Just how difficult do you like things to be?

In this, my declared Year of Pleasure, the theme for April has been ease.

I’m all for it.

What do you think?

Ease. A good thing or not?

Are there voices of resistance jabbering at you about this?

“Ease? You want an easy life?” *Splutter*

“Well don’t we all, but life’s just not like that (young lady. Implied in tone)”

We like hard workers. We like people who try hard, who put their backs into it.

We don’t like slackers who want an easy life.

There are negative connotations. It can get you a bad name if misunderstood.

A coach I know says she wouldn’t help people remove struggle from their lives because the struggle is what makes you strong enough to handle the challenges you’re about to face.

I’m not talking about putting no effort into things.

You can consistently do exercises to strengthen what needs strengthening.

I’m questioning whether the exercises need to be a struggle.

Or could it even be (all the way along at the other end of the continuum) elegant, graceful and enjoyable. A pleasure?

I’m talking about not putting in unnecessary effort.

I learned to water ski once, on holiday. Bear with me, there is relevance.

Contrary to my normally contemplative nature and dislike of engine noise, I had a ball.

Screaming my way round the bay gripping onto the bar for dear life. It was exhilarating and also quite wore me out, in a good way, I thought.

Then I met the Zen master of water-skiing. This contemplative gentleman sat on the beach next to me, having just come in from his tour of the bay. He told me how he’d been experimenting and had found he needed only the lightest grip on the bar whilst hurtling round the bay at a speed not handy.

I was about to go out for a ski and thought I’d give it a go.

(Excuse me while I resist the urge to use capital letters or multiple exclamation marks or find some punctuation fit to highlight just how amazing it was to try it and find that it was true).

It was true!

I really needed only a light grip. And when I did that, not only did it require less effort for me to hold on but my whole body was less tense and more flexible and could navigate waves without falling over at all. I had been averaging 3 wipeouts in one tour of the bay. That’s quite exhuasting, not to mention the seawater douche effect…ok enough said there.

I’m told the same is true of motorbikes. You’d think you’d need to hold on tight. But in fact not only is that unnecessary effort it actually isn’t safe and you’re more likely to crash if you have too tight a grip.

A metaphor for so many things but that’s another story.

The waterski-ing. I had been using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

And wearing myself out quite unnecessarily.

This new, light touch way was elegant and graceful and felt wonderful with just that tiny adjustment.

This year, The Year of Pleasure, I’ve been looking closely at all the areas of my life where I’m wielding an unnecessary sledgehammer.

It’s everywhere.

I really have been making life difficult for myself.

The waste of time and energy….ach!

Appointments.

Sometimes up to 10 calls playing telephone tag to re-arrange a cancelled session.

That takes as much time as the session itself. Not to mention after about 5 calls the energy expended in growling and cursing. That’s actually a serious point. Anything that has me sending ‘annoyed’ messages round my bloodstream is something to be remedied. Really. For the good of my health I don’t want that feeling.

Did I mention before that tears cried in pain and heartache have a different chemical make up than those cried in joy?

Well they do. You do well to take care with your body chemistry.

OK. Back to appointments.

Options: increase price to allow for admin time or offer same price but cancelled sessions are forfeited. Give up coaching.

Only do whole programmes paid up front.

Invoicing

Chasing unpaid invoices and time spent moving money about to cover a hole where an expected payment was meant to be. Again taking nearly as much time as the sessions.

Options: schedule no more work till outstanding invoices paid or request payment prior to sessions

Office layout

Not enough storage so things are to hand so frequently needing to get up to reach for things. The file I need is maybe only just out of reach but if I need to get up 4 times in the space of doing one job it adds up and makes the whole thing awkward and fumbly. No flow, no ease.

Options: Re-arrange office. Add storage. Add chair on castors.

The chair on castors was SUCH an improvement I was still smiling to myself months afterwards each time I just slid smoothly over to reach a folder rather than getting up.

