Vlog: A Shoe Saga

Today on the Crafting my Life Vlog, I’m sharing a story about high heel shoes, and putting things out there.

I Need Help With High Heels

Crafting my Life Vlog A Shoe SagaI have a love-hate relationship with high heel shoes. I love the way they look, I hate the way they feel. The result is that I rarely wear them. Looking ahead to my husband’s company Christmas party later this month, I realized that I didn’t have any high heel party shoes to wear with my fancy new dress. But I didn’t want to repeat my pattern of buying shoes that I only wear once, for about 45 minutes, before ripping them from my feet in agony. So I put it out there, and asked people on my personal blog for high heel help.

Put it Out There, See What Comes Back

When you put it out there, and ask for help, it has a way of showing up. The truth is that many of us want to help each other. We want to use our hard-fought knowledge to someone else’s benefit. But we don’t know how to help. When someone asks, it takes out the guesswork, and lets us know that our assistance will be welcomed. This is true whether you need tips for choosing and wearing high heel shoes, or you want to learn how to make your own cheese, or you’re looking for a new accountant. By putting it out there, you’re seriously increasing your odds that help will come your way.

A Vlog About Shoes and Putting it Out There

Today on the vlog, I talk about what happened when I issued my call for help with high heels. It came – and not always from the place that I expected it to. I heeded the advice that came my way, and bought a pair of shoes. If you could use a little bit of help yourself, take a couple of minutes to watch the vlog and then get ready to put your own call out there:

Accountability: Helpful or Guilt-Inducing?

When I attended the BlogHer conference in New York City last month, I sat in a session about the state of the blogosphere. It was interesting, as a blogger, to hear other bloggers’ thoughts about where we are and where we’re going.

One of the things that came up during the session was a discussion of how we could help each other. Many of the other attendees started talking about how they wanted to write more. In the end, an impromptu accountability group was formed, with the idea that these bloggers could help keep each other on track. It was really quite lovely that they found this kind of support and community. And yet, I myself took a pass – and not just because I actually feel like I’m doing enough blogging already. The real reason is that the idea of having to report my actions to someone else makes me cringe.

One of the things that I noticed while running the original Crafting my Life Online Class was that I got a lot of apologies from the participants. (If you were one, you were not alone.) Many folks felt bad because they fell behind as the class progressed. This is one of the reasons I decided to condense things in the Back-to-School Intensive, which is launching for mail list subscribers next week. By keeping it focused and concise, I believe people will have an easier time staying on track. But that’s only half the story – the other half is that I wanted to give each of these people a hug and tell them that they shouldn’t feel guilty. I didn’t want the feeling that they weren’t keeping up to sidetrack them on their journey, especially because I designed the class so that you could work on it in your own time.

accountability, guilt, cookies, what the hell effect

If we look at this a little more closely, we can tease out some of the issues around accountability. The biggest one, for me, is guilt. Guilt can be a powerful thing, and it can drive us to behave in ways that are less than helpful. For example, there are a lot of famous studies around dieters, food and guilt. In one study, for example, they found that when people who were on a diet felt that they’d overeaten, they ate 50% more cookies than those who weren’t on a diet. This is called the what the hell effect. The idea is that once you think you’ve blown your diet, you think, “What the hell, I may as well eat all these cookies.” Your guilt isn’t working to support your goal, it’s working in direct opposition to it.

I’m not a diet expert, and I really adore cookies. My point here actually has nothing to do with food. My point is that when you’re setting goals, and you fall short, you run the risk of falling victim to that what the hell effect. Your guilt can cause you to think there’s no point in sticking with it now, since you’ve already failed. That’s not productive, and it’s also not true. We all fall short from time to time, that’s what being human is about. When it happens, though, we always have a choice as to how to respond. We can let the guilt overtake us, or we can figure out what went wrong and re-adjust our approach. Re-adjusting is going to get you much farther in the long run.

When you set up some kind of accountability for yourself, you need to make sure that you’re setting yourself up for success rather than failure. The fear of letting someone else down may keep you on track for a time, but what happens if your kid gets sick or your partner goes out of town for a couple of weeks? If your goals slip, will the accountability just cause more guilt, and lead you to experience the what the hell effect? Or do you have a healthy and helpful way to handle that?

