Forestalling Fear Of Missing Out

I have a wonderful life. I know it. You know it. Yet I find myself looking around and wondering why I do not have trips to Europe, a giant savings account or a new car in my life. The dreaded Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) strikes again.

Fear of missing out while I do chores
I have to work SO HARD!

Most of us (all of us?) feel that we are missing out on something. Facebook and easy communications have increased this sensation. My cousins are off on another fabulous family cruise. I sit in Denver working on my to-do list making sure that we have things handled before venturing back to our isolated park in southeastern Utah. My posts on Facebook are about the great stuff in my life but my daily reality includes sweating profusely through my workouts (with nothing to show for the effort, by the way), cooking, cleaning, worrying about money and being sure I am missing everything.

My research has uncovered a great article by Martha Beck (you can read it here). But I will summarize my favorite take-aways.

Combating the Fear Of Missing Out

Fear of missing out sticky notes work
Sometimes I need notes to remember the good stuff.
  1. FOMO comes from thinking other people have better lives than we do. Parts of their lives are great. But they don’t mention the family fights, eating cereal for dinner instead of cooking, the time they lost their phone or how difficult their co-workers are. Our glimpses are only a piece of the truth. One truism says that if you sat in a group of friends and everyone put a list of the problems they face on a piece of paper, you would look through the pile and pick your own set of troubles. Yes, everyone has them. So, pay attention to the good stuff in your own life. I have found I have to make a list of wonderful things we have done so I can remember during those low moments.
fear of missing out the ice cream
Ice Cream is very comforting!

2. We can re-enginer the acronym to work for us. What else could those letters stand for that remind us of what we already have? The author suggests a few: Feel Okay More Often find little things that give us pleasure and focus on them; Find One Magnificent Object appreciate something wonderful in your own life; and my personal favorite Flocks Of Magic Otters.” She adds,What, you don’t think these actually exist? Huh. They’re no more outlandish than believing that everyone you know has a more awesome life than you.” I made up one, too. Focus On My Own. Do you have a car that runs? Someone who cares about you? A home? Comfort food available to eat? Past experiences that make you smile when you remember them? Luckily, each life has its good moments.

What’s Next?

The trick is to pay attention to when we feel sad about what we don’t have and make an effort to notice all we already have in our lives. Yes, it is easier said than done, but has become more automatic with practice. Daily gratitude, being kind to others and noticing other people’s smiles all help me stay focused on the good side of my life. Finally, for me, writing things down always supports my efforts. I feel lucky that you take the time to read my blogs. Thanks!

Fear of missing out the forsythia
There is always something worth enjoying!

 

“In life, one has a choice to take one of two paths: to wait for some special day–or to celebrate each special day.” – Rasheed Ogunlaru

 

 

 

 

8 Ways To Find Comfort During Change

Surprise isn't always comfort
Life is changing again!

Life is filled with change. We all have to handle the fact that nothing remains the same. The truth is that change that happens to us (without our permission and often without warning) is hardest to survive. But even when we choose to embrace the transition, there are bumps in the road. Here are some thoughts about easing the transitions.

My life, by design, is filled with changes. We are seasonal workers, needing to move every six months or so, and never sure of what is on the horizon. We have chosen to live with fewer things and less regularity. Much of the time, I enjoy the newness and the uncertainty. However, the constant of change wears on me.

Here are ten strategies I have employed to smooth the way and cope with the anxieties that inevitably crop up.

1.  Hold on to something Familiar

Holding coffee mug helps change
Warmth helps with change

When we travel, we have a set of belongings that come with us. They have to fit in our two-door compact car, so we have to be picky about our choices. We love our down comforter, our electric toothbrush, comfortable shoes and a three-ring binder filled with my favorite recipes (yes, it is full of comfort food ideas!). In addition, we only bring one suitcase each of our favorite clothing and personal items. It turns out most people don’t really notice when you wear the same things all the time. The few things we bring are all “old friends.” Our continuing efforts to simplify pay off big time here.

