Dogs. Some are dangerous. Some are not. But you don’t go up and attempt to cuddle them all without making a thorough assessment, do you? Do they look like they might bite? Showing whites of eyes? Ears back? Growling? Please note they may still wag their tail when feeling aggressive and can still be dangerous – so stay away when they exhibit all or many of these behaviours.
People. Some are dangerous. Some are not. But you don’t go up and attempt to cuddle them all without making a thorough assessment, do you? Do they persistently breach your boundaries even when you make them clear? Do they insist on behaviours you have asked them to stop? Do they get angry with you for asserting your personal right to feel comfortable and safe? Please note people can smile and look presentable and still be assholes I want nothing to fucking do with and I will exercise that right…and I’ll be happier for it (true story – you don’t end up lonely – you end up loved!).
“Haste means Waste” – somebody wise from the past.
Remember that time when you hurried because you thought you were going to be late and ended up later because you fumbled?
Sometimes slowing down and ordering your priorities is a better option. Maybe it’s better to arrive calm and smiling, in your third favourite earrings instead of your first.
Remember that time you decided the discomfort was not worth waiting a bit longer and took the next available opportunity only for it to be terrible over a long period?
Waiting is uncomfortable sometimes. But let’s face it – we are all sitting in life’s waiting room. Good things often take time.
Why rush something you can’t possibly control?
In my current situation, in a life circumstance of trying to establish myself in a new city, I’m consciously taking time out to take care of my “patience”, and feel okay about a period of joblessness. It’s making it a completely more joyful and pleasant circumstance, even though challenging.
Discomfort is part of every experience (whether you class that experience as good or bad). If you avoid it in an endless search for the comfortable or pleasant – sometimes you forget to stop and appreciate the little things. Little joys.
Cultivate little stops if need be, but rush and miss all those little joys, the choice is ours.
Doubt, like any emotion or response to an emotional state, has a purpose. I don’t doubt my decisions that led me to where I am now, but I am experiencing some self-doubt. But I have no doubt that this doubt will be useful! Irony much?
If you don’t doubt what you are doing, then you are not growing, not developing, not learning. Doubt exists right in the middle of Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development. The ZPD. The heart of my egg of doubt.
So, Vygotsky’s ZPD is about our learning comfort zones (see image below). The ZPD requires that the learner access properly scaffolded (staged) learning activities to make them more comfortable with the stuff they don’t know how to do. Then after a while the stuff they didn’t know becomes the stuff they do know.
But I think the ZPD exists in our emotional learning too. I think we can apply ZPD to the doubt we experience when making major life changes or trying something new.
This is something I have called “The Egg of Doubt”. Why an egg? Because doubt usually represents birth or growth, as does an egg. It’s important to note that I am applying this to change that we have chosen, not change that is inflicted upon us (although some of this would still apply).
I have renamed the ZPD to the WTF. Yes, the “Zone of What the Fuck”.
Because change makes us doubt and doubt makes us change. It is a contradiction of the most perplexing and, often, frustrating type.
Making Sense of “The Egg of Doubt”.
While making coffee this morning I collected some thoughts (as you do!) on how to make sense of this as follows:
Do I want this change or challenge? If the answer is no, then re-evaluate the change. It might not need to be thrown out altogether either.
Does this change bring me discomfort and is this real discomfort that is a threat or are we merely sitting in the “What the Fuck” zone? If it is discomfort that will cause you harm…go back to #1. Maybe the change does need to be thrown out altogether. Or change the change. It could just be that you are clinging to the familiar and you need to let go and be okay with the discomfort. It’s okay to not know what you don’t know.
What do I need to do to in “What the Fuck” zone to ease the doubt and move to the new knowledge zone? This is where you make a list of things to do to make the journey more comfortable while still learning. This could be talking to the people around you about the change you are experiencing and getting support. Or practicing self-care. But it is important that’s not too big a list or composed of large tasks. Nurture the WTF zone. It’s there for a reason. It’s there to get you to the new knowledge that will eventually become the stuff you do without thinking much about it.
And finally, but most importantly, give yourself time. Change takes time.
Again, as in #2 above:
It’s okay to not know what you don’t know.
Sometimes I imagine my life a bit like a fire alarm drill. Does that sound a little cray cray? Nah, not at all.
Take the example of a fire alarm drill at work. A voice comes over a loudspeaker. It’s usually a loudspeaker that you didn’t know existed in the building and you’re not exactly sure where it is.
Life and the need for a change can be like that. You know there might a message through life’s fire drill loudspeaker at some point that will require you to act, but you are not exactly sure when or from where that instruction will come.
You can be just “trudging” through life when an external or internal voice, like our own fire drill loudspeaker says “you gotta move, do something different”. Whether or not we listen to that voice can be the difference between living a life we want or just existing.
The next thing that happens in the work fire drill scenario is that everyone gets up and has differing responses. Some laugh. Some sigh. Some complain “do we really have to do this?”.
When I first knew that the funding for my job wasn’t continuing I felt like my fire alarm drill response was a daily occurrence. I felt disrupted and annoyed. But I knew it was also an opportunity.
Just like a work fire alarm drill is an opportunity to get outside in the carpark and stretch your legs. Have a chat, a laugh, for some a cigarette. The point is, it’s not a real emergency but a routine change, prompted by the need to prevent emergencies.
