Author Archives: Briar
Author Archives: Briar
Here you are. Fighting. Again.
This time, you were going to do everything right. You had one subject you wanted to address, knowing that things might get heated, but it’s important. You stuck to your guns, had clear intentions about what you needed from this conversation, and were ready to go to the wall for it.
Which would have been great, if the wall hadn’t suddenly moved four feet to the left.
You, my friend, are a victim of conversational avoidance.
Because instead of having the conversation YOU wanted to have, you’re suddenly having a totally different one, quite possibly about you and your faults. This was not at all what you had in mind. And now you’re also probably angry—it’s highly possible you weren’t before. Impassioned, maybe, but angry? Not until the conversation changed.
And of course, you’re now angry AND irrational. Because obviously, you’re going to have to do this crap all over again another day. There’s still no resolution to the original issue.
So what do you do?
Let’s start with understanding the source. Deflection is mostly about blame. Specifically, feeling as though you are being blamed for something. Say I’ve asked you for help cleaning the house. My intention is simple—the house is a disaster area of Chernobyl proportions, and I am simply not capable of getting this job done on my own. But what you might hear is that you never help me clean the house, ever. And of course, you’re defensive, because you know full well that you have, in fact, cleaned the house in the past. You also know that you aren’t responsible for the state the house is in, at least not entirely, which makes you righteous in your indignation, because you’re being blamed for something that isn’t even your fault. You can probably predict how the rest of this conversation is going to go.
However. I never once implied or insinuated that this was your fault. Nor did I ever suggest that you don’t clean the house. So this blame that you’re feeling? It’s mostly self-created. This is different from feeling guilty, because I’m far more likely to act so that I can ameliorate my guilt. But blame allows you to deflect—not just your feelings, but your actions as well. If I am not at fault, then I am also not responsible for fixing the problem either.
Chances are good, this is where you get stuck. Because if I am not at fault, and not responsible for fixing the problem, then there’s really not much left to talk about, is there?
And in point of fact, this is exactly why I do this. Deflection WORKS. I may not be able to make you go away, but I have made the conversation go away. And sometimes, I’d rather fight about something completely unrelated than deal with the matter at hand.
I’ve talked before about ground rules for fighting, and those can definitely help, but this is a different sort of problem. At its core, this is about who has control of the conversation. If I ask for help around the house, and you respond by saying that you work all the time and don’t have time to help, the conversation has suddenly become about who has more time, and whose time has more value. If you respond by telling me that I said I’d do it, the conversation has turned to MY inability to fulfill my obligations. If your response is not about the house at all, but instead about some other, more pressing commitment, then you’ve avoided engaging entirely, and have shifted the conversation to something you want to talk about.
In every example, that conversational avoidance puts me at a distinct disadvantage, because my immediate impulse is to offer a rebuttal to your deflection. After all, that’s the goal. The goal of deflection, at least in this case, is to dictate the terms of the conversation.
So now that you understand why it happens, let’s talk about ways to prevent it from happening.
First and foremost, you must be reasonable about your expectations. This is a conversation, one that you’re having with a real, live person, NOT with the version of that person who lives in your head. You simply can’t predict how the conversation will go, or why it will go that way. Have you ever had a seemingly benign post on Facebook blow up in your face? You thought you were sharing something cool, but by the end of it, you were wishing you’d just clubbed some baby seals instead, because that’s probably less controversial? This is just like that.
Even if you think you know what the response will be, you don’t. You may be able to predict a pattern of response, but the devil is in the details. You may guess that I’ll deflect, but you won’t know how or in what way. Don’t even try to prepare for that, because the very attempt puts you on the defensive from the start. Which leads us straight to:
Keep your cool, dude. I realize this is harder than it sounds. Personally, I have a very hard time with this. But, if you want to set the direction of the conversation, then you need to set the tone, too. There are so many metaphors to abuse here, I’m hard-pressed to choose; so… don’t bring a gun to a knife fight, okay?