2. Let go of Expectations.

I do research before we head out on our journey and automatically draw mental pictures of what the newest spot will be like. I have to be careful of these expectations. It turns out change is harder to handle when things are not going as I expected. We came up with a saying: “We are on Vacation!” because this reminds us that we have never been here before, that the road is unfamiliar and that is why we are doing this! It is time to be present to what is right in front of us and not what we left behind.

grumpy cat hates change
Change can make me grumpy

3. Ignore negative input.

There are many people who prefer to live in the same house and go to the same job. It is hard for those people to imagine that taking off in random directions could be fun or that change could lead to something better. Because of this, they feel obligated to tell me that what I am doing is a bad idea. It is tempting to listen to them, or even chime in. That’s when I do the next step.

 

4.  Make a List of why I am doing this crazy thing

I write down the reasons I am on the road (or whatever new vision I have created). This has come in useful in the past to get through classes, finish projects or stay in a job long enough to make it to the next step. Some people prefer to draw pictures, make collages, create vision boards or put up sticky notes on their mirrors. We all need reminders that what we are doing is important and why we want what we want. Every now and again I read my notes and ask myself, “Is this still true?  Do I still want this?”  It is okay if the answer is no, but almost always I am still inspired by my goals.

What if the change is not my choice? I focus on who I want to be (and WHY!) while the change is happening and write that down. After all, there are almost always good things that come out of change. We just need to find them.

5. Add structure

When I feel lost, I create to-do lists to get me moving. This for me adds structure, plus I get ridiculous satisfaction from crossing the tasks off. Yes, I am one of those that will add items I have already completed just so I can them off. Other ways to add structure can be making sure you eat at the same times, exercise every day, connect with family or whatever makes you feel more in control of the day in small ways.

change is not comfortable
What!? This isn’t what I asked for!

6. Know that not everything will turn out the way we wanted

The sad thing is challenges occur, even in an exciting, travel filled adventure life. Cars break down, I get tired of being so far from family, weather disrupts our plans, there are bad days at work, people disappoint me. In addition, there are moments I disappoint myself. I accept that those things are a fact of life on this planet and get over it. Eventually.

7. Practice Gratitude

Counting my blessings is a instant way for me to remember all the things going right. I know there are many people who advocate writing down at least three things you are thankful for every day. I am sure it is a good idea and I have seen studies that say that your mental and physical health measurably increase after doing this for several weeks in a row. But I resist this exercise, even though I am a writer in my heart.  Therefore, I prefer to be spontaneously grateful. I am thankful for rainbows, bird songs, cloud formations and hot and cold running water. As a result of noticing all of these, and more, I remember to acknowledge the gifts in my life.

 

Touch helps me cope with change
Keeping in Touch

8. Communicate with my anchor people

Finally, I have several people that I consider my anchors. They are family members and friends who love me. They remind me that I am on an adventure, not an endurance race. Touching base with them frequently helps keep me grounded.

 

“Just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes.”

Hugh Prather

Stuck at a Party? – 5 Sure-Fire Conversation Starters

conversation starters invitation
A moment of elation followed by fear

Every introvert dreads party invitations. We have visions of standing in a corner as we alternately hope that someone will talk to us and afraid they will. First of all, my big fear is that I don’t have good conversation starters. What will I talk about if someone comes up? While recently some “experts” have claimed that most introverts dislike idle chatter and crave deep topics, that is not me, at least at parties. I promise I will not be having significant discussions with people I barely know at a party.
However, I do accept that I need and want social connections, despite the emotional energy it requires. I have a trick, accept the invitation when it is offered from people I like, especially if the event is several days in the future.  I can do this, I think to myself as I agree to their offer. Naturally, I then worry and fret out loud until we arrive at the party, because I think I don’t want to go. Yes, I know it is always worth going. So, I just feel the worry and show up anyway.

Luckily, I have found that having a set of conversations starters in my back pocket can help me feel less stuck at the party. Here are some juicy questions that often lead to interesting exchanges so I can feel confident and will be entertained. (Yes, it is all about my comfort!)

5 sure-fire Conversation Starters

1. What was the last thing you checked off your bucket list?

This is a great way to get stories rolling. The anecdotes tend to be enjoyable because bucket list items usually have an element of adventure and almost always have some calamity attached to it. (I know. That shouldn’t be true but the challenges are what make the stories fun.)

