Thursday, January 28, 2016

No more excuses or...The Good Girl's Guide to a Mid-Life Crisis

I'm a little freaked out about turning 40 in a few months. This surprises me; no other milestone birthday has affected me in any way. On the contrary, I was really excited to turn 30---I had just gotten married a year ago, and was finishing up residency (my last overnight call was on my 30th birthday actually). G and I were ready to set off on our grand adventure, moving 1000s of miles away and starting fresh for my fellowship. We were making plans to get a dog, and discussing (more vague and long-term) plans to acquire human dependents. The birthday only confirmed the new stage in life I was entering. I no longer felt like a person "in my 20s" and had no qualms about leaving that decade behind.

This feels different somehow. 40 might be the new 30, but its still forty, you know? It just seems...different. I think of 40 in the age range of 40-59, and that is way way different than 20-39, right? I don't feel 40. I feel like a 40-year old woman should be wiser, more mature, more self-assured, calm and centered. Not constantly second-guessing herself, suffering from acute imposter syndrome in every facet of life, wondering how anybody could really be fooled into thinking she's an adult. Not irritable, still prone to episodes of anger & yelling & pouting and numbing & distracting when life doesn't go her away.

I know its ridiculous. A birthday is just a date, not a magic gateway into a more enlightened state. Just like children, adults develop at different paces and many sadly plateau somewhere in the middle. It is and will continue to be a constant work in progress, my strive to be more zen, more confident, more grounded.

The other part bringing me down is of course the more obvious one...I'm getting old. Half of my life is behind me, and not all of what is ahead really seems all that appealing. Time is coursing by so quickly. I'm feeling an urgency, a kick in the pants and an insistent voice in my ear "if not now, then when?"

If I'm not happy with something in my life, gritting my teeth and waiting it out is no longer acceptable to me as the default option. How much more of my life do I need to sacrifice to unhappiness, simply because I was too lazy or afraid to try to make it better? No. If something is truly bothering me, I need to A) change it or B) accept it and (if possible) embrace it as my reality.

I'm trying to get some practice on option A, starting with the little things. I recently wrote about bad habits in my life. These are the things that I keep half-heartedly trying to change, giving up, making excuses, feeling guilty and ultimately ending up back where I started. My goal for the next few months is to tackle them. I know I can do. In fact, I've already done one---I've virtually eliminated clothes shopping from my life aside from a few planned purchases. The shopping ban method really works for me. I've got the exercise thing locked down. I even made it through a month of a low-carb diet (4 more days!)

All of these things? They were things I'd told myself I could never do. I could NEVER just not shop for clothes every few months. I could NEVER wake up at 5:30 to work out. I could NEVER give up carbs and breakfast & dinner or my precious precious crackers. And of course I could! I just...decided to do it and I did it.

We all know people who want to make changes in their life, yet come up with a million excuses for why they can't do any of the things proven to work, right? Its incredibly annoying when you're listening to it from the outside. Yet most of us make excuses for our own behavior, and it feels justified to us because no one else understands, and we really CAN'T do this or that, like give up cable or stop eating fast food or walk for 20 minutes a day.

What has worked for me is pushing back against those excuses. The more I tell myself I "can't" do something in service of a goal that is important to me, the more I need to challenge it. And then just F'ING DO IT for a set period of time. If I was right, and I really can't keep it up? Great, I tried it, I can quit. Move onto the next strategy (or recognize that this is the time to employ option B and just let that goal go) But sometimes...my excuses were just my laziness and fear getting in my own way. The thing I "couldn't" do? That I just did? It wasn't even that bad.

I'm reading posts about it all over your blogs lately, and its obviously something I want to change, so my first "No Excuses" challenge is going to be limiting social media. I'm gathering up strategies (and the more I feel "I can't" do those things, the higher on my list they need to go!) I'll still read your blogs and the sites that I find inspiring and educational, but I don't want to lose more of my life to mindless scrolling and constant intake of information that doesn't enhance my life, and actively keeps me away from the activities that do.

Hit me with your strategies for limiting social media. Anybody want to join me for accountability?

16 comments:

  1. OH HELL YEAH :)

    I obviously don't have strategies but everyone's comments on today's post were helpful!

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    1. oh yes, I am taking notes from your post. so coincidental, I wrote this over the last couple of nights...same thinking. I'm going to make a list of rules and maybe we can hold each other accountable?