Be specific! And I’m not talking about your argument, I’m talking about your request. There’s a HUGE difference between knowing what you want to say, and knowing what you’re asking for. Make those details work in your favor here. Let’s go back to my housecleaning request. Do you know what I want help cleaning? No, and that makes it infinitely easier to deflect from. However, if I say, “the kitchen is a disaster and I can’t make dinner until it’s clean. Will you help me out by doing some dishes?” You can say no, of course, but that’s about all you can do. There aren’t a whole lot of rabbit holes to chase down with a request like that.
Specificity of language is important. It’s not just about what you say, but also how you say it. The more direct your ask, the more direct your response will be. And, speaking of….
Knock off the always/never crap. Yeah, I know. I always do this, or I never do that; except, I don’t. If I can think of just ONE time where I DIDN’T always or never do that thing, it’s like I’ve won the deflection jackpot, baby.
I think it’s important to note here that, generally speaking, deflection isn’t deliberate. It’s an emotional response used to take power when we feel powerless. And we all do it—this isn’t about gender or gender roles. Men tend to deflect bombastically, women tend to redirect through changing the subject, but there aren’t any hard or fast rules there. The chances are good that once you become proficient at avoiding deflection, you’ll realize when you are guilty of it as well.
Set up is important. If this is a long-standing argument, or it has the potential to go badly, give your partner some warning. “I’d like to talk about dishes after the kids go to bed tonight.” I will acknowledge that this could possibly work against you—if deflection is your partner’s weapon of choice, this gives them time to marshal those arguments. On the other hand…. How do you feel when a potential gold mine of conflict is just dropped in your lap? Pretty pissed, would be my guess. So, if it’s possible to not blindside your partner, then you should do that.
However. DO NOT say, “we need to talk.” Because what I inevitably hear is, “you need to talk/yell at me for a half hour while I just kinda nod my head in abject misery.” Again, your specificity of language is important. “We need to talk.” About what? Are you dying? Are you leaving me? Did someone else die? Okay, yes, that may be MY anxiety talking, and no one else’s, but even if it’s not, those words can strike terror in the coolest heart. Even if it’s intentionally vague, SOME kind of set-up is better than that.
Finally, a couple of tips for what to do if deflection happens, even if you’ve done your best to avoid it.
Table it. This one works for me somewhat infrequently, but it’s worth trying. “That’s actually a really valid point, but what I want to talk about is this. Can we come back to it?” Remember, you’re having a dynamic conversation. Both of you have to agree to tabling an issue. But if you can learn this skill, it’s worth using—you are far more likely to have a conversation instead of a fight this way.
Provide options. This one is going to depend a lot on when deflection happens, but we’ll just stick with chores. “Look, I really don’t want to fight about this. I need help. You can either do the dishes or help with homework tonight. Your choice.” I won’t kid you, this is absolutely one of my favorite tactics for getting help. And once again, it is so specific that there’s not really any place to go.
Don’t take the bait. Another one that is easier said than done, but if it’s at ALL possible, don’t allow the deflection to work. “I’m not talking about that right now. I’m talking about this.” This is hard because it requires you to actively engage on so many levels, but it CAN be done. Keep your cool, keep your focus, and don’t allow the conversation to change. You likely WILL get resistance to this, and you’ll probably have to repeat yourself. A lot. But, if you do it calmly, without raising your voice, you have a real chance at directing the conversation.
And ultimately, that’s what this is about. It’s your conversation. You absolutely CAN take charge of it. And like anything, practice makes perfect. The more often you do this, the easier it will be to avoid. Let me know how it goes.
What do you do when your life is overwhelming, and all the balls you’ve been juggling for so long come crashing down around you? How does it make you feel? Take a moment, and really consider it.
Because let me tell you, panic and guilt are pretty much my default response.
“I can’t believe this is happening; I can’t believe I forgot that; I can’t figure out what to do here; and oh, by the way, I suck.” I have been working on consciously controlling my inner dialogue for almost twenty years, and STILL this crap creeps in.
