There is Comfort in Quicksand

I’ve made a vow. THE vow. You know the one.  It’s the one we make ourselves.  The solemn, deeply moving, cross your heart (twice to be safe) vow that when those ‘things’ are over (those things we believe are stopping us from moving forward with our goals), well, then we are going to buckle down and get ALL KINDS OF CRAP done! That’s right, Throwing the gauntlet down.

One of my ‘things’ is coaching the Middle School Cross Country season. I know I have other things I want to do to, goals that are new and exciting for me.  But they are also unfamiliar and uncomfortable, so justifying why all my energy needs to go into something I already have established (like my coaching) seems easier to me.  Unfortunately, these everyday things – family time, our job, even, for me anyway, coaching cross country – become a sort of energetic quicksand that can prevent us from moving forward on a goal that requires us to venture into uncharted emotional territory.

At the moment I’m in the middle of this conversation… with myself.

Wanting to get crap done voiceCan’t you just take a couple hours a day – maybe in the evening, say after practice – to start working on your –

Emotional quicksand voiceWHAT!?! Are you some kind a robot?  You need DOWN time, man!  Come on.  At night?  It’s dark at night…for a reason I might add.

Wanting to get crap done voice – Well what about your runs? You said you were going to get some done at night.  You do have that Spartan Race and –

Emotional quicksand voice (rudely interrupting again!) – What are you talking about? You’ll get some in, but don’t overdo it.  I mean, you may miss some things, but cross country is not that long of a season.  Drop your hours with full confidence in the fact that you were a true proficient just a few weeks ago.

Wanting to get crap done voice – Well can’t we just get a couple of hours in on the weekends when –

Emotional quicksand voice (aghast!) – hey, hey, HEY! Slooow it down, working man! Jeeez.  It’s a weekend.  You have your meet with the kids, and then you know how tired you get!  You are entitled to some chill-out time.  Relax… Watch some T.V.  Spend some quality time with your family.  The season’s almost over…

And then it is. The season is over.

And what a wonderful season it was. I couldn’t have been happier with how it ended for all of my middle school cross country runners, and now, FINALLY!!!… I can get to, well…to the rest of the work I should be doing!  Get some serious work done today on my blog, make some calls to some contacts.  Crack the old knuckles, open the laptop, and get my butt working on –

Emotional quicksand voice – You should give Facebook a quick check.

Wanting to get crap done voice – What? Why?

Emotional quicksand voiceYou just posted all that great stuff about your season, including all those pictures of the meet from today. It won’t take long. And while you’re at it, throw them up on Instagram too!

Wanting to get crap done voice – But you said –

Emotional quicksand voiceMan, you just finished a fantastic season! Take the afternoon, hell the day if you want and celebrate!  What?  You have to start up and become a working stiff on a Saturday afternoon?  Take it easy.  You can always start tomorrow…

You can always start tomorrow. There’s a great deal of comfort in the phrase.  It’s an emotional valium you feed yourself that what you are doing now is ok, as long as you promise that you’ll do the thing that actually needs to get done tomorrow.  It can be said in earnest.  You may even believe it.  It looks a bit suspect though, when you said the same thing yesterday.

Then we point out and blame others.

It’s our family obligations. All the Promises we’ve made to our friends.  The never-ending commitments to everyone and everything that is keeping us parked, but truth be told…

We are keeping ourselves parked.

Let me put that another way – fatigue is keeping us parked. Anxiety is keeping us from pulling off the emergency brake.  Fear of doing something different, stepping out of our comfort zone, is keeping our judgmental index fingers pointed outward blaming everything around us because we don’t want to be uncomfortable.  We may delude ourselves into thinking we are moving forward with our new venture by doing the barest minimum while giving the bulk of our energy to these other ‘obligations.’  But this delusion just keeps us mired in the quicksand of the familiar.

One thing about quicksand is that as long as you don’t move, well…you believe you won’t go any farther under. You know there’s a strong chance you’ll sink (fail) if you make an effort to get out.  But it’s only fair to ask yourself why you jumped into the quicksand in first place?  Did you leap feet first because you didn’t really want to have a choice to be uncomfortable?  We can spend time examining the reason we got into this quicksand in the first place, or we can examine the more important question…

How do we get out?

Start by acknowledging your part in putting yourself there. This means all blame for your situation rolls into one.  That one is you.  There’s a lot of energy that goes into feeling frustrated and disappointed in everyone and everything around you (the ‘if onlys’ – if only I had more time, if only I had an office at home, if only I felt more rested…).  There’s a great number of stories that you can make up to keep the needle from pointing at you!  Stopping the ‘blame game’ and choosing to take responsibility for your actions (or non-actions) loosens the grip the quicksand has on you, and allows you to start to see the many possibilities available.

Grab for a branch (act in your own best interest!). If it’s time you need, and you are tight on time, can you go to bed earlier so that you can get up early, before you need to be available to your family?  Can you choose to use your lunch-time three days a week and put that time into work on your new endeavor? Can you put aside several hours a weekend, even if they are non-consecutive? Can you be up front with your family and friends, let them know what is important to you, and trust that they will support you? It’s true there are some things your life you do not have control over.  But, when you begin to govern the things you do have say over, you begin to feel empowered and capable.  These feelings allow for creativity and action!

I’ve missed playing a couple of games with my daughter tonight to write this blog. She asked, and I chose to be up front with her and explain that I needed to get a couple of hours of work in, and that afterward I would love to play with her.  It didn’t feel great to say.  But, knowing I’ve followed through with what I vowed to do with my work, frees me up to feel better about myself and ultimately be more present and available to beat the pants off my daughter at in-door soccer… Not for the faint of heart!

What have you done that has helped you to get yourself out of your emotional quicksand? I’d love to hear what worked for you.

2 Replies to “There is Comfort in Quicksand”

  1. Always a great read, Lou! Thanks for taking the time to blog! (Hopefully the positive reinforcement makes it easier to do next time:) I hear ya on easily doing what’s comfortable and already rewarding, putting off the unknown territory. I’ve come to realize that 9-11pm are great times for me to delve into the new areas of my work I want to explore- maybe it has to do with it being night, the house is quiet, and I feel free to vision and draw up a plan of action for the next day

    Seth Godin talks about the busyness we create, especially with social media that keeps us from doing actual work. A bit of advice I heard recently was set a timer when you’re going onto a social media platform, get the work done you went in there to do, get off when the timer goes off. No excuses. That’s been a big help to me in resisting the rabbit hole of social media, even though I rarely visit the various platforms.

    Thanks again for writing!

    1. Sally, the positive reinforcement is ALWAYS appreciated and thank you for taking the time to read my blog!

      Sounds familiar when you speak of looking for the time when the energy of your external environment (quiet house, night time, etc.) is in your favor. It’s always more difficult for me to put forward my intention and effort to explore new areas when I’m having to spend my own energy on two fronts simultaneously!

      I really like the idea of a timer for social media! It’s definitely an energy and time consuming process for me for sure. Bet it would reduce the amount of self-monitoring energy that we all need to put forth when it comes to “surfing the web”(if you create the deal beforehand, and honor it… always the trick 🙂

      Thanks again for checking it out Sally!

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