The Plate Tectonics of Blame & Regret

life-is-a-reflectionI recently took one of those online quizzes that is designed to assess Who You Are and Where You Are At.  These were my quiz results: “Your results indicate you must stop blaming yourself.  It’s not your fault.  Your thoughts and feelings are simply disconnected creating Stuck feelings.”  

I like the gentle reminder that these encouraging words impart.  And I wonder how many other people received exactly this same message.  In other words, do these “results” hold true for everyone on the planet?  Or am I the only one who is feeling the disconnect of thoughts and feelings?

You must stop blaming yourself.

This is much easier said than done.  There is always going to be some second guessing going on in life that is going to lead you to blame yourself.  So many things.  A bad decision you made.  A time when you zigged when you should have zagged.  Words that slipped out of your mouth like thirsty little toads seeking a water source.

A detour that you should have taken instead of charging ahead into those warning signs of danger.  A job that you declined.  A house that you bought.  A health decision you made.  A lover you chose.  A friend that you trusted.  A horse that you bet on.

Self-blame.  What is it exactly?  Self-assigning responsibility for things that you have said or done doesn’t sound like such a bad thing.  After all, I am responsible for my own stuff, right?  But blame goes beyond this when you dwell on it, feel horrible about it, and then do nothing about it.  It’s okay to give yourself permission to stop blaming yourself when you take thoughtful responsibility and attempt to rectify the wrong that you have committed with compassion and empathy.  You can apologize.  You can ask for an opportunity to re-frame your thoughts in different words.  You can give someone a hug.  You can back up and try it all over again. You can ask for a pardon.  You can ask if you can try to make it right.  You can write a letter.  You can bake banana bread.  You can be patient and allow the other person time to feel angry or hurt.

And the effects of prolonged self-blame?   Prolonged self-blame quickly reduces to an ongoing state of regret.  We become mired in our own selfish thoughts of how badly we feel.  This, in turn, focuses the original action or words solely on us and robs us of the chance to make it right.

We might blame ourselves for something rash that we did or something foolish that we said . . . but to continue blaming ourselves over and over and over?  This is where blame evolves into regret. And it doesn’t take much imagination to understand that regret is joyful living’s natural assassin.  Regret robs us of any opportunity to be brave and to do the right thing.  There are certainly things that we are responsible for that are tough to make right.  But that doesn’t mean that we should stop trying.  This is where we call upon our Brave to kick into action.  It is a brave soul who can admit that he or she was in the wrong. This is not stuff for sissies.

It’s not your fault.

But isn’t it?  Isn’t it my fault?  No one held a weapon to my head while I said those hurtful things or made that bad decision.  There was no little cartoon devil on my shoulder urging me to max out my credit card buying heels and boots.  If it’s not my fault, then whose is it?

Fault is one of those concepts that gets tossed about with little regard.  It’s a hungry ghost that rides the backs of air molecules and never really lights.  It gets tossed about, bandied about, and argued about.  It gets assigned to others in nilly-willy ways and has no substance.

It’s true that if we accept the toss that’s aimed at us and we catch it, fault will linger for a while.  And maybe it is our fault to begin with, right?  But to carry it about will only lead to us, ultimately, sinking beneath the weight, most often forcing us to toss it to someone else to carry for a while.

Shift happens. 

If we are going to talk about the word fault, I prefer to think in geologic terms and plate tectonics.  A fault, geologically speaking is a situation where the earth’s crust has been stretched and faulted to the point that rift valleys form.  Imagine having two sections of your soul, Blame and Regret, moving relative to each other.  This action causes us to become stretched and faulted to the point that rift valleys form in our spirits and souls, creating chasms and pockets that become too dangerous to explore.  Dangerous because one never knows when there may be yet another seismic shift between the two relative forces.

Is there a better way to deal with the Plate Tectonics of our soul?  Understand that Fault Lines exist.  Be a scientist, measure, and plan for catastrophe accordingly.  Keep away from the the edge of the plates when possible.  Move inland to safer ground.  Take a deep breath and hope for stability.  Fault.  It does no one any good.  But it’s there, so be smart.  And if shift happens?  Channel that energy into something positive.

Your thoughts and feelings are simply disconnected . . .

Well, now.  This is something that feels like familiar ground.  Nothing newsworthy here.

Yes.  My thoughts and feelings become disconnected.  This is not an uncommon occurrence.  But now what?  What’s next?  By taking this little quiz, I have implicated myself into wanting to better myself . . . to make my life better.  So what’s going to help me to re-connect my thoughts and my feelings?  How do I go about planning the big reunion?  I think part of the answer is in Un-creating Stuck Feelings.

. . . creating Stuck feelings.

Stuck is as stuck does.  Like love, debt, and what shoes to wear today, Stuck-ness is a decision.  Making a decision is a mental activity.  Making a decision makes the Stuck feelings go away.  There is some magic in this . . . magic that involves you feeling inspired to make the decision to be Un-Stuck.

My best self-advice when I am feeling stuck?  

