One of my key lessons this year is acceptance. I brought it upon myself, of course, by choosing “accept” as my word for 2015. I knew I had these lessons to learn.
Last week, after I wrote about letting go of others’ expectations, I started thinking about what happens when you can’t meet your own expectations. Unless you’re a minimalist or highly evolved soul, you probably have a wish list, a vision board, or goals for your future. We all want something.
But what happens when you can’t have what you want?
Right now, for example, I want a house and family. I’m past my mid-30s, have been married almost 10 years, and I want what other people my age have. Or should I say: What I perceive other people my own age to have.
The problem? The hubs and I live in a neighborhood where starter homes go for about $1 million and my husband, who works his butt off at an Internet startup, isn’t ready to grow our family. Regardless of our ages, my wishes, or our previous agreements, the fact is what I want isn’t possible right now.
There’s very little I can do about either situation. On the home-buying front, prices rose 13% this past year and homes are typically selling $100k over list in bidding wars. These are facts. What we can do is either tighten our belts and save more, or move outside the Bay Area.
On the adoption front, there’s literally nothing I can do. My friends have posed solutions, including giving Brian an ultimatum, starting the process without him, or accepting that he may never be ready. I know these suggestions are well intentioned, but they’re awful, aren’t they? Either I manipulate my husband, go behind his back, or just give up.
Call me crazy, but none of those works for me. So what can you do when you want something you can’t have? I have asked myself this question many times. I think the answer depends in part on what it is you want and how likely it is to ever occur.
When you can’t have what you want…for now
If your situation is temporary, here are some things to try:
Distract yourself. Psychologist Pauline Wallin, Ph.D. says that when we don’t get what we want, we want it even more. But each of us has a choice as to what we focus on. Instead of obsessing over what we don’t have, we can choose to do something else like start a new project, clean the house, or change the topic of conversation.
Make a plan. I’m a planner, my husband is not. He and I drafted a timeline for adoption, but then he said our plan was unfolding too quickly so we put it on hold. The lesson here is that plans aren’t perfect and may change, particularly when you’re dealing with another person. However, planning for what you want could work well if it’s something you can work toward on your own.
Be open to alternatives. A friend of mine told me the following story: One of her friends had trouble getting pregnant, tried round after round of fertility treatments, experienced several miscarriages, and ultimately was unable to carry a baby to term. Eventually she came to resent my friend, a mother of two, and she won’t visit with or discuss my friend’s children. This makes me sad. There are so many alternatives to a childfree life if you don’t choose one, including surrogacy, adoption, fostering, mentoring, and enjoying the children already in your life, however they got there. When something doesn’t manifest exactly as you envisioned it, that doesn’t mean you can’t have it in another form.
Choose hope versus despair. We all have a choice about how we apply our mental energy. Do we focus on hope or despair? Sometimes processing takes a long time but, as long as you’re alive, there’s always hope. Whenever I need a reminder of this I practice gratitude, journaling about things going right in my life right now.
When you can’t have what you want…ever
As with the childfree woman I mentioned above, sometimes the dream we have for ourselves isn’t meant to be. When you’re dealing with a permanent loss—whether you’re in love with someone who will never love you back, were overlooked for your dream job, or will never birth a child—the only way forward is through…through the grief to the point where you can find a new normal. In that case:
Remember that you’re not alone. We all know grief and struggles. Often you may not know what others are going through or have experienced, but you can safely assume that you’re not alone. We have all faced our share of battles and losses.
Process the emotions. Allow yourself to experience the emotions you have. It’s okay to be sad or in denial or angry. It’s okay to have good days and bad days, good moments and bad moments. Continue working through the stages of grief until you find peace. And if you can’t do it on your own…
Get help. Surround yourself with support, either from your friends and family or mental health professionals. There’s nothing wrong or weak about asking for help. In fact, I believe it’s a sign of sanity to realize when you need more support.
Embrace your new normal. Once you have processed your darkest emotions, find your new normal. Look for others who can understand and support this new chapter in your life. If you’re newly single, for example, that could mean joining a single’s group. If you’ve decided not to have children, that might mean hanging out with other childfree couples or volunteering with a mentoring organization to teach and learn from kids in a new way.
Choose to focus on what’s going okay. What do you have to be grateful for? What are you here to accomplish? What beauty can you bring to the world, perhaps because of and not in spite of your past experience?
I’m feeling a bit sad and uncomfortable today. I hurt the feelings of someone I love over the weekend. It wasn’t intentional. I didn’t set out to hurt or reject her act of love but, to be true to myself and my needs, I had to say no to a very kind offer. The truth is: As uncomfortable as it may be, if you’re going to remain true to yourself, disappointing others at times is inevitable.
Even more frustrating, how others respond to our acts of self-care is out of our control. Some will accept graciously and let the situation go. Others will fight back, accusing you of harming them deliberately or selfishly. Still others will say everything is okay yet hold a grudge. It’s no picnic, disappointing others.
