Why relaxing isn't relaxing
The schools in my area are on spring break this week. I am working and, starting tonight, watching the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. When spring break begins, I feel a sense of relief and success. One reaon is that I’ve made it two-thirds of the way through my son’s school year. Another reason is when there is a school break or a holiday, people are less anxious about their legal issues. I receive less e-mail and fewer phone calls which allows my day to feel more fluid and less disjointed.
Most weeks are not disjointed. Life, in general, feels more disjointed. Our attention is rarely on one thing at a time. It isn’t from multitasking, rather it is because there is a “high” that comes with seeing new information.
Fear of being lazy (FOBL)
“Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place” The Breakfast Club
This blog post was knocking around in my head through the holiday season and resurfaced in the new year. During Christmas, there were many times I felt inadequate. How many gifts is enough? How many holiday gatherings is enough? Should I do more? Can I do more? Worry about all of these questions causes me to miss out on the joy that comes with gatherings and gifts. To abate the guilt, I wait until the 2 weeks (even 2 days) before Christmas to buy gifts so I don’t struggle with whether I am doing enough. And I participate in every gathering.
New year for change
I remind myself every New Year’s Eve that I have more time on my hands on January 1st than any other day of the year.
When you wake up
Taking time for yourself is not lazy
What is holding you back from taking time for yourself? This time of year, preparation for the holidays can be the reason you don’t do things you enjoy. In all honesty, isn’t it like this all year long? A list of tasks and goals to be achieved for someone other than yourself. I’m not saying that you don’t benefit as well. There is usually a sense of satisfaction when you do something for someonse else and there is often a mutual benefit.
Save your (brain) cells
This is the time of year when decisions for healthly behavior is at extremes.
At one end, I could be intentional about my health choices and reap the benefits. At the other end, I could ignore all sign pointing to healthy behavior and repeatedly hit snooze because it is cold and no one will notice.
As the seasons change, we are forced to change.
In the summer, there are longer days, better weather, and more choices. It is more difficult to eat healthy this time of year because there is less produce in season. The days are shorter which makes early morning workouts a drag because the sun never comes up. After work is just as difficult. It is a challenge to exercise outside because it is colder and darker. In Iowa, we are experiencing days of cold and rain followed by days of cold and rain. It feels like a formula for seasonal affective disorder.
Small habit goals can make a huge impact
People want your attention.
Take a moment and look at your surroundings. If you are outside, there are billboards, vehicle graphics, political yard signs, and sale signs. If you are inside, there are magazine covers, flyers, and reminders. If you are online, there are digital ads, newsletters, mass e-mails, and pop-ups.
Someone wants you to do something or buy something.
There are college degrees, careers and companies whose job is to get one product or person to stand out in front of another.
How does this relate to saving brain cells?
Just say ok
When you read the word "hurt" you immediately think of a situation in your life. In my practice, I watch people hurt. In some situations, hurt is part of the process. I relate "hurt" as a physical feeling to the emotion of grief. I also relate "hurt" as an emotional feeling that can be a response to what someone else said, did, or didn't do.
Hurt from the loss of a loved can be felt through your entire body; the physical feeling of hurt. A hurtful statement or action can crush your spirit; the emotional feeling of hurt.
Three weeks ago, I lost one of my first labs to old age. I hurt from the grief. I still hurt.
When is probate necessary in Iowa?
From the moment you wake up, you are making decisions. Thousands of microdecisions are made everyday. You are either taking action on a decision or processing whether or not to act. There are likely several decisions ping-ponging around your brain at any given time. It is exhausting.
Every person has a process of sending a decision through several internal filters or a personal algorithm. Those filters include your values, your desire for control and your intuition to protect yourself.
Our decision-making systems can be on overload because companies build their business to give you lots of choices. To prove this, go into a Starbucks and listen to 10 people place an order. Or walk down the cereal aisle at the grocery store.