2 What are you going to check off of your bucket list next?

conversation starters bucket list
My bucket list needs more ideas

I like this one because whether we call it a life list or a bucket list, we all have things we hope we get to do sooner or later. This is especially good in a group because one person’s idea will spark others. You may go home with new ideas to add to your own list. Bonus!

3. What is the most interesting job you ever had?

One of good things about this question is that it isn’t the usual “What do you do?” but still gives you an idea of their interests and skills. I would suggest having an example of your own in case it stumps your new friend. Sometimes we need time to remember that jobs can be interesting.

4. Do you have a favorite book (or movie)?

This lets them off the hook if they can’t think of one right away. It can also begin a dialogue. Many times it turns out we like the same ones and that leads to a connection. Once or twice I have met people who grew up where movies were not allowed or they never liked to read. Quick. Ask a different question.

5. Have you ever met anyone famous?

conversation starters hollywood
Hollywood is full of famous people

This often leads to convoluted tales of how they sat next to a movie star or how their parents bought Elvis Presley a drink (or whatever story they come up with). By the way, I would not suggest asking this if there is even a remote possibility that the other person IS famous.

A couple of other hints:

Be sure to add your own stories so it doesn’t become a one-way interrogation.

 When someone asks you a question, end your answer with “How about you?” Extra credit: If you are in a group, pick the one who hasn’t talked yet and ask them.

It is never a good idea to talk about politics and religion. After all, you won’t change their mind and they won’t change yours (no matter what they think). Come to think of it, current events right now are possible dynamite. Tread carefully.

– Join in when other brave souls use their conversation starters. There are lots of us out there and we need encouragement.

A final word: People are rooting for the conversation to be entertaining. You already are unique and remarkable. I promise it is worth the effort to engage with others.

conversation starters winne the pooh
I love Winnie the Pooh

 

You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” –A.A. Milne

Living In A Two-Party Household

two-party household argument
We don’t see eye to eye

What do you do when one of a couple has strong conservative beliefs and the other is as liberal as they come? This two-party household has been our reality for over thirty-seven years. Up until now, we have been able to balance our beliefs because our love is strong and our peace keeping skills are excellent. The mantra of “don’t argue about religion or politics” has led us to live a peaceful life. So far.

Granted we have strong feelings about our beliefs. Every two years, we go to the polls to vote and cancel each other’s votes out, straight down the line. One year, we agreed that since we were nullifying each other’s votes, neither of us would vote. We both cheated. I saw him in line ahead of me to vote! Rather than being angry, we have laughed about that for years. Yes, we both thought that we would get our vote to count that year. Now we accept the inevitable and go together to cast our disparate votes. We consider it our right and responsibility to cancel out the other’s opinion at the polls. This is two-party living at its best.

Up until now, we have found that we can agree to disagree about our political views.

Things have changed in our two-party household

two-party household Trump
He voted for him

With this election, our views are so different that we have both been alarmed at the other’s ideas. I believe that our new president is dismantling the government and removing important gains we have made over the past 50 years. He thinks Trump is finally making the government more efficient and streamlining cumbersome rules that have restricted the economy. My fear is that Mr. Trump is endangering the future of the planet. He thinks I am over-reacting and listening to “the enemy media”. In his opinion, it is about time someone takes charge of the runaway government interference in personal freedoms. I feel my personal choices will be narrowed by the decisions of our leader. The list goes on and on.  The truth is that neither one of us will change our mind, no matter what the other one says.

Two-party household liberal
Me too!

For the first time in our marriage, we cannot find common ground to stand on in this arena. We can’t watch the news, look at the internet or read about any political events without one (or both) of us getting angry. So how can our two-party relationship survive the next four to eight years?

My hope is kindness will save the day

In our relationship, when we speak of our differences, we have an unspoken agreement to stop when the emotions start running hot. Anger appears and we take a time out from the discussion. This can be helpful, for we never want to say things that will hurt that other person. I like him! Why would I want to hurt him? Luckily, he feels the same way.

With kindness, there is room for discussion. When I talk about climate change, he is willing to listen to my view of the situation.  I hope I can learn why he trusts Trump to do the right thing. Sharing my concerns about education leads to him speaking about antiquated institutions. We do agree that health care reform is a tough problem, even though we disagree about the solutions. Granted these conversations can and do get heated. Remembering to be kind to one another ensures that we back off, cool down and reconnect to the fact that we love one another. My tone changes, my words soften and I do my best to listen rather than defend my position. He watches my face, my eyes and does his best to keep it to a discussion rather than an argument. While many times, we have to stop talking about it for a while; we can still maintain the respect and trust we have for each other.

