Ready, Set, Glow! Stories to Spark Your Glow

Think Pink Instead: How to Get Out of Overwhelm

blue

Don’t think of the color blue.  No matter what…don’t think of the color blue.

What are you thinking of?

Most likely, you’re thinking of the color blue.

Picture this.  My blue-eyed wonder boy is driving me nuts.  Overwhelmed at the prospect of a biography poster due for homework.  He’s read the biography Gifted Hands about Ben Carson.  He’s got a big, fun-looking poster with lots of spaces to fill out and draw in – “Draw Three Major Events in The Person’s Life” – “Pick 5 Adjectives That Describe Your Person.”  He has a breakdown list with thorough explanations of everything he needs to do.  He’s even already got some notes for 3 of the 8 items on the poster.  His task tonight?  Just transfer the notes he has on to the poster.  10 minute job.  Tops.

And he’s panicked.  His stress brain has taken over and he can’t think straight.  He can’t see that the task he has to do is easy because he’s focused on the enormity of the entire poster.  He cites the dimensions of the poster, he sees all the boxes he’s supposed to fill out, he’s thinking about how he has never done anything like this before…boom.  Stress. Overwhelm.  Meltdown.

And when the stress brain (amygdala, lizard brain) takes over, it hijacks our ability to be calm, think clearly, think creatively, and even just be reasonable.  We are focused on the overwhelm, and nothing else gets through.

We’ve all been there!  Some of us live there every day.  I used to.  It took its toll.  So it pains me to see him there.

When the storm has passed and the task is completed… I grab the teachable moment.  He bounces up the stairs, light as air, humming.

“Hey, Ben.  How do you feel now?”

“Really good.”

“How long did it actually take you to do the work?”

Sheepishly, “Two minutes.”

“And how many minutes of stress were there before?”

“Ten.”  (Felt like sixty to me, but who’s counting?)

“Hmmm, so was that a good use of your energy?  The stressing?”

“No.”

“So the strategy of focusing on how big and hard the project was going to be didn’t work for you.  Any ideas about a different strategy you could use the next time?”

“Huh?”

Stymied, I try a different approach.

“Ben, do me a favor, don’t think of the color blue.  Whatever you do, don’t think of the color blue.”

I’m ready to deliver the aha, but he beats me to the punch.

He grins.  “Okay, Mom.  I won’t.” (And I get the feeling he’s actually not. )  Laughing now because he knows he’s bested me: “Hey, Mom, I’m just thinking about the color pink instead.”

pink

In that moment, an arrow of love and surprise, relief and joy pierces my heart.  He gets it already!  One of life’s major lessons:

What you focus on matters.

The only way to NOT think of one thing is to focus on another thing instead.

There is huge power in this…and multiple dimensions to which it applies.  Ben didn’t yet know how to apply it to his overwhelm about his project, but he knew the magic formula.

When he was fixated on the enormity of his project, he focused on how hard it was, how big it was, how stressed he was.  And THE PROJECT got bigger and bigger and BIGGER.

As soon as he focused on the one small action step he could take, the enormity of THE PROJECT dissipated.  One step at a time.  He copied the adjectives to the poster.  He copied the quote.  He looked for the glue stick.  And he looked like the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders.

How does this relate to you, you ask?  Well, you know better than I, but here are some possibilities:

  • When you want to lose weight, do you focus on the food you are missing (mmm, Chocolate Molten Cake) OR  on how good you feel when you know you look good (how about wearing that swishy red dress to your birthday party)?
  • When you have a project due at work, do you focus on how big it is, how challenging it is, how overwhelmed you are…OR do you focus on how good you will feel when it’s done or how you’ve done an amazing job on something similar in the past?
  • When you face a laundry room filled with piles of dirty clothes (as one of my coaching clients did), do you focus on how much laundry there is and how it’s going to take you hours to do?  OR do you grab everything in sight that’s white and step over the rest to throw it in the washing machine?

When you stop, breathe, and consciously choose an empowering focus, everything changes.  Your brain releases its state of overwhelm and jumps into creative thinking mode.  Instead of being constrained, tight and tense, your brain and your body have renewed energy, movement, and life… you are able to accomplish more – and maybe even have fun doing it!

Goooooooo pink!

If you need help getting out of overwhelm, Spark Your Spirit can help.  With our individual coaching and in our groups and courses, we help people experience more peace, balance, and happiness, lose weight, build new careers, build businesses and much more.  Jump on the waiting list now.  Contact info@spark-your-spirit.com for more information.

It was Kathy who re- introduced me to the idea of practices…slowly, gently, wisely.

