I’ve been thinking a lot about organising my workday this week.
The only thing that makes this a bit odd is that I’ve been lying in bed with COVID as I think this.
Of course, COVID is nothing to be smiling about, and I know I’ve little to fear compared with other people who get it.
My Gratitude to be alive these days
One of the things I am most grateful for these days is how I see the world and my will to live.
This is what Brene Brown calls “An attitude of gratitude!”
If I could take you back a decade, you’d see a version of Bernie who was so stressed, so uncertain and riddled with anxiety he sometimes could not leave the house.
There were weeks when I’d vomit every morning with stress and anxiety.
I always had a packet of fast-acting extra-strong Nurofen in my bag.
I feel better about not feeling so good in 2022
A decade ago, if I felt sick like I do this week, I’d think I’d be okay if I ended up dying in the night.
One day in 2012, I called my good mate Daniel, a Counsellor, to ask him if my thoughts of jumping in front of a train were thoughts everyone had or just me.
He paused and said he was so glad I’d brought it up because he’d been looking for a way to suggest I go and have a chat with a mental health professional.
So started a now decade long journey into undoing a whole load of coping mechanisms and letting go of stuff that I’d packed away.
Some of the stuff I’d packed away kept gently leaking out and messing with my everyday life.
Another ‘stuff’ was my incredibly low self-esteem around learning and education because of my time in the UK school system.
Luckily for me, fifteen years ago, when I was at University, I got diagnosed with dyslexia and got shown a whole new road map.
I felt like I’d gone pro.
I learned how to use a calendar and nearly grasp time.
These days I thrive with a combination of the 12 Week Year and Hero On A Mission to plan my time.
After all the research I’ve done, I’m sure I’m ADHD positive too.
I’ve done several tests with a therapist where I scored high on the ADHD scale and will get officially tested later this year.
Sounds complicated, Bernie, is it?
It has been tough shit, and for a long time, I was angry with the world in such a toxic and reactive way.
The frustration I’d built up over the years turned into some kind of backfiring self destruct button.
I’d hit this button whenever things were going well for me.
Gay Hendrix writes about this in The Big Leap.
His research shows how we are prone to self destruct when we rise above our self-imposed level, think of lottery winners.
Lottery winners are notorious for blowing all their winnings in a short time and even ending up worse off than they were before.
But I learned to catch my self-destruct mode before the launch sequence was initiated.
It took a long time and a group of hardcore friends and family to tell me what I was doing.
But life is better for different learning and working styles these days so I’m practicing gratitude
We live in a great time now that neurodiversity is an active conversation in mainstream society and the workplace.
People like my mate David, the founder of Nook, are constantly pushing this topic and helping people understand it more.
To call dyslexia a “disability” means saying a boat is broken because it cannot fly.
Read David’s article here:
When I am in a Nook, I do great work.
I feel safe and accepted, and something happens; I am sure part of it is because I know David builds them for people like me.
How Saying No Will Make 2022 The Best Year Yet
read it here.
How my immediate outlook has changed with gratitude practice
Every day I listen to a meditation that includes these lines below.
Because I’ve done this and other meditations in the morning so often, I have got to know and connect with myself in delighted times and tragic times.
So I am more skilled at seeing where my energy and feelings for the day are and what I need to do.
Of course, some days it’s a shit storm, and I have to go back to bed there and then.
Remember, this is a system – not a cure.
It’s hard when so much is on my plate.
I have always seemed to have a lot on my plate.
But these days, I DO HAVE LOT ON MY PLATE.
Between work roles:
- Velvet Community
- Velvet Investment
- London Coworking Assembly
- European Coworking Assembly
I’m got a big fat gratitude jar that these are all very closely connected and with the same people.
Still, there are a lot of moving parts.
Being a husband to #Supercoolwife and father to #Supercoolson is so huge I’ll never see the edges; it is a fun, crazy everyday thing.
At some point, it occurred to me that my ‘habit of living’ is thinking I have a lot on my plate and I need to be in a panic, but I don’t.
When I “took a chill pill” and took a few more minutes to be still my entire plate is a meal that gets eaten one bite at a time.
And some days I don’t finish all my food.