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  2. YOU GO!!

    (I need to do something similar.)

    You know what's interesting, I often say I "can't" work out in the morning, but I know that's BS, because I have often worked out in the morning. It usually only feels terrible for the first 20-30 minutes or so. The truth is that now, I can't think of a single athletic endeavor I'd like to take part in. In the past, morning workouts were with other people. Given the constraints of my current life, that ain't never gonna happen. Thus, no AM workouts. I am actually ok with this for now, but... am a little sad that I can't envision myself with a regular workout partner again for the duration of the rest of my life.

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    1. its very possible you will have that again...once you are done with training. I have friends in anesthesia; one friend runs marathons etc... and she has two small kids & I know (from facebook) that does train with partners on occasion (schedules don't always match up, etc...). I found a local friend to be my workout buddy---we both needed to be back before kids were up etc... so it was a perfect fit.

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    2. I doubt it very strongly. I hate running and the activities I like (swimming, climbing, cycling) all take too much time.

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  3. Well, I'm not on facebook. I use twitter mostly to post things about work related events....once my intern does more, I' can do less. I check about 6 blogs on a regular basis (yours@) Email is my vice but mostly that's work related; can only cut so much. Oh, and I have a new 'smartphone' but do not use ANYTHING on it.

    For me forming other new habits seems to need to require a consequence, a benefit, and an assesment of why I couldn't do it before (i.e. I am not a regular flosser because I had the first stage of gum disease on one tooth, I realizzed that I'd be more likely to floss in teh morning, and I hated the feel of floss on my fingers. It really came down to that. I bought flossing sticks. Now I floss.) Diet related things are harder...

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    1. Gwinne, you seem to have this completely locked down. you are the jedi of interent limits and I aspire to get there one day!
      I agree with the consequence/benefit/assessment. I've got the consequence & benefit down, but I'm working on figuring out WHY I can't stick to this. I've tried and failed SO MANY times.

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  4. It took me a long time, but finally I realized that when I said I "couldn't" do something, what it really meant was that I didn't want to do it. It has been humbling to be honest with myself about my priorities, because a lot of them basically break down into me wanting my life to be easier, and to bring me more joy in the moment.

    I have a BIG problem with FB. I just scroll, and scroll, and 95% of it adds nothing to my life. But I do have some friends who post really interesting articles--it's where I get most of my reading material. Honestly, if that weren't part of it for me, I could walk away and never look back. Maybe I should subscribe to some of my favorite sites and comb through their daily posts--it just seems like the amount of content would be overwhelming, and I'd lose as much time doing that as I do on FB. I don't know. I really don't. If you figure it out, please let us know!

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    1. that kind of self-knowledge is really important when you're trying to change habits or decide which habits to change. For me, "I can't" also meant "I don't want to" but not in a "its not a priority for me way" but really in a "this makes me uncomfortable, you're taking away my security blanket" kind of way that its helpful for me to push past.

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    2. Huh. That is so interesting. I'm sure there is part of that at play for me too, but it's harder for me to recognize it. Thanks for pointing out another aspect of "I don't want to." That is probably what is at work when I tell myself I don't care enough to really hold myself to my goals of not spending...

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    3. It may well be. It took me a long time to realize & then push through it Its just really hard to give up an addiction, even a mild one.

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    1. yup. good thing I'm not on twitter. one less thing to have to quit!

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  6. I'm turning 43 in a couple of days, and I can tell you that your 40s will be amazing! I've never been more happy, more confident, and I've never cared less about what other people think. For me, it's been very liberating! :)

    I really have no clue how to avoid social media. I check FB once every couple of days, and I recently joined twitter, but I only scroll through my feed once per day. I spend a LOT more time reading blogs and online news, and I'm not sure how to limit that- I don't like missing out on things I enjoy. I suppose that as long as I'm conscious about not doing it when I should be engaging with my family or getting work done, it's not a huge problem.

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    1. "as long as I'm conscious about not doing it when I should be engaging with my family or getting work done, it's not a huge problem". This is my problem. I guess I"m an addict. I sometimes fall in the hole and can't get out---I can certainly moderate food & drink & spending, but I am terrible at moderating internet usage.

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  7. What a great approach to your birthday! I want to re examine some of my "can't dos" too.

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