On Christmas Eve, instead of happy dreams of sugar plums and nutcrackers I tossed and turned in bed battling inner demons that were determined to remind me of all my apparently innumerable short comings.
I was sick with a flu that left me weak and unable to carry out my fabulous plans for holiday entertaining. Adding insult to injury, I was left curled up on the couch clutching my cup of camomile tea and watching others sip from that bottle of California Cult Classic wine we had been saving.
Holiday photos this year feature me with tangled hair and dark circles under my eyes. Heck even my dog didn’t want to be seen with me!
How did this happen? I burned the candle at both ends. I attempted to be everything to everyone, exceed expectations, and…
The result was mistakes were made, balls dropped, and there I was battling inner demons on what should be one of the happiest nights of the year… yeah right.
I rested, recuperated, and started the year shaking my head and asking myself what the heck happened. Worse, as a coach, my inner voice nagged me “you should know better! You coach on this stuff! ” I turned to my favourite life coach Martha Beck and her blog for distraction. Low and behold here’s what Martha had to say:
This year was going to be the one when I finally did the holidays right. I was going to be both pragmatic and intuitive, jolly and serene, organized and free-flowing, and full of holiday joy.
Two words: face plant.
If you happen to be in a counseling profession (life coaching, social work, parenthood, cocaine sales) you know that December is not so much a month as a recursive disease, like malaria. It makes humans jumpy, gloomy, and fussy. This year, just when I thought I was immune, I had a grand mal attack of the Decembers.
I wasn’t alone. And that was immensely reassuring, and better yet, got me laughing at the absurdity of it all.
I urge you to read her entire blog post here. Beware, it is so funny that your colleagues from down the hall will hear your laughs.
My personal motto for January 2014 is superwoman take off that cloak! I have said it before in this column and I am saying it again.
The truth is that while the legal world can be incredibly demanding, we are often our own worst taskmasters.
For those of you who are cursed like me with an inner nag who measures you against exacting standards here are my simple step by step instructions for embracing your humanity and letting go of your super hero aspirations:
Don’t believe everything you think. Certainly don’t believe your inner nag. Don’t go along with his/her enormous expectations particularly around the holiday time. Question those expectations and dial them back. Save the Grade A performance only those people or activities that truly call for it. Pay attention to your inner task master and keep him/her in check.
Prioritize self-care. Start with paying attention to how you physically feel. Pause during the day to sink your awareness into your body and monitor who you are feeling. Do you need to take a break? Stretch a little? Break the habit of working nights and rest and recuperate instead.
Give yourself a regular dose of quiet time – free of the distractions of television, internet, and connectivity. Try sitting quietly and watching the fire burn in the fireplace. Too boring for you? Go for a walk. Hate walking? Visit the art gallery. Contemplate a poem. If artsy fartsy stuff makes you want to run in the opposite direction then great, go for a run. Or if nothing else appeals try twisting yourself into a pretzel at yoga class.
Seek out fun. Laugh. Be silly. In order to deal with a tough project on my desk this week, I gave the assignment a visual identity. I located a drooling dog photo on the internet to represent the task and sent it around to a colleague. This lightened the tension I feel about the project and gave me a laugh just when I needed it.
I am now recovered. My dog is once again willing to be seen in the dog park with me. My superwoman cape has been put in storage. My hope is that my “long dark tea time of the soul” (thank you Douglas Adams for that) can help light the way forward for another, maybe you.