Boundaries and Brené.
Uncertain times have been the name of the game, the last half of the year. I mean, if we’re not accustomed to changing now, when will we ever be? And yet, change has been hard especially when the changes are to things we’ve dreamt about and prepared for only to have a wrench thrown into them and leave you questioning, “now what?”
For me, it was launching my business, Free Well. For you, it might be that wedding you’ve been planning, the baby shower, the anniversary trip, that annual trip with friends, or maybe you also had your heart set on starting something new as well.
If you’re faced with making some decisions (big or small) amidst changes, this post is for you. For me, I thought I had it all figured out. The twins would be starting kindergarten in the fall, freeing up a bit of time, and I would launch my business Free Well. I wasn’t expecting a global pandemic, schools faced with unprecedented restrictions, and now it wasn’t just a question of when to launch but more a question of: will I even be able to launch?
What will your next day, month, year look like? While we know there will be uncertainty, there is a saying “the only constant in life is change” as one Greek philosopher Heraclitus put it …another thing is for certain: we have a lot more pull and ownership over it than we sometimes choose to believe (even in the most uncertain times).
For a story on how I met one of the people I admire most, and 5 tips for making decisions in uncertain times, keep reading!
I’m in a hallway, cream walls, a tiled floor – wood doors that creak when opened and closed. It’s clearly a university, you can smell books, pencils, feel the desire to learn surrounding you, and hear the shuffling of life happening outside.
My waiting is interrupted, “she’s ready for you now,” a woman says peeking her head out from the nearest door. I follow her in and take a seat. The woman sitting across from me is Dr. Brené Brown, bestselling author, speaker, professor, researcher, podcast host, all-around amazing lady …her assistant left us.
“Dina we want you here, I see you here on the team,” Dr. Brown says.
“Great, I would love that,” I say, eager and cool as ever.
She rattled off what the role would be as a graduate assistant under her while I studied, then she finished her thought with “oh, and we will need you 60 hours minimum.”
My hands clutched the chair beneath me. I felt like someone popped my birthday balloon, my big beautiful balloon that had just been handed to me. “60 hours?” I said hoping I heard her incorrectly.
“Yes,” Dr. Brené (freaking!) Brown said.
Then a flood of thoughts, images really representing my values, the things I’ve promised to myself that would be at the forefront of my life, the things most precious to me, the things I know I need in my life regularly if I’m going to thrive, they all came at me in seconds. I thought to myself, I have a family now, I can’t do what I did in graduate school again, I don’t have it in me. Some mothers do but I knew with certainty I did not have it.
“I’m sorry Brené, I just can’t do it. I could do it at 40, but 20 would really be ideal” I said, amazed at how quickly I became on a first name basis with Brené (freaking!) Brown.
She tried to reason with me, saying this would be a dream for me, but I knew I couldn’t budge, not even for Brené Brown. One of the people I admire most was asking me to do something, I said no, and now we were staring at each other.
We said our goodbyes and I left for the hallway which now suddenly seemed a lot longer than before. I started walking, hearing my footsteps on the tile. Then all of a sudden the assistant appeared in front of me out of breath from catching up to me. “She wants you and she says she’ll make your ideal work.”
Brené (freaking!) Brown said she could make it work.
Let Me Explain: The Note.
Do I launch at all? Do I homeschool? Should I take this as a sign I shouldn’t be spending time on it? What is going to be best for my kids? For me? For my family? My mind was on a continuous loop of questions. It was August 2, 2020, and I was at my wit’s end with the back and forth of deciding what to do for next year, the effects of a pandemic on our family. My girls were going to start a new school and kindergarten, and I was going to launch my business; those fall plans (along with millions of other plans around the world) were now falling apart. So I decided to ask my own question, on paper grabbing my notebook by the nightstand I quickly scribbled this:
Ok, what is the ideal scenario for next year? For my family? For my kids and their wellbeing? For my work? For quality time? What should I do?!
I didn’t even sign it (how rude, sorry Universe). I scribbled, folded it up, and placed it under my pillow – I was literally going to sleep on it and hope I had the answers in the morning. Great thinkers like Thomas Edison did it, why couldn’t I give it a shot? I was desperate.
August 3rd, 6 am I woke up without an alarm and with the clearest memory of sitting down with one of my idols and saying NO to her. What the what?! The dream was so vivid it was one of those moments you question what actually happened and what didn’t …only this one I knew didn’t happen (I mean Brené (freaking!) Brown – can you imagine!?) but it was very real nonetheless.
Making Sense of It.
I sat up annoyed at first thought, “Oh great, the Universe is telling me I need to go back to school more.” I went downstairs trying to shake the memory from my brain. I got my tea, my journal, and went outside as I normally do each morning. Usually, I try to jot a few things down I’m grateful for and then write freely whatever comes to mind (sometimes nothing does and I stare at the paper). This time though I grabbed the pen and started writing down everything I could recall from the dream, every detail.
Then I started to ask questions about the details like:
Ok, I know that was Brené (freaking!) Brown in my dreams but what does she represent to me? To my life? What meaning can I find in her being there at this time?
- Admire her work deeply, she’s a truth-teller, a dream to meet, wildest dreams to meet let alone work by her in any capacity
- She represents something that would be awesome, something I want
How was I acting in the dream? What was my behavior, and my body language like? My thoughts?
- I was confident going in, sitting there, and even walking down the hall afterward. I didn’t seem to mind what I was walking away from knowing it wouldn’t suit me.
- I was sure and rooted in my values, they are what guided my actions.
