Friday, September 11, 2009

Flexing my flexibility

Until a few years ago, I thought I was just a logical person with high standards for myself and others.

Then I realized that I was extremely inflexible. Rigid, in fact.

I expected people to follow through on plans or tasks, no matter what. I was disappointed when a friend consistently, almost without fail, canceled on activities at the last minute. I couldn’t deal when someone blew off a deadline.

And the person I was hardest on was myself, which meant I was anxious and filled with guilt and/or self-loathing pretty much all the time. It’s little wonder I have acid reflux.

But after working with a life coach and gaining a bit of perspective, I realized that being vulnerable and inconsistent is not a failure. It’s human.

I set myself up when I hold myself and others to the highest standard. Take today, for example. I was supposed to travel to New York for a day of meetings (four, to be exact). After taking a red-eye from Seattle to Philadelphia and doing a “planes, trains, and automobiles” thing for 36 hours, I was already compromised on sleep. I woke up with a sore throat and a runny nose and it was pouring outside. But I still got up, showered, prepared to make the trip regardless of the fact that I have a full itinerary for the next week, including my best friend’s wedding shower that I’ve helped to plan. Tromping around in the rain, my health would most likely be further compromised. But I was reluctant to alter my itinerary. I had appointments set up, I had made plans. I felt like a wuss even considering going into the city later in the day, let alone bagging on it altogether.

But when I went to wake up Alison, she was the voice of reason. Finally, talking it over with someone other than the voices in my head, I was able to allow for the possibility of an alternate plan. Within 10 minutes, I realized the folly of the trip in the face of all I have to do in the coming days. I e-mailed all of my appointments and rescheduled a couple for next week. My only regret is that I got out of bed so early.

Being flexible and fluid takes constant practice and I’m slowly learning to give myself and others a break. I am learning to accept when a friend leaves me hanging and be excited when she actually shows up. As the saying goes (attributed to Denis Waitley), “Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.” And I’m trying to remember to step outside of myself, look at a situation, and lighten up. The only person who expects me to meet unattainable standards is me.

I’ve got a long way to go to be spontaneous, but that’s okay. Nobody’s perfect.



Kevin said...

Jen, you know this is the same stuff I have been struggling with. Five months of unemployment, after 20 years of being the "perfect attendance" guy, was probably the best thing that could have happened to me as I approach my fifth decade of life! My visit to Seattle was a testament to my new "flexibility". It's so much better - I hope a little of it rubbed off on you!

Eleanor Traubman said...


I found your blog through my friend Colleen Newvine. I just love this post. It totally hit home with me. Thanks for being honest about this struggle and how you have taken it on. Keep us posted on what else you figure out here - your discoveries are inspiring! Who is the coach you used?

Jennifer Worick said...

Eleanor and Kevin: Thanks for the comments. I'm glad to know that I'm not alone in my struggle to adapt, go with the flow, and alter the plan despite how much it kills me sometimes.

Punkinhead said...

Nice insight. Thanks for sharing. :)

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