But we have to be okay with doing it. Otherwise, we’d live our lives to the beat of another’s drum, trying to keep someone other than ourselves happy.
Accepting that I have to disappoint others is hard for me. That’s why I’m writing about it. I was raised to people-please and I struggle with not doing so, but it’s just not okay for me to sacrifice my sense of self and happiness to meet someone else’s wishes. If I always compromised for someone else, where could that lead:
Would I be willing to sacrifice where I live?
What I do as a career?
What about my choice of spouse?
Even the people closest to us have their own agendas. Sometimes their agendas clash with what we know to be true for ourselves. I don’t fault them. They’re doing their best, but they don’t fully understand our needs or what will lead us to our best lives. How could they when they’re not us?
Let me give you an example: My husband’s parents did not want him to leave aerospace engineering to become a computer programmer. But Brian was unhappy in his aerospace job. He didn’t like the bureaucracy of the industry and he was bored designing brackets for telecommunications satellites.
His parents were rightfully worried that he’d have trouble finding a good job outside his major and that he might not make as much money long-term. They were trying to protect their baby boy from suffering. But they were wrong.
Now, 15+ years later, Brian loves software engineering and he makes a great living doing it. While I’m sure his decision to go against his parents’ wishes was disappointing to them at the time, it’s what he needed to do to be true to himself.
Brian and I have developed a bit of a reputation in our families for choosing the unconventional route. We live across the country from our families, both having moved independently after college. We put our careers on hold to travel full-time during 2010-2011. I haven’t held a traditional job since 2006. Brian turned down an offer at Google to work for an Internet start-up. And we’ve chosen not to birth children.
Sure, we’ve made mistakes, but we’re doing the best we can. And our mistakes are ours to make.
Disappointing others sometimes happens on our paths to becoming our most authentic selves. We’re sorry when it happens but we also must accept it as inevitable.
We can’t live our lives in an attempt to keep others happy. For one thing, it’s impossible because everyone has his or her own opinion. Also, it’s a death knell for our individual dreams, wishes, and goals.
Who are you going to disappoint today? What dream or goal are you going to take action toward in becoming your best self?
If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed some changes around here lately. First, there’s a new KateWatson.net tagline: Passion for personal development + social justice. There’s also an updated About page, explaining my new(ish) blog focus and providing the context for where we’re headed.
These are the first of several new developments. For a while now, since returning to the Bay Area after traveling for a year and a half, I have been exploring career and life possibilities. I knew I wanted to do something beyond wedding and portrait photography and, while I loved helping photographers differentiate authentically via Art Aligned, that felt more like a parting gift to the industry rather than an inspiring new career.
What I’ve done consistently throughout this time is write on this blog and research topics related to social justice and personal development. Honoring that, I’ve asked myself several questions:
Did I want to work for a social enterprise?
Start a social enterprise or nonprofit?
Photograph social issues?
Write about personal development and social issues?
The answers to these questions are not now, maybe, yes, and yes. No one knows what the future holds, but what I do know is that, right now, I want to write, photograph, and continue supporting organizations working to make the world a better, more equitable place. And so that is exactly what I’m going to do.
As I wrote on my updated About page, going forward KateWatson.net will feature:
Inspiration to believe that change is possible—both internally and out in the world
Tools to change your perspective, understand and alter limiting beliefs, and grow into the person you want to become
Stories of people making positive changes in the world and in their own lives
I wanted to run for years. As a teenager I dreamt about it. Not scary dreams about running away from zombies but happy dreams about winning a race or just running. In reality running never gelled for me—until last year.
I tried running off and on in my 20s, overheated, and gave up. In my early 30s, my husband’s and my pilates instructor suggested that we sign up for a half marathon and train with her so we tried—and I quit after our first 6-mile walk left me with hip and knee pain. Brian hung in there and went on to walk/run his first half marathon that year. Last weekend he completed his sixth.
Every year he trained for and completed another half, and I sat on the sidelines cheering him on. I was beginning to think I’d never learn to run.
And then he offered to train with me, even though he’s twice as fast, even though he wants to run longer distances, just because he loves me and knew I wanted to do it. So during 2014, we trained together and I completed my first 10K.
5 Things Starting a Running Program Taught Me About Starting Anything New
1. Get support. Until I had a training partner, I didn’t run. Once I had someone else counting on me, I felt accountable to him and more accountable to myself. I wanted to show up to spend time with my partner.
Whatever change you want to make—adopting an exercise program, cultivating an artistic practice, or eating healthier—find a cheerleader, training partner, or accountability partner. They will provide the support system you need for success.
On the other hand, if you know someone in your life won’t support the changes you’re making, either don’t tell them about it or minimize your discussion about it with them. The last thing you need when you’re just starting something is a naysayer.
2. Set a schedule. It’s so easy to put off a goal when it’s not in the calendar. To change a dream or goal into reality, you need a plan of action.
