k and dWelcome to Cannonball Coaching!  My name is Kristin Wiederholt and I am a certified life coach.  I meet with individual clients, teach workshops and write this blog.  I chose cannonball to be the heart of my practice’s name because there is something about the image of children jumping into water that is full of spirit and energy and freedom.  At some point along the way, most of us lose that spirit in our lives; the spirit of leaping into action, even when it won’t be perfect or precise or always beautifully executed. That is what I hope to help clients regain…the energy and joy of leaping into action in all areas of of their lives.

I see this blog as my cannonball:  an act of putting myself out there, my whole self, in a spirit of fun and exploration. What you can expect to find here are snippets of thought, things that have struck me, openings to explore, assumptions to be challenged.  I hope what I write will get you thinking, wondering, and appreciating yourself and all that you are.

I invite you to explore the rest of my website to find out more about me and the services I offer.

I have to start this post by acknowledging that it has been a really long time since I last wrote.  Really long.  The only real excuse I have is that I have been doing other work, in addition to coaching, and that has kept me really busy.  But, I never stopped working with clients or loving coaching or feeling a desire to write about things that interest me.  I have thought of posting many times because I continue to read a lot and be excited by ideas and insights, but I have let myself be derailed (I know exactly how it happens…I am tempted now to get up and start going through my closet to get rid of things.  That needs to be done too, but for now it will have to wait.)

But today will be different.  I am mostly caught up with my work, so I am going to sit here until I hit the Publish button.  And since I have done this a few times before (I have a few drafts from years past where I never did hit that Publish button), I am going to keep it simple.

This article by Carl Richards in yesterday’s New York Times, “Time to Be Honest About the Fear That’s Getting in Your Way,” feels like a good place to dive back in.  That’s because I completely relate to the first few sentences:

There is something you have been working on, isn’t there?  Something big. Something exciting. Something you have always dreamed of. It’s that perpetual “work in progress” that you tell only your close friends and loved ones about. The novel that is in “final edits.” That website that you are going to start … tomorrow.

Ah yes, tomorrow.  I know it well.  Some avoidance is about laziness or lack of time or something else, but for the big things, the bold things, the things we keep wanting to do despite the “roadblocks” we imagine…they are stopped by fear.

Our own work, when we are judging it ourselves, is never finished or good enough. I have a secret for you: It’s not because we are perfectionists. It’s because we are scared. Scared nobody will like it, scared it won’t work out, scared to be embarrassed.

I think I stopped writing blogposts because I got really busy with other things, but then once I was out of the habit, I started to have doubts about the worth of my posts and were they good enough, and who cares what I think.  Fast forward several years and here I am, with blogposts to write and other creative projects I want to do.  Carl Richards asks the questions I need to answer.

Once we understand why we are perpetually stuck at 90 percent, we can make major strides toward 100 percent. It’s no longer about this or that specific roadblock. Now it’s about, “How do I work with fear?”

That is a much better question than, “What font should I use?” and it’s one that is much more interesting.

So how do you work with fear? Do you have specific things you do when you have something you really want to do but are hiding because you’re scared? Mantras you repeat, stories you tell yourself, music?

 

We got a dog.  A puppy to be exact.  fugee2Not a teeny tiny puppy.  Not the pee all over the house kind of puppy, but the occasional pee and poop in the house kind of puppy.  I have always considered myself a cat person, and I will admit it, I used to have some disdain for dogs and dog people.  In my mind, they wanted the submissive instant love of a dog.  The undying devotion.  The creature that would only see them as good, no matter how badly they behaved.  And to me that was a cop-out.  Life is not like that!  Cats to me were more self-contained and dignified.  You usually had to work to get their attention and affection.  That felt more honest and real to me.  Part of me felt obliged to choose the harder path (the German part?), even though in ways cats are easier because you can ignore them and that doesn’t really work with most dogs.

Since our cat died about 8 years ago, I steadfastly said, No more pets!  I didn’t want another creature with a shorter life expectancy than me.  And I felt that two boys and a husband were more than enough to fill my plate.  And I wanted freedom.    But over the past year, I have started to wonder about adding a pet to the family.  My kids (16 & 12) are a lot less demanding and I can feel more room in my life.  I began spending a lot of time thinking about the idea of pets.  What are people looking for when they get a pet?  I didn’t want to fall to my kids’ pleadings alone.  They have always said they wanted a pet, but I knew they weren’t ready to truly be part of that until recently.  Being the mother and generally the holder-together-of-all-things-emotional, I knew I needed to wrap my head around the idea of a pet before going forward.  I unofficially, and party unconsciously, began a year of research.

