Limiting Box or Launching Point?

Guidelines can form a limiting box or a launching point. You probably know someone who uses recipes as loose guidelines and makes delicious food. You probably know someone else who carefully weighs, measures, and strictly adheres to recipes who also makes delicious food.

The way each of us responds to recommendations or guidelines is the result of many factors. It’s easy to just respond and move on without thinking about it, but we may unnecessarily limit ourselves in the process – some by not setting limits and some by not venturing outside limits.

You may already know the camp in which you fit. If not, examine statements A & B below. Which statement feels right to you? Both can be true, but notice the one that feels most natural and comfortable. That will tell you the kind of environment you need to support you so that all guidelines become launching points.

A)Following a recipe means you never have to worry about over-salting.

B)Following a recipe means you have an idea how much salt to start with.

I will always choose B.

I view recipes as a starting point. I know that if I follow one precisely, the result will be good. But I love feeling free to add a dash of cinnamon or substitute honey for sugar. Endless possibilities energize and excite me.

And seeing the possibilities outweighs any worry that my dish may not taste as good as it would if I followed instructions. In fact, I never think about the risk of bad food. In the moment, I feel confident I will make it better.

Sometimes that doesn’t hold true, but that never discourages me from experimenting because that’s where the joy is for me – in the process. If the result is good, bonus! This doesn’t just apply in the kitchen. It guides my life.

For other people, experimenting may feel reckless or stressful. When that’s the case, it is important to create or choose a more structured environment that allows for growth and expansion within comfortable bounds.

Knowing the environment that best supports you will save time and heartache. It can inform your choice of career, housing, romantic partner, and family culture so you can live your dreams.

We all get to design our lives. The better we know ourselves, the more successful we will be in creating a supportive plan that launches us to points beyond what we imagine possible.

Along the way, there will be plenty of people who deliberately throw up roadblocks. Some will be well-intentioned. Others will not. To prevent any deleterious effect, make sure your life plan includes activities and environments in which you feel your presence and contributions are valued. Leaning into activities that make you feel valued, creates a well of positive feelings and energy on which to draw when negativity weighs heavy.

Few of us may surpass our potential, but all of us can approach guidelines in a way that makes them a launching point for creating the life we desire. Let’s kick those limiting boxes to the curb and live our dreams!

Ever Feel Like You Were Born on Opposite Day?

I often feel like I was born on opposite day. In yoga, when most people feel a stretch on the left leg, I’ll feel it in my back on the right. I can move and shift and never find a stretch on the left. While students around me tried to avoid teachers with a reputation for being difficult, I sought out the toughest English, chemistry, and biology teachers. I fired an easy flight instructor to fly with one who turned off the fuel on takeoff to see what I would do.*
I’m out of sync with the mainstream in other ways. I don’t want to go home from the doctor’s office with a bottle of pills if there’s another way to fix the problem…even if the alternate solution takes months or years. When my tummy feels like it needs something bland, eating a piece of cheese or a banana will send it into absolute spasms for days but a bowl of black beans has no ill effects.

This weekend I watched The Goddess Project with some friends. Afterward, I just kept thinking that I never feel limited by being female. I’m not saying I don’t see inequities in corporations, organizations, and institutions or that I haven’t sometimes had to figure out ways to navigate that wouldn’t be required of men. I’m just saying, I haven’t ever felt like I shouldn’t pursue whatever I want to pursue because I’m a girl.

Why am I writing about any of this? I’m not exactly sure. It has something to do with watching that movie, taking care of a 2-year-old, and trying to be present when everything feels raw. There’s a point lurking somewhere in the back of my mind. Maybe I’ll find it if I just keep writing.

There are times that my grandson DJ pouts and whines about something and I just smile and walk away because the behavior is best ignored. There have been other times when he has behaved badly, gotten in trouble, and then thrown a B.I.G. fit. My first instinct is to lay down the law. After all, he’s already gotten consequences and now he’s behaving worse.

But one day when this happened, instead of being punitive, I picked him up, held him close and told him what a good boy he was and that I was pretty sure we could figure out how to solve the problem. He stopped crying, yelling, and kicking, calmed down and was cooperative. It was an eye-opener. I have no idea why it struck me that was the thing to do, but somehow I knew he needed the opposite of what logic was telling me.