I can tell you about emails I haven’t responded to from two years ago. I sent a book to a client the other day; because I’d forgotten to recommend it to her a month and a half ago. I felt guilty for forgetting to cook corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s day. We are neither Catholic or Irish.
And all I can think is, this is fucking ridiculous.
The tragedy of it is, we do this to ourselves. It’s not about our commitments or our obligations. No, this is about how we FEEL.
I know why, of course. So do you. It’s because I’m not Supermom. I have missed the mark at the Feminine Mystique. My eyebrow cannot compete with the Beauty Myth. My Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand has not yet afforded me that house in the Hamptons. Therefore, I am a failure.
But knowing this intellectually does nothing to prevent the way I feel. I think I might have mentioned something about failure? Yeah. Still there. So, we have got to start looking at this another way.
I believe the answer is grace.
Mercy, clemency, pardon, says dictionary.com, which is all a rather clunky way of saying forgiveness. But forgiveness is an act; grace is a state of mind.
Which sounds a little big, so let’s talk about what it’s not first.
Grace is not about forgiving yourself for failure. You know, hundreds of inventions before we got to the light bulb. Keep failing, and you too can be the next Edison. Oh yeah, and this too shall pass.
No. That’s the kind of self-help crap that is designed to be self-serving. You are NOT a failure. Seriously. Logically, you haven’t failed, because it’s virtually impossible to succeed. Do you blame yourself for not being able to win the lottery, too? Because it’s kind of exactly the same.
Grace is also not about a lack of integrity. “I said I’d do this thing, and I’m a woman of my word.”
Uh, no. Your word is valid tomorrow, too. Do you fire your employees for calling in sick? Do you disavow your friends for forgetting to do that thing they said they’d do? I’m not talking about a pattern of behavior. I’m talking isolated incidents. We give the people in our lives a great deal more forbearance than we grant ourselves.
Grace is most definitely not appropriated self-care. My inner Goddess tells me a lot of things, and I shan’t be sharing any of them with you. I’m sure you’re fifty shades of glad.
Nerp. The things you find sacred are your own. I can’t tell you where to seek meaning, only that it is there for you. I’m not just talking religion here, either. I’m pretty sure every single numbered list of “Best Self-Care Tips!!!1” has, in point of fact, just made me feel guilty for all the ways I’m apparently not taking care of myself.
Which sounds terrifying, but I promise, there’s also relief there. Because when you find it, it can’t be taken away from you. Because it is you.
Great, Briar. Sounds fabulous. If only there were some trumpets somewhere.
I won’t lie to you. Forgiving yourself for shit is fucking hard. I really wanted to not curse there, but I can’t. There are not enough words in the English language to adequately describe how much it SUCKS to have to forgive yourself.
But, if I can forgive myself for killing a baby, then I’m pretty sure there’s some margin for grace in your life, too.
Yeah, ouch. I know. That one probably stings a little.
So how do you get there? Sorry. No clue. That’s yours to figure out.
Look, you already know all the steps. You’ve read all those self-care articles same as me. Maybe it’s journaling, a hot bath, a trip to Sephora, kitty snuggles. Maybe you need a therapist. Maybe you just need a damn day off. Not gonna lie, more often than not, it’s really great sex for me.
And no, it’s not that simple, either. Sadly, sex does not equal forgiveness, especially if things aren’t going well in your partnership. Again, it’s about more than the act. It’s a mindset you’re looking to cultivate here.
Much like repairing your partnership, you repair your relationship with yourself a little bit at a time.
You start small, because starting big is what got you here in the first place. The myths we compete against are societal creations, but we give them meaning.
I made fun of my eyebrows earlier, but I am very consciously letting them grow out right now. I don’t think I actually know what they look like unaltered. I have shaved or plucked or brow barred my way to someone else’s standard of beauty for years, because I internalized it. Which isn’t to say that I’ll keep them this way forever; this is a practical act of grace. This is my body. I’ll not apologize for it.
