Lessons Learned from Sitting in the Messy Middle: Building a Foundation in the Midst of Upheaval

Season 5 has been one that’s been very interesting. It’s hard to do a wrap up on things right now, mostly because we are still very much in the middle of things – in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of an election cycle that is tense, and in the middle of race and equality reformation. We are also very clearly in the midst of global warming, as evidenced by the many fires raging in California.

And so how do you wrap up and reflect on things when we’re in the “messy middle”? I don’t know, and yet, here I go.

Here are the top things I’ve seen in my year, and in the world, across Season 5.

  1. It’s an invitation to love (or at least acknowledge) “what is” instead of jumping to the next thing.

This being inspired by the wisdom of Byron Katie – and her book, “Loving What Is.” 2020 has given us many opportunities to sit with a lot of discomfort. Likely more discomfort, more upheaval, and more heartache than many have seen before.

And this pulls you from your usual comforts, your habits, many of the things you know to do to self-soothe.

I’m not into the idea that we should look for the “silver lining” of all of this, right now. It seems like we’d all miss some of the big lessons if we move right into announcing that this is some how a blessing in disguise. No. It sucks. It’s ok to say it sucks.

Similarly, I’m also not a big fan of that meme that went around in June “what if 2020 isn’t cancelled?” I agree that the sentiment is good: What if this is the year that changes everything?

But what I don’t like is that it’s a cute post that’s all over social media, and for it to be true and be really true – that this is the year that changes everything …. it means each one of us needs to grab the bull by the horns here and jump in to action. It means each one of us needs to move beyond the cute, soothing, reassuring part of that meme and take it to heart.

You and I need to move from letting that little quote be inspirational, to making it our intention to be the change, and for us then to take steps to put that change into action.

And that takes some personal oompf. That takes a dedicated resistance to jumping to the happy ending, and sitting with what’s going on right now.

If right now is uncomfortable … why?

What can I do and who can I be right now, to change that discomfort?

Who do I want to be when 2020 is over, and how am I taking action to be that person?

If we’re looking at my word of the year, what foundation are you tearing down or building up to make it a year that changes everything?

2. Building a pattern of consistency bolstered with resilience

One of the people I worked with in this last year used to insist to me that she could only record a podcast episode when the inspiration hit. I’ve done episodes about this idea – I don’t agree with it at all.

And this year has shown me more about resiliency and consistency than I could have guessed.

In February, I went to Podcast Movement in LA. I had no idea at the time it might be the last time I’d hug strangers for a bit. Thank you, past guest Matt Marr and Sting for the hugs. One of the quotes that came from that event was

“You have to create a podcast to have a podcast”

And it seems a bit simplified, but there’s a lot of wisdom in there. Anything you want to build takes dedication. It takes creation. It takes time, passion, interest, and love. It’s not going to go fast, usually. It’s not going to be easy, usually.

And when we’re finding ourselves in a place that’s messy and difficult, I’m finding that a pattern of consistency is both the key to getting things done, and very difficult. With so many distractions from everyone being home, to being pulled into what Ilene Smith called a trauma vortex, to even basics being called into question, we’re spread thin.

And so that’s where setting up a plan and a habit of sitting down to do your work comes into play. For me, that has looked like being very protective of the time I need to finish work. I really liked what Tami Hackbarth said last week about splitting schedules of being available for kids, if you have them at home.

Because if you are a creative entrepreneur, or if you’re working out of your house now … the reality is that work needs to be done. And to get it done you can’t wait until inspiration hits. There are too many distractions, and I know that unless I sit down to do the work, I’m not having a lot of inspiration just floating in these days.

Creating room for your work is similar to planning anything else: like a party or trip, you need to put in the planning and set the stage to get to the joy of the event.

And so I’ve noticed that this year has been a practice of hunkering down and focusing like I never have, and finding ways to create literal space for myself to do that.

It’s looked like:

  • getting a folding screen for behind my work desk, which sits in the kitchen. Especially in March and April, when we were all first home together, it became overwhelming to have the family coming in and out for snacks and food while I was working. The screen provides a way for me to block out what ever is going on behind me.
  • playing music while I work
  • heading back to get some work in after the kiddo goes to bed. I’ve stopped watching TV for the most part.
  • setting up some really strong checklists that look at content for myself and clients up to a month out so I can get ahead of myself where possible
  • letting myself be imperfect

3. Go to the path that moves you to tears

In the last few weeks, Yale released a study that really piqued my interest – that you’re more likely to stick to decisions when they are rooted in emotion. They talked about this being true for large purchases like a camera, about where people decide to go to school, and for other decisions. But when people are excited and feel a connection to a decision, they are more likely to stick with it, enjoy it, and be happy they did it.

I’ve often wondered why podcasting has stuck with me for 6 years now. I had a blog, and it wasn’t the thing. I had a stationery company and grew tired of that even though I liked it.

I think that the Yale study is showing what my coaching training has also taught me – that when you get wrapped up in shoulds, and make decisions on how things should look, or should be, or should feel … then there’s not a lot of incentive to stick around with it.

And, on the flip of it, when you feel joy about something, when you really root into that feeling that something lights you up and you feel energized by it, well, it’s going to stick.

Even though this year has been difficult, and there’s been plenty of opportunity to get distracted, I’ve kept going. One, I’m proud of myself.

Two, I think it shows that if you really do love something, if you really feel delighted by it, then go with that thing. You don’t have to know it all ahead of time to get moving. You just need to start working towards it.

I would never have dreamed 6 years ago that saying yes to a podcast would become my work, my business, and that it would be something that sustains myself and my family through a pandemic. And yet, here we are. And I pinch myself every day about it.

I was listening to a new to me podcast this last week – the Wholesome Fertility podcast – and the host was interviewing Dr. Christiane Northrup. She asked her about how she got started as an OB-GYN. Here’s what she said

“go to the path that moves you to tears. When I first saw a baby being born, I wanted to fall to the floor with joy filled pain, pain filled joy.”

I can understand that ache she’s talking about with joy filled pain and pain filled joy. It’s like the thing you can’t get enough of and that you never want to stop doing. It’s your purpose. And joy can give you the nudge as to what it is.

4. A small thing can change the world

On NBC news one night, recently, they asked school children what they thought of Coronavirus. One little boy said that it “goes to show one tiny thing happening can change our entire world.”

And I thought this was a pretty profound for a child, and while it is true of the virus, it’s also true of joy. It’s true of change, it’s true of every good and bad thing in our lives.

And while I know I said I’m not yet ready for a silver lining or to jump to the next thing, I do think that this child’s observation is something we need to embrace.

What’s the change you want to bring about?

Who do you want to be on the other side of this pandemic?

What do you want normal to look like?

What parts of your life’s foundation have crumbled and you are going to replace?

What foundation do you want to put into place for your life?

What’s lighting you up and asking you to make a difference in the world?

The good news is that big change, real change, and amazing new things all just start with the one tiny thing. My one tiny thing is joy. It asked me to start a podcast 6 years ago. And by saying yes to that one tiny thing, everything else fell into place.