If you have a partner or a group that you’re reporting to, it’s a good idea to talk about how you’ll handle slips in your schedule up front. It’s important to be non-judgmental and supportive when things don’t go to plan – with others and with yourself. And it’s important that you let others know how best to support you in meeting your goals, so that you can take advantage of the social support without feeling guilty.

Accountability groups aren’t for everybody, but some people really do find them helpful. It’s just important that you know how to make them work best for you.

Crafting my Life Vlog: Fostering Connections

In this week’s Crafting my Life vlog I’m talking about connection. Connection is key to human happiness. When researchers examine what makes us happy, having strong connections with other people is one of the biggest factors. We’re social creatures, after all. Creating connections doesn’t only make us happier, it makes us healthier, too. We live longer and feel better when we feel as if we belong, and when we’re with other people who support us.

Creating Connection at the Farmers’ Market

I was thinking about this stuff last weekend when I was shopping at my local farmers’ market. I visit the market pretty much every week in the summer, and in the process I’ve formed a connection with many of the vendors that I see each week. This changes my shopping experience, and it also changes the way I view the food I eat. Lettuce is no longer just lettuce, it’s lettuce from the Forstbauer Farm, and when I make a salad I think about the young mom who sold it to me. The person who sells fabulous gluten-free baked goods connects with me on Twitter, and asks how the bread was. The people who sell my food become part of my community in a different way.

Many Ways to Create Connection

Of course, visiting the farmers’ market isn’t the only way to create connection. We can foster our family connections and build friendships. We can attend networking groups, join clubs, go to church, chat with our neighbours or build relationships online. There are countless ways to create connection, and while it can feel a little bit scary to put ourselves out there and risk rejection, the payoff is worth it. Plus, the truth is that most of the time other people are hungering for connection, as well. If you make the first move you’re doing them – and yourself – a big favour.

A Vlog About Connection

In this week’s Crafting my Life vlog, I explore connection and what it means. This was the second go at the vlog, after a total fiasco with the first one that resulted in a corrupted file and many bad words. Eventually, my video guru husband stepped in to help me. In the end perseverance pays off, as you’ll see in this 90 second clip:

PS – Those are dirty dishes on the counter behind me. I left them there because I have priorities, and building a life of meaning trumps dishes. Plus, I hopefully helped you feel better about the state of your own kitchen. You’re welcome!

Need more tips for creating connections and building happiness? Subscribe to the Crafting my Life mail list and you’ll receive Four Easy Ways to Kick-Start a Life of Intention for FREE! You’ll also get other tidbits and news to help you live with more authenticity. And to stay in the loop, follow Crafting my Life on Facebook.

Honouring your Social Nature

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to CBC Radio in the car. I wish I could find a link now, but I can’t, so I’ll just have to go from memory. At one point, they discussed how baby humans and baby orangutans differ when it comes to sharing. Baby humans love to share. If you’re a parent, you’ve probably received more than your share of soggy, half-chewed crackers and the like. And you mustered as much enthusiasm as you could, and took that thing your child was sharing. Maybe you even ate it. You did this because sharing is deeply-held value for most humans.

In contrast, baby orangutans don’t share. They keep whatever they have for themselves, and they become quite upset if they feel you’re taking something from them. They don’t have that inborn value that says we should give some of what we have to others, and they will give some of what they have to us in return.

I take two things from this discussion. The first is that Christmas dinner with an orangutan family could get a little touchy, what with all the orangutans refusing to pass the potatoes. The second is that people are born with a blueprint for creating community. Even as infants, we’re sharing our resources and working to establish social bonds. We may not have the eyesight or agility of a cat, but we have each other, and that’s even more important.

Baby orangutan
Photo credit: Daniel Kleeman on Flickr

When you’re crafting your life, that inborn drive we all have towards connection and community comes into play. Given our social nature, many people find that having someone (or many someones) to share your journey towards living a purposeful life is useful. Maybe essential, even. They don’t have to walk every step of the way with you, and their goals don’t have to be the same. But when you have someone who really gets it, and knows what you’re doing and why, it makes everything else just that much easier.