Oh, how we apologize. So much so that we’ve started telling each other to just stop doing it already (oh, and by the way, just should probably go too). But that’s bullshit designed to make you feel guilty about your language, not the impetus behind your actual words. I mean, if we’re laying it all out here, I can’t curse, can’t say sorry, just or like, or really, have an independent thought about anything without being evaluated as something less than the ideal woman by somebody for some reason.
I’m pretty sure there’s not a single shred of forgiveness in that.
So, like almost everything else, you have to do this one yourself. And it’s okay to be angry about that, because frankly, I need to add another thing to my plate like I need elective dental surgery. I’ll happily turn in my adulting card at any point if it means that I don’t have to figure out one more thing for myself, because it’s exhausting, and I don’t wanna.
And…. That’s where you start. You forgive yourself for being human.
This probably won’t be a cakewalk, but it’s significantly easier than trying to forgive specifics. It’s pretty easy to forgive the foibles of humanity in others, even if we do it through sarcasm. “Bless your heart,” comes to mind. You’re being obtuse, but excusably so. Or something.
Okay, not easy, either. But you have to start somewhere, and the fact of your existence as a member of the human race is just as good as anywhere else.
Say it with me this time: it’s about the mindset. You have to deliberately cultivate an environment in which your response isn’t self-blame. And I’d like to point out here that I’m not even asking for you to modify your first response.
Be it biological, cultural, or environmental, your immediate reaction to a crisis is simply a part of your identity. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to change this response without years of active work. So I’m not asking you to.
It’s incredibly invalidating to be told that how you react to something is somehow deficient. It’s just another way of breaking you down emotionally. And if it’s not the ideal (whatever that is), then it’s because YOU are somehow damaged. Screw that.
So, by all means, have a grown up temper tantrum. Revel in it. Everything sucks, and I am sick and tired of dealing with it, and it’s never going to get better, and why didn’t I listen to my mother, and I’m a sorry excuse for a human being.
You know how you flee to the woods to build the ice castle before you sing the power ballad? It’s just like that.
Feel your feelings first, and then let them go. Don’t bottle them up, don’t internalize them, please, please, please, do not apologize for having them. If anything, you’re entitled to them.
That’s where grace lives. That’s when you say, I am going to be okay. Somehow, I will survive this. A minute at a time if I have to, but I am stronger than this.
Language matters here. Be precise, and don’t lie to yourself. Sometimes, everything’s not fucking okay, okay? But, you will be. Eventually, YOU will be okay.
And when you believe that, you will have found grace.
You are your most merciless critic.
Intellectually, we all understand this. “Would you treat your best friend the way you’re treating yourself right now?” Of course not. But also… fuck you.
Because I’m pretty sure my best friend would never treat ME this way, either.
It’s hard enough moving through the world when your body does what it’s supposed to. It’s another matter entirely when your body or your brain willfully betrays you. It’s hard to feel grace in a body that won’t cooperate. You’ve already tried “just being happy,” thanks.
The problem is, self-confidence is much more nuanced when it’s not just about feeling good about what you’re capable of. Because today, I may be capable of a marathon (and I say marathon, but what I really mean is Tuesday), and tomorrow, incapable of getting out of bed. How do you measure your worth in that?
And the answer is…. You don’t.
Your value to the world doesn’t come in quantifiable, measured portions. You can’t write your worth in the number of Twitter followers you have (thank the gods), which means it also isn’t measured in your ability to keep your home to Martha Stewart standards, or how many Pinterest projects your children completed over the summer.
“Okay, but Briar…. I look like everyone else. THEY expect me to maintain those standards.”
And there’s truth in this. I remember the first time my mother in law looked at me with open skepticism when I told her that I couldn’t move those thirty pound boxes of books, because I would throw out my back. And I remember how everyone else gave me a hard time for it, so I did the stupid thing, and did it anyway.
YOU know what’s coming next. I very predictably threw out my back, and had to spend well over a week in bed recovering. My husband was livid. Not with me, but with his family. Yeah, okay, he was a little pissed at me too, for not standing my ground about my limits. I’ve gotten better about this.
