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

 

 

 

 

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

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

Bears Ears Flip Side

Bears Ears
Bears Ears

We have been living in southeastern Utah for 3 months now, in the shadow of Bears Ears.  This experience has had its ups and downs. In the middle of December, we moved from the nearest town to Natural Bridges National Monument, 45 minutes away from any services. We have some (slow) internet that we share with the 12 or so people who live here but no cell service at all. Well, that is not quite accurate. You can make calls (sometimes) if you stand near the repeater outside of the visitor center. Well, I can’t.  But some people have told me they can. Luckily, I can make phone calls from a wide spot in the road 3 miles towards town. It is an interesting situation.

What is even more interesting is that President Obama designated Bears Ears as a National Monument in December. Bears Ears includes the Natural Bridges National Monument as well as extensive existing National Forest and BLM lands.  The 1.36 million acre designation is bigger than the state of Rhode Island and is designed to protect the lands from development.

However, there is a strong resentment around here.  People feel the government is coming in and doing a land-grab without regard for the residents’ viewpoints. The local people have been against this idea for years. They have private land, plus they have used the area to sustain them with hunting and firewood gathering . The two town meetings that were held to gather opinions did not include National Park personnel, Native Americans who were not tribal leaders or much opportunity for disgruntled locals to speak.

The discontented people cite Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument as an example of how their economy could suffer.  The towns around Grand Staircase-Escalante were declared an economic disaster area in 2015. Plus, the increased requirements to get permits have negatively affected the area. Permits are required to graze cattle, gather firewood and herbs, hold traditional ceremonies or use the land. All of these activities require fees. Those who live in Bears Ears can foresee this happening to them.

To add to the uncertainty, negative run-ins with national government agencies are the norm here.  Therefore, they do not trust that their concerns will be heard. The Utah government is doing what it can to change the decision. There have been protests and demonstrations but there is skepticism that the concerns will be addressed.

To add to my worries, there have been rumors of a takeover similar to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. It is possible that this will happen here. We are packed and live out of our suitcases in anticipation of a quick getaway. While the actions of the state of Utah have banked those rumors, we are living on edge out here.

Yes, this beautiful land of ours needs to be protected for future generations. It is a privilege to live here in the middle of Bears Ears and to get to enjoy the beauty on a daily basis. But I now understand there is another side of the story.

 

FLASH

icn-seths-head

Fear, Loneliness, Anger, Shame and Hunger (aka FLASH).

One of my favorite bloggers is Seth Godin .  I have included his picture here because it gives you a hint about who he is. (Note: While his picture says click on his head, nothing will happen.) Seth has been a TED speaker, is always an innovative thinker and posts every single day without fail (an awesome feat). While he says his focus is on marketing, the topics are much broader.  They always make me stop and think about life and how it works.

lightning bolt
Flash

Recently he posted about FLASH: Fear, Loneliness, Anger, Shame and Hunger.  Each of these emotions/reactions can cause us to attack and/or retreat, to do things in the moment that we are not that proud of later.  It turns out that these feelings do not lead to being sensitive to others or being kind.  The worst part for me is that I do not always recognize when I am feeling any of these.
In my family, we have an extreme response to hunger.  I lead the way, even though I hanutste to admit it. I become irritable, cranky and difficult to reason with when I am hungry.  The worst part is that I don’t recognize this feeling as hunger.  It feels to me like everyone else is being irritating and nothing is working right.  Let’s be honest.  I pout. Luckily my family knows to offer food and not listen to my “I’m not hungry” denial.  We have also added in a family phrase:  “real food”.  It turns out that the things I think I want (doughnuts, cookies, soda) do not work to cure what ails me.

As I watch the world react to the rhetoric that is being offered by all sides of the issues that face us, I realize that I am living in more fear than usual.  My first response to fear is to hide and be angry.  Sadly, I am usually angry at things that I think are beyond my control, which adds to the fear and a hidefeeling of shame that I am powerless to correct things.  It is not a good place to be.  To add to the mix, I am currently living in a state where I have few connections.  So that adds in loneliness.  The entire FLASH package, delivered to yours truly.

end-of-the-rainbow

So, what to do?  I am still working that out.  I am trying to eat well on a regular basis, hoping to forestall that pouting problem.  I am meditating daily.  (Okay, I need to do it at least twice a day).  I am keeping in touch with my friends and family. I am writing this blog, to keep me honest with myself.