Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sprouting ideas.

I feel kind of like our bean plants.

Several weeks ago my son and I were watching an episode of Curious George in which George learned that if you plant things in the ground, they will grow. Of course, being a curious monkey, George tried planting papers and keys and orange juice to make them grow, and The Man with the Yellow Hat explained that plants grow, and keys do not. At the end of the segment, it showed some real-live school kids putting beans on a wet paper towel on a paper plate, and then putting that inside of a Ziploc bag for the beans to sprout. He was ecstatic at the idea and wanted to sprout some beans, as well!

Well, okay!

I dug through our pantry and found some dry pinto beans. It was the best I could do on short notice. He also wanted to try an apple seed, and we happened to have apples, so I cut one and dug out the seeds. Hey, why not? We didn't have Ziploc bags, so I used a Crock Pot liner. I'm all for improvisation. (I do this a lot.)

A couple of days later, some of the beans had started to sprout! The little guy was SO PROUD!! After several more days, one of the apple seeds even perked up and started sprouting! I was pretty impressed with that, to be honest; they weren't organic apples so I didn't expect a whole lot of "life" to be in there.

Once the sprouts got big enough, I bought a planter and some potting soil, and planted them.

See, this is where it starts to get fuzzy. My mom has a green thumb -- my oldest sister would go so far as to call her a Green Witch; I, do not have a green thumb. My thumb isn't anywhere close to any shade of green. Neither is my other thumb, or any other finger-like appendages. Plants and I, we just don't get along. Once, I had a potted shamrock that my mom had given me that started getting sick; I took it to work for the fabulous double-green-thumbed custodian, an older lady named Alice, to check it out for me, and she refused to let me take it back home. It remained there when I left the job.

So, not having any clue what I was actually doing, I put the bean sprouts in dirt, and once the apple sprout got a little bigger, I put it in dirt, too.

AND THEN THE BEAN PLANTS GREW AND GREW AND GREW. Yes, that was in all caps for a reason. THEY GREW VERY FAST AND VERY BIG AND I HAD NO IDEA WHAT WAS HAPPENING, but as it turned out, the planter I got for them was way too small, and the weather was still cold, and our outside-garden (which, I may add, my husband, son, and a guy friend of ours are all in charge of, and not me) was still just in thought form. So the planter just kind of stayed in the office by the window, with the plants getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

And then one of the cats got shut in that room by accident, and ate off the leaves.

So I did all I knew how to do (which wasn't a lot) to try and get them to get some life back into them, and they started looking better. And then the leaves started turning yellow. And then the other cat got shut in the office accidentally and chewed on the plants again.

At that point I finally asked a classmate of mine who works at a greenhouse what the yellowing leaves meant. I was over-watering them, apparently. So I stopped watering them. And the dirt started molding. And then I really had no idea what to do about it. And now all but one of the plants looks really, really sad.

I kind of feel like that right now. Like I had all these new! exciting! ideas! that, once they started growing, I had no idea what to do with them, gave them too much attention, let some cats gnaw on them (or, you know, heard criticism about them, whichever), then started ignoring them, and now I'm kind of not sure where things are.

But I do know this:

We can still plant the one remaining good-ish bean plant now that the outside-garden has been created. And the little guy and I can sprout new beans and apple seeds now that I know more about what to do (KEEP THE CATS OUT OMG) and what not to do to let them grow healthily.

The same can be said for myself. It's okay to scrap what hasn't worked out, and try again with the newly-gained knowledge I have from the last round.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Stop complaining! Um, I mean... say thank you?

"Stop complaining! Appreciate what you have!" Pretty frequent outburst in our house.

The little one is going through a bit of a ... well, "nothing's good enough / I want more" phase. Either he should've picked a different toy than the one he got, or the one piece of cheese I surprised him with at breakfast should've been two, or he didn't get to play enough of the video game he was playing.

And of course, when we get frustrated with the stream of complaints and demand that he "Stop complaining!", he then argues that he wasn't complaining, and we argue that yes he was, and he argues that no he wasn't, and we ask him if he's saying we're wrong, and well, this is just boiling up to be a conversation in which no one can come out of it happy.

So, serendipity kicked in.

The book we were asked to read for my class at the School of Metaphysics was called A Complaint Free World. Now, here's a fun story. I didn't have the funds on hand to buy it from class that night, so my plan was to check the local library. They had it! On the wrong end of town. But I could request it to be moved nearby! Except there was a lock on my account due to lack of recent use. So I updated it and requested it! And selected the wrong location. Then when I got home from work, having realized on the drive home that I'd selected the wrong location and needed to correct it, I saw a package from Amazon sitting on the coffee table. It was the book!