But it’s hard to love your body when it’s broken.
And today, you just don’t.
And you know what? That’s okay. Today, it’s okay to hate your body.
Today, it’s okay to berate your hormones for running rampant in all the wrong ways, causing weight loss, weight gain, infertility, low libido, memory or hair loss.
Today, it’s okay to curse your need for all those drugs in your medicine cabinet, without which you are a husk of a human being with questionable sanity.
Today, it’s okay to loathe a reproductive system apparently only occasionally capable (and perhaps not even that) of nurturing or sustaining the life that you ache for with every fiber of your being.
Today, it’s okay to hate your body.
The reality of chronic illness or mental health challenges is that you will likely be living with this problem (or a whole host of new ones) for the rest of your life. This IS your reality. You can possibly, but not always, treat the problem. But will you get better? For some of us, that answer is always no.
And today, I hate my body for it.
So today, I have very deliberately wallowed. Today, I have not practiced self care. I have practiced self soothing.
Today, I have eaten my feelings. With chocolate. And whipped cream. And hummus. But not together.
Today, I sat in the shower and cried. And then I crawled into bed, cuddled up with Bob the Bear, and took a nap.
Today, I hate my body. Not for what it is, but for what it isn’t. So today, I grieve deliberately.
Because it’s okay to grieve for the body you will never have. It’s okay to mourn a life that is no longer possible, or never even existed. Because this IS a loss. You have lost, not someone else’s idea of perfection, but your own. Your life is not now, and possibly never will be the one you envisioned.
And today, you should grieve for that.
So that tomorrow, when you look in the mirror and do an inventory of what you do like about yourself, it will mean something.
Tomorrow, you will be able to recognize just how much this body serves you. This body carries you daily through your life, and it does it remarkably well, all things considered. This body was perhaps a home and a sanctuary to amazing children. These arms are capable of soothing away the hurt of the world, just by wrapping them around someone.
This body, for better or worse, is your place in the world.
And tomorrow, you can find the joy in that. Tomorrow, you can try again at experiencing weightlessness, or a perfect moment in time, or maybe even just a few fleeting moments of grace.
But that’s tomorrow.
Here’s a question for you.
How often do you talk about sex?
Not, talk DURING sex, or talk about HAVING sex. How often do you have meaningful, involved discussions with your partner about your sex life? About what’s working for you, and what’s not?
If it’s less than once a month, it’s not often enough.
Here’s another question for you. How often do you THINK about having sex? Generally, it should be kind of a lot, regardless of your sex, gender or identity (asexuals being the ONE exception here). Obviously, there are a number of factors that come into play, including age, general life circumstances, happiness with your partner, all that jazz, but according to a recent study, your typical female thinks about sex 10 times a day, and your typical male 19 times a day.
Note that these are conscious thoughts about sex, and not that crappy, “men think about sex every seven seconds,” trope that seems to get so much airplay.
Almost done. How many times a week do you HAVE sex? Your typical happily marrieds do it around 10 times a month (that’s about twice a week). I average over 20 times a month. But, and this is key, you’re not aiming for MY sex life.
You’re aiming for yours. Which is the last question.
How many times a month would YOU like to have sex? Aaaaaaaannnnnddddd… how many times a month would your partner like to have sex? Because somewhere in the middle lies your happy medium.
And to get that number, you have to… yes. Talk about sex.
When your sex life is new, there’s a lot of lust involved. There’s a lot of passion, and energy, and touching. You’re learning what this body likes, what it responds to, and generally, that process is pretty natural, if occasionally really awkward.
However, after a certain point, you pretty much know what does it for your partner. They know what does it for you. The tricks have been LEARNED.
And this sort of predictability is actually really dangerous, because if you’re not careful, sex can become routine. As in, you rub me here for five minutes, I rub you here for five minutes, we trade oral sex and then we have sex in one of three positions. (That’s not our routine or anything. Nerp.)
