What-if…..

See that brightly-smiling lady snuggled up to the singularly handsome bearded gentleman?  This picture was taken at a Kenny Wayne Shepherd/Johnny Lang concert last summer.

Judd and Donna's Big Adventure
Judd and Donna’s Big Adventure

It was held at a medium-sized, very crowded venue called the Hard Rock Rocksino.  To get  to the seating area she had to walk through acres of slot machines, noise and flashing lights.  She’d never been there before, had no idea what to expect, but look at her–she’s absolutely glowing.

You’d never guess it, but for years that same lady was terrified of crowds and unfamiliar places.  She developed a comforting routine built around well-known stores, arriving just as their doors opened and scurrying home long before the thundering herd (read: more than ten people) arrived.  Anything outside this routine left her riddled with anxiety and totally drained of energy.

I know all this because I’m that lady.

The year leading up to that concert was insanely stressful, and I’d been clinging to my safe little burrow even more tenaciously than usual. My wonderful husband and I both tend to be homebodies, so there was no pressure to go out, do stuff, socialize.  I might have stayed in my cozily decorated rut indefinitely if I hadn’t seen the ad online: “Kenny Wayne Shepherd/Jonny Lang.  Hard Rock Rocksino.  June 23.”

I knew my husband liked both of these performers a lot.  The date was close to our anniversary, and tickets to the concert would be a terrific present.  The price was reasonable, the drive wasn’t bad, and he’d be thrilled.  Making Judd happy is one of my favorite things to do, so I jumped out of my chair and headed for the stairs to run it by him.

And then the voice of the Great God What-if weighed in, stopping me in my tracks.

Oh, the melodrama...
Oh, the melodrama…

What-if my nerves short-circuited and I got sick on the way to the venue?  Or, even worse, what-if I got sick at the venue? What-if I passed out?  (Note: this last thing has never happened to me in my entire life, but  I tend not to consider such fine points when I’m in full-blown catastrophic mode.)

“Better not chance it”, warned the Great God What-if.  “You don’t need more stress in your life right now.  Stay in your comfort zone.”

“But Judd would really love to go to that concert,” I argued.

“Judd won’t even know about it if you don’t tell him.  No harm done.”

I would really love to go to that concert!”

“Now, Donna.  What if you get all the way out there, have a panic attack and have to come all the way home again?”

That almost stopped me.  I visualized the humiliating scenario and cringed.  But then I straightened my shoulders, tossed back my hair and replied, “What-if I don’t?”

And the Great God What-if fell silent.

With that, I pounded up the stairs to tell Judd we were gonna go see Kenny Wayne and Jonny.

Six Ways To Change Your Life Without Spending A Dime

1. Forget about trying to be perfect

We might as well try to be unicorns–there ain’t no such critters.unicorn sketch

Fear of being less than perfect kept me at the starting gate more times than I care to think about until one day I finally asked myself, “What’s my real goal here?”

For example, I’m a writer. What’s more important to me: getting my work “out there” where it has a chance to sell, or keeping it safely tucked away on my computer because it might be rejected?

For someone else, it might be, “What’s more important to me–having a get-together with the people I love now, or keep putting it off until my house is exactly the way I want it and those people are no longer in my life?”

2. Realize that saying “no” is an answer

Whether we’re dealing with a stubborn two-year-old or an adult who’s trying to guilt us into compliance, “no” is an answer all by itself. If we weaken it with excuses and justifications, we provide inroads for the other person to wear us down.

Speaking for myself, I’d rather deal with the momentary discomfort of being considered the bad guy than seethe with resentment at wasting time I don’t have on something I didn’t want to do in the first place.

3. Do a daily gratitude list

I used to blow this one off as being too Pollyanna for words until somebody asked me how well I thought I’d function if things like

  • good health
  • a husband who loves and understands me
  • a car that runs
  • money to buy food

suddenly disappeared from my life. My answer: not bloody well at all!

Doing the gratitude lists this way has given me a whole new focus on life. It also shines a spotlight on the things that are really important when I get myself in a tizzy over inconsequentials. (I can hear my husband saying, “You? Never!“) Give it a try.

4. What’s-Right-With-Me?

I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who has raised self-criticism to an art form. It’s so easy to expound upon “what’s wrong with me,” especially with the media, certain relatives, etc. ready and willing to lend a helping hand.

Lately I’ve been trying to give equal time to “what’s right with me”, and it’s been a major eye-opener. When negative self-talk crops up, I immediately counter it with a positive statement.

Example:

Negative: Boy, you really screwed up this time!
Positive: Yup, I sure did. But it’s fixable, I’ve learned from it, and I won’t make the same mistake again.

It was difficult at first because there had been a certain macabre sense of power in dissecting myself and stomping on the pieces before anybody else could. I fought some pitched battles with deeply-entrenched negative self-images, but I kept at it and, to my immense surprise, I discovered it’s far more productive, not to mention pleasant, to build myself up than to tear myself down. (Duh!)

5. Clean out a closet

I don’t know why, but every time I work up the courage to take on the wilds of my bedroom closet, good things seem to follow.

Sometimes it’s as simple as being able to find things easily as I stumble around getting ready for work in the morning. Other times I come up with wardrobe items I forgot were there–kinda like shopping in my own closet.

Other times, it’s almost like I’ve signaled to the universe that I’ve made room in my life for the Next Good Thing. It’s happened too many times to be just a coincidence. Closet-cleaning has been followed almost immediately by:

  • moving into my own big-girl apartment (at the ripe young age of 47)
  • meeting my husband
  • getting a new job

Give it a try. When you’re ready to put things back in the closet, check out this handy little tip that will greatly simplify the next purge.

6. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

I’ve always been one of those people who don’t just get in a rut; I move in, lock, stock and laptop. But I’ve come to the conclusion that the status quo isn’t really comfortable so much as it is familiar, and it’s good for the soul to shake things up from time to time.

It doesn’t have to be hang-gliding. It can be something as simple as taking another route to work or trying a daring (for you) new hairstyle. Just something different that shakes things up in a good way and invites new people and experiences into your life.

photo credit: merwing✿little dear via photopin cc