Kindness offers a refuge.  Kindness will allow us to survive this period; possibly to learn and grow into a stronger relationship, even in our two-party household.

two-party household Dalai Lama
Kindness Counts

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” – Dalai Lama

Raptor Nest Search

My ranger/friend invited me to join in a raptor nest search. Of course I said yes. This meant that one day this past week, I had to actually get up and move at a much quicker pace than normal.  It was worth it.
raptor nest search red cliffs
Utah cliffs where bird like to nest
Our task: To monitor previously discovered nests in an area 2 hours north from where I live. A ranger from another park joined the party and the three of us went hunting. Our main goal was to scour the area looking for “whitewash”. This is a polite name for bird poop on the cliff walls. A lot of whitewash means there is probably a nest there, but there are tricky spots with less poop that they deemed were “perches” instead of probable nest sites. The actual nests are rare. In the 20 mile area we searched, we only found a couple dozen potential spots.  Luckily, we drove from one cliff area to another so I did not have to walk the whole twenty miles, but at each spot we did a lot of hiking.
While we did not see many birds, we did find a rabbit warren, a prairie dog town, paw prints from a large cat (young mountain lion? large bobcat?) and the remains of a trash pile near the remains of a long-gone house. Among the debris, we found a bunch of rusted tin cans. They had the old church key holes on either side of the top. I had to explain to the younger ranger that the weird holes meant that they were beer cans. We all learned something that day. (Okay, some knowledge will come in handier than others.)
We decided to head back but wanted to check out one last place. Lo and behold, one of the rangers spotted a huge nest on a cliff. Could it be a golden eagle’s home? Sure enough, he was perched on a nearby cliff!  Far enough away that I had to use binoculars to see him, he still looked regal up there, surveying the valley. He stayed there a long time, but we were patient. Suddenly,  the eagle swooped off his perch and flew! Circling the valley, he found his prey. We watched as he dove towards the ground with his talons out. He missed! (Aw. For once I was rooting for the predator.) Finding a spot to perch, he recovered a bit before soaring back up to his distant perch. Our raptor nest search had come to a rewarding close.
This raptor nest search program requires that the nesting areas remain secret to protect the wildlife.  My camera phone could not capture any of the action anyway. The eagle was too far away and difficult to photograph. Naturally I am now considering upgrading my equipment, but today I am still basking in the joy of watching the eagle in action. In a way, it was nice to just watch, knowing I could not take the ideal picture; I had permission to just enjoy the experience.
Raptor Nest Search Golden eagle
Golden Eagle Soars

Eagles: When they walk, they stumble. They are not what one would call graceful. They were not designed to walk. They fly. And when they fly, oh, how they fly, so free, so graceful. They see from the sky what we never see.Unknown

Sitting In A Sea Of Uncertainty

Doesn’t it feel like we are all sitting in a sea of uncertainty? The world is once again in the midst of major changes and that can be frightening. After all, we don’t know how this is going to turn out, do we? We human beings fear change, mostly because change does not come with a guarantee of a happy ending. We have only the hope that things will be better than they were before.

boat on a sea of uncertainty
Sailing on a sea of uncertainty

We have so many things in flux right now. Our new president has promised to make big changes and those decisions are rocking not just the United States but the globe. The climate is changing, whether or not it is accelerated by human beings, science assures us that weather patterns are different and the earth is not the same as it was before. Technology changes how we interact with one another. Some jobs no longer exist, while new ones are created. Changes in health care, freezes in federal hiring and the fact that we are older than we were yesterday bring a feeling of dread. How do we find a place of peace in this ever-shifting landscape?

As these big changes loom, I feel vulnerable. Most of us do.

