Originally posted February 2015
Stewing in my own juices, that phrase is so visual for me. I can see broth bubbling in a pot with tomatoes bursting from the heat. Have you ever experienced that sensation? Have you ever felt like you were just sitting in the simmering pot of your own thoughts and irritations, getting hotter and hotter and filling up with steam? For me, the flame under that pot is perfectionism and the tomatoes in there represent obligations, commitments and responsibilities that I believe I must manage perfectly. Last week I was stewing in the pot, hell I wasn’t just stewing in the pot, I was basting myself with the broth repeatedly and wondering why my head felt like it was about to explode. I’d had a rough day. I’ve resigned from my muggle (non-coaching) career and am wrapping up what I believe is important to hand off to the next person, without any support or guidance from my management. I feel this incredible sense of responsibility to the population I serve in that role. I worry that they will get lost in the shuffle when I leave. But, I am holding this worry and trying to forge solutions essentially on my own. There is a huge metaphoric weight on my shoulders, I am trying to care take everyone. I am aware that I have created the stress, the sense of responsibility and it is me that has laid that weight squarely on my shoulders. It doesn’t have to be this way, but in that moment I was unable to climb out of the pot. Just for fun, add to that day several phone calls from medical specialist offices to schedule appointments for my daughter. She has a few medical issues and we’ve switched insurance, which amounts to starting over. Trying to juggle her schedule, my schedule, and the frustration of the day was overwhelming. I drove home with the vision of sitting in the boiling pot.
Here’s the truth: I knew that it was my thoughts about the day and not the reality of the situation that was causing me to stew. I’m a coach, of course I know that. Please note that the perfectionist meter is at a 10 with this statement, because the sentiment behind it is something like … “and therefore I should know better, be able to avoid this, get out of it, let it go…” or some other equally oppressing statement to chastise myself for my “imperfections”. Separating out facts from interpretation is a big part of my coaching practice and it was time to use my own tools. But, in all honesty I had to do something other than just self-coach that night. I reached out for help, not something I have done regularly in my life but am doing more now. I talked this through with a trusted friend. She helped me look at some of what was under this intense reaction and recognize my priorities.
The facts of the day were:
1. I’ve quit my job and it is unclear what will happen to my work when I leave.
2. My daughter has medical issues that need attention. She and I have busy schedules without a lot of common times for appointments
3. I am committed to building a coaching practice and that takes a good deal of my time when I am not at my current job.
4. My kids are a priority.
The thoughts sounded more like this:
1. No one at my job has a clue how much work I do, I’m undervalued, under appreciated and they have me completing menial, administrative tasks rather than consulting me about the best use of time right now. It’s a waste, no one will look at this spreadsheet when I’m gone and I could have spent time on things that would have a positive impact. The next person to come in won’t have a clue what to do and will call me frequently, I’ll never be free of that place.
2. The people I serve will think less of me because my predecessor impacted all kinds of positive change before her departure and I can’t.
3. My schedule is insane, I can’t move my business forward because all of these commitments for my kids take all of my time and are holding my business back. I am disappointing people by not being able to commit to and follow through with things like meetings or carpools. Therefore, when I need something no one will want to help me because I have had to cancel or change so many times. I’m afraid that I come across as a frazzled nut, trying to juggle everything.
The facts of the day are a far cry from the thoughts that plagued me. The thoughts were what fueled the sensation of stewing and feeling that my head would explode. Byron Katie’s work (www.thework.com) shows us that most suffering comes from our thoughts rather than the reality of a situation. The breakdown of my day is a clear example of that. Between the awareness of my thoughts and reaching out for help, I was able to dial down the flame under the pot and climb out. It has given me the opportunity to examine what was really happening for me that day and to take a magnifying glass to my perfectionist tendencies. I discovered that my sense of responsibility goes much deeper than I’d realized, particularly when it comes to my children; that will be another blog post someday. For today, are you stewing or running on a hamster wheel? Want to stop? Try writing about your day, what happened and how you felt. Then go back and examine it for facts vs your thoughts about the situation. Ask a friend for help if you need it or leave a comment here for support. Once you can separate out even a few facts from fiction, I’d venture to say there will be some relief. This is a practice, going against years of conditioning. But, we can do it together. I’ll be practicing right along with you.