Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hitting the Proverbial Wall

We all have a wall.

I remember one of my bosses at a far-distant job describing how he broke through his wall when running: he imagined bursting through a piece of drywall. I remember thinking it was dumb.No one was working that hard at that particular fitness facility.

Randy Pausch (Seriously. Go watch The Last Lecture) said walls are there to show us how badly we want something. This is a great idea, when you aren't actually hitting said wall. From the right side, that wall can look like drywall, and from the wrong side, that wall can look like brick. What  the hell is "wall" any way? I don't know any one who hasn't used the phrase, but for the sake of accuracy, let's dissect what it means to "hit a wall".

Walls can form in any part of our life. Right now, I'm hitting a happiness wall. I think it is related to my return from vacation, and the realization that my real life has a chronic, low-level state of worry. I've hit walls when running. I've hit walls in the world of work. Walls are those moments when one is thinking "This is where I can't do anything more, I've given everything I can, and I just can't seem to make it past this". In the moment, it feels like a legitimate point.

If Dr. Pausch was correct in positing that walls are placed in our way to make us prove how badly we want something, the question remains: what do we do to get around that obstacle? Some walls don't break because we visualize ourselves bursting through a board of drywall (and I cringe every time, but I do actually use this visualization when I'm running and feel like quitting).

I'm a big fan of back-up plans. When I mentored college students, I would make them think about Plans A, B, C, and D for any situation that required outside assistance. Bless our support systems for being there, but people have lives that don't revolve around our needs constantly. Knowing what is available if our primary plan doesn't work out helps relieve some of this stress.

Okay, back-up plans sound great in the cases of baby sitters and universities we apply to. What about those walls that permeate our whole beings? This happiness wall I'm experiencing right now, it is manifesting in almost every interaction I'm having. My brain is wrapped up in this questions of how am I going to make all the stuff I've started fit into my life in the next two years, and even worse, what if my efforts continue to be this fruitless. I am lucky that I am a naturally positive person, but week after week of wondering if I will be able to pay my bills and save enough money to pay taxes at the end of all of this is taking a toll on my reserves of positivity. As a result, I'm not acting like my normal warm and fuzzy self.

In my experience with these walls, there is usually one particular fear that keeps repeating itself. In my happiness case, I'm afraid of being a failure waiting to happen, and I am going to have to disappoint someone. I really dislike disappointing people. I get worked up when I get my schedule wrong (since it isn't in front of me), and I have to tell a client I messed up. At some point, we have to recognize the central fear. Sometimes, simply giving it a name can help us to hurtle the wall. I can't please everyone, right? So I'd better get over the idea that someone, somewhere, might be disappointed in one of my actions.

As for the chronic low-level stress that is also eating away at my happiness: I haven't yet figured out how to best it yet. I can't decide if I should find a summer job to add to my already eclectic mix of employment, or if I should wait and see what happens. It comes back to not wanting to disappoint any one. Four jobs, a house to keep up, and an ultra marathon to run this summer keep a girl running in fifteen different directions. For now, gentle reader, I will cross my fingers and hope for the best, and try to keep hope that the best is coming down the pipe.

Maybe it is time to start writing to some resolutions again? Next week, we'll get back on a more positive track.


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