Brene Brown, a noted author and research sociologist, has studied how we avoid being vulnerable. We all use four main techniques to help us cope with the fear of being vulnerable:

numb out the sea of uncertainty
Party Hardy
  • We numb it with alcohol, sugar, caffeine or adrenaline rushes.
  • We make the things we wish were an absolute truth (even when they are not) and state them as fact. We want others to agree with those ideas as truth, so that we can be right. I particularly see this in politics, religion and sports teams, but this happens in many areas of our lives.
  • We try to be perfect, and convince others that we have perfect lives. We hide our mistakes and imperfections from the world.
  • We pretend that what is happening doesn’t matter to us, that it is not our problem.

Yet each of these coping mechanisms comes with a high price. Numbing the bad feelings numbs the good ones of joy and delight. When we demand that others agree with us, we alienate those whose opinion we could value and become more and more close-minded as we insist on our view. Being perfect exhausts everyone, including the ones doing their best to appear “normal”.  And pretending the change isn’t happening only prolongs the agony. For change is inevitable.

sea of uncertainty in a kayak
Am I alone here?

So we all are living in this sea of uncertainty. We feel vulnerable and scared, even though some of the changes are what we had been hoping for. It feels like a struggle to find safety while being tossed about in my little kayak on the ocean.

 

So now what? I do not have any answers.

Trying to follow my own advice, I meditate, exercise, get enough sleep, reach out to loved ones and remember the good things I have in my life.

Still I have moments (days) of retreating into myself and wishing things would just stay the same.
These are turbulent times. Then that little voice inside me says, “Yes. As usual.”

Buddha laughs while in the sea of uncertainty
It will be all right

“Nothing is forever except change.”Buddha

Reconnecting To Joy – Action

Current political changes feel as if they are out of my control. I think many of us are worried about the future, on both sides of the aisle. When I am afraid, I become paralyzed. I tell myself I am too small to make a difference. I curl up on the couch under the blanket and despair. Yet, little action steps can lead me out of this scared rabbit reaction. Asking questions rather than demanding agreement, reacting with kindness to angry words and even picking up litter on the trail help me remember that I can make a difference in the world, in this small way.

Action Dumbbells
Action Requires Heavy Lifting

The New Year brings a lot of attention on goal setting. These visions are designed to spur us into action, to take steps towards who we want to be. Though goals can motivating, they are intimidating. It is all good to say “I will lose 30 pounds this year” or I will change the world. It is quite another to actually figure out how to do it. Even harder is to sustain the energy to accomplish large goals. I am very good at coming up with ideas, not so good at the follow through.

Oh, I start out well. Going to the gym for the first three days is exhilarating. The problem resides in the fourth through the three hundred and sixty second day. I understand that many great athletes work out every single day. Though, they do vary their routines to be light on some of those days, maintaining the momentum keeps them on track. Plus, the habit of moving every day becomes ingrained.

While I understand this idea, the thought of never taking a day off sounds exhausting. Then I remember the One Day At A Time philosophy of the Twelve Step programs. I don’t have to do this every day. I only have to do this today. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

Action Eat Carrots
A carrot a day

With that in mind, I find I can take action on my dreams. Often, I only have time or energy to do one thing a day. But three hundred and sixty five actions can lead to big things. Maybe not a belly that is flatter, but towards a body that is stronger, a retirement account that is larger, a blog that is well-written and a world where kindness is the norm. How are your goals going? Maybe just do one thing today. We can do this together.

“Just For Today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once.”Al-Anon Family Groups

 

Reconnecting To Joy – Friends

Luckily, my family falls into the category of being friends. Not everyone can say that. In fact, I know many people have deicded to create new families of the heart, made up of friends who they can trust and depend on through thick and thin. I am fortunate enough to have both friends and family to love.

Friends Mark Twain Landing
Having Fun with Friends

Naturally there have been multiple studies to determine the benefits of having friends. Not too surprisingly, there are many benefits when we have strong relationships in our lives. We have less stress, better health, increased happiness and actually live longer. The support we receive makes such a difference that it helps us make better choices. Studies show that people with good social relationships exercise more and drink less. (Of course, sometimes my crew encourages me to drink more. But those times are always accompanied by connection, laughter and love which feels like a very healthy choice.)

My best friends are the ones who make me laugh. They drop everything to help me when I call. They are ones who come to mind when I need to talk and they won’t judge me. True friends are the ones who let me share my pain, but also tell me their troubles. We take turns being strong.