Kathy: “Huh.  I wonder why [insert current challenge and my reaction to it].  Maybe you should try journaling about that.”

Week after week.  Month after month.  Sometimes I would, and sometimes I would resist it.  But a pattern emerged I could no longer ignore.  When I wrote about it, I felt better after.  I poured my heart on the page, little emotions, big emotions… disappointment, frustration, rage.  And always, by the end, I felt lighter.  My 8-year-old tender wounded self might start the journal entry…but my adult wise self would rule by the end.

So I committed.  I committed to journaling, daily, for 3 pages (Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages”) to see where it would take me.  A practice, not a perfect, that would help me access my own inner wisdom and Divine light.

I thank God (and Kathy!) for my journaling and other practices.

Because in spite of my requests for “Time Out” the Universe continues to toss heart-wrenching challenges in my direction (my mother’s stroke, my son’s school erupting in turmoil, a break up).

I have an unshakeable belief that the Universe is conspiring in my best interest (and yours!) no matter what it throws my way.  Through my husband’s diagnosis and subsequent death, I learned that though I have no control over some of the events in my life, I do have control over my reaction to them.  I made a conscious choice to always look for the gifts in life’s challenges.  And generally I do so, with the earnest expectation of a child at Christmas.

But there are days when the gifts are not where I expect or want them to be.  Then I’m the sweet little girl, rounding the corner with a bright smile expecting a Christmas tree surrounded by gifts, who  sees nothing but a few pine needles dotting the rug.  I lift the rugs to look for the gifts…I run to other rooms to see if Santa got confused about where to put the gifts…I come back to the living room and prepare to stomp my foot, “Where are the gifts?!?!?”

And then, as I journal, I meet that sweet little girl self on the page and re-introduce her to the wise woman I am today.  I tell her what I know now… these are the kinds of gifts that don’t appear when you are moving, when you are frantic, when you are demanding, when you are stomping  your feet that things aren’t going the way YOU want or expect them to.

These are the gifts that materialize when you are still, when you are centered, when you are calm.  And so she and I write and write some more.  And from that calm, centered space that emerges, together we find them.

Ellie Bassick-Trovato and Kathy MacDonald are passionate about helping women find practices that nurture and sustain their inner, most wise self.  Through their company, Spark Your Spirit, they offer women’s coaching groups, teleseminars, workshops, and individual coaching.  For more information, write ellie@spark-your-spirit.com or Kathy@spark-your-spirit.com. To sign up for their newsletter, visit: http://www.spark-your-spirit.com. 

Ready to Rock the Diva Dash, September 8, 2012
(photos courtesy of Debbie Chuckran)

All dressed up and an incredibly special place to go…the culmination of a summer’s worth of commitment, sweat, and determination to get in the best shape of my life.  A day (to be shared with 7, 799 other women) that shimmered with the promise of fun, adventure, friendships, and the opportunity to show myself of what I am now made.

On June 28, knowing I respond well to an externally-driven, time-sensitive goal, I signed up to run the Diva Dash, a 5K run with obstacles along the way.  I had never been a runner, and it was on this day that I decided to expand my identity and become one.  On the same day, in the final weeks of recovering from a nasty sprained ankle, I started running a humble 2 minutes in intervals with 4 minutes of walking.

Diva Dash Hula-ing

Flash to two days before the Diva Dash, on September 6, 2012, and there I am, ready and eager…running 40 quite ‘glistening’ minutes on my treadmill and practicing my 2-minute plank (up from 15 seconds).  I knew I was as ready as one summer of commitment without fanaticism (which I well knew could turn me off to exercise forever) could make me.

On September 8, sporting hot pink tutus and bright rainbow striped socks, we smiled for some goofy, fun photos to commemorate the day, piled into my friend’s van, and made our way to the Marshfield Fairgrounds with plenty of time to spare before our 10:45 wave began.

Rumors of pits filled with hot, sticky marshmallows, of mud, of water had us all guessing…but really how hard could an event called “The Diva Dash” be?

Rope Wall

Thousands of brightly dressed people swarmed the fairgrounds, licking free samples of Yasso Frozen Yogurt Bars, twirling their hips in hula hoops, and jumping on stage with their teams for the photo opportunity with the Shape Diva Dash logo.  I felt like a kid let loose in a mall with a bunch of friends – so many things to explore, so many people to look at, and no place else we had to be.  No children, no laundry, no responsibilities calling our name.  We talked, we wandered, and we carefully noted the bling and accessories we admired for our next foray into running.