Deep breaths.  Think.  Meditate.  Dance.  Call a friend.  Be mindful.  Breathe life’s goodness into my soul.  And above all: Try something new.  Albert Einstein is famously quoted for saying: Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.  He also said, Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.

You can’t stay stuck if you aren’t standing still.  Try something new.  Say something kind to a stranger.  Dance like a goof.  Join a marimba band.  Say you are sorry and make an action that shows it.  Take the risk of making a mistake that, yes, might create even more self-blame and stuck feelings.

Like trying to get the stubborn lid off of a jar when you have wet hands, it ain’t going to happen until you take a moment to dry your hands. Tap the jar lid a few times with a knife.  Run some hot water over the metal lid.  Get out your handy-dandy Cap Snaffler.  Do something.  And you’ll get the lid off of the jar and, with any cosmic blessing, you’ll reconnect your thoughts and feelings into a better place and allow yourself to see a kinder reflection when you look around you.

life-is-a-reflection

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Re-writing Your Stuck Spot

car stuck in snow

This looks so miserable!

I was listening to a meditation recording of Deepak Chopra’s the other night.  Deepak said one thing that caused me to stop the recording, rewind, replay, and rewind it again.  He was talking about how our stuck spots in our lives are revealed by repetitive thoughts, feelings, and statements.  In other words, if you find yourself complaining or talking about the same thing over and over, the chances are this is one of your stuck spots.

tuning fork IIThis truly struck a chord of sublime resonance with me.  I felt completely busted — in a good way.  It made me realize that rather than ignore or abolish these stuck spots in my life, maybe it was time to use them, like throwing down kitty litter behind a spinning tire in the snow, to gain some new traction: in other words, re-write my Repetitive (and oftentimes boring) Statements into Rev-Up Statements.

I next decided that it was time for a little qualitative research of my personal gripes.  I created a journal chart so that I could really look at what is going on.  Every time I talked to a friend or family member or even a co-worker and heard myself complaining about the same old-same old, I wrote the topic down in one of the boxes on the left.  In some boxes, I wrote down what I said verbatim.  Other topics were such a random rant, I summarized the general idea.

My epiphany is two fold: The Good News is that I am not a totally-chronic complainer.  Whew!  Yay for not being an incessant whiner!   The Bad News?  I have some serious and consistent Stuck Spots that are definitely holding me back from feeling fulfilled, happy, and fruitful.

spinning-top-1312042_960_720Next, I re-wrote my rants with a positive spin that was designed to get me up and going again.  No more Stuck Spots!  Putting the positive spin on things required ACTION on my part.  I had to visualize and implement alternatives to just spinning into a deeper and messier rut.  The great news is that I felt empowered by my own personal recognition of This isn’t good anymore.  I want different.  I caught myself and verbally stopped myself from launching into Rant Mode.  It felt great!  And I am guessing that my friends and family think that it is pretty nice, too!  There is nothing like a broken record to put someone to sleep.  It generates white noise that blocks a lively conversation exchange from taking place.  Friends and family, I am trying to exercise new awareness!

With the ongoing research, I have been Paying Attention and there are definitely a few topics that are still holding me a wee bit stuck.  Now?  Rather than ignore them or stuff them into some spiritual drawer or closet, I am airing them out, hanging them on the wall, and slapping a new coat of paint on them.

I realized: Why not?  I have learned that it does no good to ignore stuck spots or to bury them or to walk away from them as if they don’t really matter.  To do so only invites passive-aggressive moments into my relationships — which then only serve to create newer and deeper and stuck-er Stuck Spots.  Why not call them out, view them, and like the grand master painters, slap some new paint over the top and create something new and beautiful?  That’s the beauty of creating a masterpiece.  Sometimes they are considered to be even more valuable when there are hidden paintings beneath the one that we can see.

vintage-binocularsThe great part?  This process works!  I have been catching myself as I spin myself deeper into some repetitive statement . . . and I have been stopping myself right there.

Let’s take the topic of work for an example.  Let’s say that you don’t feel appreciated at work.  You have been ignored for two promotions and your boss is utterly ineffective — late, sloppy, and unmotivated.  He doesn’t take care of emails and he is lousy at following through on decisions — often leaving you hanging with your projects that have looming deadlines.  You have complained, griped, and kvetched about this to your friends, your family, and even your dog.

Why not re-write this stuck spot?  Be creative.  There are so many things that we can do when we feel stuck.

  1. Think about one nice trait about your dog the next time your boss does something that drives you batty.  (Silly, I know . . . but the thought of my dog always makes me happy!)
  2. Bring your resume up to speed.  Start shopping it online and to associates.
  3. Laugh.  It truly doeth good like a medicine.
  4. Watch a cute youtube video.
  5. Offer to take on more responsibility at work AND, at the same time ask your boss for a raise.  It can’t hurt to ask.
  6. Put a pencil horizontally between your upper and lower teeth.  Research has shown that by imitating a smile, the Smile Muscles release the same good stuff to your brain.  Try it  . . . it works!
  7. Write one positive affirmation in the present tense and tape it on the wall where you can readily see it.
  8. Go for a super quick walk around the building.  Movement helps.
  9. Close the door on your office (or even the bathroom stall) and do an insanely goofy happy dance.  I guarantee you will crack up.Take yourself out after work.  Go for a beverage of some kind and get out your laptop and google baseball stats, fashion advice, new employment sites . . . your choice!
  10. And . . . click on the heart-warming and life-changing aqua-blue link below for your free download of today’s journal prompt: “Your Stuck Spot.”  Happy journaling!