Two Friends
Hanging onto my friends

The hardest part of traveling for the past six years is maintaining the bonds I have made over time, and still creating a space for new people in my life. I do treasure all the connections I have made. I am grateful for social media in that it allows me to stay in contact with so many people. Friendship is precious, even if it has to turn into a long-distance relationship. My widespread community keeps me steady and grateful for their on-going support. Yes, friends bring me joy.

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”

― William Shakespeare

Reconnecting To Joy – Good Deeds

Tin Man Good Deed Doer
Good Deed Doer

One of my favorite quotes from The Wizard Of Oz comes from the scene where the Wizard hands the Tin Man a heart and says: “Back where I come from, there are men who do nothing all day but good deeds. They are called phila-, er, er, philanth-er, good-deed doers!” It makes me laugh every time.

We all know that being a philanthropist is a great goal. It can be hard when it feels like time and money are tight, but it has big pay-offs. Studies show that being generous, as in doing good deeds, can lead to lower stress, lower cortisol levels, help you live a longer life, have happier relationships and increase our mental health. All good reasons to look for opportunities to take care of each other.

Good deeds do not have to be huge. A smile as you walk by someone, holding the door, picking up that blowing napkin (especially when it wasn’t yours) all count in my book.

What about doing a good deed anonymously? I think it gets extra karma points. It is surprisingly hard to do something nice and not look for acknowledgement. Yet those can be the most rewarding ones of all.

Santa's Sack of Good Deeds
Santa’s Sack of Good Deeds

I read about a family that talks in a wonderful way to their children who ask about the reality of Santa Claus. They tell their children that some kids think there is not a Santa. Then they continue “A lot of children think that, because they aren’t ready to BE a Santa yet, but YOU ARE.” The Distractify article goes on to say: “They have the child choose someone they know–a neighbor, usually. The child’s mission is to secretly, deviously, find out something that the person needs, and then provide it, wrap it, deliver it–and never reveal to the target where it came from. Being a Santa isn’t about getting credit, you see. It’s unselfish giving.”

I aspire to be that person, the one who makes a quiet difference. The one who can do the kind thing and not require a brass band flourish. It is a goal.

So keep your eyes open. I will too.  Let’s be Santa together.

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa

Reconnecting To Joy – Making Plans

 

Making Plans to Dance
Dancing with Joy

I love looking forward to an upcoming event. Making plans for a vacation is my favorite thing to do, preferably a few months in advance. Then I have time to anticipate all the fun that is heading my way. That is joy right there.

I know that many people prefer spontaneous adventures. Once in a while, I do too. After all, there is nothing like someone saying “Let’s go” and everyone heading out the door.  But then I miss the part where I get to look forward to what is in the future. Remember waking up on your birthday morning or on the first day of summer? We call that the Christas Morning Feeling. I love that excitement.

Making plans is one of my tricks to uncover joy. Whether it is buying tickets for a concert or setting up a time to meet friends for lunch, I like having things on the calendar.  Having the dates on the docket makes it seem more real and has the added benefit of reminding me of the event afterwards when I look back over the year.

Moki Dugway
Moki Dugway

This weekend we took a trip to the Grand Canyon. It snowed the evening before we were to leave and our “shortcut” between Blanding and Flagstaff is a road called the Moki Dugway. Any precipitation can make the trip perilous. Unwilling to abandon our plans, we waited unti late morning to head there, knowing there was a chance we would have to turn around. The extra time helped the road to clear and we made the trip without incident.

Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon

Unfortunately, the weather followed us to the Grand Canyon so we only got a few glimpses of the spectacular beauty the park offers. Still we got to watch the clouds come up and over the north rim. We walked through the snow along the rim, watching the fog thicken and the view disappear. We are grateful we got to see the sights before it disappeared. To be honest, we were also very grateful for the car’s heater on the way back to Flagstaff.

The hardest part for me is making the original commitment. I am, after all, an introvert who unintentionally puts off human interaction.  I can talk myself out of spending money so buying those tickets can be difficult.  But it is always worth the effort.  Yes, it takes effort and a little bit of faith that this too will turn out well. Luckily, when I have made the plans I do my very best to follow through.

“Every man can transform the world from one of monotony and drabness to one of excitement and adventure.”Irving Wallace