Hair

How long do you think you’d put up with a lack of ease with any given thing? A day, week month, year, lifetime?

I have just put three years of hair struggle behind me.

Every single day I’d try to coax it into a shape that would suit me. I tried no coaxing at all and letting it have its own way. Every morning I ended with a slow out-breath of weary resignation and my hair laughed.

Options: Taking in pictures…”Like this please?” “No that wouldn’t work.”

Describing more carefully my requests. “No you wouldn’t like it if I did that.”

I thought I just had awkward hair. Really awkward hair.

My gentlemanfriend asked 2 years ago why I didn’t try another hairdresser. Loyalty? Persistence? Something.

Finally I went. 45 minutes later and I have normal hair. In a style that suits me. Do-able in 10 minutes hair. Like normal people.

Time and energy wasted over three years. Not good for my health to estimate. To be written off.

Excuse me, I just need to go and admire the back in the bathroom mirror.

Meals

Two meat eaters, one with a chilli aversion, a visiting vegetarian and visiting friend (at no notice) with a penchant for spice.

And I was the eedgit trying to accommodate all that.

Now there’s little ‘meal thinking’ phonecalls between me and the visiting vegetarian where we come up with ideas together (turns out we’re a good team on this) he also brings stuff with him.

And we do the cooking together too. Ah! Joy!

The thing is, when life is full and you’re busy, there’s a tendency to just keep going. Well I’ve done that.

There isn’t much time to stop and actually notice that things are a struggle.

Or if you realise it’s a struggle but have no vision of how it could be different and the path of least resistance seems to be keep going.

It takes a lot of effort to stop things in their tracks and ask for things to change. It also requires that we believe ourselves important enough to change things for. Eeeee!

You bring a baby home in this country and spend the first while almost literally on your knees trying to cope with a new baby feeding every 3-4 hours, all normal household cleaning cooking school run etc etc and physical recovery from birth. All of that on top of having spent maybe 24-48-36 (insert your number) hours in labour.

But that’s just how it is when you have a baby isn’t it?

In Nordic countries a midwife comes home with you and looks after the household while you do nothing but look after yourself and the baby, sleep and recover.

*Mouth falling open in amazement*

So rather than ‘that’s just how it is’ being the allowed thought when encountering some struggle I’m favouring

‘What would be ideal?’

and

‘How could that happen?’

and/or

‘What are all the options I can think of?’

Where are things just not working for you, where do you struggle?

What causes you the most *oof* and sends caustic chemical waves coursing round your bloodstream?

Your environment, home and/or workplace

Are things laid out well so you can walk round and work with ease or is it awkward?

Are the things you use frequently closest to you and the files you reference once a year at a distance or the other way round.

Relationships

Who’s in your life?

Do you like them? Appreciate them?

How much do they express their appreciation to you, how much do they criticise?

Nancy Kline reckons on a 5:1 ratio for appreciation to criticism for a healthy, respectful, encouraging relationship.

In his book on public speaking ‘Be Heard Now’ Lee Glickstein allows feedback only on what people liked. Zero criticism.

Any *oof* going on there, anyone running you down more than you’d like?

Your body, health and appearance

Does your body work well, is it happy?

Your digestion?

Any stucknesses or dis-ease?

Karen Kingston in her book ‘Clear your Clutter with Feng Shui’ no clutter is out of bounds and she suggests the sunflower test to check your throughput.

“Put a handful of sunflower seeds in your mouth, chew them as little as possible, and then swallow them. Now wait until they appear at the other end!. If your intestinal transit time is about ten hours you’re in good shape. If it’s longer, you could use some colon cleansing to clear the encrustation. Some people find they have to wait three or four days before the sunflower seeds appear! One woman wrote to tell me how pleased she and her husband were to notice the seeds emerging only twelve hours later….and then they noticed they appeared again and again and again over the next three days. So you need to keep watching!”

Your money and assets

Enough? (Though defining enough isn’t easy let’s go with if you think you have or think you haven’t then that’s what matters as far as body chemistry goes).