The hot sun beat down on us, broken by occasional and welcome clouds.

I wish I could report I ran the whole 5K, but alas, I can’t.  I finished the whole race but didn’t run its entirety.  It included a LOT of hills running over roots in the woods…and did I mention the hot sun?  The obstacles were fun and didn’t present much in the way of challenge, but the hills…well, they were a different story.  I can tell you that I fared far better than I would have at the beginning of the summer, and that I am immensely proud of what I have accomplished.  I am in the best shape of my life, and now I know what additional training I need to add for next time so I’ll be in even better condition.

Finish Line!

Next time, you say?  Absolutely.

Next time, I will find a way to train on woodsy, hilly terrain.  I’ll drag my son Ben and our dog Stuart with me if I have to!  Next time, I will train in the blazing hot sun.  Next time, I’ll know that the obstacles, though not intimidating, add to the wear on your body, so I’ll run intervals with strength training in between.

I love that I’m already thinking about the next time.  Creating goals, big, hairy audacious ones (like running a 5K when you haven’t ever been a runner)…well, that’s for me the spice of a really happy life.

But today I will still myself for a moment and revel in a milestone completed, the feeling of connection amongst new friends with shared experience, and the new look and feel of a much leaner body.  Is that really me?  It totally and completely is.

I’m pretty sure the days in which most of us might have looked fetching in hot pink tutus are firmly in our past, but the days in which we can have fun in them are clearly not numbered.

Victory Pyramid!

Today’s Ready, Set, Glow Question for YOU:

What time-sensitive big hairy audacious goal can you put in place that will drive you to a higher level of confidence and satisfaction with your life?  And, equally important, what can you do TODAY to start moving you toward that goal?  Do that thing NOW then tell me about it in a comment on the blog or on Facebook if you’re willing to share!

Moel Famau streaming sun breaks through the he...

(Photo credit: jimmedia)

Picture a classroom full of teenage girls who so don’t want to be there. They stare at the floor or the wall, contemplate their pregnant bellies, roll their eyes, drum their fingers on the table…anything to avoid eye contact.

The energy is stagnant. Stuck. Nada. Zip.

They won’t engage, and their lives as they know them, depend on it.

I patiently scan the room for zones of warmth, tiny sparks of energy, and settle on the sweet-faced girl in the front row, about to blossom into real beauty, her heart still constricted by whatever events led her to this classroom.

I draw her out, engage her in a small conversation…she appears to relax.

I ask, “Would you please come up to the board? We need your help with something.” I hold out a white board marker, willing her to take it, to change the trajectory of her days by engaging, even for a moment, in a world beyond her teenage suffering.

Sudden, awkward moment of stillness in an already too-quiet room.

She looks up, makes clear eye contact, and utters the phrase that reverberates in my head for days: “I don’t do boards.”

I realize instantaneously how adequately that sums it up. The decision point came long ago (which can yet still be changed in a heartbeat!): I don’t do boards. I will live in the safety of the square foot of space around my chair. I will not venture beyond my comfort zone, which is achingly, crushingly small. I will not step into the world of possibility out there. I’m safe here, even in my misery. Here I will stay. I own this part of my identity with clarity and strength: I don’t do boards.

I scan the room…some girls alone, surrounded by hazy touch-me-not space, some girls sitting in pairs, focused only on the content in the space between them…and hear the silent chorus: “We don’t do boards.”

The wounds they carry are deep, their expectations of any adult in their midst, low.

How could we, two adults from different worlds, in one night, make a difference? We’ll likely never know for sure if we did, but we had to try.

I choose to believe that being willing to expose our vulnerabilities, our private griefs, our previous limitations…and caring enough to spend a beautiful summer night urging them to participate in the very making of their lives, in forging new and expanded identities, did make a difference for some. The difference could be small, a momentary shake up of their world view, a sun’s ray breaking through a dark cloud for only an instant, but an instant can change everything. And we had to try. We’ll NEVER make a difference if we don’t TRY.

So here’s a question for those of us (including me!) who, ideally, would know better by now: Where in your life do you “not do boards”?

And is that the path you will continue to choose?

Camel ride at Marshfield Fair

We’re pretty high up there! Every time the camel swayed it felt like we were going to slide right off. Ben found another “ride” he likes at the Marshfield Fair!

Remembering that when I count my moments of joy, my moments of joy count more…

My hope is that as you read these, they remind you of moments in your life – little and large – that brought you joy and will do so again when relived and remembered.  Studies show that the more you think about happy times, the more neural pathways you create in your brain to happiness!