It’s hard to feel calm when so much is still uncertain.
Between all of the above, there is massive uncertainty.
- Will people come to the event?
- Will we get the products made in time?
- Will we sell them?
- Will we get the money in our fund in time?
- Will we be able to help these people?
- Have I missed something?
- Am I picking the boy up from school?
- Is everyone going to be at work today? – COVID, power cuts, political unrest, hurricanes! (Our team is from all around the world in many languages.)
Part of me believes I can’t feel calm until I know all the answers.
I keep saying this to my teammate Sharmae that she does not have to have all the answers!
Sharmae has a super hero passion for problem-solving that will run non-stop unless you give her permission to switch off.
Like Squirrel Girl, Sharmae could be a Marvel character that only die-hard fans know.
Like me, she wants to take responsibility to slove everything and we both end up using a lot of valuable energy that could be deployed better elsewhere.
No one EVER said to me, “Bernie, you have to all the answers!”
But it has taken around two years of working here to believe that showing up at the meeting and ‘asking the audience’ is a better way forward than killing myself to find all the answers.
Collective intelligence is way healthier than trying to know everything.
And if I don’t know something, I know how to find out by the end of the day, with a call, or I can read a book or do other research.
Part of me believes if I’m stressed, I’m not working hard enough.
“You can’t stress yourself towards a solution” – Jessica Ortner.
I heard someone else say, “Stress is praying for things you don’t want to happen.”
Before I get into this more, one of the questions that did not work for me when I was deep in depression was this one:
“Bernie, why are you depressed?”
“Do you know why you are depressed?”
I’d always want to answer something hilarious like:
“A sequence of unfortunate but unintentional episodes in my younger years.
Then combined to manufacture a defensive operating framework within my being.
That led to a particular release of naturally occurring chemicals in my brain.
The chemicals were unbalanced and led to me initiating behaviour to over or under compensate in situations without realising the consequences.
That is as close as I’ve got to know what made me depressed.
What about you?’
I mention that because saying “stop being stressed” is equally as dumb, it takes a massive level of self-awareness to just stop anything.
Being busy vs productive
For me, the stress occurs like an act, and very few people pay attention to me.
When I am stressed, I do less work, get more stressed, and work even more complex.
When I feel things getting on top of me, I’ll kick back in my chair and meditate for twenty minutes and come back and work even faster than if I’d pushed through.
I want to do everything at once, which does not work.
When I get busy, if I don’t watch it, I fall into some kind of fucked up multi-tasking void, and no one gets anything they need.
Before I go, I want to shout out to the victim mentality and encourage you to see if you are there.
While I would NEVER have admitted to it at the time, I was stuck here for years.
You could say I was a victim of victim mentality!
I could give you a million books to read and examples of people who have overcome the odds to succeed, so we could too.
But I’ll go with this if you answer people with “I can’t” or “I’ll try” and sense you are lying to them and yourself.
Or if you automatically answer people with an excuse, why can’t you do something before you’ve even tried.
Or you can’t help but drop into a conversation “all I could afford” or “all I could manage” – I’ve done ALL THESE THINGS!
You need to consider if you are stuck in a victim mentality.
There was one tragic, tragic day when I was so stuck that my wife took our child and went to stay with our mate Anna for the weekend.
I was so fucking stuck it was like having a Dementor in Harry Potter as your Dad and husband.
BTW Here is the definition of a Dementor:
Dementors are dark creatures that consume human happiness, creating an ambience of coldness, darkness, misery and despair.
Imagine being in a house with me acting like that, so they went.
I watched a lot of Netflix that weekend.
By the end of the weekend, I’d started and was up to date with Person Of Interest.
But I could have got off the sofa and gone for a walk.
Or making time to meditate, which is less effort and healthier than watching Person of Interest all weekend.
(That reminds me I never did watch the last season when it came out.)
Of course, this is my experience, not professional medical advice.
But walking around putting in the effort to stay unstuck has paid off in the end, and it is a slow hard step by step thing.
And as I lie here feeling shit with my face hurting and the inside of my bones aching with COVID, I’m grateful to be alive and to be surrounded by the people I spend time with every day.
I have not always been lucky enough to feel this good when feeling bad.