The scary thing. A situation we don’t want to be in but we know is inevitable. We procrastinate because we just know it’s going to be awful. No way getting around it. Except …

We try to prepare for the moment. Perhaps an exercise in listing every scenario we can think of that might come up. And then our response to that scenario. Still seems daunting. Except …

List five scenarios. Then a response to each of those scenarios. Still seems out of the realm of doable. Well if this is the case, then perhaps you’re more interested in excuses than progress. In which case, come back when you’ve prioritized progress over procrastination.

If we can get the proverbial ball moving, then we create opportunities for ourselves to be well prepared for whatever will actually happen. Now I don’t know what the percentages of coming up with things that happen vs. Not coming up with what actually happens are, but personal experience in this practice has proven that I will rarely come up with the exact scenario to prepare for. The scenarios I do prepare for, however, will then prepare me for what I couldn’t have predicted.

I recall planning my coming out to my father, Mr. Former-Liberal-Turned-Right-Wing-Christian-Evangelical. 

The scenarios:

  • He’s going to be shocked
  • He’s going to hate me
  • He’s going to disown me
  • He’s going to yell at me
  • He’s going to stop visiting me every Sunday

My planned responses:

  • Something about looking at the signs that had been there since I was 8
  • Something about Jesus preaching love over hate
  • Something about hurting, but me being my own woman regardless
  • Something about asking him to leave before we say things we’ll regret
  • Something about being hurt and missing our time together

The reality of the conversation was that none of those things happened, specifically. He told me he’d “wondered about the nature” of my relationship with my then-girlfriend, but didn’t want to think “that” of me. He worried about not seeing me in the afterlife. He knew I was a good person and he still loved me.

While I wasn’t prepared with the specific responses to his reactions to my coming out, because of the preparation I’d done, I was prepared to have a conversation around whatever his reactions were. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to keep that conversation alive and turn it into an ongoing conversation, but that’s a story for another time. For the space here, we’re looking at getting started. First get started, then worry about planning for what comes next, or at least how you want to prepare for whatever lies ahead. If I had it to do over again I would add in the following questions before writing down any responses to the scenarios I’d come up with:

  • What do you want to give to this conversation?
  • What do you want to get out of this conversation?
  • How do you want this conversation to honor your relationship with your father?
  • How do you see this conversation evolving over the next 6 months or year?

This is just a start.

If you’re getting ready for a conversation that involves potentially intense feelings on either your part or the part of your audience, prepare yourself for all the scenarios you can think of. What will be your response if your audience is shocked? If your audience is nonchalantly totally okay? Is defensive or combative? Is loving and embracing? Is cold and distant?

And let’s not just think about how you would react, let’s think about how you want to react. Use the questions above to find out what you’re willing to both give and get out of the conversation. Then look within for your ideal reactions for each scenario. And to get to that, we need to think about your values and who you want to be in this life. What are your top 3 personal values? If your top 3 values are compassion, relationships, and authenticity, (mine are) then use those values to form your ideal reactions to each situation.

If your audience is shocked.
I understand you’re shocked, and this may feel like it’s coming out of left field, but this is who I am and it’s important me to be who I am. Our relationship is important to me, and I want you to take all the time you need with this information and ask me any questions you want to. We can sit right here or go for a walk or come back to it after going for a run, but it’s important that we talk about this.

If your audience is nonchalantly okay.
I just want to check in with you and make sure you’re as okay as you seem about this. I know this may change some aspects of our relationship, but I don’t want it to change the core of it. Ask me anything you want, even if it comes up later. I don’t want this to be something we talk about only once or feel like we have to talk about it all the time.

If your audience is defensive or combative.
It seems like this news is tough for you to digest right now and I don’t want either of us to say things we don’t mean, and I don’t want to put myself if a position to take abuse from you or dish it back to you. Let’s take a break from this conversation and revisit it once we’ve had a chance to take it in. I love you and I know you love me, and I don’t want this to destroy our relationship. I’ll check in with you in __ days.

If your audience  is loving and embracing.
I had no idea how you would react, and as much as I hoped it would be in loving support, I’m so relieved that you’re responding this way. I love you and want you to know if you have any questions even after today, I hope we can keep an open dialogue because this relationship is important to me.