Social support is important. Having people to share your journey with helps to keep you on track in so many ways. Social reinforcement can be just as important. Our desire for social cohesion means that we don’t want to feel like outsiders. We like to know that we’re not the only ones who’ve ever felt the way we feel. We like to know that we’re normal. This is where seeking out inspiration comes into play.

There are an estimated seven billion people alive today. The odds are high that wherever your dreams lie, you’re not the only one. Looking to other people who have done it before can provide you with valuable insight. It can also provide some reinforcement by letting you know that your dreams are, in fact, totally possible. You can create the life you want to create, because other people have. You may never meet them in person. They may not be the people you call when you need a pep talk. But you can look to their example all the same.

Building relationships and finding inspiration isn’t always easy, but it’s absolutely worthwhile. As human beings, we need each other. By remembering that, we can create the right conditions for a more meaningful and fulfilling life – both for ourselves and the people around us.

Ready for a change? Check out the Crafting my Life Playbook, and find your own bliss in your own time, at your own pace, without every leaving your house. Or follow Crafting my Life on Facebook and subscribe to the mail list and be the first to hear about some exciting new things coming down the pipe in April.

Living Without Apology

Ready for a change? Check out the Crafting my Life Playbook, and find your own bliss in your own time, at your own pace, without every leaving your house. Or follow Crafting my Life on Facebook and subscribe to the mail list and be the first to hear about some exciting new things coming down the pipe.

If you were to define Canadian-ness, one of the characteristics that citizens of this country are commonly said to have is that we apologize all the time, including when someone else bumps into us. I don’t know if Canadians really do apologize more than other people, and I’m pretty sure there’s no definitive study proving or disproving the theory. But speaking purely for myself, and recognizing that it may have nothing to do with the fact I’m Canadian, I do I apologize rather a lot.

Underlying Factors for Frequent Apologies

I’ve been reflecting on my penchant for offering apologies, and why I do it. I think that there are two underlying factors at play when I offer up an, “I’m sorry,” without a second thought.

  1. At some point in my life I learned that apologizing is a social lubricant. Using the word sorry liberally smooths over the bumps, and it’s helped me both personally and professionally.
  2. At a deeper level, constantly apologizing is a reflection of an underlying feeling of inadequacy. I think that if I had a deeper knowledge that I am enough, I wouldn’t feel the need to constantly offer up apologies, which at its heart involves accepting blame.

I’ll admit it, I’m the kind of mom who makes her kids apologize. I don’t believe that you need to feel genuinely, deeply sorry for every apology you offer. When my three-year-old is fighting over a toy at a play group, and through his actions he makes another kid cry, apologizing is just a display of good manners. I want my kids to understand that we can express concern for the feelings of others, and display basic courtesy. Mastering the superficial apology isn’t a sign of poor self-esteem of feelings of inadequacy in my book.

I'm Sorry
Image credit: Maroon Surreal on Flickr

Superficial and Not-so-Superficial Apologies

As apologies become less and less perfunctory and superficial, their character changes. Apologizing for bumping into someone? Superficial. Apologizing for a miscommunication that you played a small part in? Slightly less superficial. Apologizing because you were on the ball and your kid got into a class, but your friend wasn’t on the ball and she thinks you should have signed her kid up, too? Not so superficial. Apologizing because you hold an opinion that someone else disagrees with? Solidly into inadequacy territory.

We all have a right to be here. We all have a right to live our lives. We all have a right to hold our own opinions. When we start apologizing for our mere existence, we’re perpetuating the notion that we’re not worthy, and that we’re not enough as we are. That’s simply not true. It’s also not helpful if you’re seeking greater meaning and authenticity. It’s really hard to follow your dreams if you’re apologizing for even having them.

If you find yourself constantly apologizing for your mere existence, how can you change your approach?