  1. Achieving my goal of doing a two-minute plank!  It took me weeks and weeks to work up to it, but I did it!  (A plank is when you’re holding your body off the ground with your arms, like at the beginning of a sit up.  When I first tried it, I lasted 15 seconds, and my arms were already shaking like crazy!)  I am THRILLED at my progress.
  2. Being able to get into Hero’s Pose during yoga.  This has been a problem because of the healing of my sprained ankle, and I still can’t stay in it, but I can get in it for a moment – that, too, is huge progress.
  3. Stuart’s (our puppy) captivating enthusiasm when we come home after even a short time out.  He wags his entire back-end, beside himself with excitement!  The unconditional love of a dog – who wouldn’t want to be loved like that?!
  4. Running for 36 minutes straight!  (Again, it took a lot of working up to it!)
  5. Riding a camel with Ben at Marshfield Fair – we were both so in the moment and loving it.  His laughter as the camel swayed side to side was magical.
  6. Watching Ben snuggle with a rabbit the same black velvet color as our dog (almost came home with it but my better sense prevailed).
  7. Ben and I on the bumper cars – since we were the only two people the man let us go for an extra turn.  Ben laughed and laughed and laughed when we collided.
  8. Seeing my sweet joyful friend Kelly’s smile at the fair.
  9. Meeting Ben’s new teacher and feeling the sense of excitement and enthusiasm in her about her new venture at his school.
  10. Continually recommitting to getting back on track when I don’t journal or don’t do my breathing.  The relief of letting go of past transgressions (no beat-my-self-ups!) and just re-charting the course gently.  Making constant small improvements to how effectively I follow my “rules” for being more organized, more healthy, more happy.
  11. Seeing less than 142 on the scale for the first time since early teenage years.
  12. The luscious taste of a fresh farm stand tomato.
  13. Hearing Ben’s voice on the phone from Grammy’s during a sleepover.
  14. Experiencing brother Rob’s potential new house – such an amazing feeling in the outdoor space.  It moved me to tears more than once – happy tears, ahhhhhh tears.
  15. Sinking into the world of a good book, The Chaperone.
  16. The many golden moments of practicing Present Time Consciousness with Ben!
  17. Fun night reconnecting with friends we haven’t seen in a long time.  Easy conversation…lovely friends.
  18. Working with my life coach, Carol…who helps me release limiting patterns and beliefs and create pathways to an increasingly happy and abundant future.

Ben, looking over my shoulder, volunteered some of his moments of joy:

  1. Going back to school tomorrow!  “I feel proud that I’m moving up a level to 4th grade!  I’m happy about a lot of things like seeing old school friends and experiencing a bigger classroom this year than I would have expected.”
  2. “I loved putting all my stuff together for school! I can’t wait until tomorrow!”
  3. “Playing with two of my best friends, Jack and Johnny, in the pool!”

Flowing Water

When darkness nestles around our house, and my blond-haired wonder has drifted into sweet slumber, I tuck into my office chair, boot up the computer, and resume my search for Charlie.

I don’t actually know my Charlie’s name, I only know that he is out there. I caught a glimpse once of what that flow of energy could feel like — even just online and through texts (imagine endorphins in a crazy swirling, swishing, playing happy dance), and I know now I will not settle for less than a Charlie. It is my baseline request to the Universe. I want what THAT feels like, only in a flesh-and-blood person I can touch and kiss and laugh with.

The man I felt that flow with was actually named Charlie. According to his photos, he was handsome, with an athletic, rugged boy-next-door kind of look, and his written profile was quite captivating. It reflected intelligence, kindness, and thoughtfulness. Plus, he could spell, and he knew how to punctuate his thoughts (not as common as you might imagine!).  Our initial Instant Message session zoomed and zinged with bright energy, in counter pose to the dark black night outside.

I should say I’ve learned the hard way that there are sharks in these waters, and people are not always what they seem, so it’s best to be cautious. And who knows whether the energy present in our IM’ing would translate to chemistry in person? Even so, there was promise.

But there was bad news too.  Charlie had met another woman just before me, and although he felt the pull of energy and flow between us — and appeared to be intrigued, he felt the right thing to do was to see where “Option A” (as I call her) would lead without adding Option B (that’s me :) ) to the mix. Honorable, too, then?! *Sigh*

My ego screamed, “He’s not your guy! Your guy would recognize you right away! He’d know what a find he had! Other women would fade from view as the sun burned through the clouds, illuminating…YOU!”

And my wise old soul responded, “Wait, young one. Do not jump to conclusions. You would, of course, love to be recognized that fast. Who wouldn’t? And perhaps you’re right, and he’s not your guy. But perhaps his nature calls him to handle life, and decisions, differently than the firebrand of your Leo.”