I often need the opposite of what convention offers. Support groups don’t make me feel supported. Attending a class doesn’t make me more likely to work out. Pushing me doesn’t mean you’ll get a quicker or better result. Talk therapy leaves me in an emotional loop I can’t get out of. (I can, but it’s by integrating my body into the process using somatic experiencing and yoga.) I tolerate directness, confrontation, and anger better than evasiveness, subterfuge, and manipulation presented in a very polite fashion.

I feel annoyed when “experts” promulgate the idea that they can predict what will trigger a traumatized person. What triggers one person will not phase another. The idea that there are specific words, phrases, and sounds that should be summarily eliminated from our lexicon feels like dismissiveness to me and I experience emotional flashbacks.

Of course it’s comforting to think that if we as a culture make a few blanket eliminations of words or phrases, then we have done our part to facilitate healing. But the way that often plays out is that I experience individuals who do not believe they need to hear my story, get to know me, or feel my pain. Language and topic policy provide them a comfortable cushion for avoiding genuine interaction.

Again, I understand that I may be in a small minority, but here’s how I feel. I’m a big girl. I can figure out the best way for me to deal with my own triggers. If you feel you must decide for me, you do not view me as your equal. Boom, I feel diminished and dismissed. That does not contribute to healing.

Conventional wisdom is sometimes just convention and convenience that makes us feel comfortable being emotionally lazy or fearful. If we’re willing to really see each other, it is never that simple. Hurt masquerades as anger; fear masquerades as acceptance; shame masquerades as advocacy; vulnerability cloaks itself in imagined limitations. When we really see each other, there is no us vs them. There is just us.

If you are like me, it may be harder to feel supported because what works for the majority of people just feels wrong to you. You may have to be more articulate than your colleagues to get your point across. You may sometimes feel excluded or shunned.

You may spend a lot of time twisting yourself into what you’re not in order to feel accepted. If you do, I am so sorry any and all of us have made you feel you must do that.

I often feel like I was born on opposite day. You may too. Perhaps the only point worth making is that you are not alone. I get it.

I also choose to believe there is nothing wrong with us for being out of sync with our peers. And I know the world needs our voices just as much as it needs other points of view. I won’t try to get you to unite. We’ll leave that to those who were born on regular days.

*I don’t mean he pulled the throttle back, I mean he turned the fuel OFF. The engine was not coming back on. Okay, in truth the easy flight instructor screamed a lot when I was learning to land and I couldn’t stand that anymore. Also, I didn’t know Mike would turn off the fuel until the day he did. I just knew he intimidated all of the young male pilots and gave lots of notes. For any pilot reading this and thinking that move was reckless—we were flying a Cessna 172 and without me noticing, Mike had put his leg up to block the yoke so that I couldn’t pull it back if I panicked once I realized we weren’t climbing. I didn’t. I immediately put the nose down and prepared to land on the remaining length of runway. He knew we had plenty of runway left and if I hadn’t responded with the correct procedure, he would have taken control of the plane.


Having Trouble Figuring Out How to Include Cooking in Your Daily Routine? Embrace your limits!

Having trouble figuring out how to include cooking in your daily routine? Embrace your limits!

Today’s tip comes from my lifelong deficits. I have an inability to type faster than anyone else, swim faster than anyone else, or sprint faster than anyone else. In spite of this gaping lack of ability, I have been chosen for typing contests, advanced swim instruction, and participation in track meets. Why? I am ploddingly consistent and rarely know when to quit, but even more than that, I am willing to look my limits in the face.

I think it took me a whole summer to learn to slalom ski. While I’d popped right up on two skis when I was 10. I didn’t try again until I was in my 30s. It still wasn’t difficult to get up on two skis, but I wanted to slalom. The boat driver instructed me to get up on two and then drop one off. And so it began, I’d get up on two, try to drop one, and fall. Then I’d try again…and fall. My kids thought this was both funny and boring because it went on trip after trip after trip…until I finally found my balance point. Once that happened, I quickly learned to get up on one ski. The balance point had been my limiter. Had I not stuck with the process until I found it, my choices would have been to ski on two skis or drive the boat. By finding my limiter, I eventually expanded my options.

