It’s that time of year. The families are coming.
As is the pressure of dealing with crowded places, office parties, and juggling the collision of too many realms of our lives at any single moment.
With all the nostalgia and excitement of the past comes other reminders we are loath to forgive (and forget). Thoughts can lift us up, and conversely, thoughts can bog us down.
The New Year gets all the symbolism of a fresh start and the setting free of old baggage, but why wait until January?
When we arrive at any occasion (actual or emotional) pre-drained, travel frazzled, dealing with office drama, slightly tech-addicted, wondering if we left the front door unlocked, forgot the presents, pre-guilty over the food influx and exercise deficit, and wielding some form of mild yet contagious winter ailment… we can be in a fine frame of mind to resort to old ruts of dread and distorted expectation.
Ivy had debated disappearing for the holidays, but the only escape she could afford this year was an out-of-season yurt, which was as enticing as the line in which she was currently standing for international postage stamps at the United States Postal Office on Columbus Avenue.
Ivy found herself passing the time by making lists of everything she was dreading about the upcoming holidays.
1. The Office Party. Looming later that night. Where for each of her five years at the company to date, her boss had lain his perpetually warm, damp hand on her bottom cheek and then clenched, like a biting piranha, full brazen eye contact, and not to loosen his grip for what felt like eternity, all in the clause of merriment.
2. The Crowds. Everywhere. Ivy felt like she was being swallowed alive by swarms of people every time she set out. The bloated subway platforms set her heart racing, the bottlenecks on the sidewalk made her nervous… it was like everyone had pulled ‘jerk to inflate’ cords on their jackets and puffed up four times their size. Suffocating.
3. The Journey Back Home for Christmas. Gift laden. Stressed. Delayed.
4. The Shopping. Nobody ever liked the presents she chose.
5. The Work Lag / All Round Appeasement. Ivy could never seem to keep everyone happy. Off duty, on duty, everyone in her life seemed jealous of the other facets of her existence and required her to prove her allegiance accordingly, constantly.
6. The Family Row. Inevitable
7. The Ensuing Tension. Inevitable
8. Leaving Early. Inevitable.
9. The Extra-Extra Baggage. Getting back to New York 7lbs heavier. Inevitable
Bah Humbug. Ivy sighed. At this point the line at the Post Office was snaking onto the street. A woman in a black coyote coat broke through and pushed her way past the wilting crowd, announcing emphatically, through overly whitened teeth and an armload of parcels, ‘They said I could come to the front when I’d done the form.’ There were collective rumbles of discontent, but nobody voiced an objection. A truly deflated New York. Ivy felt hot, thirsty and dizzy. She closed her eyes, and in the place between memory and imagination received a visit from the Ghost of Perspective Present…
One of the greatest gifts a Professional Life Coach can bestow on her clients is the ability to play with perspectives and release burden. So much of the pressure we carry can be displaced just by asking ourselves why? – Why do I feel so worried? What would happen if I didn’t let it weigh me down? The situation can stay the same, but what if I chose not to feel the dragging lurch of dread? Does the lurch change the outcome? Either way, is it worth feeling like this? So said the Ghost of Perspective Present to Ivy.
It is an ability to bring mindfulness with added allure to an experience. To be aware and in the moment, and yet observant and questioning for the potential for an alternative, kinder, more empowering experience.
What could change to make this feel different? What could change to remove the dread? What’s to say it will happen again? What would happen if you looked at it a different way? What sort of weight does this situation bring? What would it be like to set it free? So said the Ghost.
What if you released the Ghosts of Perspective Past? What do you want of Perspectives Present, and Future? How are you going to get that?
The Ghost continued…
This is not to say that the crowds will be less in the future, or that people will be more considerate with their coat-span, or that the line jumpers will abate. That will never happen. But there is a choice in the degree to which it affects us.
By the time Ivy left the Post Office it was 8pm. The night air was frosty and she went straight to the office party in her pre-determined invisibility suit (corporate camouflage for the non-attention seeker). She braced the claw… challenging herself to feel something other than fear and dread and helplessness when the nails sunk in.
Ivy was, therefore, rather taken aback to discover that her boss had been dismissed for sexual harrassment (while she’d been in line at the post office). The air was full of solidarity and festivity, and a circulating detective asking for anyone with recent ‘indentations’ willing to be photographed for evidence.
From then on Ivy felt the weight lift. Enjoying the sensation, remembering the Ghost, she then challenged herself to a further fresh perspective.
She went shopping. She tried (and failed, but it was some sort of progress) to see the mass of winter coats as a giant comforting quilt. Decided that she was better at experience than analogy. She also decided there was no pleasing her family with presents, and took the pressure off the choice. She decided the only person she could really make happy was herself and thus spent her gift budget accordingly on a pair of (RIP) Alaia boots.
The journey home was arduous, but what Ivy had never considered before was the space it allowed her on her own, which she found she quite enjoyed.
When the inevitable family tension began to brew Ivy withdrew and paused to consider how she would choose to experience the event were she not to let her mind override. She could be nervy, resentful and annoyed, or she could let it float away, free of gravity… Ivy’s brother, who had not been visited by the Ghost of Perception Present, was suitably sarcastic (probably jealous) at her new found ability to stand unaffected by the ensuing uprooting of historical insults and throwing of overcooked vegetables. This was, frankly, a mere impetus to spur her further.
Ivy returned to New York 4lbs heavier in one way, but so much lighter in others.
Experience of life is what we make it.
We all have the ability to observe the emotional impact a situation presents, and then to decide what would happen if we chose to experience the very same situation in a different way.
Professional Certified Life Coaches believe that their clients are the experts of their lives and know deep down what needs to be addressed, and thus can curate their solutions as such. It should be noted that this article is for informational purposes only and is written in the personal Coaching Style of its author and is not intended to be used as a directive or in the place of your physician, therapist, ghostly guide, or any other health care professional.
Professional Life Coaches also never divulge the secrets, experiences, or identities of their clients, and while Ivy is as fictional as the woman in the coyote coat, many of my clients have found comfort and motivation in her tale.