When life kicks you in the ass…
I literally fell on my ass this morning. I got some air too — mid-kick in a muay thai kickboxing class and then BLAM. Right on the tushie.
I probably should have seen it coming. Today was one of those mornings — you know the one — where you wake up inexplicably enraged by everything, and every tiny thing has a compounding effect on your inner anger monster. * Bleeearrrrgghghhhhhrhaarrrhhhhhh! *
Now, I’m usually good at being present* but every now and then my inner Hyde will come out and destroy my peace. It happens to the best of us, and today was that day for me–the result of my scattered mind that’s trying to juggle freelance-contracts with a new job, strike that fine-tuned work-life balance, manage landlord frustrations, pack up my life to move into a smaller place, and loathing every second of my 2-hour daily commute. I thought I could shake it off at the gym; sometimes exercising that energy out totally works, but today was different; today the stressed part of my mind clouded my focus, and then whoop — right on the ass.
So what do you when life kicks you in the ass? First, say “thank you life”, because the kick-in-the-ass is actually a courtesy call to the fact that you’re getting in your own way. So own it; come back to the present, set a time to explore your feelings, and get ready to make a change.
I say come back to the present first, because if you’re in the middle of something (like catching the punches that are flying at your head), you probably want to finish that thing before you take a minute to reflect. So calm yourself, focus, and make a mental appointment with yourself for later in the day when you can chat with your anger monster.
When it comes to that moment, the first question to ask is why? Why are you so stressed or upset or angry? You might identify a few reasons, so think about all of the possibilities, and let them float around in your mind like little thorns — identifying each one as it passes by (little f*ckers). Then look for the biggest thorn (a challenge, issue, problem, or conflict that you’re facing); it’ll be the one that’s jabbing you in the eyeballs. Pluck out that sucker and inspect it closely — you’ll want to tackle one issue at a time.
Once you identify a problem, ask yourself why it affects you so much. Keep asking yourself but why? until you dig deep enough to get to the root cause. It’s often deep, deep down in the why spiral that you can get to understanding what’s really bothering you, and only then can you start working towards a solution. You need to be honest with yourself, and it might hurt more before it gets better — like the minor hand surgery I performed on myself this weekend (#win) — because you need to dig deep to tweeze those nasty thorns and pebbles out of your gaping, bleeding wound…(yes, it was gross, but I was a surgical boss and you can be too).
Once you get to that root problem, it’s time to decide if you’re ready to let it go or if you need to make a change. Sometimes identifying the problem is enough to diffuse your feelings, but most times a minor or major adjustment is in order.
For me, I realized that my largest thorn right now is the stress of moving (uggh…moving). It might not seem like a big deal to other folks, but moving always throws me through a loop and backwards. And when I dug really deep into the why spiral I realized that I’m actually angry that I have so much stuff that I don’t use, but I sometimes struggle with letting go of things–which makes me even angrier (I suffer from the classic: “but what if I need it in four months for this random project which I may or may not start?!”).
Once I got down to my root problem, I asked myself if this stress was worth it (the answer to this question is almost always no, but it’s helpful to ask yourself to get perspective). For example, is it worth being stressed and cantankerous because I have too many pens (I have a lot of pens)? While stress can be healthy for short periods of time, if your stress is lingering or is super disproportionate to your problem, it’s time to take action. My solution is to make a list that forces me to be more ruthless in my materialistic detoxing (who needs 30 art pens!? Not me!).
And at the end of the day, we all have bad days where we fall on our butts while we’re trying to look super cool and tough. But if you can own your feelings and address them, you’ll come back with more focus, power, and grace.
*Being present is a life-skill and takes a steroid-pumped elephant sized amount of discipline. If you’re interested in learning more, I fully recommend Eckharte Tolle’s The Power of Now.