And let’s be real. There’s not a whole lot of enjoyment in that. Sex is supposed to be FUN, not obligation, and definitely not chore.
And the solution here? Yep. Talk about sex.
The problem is, you probably don’t talk about sex much at all. You probably fight about it, though. It starts innocently enough. “I wish we did more of this.” Or, “I would like to possibly try this some time.”
But it pretty quickly dissolves into recriminations about what YOU’RE not doing adequately, at which point, you’re wondering why you ever even bothered to have sex with this person in the first place.
And the truth is, the title of this post is kind of a lie. I can’t tell you HOW to talk about sex, because your needs are always going to be different than mine.
I can give you some ground rules, though. These are all techniques I have personally used, or used with clients. They are suggestions for creating frameworks for making conversation possible.
Actually plan this conversation. On the calendar. For us, it’s a part of our regularly scheduled Weekly Review. Every Sunday at 4pm (seriously), we sit down with our respective calendars, and plan out our schedule for the week.
(Coincidentally, that’s this month’s workshop. Go forth and register.)
If you run a business, you probably evaluate your numbers at least quarterly. If your children have Individualized Education Plans, you review no less than once a year, and more often if necessary.
When it comes to the person you have committed to spend the rest of your life with, you should check in AT LEAST once a month. And this, like so many other things, doesn’t have to be a chore. We usually put on some music, make snacks, and hang out on our bed for these confabs.
Have established ground rules for these conversations. I’ve talked before about how to set ground rules for fighting, and the goal here is similar. You want an established parameter for the flow of these conversations, so that you stay within your lanes. This keeps you from meandering down tangent road, but also helps to keep conflict at bay.
At the moment, we are currently transitioning to something fairly closely resembling lifestyle dominance and submission. So these conversations are especially important to us right now as we consider particular techniques and forms of training. It allows me, the submissive, a clear space to express my feelings outside of the role I’ve assumed.
For you more vanilla folks, you can structure this in a couple different ways. I really like to strike a balance between what IS working, and what ISN’T, so you can use a classic asspat sandwich, “I really like oral sex, but we don’t have enough of it, and I wish we could maybe do it more, like at least half of our sexual encounters, because did I mention I really like it?” Or a basic, “I really like it when you suck on my earlobe, but it DRIVES ME INSANE (and not in a good way) when you pretend my penis is a joystick. Please don’t do that anymore.”
Notice that I’m giving you very concrete examples to work with here. The more specific you are in these conversations, the better off you’ll be.
Have notes. Especially in the beginning, especially if you’ve not had these types of conversations before. Having things written down helps you to stay focused on the conversation.
Obviously, I like systems, and I also write a lot. For me personally, all of this information is captured on an almost daily basis in my Bullet Journal, or the Kanban Board on my desk. Sometimes I’m better about keeping track than others, but the act of managing my thoughts is an especially important one to me, so it’s almost an artform at this point.
If it isn’t for you, don’t despair. There’s a number of ways that you can manage this new level of necessary communication. Journalling is exceptionally easy to do, and you no longer have to do it on paper if that’s just not your bag. I have clients exceptionally devoted to journalling apps and their tablet (and have you seen some of the new styluses? Best of both worlds).
I also have clients (especially guys) who like talking to Siri. They add this stuff as audio notes as it comes up, and then manage action lists natively, or by importing out to other task managers. You have so MANY ways to make this work for you.
Be mindful of what you say. My general rule is, how would I respond to hearing this particular thing about myself? If the meat of your asspat sandwich is kind of moldy, then think about your delivery ahead of time.
Talking about sex is hard, at least in part because of how sensitive a topic it is. We take a tremendous amount of pride in our sexual prowess (or we should), and being told we don’t do something quite right can be difficult to hear.
Remember, you’re doing this again soon. If your laundry list of sexual complaints is long, then consider what your highest priority is, and focus ONLY on that this time.