Your work

Do you enjoy what you do?

Can you work at a pace that suits you?

E-mails per day 200 or more with an expected response time of ‘instant’?

After this cursory glance over your life what have you got?

Much ease?

Much oof?

What’s the thing or things causing you most grief?

And most importantly, can you imagine it being any different?

If you can’t but would appreciate some help with it, leave a comment here at the blog and we can share solutions.

Sometimes you need a vision of how it could be different. If Nordic women get a midwife to nurture and coddle house and home then I’m not keen to settle for much less than ideal for our needs.

Sometimes you need empathy and support and confirmation that this is something up with which you need not put.

With that in mind, let’s keep to the Lee Glickstein method of zero criticism and full support in the comments.

The theme for May is equality. Equality of needs.

Believing our needs to be equal to those of ; the organisation, project, client, partner, children seems to be a major obstacle to us taking them seriously and to our asking for other people to take them seriously.

Your needs are not more important than mine.

My needs are not more important than yours.

They’re equal.

Let’s find a way we can accommodate us both.

Radical!

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3 Comments

  1. Posted May 1, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    I love this. For the last year or so, I have been trying to stop when I feel frantic or frustrated or angry or exhausted (etc.) and ask myself: Does this thing HAVE to be this hard? There are genuinely hard things in life to be coped with, but my goal is to eliminate the energy suck of the ones that are purely arbitrary and worse, self-inflicted.

    Funny thing is, since I left the profession that was crushing me and became an artist-entrepreneur, I have far more control over my daily experience of life… but all too often I use that control to replicate the old familiar feeling of desperation and frantic suffering.

    It is a long journey with many layers. On the whole though, I think I prefer your attitude of embracing ease and pleasure, (as opposed to merely chipping away at the suffering.)

    [Reply]

    Pauline Reply:

    Ruth,
    A long journey, yes, I think that’s what I was thinking when I allowed a year for the year of pleasure and there’s certainly been new layers making themselves visible each month.

    It’s been amazing to give the pain the gentlest of glances as well and see them sort themselves out when I’m not pushing to make something happen. I can recommend it.

    [Reply]

  2. Alison Clayton-Smith
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Two thoughts..
    1. Ease and Ruth’s comment about control over daily life – I’m just reading about existential therapists. Existentialism – anxiety is a natural part of the human condition and is as a result of our having choices. How can we work with this rather than fight against it?
    2. Equality – there is the difference between equality of outcome and equality of opportunity. Each person has the right to express their needs but it doesn’t mean that each person is going to be equally satisfied. Compromise or consensus.

    [Reply]

    Pauline Reply:

    I like the plan to find ways to work with the anxiety rather than fight it (if I’ve understood you correctly).

    The equality I was thinking of was the equality of needs.
    Marshall Rosenberg’s nonviolent communication has a way of asking for your own needs to be met whilst respecting others needs equally. http://www.cnvc.org
    Kind of a third way that’s neither compromise nor consensus.
    It’s quite magical when it comes good.

    [Reply]

  3. Alison Clayton-Smith
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    I probably didn’t explain myself very well. I was thinking of opportunity in terms of equally having the opportunity to express and potentially meet your needs, and outcome in terms of an expectation that each party has their needs met equally. With the latter, sometimes this isn’t achieved but a compromise is reached instead. Of course, other underlying needs might be met through the compromise such as the need for approval, and so you could argue there is a difference between the ‘presenting’ needs and the core needs – no doubt why many of us give in to things.

    I’m interested in how NVC differs to finding consensus, given that consensus is about each person being 100% committed to the solution (and therefore by implication, their needs are met)? Is there a difference? (I could look it up as I have the books but I have a need to do some work…)

    [Reply]

    Pauline Reply:

    I think the answer is longer than I can do justice to in the comments. More of a verbal dialogue which I’m happy to have if you’re interested further and have time.

    [Reply]

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