Seven Tips for Living Without Apology

Here are some easy steps to help get you out of the too-frequent-apology habit:

  1. Learn to express your opinions courteously. When you can share your thoughts politely and respectfully, you’re less likely to create emotional strife that may leave you rushing to apologize.
  2. Find safe spaces, and practice sharing your ideas. Commenting on blog posts, attending discussion groups or even just chatting with your friends can all be great venues to practice expressing yourself.
  3. Emulate your children. Obviously you don’t want to have a full-blown temper tantrum over a cookie. All the same, little kids are masters of expressing their needs and desires. We can learn a thing or two from them, and their conviction that they are worthy.
  4. Once you feel safe expressing basic opinions, practice asking for things you need or want. You deserve to have your needs met, and you deserve happiness. If you can master this, you’re taking care of yourself and honouring your own self-worth.
  5. Bring little bits of joy into your daily life. When you practice doing things that make you happy, you’re sending a powerful message to yourself that you matter.
  6. Say “no” more often. Apologizing too much and taking on too much are both signs that you’re putting other people’s happiness ahead of your own. As you learn to advocate for your own needs, you’ll be less likely to accept blame that isn’t yours.
  7. When you find yourself apologizing, learn to stop and re-phrase. It’s okay to take your words back when you realize you’ve said the wrong thing. As you come up with a better phrasing, you’re practicing what you can say the next time around.

Are you a frequent apologizer? Does it work for you, or would you like to change it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

A Cup of Sugar

I’m making plans for what happens next in Crafting my Life. I’ve just sent the Crafting my Life e-Book to my editor, and I’m making plans to run my online class on living with intention for a third time. If you’re ready for a change in your life, and you want to be the first to hear what I do next, as well as be eligible for advance access and special pricing, subscribe to my mail list!

Last week my friend Kirsten and I made pickles. They were sweet pickles – bread and butter, to be exact. If you haven’t ever made sweet pickles yourself you might not know this, but they require a lot of sugar. You’re basically marinating cucumbers and onions in a vinegar-and-sugar solution, with a little bit of spice added for flavour. That morning, when I’d eyeballed my sugar jar, it looked like I had more than enough. But after painstakingly slicing all of the cucumbers and onions, and covering them with salt and ice cubes to pull the water out, we found that I did not, in fact, have more than enough. I had less than enough.

Homemade Pickles - Sweet Bread and Butter
Spoiler alert – everything works out in the end, and we produce pickles

As fate would have it, I needed exactly one cup of sugar. At first, Kirsten offered to run to the store. But that would have delayed the pickle-making by a good 20 minutes at least, so I decided to run across the street to my neighbour’s instead. After all, I live in the suburbs. I might as well live up to the cliché and ask to borrow a cup of sugar.

Luck was smiling on us, because (1) my neighbours were home, (2) they had made pickled beets themselves that very morning, giving us an instant canning kinship, and (3) while they were low on sugar themselves, as she poured the last grains into my measuring cup it added up to exactly one cup. My neighbour smiled at me and said, “See? It was meant to be.” And while I’m fairly sure it was all just a random coincidence, it really did work out tremendously well.

Later that evening, my daughter Hannah walked back across the street with me carrying a jar of pickles, still a little warm from their processing some hours earlier. It seemed only fitting to give some pickles to the people who had saved them. But it was more than that. They helped fix Hannah’s tricycle when she was a toddler, they brought us salmon steaks they caught themselves, they let me know when I’ve forgotten to close the garage door (again), and they always make time to smile and wave at my kids. They’re very neighbourly, which makes them the very best kind of neighbours to have. A jar of pickles felt like a meager offering, all things considered.

The truth is that I often find interactions with my neighbours to be a little … awkward. I’m not terribly good at making small talk with strangers, or reaching out to the people around me. I don’t think I’m a bad neighbour, but I’m also not the person who’s going to organize the block party or know the name of everyone and their dogs, too. But as my daughter skipped back across the street holding my hand, smiling from ear to ear because our neighbours liked their pickles, I felt a little sad about that. My life would probably be richer if I was the kind of person who struck up conversations with passersby as I weed my front garden.

Borrowing a cup of sugar really was a suburban clich̩ Рbut maybe it was also more than that. Maybe it was the first step in moving outside of my comfort zone and integrating myself into my broader community. I think I would like that, whether I have pickles that need saving or not.

