One of the interesting things that I’ve been noticing about compiling a personal-growth toolbox is that it seems like at first, the thing just got bigger and more robust with language and practices and ideas and all of that. And then at some point, mine started shrinking back down as I noticed that all of those collected tools really served the same few functions:
- A pause
- Curiosity about what’s going on
- Acceptance of my own and others’ imperfection
When I noticed earlier this year that I was repeatedly making average grumpy moods worse by getting mad at myself, I paused.
That is to say, I paused once I had gotten through the worst of my spiral which often meant convincing myself to be quiet (learning that was a growth curve from a couple of years ago) until I was calm and clear enough to sit still. And that’s really all a pause is: Sitting still and focusing my attention on all the chaos churning within me.
The pause creates a time to bring the curiosity in a productive way. When I’m consciously bringing that curiosity, I actively think things like:
- I’m noticing [sensation] in [part of body]
- I’m hearing messages like [gremlin gabbing]
- I wonder what in me needs attention
Almost every single time I do this, I hear a bit of wisdom bubble up. In the case of these spirals with Theresa, it was the ah-hah about wanting to be a perfect partner by which I meant a partner who was never anything but 100% pleasant to be around. As in, inauthentic and edited and inhuman. So not what I really wanted but most certainly what my gremlins wanted… because they were sure that anything short of completely pleasant all the time would be a deal-breaker.
And that gremlin message, that doesn’t come from Theresa. That’s an old story that wasn’t useful then any more than it’s useful now. Which is to say, it isn’t useful. Not one little bit.
After that was the gradual and persistent process of noticing when the gremlins were mad at my imperfection and actively reminding myself that imperfection is just part of the deal and that Theresa asked for all of me – and loves all of me – not just the shiny, easy bits.
Yeah, I know, I want it to be like a switch, too: I had the ah-hah, now I’m done with the behavior, please and thank you! We, however, are human and therefore slower and more complex than that. You might think of it as weight loss: When we go on a fad diet and lose 20 pounds in 10 days, we rarely keep it off because we can’t keep just drinking lemon water or live encased in a saran wrap corset or whatever. But when we make little dietary and movement changes that lead to losing a pound or two a week, we’re setting ourselves up for long-term sustainability.
It helps, too, to find some tasty toppings for your salad, and some fun in the process of growth.