Escape of the Introverts

Neon escape from pixabay

On the Sunday before labor day, I went out on a boat with a group of 8 people who I love or at least like.  The boat ride was great with clear skies, perfect weather, and an almost full moon coming up soon. For dinner, we docked at a very busy restaurant where lots of other people had the same idea. The food was average at best, but that I can deal with. The noise level was another thing. I find it hard to concentrate on conversations when there are so many other conversations going on, and eating under these tense conditions often gives me indigestion. So after I’d finished eating, and I’d had enough of straining to hear the person next to me, I said, “I need to go outside and look at the moon.”

Three other people immediately followed me out to the dock.

The four of us stood there enjoying the relief of relative quiet. Then, my dear friend commented:

“The introverts got out first.”

“Yes!” I responded raising my fist in the air.

Freedom!

I was the leader of the introverts that night.

 

boat

 

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Boundary Setting is Getting Easier!

Iron fence

I said, no, to three requests last week!

Two were related to things I’d already been working on or had agree to, and more was asked of me. The more that was asked felt uncomfortable. One project was starting to eat up too much of my time, and the other request would have made an already emotionally draining task way more difficult. So, I said no. I briefly explained my reasons and respectfully said, no.

The third request no was to a chain message on Facebook. It said I “had to” forward the message to 15 people and that I was “on the clock.” It contained language aimed at producing guilt if I did not comply. With as much love as I could muster, I responded that I felt uncomfortable and pressured by the language. When someone starts to pressure me, it’s time to back off. I could have just ignored it, but it was the second chain message I’d gotten that week.

This boundary setting was not comfortable, but I didn’t agonize like I would have in the past. My decisions came naturally.  Maybe, at the age of 61, I’m finally starting to get this boundary thing down.

Imagined Conflict

Over rehearsing

I was in a hurry and distracted when I picked up the prints of my “Forest Angel.” They seemed a bit darker than the last ones, but I went ahead and paid for them and headed out the door for the next errand. When I  got home and compared the prints to the proof, I realized they were much darker. I didn’t think I could even use them.

For the next couple of weeks, I debated whether I  should go back and see if they could re-do the prints. Part of me wanted to just go somewhere else and get new prints to avoid potential conflict. But part of me said I should at least offer feedback and the opportunity to correct the problem. Being busy with other projects, I kept putting the print issue off.

Then, last week, I decided it was worth a try. I rehearsed several conversations. Most of my rehearsals portrayed me being assertively diplomatic, while some scenarios led to snarkiness on my part when I imagined being denied new prints at no charge. I even went so far as to imagine a worst case scenario of the manager implying I was stupid for paying for the prints if I wasn’t satisfied and that I should have looked at them more closely. (This was really my own self-criticism.) I became indignant and threatened to tell all my friends. I think I spent about two seconds imaging a good outcome. All this went on in my head before I even got in the car to go to the place where I get my prints. Talk about making mountains our of molehills.

On the way there, I observed that I felt nervous, almost afraid.

“Stop it!” I told myself. “This is ridiculous! What’s wrong with you? You know how to be assertive. This is just an exercise in assertiveness.”

When I got to my destination, I showed the manager the prints and how much darker they were than the proof. I explained that I’d been busy and distracted when I’d picked them up a couple weeks earlier.

“Okay, leave them here with the proof and I’ll talk to the printer. He’s not here right now, and he’s really busy.”

The whole interaction took less than 2 minutes. No debating, no snarkiness.

How many times I’ve worried needlessly over imagined conflict. Having a history of being a pushover, I don’t want to be taken advantage of and tend to over-rehearse standing up for myself. But most of my imagined conflicts never happen. Who needs that extra drama?

I picked up the prints last week with no fuss, no extra charge, and a big thank you from me, feeling secretly sheepish for all that imagined conflict.

I do think I’m getting better at catching myself, but sometimes I still need reminders to let go, have faith, and stay in the moment. Hopefully I’m learning this lesson at a deeper level.

Here’s my “Forest Angel” reminding me to let go.

Forest Angel ligher

What helps you let go of imagined conflict?

Asking, Receiving, and Taking Care of Me

face the fire

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately with my job, family challenges with my adult children (who I love forever, in case you’re reading this), too much to do, and too many emails! I get to that point every so often, and I tell myself:

Don’t take on anything new!

But I don’t always listen to myself.

I said yes to a church task of writing thank you notes to people who donated for our stained glass window restoration fund. I like handwriting notes, and can have good handwriting when I focus. What I didn’t realize was that I would need to collect the names and addresses from two separate documents emailed to me. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, and it wouldn’t be if I didn’t have other things to do, and if I wasn’t already feeling overwhelmed by my abundance of emails. Does anyone else ever feel overwhelmed by the number of emails you get?