Are you close with your neighbours? Do you go out of the way to get to know the people who live nearby? I’d love to hear!

Embracing the Other

I’m making plans for what happens next in Crafting my Life. I’m thinking of writing an e-Book, and I’m deciding if I want to run my online class on living with intention for a third time. If you’re ready for a change in your life, and you want to be the first to hear what I do next, as well as be eligible for advance access and special pricing, subscribe to my mail list!

Today is Canada Day. This fair country that I live in is 144 years old today. Yay for Canada!

Today on Strocel.com I blogged about some of the things that make Canada awesome. As I was compiling the list, it struck me that many of the points weren’t so much about what Canada is, as what Canada is not. And what Canada is not is the United States. Let’s face it, we’re very close neighbours, both geographically and economically. We share the longest undefended border in the world. But population-wise, and superpower-wise, those other guys are much bigger than us. It’s natural that we would compare ourselves, and seek out the ways in which we hold our own.

Seeing how accustomed I am to listing ways that Canada is different than the United States, I decided to try listing ways that we’re the same. Because, honestly, we have a lot of things in common. In fact, I would argue that our similarities far outnumber our differences, and yet I struggled with the exercise. I am so used to talking about the little differences, like the metric system or how we pronounce the last letter of the alphabet “zed” instead of “zee”, that I found it harder to list similarities than differences. Like, say, the first 25 letters of the alphabet.

As I mulled this over, it occurred to me that there are many ways that I accentuate the difference in my daily life, which have nothing to do with being Canadian or American or none of the above. I’m sure there’s some kind of psychological or biological reason for this. Even just on an instinctual level, it kind of makes sense to me that differences would be more noteworthy than similarities. If you call fizzy drinks “pop” and somebody else calls them “pop”, too, you won’t give it a second thought. But as soon as someone asks for “soda” your ears will perk up. The equation has just been changed, and you notice it.

But are we missing something, as we accentuate our differences and disregard our similarities? I would argue that we are. We forget that other people are worthy of the same kind of respect that we are. We exacerbate political and ideological differences. And we miss out on possible connections with others, because we think of them as being too far removed from ourselves to have much in common.

One of the things that I’ve learned on my Crafting my Life journey is that we can learn a lot from other people if we take the time to listen. You never know when someone is going to have a unique piece of insight or information to offer you. And it can be hard to predict who will show up on your doorstep with soup on your worst day. So rather than spending time focusing on differences, I think it’s far more productive to seek out common ground and be open to hearing what other people have to say.

Today I will proudly celebrate my nation’s birthday. I am happy to be Canadian, and I think that Canada is a great place to live. But I will be keeping in mind that those who live elsewhere are not aliens, they are simply people who live someplace else. And I don’t have to talk them down to feel good about myself.

But Somebody Else is Doing it Already

Let me paint a picture for you. Imagine that you have this great idea, and you’ve decided that you’re going to pursue it. It probably took a fair bit of hand-wringing and weighing pros and cons to get you to this point, but you’re here now, and you’re giving it your best effort. Full of excitement and trepidation, you tell your friend what you’re up to, and she says, “Oh, somebody is doing that already.” Then she shares a whole lot of info, and you check them out online, and they are doing it. And, what’s more, you think they might even be doing it better than you could.

I think that many of us encounter this sort of thing as we go out into the world to do our Thing. The truth is that there are a lot of people in the world, and whatever idea you come up with has probably already been thought of before. There are exceptions, of course, particularly if you’re using cutting-edge technology. But for the most part, if one person has a good idea, someone else probably has it, too. Great minds think alike, after all.

I am not the only person who runs an online class on living with greater authenticity. I’m also not the only person who runs an online class geared specifically to moms. I wasn’t aware of most of the other classes when I started building Crafting my Life. When I found them, I felt a little knot in my stomach. Then I got over it, and if the same thing happens to you, I would recommend that you get over it, too.

Here’s the thing – there’s room in the world for more than one painter, more than photographer, more than one writer and more than one farmer. And, what’s more, I happen to think that having a variety of people working on something is a good thing. Going with the farmer example, when I go to my farmers’ market each week I visit many different vendors, even though they often have similar items on offer. I just happen to think that farmer X has the best tomatoes, farmer Y has the best garlic and farmer Z has the best eggs. If each one of those farmers gave up farming because someone else was doing it already, the world would be a poorer place.