The first thing that struck me when I talked with many people about their pets was what a pain they were.  Our friends cat who loves to eat wool (especially cashmere), another friend’s dog who is scared of men and pees inside sometimes, another cat that lost all the fur around its butt (apparently quite a site to behold) and has feline HIV, as well as the cost of hiring dog walkers and finding suitable places to board said pet when you go away.  And then there is the shit-factor.  Call me prissy, but whether it’s having to pick dog shit up outside, or scoop it out of a litter box, I am not a fan.  Add to all that the intrinsic needs of another creature.  I am such an empath, that it literally causes me distress not meeting the needs (or perceived needs) of others.  In short, why get a needy pet???

I kept coming to the same conclusion.  Keep life simple and clean.  Don’t complicate things.  But the thought kept coming back and kept coming back, and I finally started to look more closely at what is/could be positive about having a pet…and even the inner knowledge that this time a dog (a dog!) might be the right choice.  Over time I have come to see the value of that undying, no-questions-asked love.  I know it has the potential to bring out the best in people…the humanity, ironically.  To be met with undying devotion is an opportunity to step up, and I wanted that for my kids and in the vibe in our house in general.  As they get older and in some ways more self-absorbed (natural!), I wanted this for them.  Someone to take care of.  And for my husband, I told him he deserved someone who loved him unconditionally.  And I really meant it.  Of course, I love him unconditionally on a deep and important level.  But if he leaves his underwear on the floor, I am not going to lick his face.  If he is late to pick up the kids, I am not going to wag my tail when he gets home.  I am too cat-like to do that.

After a false start and some drama (not going in to that here), we took the plunge.  We met Fugee (then JoJo) at a Rocket Dog Rescue event in December.  She had been turned in by two people…probably drug addicts who realized they couldn’t care for her.  We all agreed she was the one and took her home the same day.  As my father-in-law would say, “She landed her ass in the butter.”  She now has four people who love her and dote on her. Here are just a few of the moments that make me happy we took the plunge.

  • All agreeing on a name.  From The Fugees (a music group that chose the name from “refugee”).
  • Watching my older son take care of Fugee after she got spayed.  He felt so bad about putting the cone on her head at night so she wouldn’t lick the wound, but he did it because he knew it was necessary.
  • Having my younger son put Fugee into his afternoon schedule (yes, he creates one every day) each day after school.
  • Seeing both boys have more fun together with Fugee as the thing that unites them.
  • Witnessing my husband’s pure delight at having this creature love him and loving her back.
  • Doing puppy training as a family.  Not easy, but so interesting to see how we all react and what comes naturally or not to each of us (possibly another blog post!).
  • Knowing that I listened to my gut and let it win this time.
  • Focusing on the good and not the poop I had to pick up on the floor this morning because it is raining and somebody doesn’t like rain!

 

There is a right time and a wrong time to negotiate with yourself.  It seems pretty obvious, but I am amazed at how often people pick the wrong time.  When you pick the wrong time, you always lose (or win, depending on if you’re answering to the proverbial angel or devil on your shoulder).  Here is the rule I use:

Only negotiate when your best self is present:  the one that sees the future, has faith in you, wants you to succeed and is a step removed from the thing you are negotiating.  For example, you can negotiate an exercise plan when you are warm and relaxed, feeling good and can see your fitness goal/s clearly.  You can’t do that when it’s still dark outside, windy and cold and you are trying to force yourself out the door.  Those negotiations almost always break down.  If you open the door to negotiation, how can you possibly make a good case for leaving the comfort of home and head into the cold, cruel world of exercise?   This is the wrong time to negotiate.  It’s exhausting for one.  And based on my own experience, you usually end up feeling worse because  you give in to your less-than-optimal self.

If you negotiate with your best self and make clear decisions, it is very freeing.  You don’t even open the door to the possibility of staying home on that cold, dark and windy morning.  You use your energy to get dressed and out the door and when that voice says, “just stay in bed” or “you’ll go tomorrow” you shut it down and go on automatic pilot, knowing that this is what your best self wants.

I exercise on certain days at certain times.  It is non-negotiable unless I’m sick.  I know I feel better when I do it…both physically and mentally.  The thought of negotiating that on a day to day basis exhausts me.  I am a good negotiator and can run circles around myself if I want, so when I start to hear the “oh, you don’t really  have to go out today, give yourself a break” I shut it down and stay focused.

Negotiation check list:

  • ask yourself who you are negotiating with.  If it’s not your best self, wait until that self can show up.
  • remember you can always renegotiate.
  • for on-going things, like exercise, diet, job-search, create your plan and agree to stick with it for a certain period of time…a week, a month…so you can see what it feels like.
  • remember what your longer term vision is.  remembering why you are dieting, exercising, looking for a better job helps make the hard work feel worth it.

When do you negotiate with yourself?  Who wins?