How does this relate to cooking? It relates in the same way that it relates to anything that feels difficult to conquer – once you find the primary thing that holds you back and deal with that one thing (okay, it can be a small list of things), you will find you have more options.

I’ll give you another example. I sometimes walk in the mornings with a neighbor who is always looking for an excuse not to show up. If I put on my walking clothes & carry my shoes downstairs immediately after I get out of bed, I am 90% more likely to walk whether he shows up or not. Why? My mental limiter is having to make a trip back up the stairs. I can’t tell you specifically why that trip seems like such a big deal, but I don’t really need to understand this. As long as I know and face this fact about myself, I can make a choice that will lead to me feeling like I CAN instead of I CAN’T!

If you don’t think you can find the time to cook for yourself or your family, start observing how you feel when some informed expert gives you facts that indicate fresh food positively affects your health and you think, “I really should cook more, but I simply…can’t, don’t,”…whatever comes to mind. For me it could be: “If I cook I’ll have to clean up the kitchen & I really don’t want to do that tonight. I need some time to do nothing.”

For you it will be a unique set of limiters. Way down deep, you will feel your limit. You may feel silly about it, or ashamed, or inadequate that, if you’re me, you can’t get your mind around a single trip up the stairs. Often, we won’t let that feeling come to the surface and become a conscious thought because it makes us feel like there’s something wrong with us – especially when it seems like something small that’s impeding our progress. So instead, we remain in a kind of limbo that keeps us stuck making no progress, or if we let the thought form, spend our time beating ourselves up for having that limit. Often we construct elaborate scenarios to keep ourselves from admitting a simple truth about ourselves that we view as negative.

So, here’s the tipWhenever you feel like you just “CAN’T” cook, walk, say no, say yes, etc. – follow the path your feelings take. Let those feelings lead you to the thing that’s limiting your progress. Trust that the process will bring you insight, and insight will bring you better choices. In other words, you’ll have more choices when you embrace your limits!

Do Our Fantasies Keep Us From Being Healthy?

I don’t…I can’t…Do our fantasies keep us from being healthy?

No Football

No Left TurnHave you ever noticed that you’ve inadvertently created a fantasy world in which you follow certain rules? Some of those rules may start with I don’t. For instance, I don’t go to football games. I don’t take taxis. I don’t ride the subway. I don’t mix my groups of friends. I don’t make left hand turns in my car.

Or maybe we go a step further and say I can’t. I can’t stay up past 9. I can’t leave work before 6pm. I can’t learn to ski. I can’t fly in a small plane. I can’t give up my mom’s homemade dinner rolls. I can’t give up the handmade pasta at my favorite restaurant. I can’t give up my grandmother’s cherry pie.

Cherry Pie

I don’t… I can’t ….. Why do these fantasies become our reality? I’m guessing that most of us make these rules so we will feel safe. We probably don’t even realize that we’ve restricted ourselves until life throws us a curve and the only way to get home from the airport is a taxi. At that point, we recognize we must make a choice. We can choose to stay on an airport couch until other transportation is available, or we can move past our self-imposed limitation.

If you’re tired, hungry, and ready to be at home, a taxi ride may not seem too ominous. I’ve noticed that when I have to shift, I often find that I’m more comfortable than I thought I would be. I’ve finally learned to be grateful for those circumstances that put me in a position to challenge my self-imposed limitations.

After I started writing this post, I took a lunch break to attend a lecture by Dr. Eben Alexander III, the author of “Proof of Heaven”. As I listened, I recognized that he was describing the same phenomenon, but on a much grander scale. Dr. Alexander describes our brains as filters of consciousness as opposed to the place where consciousness begins. Our brains filter through the tiny bit of consciousness we’re willing to experience, but he says that what’s available to us is much greater. He also postulates that there is much to healing we do not understand that is beyond the physical, rational, and emotional. It seemed that he shared all of this in gratitude for his journey through coma – not so much his gratitude for full recovery, as for the journey itself.

It seems that many of us only recognize our journey in retrospect instead of embracing it in the moment. I want to have a full, adventurous, exciting journey to look back on. I can facilitate that by embracing adventure, excitement, and healthy physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual choices in each moment. This thought excites and motivates me to give up my self-limiting fantasies, embrace my fear, and live each moment to the fullest.

Want to join me?