Stay in your lane
Why we have to deal (and thanks to the Brits)
The word "probate" is confusing. And, quite honestly, doesn't sound pretty being said or heard out loud. If I could use a different word, I would. I don't like things to be confusing or intimidating for a person. But unfortunately it is the word we are stuck with. It originated in England so thank your friends across the pond.
In Iowa, there are several courts within the district court. There is criminal court, family law court, juvenile court, civil court, small claims court, and many others. Included is probate court. Probate is confusing because it is used in different ways. It can be used as a noun and verb. And sometimes it is misused altogether.
When you feel overwhelmed
One of the main reasons I blog is to work through a problem or situation, reflect on an experience, and to have personal accountability when I make a recommendation (which is pretty much every blog post).
One of my personality traits is to make sure everyone is happy. I am a peacemaker and problem solver no matter where I am. I don't like people to feel uncomfortable or disregarded. I don't like to leave a situation in unrest with no plan to fix it. Trying to make sure everyone is happy comes with the disadvantage of trying to have the answer for everything and be everything to everyone.
I learned, with practice, how to say "I don't know" and, even more specifically, to say "I don't know everything". That doesn't stop me from wanting to know everything or following up with "I will find out".
Here are a few ways I can support someone and stay in my lane.
With experience comes pessimism
You make thousands of micodecisions every day. The time you get out of bed. The amount of cream in your coffee. The length of your shower. Along with microdecisions are macrodecisions. Do you get your child a tutor? Do you tell your boss you are behind on a deadline? Do you hire an expert to do your taxes?
The combination of thousands of microdecisions and proably dozens of macrodecisions each day can build up to feelings of overwhelm. As you age, it gets worse. You have to pay more attention to your health and food (or feel the side effects). You have more assets and debts to manage. You have increased caretaking responsibilities.
Sometimes I feel overhwhelmed to the point of mental paralyzation.
Dump the past
One battle I wage everyday is to suppress my desire to assume the worst. As an attorney, I am trained to look for every possible scenario which includes worse case scenarios. On a personal level, my thought pattern of choice is "catastrophizing". I shared this with a friend and she asked "is that even a word?" I explained what it was and she couldn't believe I thought that way most of the time. I couldn't believe that everyone doesn't think this way most of the time. I think pessimissm comes from experience. Life experience.
The longer you rotate around the sun, the more you are lied to, taken advantage of, experience loss, suffer grief, lose your religion, and feel pain. It accumulates over time. And it wears you down. Why should you expect the best when it might not happen? I've realized that negative thinking has got a tight grip on me right now.
I don't know everything
It is the new year! A time for new beginnings, restarts and change. I have written about new years resolutions in the past and yet each year brings new ideas.
Prior blog posts about new year's resolutions:
Goals need time
Resolution to do less
Its ok to be unhappy
Last November, I cleared out my basement and garage of five years of accumulated "stuff". I went through the kitchen and purged things I don't use. I donated clothes and shoes from my closet that I don't wear or won't wear. It felt good to clear and give what was in good condition and trash what wasn't. I recycled every page of notes from three years of law school and all 12 bar exam prep books.
Do. Don't Think.
I don’t know everything. GASP! And a hush settles over the crowd.
Ok, it didn’t quite happen this way. I did say “I don’t know everything” out loud this morning, but there was no crowd. It was me, my husband and my 8-year old in our house. It wasn’t a hush, rather there was no response to my statement, i.e. silence.
Today was the first time I said “I don’t know everything” out loud. Lately, I’ve been seeking out ways to shortcut conversations with my son when he starts nitpicking at my behavior. This morning his statement started with “mom, you said . . .”.
Leave a note for your next of kin
Any given weekday . . .
In the morning, you approach the shower. What do you do? You start thinking.
- What meetings do I have today?
- How much time before I need to leave?
- Should I shave today?
- How am I going to deal with the problem waiting at work?
- How long before someone pops in the bathroom and asks me a question?
