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The Power of the Vague Plan

WELL, DAMN. I went through all of the trouble of writing this Tuesday night and it turns out the scheduler was set to the wrong date so it didn’t publish this morning like I intended. That’s okay because that allowed me to add a few sentences about today.

This has been a good week. I’ve stuck to a good workout plan and a good eating plan. And it seems that the secret to me is: Make Vague Plans

Soccer season finally ended so our schedules are a little more flexible this week. This meant I could possibly squeeze some workouts in, and if I’m going to be squeezing workouts in, I might as well make an attempt at reigning in my stress eating, right?

So I made some plans. Some vague plans.

First I needed to know Donnie’s workout schedule because this is his training season so he gets first dibs on training times. That means that if he has the morning off, or if he’s on the bike trainer (the device that basically turns your road bike into a stationary bike) then I can go run. If he’s running or on the bike on the road, I have to either plan a workout at night, or something in the house in the morning. The trick is – I’m supposed to be triathlon training right now. So, in theory, I am supposed to run 3 days, swim 3 days, and bike 3 days. If you do the math you see that means there are some double-days so I really have to be smart with how I plan.

The problem with me is that – like with any really restrictive diet (like Paleo or Gluten-Free, not Vegan because that’s more of a spiritual thing) – if I have a restrictive schedule/plan – I’m going to break it. Just because. It’s the same part of me that, if I break my diet once – I binge the rest of the day. If my schedule says “15 miles on the bike” and I only have time for 10, I’ll just skip the workout. If I’m supposed to do a run for 5 miles at a tempo pace but only feel like running a moderate pace, I’ll skip the workout all together.

IMG_7701So, I’ve been making vague plans. For example: Monday was Donnie’s off day so I knew I’d go for a run. I didn’t plan exactly when or how far or at what speed because I knew I needed to do house work in the morning. I left that part a little flexible but just knew that I needed at least 4 miles so I couldn’t start any later than 5:20.

And I stuck with that plan.

I wanted more miles on Tuesday but had the same basic guidelines and ended up getting out a little early so I got in 5 miles.

When I saw that Tuesday night was free on our schedule, I thought I’d try for a swim. Again…I kept it vague. Pool closes at 9pm, try to go swimming before then. We took our time with dinner, I did some errands, and we headed out about 6:45pm. I took Nikki with me as she needs some lap time too. I had no specific distance planned or workout planned, just “get a good swim” so, I stuck with the plan.

I knew Donnie had to run this morning so last night I got his bike off of his trainer and put mine on so it would be ready in the morning. I knew I wanted to ride it while watching one of my Tuesday night shows. So I did! I didn’t have a specific time or workout planned, just to say on the bike during the show. When commercials aired, I sped up until it was over. When Flash ran? I pushed harder. I just basically pushed when I felt like it but sat back and relaxed when I needed a break.

I’ve also been applying the same idea to my eating. I have a vague meal plan but know I’ll need snacks throughout the day and basically just go for it based on my options when I’m hungry. When I let Sweetie out after work yesterday I heated up some leftover brussel sprouts for a snack. On Tuesday I grabbed a Larabar. I’m just keeping the plan vague enough to allow some flexibility, like the periodic piece of candy from the bowl at the office.

I need a plan. Without one I don’t workout and I eat like crap. But I can’t keep a rigid plan of a certain number of calories and specific workouts because if I can’t do the EXACT thing I’m supposed to do, I just throw it all out the window.

So, the key this week (and all 3 days) has been to find the magic spot of enough of a plan to keep me in line, but not too much of a plan that I’ll toss in the garbage if I can’t do it exactly.

So far. So good.

Tonight’s vague plan is speedwork. I might do hills. I might do the track. I might do it with the kids, I might do it without. Maybe before dinner. Maybe after. We’ll see.

Validictorian of Failing

After my realization about my own inability to handle criticisms, I spent the weekend proving that blog post right. You know, because I take blogging that seriously. I write something about myself and then modify my life to prove what I wrote is correct.

But seriously.

We had a weird soccer scheduling issue this weekend and didn’t know the game was canceled until we made the 40 minute drive to the field. Turned out we had gotten an email that morning about it, but I didn’t check my email and requested maybe a text next time. The managerial person then said that we had been told to check our emails.

