April 28th, 2014 by Katie Morton
Photo credit: Cali4Beach / Creative Commons
I got a hostile unsubscribe notice after my last newsletter, wherein I announced my next year-long wine challenge (which is mostly about how I’ll have a glass at home on days that I feel like it.)
First of all, I got many kind and supportive emails from others who wish to join me while they do their own challenges. So that’s great. And it’s never too late to jump in, should you decide you’re up for a challenge of your own. You can focus on whatever kind of behavior or habit you decide you want to change, and then just email me.
But back to this person, who is what the kids would call a “hater drinkin’ the haterade.” Her reason given for unsubscribing was, and this is a direct quote:
“Because as someone who is sober, it’s really boring to read stuff from a lush with no self control.”
Let’s discuss, shall we? Here are a few life lessons I can share from this kind of weird outburst.
1. It’s boring to read about things you aren’t interested in. (Insults not required.)
During my dry year, I occasionally checked out the List-Serv for Moderation Management. I was really glad at the time to not feel so conflicted about alcohol. I remember thinking, “That will never be me. I don’t want to wrestle over it.”
And then the year ended as it did, and that’s when I decided it was time for my new, different challenge. And I’m still not interested in reading some of the conflicted feelings and stories on that List-Serv. It helps lots of people and I’m so glad it’s available for people as a resource, but it’s just not for me. No big whoop, and not a reason to get all superior and insulting about it.
It’s important that we all gravitate towards people that support our particular mission.
Here is what I am interested in: long, slow changes towards the amazing life I’m meant to live.
We all get so many years on the planet. And it hit me between the eyes a few years ago that I could spend my whole life yo-yo dieting, going through phases of keeping the house clean and letting it get messy, just generally swinging back and forth on the chandelier of life, running on my rat wheel, trying to improve and succeeding for a little while, and then letting entropy take over and watching everything go to crap. Then I’d wallow for a little bit until I worked up the gumption to pick up a shovel and a bucket and start all over again.
Now, once I realized this is how I operate (and it’s how many people operate), I figured, why not improve on this system? Why not find a way to break these Sisyphean cycles?
And I’m doing it, slowly but surely! Hooray! And I want to help other people do it too, but only if they are interested in what I have to share.
So how are the first two weeks of my new wine challenge? It’s just what I’m doing. It’s not even a challenge. Great.
So what does it take in order to make your own challenge not-such-a-challenge?
I wouldn’t have gotten here if I hadn’t – most importantly – done the inner work to make peace with myself, my past, my future, and the world around me. I also started out slowly, with doing tiny challenges, then working up to my year without any wine at all, and now moving towards the Middle Way, and oh my gosh by golly, it’s working.
But the journey began a few years ago. I chipped away. And I’m changing. My brain is changing. My willpower is stronger than ever before. I just came off a period of time where my willpower took a big dip in the graph, but now the upward trajectory has resumed. I’m no longer running in circles.
Yay for patience.
Anyway, back to our little hater friend.
2. Whenever you piss someone off, look at the situation objectively.
When faced with an insult like “LUSH WITH NO SELF CONTROL” it’s really easy to have the knee-jerk reaction of thinking, “WHAT A BUTTFACE!” and then seething about what a jerk-meanie that loser is for saying something to make us feel bad.
But rather than reacting in a way that makes us feel hurt or angry, it just plain feels better to step back and look at the situation objectively. Maybe, just maybe we did or said something insensitive, or maybe that person has some issues going on under the surface and we pushed a button.
So what might I have written that got this woman’s underpants in a bunch? In my last newsletter, I stated:
I’ve long been interested in the Buddhist concept of The Middle Way. Neither characterized by over-indulgence nor ascetic restraint, The Middle Way is a happy, balanced approach. It takes tremendous effort and self-knowledge to control impulses and ignore cravings – not to the point of abstemious gloom – but in a way that still allows for earthly pleasures.
Now let’s say you are a sober person. And you read things like “ascetic restraint” and “abstemious gloom” to describe essentially what is your chosen path in life. Might you be pissed off?
Maybe, maybe not. I’m only writing about my own experience, and it might conflict with your experience. When I had my year without wine, it didn’t feel like restraint or gloom to me – maybe during little pity party blips, but not the whole of it certainly! So no, it wouldn’t piss me off. I would just think that everyone has different opinions and experiences from each other and even at different times in their own life.
