My life coach taught me a phrase that I’ve always liked: You don’t see the world as it is. You see it as you are.
The idea being, if you focus on the negative and unhappy things, you’ll only find more negative. If you focus on the positive, you’ll continue to see more positive and build off of it. In that same vein, because you only see what you want to see, you’ll similarly end up surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals because they make “sense” to you and because you subconsciously seek others out who will affirm your own beliefs while disregarding others who espouse those things that don’t jive with your own outlook.
I’m coming up on the two year mark of my corporate layoff. At some point a little over two years ago, I typed some silly phrase into google like, “I hate my life,” or equally ridiculous. That’s how I found the life coach. She had a recommending reading page on her blog, and after reading one of the books, I booked an appointment.
“You can transform your life,” she told me, “but here’s the deal, only YOU can transform your life…and you have to believe that it’s possible.”
It’s funny to think back on it, and how utterly unhappy and desperate I must have been at the time, to take a chance on this crazy, unknown-to-me lady living California. But I did.
Most of 2012 was spent thinking about…things. About how to change my outlook. About what I wanted in a career. About what I believed was possible. It felt like a huge growth year…until I hit 2013 and things started to kick into high gear. Through my efforts from the previous year, I met the members of my ‘band’ and started playing fiddle with them once a week. I was open-minded enough to take on a certain client, and it turned into a really positive as well as financially successful venture. Even the loss of Martha, something that two years ago would have taken me down for the count, was manageable, and I was able to find some really positive things out of her illness and passing. For the first time in my life, every day was a pretty good day. It didn’t matter what happened. It was a pretty good day.
And then, you guys, I don’t know what happened, but about three weeks ago, I started to backslide a little bit in subtle ways. I didn’t get out of bed before 10 am. I always felt behind. Every time one of my clients sent me work, I was irritated that they were adding more to my plate. I became resentful and started peacing out at work around 3:30 each day to head to my Tex-Mex place for my margaritas. Only I didn’t enjoy ‘happy’ hour as much as I used to because I spent the entire time thinking about how much work I had to do as opposed to enjoying the end of a productive day. And then I’d wake up the next day, again at 10 am, that much further behind, pissed when someone sent me more work. I started flaking on playing with the band because I had too much work to do. Every friend I called and every friend who called me – the conversations were always gloom and doom. Bitching about bad relationships. Bitching about work. Bitching about money. Wondering when it would change. One of my formerly married friends was venting about her boyfriend last weekend and said, “Everyone I know in a long-term relationship is pretty miserable. It’s just the way it is.” Ugh. That sucks.
Little things pissed me off. The downstairs neighbor who never takes the shared trash can to the curb. The person who looked at me funny in the grocery store. Eating too much. Drinking too much. Not getting enough exercise. Heck, even Augie hacked me off…because she acted like Augie rather than Martha. I started calling her ‘peanut brain.’ Most frustrating? I couldn’t see how anything in my everyday life had actually changed. So I knew it was me. I knew I was seeing the world not as it was, but as I was. And I was the unhappiest I’d been since just prior to my layoff.
And then I woke up last Friday morning and was like, “No mas. I am sick of being unhappy. No more.”
Last time I’d been to Augie’s vet (which is about thirty minutes from my house), I’d asked for heartworm pills, and they wouldn’t give me any because I didn’t have the proper paperwork. After calling the shelter and receiving the paperwork, I looked at it and realized that I would be given additional hassle when I went back to the office. As such, I’d put it off for a month. Friday morning, I got in the car with the papers and drove to the vet, and although they did give me hassle, after fifteen minutes of negotiation and phone calls and vet approvals, I finally got the darn pills and drove back to central Houston, relieved that *that* was over. My mood perked up just the slightest bit now that I knew Augie was taken care of.
Next on the agenda was a funeral at 1 pm…and not just that, this one was an hour outside of town. It was for the parent of a friend. A friend I didn’t see much anymore, not because we had a falling out, but more because we’d both become busy with things in our lives. As it was going to cut four hours out of the middle of my workday, and as I was already behind, I contemplated not going. It would have been ok. Shit, who wants to go to a funeral? Instead, I took the time to iron my hair, do my make-up, and put on heels and an uncomfortable dress. Maybe I didn’t see her that often, but she was still a friend.
