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

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 – 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