Say "me" more often
This is a line from the musical "Hamilton" in the song "Ten Duel Commandments". The song states, in ten stages, a description of what should happen in a proper duel. The line continues to say "tell 'em where you been, pray that hell or heaven lets ya in." It doesn't go into details, but it says in few words that you should leave a letter for your family if you think you are going to die.
The musical, in Act 2, shows Hamilton writing a letter "to his next of kin" for the very reasons that he was entering into a duel with Aaron Burr. The song "Best of Wives and Best of Women" describes him writing a letter before he leaves for the duel; his wife Eliza having no idea he was about to stare down the barrel of a gun at dawn.
Happy mom voice
Last Friday I presented to colleagues on mental health and the profession. As I prepared for the presentation, I looked at my own mental health and took a look around the people around me. I believe that lack of self-care is becoming an epidemic.
It is no longer about work/life balance. For people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, life is work. I assume by the "50s", a person has enough life experience and perspective to enjoy the fruits of their work and be a driver of their leisure time rather than a passenger.
The guiding message in the book "Overwhelmed: work, love and play when no one has the time" is that we have a lot of leisure time, or nonwork time, but it doesn't feel like leisure time. As the author Brigid Schulte states on her website "how worrying about all there is to do and the pressure of feeling like we’re never have enough time to do it all, or do it well, is “contaminating” our experience of time".
Clever way to stop thinking about work
Scrapbooking is one of my hobbies. I love looking at a still moment in time. Photographs are of happy occasions and happy people.
Facebook has an app called “On This Day” (OTD). It shows pictures and videos of that calendar day last year and every year on that day since I joined Facebook. To me, it is like an automatic scrapbook of my life.
I rarely post videos to Facebook so when they show up in OTD, I watch and re-watch them. Recently, I was watching a video of my son at two- years old (he is now 8). He was singing the theme song from Thomas the Train. As I write this, I can still picture him working hard to say “Edward”. In acapella fashion, I sang the main part and he sung the names of the train at the appropriate time.
As the video played, I hardly recognized myself. Who was this person with the happy, easy-going voice? She sounds really happy. I don’t sound like that anymore.
I’m good enough. I’m smart enough.
Service professionals bill by the hour. Most attorneys bill by the 1/10 of the hour. It is the only way they get paid for their work.
When I am drafting, researching, and writing notes on a case, I bill for my time. Typically I am in front of my computer when I am doing these tasks.
What about the time I am thinking about the case, but am not "working"? For example: (1) the drive home from the office; (2) when I try to go to sleep; (3) when I exercise; or (4) when I take a shower. Should I bill for that thinking time?
When I realize I am thinking about work during non-work time, my first instinct is to take my mental Whack-a-mole hammer and whack the thoughts so they leave me alone. This isn’t very effective at making the thoughts go away.
Cracking the mindfulness code
People in their late 30s and in their 40s may remember a sketch on Saturday Night Live of a character named Stuart Smalley. Smalley, played by Al Franken, read affirmations that always included “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” The content of the reoccurring sketch isn’t memorable but the underlying theme of affirmations comes to mind decades later.
I recently finished watching the 2015 miniseries “The People v. O.J. Simpson.” I am in awe of how Marcia Clark managed to survive that trial. It took place in 1992 and she was the lead prosecutor. The news, her peers, and anyone looking for an easy target ruthlessly scrutinized everything she did, from her trial strategy to her haircut.
As an attorney and a woman, it is second nature for me to compare myself to her situation. In comparison, I didn’t think I could ever do what she did. Why do I think that way?
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment nonjudgmentally.
15 years ago, I participated in a Mindfulness Stress-Based Management course. The course was 8 weeks long and based on the book “Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabia-Zinn.
Mindfulness is available every waking second. I also enjoy meditation but it requires stillness of the body for a period of time. Truthfully, it would be wonderful if I could spend time doing either for any second of the day.
I have always believed that mindfulness required the full attention of my entire self. That may be true. I decided, however, that I can only be mindful with my brain and one other part of my body. When I realized this, I felt like I cracked the code for integrating mindfulness into my life.