And some people, like our little hater, clearly thought, “WHAT A BUTTFACE!” when she read my newsletter. So she’s got some issues lurking under the surface, and I pushed her buttons. Is she unhappy in her sobriety? Most definitely. If you’re happy with your life choices, generally speaking, you don’t feel the need to write insults to strangers on the internet. So I said a prayer that she will find peace in her sobriety. I thought about emailing her to let her know, but angry people tend to take that kind of thing as sarcasm, so I silently wished her well.
Here’s a rule of thumb: Happy people generally don’t attempt to crap all over other peoples’ parades. Remember that the next time someone dumps on your fiesta; that person is miserable.
3. When someone shames you, it’s because they are ashamed of themselves.
This pointer is courtesy of Brené Brown and her TED Talk, Listening to Shame, plus conversations that Brené has had with Oprah. She talks about how those internet trolls who say nasty things are absolutely soaking in their own shame and so they say mean things in order to puff themselves up to temporarily feel better.
Out of curiosity, I checked out my hater’s Twitter feed, which was not-so-long ago littered with plans to go drinking, alternating with hangovers and “never again” type statements. My hater is trying to shame me because this is all about her own past, her shameful memories of trying to regulate her drinking and failing. I could cry for her, really. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. But she’s obviously very ashamed of herself and in an effort to not feel that, she lashed out at me.
So remember this the next time someone tries to make you feel bad: it has absolutely nothing to do with you. Like really. It’s all their own baggage that they’re trying to shovel into your lap because they are looking for relief.
4. The world is big enough for all of us.
I can only write about my own life and my own experiences, and of course that’s not for everyone! While plenty of people can relate to what I write about, many more have no idea what I’m talking about.
Some people would – quite literally – rather run a marathon than eat a piece of cake. These are not my people. Others struggle much more deeply with addictive behaviors than I could ever comprehend, and they also can’t relate to my story.
I have a friend who has found that she is an “alcoholic” in every sense of the word. Once she started drinking, she couldn’t stop. She went on benders for days on end, and this had disastrous consequences in her life. So she chose to become sober, and how could you not support such a decision considering the misery it was causing her to drink? Now she’s healthy and vibrant, and she helps other people become sober who have suffered from severe alcohol addictions.
Once an addictions counselor (whom I’ve never met) posted on Facebook in response to my year without wine … I can’t quite recall the details … but he said something about how I must vomit on myself and wet my pants. Say WHAT? Maybe that was his experience. And so he thinks that anyone ever to over-enjoy alcohol has such out-of-control experiences. A lot of counselors are taught (wrongly, and via outdated research) that anyone and everyone who struggles are painted with this brush:
1. They are liars.
2. They are completely out of control.
3. They are addicts, meaning they are completely physically and mentally hijacked by their addiction and there’s essentially “nobody home.”
4. The only “cure” is 100% abstention.
Might this be true for a portion of the population? Of course! Does this describe every person who maybe likes their vino a little too much? Of course not! That’s ridiculous.
Sobriety is a great choice for a variety of reasons, and your traditional rock-bottom stereotype certainly doesn’t need to be a part of the picture. Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project doesn’t drink, because she said she tended to get belligerent and gossipy, and she was having these humiliation hangovers over how obnoxious she might have been the night before.
All of this to say, the world is a big place filled with infinite experiences and viewpoints. There’s room for everyone’s path and everyone’s choices. You only need to decide what’s right for you personally. If my story resonates with you, fantastic. Email me and let me know. Let’s connect.
But if you find yourself consistently angry with this newsletter and it’s not helping you create any a-ha moments, then maybe it’s time to find someone whose experience you relate to a little better. Or maybe dig a little deeper and figure out what’s making you angry; what aren’t you happy about in your own life that needs to be addressed?
5. Challenges are what we came here for.
Do what you want to do. If you think your life would be happier if you went in a particular direction, then GO THERE. By all means. Give yourself the chance to be the most fabulous version of the most wonderful vision you’ve ever imagined for yourself. Then challenge yourself to go there.
You’ve got time! That’s all we’ve got. We can either complain about our status quo and we can wish for immediate results, fail because we can’t get immediate results, then give up. Then start all over again and repeat ad nauseum. Or we can give ourselves epic amounts of time and space to experiment and learn and grow and change. To fail, but to learn from those failings so we can have an easier go of it next time.
We can see a challenge we want to tackle and know with every fiber of our being that we’ve got what it takes to figure it out. It will take time and effort, but you can create the outcome that will make your life amazing. We are all capable of making changes so that your inner world feels like a bicycle ride on a spring day. But only if you start pedaling.