The truth is that we all bring a truly unique commodity to whatever we’re doing, and that commodity is ourselves. No one else is going to approach any particular task in exactly the same way that we will. Even if someone else has the same general idea, the creations that result will be two entirely different things in the end. Just as the people who created them are two entirely different people.

Now, this isn’t to say that there isn’t such a thing as market saturation, because there is. I probably wouldn’t open my kids’ art studio immediately next door to another one, for example. It’s a good idea to do a little research and get the lay of the land before you sign a lease. It may also give you an idea of what you can bring to the table that other people aren’t already offering. Let your individuality shine through, and show people what you alone can do.

I think being yourself is the most effective marketing tool you have. It certainly beats the pants off comparing yourself to others. It’s one reason that I’m deliberately avoiding using the phrase “the competition” in this post. It’s true that you can think of other people in your field as competitors, but I think it’s better to think of them as potential collaborators. From time to time people will come to you who aren’t a good fit for what you have to offer. This is when knowing who is a good fit for them comes in handy. In the process, you’ll build relationships and maybe even find friends and mentors.

So don’t despair if you’re not the first person ever to set up an Etsy shop, start a photography business or write a novel. And don’t waste your energy comparing yourself to the people who have gone before. Instead, bring your own individual style to whatever you’re doing, build mutual relationships and do your Thing without apology. Because you don’t ever have to say you’re sorry for making your art.

Have you ever felt discouraged because you discovered that someone else was already doing your Thing? Do you spend a lot of time comparing yourself to others? Or have you found ways to collaborate and cooperate with others in your field? I’d love to hear about it!

Seeking Outside Input

It’s not too late to register for Crafting my Life! The class is underway, but you have until Monday, May 16 to register. So if you’re ready for a change, sign up now.

Before you set out on your journey to live with intention, it’s a good idea to take stock of where you are. That’s why the first week of the Crafting my Life class is called Taking Stock, in fact. If your life is a map, then this is where you go searching for the little red dot that says You Are Here.

Unfortunately, many people struggle with listing their own strengths and weaknesses – most especially their strengths. We’ve been taught not to brag, not to blow our own horn and not to get too caught up in ourselves. Women, in particular, may have heard this messaging all their lives. Sitting down with a blank sheet of paper and coming up with 10 things that are awesome about yourself can feel more daunting than public speaking while naked.

If you find yourself in this position, there’s a way out. Instead of struggling to come up with a list of your own personal strengths, call on someone you love and trust. Your partner, your mom, your sister or your best friend probably have a lot of good things to say about you, if you let them. So why not let them? And then you can be a pal and return the favour. Just imagine the schmaltzy love-fest that will ensue!

I’ll be honest, here. At first, the prospect of telling someone else that I was trying to re-invent myself and I needed their input was pretty scary. What if they laughed at me? What if they thought it was the stupidest thing they ever heard? What if they had nothing good to say about me? Oh yes, my dragons had about 347 reasons why I should zip my lip and keep my dreams to myself.

It turns out that my dragons had no idea what they were talking about. Other people have been far more supportive than I expected them to be. In fact, most of the time they’re far more supportive of me than I am of myself. I think it’s because they actually can’t even hear my dragons. They’re so caught up with their own dragons that they really don’t have the time or mental energy to invest in talking me down – just as I am too caught up with my own dragons to spend much time picking apart what other people look like in photos. And so my friends and my husband and my family feel far more free to say nice things about me than I do about myself.

Sometimes, as we talk to others, we can have epiphanies and discover things that we didn’t even know about ourselves. They’ll naturally have a different perspective than we do, filtered through different experiences and ways of thinking. That outside input that they have to offer can not only boost our confidence, it can grant us greater insight and teach us something that we couldn’t learn on our own. These are all great things.

So if you find yourself stuck, unsure of where to go next, and uncertain about whether or not you can get yourself there, why not seek outside input? Take the scary step of letting one trusted person at a time in on what you’re dreaming about. Ask them for help in figuring out where you are now. And offer them the same loving input in return. You just may be surprised by what they share.