So I sent an email to the church committee that I was feeling overwhelmed. We have a small congregation and so most of us are doing many different tasks. I worried that people would think I was whining (MY issue), But I knew something had to go.

I got support from my church family. I was offered the option of being given a list every Sunday of the names and addresses. One list, a hard copy. What a relief!

I just had to ask.

I’ve been fighting off a cold, getting ready to travel halfway across the country to see my grandchildren. To help my immune system, I got a massage today, something I haven’t done in a long time. And I slept late today.

I think I’m winning.

Not whining.

Asking for what we need is not whining.

Asking for help is not whining.

It’s okay to say no, and it’s okay to take care of ourselves!

 

Affirmation Update

 

superhero-of affirmations

For years, I’ve using and teaching affirmations usually starting with the letter I.

“I can do it!”

“I enjoy healthy food.”

“I love my _______.”

New research suggests that when it comes to talking to yourself, using “you,” or your own name, is more effective than using “I statements.”

(I statements are still better when giving feedback to someone else.)

I can go with that. Or rather,  You can go with that, JoAnne. When I’m spontaneous, I do tend to address myself as you, or by name.

You can do it!

You don’t need to worry about that.

You’re stronger than you think you are.

Or the implied you:

Stop thinking about that!  Think about being something good. Think about how far you’ve come. Think about how great it’s going to be!

The NPR article at the bottom of this post contains an inspiring clip of Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai sharing with Jon Stewart how she spoke passionately to herself. If you want to skip to that part, it’s about 4 minutes into the clip:

http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/a335nz/malala-yousafzai

I love how she uses a nurturing, yet firm, tone with herself.

Whether we use “I” or “you” or our names, the most important thing about self talk is that we be positive and encouraging.

Here’s the whole article:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/10/07/353292408/why-saying-is-believing-the-science-of-self-talk

How do you talk to yourself? Do you use I or you?

 

cloud heart

 

 

Coping with Toxic People

Toxic peppers on shelf

Too many screaming jalapenos give me a headache.

Last week I wrote about ending toxic relationships. But sometimes we may find ourselves temporarily stuck in a toxic situation. I say temporarily, because it won’t last forever. Hopefully it won’t last more than a few minutes.

Regardless of how hard we try to avoid toxic people, we all find ourselves in situations that are potentially toxic. We may run in to them at work, standing in line at the store, waiting in the doctor’s office, or maybe even in our own homes. Some of us have toxic relatives who we feel obligated to visit, though we would prefer to love them from a distance.

Here are some suggestions on how to take care of ourselves in toxic situations. Not all will work in every situation. It depends on the circumstances, so experiment and trust your intuition.

1. Remind yourself it’s not forever.

Find a way to limit the time you are exposed to a toxic situation. I know someone who limits visits with  a  “close” relative to 20 minutes. It’s okay to say, “I have some things I need to take care of.” You don’t have to say that one of those things you need to take care of is you, or that you need a nap, or time alone.

2. Try mindfulness.

Mindfulness is observing the present moment without judgement. If you’re not safe, get the hell out of there! But if you’re truly stuck, or want to practice mindfulness, just observe one thing at a time without reacting. You don’t have to attend every party, fight or argument you’re invited to. (Slow, deep breaths help too.) Related to mindfulness are emotional detachment and grounding. You could be mindful of person’s tone and body language, the sensations in your own body or the location of the exits. You can also be mindful of individual words or the message of the person or situation and ask  questions for  clarification.

3. What lesson or skill is this experience teaching?

It might be the “See ya later” skill, but it could also be an opportunity to work on listening or patience. (Oh joy, another one of those opportunities.) You can always ask God to show you a way to cope and what you can learn.

4. Assertive Boundary Setting:

I like to define assertiveness as honesty with respect. For example,

     “When you criticize me like that/yell at me, I feel overwhelmed/sad/angry/scared/hurt. I’d appreciate it if you could say something positive sometimes/Could you please lower your voice?

(It’s easier for me to focus on what someone is trying to say if I’m not caught up in the fact that I’m getting yelled at, unless there’s a fire. Then, by all means, yell.)

Here’s another example:

“If you continue to talk negative/yell I can’t  stay in the room with you.”(If you live with the person this could be a time to go to the bathroom.)

5. Use Positive Distraction.

Sometimes it’s not safe to leave, like when you’re in a moving vehicle. But you might be able to change the subject. If you’re with someone who likes to gossip about other people, you could ask, “So how are you doing with your job search/new hobby/class?” Or, “I loved that pie you made last October, can you tell me what you put in it? I think I’d like to try to make one.”

When all else fails, you can distract yourself by imagining a rainbow or angels above the person’s head. This could lead you to pray for them and for yourself. If you need to pay some attention to what a toxic person is saying, sing a simple tune in your head like the ABCs or a nursery rhyme.

Whatever you do, take care of you!

Any other ideas about coping in toxic situations? I’d love to hear your thoughts.