowing.

 

gaining control uncertainty

Opportunity Seizing (or, Consistency Is A Trap.)

Opportunity Seizing (or, Consistency Is A Trap.)

Community Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Work

Are you sick of the end-of-year scare tactics yet? I sure am.

You know the ones. Even if you don’t KNOW you know the ones…you know them.

“Make this last month of the DECADE count!”

“Only a few more weeks left in the YEAR!”

“Don’t waste the last few days of 2019!”

If seeing and hearing these phrases stress you out, congrats. They’re meant to stress you out.

I was talking to a friend yesterday who confided in me that she’s going through it. That “IT” so many of us are going through this time of year, that’s compounded and magnified by the stressy “MAKE THE LAST DAYS OF THE DECADE COUNT” memes. 

She doesn’t feel inspired, she feels ungrounded, her routines are all over the place. She’s feeling guilty and rushed, like she’s lost her magic spark and might not ever get it back again. She hasn’t kept up with a few business things and hasn’t figured out her winter self-care. She feels all over the place and scared she won’t find herself again after this storm settles…IF it settles.

And so I texted her this:

“Consistency” can be great. It can also be a trap. Time is a construct. Time was created to give us measurements and structure – which make us feel a sense of order in an otherwise chaotic world.

But if we rely on structure TOO heavily, we start to lose our sense of independence. If we rely on timing, consistency, schedule, and routines to keep us in control, what happens when LIFE happens – when those things are upended?

A question:

If I told you that the new year/decade actually began YESTERDAY instead of today, would that change how you did things?

If I told you that you actually had 28 months instead of 28 DAYS left in 2019, how would you spend your time?

The choices you make today won’t be remembered in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 years from now as the choices you made to “make the most of the end of the year.”

The choices you make today – if they’re important and brave enough choices, which can range from sending that tough email to taking a FULL rest day (not hour! day!) to FULLY reset – will be choices you remember as seized opportunities.

Because here’s the thing.

When you ask the universe for patience, strength, bravery, or fearlessness, it doesn’t give you patience, strength, bravery, or fearlessness.

It gives you OPPORTUNITIES to be patient, strong, brave, and fearless.

When you ask the universe for patience, strength, bravery, or fearlessness, it doesn’t give you patience, strength, bravery, or fearlessness. It gives you OPPORTUNITIES to be patient, strong, brave, and fearless. Click To Tweet

When we’re caught up in timelines and structure and routines, we run the risk of missing those opportunities. We start to act out of fear of “losing ourselves,” when in reality it usually takes a break in routine and consistency for us to really find ourselves.

As this year/decade comes to a close, I challenge you to look at each day as its own experience. It’s not simply “the X-to-last day of the year.” It’s its own living, breathing, morphing organism. It lives on its own AND as a mini-chapter in the macro-story around you.

Screw marrying yourself to a timeline or consistency for consistency’s sake. There are opportunities every single day for you to seize to help you be the you you know you’re meant to be. They might live inside your routine or timelines…they might not. 

All that matters is that you stay on the lookout.

 

The Table Flip.

The Table Flip.

Community Love Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power

I had an odd experience this morning. It’s the first Sunday in a while I’ve not only been by myself (Jeremy is in San Diego), but I’ve had a few hours TO myself. No meetings till later, no appointments to rush to, no classes to teach. I take my time making myself a coffee carafe for one. I turn on Destiny’s Child radio on our Pandora because I’m here alone and J isn’t about that Beyoncé life and who doesn’t love a little Bug-A-Boo to start their day.

I open Instagram (when will I learn??).

I glimpse a statistic about eating disorders in women.

And I think:

What the FUCK have I been doing the last two months to help the epidemic of negative self-talk that leads to these kinds of numbers??

~

Empaths like me – like US – have this problem. We’re told to take time for ourselves because we spend so much in the shoes of others – but when we see a statistic or snapshot, we go down that constricting rabbit hole of guilt, thinking of all the time we “wasted focusing on ourselves” with regret and guilt. And so we don’t. We don’t take time for ourselves, because we know where THAT leads. Guilt. Remorse. Regret. Stuff we stuff down boils back up, and then there we are, once again caught in the negative self-talk loop we’re so trying to avoid. Because it’s way easier to focus on tearing ourselves down than addressing the real problem.

I sat with this guilt for a second. Sat with the feeling of “WTF Have I Been Doing To Help The World.”

And what freaked me out more (whoops) after I did is this: I’ve spent so much time in the last two months making sure life around me stays firmly attached at the seams, that I’m unraveling in the places that matter most. I think I’m keeping it together because I’m showing everyone else I can juggle and not drop the ball. But underneath, where only I can see, I’m scrambling to hold on.