My plan had two components: first, I signed up for the Giant Race so I had a deadline, and then I scheduled three training runs per week in my calendar. With the added support of a training partner, I knew I needed to get out there even when I didn’t feel like it.
To apply this point to anything else, step one is to create a concrete goal with a deadline, step two is to create a system through which you will achieve your goal, and step three is to check in regularly with your support team to let them know how you’re doing and get support when you are struggling.
3. Take it slow. I am probably the slowest runner on the planet. And I’m really a walker/jogger. What I learned this time is that, before, I was trying too hard, running too fast, and not giving myself time to acclimate to the new endeavor. I was taking an all-or-nothing approach.
Brian forced me to slow down. Instead of paying attention to covering distance, we focused on up-and-down cadences. It felt strange at first but eventually it became natural.
Applying the “take it slow” principle to anything else: If you want to write, just write. You don’t need to commit to writing the next Great American novel. Determine what you want to write and instead commit to doing it three times per week. If you want a deadline, create it around scenes or chapters or blog posts. Make your goal attainable.
4. Focus on your results, not anyone else’s. As I said before, Brian is a much faster runner than I am but even he isn’t running 3:30 marathons like his younger sister can. When you’re starting anything new, it doesn’t matter that someone you know earns $1 million per year doing what you want to do. It doesn’t matter that your sister just published a photo in National Geographic. It doesn’t matter if your neighbors think you look silly prancing down the street (as I felt sure they did when I was just starting my running program.)
What matters is where you are. If you honor that and keep going, you will get better.
One more thing about results. We only see the external results of others’ success. We miss the hours of preparation, both physical and mental, that got them there. We also don’t often see the obstacles they’ve overcome. For those reasons and more, we can’t really compare ourselves to anyone else. We’re each on our own journey.
5. Take care of yourself. There are a lot of things Brian and I do to care for ourselves before, during, and after a run. For example, to train for the 10k, I followed Jeff Galloway’s beginner training program. While running, we both use a pacing watch with a heart rate monitor (like this one) to ensure we’re in an aerobic zone instead of overtaxing ourselves. After a workout, we stretch and roll out our muscles to ensure a smooth recovery.
Taking care of yourself applies to starting anything new. Whether you’re starting a business, undertaking new responsibilities at work, or adopting a cat, make sure you carve out time to care for yourself, too—mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Did I miss anything? What have you learned about starting something new?
During March, I’ve been writing about my morning ritual, which includes writing, working with affirmations or gratitude, and yoga. Today I’m sharing more details about my easy morning yoga practice—most of which involves lying down—and a few props that can help with it.
Although I’ve practiced yoga on and off for years, I always approach it from a beginner’s mindset. For me, yoga is not about power poses or extreme flexibility. Instead it’s primarily about calming and focusing my mind, of being mindful of where I am in the moment.
My Easy Morning Yoga Practice
My favorite way to begin a morning practice is with purna yoga’s morning series. It’s perfect because it’s all done while lying down. You can literally roll right out of bed and onto the floor to get started.
YogaTeacherDebbie’s morning series video below is a bit long but I like it because it shows how she uses a strap to assist with suptapadangustasana (aka the leg stretch), as I do:
After morning series, I move on to hip opening series. PetraYoga’s video shows an advanced version, without props, which will give you something to aspire to. The movements are still simple enough to follow here. Just remember that it’s very important to listen to your body, not push yourself, follow any inward hip rotation with external rotation, and repeat the exercises on both sides of your body:
After morning and hip opening series, you can rest on your back in corpse pose and do a short meditation.
Because I usually awaken ready for the day, I don’t do exercises designed to enliven and awaken. However, if you need to get more blood flowing first thing, you could try the 5 Tibetan Rites. The series is five simple exercises designed to be done 21 times each in sequence. To get started, though, it would suffice to do each exercise only three or eight times each. Another inspirational video is below:
What You Need to Get Started with Yoga
If you’re brand new to yoga, you may now be wondering what, if any, special gear or props you need before getting started. To complete morning and hip opening series, all you need is yourself and (probably) a strap. I use the Manduka cotton yoga strap, which we have in the 10-foot length because my husband is 6’4”. If I’d been buying the strap just for me, I’d have gotten the 8’.
Another prop that can help with poses like triangle or the ending thigh stretch in hip opening series is a block. (Note: for hip opening series, you can sit on the block instead of directly on your knees, and you don’t need to lay all the way back. Instead stretch back only as far as is comfortable.)
At home, I practice yoga on a carpeted floor. For class, I take along an Aurorae mat and Brian takes his ginormous, man-sized mat. Both are thicker than typical mats to provide a little more cushion between the hard floor and our bodies.
Don’t let the idea that you need gear become a barrier to trying yoga. Really you need nothing more than yourself. And if getting out of bed is too much, you can also do some yoga poses without leaving your bed.
I hope you enjoyed my suggestions for easy morning yoga. Newbies, do you have any questions or comments? Yoginis, anything to add? Please share in the comments.