I like to think of life changes like changing jobs or homes, or cities like a routine change. Sometimes if we don’t do it, there will be an emergency of sorts. For me, if you are in the same pattern at home and work and it feels like you are in a holding pattern, then maybe you need to change something. A routine change of some sort.
Change is always uncomfortable, but if we make it routine change, like a fire alarm drill, we manage our thinking about it better. It’s not an emergency, it’s a routine change to preventing one.
I spent yesterday unpacking my car and organising my life. Then I went for walk and had coffee in an awesome café, The Feedback Café (pictured above). Booze, blues and coffee. It is an awesome funky, quirky spot to hang out. Oh, and bought a book.
I then cooked a hearty meal for my housemates (who I am immensely grateful for) and a couple of their friends. I feel at the moment the urge to hurl myself in life, into job applications and walking the streets of Melbourne to find what organisations are out there.
But I recognised that I need to bring to routine to this change. So I made my space comfortable and enjoyed the awesome creative people around me.
My new little office/bedroom is in a bright, cheery, timber floored room in a sleepy inner city suburb of Melbourne.
There is more to see and do within five blocks of me than I have experienced for a while.
I can go out the door and be surrounded by cafes and bookshops and art in no time at all.
I am enjoying this change, although it was prompted by life’s interrupting and annoying loudspeaker.
It feels right. It feels like the right kind of challenge.
The loudspeaker of life is not making huge announcements at the moment, but there is static in the background that says “get organised and things will fall into place”.
I believe that is because I am prepared to let life deliver me whatever change, challenge or opportunity is next. I will act towards directing that a little, but I am quite okay with being at the mercy of life’s fire drill loudspeaker.
My comedy business, Gin and Titters (named after my need for a gin and tonic before I make people laugh) – hosted a visiting Comedy Hypnotist Dave Upfold. You can check him out at Not 1 But 2
We’ve worked hard with promotion but unfortunately we’re not able to attract the crowd we wanted. Despite this the show was great and people thoroughly enjoyed themselves! It was interesting watching people I know volunteer on stage and as usual – us Theatre Sports folks were some of the most entertaining! Check out the fabulous dancing here from my fellow Alice Springs Theatre Sports buff!
Alice Springs is a small transient population of 24 000. During the Easter long weekend even less and people tend to celebrate with family more than go out. We had to compete with a large scale music festival. In the end we got one good night out of the three planned.
The other complication was my health. As you know (and if you read The Girl who Cried Blood Pressure ) I have very difficult to control blood pressure. It’s know as secondary hypertension, because it is not caused by a heart problem, but by a more systemic issue. In my case, it’s linked to the massive trauma of Neurological Decompression Illness (see my LinkedIn article about being a “bends” survivor).
So this week it reared it’s head again. Now, stress? Yep. But normally that is not a problem – if my medications are working. But they haven’t worked for about 18 months and I’ve been struggling to convince the medical profession of that fact.
They see me living life to the full and figure – can’t be that bad. But, on the flipside of that, I am a stoic pain the ass, so they would naturally assume that.
So here we are, a comedy hypnotist, a sound effects guru and a bedraggled me (at least it feels that way for me at the moment)! Onwards and upwards!
Anyway, a day in hospital and a change in medication and we are back on the road…literally…for the end of the week in Tennant Creek, Katherine and Darwin.
That’s another 600 km drive to Tennant Creek, then another 680km to Katherine and then another 300km or so to Darwin!
After recovering from a traumatic early life and then experiencing the trauma of surviving neurological decompression illness and waves and waves of other trauma – I have been the biggest proponent of the power of positive thought.
Until recently. Until recently – when someone used the power of positive thought as a weapon to make me feel like a recent illness was my own fault – like I could have willed away a virus that took out 18 people around me. What’s worse was that I had to cancel two paying comedy shows…bah humbug.
I’d like to make a distinction here between “positive thought” and “poking people in the eye with positivity”.
It’s not really positive thought I have a problem with. It’s all the generalist bullshit that comes with it.
Sometimes it feels like society needs a “pill” for everything. A quick fix. A magical cure.
Often that doesn’t exist.
I still believe that positive thinking is powerful, life changing and important. But some people use the phrase “Stay positive” or “Think positive” as a weapon and this is where I take issue.
The irony is that social science has moved away from something called “positivism” or the notion that cause and effect is everything. So it’s interesting that some people still so desperately search for cause and effect often to the detriment of themselves and others.
“Stay positive and take care of yourself“. Yes of course! That will solve EVERYTHING! The notion of radical self care is quite frankly, a delusion and can be an act of victim blaming. Sometimes it becomes impossible to practice self care at the level these people think is possible – it’s a very privileged worldview indeed. Invariably, these are the people who have savings, property and people to support them – which for many Australians is simply not the case. For single parents, lower income earners, struggling families, those managing long term health problems, injuries or illnesses and a lot of the rest of us – the notion of taking time out for yoga, meditation, clean eating, copious amounts of immersion in nature, etc. etc. is a dubious one.
Here’s an alterative thought: instead of waving self-care and positive thinking at your friend that is struggling, why don’t you ask them if you can DO anything. Then do what they ask (within reason – last time I asked for total world domination of the comedy circuit and that clearly wasn’t possible). If you can’t help then find someone who will help and be on your way. Maybe then they might be able to take some time out for self care. I have awesome friends who do this and I do it in return – try it! It works.
So unless you’ll bring me a coffee, do my washing and help promote a comedy show while I am invested in downward dog…no. Just no.