What I should have done:
Been okay with that fact that I didn’t check my email since I live a busy life and the skies were blue and there was no time where I recall being told to check my email before the game. I should have been confident that I did nothing wrong and that if I did miss some sort of instruction to make sure we check emails, it was probably because I’ve been busy or stressed and the implication that this was all my fault was something I should have shaken off and gone about my day.

What I did do instead:
Almost cried.
Told Donnie, while trying not to cry.
Sent back an emotional email explaining how they hurt my feelings. (I didn’t use those words but that was the gist.)
Posted a screengrab to instagram.
Told everyone in the world about it.
Tried not to cry more.
Send another email after a response I that missed the point completely.
Looked at the picture on instagram and got angry. And then sad. And then guilty.
Cried.

SEE? Proof that my inability to handle criticism sends me down these horrible shame spirals where I just keep falling lower and lower until I’ve eaten all of the food in the house and cried 1000 tears of shame and embarrassment and inadequacy.

WHAT IN THE HELL, KIM?

Lucky for me, I screw up a lot!

So I had other chances to experience the shame spiral this weekend to really take time to examine how I deal with criticisms and maybe spend time with NOT doing it that way. You know…because it’s horribly unproductive.

The funny thing is that I’m very confident a lot of the time with a lot of my traits and skills. But the second I get criticized, my logical brain that knows I’m a good Mom, a good worker, a good wife…that part goes to sleep and the tiny insecure part wakes up and suddenly the confidence I had moments before is shattered and I’m now the WORST MOM IN THE WORLD. And the WORST WIFE. And the WORST SISTER. And the WORST EMPLOYEE. And the WORST VOLUNTEER.

Whatever I’m doing, I’m a failure because of that ONE criticism.

I voluntarily lead a Sunday trail running group with a friend. VOLUNTARILY. One day we left early and I saw the post on Facebook that we had left and someone was pissed and trying to maybe find us so I freaked out and we wandering around looking for this person and I decided I was the ABSOLUTE WORST and then decided that I needed to stop this nonsense because I suck so bad. Luckily, I didn’t stop because the group is the best in the world and our last run of the season was yesterday and it was EPIC. But still! That day? I was a mess because we left 5 minutes early.

BUT! There’s hope! I see that I do that now. And like I said, I make a lot of mistakes and get a lot of criticisms so I’m already started to recognize these tendencies and I’m working on mantras and stuff to help me stop the spiral downward. I felt like I had screwed something up early yesterday and I told Donnie, “I just feel so bad…” And then I said something magical…

“But that is all on me.”

It was like a realization and I just kept pep-talking myself.

“I mean, maybe he wants me to feel bad and that’s why he said it, but me ACTUALLY FEELING BAD is all on me. I could just NOT feel bad. Recognize that his opinion is not the same as mine and that’s just life and if he feels that way that’s on HIM. Not on ME. I can still be happy with my decision and not worry about his opinion.”

NOW. Was I able to then stop the shame spiral? No. But I slowed it down and didn’t fully collapse under the weight of it all.

Here’s the thing about criticism. First? There’s two paths once you’ve been criticized. Did you do something wrong? YES or NO.

1) Yes, you did something wrong: Then you can figure out how to make amends or how to make sure the same mistake doesn’t happen again.
2) No, you did not do something wrong: LET IT GO.

Neither one of those are easy. With making amends, I tend to get too emotionally involved in my amends because I do one of the following
A) Try to get the person to assure me I did nothing wrong (like with the soccer incident)
B) Essentially beg for a list of all of the things I do RIGHT
C) Take on a million more tasks so that I make up for the one I screwed up

So, my “making amends” turns into “begging for love and validation” which is NOT PRETTY WHEN YOU ARE A GROWN-UP.

And the whole “let it go” thing? Man…I’m so far from being about to do that I have nothing to say about it.

BUT! It is wonderful SEEING all of this stuff in action. If no one ever criticized me no one would probably ever know how crazy I am. Unfortunately, I’m not perfect at all (Reminder to self: NO ONE IS) and because making mistakes is part of being human (Reminder to self: WHICH WE ALL ARE) then we all have to learn how to take criticisms. And with me, I need to learn to be as strong and capable of taking criticisms as I am performing all of the tasks to begin with.

I think I also need to be okay with Worse Case Scenarios.

I get a criticism and I’m like, “OH MY GOD. These soccer parents are now going to think I’m the worst in the world because I didn’t check my email!”