The following day, while doing asanas…in the quiet and space of my yoga mind, the question came: “What’s the gift in this?”

THAT is the question I always hear when my yoga mind finds an opening in the debate. ALWAYS. It is my guiding principle, my grounding and centering question, and has been since the day my late husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor. There is GREAT power in that question. It assumes there is a gift, and there ALWAYS is a gift, though it may take weeks, months, and years (not to mention sometimes mountains of faith) to discern it.

And one gift in meeting Charlie is already clear…”Hold out for YOUR Charlie, dear girl, whatever his name may be. Hold out for the partner the wise and benevolent Universe brings to you.  Your frequencies will resonate so clearly, so strongly, so brightly, that you will KNOW it is in flow to pursue…You will feel THAT energy.  He IS out there. You will recognize him. He is unmistakable. Your hearts will collide, connect, and glow brighter when you meet.”

And so, with thanks, once again, to my yoga mind, I sift with discernment, with faith, and with optimism.  I sift, I sift, and I sift, an anticipatory grin in my heart, wondering on which magical day I will find my Charlie – or he will find me.

Image

Precious Rain Puddle Day (2005)!

Remembering that when I count the moments of joy, the moments of joy count more:

  1. Watching Ben ride his bike for the first time with tears of joy in my eyes! I have a theory that a mom teaching a child to ride a bike is an oxymoron. My strongest drive (which I must often tame so he can grow!) is to protect him…it is totally counter to my nature to send him hurtling into possible danger (because who doesn’t crash when they first learn to ride a bike?!) But I had been working on teaching him…for hours and hours and hours. I asked our kind neighbor Jeff if he had any suggestions. He threw on his sneakers, came over to us, told Ben to pedal and that he totally had this since “You play baseball and soccer and you’re an athlete…this is going to be easy for you.” Then he ran behind him, holding the seat while Ben got his balance, and let go at first briefly, then longer. Within 10 minutes, he had Ben riding (no crashes!!). My cup spilleth over!
  2. My friend and Uplifting Connections’ customer favorite, Maureen Hancock sharing my last blog entry (my tribute to my late husband, JT) with her 13000 fans – resulting in 848 hits on this blog in one day!! So much lovely feedback, and even a person who was inspired to start transforming her life (which is EXACTLY why I write – I aspire to inspire!). Does life get any richer than this?! And now I’m up to 12 “followers.” :) My goal is 25 followers by the end of July. If you’d like to “follow” this blog see upper left corner to sign up to get notices of when I post entries.
  3. Seeing 145 on the scale :). Fitting into my size 4 jeans!
  4. An incredible birthday, beginning with Ben, eyes still closed, curled in a ball singing me “Happy Birthday” and ending with dinner with Kathy and Maggie then shopping sales and finally Kathy cutting my hair! Brave on both our parts, but it looks great!
  5. Seeing the BEAUTIFUL flowers from the Uplifting Connections team. Thank you!!
  6. Realizing that, no matter who I had been with on my birthday – or if I had been alone, I still would have been happy because that’s just who I AM now – content, centered, in the moment, joyful. Bliss!
  7. Handling a difficult situation at work directly and clearly, though angry, and then realizing I had totally released the emotions of it within minutes and would carry none of it home with me.
  8. Having a client list of 30 people willing to have a free sample life coaching session! They are sharing their dreams with me in email, and I feel so honored, touched, and blessed that they have opened their lives like that – and ecstatic with the belief that I can help them attain those dreams! My goals is 100 free sample sessions, so if you’re interested, email me at ellie@elliebt.com.
  9. The 84 birthday wishes on my facebook page! The fact that that many people thought of me for long enough on my birthday to write just touches me so deeply.
  10. OMG! I can’t forget my new red rain boots! I’ve always wanted rain boots, always wished when the rain came I had boots to splash around in puddles. One of my favorite photos of little Ben is doing just that. But I always forget between the rain, when I am actually out shopping, that I want them and NEED :) them. And then, tonight, back-to-school shopping at Target, and what do I see but RED RAIN BOOTS! (Red being my absolute most favorite color!) I stopped, gasped with delight, laughed. Ben didn’t know what was wrong with me! I CANNOT wait to splash in the rain! In fact, he’s tucked in bed right now, and although I’m in my pajamas, there are puddles out there if I’m not mistaken…Gotta go!

What was YOUR favorite moment of joy today? Please share in a comment!

Love and Light,

Ellie BT

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