I am taking a woodworking class called Zen and the Art of Joinery.  To be clear there is nothing Zen or Artful about what I have done so far.  And, in case you don’t know, joinery is what it sounds like:  getting different pieces of wood to stay together without nails or screws.)  I am finding it truly challenging on a number of levels that fascinate me.  And honestly, it’s watching all this play out that is keeping me going back each Tuesday evening despite the gravitational pull to stay home and the dread of feeling lame again.

Last week we were going to learn how to use a chisel.  The teacher was looking to use someone’s piece of wood with the  proper cuts and lines already in place.  He took mine.  Looked at it.  Raised his eyebrows.  And looked for  a different one.  My cuts were crooked and of various depths and I was missing a crucial line that should have been drawn.  I felt a bit like an idiot.  Not because I can’t take a little ribbing, but more because I realized that this type of work doesn’t come naturally to me.  A lot of things come naturally to me and I’m used to picking things up easily.  Not woodworking.

So the teacher demonstrated how to use a chisel (on someone else’s piece of wood!) to create the space to make a joint.  (I should know what the joint we were making is called, but I don’t.)  I watched his demo carefully and was ready to try my hand on my piece of wood.  I picked up the chisel and immediately felt confused.  How was I supposed to hold it?  Where was I supposed to start?  I asked the teacher for help and he immediately got the “No Stop!” look on his face when I put the chisel on the wood.  He asked, “Does that feel comfortable?  Does it feel good?”  No, it didn’t.  He said it was like I was fighting my own body.  He showed me again what to do, but again, when I picked up the chisel I got in an awkward position.  I was making it much harder and more painful than it had to be.  Not because I wanted to do that…I didn’t.  But my body wanted to contort.

Using my fullest concentration and awareness, I was able to get in the right, most “natural” position and I did a passable job on the joint.  But I couldn’t stop thinking about how hard I had made it for myself.  And that made me think about how hard we can make other things for ourselves.  How maybe some things don’t need to be so painful if only we could shift our position.  For example, exercising regularly could be really hard and painful, but is there a position/way of thinking/strategy that would make it flow?  Or, looking for a job.  Is there literally a way to adjust how you do it so you’re not battling yourself.

The challenge, as I found out in my woodworking adventure is that often the new posture/position feels weird and unnatural.  As painful as the way we’re doing something feels, it’s what we know.  And it can be difficult to distinguish between one form of pain and another.  The thing to remember is that with practice, the better position/approach will become easier.  But the one in which you’re working against yourself will just continue to be hard.  If I keep practicing using the chisel in the correct way, I might someday be good at it.  If I keep doing it my instinctive way, I’m sure to quit woodworking as soon as this class is over.

Where do you fight yourself and possibly make things harder than they need to be?

It took me a few paragraphs of this NYT opinion piece, You Can’t Have It All, but You Can Have Cake by Delia Ephron, to get drawn in. I couldn’t really see where she was going with the bakery stuff, and then  I cringed at her term discardia, which she defines as “the tendency to throw things away after a few bites…”  As child of parents who lived through WWII and faced very real food shortages, I will admit I am more sensitive than the average person about this.  For better or worse, I inherited a grave aversion to throwing away food…even questionable food (what’s a little mold…you just cut it away and eat the rest!).   But I kept on and liked what I read after that.

Having it all seems to breed wanting more. And since we can’t have it all because it is statistically impossible, and since there is no such thing as more than all, the whole notion seems, I’m sorry to say, depressingly American.

In many countries, having it all is learning to read. Having it all is getting to choose whom you love. Having it all is walking to school without worrying that you might get raped on the way.

In other words, it’s about perspective and remembering there are different ways to look at every situation and circumstance.  We are all guilty at times of putting too much energy and focus on the more, and forgetting to embrace and enjoy the small moments when things feel good.

To me, having it all — if one wants to define it at all — is the magical time when what you want and what you have match up. Like an eclipse. 

It takes effort to see an eclipse.  You can’t just look right at it.  You need protection.  And you have to look when it’s there and not necessarily at a time that is most convenient for you.   It’s the same with noticing and embracing the good moments.  Maybe we need to start thinking in terms of having it.  Just that.  Leave the all behind.

I love the way Ephron brings everything back to the bakery at the end and describes the visceral pleasure it gives her.

Which is why I love bakeries. Peace descends the second I enter, the second I smell the intoxicating aroma of fresh bread, see apricot cookies with scalloped edges, chocolate dreams, cinnamon and raisin concoctions, flights of a baker’s imagination, and I know I am the luckiest person in the world. At that moment, in spite of statistical proof that this is not possible, I have it all. And not only that, I can have more.

Yes, she can have more, but I have to say that Ephron might want to think about her habit of discarding perfectly good food.  It is (to use her own words) depressingly American.  (Sorry, I couldn’t leave it!)

As you go through the week, think about what your having it moments are.   I am having one right now…working at home, sitting with my feet in the sun and writing.