And you know what? That’s okay. If they do think that? I’ll live. If I could be okay with worse-case scenario? My shame spiral wouldn’t be so drastic.

Or, I need to realize that Worse Case Scenario is probably not going to happen. I’ve been a little frazzle with my professional upheaval so part of me is convinced that I shouldn’t relax into this new job and that if I’m not 1 million percent perfect, it will disappear like the last job. And that’s dumb. Logical Kim knows that is dumb but Kim Who Just Was Jobless A Few Weeks Ago And Has Gotten Laid Off Before That Too is a overly sensitive and feels like there is NO SUCH THING AS JOB STABILITY! SO WE MUST EAT ALL THE COOKIES TO COMPENSATE!

(I ate all the cookies. It was ugly.)

(I also ate all the everything else.)

SO! This week I am ready to really try to be a grown-up about criticisms. I need to just look at a criticism as a task to tackle. Put it on my bullet journal. “Make sure to check emails before leaving for soccer games” is now a task! Who cares whether or not I was at fault for not doing that this weekend, right? It doesn’t MATTER if I was at fault or not…what matters is that now I have a step in my workflow to keep the same mistake from happening again. I’m going to try to get to work early today to do a little bit of training on some things I’m not great at yet. AND THAT’S OKAY. Does anyone ever start a new job 100% perfect?

(SHUT UP IF YOU DO.)

I’m going to be confident in myself and my skills and my parenting and I’m not going to wear the WORST MOM IN THE WORLD label just because I missed an email about soccer. I’m not going to expect perfection from myself. I’m going to be gentle. I’m going to take a deep breath and try to not fall down the shame spiral when I’m not perfect because that does NO GOOD for NO PERSON ever.

It’s nice suddenly recognizing habits and trends in a way that they become something you can correct. I’m proud of myself for finally seeing these meltdowns for what they are, now I just have to work on correcting them.

I’M GOING TO BE THE VALIDICTORIAN OF FAILING!

Lightbulbs! In my brain!

I knew absolutely NOTHING about Whitney Cummings before I listened to this podcast yesterday. I mean, a face popped into my head from a sitcom I only knew from commercials, I think named after her? But that’s it. But holy SHIT if that podcast didn’t leave me thinking ALL OF THE THINGS.

Long story, short. She had a strange childhood where her parents abandoned her in very real ways and it led her to a therapeutic/recovery process mainly through al-anon which I’ve had my own experience with but that’s another topic for another day.

She talked about a lot of “realizations” through her journey but one of the ones that hit me the most was her talk about being a martyr. I have always known I have those tendencies, but I’ve had people in my life who are – what I now call – Miserable Martyrs. Those people who whine and complain about what all they do all the time because they want everyone to know how hard they have it.

But the kind of martyr she talked about – what I’m now calling the Caregiver Martyr – hit a little closer to home. The person who does things for people even when they don’t ask and then gets upset when the person doesn’t acknowledge that.

I felt the burn on that one.

My case is a little different from hers, I think. It sounds like she did it seeking approval/love. Mine is a little different, I think. I do a lot of my Caregiving because I adore being cared for. The problem is, I have determined, is that I also long for someone to be proud of me. And I can’t handle if – for one moment – they’re not.

OUCH. That’s so embarrassing, it hurts.

I’ve been thinking about this since the podcast. I think it comes down to the fact that I made my Dad angry – A LOT – growing up. He was a great Man and a great Father but he had some anger issues and while he never laid a hand on me, he did sometimes call me insulting names when he was angry with me. The kind of names that still make me flinch when I hear them used on other people on TV and movies. And those wounds dug deep, I think. So deep that for each one, I think I needed 900 compliments to heal them.

My Dad was not stingy with compliments, I do have vivid memories of him praising me as I do him insulting me. But you know how it is, 100 people tell you you’re smart and then one person calls you a dumbshit and the other 100 never existed.

So. I can go about caring for my family and be mildly okay without compliments or thanks. (MILDLY.) But the second a criticism is thrown out there? AND MY EMOTIONAL TRAIN WRECK BEGINS.

A perfect example:

I’ve been working 40 hours a week with a 90 minute commute every weekday for the past 2 weeks now. Counting my sub 1-hour lunch break I’m gone from the house at least 9 hours every day. All of that and I’m still dealing with all of the after school activities for the kids, making sure we all have dinner, packing lunches, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, moving the grass, all while Donnie uses his non-work time training for his Ironman and playing video games.

