Rebirth! How Beginning Something Can Feel Like Labor Pain

When I first start something uncomfortably new, I have major resistance to it. And not just slight, nervous resistance. Sometimes my body wages an all out down and dirty guns blazing battle to stay the way it was before.

This can manifest as anything from a mild depression to serious nausea or absolute panic. When these kinds of intense feelings arise, I’m easily sidetracked by the feelings and may not even realize they’re arising from the new activity or habit. I simply start dedicating all my mental space to “solving” the bad feeling(s),  instead of working on the new habit- which is precisely what my fear is trying to trick me into doing.

A bunch of alarm bells go off in my mind. When I finally trace the uncomfortable feelings to the new habit, I of course want to quit my new habit and go back to the old way I was doing things. Sometimes quitting a new thing is the right choice- the new habit may not be right for you, or it may not be the right time in your life for that challenge. Other times, staying the course just a little longer allows the feelings to pass and enables you to grow more than you ever thought possible. The hardest trick of all is to know when to continue and when to quit.

When I first started tracking every dollar I spent, using the app Goodbudget (Which I talk about in detail here, I felt vaguely nauseous every day. I felt this unreasonable, irrational panic for what I thought was no reason. I couldn’t figure it out. I’m not the type of person to get panicked or anxious for no reason, so I tried to track down the source of these feelings, and would you believe it took me more than a week to figure out it was my little money app??

So I’m walking around with these unreasonable feelings of depression and nausea and I can’t figure out where they’re coming from until one day I realize they’re stemming from fear and guilt as I write down where I’m spending my money! Once I realized that the panic was coming from my new money habit, I was able to actually relax a bit, the feelings slowly subsided, and now I have zero panic about using Goodbudget to track my spending. Instead, tracking my spending makes me feel empowered, and I’ve been tracking money for over a year now.

There’s a huge range of new habits that can trigger what I called “Labor pains” in the title -since you’re birthing what’s essentially a new version of you into the world. I’ve never been in labor personally so for the sake of experience, I’m going to call these pains growing pains from here on out. Some likely candidates for growing pains (and what have triggered them for me) include a change in exercise habits, dietary habits, spending habits, a relationship or a relationship status, a job or within a job. Also, tracking or attempting to become aware of any personal habits can possibly trigger new growing pains- so journaling or meditating or getting a Fitbit or going to therapy or seeing a new doctor or opening up to someone for the first time may cause strange new feelings to arise- and these feelings can occasionally be confusing or painful or uncomfortable.

It’s up to you to decide whether you want or need to push through these feelings and find out if there’s growth on the other side. It’s a hard call and I respect you immensely whether you take on the challenge or make the conscious decision that it’s not the right new step for you right now.  These kinds of growth challenges in our thirties aren’t at all simple.

I guess that’s why they call this adulthood, kids.

 

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Are you satisfied?

One of my friends from film school was recently telling me about having lunch with one of our esteemed professors from UCLA. This professor is an amazing, kind-hearted man who’s beloved by his community. He turned 80 years old last year and still teaches two classes in the Masters film program. I’d say his name here, but I feel weird about it, since I haven’t asked him if I can talk about him on this blog. (Though, I am sure he would be happy for me to share this.)

I took two classes with him while I was in school, and he talked a lot about what success and satisfaction look like for his students – aspiring directors, writers, and producers in the MFA program.

The other day, my friend reminded me of something this professor said about life satisfaction that I wanted to share here. Basically, the level of your satisfaction in life equals reality over expectations. So, essentially, you’ll be more satisfied with your life if you’re happy with your reality and don’t have expectations that you have no control over.

This equation reminds me of a fortune cookie quote I got in college –  “Expectations reduce joy.” It’s hard not to have expectations because as human beings, I think we’re hard-wired to go into most situations with a desired outcome. But if we can just focus on the actual process of doing things and being in the present with the people around us, maybe we won’t think about our expectations of outcomes so much.

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Panic In Your Thirties!

Have you heard of that band, “Panic at the Disco”? Well, I keep thinking of their name lately and how I feel panic in my thirties! 

I remember reading an article on Jezebel about how the thirties are your ‘do-or-die decade’ and that idea has always stuck with me. The gist of the article is that the thirties are your time of life when the stakes are so much higher – that what you do in your thirties will set the stage for how the rest of your life might look.

But no pressure, people.

Ha. A lot of pressure actually. For me though, the pressure for me has morphed into panic. I’m 35, and I feel like I’ve made no serious inroads in my career and I have no kids – two things in my life I really want.  Obviously, it comes and goes and isn’t a permanent state of being.

However, there is a big problem with panic. See definition below.

Sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior.

“Wildly unthinking behavior.” Yes. Been there, done that. But that’s a whole ‘nother post.

So what’s the answer? Well, I can’t say I’ve figured it out yet. But I did read something in my weekly horoscope by Chani Nicholas (best horoscopes ever, btw), and it resonated perfectly for the subject of this post. So here ya go:

“Pause instead of panicking.”

Love it. Slowing down always helps me.

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