November 10th, 2013 by Katie Morton
Photo credit: Ed Yourdon / Creative Commons
Willpower Is a Learned Skill
I spent two years researching the topic of willpower in the fields of psychology and neuroscience. I discovered that willpower, a quality I thought was reserved for a certain set of people, can be learned. Here is a sampling of mindsets those with strong willpower possess:
click here to read the article –> ’10 Secrets of People With Extraordinary Willpower’ on The Huffington Post
September 30th, 2013 by Katie Morton
Photo: Edward O’Connor / Creative Commons
Dr. Brené Brown writes about the 10 Guideposts of Wholehearted Living — practiced by people who live “amazing and inspiring lives” — in her book The Gifts of Imperfection. I began living wholeheartedly before I knew of Brené Brown, and I was astounded to read about the journey I’d already begun. This article is part of a series that explores Dr. Brown’s Guideposts and how they look in my life.
Guidepost #8: Cultivating Calm and Stillness; Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle.
“There are an unlimited number of things I could be doing at any given time. I have over 500 unread emails in my inbox. There’s a mountain of laundry to be done. There are blog posts to be written, there are partnerships to be formed, there are speeches to deliver, there’s a book to write.”
This is a phrase I noticed I would say to myself in moments of anxiety. My head would feel like it was going to explode from the level of overwhelm I was causing myself.
I’ve become really great at ferreting out erroneous thinking. Our emotions are important, but when you suffer repeatedly from a negative emotion, such as overwhelm, anxiety, sadness or anger, there’s a big chance you’ve trapped yourself in a thinking loop that continues to bring about unpleasant feelings.
Frequently when we feel anxious, it’s because we think, “I’m overwhelmed,” and we catalogue this vast list of to-do’s. The truth is, when we do this, we’re victimizing ourselves. Instead of feeling put-upon, we can look at the time available, and we can prioritize that time. And then we can let the rest go.
A knee-jerk reaction for a lot of people is, “But the Things! They need to get Done! And the Time! It won’t allow for the Doing!” Well, okay. How’s that working for ya? For some reason we like to insist that we have more to do than time will allow, but this is just embracing insanity – an unworkable formula that feels bad and that makes us anxious.
But we have a choice in the matter: we really can look at the time available, prioritize that time, and then we can let the rest go! It’s that simple. And with practice, this process gets easier and eventually, it will come naturally. We can catch ourselves earlier in the cycle each time we feel overwhelmed, then prioritize and move on.
Soon you’ll find no use for those feelings of overwhelm and anxiety; they won’t come around as much, if ever.
Even Brené Brown says the concept of cultivating stillness used to give her anxiety, and I know it does for a lot of people. It used to for me, too. Now I can’t live without stillness.
I have a few methods of “creating an emotional clearing” as she calls it, which make me feel peaceful and often even joyful.
1. I get up early to work out. There’s something about being alone while I lift weights that makes me feel really great. I feel weird admitting that, but it’s true. Zoning out while I lift free weights is meditative to me.
2. I take walks. There’s a little track of woods and a stream near my house. Almost daily and sometimes multiple times per day, I take a walk here and dream and visualize and have gratitude for my life.
3. I will sometimes traditionally meditate. When I first started out, my regular practice was like gold to me because my brain really needed the changes that meditation had to offer: increased self-control and willpower included.
Now I find I can slip into meditation wherever I am, whenever I need it. I’m no longer dedicated to a formal practice of sitting with my eyes closed (although I do that occasionally.) My workout and my walks serve as my mediation practice. I can also gaze out a window and still my mind and watch my thoughts pass by whenever I need to
4. Prayer and visualization. I’m sort of new to prayer. I’m beginning to realize that when I would visualize the situations and events that I want to see happen in my life, that this is a form of prayer. This morning when the alarm went off, I prayed that God would help me get out of bed. You can use prayer for anything, and that’s kind of fun.
5. Journaling. Once you start journaling regularly, you’ll wonder where it’s been all your life. For me it’s often a 3-step process:
- Get the gunk out. Just write down what’s bugging you, what you’re happy about, the things you’d like to do, just whatever is floating around in your brain. I especially like to write down thoughts that I find myself repeating. Once my thoughts are on paper, I’m free to figure them out so that my brain isn’t cluttered by them.
- Look at what’s important. Sometimes we have thoughts that are just junk that are mingled in there with the stuff that matters. It’s nice to be able to see them all clearly on paper and to choose what to focus on.
- Act. I’m often most motivated directly following a journaling session. Now that I’ve released the garbage and gotten clarity on what matters and what’s the most impactful, it often clears up exactly what priorities I want to tackle.
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