Your Stuck Spot. journal prompt

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The Meaning in the Count: Making Life a Noncount Noun

IMG_3357Numbers.

When I really stop to think, my Conscious Day is spent counting.  It starts out with counting and it ends with counting.  Minutes left on my snooze alarm.  Pounds on the bathroom scale.  Dollars in my checking account.  Minutes before I have to leave for work.  Pages completed on my writing project.  Calories.  Fat grams.  Minutes.  Hours.  Shots of coffee.  Pieces of toast.  Am I the only one who is consumed with and by counting?

Counting and measuring and weighing.  Reality dictates that I take care of my health and that I maintain a healthy weight.  That I pay my bills on time.  That I be punctual at work. That I move my dream project forward.  That I hold myself to some level of accountability concerning my food choices.  That I caffeine-ate fully and properly each morning.  That I try to stay under the speed limit when I am running late for work.  That I care about things in life that involve the measuring and weighing by number.

I know me.  Without counting, life would be a free-for-all that does not allow for any accountability to myself or to others.  While I think on this, I search for the value, the meaning in the count.  We have all wrestled with the concept of weighing quality over quantity.  But even here . . . we are still measuring and weighing the benefits.  We are taught to think that quality is more important than quantity.  But still.  Like the little girl that would rather have five pennies over one nickel, there are areas in my life where I tend to shoot for quantity.

Quantity in my hand.  Quality of the moment.  Where is the Real Value in the midst of the day and its ticking clock?  Daily, I put my day on pause for five minutes of meditation.  Are these five minutes worth more than five minutes spent watching silly videos on youtube? Research tells me that, yes, meditation is so good for us on so many levels.  And I will continue to take those five to reset my inner self.  But why do we judge ourselves so harshly when we aren’t doing that which is “good for us”?  Yes, I know that I can lose that final ten pounds, but is it worth beating myself up each time I get on the scale?  Am I really going to care, one way or the other, once I hit that Maui beach in December?  After all, it’s difficult to be hard on yourself when you are living in paradise.

But being a linguist, I very much like the semantics that extend beyond grammatical agreements.  For example, we English speakers agree to add the letter -s to most nouns to make them plural.  Lest we get into the exceptions such as person/people, tooth/teeth, mouse/mice, and ox/oxen, we can agree that adding the letter -s to a noun will signify that we dealing with the Concept of More Than One.

And then there are those tricky count and noncount nouns and their plural forms or lack therein.  According to the Purdue OWL, The Basic Rules for count and noncount nouns are as follows:

A count noun is one that can be expressed in plural form, usually with an “s.” For example, “cat—cats,” “season—seasons,” “student—students.” A noncount noun is one that usually cannot be expressed in a plural form. For example, “milk,” “water,” “air,” “money,” “food.” Usually, you can’t say, ‘He had many moneys’ . . . 

Count nouns refer to things that exist as separate and distinct individual units. They usually refer to what can be perceived by the senses.  Noncount nouns refer to things that can’t be counted because they are thought of as wholes that can’t be cut into parts. They often refer to abstractions and occasionally have a collective meaning. 

best when freshThere is simply so much cool stuff going on there.  Quantity vs. quality.  Count vs. noncount.   We think of a life — a count noun — and we count the number of lives on the planet.  But when we think of our our own life?    We think “in terms of wholes that can’t be cut up into pieces.”  It’s one whole life.   It’s my life!  And like grass, rice, and money . . . we don’t actually cut our own life up into pieces . . . even when we think in terms of annual events such as birthdays and anniversaries.  It’s all one big whole that we truly prefer not to relegate to the Noun Category of Count.  We want to make it count in the ways that are important . . . not in some grammatical or statistical way.

There is counting . . . and then there is making life count.  As I go through the days and I count and I measure the pluralizations that I prioritize . . . I wonder.  I wonder about the importance of quotas at work and pounds on the scale and hits on my website.  I wonder about making my life count.  So much to wonder about.  Thank God that wonder is a verb in this context.  Otherwise, I would be inclined to start counting the many wonders in the world around me.

IMG_2800My advice to self:  Just live and give it your best in the moment.  You’ve got this.  While I appreciate the concepts of mindfulness and how important it is to be aware and to be positive, there is more.  There is life as a noncount noun.  It’s okay to count the little things as long as I remember the bigger picture.  And sometimes it is so hard to keep sight of this enormous, huge, ginormous Universe of which I am but a tiny speck.

I think I answered my own Life Question About Counting.  Stop counting.  And when I do count — which I will surely continue to do — I will try to do so with wild abandon and appreciation for the abundance within life’s “separate and distinct individual units.”