If your audience is cold and distant.
It seems like this news is tough for you to digest right now and I’m sensing you’re putting up a wall and disengaging from the conversation. Our relationship is really important to me, and I want to make sure we continue this conversation once you’ve had some time to digest and are ready to talk about it. Know that I’m open to any questions you have and that I love you.

These are just some starting points. Obviously these are some reactions I’ve thought through as how I might respond in these situations, and you are likely to use different words, even if you honor the same top 3 values and/or would have the same general response. I’m of the mindset that it’s usually easier to revise someone else’s words than create your own, so please feel free to use these words as a starting point and then make the responses your own.

Another thing to keep in mind is to be realistic about your initial response and how you feel you might actually respond before writing out your idea response. This will help you craft your ideal response, so you’re able to gradually move from what you would say to what you will say.

If your response to someone being cold and distant is to shut down or become defensive, own that. Be honest with yourself about your natural reaction and then decide if that’s the reaction you want to have or if you would like it to be different. If you’d like it to be different, what specifically would you change about it? What would help you make the leap from being defensive or shutting down to _______? If it’s difficult to think about what would help, think about those two things as separate islands and then build a bridge from one to the other. What’s on that bridge? What’s it made of? Who is helping you build the bridge? What’s the scenery from the bridge?

Asking yourself questions like these can be helpful to go from, “Well, fuck, I have no idea how to do that!” to the little steps that help you say, “Okay, I can start here and then see what I come up with next.”

It’s not that we need to figure out all the answers to all the questions, but really that we trust ourselves that the answers will come if we keep asking new questions. From that trust you will uncover the knowledge that already exists within.

Knowledge alone is not power

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

Knowledge is power.” [“ipsa scientia potestas est” (‘knowledge itself is power‘)]
~ Sir Francis Bacon

Forgive me, Sir, but I disagree. Knowledge in and of itself is a base for power, but it is not itself power. What good does knowledge do if you don’t use it? Don’t act upon it? Don’t let it inform your decisions?

Only when married with action is knowledge true power.

 

Inch by Inch, part April

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

I don’t know how it went for you, but April moved through my life pretty quickly. Much learning was ingested, both personally and academically, although I didn’t always make time for writing it down. Thus, this recap of learning for the month of April is a bit sparse. And yet, contrary to popular belief, just because it didn’t get written down (or photographed or posted on [social media]) most certainly doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.

Here are some April notes-to-self for you to steal/borrow/leave right here, at your choosing:

  • sometimes honoring one relationships means neglecting another and this is ok
  • it’s fine to not care what other people think; just don’t stop caring how other people feel (adapted from a @mmeditations OpenCircle note)
  • sometimes having a conversation with a stranger is more important than [that “important” thing you were just about to do] #becausehonortherelationship
  • don’t assume someone else’s motives, questions , or actions just because you have learned something before (you think) they did
  • make suggestions based on what will help, not trashing what came before
  • you can actively slow your heart rate by slowing your breath
  • it’s okay if you love something someone else thinks is stupid or meaningless; this does not change your self worth

And now let the learning continue, my friends.

Inch by Inch, part March

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

I mentioned last month that started keeping a list in Evernote with the tag “note to self” wherein I remind myself of things I think will help me be a better me tomorrow than I am today. While I had planned on writing in more detail about some of these things during the month of March, just because I didn’t get there doesn’t mean these things may not be useful to share on their own:

  • notice the subtle difference between doing well and being well, and when they intersect
  • instead of “I’ll do it later,” do it now if it will take you 5 minutes or less; wunderlist it if it will take you longer
  • overreacting to bad news doesn’t make the news any better; be patient with your response to it
  • practicing something for 5 minutes every day really does make a difference (and i can tell when you don’t do this like you said you would)
  • there will always be more to do — you have GOT to take time for yourself (hint: breathe, dammit!)
  • learn from the stories of people who were doing well halfway through [really important thing] and then tanked because they tried to coast
  • “if it’s not on [social media/tracking site] it didn’t happen” is 100% bullshit
  • learning requires “writing” whether that means actual writing or painting or photography or whatever else you consider writing for the purpose of learning
  • it’s ok to skip out for a beer during the week every now and then, especially when your wife’s college team is in the NCAA tournament
  • with respect to honoring the relationship, it’s ok to have an off day or week; let it stop there
  • when you recognize yourself rationalizing poor behavior, be honest with yourself and continue consciously as you see fit
  • when someone treats you poorly, try to see past their actions to attempt to understand their humanness
  • compartmentalizing works well for organization, but not for life; organize well so you can access information easily and use it diversely
  • quit things because you want to quit them, not because other people tell you you should
  • social media is a great way to stay in touch with friends, acquaintances, and loved ones as long as you have boundaries in place
  • sleep is the most important thing you will do today

Challenging yourself to be a better you isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it.

