With shopping and parties and school events and baking and gift-wrapping, December is a busy month. I know many of you who run creative businesses are recovering from Black Friday/Cyber Monday deal-ification and the production required before that. For other creatives, keeping on task despite an ever-growing to-do list can be harrowing. And then there are people for whom the holiday season brings sadness due to memories of lost loved ones or feelings of being left out somehow.
There are a gazillion bullet-pointed “how to keep calm and get stuff done during the holiday season” articles out there; I know I wrote a ton of “tips and tricks” articles as a freelance writer. ::twitch:: It’s almost to the point where someone needs to start writing bullet-pointed articles about how to manage all of the emails and blog posts about how to manage holiday stress.
So instead of giving oft-repeated tips and tricks, I’m going to share something completely different: a manifesto of sorts that I wrote the other night when I couldn’t sleep and worry crept into bed with me.
But first, some background. This is gonna get a little coach-y, but I promise it’s cool, too, so hang on to your underwear because it’s about to get woo-woo (and awesome) up in here:
For most of my life, I viewed the world and lived like a victim. One of my parents unwittingly passed on to me what they’d learned about the world as a child: Trust no one, nice guys/girls finish last, you can’t win for losing, don’t be too happy, etc. I didn’t really see this until I hired a life coach, but it’s one of those “Once you see it, you can’t un-see” it types of deals. What does it mean to have a victim mentality? Here are some hallmark victim phrases/reactions to poopy circumstances:
“Oh, of COURSE my [car broke down/dishwasher stopped working/kid got sick/girlfriend dumped me] right when I’m busiest!”
“I feel like I have a bull’s eye on my back.”
“I’m the only one around here who [cares/does any work/shows up on time].”
“Be careful what you wish for; you just might get it.”
“I should’ve known better than to enjoy that happy moment; I knew I’d pay for it later/it would all come crashing down.”
“Must be nice.”
Any martyr-sounding statements = victim. It’s a learned behavior, which is great news because we can un-learn it.
Through coaching, I’ve worked through a ton of my victim stuff. We do this work by shining the light on it (bringing awareness that it’s there and developing belief that it can be changed) and replacing it with something more empowered, without going overboard and becoming a fighter. The fighter is one macho leap above the victim; they’re the scrappers and survivors. Their world view looks like this:
“Team _____!” [Jenn/Angelina, fake tree/real tree, Bears/Packers, Mounds/Almond Joy]
Standing in line at 4 a.m. for a discount on a TV. (Fighters buy into the scarcity mentality, big-time.)
“I was here first.”
“How dare they . . . !”
“Actually, . . . ”
“Who does he think he is?”
“She’s so successful; why should I bother trying when I can’t compete with that?”
“I’m the one in the right here!”
“That artist came up with the same idea that I did; I guess I can’t pursue it now.”
“I always/never . . . ” (Black-and-white thinking is classic fighter brain struggling for dominance.)
Fighters will nearly always pick being right over being happy.
It’s natural for us victims to also become fighters; after all, it *feels* empowering to compete for a spot as top dog.
Except it isn’t.
What it really is is exhausting and scary and lonesome. After all, you can’t really be loving, vulnerable and real with your dukes up, waiting for the next blows to land and worrying about how to counter them. How did I discover the fighter in me? I found myself getting into the same kinds of exhausting, dramatic, emotional arguments with friends and even strangers. I found myself telescoping back a couple of decades and seeing the common thread connecting all of those dust-ups: Me. Oops. And so began another cycle of awareness, belief, and learning, with a heaping helping of practice added for good measure.
Here’s the problem with being a fighter: If winning means someone else loses, then it’s lonely at the top. Sounds pretty sucky, doesn’t it? It also means that when someone else wins, you lose. There’s little room for everyone to thrive, there’s lots of scrambling for what will always feel like a short-lived victory, because there will always be some up-and-comer nipping at your heels. The good stuff will always run out, so you have to hustle, hustle, hustle, and argue and wheel-and-deal and stack coupons waist-high to make sure there’s always enough.
Okay. So you have the idea, right? Yours truly, the lifelong victim/fighter goes through coaching and then training to be a coach and feels rockin’ and ready to thrive. Except healing is a process, like climbing a spiral staircase. Sometimes, we have to learn lessons over and over again before we learn them, especially if we’re changing lifelong patterns. There’s no “Oh. I see my victim/fighter world view. All fixed now!” ::rides Harley into the sunset::
There’s awareness, and there’s practice. And let me tell you: I’ve been a practicing mofo these past couple of years. What this means is, sometimes I feel sorry for myself. Sometimes I really want to be right, consequences be damned. But most of the time, I’m in a different place emotionally.
So if I’m not a victim or a fighter, what am I? I’m not a survivor; feels too “fighter” to me. ‘Architect’ came to mind except it felt too technical (feel free to adopt it if it makes your heart sing, however).
“I’ve got it! Creator!”
Creators make things happen instead of waiting around for good luck to strike.
We conjure beauty out of nowhere, from the glorious depths of our imagination.
We don’t lie down and let life happen to us, but nor do we slog our way through it, racing to the front of the line to be sure we grab our share before it all runs out.
We are open and vulnerable and loving and true to ourselves while also being true to others around us.
We know that if one wins, we all win, and if another loses, we can band together to help in sustainable ways.
We karate kick into the abyss, shrieking “Yippee ki yay, motherf–ers!” because we know we can handle whatever comes when we land.
We screw up. All. The. Time. Mistakes mean we’re learning and growing, and we know that.
Greed ain’t good, but abundance is our birthright, and the more we have that holds meaning for us, the more we in turn have to give out there in the world.
If we are an expression of the Divine, then of course we are creators, too, right? To honor our gifts is to honor our Creator.
And so the other night when I lay awake and unable to sleep, with my mind wanting to slide back into the primordial ooze of the victim/fighter mentality, I wrote down how I wanted to behave when I woke to greet my family and work day.
I offer these words to you to make use of as you see fit. Because whatever tasks, obligations, and workload you may have this month, approaching it like the creator of your own best life is the surest, shortest path to joyful spirit I can think of.
A Makearoo Manifesto for Creators
Wake up like Aaron, with a big smile.
(My 9-year-old greets me with a huge, genuine smile every single day, and he has done this his entire life.)
Be gentle, loving and kind — including toward yourself.
Do what lights you up and help others joyfully and with purpose.
Stop hiding behind your next decision; take action.
Trust that you can handle whatever comes.
Honor your gifts, skills, and wisdom, and remember you are very good at what you do.
Give thanks whenever possible.
Remember that what you plant today will sustain you tomorrow.
Aim to have fun.
Move joyfully and restore peacefully.
Connect to Source.
Always know, to your bones, that pleasure, joy, love, health, and success are your birthright, not a stolen cookie from someone else’s stash.
Read these lines before you start each day and before you go to bed at night. Compose some of your own. Record yourself saying them and play it back, often. And know that it’s more than hippie/coach-y mish-mash. If you’re surrendering to every crisis, that’s affecting your work and your life. And if you’re arguing and haggling with vendors and customers or stopping yourself because someone else looks more successful, it’s affecting your work and your life. But if you move like a creator, that’s a whole other way of being, doing, and getting stuff done with meaning. Yippee ki yay.
What do you think? Thanks for reading these weekly Dispatches. I deeply value your time and your presence. If you’d like to share your thoughts, email me or post a comment here on the blog. And if this stuff is really hitting you with some really big “Whoa” or “Aha!” moments, maybe it’s time to talk about working with an awesome coach like yours truly who’s been there a time or two and knows what’s it’s like to do what lights you up.