During the 3.5 hour jaunt I saw the friend for approximately 30 seconds, but I felt better for going. As I drove home, my mood lifted a little bit more – not because I took the negative viewpoint of ‘look how much worse your life could be or how many people have it worse than you,’ but because it was a good reminder of what really matters in life: your friends, your family, anyone you love in any tiny way.
At 3:30 pm, back at the house and once again in comfortable clothes, I forced myself to work for another hour and a half before I had somewhere else to be. Maybe I wouldn’t get that much done today, but it was ninety minutes of work that I’d shave off of a future day.
At 5:30, I showed up to a dinner that I hadn’t really wanted to attend. It was a meeting of all the girls in my band. Don’t get me wrong. They’re nice, but I’ve only known them for about six months at a rate of two hours each week. I didn’t consider them close friends per se, and at the time, it seemed like one more thing that cut into my schedule. The funny thing is, if there’s anything I’ve really enjoyed in the past few months, it’s getting together and playing with the ‘band.’ We love playing with each other and always comment about how it’s a high point in our week. There are three people who sing in the group, and we all have this uncanny ability to bust out in three-part harmony. A few months ago, we played with another group of people, and after finishing a song, a mandolin player turned to us and said, “That was really beautiful. How many times have you guys song that song together?”
We smiled and replied, “That was the first time…and actually only one of us had even heard that song before.” (Who knew that there were Lucinda Williams songs out there with which I am unfamiliar?)
Anyhoo, I got to dinner late and was still the second to arrive. (Musicians.) Although I was already feeling a little bit better about the work stuff, I spoke briefly with my band friend about it. And she went all hippie on my ass and reminded me, in the nicest way, to focus on the things about work for which I was grateful. Grateful that I had more work rather than less. Grateful that I was about to pay off my loans. Grateful that I might end up with a raise out of this situation. Grateful that I was about to start building collateral towards my ‘dream plan.’ That was an awesome turn-around viewpoint.
Dinner just got better from there. One gal was super excited about a new extra-curricular activity she’d started that week. Another gushed about how great her boyfriend was. (When I first met her about eight months ago, she was with a guy who very obviously didn't contribute to her well-being.) They made me smile, and it was so invigorating to be around people who were not only hopeful for the future, but who were happy with their lives today and living in the now.
I went home that night and did a little more work. In addition, I plugged my new electric toothbrush into the charger. My other one had broken a few weeks ago, and though I’d purchased a new one, I hadn’t yet taken it out of the box. Tired, I hit the hay early.
Saturday morning I popped out of bed, walked the dog, and tested out my new toothbrush. Rather than rushing through the job, I brushed my teeth for the recommended time. And two minutes later I was so pleased with how *clean* my teeth felt. Shortly after that, I chose to sit down at my computer for work and billed about six hours. In the late afternoon, I ran another long-put-off errand to a grocery store about fifteen minutes away for those few, small items that my nearby grocery doesn’t carry.
Up at 8:30 am Sunday morning, teeth brushed for two minutes (even cleaner and smoother today!), dog walked without having to hunt for plastic bags because I’d bought a billion doggie bags at the store the night before. Sat down at the computer to work at 10 am. Signed off at 1 pm – fully caught up through Tuesday for one client. Yes! Walk for dog and shower for me. Laundry galore. Dude, I washed the shower curtain. How often does that happen? Thoroughly enjoyed band practice at 3 pm because I wasn’t worrying about all the other things that I needed to do before tomorrow. Learned three new songs. Was practically giddy the whole time. After that, another ninety minutes of work, followed by PBS Masterpiece Mystery on the couch with a snuggly Augie. British mysteries = J
Feeling ten times better. Nothing has changed…except my attitude, followed by my actions. But the world, it’s a lot prettier and kinder and loving than it has been in weeks.
My life coach offers this one hour assessment where you take a little quiz and then, based on the results, she offers advice on all the viewpoints that may be holding you back in life. Today, I signed up to take it again, because I haven’t taken a class/coaching from her in almost a year. Only I didn’t actually sign up for an assessment with her. As it turns out, my coach has gone from a single mother running shop from the phone in her house to a full-blown successful business. Two years later, she charges $750/hour and has hired a handful of associate coaches. Every time I randomly catch her on some talk show or see her byline in a national magazine I smile and think, “Hey! I know that gal!”