Bottling it all up seems to be human nature. But it’s also a big instigator of fights, especially when it comes to sex. Suddenly, it’s not just this one thing you do wrong, it’s the fifty eight things you do wrong, and compromise is never achieved in that scenario.
But one of the amazing benefits to a regular review is that you can just deal with one thing at a time. And consider that personally. If you KNOW you’re only going to have to hear about one complaint at this point in time, will you be more or less receptive to hearing it? Will you be more or less receptive to ACTING on it?
Every now and then, go for the guided tour. You remember how you learned what works for your partner in the early days, and it’s what you’ve been doing ever since because it works? Yeah, that’s actually not remotely true. Bodies change. Especially if they’ve been through the physically altering transformations of pregnancy and birth. And needs and desires change over time, too.
After the birth and recovery of each of my children, what worked for me physically changed a lot. Like, nerve endings moved. And this is totally normal. But if you aren’t talking about those changes, it can be very difficult for your partner to adjust, because they are, quite simply, NOT a mind reader.
We are also very visual creatures. So it can be especially helpful to actually point to a specific place on your body and say, “I like it when you [lick, chew, suck, stroke, etc.] in this particular area.” And if this visual demonstration leads to the action being performed, well, so much the better, eh?
Most importantly, remember what you’re together for. In the beginning, when you commit to spending the rest of your life together, you create this very idealized, idyllic picture of your future. You know, the, “when we’re old and grey,” fantasy.
This vision includes family dinners, lots of grandchildren, rockers on the front porch, or a cafe in Paris. It probably never included the idea of really old and decrepit you knocking boots, because, ewww. And I’m still not asking you to picture that, because seriously, no one needs that image of themselves.
What I AM asking you to consider is the longevity of your sex life. It’s a reasonably pleasant activity when done poorly. It’s amazing when it’s done well, and generally, good sex begets more good sex.
In other words, there’s still much sex to be had. Go and make it great.
How do you define connection?
Well, according to Merriam Webster, connection is:
the act of connecting (well, duh); a causal or logical relation or sequence; a contextual relation or association; a relation of personal intimacy; a means of communication or transport; a person connected with another via marriage, kinship or common interest; a political, professional, or social relationship; an arrangement to execute orders or advance the interests of another; and definitely also a source of contraband.
In other words, connection is everything.
It’s in every potential and actual social interaction, every place you go, everything you do. Connection starts the minute you open your eyes in the morning. You connect with your partner, your children, your pets, and the world around you, and that’s before you turn on the tv, or literally connect to the internet.
There are a multitude of scientific disciplines that study connection. A bunch of woo varietals, too (for a really good time, look up Earthing). Connection is found through the media, in the marketplace, through every single monetary transaction. It is the foundation of our world.
And all of that makes connection overload a very real thing.
The problem is, we’re not remotely deliberate about limiting our connections to the ones that really matter to us.
One of the biggest complaints I hear from clients is “lack of time.” You’re overwhelmed, overloaded, and uncertain of why every time management technique you’ve ever tried has failed to properly manage your damn time.
And you definitely can’t understand the people who always appear to have everything together all of the time. They look great, their houses are clean, their children wear clothes that match… and they either have super fulfilling careers, or the time to do Pinterest projects (or they have made a career OF Pinterest projects, in which case, just STFU).
Sure, sure, intellectually you know that these people have the same problems as everyone else, and their lives aren’t perfect. But how do they seem to get so much more out of their 24 hours a day than you do? Do they just not sleep?
Well, mostly they say no.
There’s been a lot of research done on the value of clarifying your intentions versus trying to self motivate–and, wouldn’t you know it, beating yourself over the head is actually LESS motivating than doing nothing at all. The clear winners are those who establish a plan and a deadline, regardless of whether or not the deadline was actually met.
But it’s much more than that. People who are conscious of how they connect to the world are much more likely to say no.
I want to be perfectly clear here. I do not want you to feel guilty for how you are currently managing your time. Because I know that’s exactly where your brain is going. “I know I spend too much time on Facebook, Briar.” Instead, I want you to focus on simple awareness.