I wonder what your experiences are with seeking outside input. Do you find that others are more supportive of you than you expect? Do you broadcast your message far and wide, or just have one trusted confidant? And have you been able to return the favour for someone else? I’d love to hear!

Recognizing Patterns

This week I had a realization. An epiphany, if you will. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the warm-and-fuzzy kind of epiphany, though. I do love the warm-and-fuzzy epiphanies. I wish I had more of them, and fewer of the other kind.

My recent epiphany has to do with a pattern that I constantly experience and re-experience in my life. And it goes something like this:

1. I take on some kind of commitment.
2. The commitment grows into something much bigger than I anticipated.
3. I am unable to find the support that I feel I need, and I become discouraged and resentful.
4. I launch into a well-worn mental script about how overburdened and alone I am, and blah blah blah.
5. Someone asks how they can help me, and I become ranty and difficult to be around, and start shooting down their suggestions until they feel hurt and defensive.

Fun, right?

I’m a classic Type A personality. My need to be in control is really quite something to behold once I really get going. I could come up with a whole lot of reasons for this. I am a firstborn child. At school, I was always able and willing to help out my teachers when they needed me, so I was called on a lot. I am the adult child of a substance abuser, so I have practiced being the grown-up from a very early age. But really, none of that matters now, and the truth is that even without those factors I could still be the Type A I am today.

The result of my need to be in charge is that I am not so good at asking for help. But I am even worse at accepting help graciously. When people offer me help, I tend to decline them, or generally rain negativity all over the whole thing. Because, of course, no one can do things like I do things. I am the Queen of Competence, or something like that. The result is that fewer people offer me help, and those who do are rebuffed, often without me even realizing that they are actually trying to provide assistance.

Because of my total and utter reluctance to accept help, I frequently end up in a Bad Place, overburdened and convinced that nobody understands me and what I’m going through. It’s kind of a tired script at this point. But I’m afraid to give it up, because I don’t have another script to replace it.

The truth is that as much as I don’t like feeling overburdened, my belief in my own extreme capability is sort of central to the way I see myself. And so the idea of letting go of that, and admitting that I can’t Do It All, All By Myself, All The Time is more than a little bit uncomfortable for me. Yes, there’s the promise of greater amounts of freedom for myself, and less in the way of stress-induced freak-outs. But there’s also a whole lot of figuring out who I am when I’m not that overburdened, lovably neurotic, always-in-control person.

It’s a little scary to be sitting on this side of the epiphany. It feels big and empty and dark in here. I can’t find my way yet. Maybe I’m not supposed to, exactly. Maybe I’m just supposed to sit here in the dark for a while. I wish I weren’t afraid of the dark.

The reason that I’m writing about this today is because I think it’s important to state that living with intention and working on your issues isn’t always comfortable or easy. Sometimes, you have to confront the very core of who you believe you are. Sometimes, you realize that you’ve behaved in ways that are not as kind or graceful as you would like. It all feels kind of icky and sticky and gooey and gross. It’s tempting to go find some covers to hide under and never come out.

But even as I sit here in this dark room, I know that my present discomfort isn’t the whole story. The whole story is that I am starting on the path to learning how to better express my own needs, and to give myself more breathing room. That’s the real story here. Right now I may not be able to see how that will happen, but I trust that if I start small, and bring greater awareness to my daily life, it will eventually come clear. Maybe only one tiny step at a time, but it will come clear. And I will be glad that I spent this time in the dark room.

It’s not much fun in a dark room, as it turns out. But I think that maybe I’ve been here a long time, and didn’t know it. So knowing it is a start. And a start is something.

I wonder about your experience of epiphanies. Do you ever have them? Are they comfortable or uncomfortable? How do you incorporate your realizations into your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

PS – I may not know how I’m going to learn to accept help gracefully, but I do know that I will be on the Real Parenting show on CFAX 1070 in Victoria, BC at 10:00am on Saturday, February 19. Tune in live, or if you can’t, visit realparenting.ca after the show to download the podcast.