check your bags

 

For almost two decades, students, parents and teachers at my school have annually collected thousands of cans and dried goods for a local Christmas food hamper program with hopes of making a real difference in our community. Student leaders orchestrate the event while teachers work with students to set class and personal contribution goals.

Food Drive

 

It is incredibly inspiring to witness the generosity of students and parents as they arrive early, well before the school day starts, to drop off boxes or bags of food items.

And, it is nothing to see a student reach in, passed their pencil case, binder and calculus textbook, deep into their backpack, to pull out many cans to add to the mountain of food already collected.

Fast forward to the month of May, long after another record-breaking year of items collected for food hampers, a parent and I were discussing ways to support her child in the areas of attention, organization and task completion. This mother was baffled at her child’s on-going organizational struggles. To underscore her concern, she explained how she had just recently found a can of tuna in her child’s backpack. That can of tuna was intended to be donated, along with all the others way back in December.

Fortunately, despite her well-founded concern, this mother could see the genuine humour in this situation and understood that students with significant attentional concerns often find themselves overlooking key information that the rest of us take for granted.

 

Seriously now, if you were carrying extra weight in your backpack for months and months, you would notice.

Right?

bag check time

 

You presumably take the time to occasionally go through your backpack, briefcase, purse or laptop bag to check out the usefulness of the contents especially if it is something that you carry with you daily.

With each item you pull out of the bag, you may ask, “Does this serve me or not?”  In the case of the young student, is this can of tuna going to, in any way, help me with my math or history or geography or is it just making a heavy bag even heavier?

What are you carrying in your bags?

Stay tuned to this blog for a series on common hidden beliefs that you and I may be inadvertently carrying around with us and how to determine whether it is serving us or sabotaging us.

Let’s go through our bags together and see if we can lighten things up!

 

 

behind the drama curtain

 

The pace was summer slow on this particular day when my sister and I wandered through the grocery store near her home.

nature's bounty

 

Once we agreed that we had all we came for, my sister indicated that she was going to go through the self-check lane with her items. Without even taking a breath, I scrunched up my nose and told her that I was going to go through the express lane where a tired-looking cashier was distractedly checking out a customer in front of me. “The self-check option is too stressful”. My sister lifted her eyebrows, twisted her face incredulously at me and said,

Seriously! How do you make it through the day?”

I am peculiarly sensitive to stress and work hard to avoid it even though I absolutely know that some stress is completely natural and even beneficial for me.

But what was interesting to me was how reactionary I was to this insignificant event and so unaware of the process behind the scenes.  It led me to consider how indicative my quick and unprocessed reaction was of how I handle more compelling situations that hold more meaning.

In this case, I had a whole story-line worked out behind the curtain of my mini-drama. The story starts with how hard my life had been recently, as all my stories do.

When I eventually stopped, took a breath and looked deeper, I discovered a voice behind the choice. The voice informed me that I was burned out from work, that I had had a tiring drive through too much traffic and construction, that I was in an unfamiliar grocery store and that a negative self-check incident from my past would forever be repeated so it was best to just avoid it for the rest of my life.

All of that silent and not-nearly rational chaos came out in a clear declaration from me that I was making a conscious decision about a simple check-out lane.  This minor incident is neither here nor there but what happens during more serious events and difficult situations?

What beliefs lie behind the big and small choices we make? What beliefs inform each of our thoughts, words, emotions and actions? And how do those unexamined beliefs lead to further complications in our lives, if left unexamined?

What is really happening behind these common experiences?

  • Numbness
  • Bravado
  • Resistance
  • Self-sabotage
  • Chronic irritability
  • Temper flares ups
  • Irrational fears and phobia
  • Physical symptoms
  • Stuck in a rut
  • Perfectionism
  • Procrastination
  • Panic

Thoughts, words, emotions and actions that stem from the above are like your car’s indicator lights. The lights come on to get our attention and to let us know that there is a deeper issue to be addressed. Ignoring the indicator lights or focusing only on them are not useful, long-term solutions. The light remains lit and keeps blinking while the underlying problem continues, undiagnosed and untreated. The logical solution is to lift the hood, shine a light on the inside and put what you find in there to the test.

Once we examine the beliefs behind the choices we make, we can be more certain that we are living consciously, with more awareness and a greater level of resilience to life’s stresses.

On Sunday, August 10th, I’ll be facilitating a Building Personal Resilience workshop at Queen Street Yoga in Kitchener, Ontario to explore how the beliefs behind your drama curtain may be impacting your life choices and experiences . You will leave with practical strategies that you can implement even before you leave the workshop.  Join me, if you can!

the beauty of berries

 

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the voice behind the choice

How’s your summer going?”

A variation of this question was posed to me three times, in quick succession, one afternoon very recently. I had not yet left for the summer and was working steadily to finish all the tasks left to do before I could begin my break.

Nursing a deep resentment for still being at work while most colleagues were on the golf course, at their cottage or otherwise relaxing, my reaction to this question each time was to launch into what tasks I still had yet to do and a litany of reasons why it was taking so long for me to complete those tasks, this year in particular.

I saw a similar glazed-over look that was a cross between boredom and disinterest in the eyes of each person as I spoke to them. If we had still been children, one of them surely would have rubbed their index finger and their thumb together in front of my face declaring it was the world’s smallest violin playing and that it was playing just for me.

If it had just been this one day, I could chalk it up to simply having a bad day but it was clear to me that over the past few months Moaning Myrtle was becoming a default persona so I did a little experiment to see how this would play out long term if nothing changed.

 

I’m 85 years old and I’m walking with purpose to the Saturday morning farmer’s market pulling my empty two-wheeled cart behind me. A young woman who lives on my street greets me kindly as I rush by her with my jaw set, my brow furrowed and focused on my very important business that will surely involve bartering the best price for Bartlett pears. As I pass a shopkeeper sweeping the walk in front of his store, he looks up, stops sweeping, smiles at me and asks how I’m doing on this fine morning? So I tell him how much I have to do, how I have to find time to get train tickets for next month’s visit to my son and then there’s that closet I have to get cleaned out and figure out how to the get the contents over to the thrift store. I am also sure to tell him that I didn’t get much sleep last night because the neighbours had guests over for a barbecue and they stayed until the ungodly hour of 11 pm.  As I ramble on, the shopkeeper gets the all-too-familiar look in his eyes. It is the same look I’ve seen in the eyes of my colleagues, friends and family for longer than I care to remember. 

 

Not a pretty picture. And certainly not the future I want.  For me or anyone near me.

Now the work is to look behind the repeated choice to complain and find out what underlying beliefs are informing Moaning Myrtle’s rants. What are my beliefs about hard work, about what I think I deserve and what attention I think I should get based on my perceived competence and productivity?   

And based on clarity of beliefs and tweaking any outdated or unhelpful ones, what will the new scripts be when I’m asked how I’m doing?

 

Since I am now on my summer break, I’ll have to get to that work after I go for a walk or a bike ride, have a cup of coffee on my porch, take a nap and read a book.  Moaning Myrtle’s voice is fading as she has been sent packing on a break of her own.

 

Happy Nasturtiums 2

 

By the way, my summer is starting out to be the nourishing break I needed, thank you very much for asking!