And this is fine with me with the periodic praise/thanks…UNTIL THERE IS A CRITICISM.

Then all hell breaks loose.

He walked into the office Thursday night and said, “Do I smell pee?” We are dog sitting, so I think that was his worry, but I freaked out because I work my ass off trying to keep our house smelling good and checking every corner for treasures from any animals. I stormed around mumbling, mopping floors, cleaning, and then I went to the kitchen and stuffed my face.

One subtle, not even directed at me, criticism – and I lost my shit.

I tell Donnie all the time, I would be 100% okay with this balance of responsibility if he gave me 15 compliments/thanks for every ONE criticism. I’ve kinda always known that, it’s less about me wanting the praise than it is me NOT wanting criticism. One negative note and I’m falling down a pit of despair feeling worthless and depressed.

I’ve kinda always known that, but listening to her relate it to her childhood forced me to relate it to mine and I thought: Holy Shit. It was like that with Dad too.

After he would have his fits of anger, and would say horrible, soul-crushing things to me, he would always find a moment to sit me in his lap and offer a very sincere apology followed by praise. Some nights I’d lie in bed just waiting for him to calm down and offer that reassurance. He didn’t get that angry often (as a parent I now know once is too often) but when he did, I just got through it knowing he’d give me my praise and compliments soon. JUST BE PATIENT.

So I think my issues with not handling criticism well is that, in the rest of the world, they’re not followed by mounds of praise and apology. So I don’t know how to handle it.

REVELATIONS!!

I think I need to work on giving myself the praise and apologies. If no one every criticized me about my domestic existence? I’d keep this balance of work no questions asked. I only seem desperate for praise if a criticism has been handed out. So my issues relate less to “WANTING ATTENTION” and more to “NOT BEING ABLE TO HANDLE CRITICISM”.

Isn’t that fascinating?

Okay! Now I’m off to clean toilets so I can hopefully squeeze in a run before Nikki’s soccer game today. If anyone has any recommendations about How To Handle Criticism Gracefully And Without Losing Your Shit, please let me know.

Stumbled upon this photo of a lamp my brother made and it always makes me happy for reasons I can't even explain.

Señora Grumpypants Feel Enlightened

Holy Carp y’all – I was grumpy last night.

(I’m leaving that typo because I really like the idea of religious fish.)

I was snapping at the kids and my husband and I was all sorts of unpleasant in all sorts of ways.

I always hate that. I try to preach the whole “Ripples of Awesome!” and “Spreading Joy!” method of living but some days those outlooks are so far from my actual behavior inside the walls of my home that I kinda want to punch myself in the face.

My Dad used to reference his frustration with his own anger issues, and how he had learned that you carry around frustrations during the day that you can’t release because it’s considered very rude to yell at the lady ringing up your groceries. Or you don’t want to flip off the guy who wouldn’t let you merge on the highway because he could be a psycho that will shoot you. Or you don’t want to yell at your coworkers for not making new coffee when they empty the pot. Any of those things can build frustration into your day that you don’t release, and then you get home and you just let it all out where you’re comfortable.

Dad said, “You take it out on the people in your family because they won’t leave you. But one day they will.”

That’s how I felt last night. I’ve just been tired lately. And stressed. And I just carry that around all day. I’m worried about the house and my new job (I have my first full-home photo shoot today and I’m SO NERVOUS) and my kids and their personal struggles and my husband and his knee and shoulder and whatever else is ailing him…I’m worried about all of that and it makes me turn into Señora Grumpypants (Look for her in Avengers: Age of Ultron) and I keep it bottled up until I get home and then I totally lay it all out on my kids by showing them absolutely no patience and guilting them for acting like…well…kids.

DAMN THEM!

#MomOfTheYear

But recently I’ve had these small glimmers of enlightenment. Have you had those moments? Where for one second you suddenly truly feel that thing you tell yourself all the time but you don’t actually believe it? Things like:

I love my body! I don’t have to be skinny to be beautiful!

As long as I’m a good person, it doesn’t matter how much money I make!

If I treat others with kindness and love, then I’ll feel it in return!

You know – those affirmations you tell yourself that a lot of times you don’t truly believe? But then, in a moment, it clicks and part of your heart is all like, “Hell yeah, I’m beautiful. Screw this diet!” And those moments are just BRILLIANT and why we keep going, right?