My favorite tools are Moment for iPhone, and RescueTime for everything else digital. Offline, I recommend a hyperdex, but the spiraldex is also nifty (there’s also the chronodex, and if you can figure out how to use it, please teach me).
And I’m not even going to lie to you. At first, it’ll be hard not to mentally berate yourself for what you find here, but again, the goal is awareness. It is impossible for you to know how to better manage your time if you don’t actually know how you’re spending it.
Take some time to evaluate your actual habits. Track yourself for at least a week, but two is better. See if you can spot trends and patterns.
BUT. But, but, but! Don’t try to make changes yet. If you do, you’ll be right back where you started. You’ve run this hamster wheel before.
Our tendency as humans is to see a problem, and want to fix it. Because if we can make it better, we can make it go away. However, one of the problems with connection is that you can’t ever turn it off. You can’t disconnect. I have TRIED.
So. We’re back to saying no.
Once you have a clear understanding of how you manage your time, you can start to eliminate the unnecessary.
What’s key here is to eliminate what YOU think is unnecessary, not what everyone else thinks is unnecessary. So, if your Facebook time is mostly acquired while you’re nursing, and all your friends live there, don’t feel obligated to remove it completely. Maybe you need to cut back, but only you can make that determination.
A note here if the majority of your time is spent with very tiny humans: you’re only ever gonna be so great at time management. Unless you have significant, regular help, you are NOT going to be able to manage your time effectively when it is dictated to you by terrorists in short pants. THEY don’t accept the word no.
Everyone else, however, is going to start.
Your mother, who expects you to drop everything on less than a days’ notice, and drive eight hours to not just move her, but also to PAY for the moving truck? You can and SHOULD tell her no.
Your husband, who informs you two days before the Officer’s Ball, leaving you to scramble for a dress, childcare, and everything else? Yeah, you can absolutely tell him, “no, you’re going by yourself.”
Your sister, who demands you plan her bridal shower, and then demands you pay an exorbitant amount of money so you can be a bit player in her bridezilla tour de force? You can cut her off. You CAN set limits on what you will and won’t do.
Your church friends and family members, who show their true colors by posting racist memes on Facebook? You should only educate if you feel called to do so. Otherwise, you should let them go. Hide if you must, but frankly, you get to be the judge of what you want to see online. If you want to surround yourself with cat pictures and smiling babies, then I think you should do it.
Those, by the way, are all real examples. I can’t make stuff up better than this. It’s the people we love who are most likely to abuse the trust of our time. After all, it’s not THEIR time they’re wasting.
You don’t have a choice to connect. You DO have a choice in HOW you connect.
Make those connections matter. Choose to spend your time on the things that matter to you, in the ways that matter to you. And understand now, you MUST pick your battles. You simply cannot be a warrior for every cause, every movement, every battle that needs to be fought.
If you try, you’ll only succeed in spreading yourself too thin, diluting not just your time, but even more importantly, the power of your voice.
Because… there’s a lot of injustice in the world. There’s a lot of pain, and death, and tragedy. It’s in the far corners of our world, and it’s in our neighborhoods. Right this minute, there are actual battles being fought in the arenas of racial equality, marriage equality, religious equality, mental health care, victim’s rights, prisoner’s rights, patient’s rights, and guys, that’s just the BIG stuff, and only a sampling of it at that.
And here’s the really horrible part. You have to let some of it go.
You have to decide which fights are yours, and which ones you’re going to walk away from. And the choosing? It HURTS.
Because the reality of these choices is, you’re going to feel selfish. You’re going to feel like a horrible human being. How DARE you prioritize your wants and needs when there’s so much pain and suffering in the world?
Except it is those very feelings that marks you as a worthy inheritor of humanity. It is your empathy that speaks to the world, a beacon of hope and light that you get to share with the world. THIS is what makes you YOU.
Don’t waste all of that on indecision.
It’s YOUR time. Only you get to decide what is actually worthy of spending it on. Go and make it amazing, okay?