My husband asked if I'd accidentally ordered it, and I assured him that, no, I did not accidentally click through several different confirmation steps on Amazon. I had, however, mentioned it to one very good friend, who had also read it, and was excited that I was going to, as well. I emailed her asking if she would happen to know anything about the book I'd mysteriously received in the mail with no note, and she said it must be magic. :)

So, I read it. No, that's putting it mildly; I mentally devoured it and wanted to point at it and say "YES, THIS" about a thousand times. I'm not sure how many pages are dog-eared, but I can tell you there's quite a few. It basically condenses the Law of Attraction into something very easy to understand -- wherever your thoughts are focused, that's what you get more of -- along with a How To guide to make it work for you -- stop complaining, and find a more solution-oriented way to say what you're trying to say. The book challenges you to go 21 consecutive days without complaining, gossiping, or criticizing; most people, it says, take an average of 4-8 months to make it those 21 days. Anytime you catch yourself complaining, gossiping, or criticizing, do something physical (move a bracelet to the other wrist, a ring to the other hand, a paperweight to the other side of your desk) to remind yourself, and start your count over.

Also? And here's where I circle back to the beginning part about my kid. It also says that if you catch someone else complaining and call them on it, you have to start over, too, because you're complaining about their complaining.

So um, how likely is it that the way I was addressing my 4 year old's regular complaints was, in itself, complaining or criticizing? "You're complaining again!" Yeah, I'd say that counts.

It also dawned on me... where do you think he's picked up this trait in the first place?

So, my current challenge? Find a way to correct my son's behavior in a way that encourages him to be more positive rather than punishing him for being negative.

For example, he's complaining about brushing his teeth at bedtime. Instead of "Quit griping and just do it" (which leads to him rolling his eyes at me, and me saying "Did you seriously just roll your eyes at me?", and both of us getting generally grumpy with each other) I remind him how awesome it is that he gets to use the apple banana toothpaste that I know he thinks is really yummy, because he could be using the mint toothpaste he doesn't like, but he has his own. special. yummy. toothpaste. just for him. And, okay, he doesn't totally buy it, but *I* feel like a better mom for handling it that way instead of "Quit griping and just do it."

Or if he's grumping about bedtime, instead of telling him to "Stop grumping, you're going to bed regardless," I tell him that bedtime is one of my favorite times because we get to read a story together and sing a song and snuggle and I really like when it's a happy time, don't you? So can you please do your best to keep it a happy time?

It's a totally different energy. Now, when I catch him griping about something (which is still often; I don't expect miracles overnight), I ask him to think of something really good about whatever he's griping about. Or if it's something like, "Only one piece of cheese?" I give him The Eyebrow and prompt him, "Thank you for the cheese, Mommy," which he dutifully repeats.

As for me, I'll admit it, getting him ready in the mornings or ready for bed at night are probably my two most difficult times of day for remaining complaint-free. But I have found that it's making me a lot more aware of where my words, thoughts and energy are going. If something's making me grumpy or snarky or angry, I have the ability to pause and think of a more productive way of phrasing it, something more solution-oriented than problem-oriented.

How cool is that, to be in a place where you can tell yourself, "I could complain right now if I wanted to, but I choose not to"? Or, "I could yell at him about this, or I can ask him to keep things happier with me"? Pretty cool, that's how cool.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Who are you?

I've been going to a lot of networking events in recent months, and most of the time, after I say that I'm a life & personal growth coach, I get the glazed eyes and the tilted head and the question, "So, what do you do...?"

My stock answer has recently become, "I work with people who want to get to know who they really are, outside of the roles that define them; I do a lot of clarifying with them to help them find out what they really want, outside of what they feel they should; I work with them to create a plan to get from where they are now to where they want to be; and I keep them accountable about it."

A big part of that, and a big part of what I "do" with clients, "really," is about finding your Self in the midst of being somebody's wife, somebody's mom, somebody's sister, somebody's employee, or the guy that you seem to think society wants you to think you ought to be. Who are you in there? What do you want from your life? I often hear people limiting themselves based on the expectations that comes with the roles they play, and I challenge them to examine the labels they've been given, and see if they fit, or if they'd like to peel them off.

What has come to my attention in the past few days, however, is that this isn't just about others. We give ourselves labels a lot of the time, too, and then mold ourselves to fit the idea of what our label tells us we are. For example: I'm clingy, so if I expect someone to call me when they say they will, that's just me being clingy. What if that isn't being clingy and is simply expecting the people around you to be accountable? How different would that feel? Or: I'm socially awkward, so if I try to hang out with people and we don't get along, it's my fault, because I'm the socially awkward one. What if it's really the other person(s) being exclusionary, or they're just not the type of person you'd get along with? How could that be different?

Spend some time thinking about the things you say abut yourself, the words you use to define yourself. What words don't feel good to you? And, knowing that you can change who you are and who you want to be in any given moment, what words would you rather use? What words feel better?

Find some good words to use for yourself. If you're going to label yourself, and then mold yourself to fit the label, why not make yourself into something awesome?