In my mind, no one needed to see those parts. So somehow, at some point, I convinced myself that they weren’t important. 

Longer post for another day, but big life-stage-transitions feel like a table flip. You know in movies when a character gets angry or overwhelmed and oh look there’s a nice and neat table so OH SHIT they take their anger out on it and FLIP the mothereffer onto its side? Instead of resolving the conflict, they take all the chaos around them and channel it into wrecking something that was perfectly fine and organized in the first place.

My table flip moments have manifested themselves not in chaos, but in the illusion of control. The amount of change in my life right now is overwhelming to me – a GOOD overwhelm, but overwhelm nonetheless – so instead of letting IT overwhelm ME, I have been narrowly focusing in on the stuff others can see and neglecting the stuff that keeps ME feeling grounded and in control.

Surprise surprise, that plan is backfiring. And instead of the THINGS overwhelming me, I’ve now ended up overwhelming myself.


I’m now six days out from my wedding and I find myself regretting the way I’ve handled the last month, which brings up all kinds of pangs of guilt.
I should have journaled every day to document this moment. I should have taken more time off work to fly to LA and help plan. I should have been firmer delegating tasks to others instead of assuming they’d know what to do and avoiding any glimmer of seeming “controlling.” We’re taught in our society that this is (supposed to be) a once-in-a-lifetime kind of day – should I have amped it up more like I see other couples do leading up to THEIR wedding?

If I dig deeper, however, I realize that I THOUGHT things would look different in my life as I approached this transition. I thought I’d be (and feel) super successful, which (to me) means not just making a difference in ways I can see, but that those visible markers of success flow through my days naturally and with ease. I hate to admit it, but up until now a part of what success has always looked like to me has been: you’re on SUCH a roll that logistics take care of themselves.

I am nowhere near that. Moreover, this time in my life requires all. the. logistics. In the last month or so, I havent felt like I can soften my gaze on the Whats and focus on the Whys, because the Whats feel like I’m starting from scratch. New life stage, new career stage, new new new newnew. It’s an exciting feeling when you’re in it. And also terrifying. Really terrifying.

Good news, or so it seems, is that when the exciting-terrifying-ness gets to be too much, you can just tune them out, and do the work. I’ve been tuning them out and doing the work.

But guess what?

Strong feelings like excitement and fear don’t disappear – they just hide and grow. And grow. And grow. Until one day you wake up with a Sunday to yourself, turn on some 1998 Beyoncé, look down at the table you’ve flipped over, and realize the mess you’ve made.

~

When I was 16, I found a quote somewhere that seemed revolutionary to me: If you love something, don’t hide and suffocate it for the sake of holding on. Set it free. Anything meant to be always comes back.

This obviously isn’t original or unique – hello, every self-help book ever written – but at the time it blew my mind. You mean I don’t need to worry about the stuff that’s MEANT to happen? You mean I don’t need to pour myself into every single person, place, and thing 24/7 to ensure it sticks around? You mean I don’t need to worry?

The things I’m worried about in this moment – they’re things I know aren’t going away. My sweet friends. My beloved routine. Our WANT community. The change I AM meant to make in the world. NONE OF THIS IS GOING AWAY. But, but.. I can feel myself holding on and suffocating it all because I’m so scared that if I loosen my grip it’ll all fall away.

Is that fear of loss rational? No. It’s a concrete thought conjured by a vague emotion that’s trying to make sense of transition and life recalibration.

I am EXACTLY where I need to be to feel the way I want to feel. Click To Tweet

So here I am. Practicing what I preach – but not in the pretty and zen way we read about. Doing the hard fucking work of sitting with my thoughts and asking WHY. Why I feel the way I feel – why I REALLY feel the way I feel – and then asking: so what are you going to do about it?

What’s the answer, then? If I am feeling overwhelmed, if I’m feeling angry with myself…but REALLY I am feeling a lack of a softer focus and wider lens, and REALLY I am feeling the confusion and slight panic of life feeling like it’s going faster than I can keep up with…then what am I really going to do about it??

This:

I will be for the most part completely offline for the next two weeks enjoying every bit of our wedding’s before-during-after – and, moreover, every single moment of the first step in our new chapter. It’s a first we’ll never get back, and I want to be fully present.

I am stepping back and taking a break and not pretending otherwise.

I am pressing pause on the subjective deadlines I’m in control of (created by my mind) so I can make the objective ones I’m not in control of (created by LIFE) worth every single second.

I’m putting aside the pressure to make a difference in someone else’s life…and turning back inward to make a difference in my own.

I’m trusting that I am EXACTLY where I need to be to feel the way I want to feel.

And I hope that, when life hands you a table-flip moment, you will step back and do the same.

 

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