Newsletter: What’s normal?

The last month or so has been pretty weird around here. Not just crazy busy. Things have been downright wackidoodle behind the scenes at Third Hand Works.

I find myself waking on the threshold of May (not looking like I thought it would), wondering what the heck just happened.

And you may ask yourself, “Well, how did I get here?”

A good chunk of March and April seem to have just *poof* disappeared – I mean zoomed by – so I made myself a little timeline to retrace my steps, to see where the wackiness made it’s way in. To find out how I got here.

I made a list of the major events of recent weeks then gave my activities some general labels, which turned out looking like this:

new
new
drain
pain
new
new
stuck
stuck
pain
action
stuck
action
action
insight
pain
new
drain
stuck
new
new
stuck
pain
action
stuck
drain
pain
pain
action
drain
pain
insight

In summary, that would be 8 news, 7 pains, 6 stucks, 5 actions, 4 drains, and 2 insights. Every week something new, every week some sort of physical pain. Almost every week some sort of stall or some kind of drain. It all far outnumbered action and insight.

And I wonder why I’ve been feeling discombobulated…

It’s funny how we sometimes see things as being “normal” but when you actually look – wow – not so much.  I mean, it felt weird, but I thought of things as being normal. So it shouldn’t have been weird.  How weird is that?

Of course it was weird. Just the amount of new and pain would be enough to throw anyone.

And you may ask yourself, “How do I work this?”

There are a number of lessons I’m taking away from the recent weirdness, but here are the two biggies I want to share with you.

> Lesson Learned #1: Leave more empty space around new stuff.

I’m a big fan of leaving empty space in your schedule, but I still underestimate the time and energy it takes to cope with New Things. Even when they are small.  Even when they are very much wanted.  Even when they turn out wonderfully.  They still require extra time for preparation and recovery.  Given that, it’s not so sensible to say yes to a bunch of new things at once.

One thing at a time, my dear.  One thing at a time.

> Lesson Learned #2: Listen and respond when your heart and body speak to you.

This probably all began in February, about the time I noted in my daily log, “Tired and pissy that I need to work on a Saturday.”

The wackiness might not have shown up had I listened to that voice. I didn’t. There were things to do. And I kept doing them. On Saturdays.

Since my heart wasn’t getting my brain’s attention, it delegated that job to my body.  If just feeling pooped and cranky isn’t enough to stop her, they agreed, we’ll use pain. And so a less than charming repetitive stress injury was born. It started in my right wrist, then crawled up my arm to my elbow and shoulder where it remains.

Now I have to stop at the end of a reasonable work day/week because a) my arm hurts and b) even if it doesn’t hurt, I know if I don’t stop anyway it will never heal. (Don’t worry, I have professionals helping me with the healing.)

There are better ways of learning to pace oneself. I don’t recommend this method.

And you may ask yourself, “Am I right?… Am I wrong?”

But the thing that made recent weeks feel especially wacky?  Doubt.

Between the new, the tired and the pain, I couldn’t cope with a moment of feeling like a total fraud. (You know the feeling I’m talking about.)  Without the emotional or physical reserves, I couldn’t process it.  It was just a moment, but doubt is highly contagious and soon it had infected everything.

Not wanting to say, “I don’t know what to do,” in one situation led to paralysis in nearly every situation. Suddenly I had nothing to say. Nothing felt … sufficient.  (I could blame the drought of blog posts and newsletters on my injured arm, but this is the real cause.)

I was empty. Of ideas. Of energy. Of presence.

And you may say to yourself, “My God! what have I done?!”

And now I am feeling the consequences of that.

It’s funny. My ego has come through this intact. It turns out to be resilient (though you couldn’t have convinced me of that four weeks ago). My business? Maybe not so much.

The lesson learned here is less about having a better way to process a moment of doubt (though that’s worth working on) – it’s about having reserves. Reserves of time and energy I could have given to neutralizing that doubt before it spread.

Doubt is normal. New is normal.

So space has to be normal, too. Otherwise, doubt and new create a lot of wackiness.

Same as it ever was.
Same as it ever was.
Same as it ever was.

Want to create more space and reserves for yourself and your business? Become a Time Disciple with me. The next True Discipline of Time Management begins May 18.

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12 Responses to “Newsletter: What’s normal?”


  1. 1 Melanie April 29, 2009 at 11:53 am

    At times you feel rather alone and wonder if where you are and what you are going through is NORMAL? How comforting to “hear” someone else ask the same question, outline their normal and talk about the twisted path it sometimes takes. Also to hear the “doh” – when I do this, and don’t anticipate the consequences, I pay the price. Do you know how long it was before it dawned on me when I do this I always get this, so maybe I should anticipate that outcome and take appropriate measures. I know I have plenty of places where I am still in the dark on the action/reaction.

    I am signed up for Time Disciple starting in May, but I am inspired and anxious to get started. Is there anything I can do in the meantime to prepare? Got to take advantage of this burst of energy.

    • 2 Cairene April 29, 2009 at 2:28 pm

      @Melanie
      I second-guessed posting this, so I love hearing you found comfort in my feeling so weird about my normal. It’s a good thing to swap stories about our twisted paths. Otherwise we end up feeling even more lonely and freaky.

      Hmm… prep for Time class… well, since we’re talking about actions and consequences here… maybe start practicing some self-observation and connecting the dots. In a moment of “This project is going great!” or “I wish every day could be like this!” or alternatively “This sucks. How did I get myself into this mess?” (I prefer to focus on making more of the good stuff than fixing the bad stuff, but you could go either way) – brainstorm about all the little things, all the choices and circumstances, that led you to that moment. Figure out what made it work. Or at what point things broke down (not unlike what I describe in this post). This is best done with your most open and curious and compassionate mind. No shame, no blame here. And no assumptions (be careful how you connect the dots!). Just observation. Start gathering information you can put to use during the course.

  2. 3 Janet April 29, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    Ohhhhh. Leaving room around new stuff, even when the new stuff is greatly wanted. Intuition keeps telling me how important this is, my head says “Nah, we’ll power through.” Into the blue again… Wonderful post!

    • 4 Cairene April 30, 2009 at 7:35 am

      @Janet – Yeah, what is it about getting what we want (what we’ve been working towards, achieving a goal, however you want to put it) that makes it seem like it’s going to be, well, I guess easy?

  3. 5 gl. May 3, 2009 at 12:28 am

    i love this post, especially the smooth structural references to talking heads! :D but i’m also enamoured of the way you tracked & labeled your days.

    • 6 Cairene May 4, 2009 at 2:38 pm

      @gl.
      Yeah, there was something great about simplifying and naming my activities that way that just made it all so much more clear. Turned out to be a good technique (a keeper for the ol’ toolbox). And glad you liked the Talking Heads headers (nice to hear as I was pretty pleased with my own cleverness ;)).


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  2. 2 Lessons Learned #17 - Using a hammer when you need power tools « How THW Gets In Gear Trackback on May 1, 2009 at 6:13 am
  3. 3 Lessons Learned #18 - Do the half-right thing « How THW Gets In Gear Trackback on May 4, 2009 at 6:28 am
  4. 4 Lessons Learned #19 - The next level of resisting bright shiny objects « How THW Gets In Gear Trackback on May 5, 2009 at 6:22 am
  5. 5 Making Every Click Count « How THW Gets In Gear Trackback on May 7, 2009 at 7:27 am
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