The dichotomy of only and always

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

Our ordinary mind always tries to persuade us that we are nothing but acorns and that our greatest happiness will be to become bigger, fatter, shinier acorns: but that is of interest to only pigs. Our faith gives us knowledge of something better: that we can become oak trees.

–E.F. Schumacher

I sometimes get caught up in my own little world and forget that there is something, someone more I can be if I just let free this awful thought in my brain that I will only be who I am now. If I can uncage this thought it can morph into its truth, that I will always be who I am now.

Only keeps the cage locked, trapping me inside this little acorn, trying to bust out of what will always be this tiny little acorn, no matter how much bigger or fatter or shinier I become. If I hold fast to this belief that I am only and I will only be this acorn I am now, then this becomes my truth.

I will only be who I am now.

But always, always is freeing. It allows for depth and expansion and wisdom that will always have come from that tiny little acorn, and is now allowed to grow into her own oak tree. Always being the acorn I am now means there is room for this acorn and all the expansion that will come from its growth. With always there is now room for depth of roots and expansion of branches and perhaps housing or recreation for squirrels (or pigs, if you don’t live in the city).

I will always be who I am now, and also whoever grows from here.

With that, I find much happiness. What about you?

Ever meet someone and think they’re awesome and then after you continue to develop a relationship with them, realize a few red flags may have been missing from that first encounter? Or maybe you met someone and your first impression was meh but it wasn’t until the fifth meeting you realized this was a relationship worth developing?

Google quotes on first impressions and you’ll find most people put first impressions on a pretty high pedestal. While I do believe in the importance of always trying to put your true self forward in a first meeting, I also know how often I fail at this in my own life, and that I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt to just about any relationship I come into contact with.

Take for instance, my first two weeks of college in January. It had been (mumbled)+ years since I’d been a full-time student. I prepared by taking a course on learning how to learn, buying my books and class materials early, and reviewing the syllabi for all my classes before day 1. Week one was a breeze. Mostly getting to know the professors and reviewing the syllabi I’d already diligently gone through for each class. Week two we got started on some actual education, including in-class learning and homework. My relationship with school was going swimmingly. We were getting along great, and then week three punched me in the face. Assignments due in three of my five classes. An essay due the following week for one class and an exam for another class, along with written assignments due for three other classes, and one more for the class I was already writing an essay for.

First impression of college: easy peasy, as long as you’re prepared!
Truth: totally doable, as long as you adjust to stay prepared!

I could have allowed my relationship with school to become strained. To allow my gremlins to tell me I couldn’t hack it, that it was time to go back to the real world and get a job, and stop wasting time with all this academic education I didn’t need anyway. But when I look at the reason I went back to school, it wasn’t because I was lacking in education, but because I was desiring more and of a different variety. Totally different relationship.

So I nixed that first impression from my brain and focused on the relationship I wanted to have with college:

  • healthy
    • enough time to do well and also be well
    • learning without overwhelm
    • you’re older than 50% (okay, 80%) of your classmates — let it go
  • loving and playful
    • enjoy all this new information
    • enjoy the people you’re surrounding yourself with
    • enjoy the before, the after, and the during
  • earnest
    • put in the work to do well
    • learn for learning’s sake, not for credit’s sake
    • apply your learning to your daily life

 

If I focus on the relationship, school doesn’t have to be harder than I thought it was going to be. It’s just school, and I get to develop that relationship as we go. This is life, not just school. If you focus on the relationship–whatever relationship you might be struggling with–it doesn’t have to be as hard as it feels. Take a deep breath, slow the f*** down, and be open to adjusting whatever is necessary to truly honor that relationship.

 

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