Well – one I’ve been trying to tell myself lately is:

None of this truly matters.

I get so stressed about stuff that really doesn’t matter if you look at the big picture of life. So what if I don’t do this one thing perfectly? Really? What is the worse that can happen? So what if I don’t get my floors mopped before work? I mean, is there really someone who would have bought my house today if the floors were mopped? So what if I don’t lose this weight by the time we go to Harry Potter world? Should I really let that affect my trip?

Things like that.

And lately, I’ve actually gotten these small moments of release where I’m relaxed because I truly believe the affirmation: None of it really matters. And in that moment, I’m not stressed. It’s like I just let go of it all and for this brief second I feel a million pounds lighter.

And those are great feelings.

The lightness doesn’t stick around for long, but the fact that it shows up at all is reassuring. The fact that there is a part of me that can relax in the moment and see some of this stress for the futility that it really is, makes me feel better that I’m not going to collapse under the weight of it all.

And I woke up this morning and had one of those glimmers…those little clear views that the stress is completely unnecessary. I had that moment of peace which reminded it’s all going to be okay.

It was only a moment, and then I starting freaking out again, but still! That moment helps calm down Señora Grumpypants so that hopefully she won’t spread her grumpiness to her children when she wakes them up for the day. And those moments of enlightenment is what make those affirmations important because the moments get closer together if you keep telling yourself, “It will be okay.”

ripple

Kindness In The Face Of Irritation

Twice lately I’ve received angry emails for various reasons (I’m a point of contact for a few different things which means strangers sometimes email me) and have resisted the urge to respond with a, “OMG. Chill out! It’s not a big deal! Here is the information you need that will get your underwear untwisted! JEEZ.”

In both cases that was the general tone I used in the FIRST draft of the response, but not in the SECOND after I had some time to think.

Because – truth be told? I’ve been that person irritated behind the email. And I received a kinda and empathetic response instead of an irritated one and it made me feel 9 million times better.

(That’s a scientifically validated number. I did the math. It was actually 9 million times better.)

So, instead, I’ve offered kindness. Empathy, “Yes, I understand the frustration…” followed by important information, “these factors have played a part in causing you irritation…” and then a plea for forgiveness, “I hope this helps you understand the problem and that this does not jeopardize our relationship.”

And both times? It got an apologetic and appreciative response in return. Same as the one I gave the person on the other end of my irritated email.

Here’s the thing – sometimes we’re going to get irritated. And often, rightfully so. There are a lot of irritating things in the world. I’m currently irritated by the cost of a soccer season where both of my kids have played two games without uniforms and the season only has 7 games. WHERE DID MY MONEY GO IF NOT TO UNIFORMS?

See? Irritated!

And I may or may not have already emailed someone about it.

(I have not. But I have emailed someone about other issues that irritate me.)

We’re all going to be irritated sometimes. Some (me) more than others. And sometimes we (me) will send irritated emails to someone because we feel like what irritated us needs addressing. AND THIS IS OKAY. It’s often necessary that those voices get heard before policies change. HOWEVER, if I responded back with more irritation then that person will get even MORE frustrated and the ripple of suck will just spread across the universe.

Instead, I put myself in their shoes which I can easily do because I get irritated often, and wait. They threw in the pebble of ANGER and FRUSTRATION into the pond and I can just let the ripples wash over me until the water is calm again. And then I can respond with kindness and send those ripples back to the person in hopes to help fade their anger in the slightest.

I’ve done that twice recently, mainly because someone did the same for me.

It works both ways.

So! If you’re the kind of person who has a position where sometimes you get angry emails, stop before you fire off that response with a similar tone. (Man, the one I first typed out recently was SO SNARKY. I’m so glad I waited.)

We can’t stop and think when it’s an angry phone call, or any angry face-to-face encounter. But we CAN if it’s an angry email. We can pause and really think about our response.

And as someone who recently got a kind response to an angry email? I can tell you – it was the thing quickest to calm me. They didn’t promise change or correction, they just offered empathy and that helped immensely. So I returned the favor to the angry email I received and received an appreciative response in return. I like to think that person who responded kindly to my frustration is the reason I responded kindly to another person’s. So, his response not only helped ME, but helped the next person I talked to.

That’s how kindness works, I guess. It spreads – and I need to remember that more often than I do.