- I didn’t feel an ounce of sadness or insecurity that I wasn’t one of the “other moms” that maybe could’ve pulled off 60 hours and do the other stuff …I knew I wasn’t one of them and I was OK with that.
- I was not a people-pleaser (even for Brené Brown!) – something I work to not do and suddenly I was able to not do it for her of all people!
And what happened?
- I did not bend to even my wildest dream, but my wildest dream bent for me. This thought burst out of me and onto the paper with such clarity I leaned back in my chair.
- My boundaries were respected, the things important in my life were kept intact, and I received a “let’s do this” permission from my dream.
There was sense being made of my dream, my annoyance was decreasing.
I had been spending so much time building up in my head the mountain to climb in order to go after things I wanted, that I forgot my autonomy and my creativity.
I knew I desired to:
- launch my business
- figure out a best-case scenario for my children – all in the midst of a pandemic.
But I forgot my own ability to set boundaries. I forgot my ability to say “no, but how about this…”
The second I even thought “no” to this hypothetical, insane, built-up mountain to climb is the second I felt a peace wash over me and a knowing that me and the things I desire got this, and we can do it in our own time, in our own way.
5 Tips On Making Decisions In Uncertain Times.
As I reflect on what the dream and the experience of it all (interpretation and thereafter) taught me, I landed on 5 things, 5 tips for myself, and maybe you, for when we are faced with making another decision especially in uncertain times:
1. Try & learn. No one has the answers, there are no right answers especially in uncertain times, such as a pandemic, but we have trial and learn.
- We try something, learn from it, tweak for the next step, and so on. As my husband said, “Dina we can try one way, and if needed we can adjust.” Friends, I very well may have interpreted this dream all wrong, time will tell! But then again, is it really wrong or just the way it needs to be? Forget “trial and error” let’s change that to trial and learn.
2. Our boundaries can be our needed trellises for proper (and abundant) growth.
- Do you know those wood or iron structures that climbing flowers and bushes cling to on a porch or in a garden? When you see a perfectly placed trellis you often don’t see the structure but an abundance of blooms in beautiful shape. Without the trellis, the plant would have limited growth, limited beauty. Our personal boundaries can be our trellises – even for (especially for) our dreams. My Brené (freaking!) Brown dream reminded me that it’s OK to put boundaries even on my wildest dream because then my dream will have the necessary ingredients to grow around the trellis of MY life. I had boundaries that I wouldn’t even bend for Brené Brown and yet the dream grew around it. I can put boundaries on anything I want to and in this case, rethink what launching and doing business can look like for me, this season, this time in my life, it can look like whatever I make it. (In other words, I’m saying, remember my guiding principles Creativity and Autonomy? Use them.)
3. Keeping our values and what’s most important to us at the forefront of our decisions is always going to deliver the answer we really want (but might be too afraid to ask for).
- We have to ask for it, create it, and remember that these things we put so much value on, are there for a reason. When we devalue them by not considering them in decisions, our life suffers and we will inevitably begin to resent the “solution” we created for ourselves. Have you ever done that? Said yes to something when really it should’ve been a hard “no” or a “maybe” or better yet a “…how about this” response which really reflects your life and needs? We know that feeling when we’ve gotten ourselves into something only to find feelings of resentment around the corner.
4. Don’t discredit the power of fifth-grade-like letters placed under pillows.
- Writing a note to the Universe, God, or whomever – just really asking for help, like really putting it on paper and into the world can shed some interesting light on things. It doesn’t have to be a note, but get the thought out of just your head and into the universe in some way – even if it just means speaking it aloud.
5. Listen, look, and feel for meaning – more intuition and less restriction.
- You might write the letter or say the prayer but if you’re not looking and listening to what’s around you, any and all signs, you might miss the answer. I could’ve easily discredited the dream, and maybe someone else might have but I found value in it. Part of my wellness journey has been all about tuning in and listening more to that inner voice, more intuition and less restriction, less thinking how weird something may look and more being OK with “fitting out.” By paying attention to how my body was feeling just thinking about the dream, listening, and questioning I found a lot of value in it. I was also fascinated by several signs that followed in terms of related book readings, articles in my feed, texts from friends, and I even had a woman in my mastermind group just two days later recall a story about how her husband said one of their toughest times was when she almost accepted a job that required 60 hours! – this was before I shared my story with her. Our body and our surroundings speak to us (read more about this in my post To All the Foods I’ve Loved Before).
So there you have it, Friends. While I didn’t actually meet Dr. Brené (freaking!) Brown, I still learned some valuable lessons from her (once again – Thanks Dr. Brené Brown!). I hope you can take a moment to do the Self Search below because I think the questions are so applicable to this time for us all right now.
To begin, take a deep breath in and let it out.
I highly recommend grabbing a pen and paper. Take each prompt in, then think about it and what it means for you. There are no wrong answers, but your answers. Lean into those.
- What are the mountains you are building up in your own life right now? Take another breath for good measure, close your eyes and consider what mountains you see?
- What are the things that the mountain(s) is built upon? What’s making it so big? What makes it a mountain and not a bump in the road? (consider physical, emotional, mental, logistical, etc – consider all the things that could raise it)
- Now considering what those mountain(s) are built upon are they hypothetical? Are they real and really there? or maybe a bit of both? For each type of mountain consider ways you can shrink or blow it up by asking the following questions:
- What are your values and how do they relate to that mountain?
- In what ways does the mountain respect or undermine your values and the things you have said are most important to you, your way of life, and the environment you know you thrive in? (consider both respecting and undermining)
- What can you let go more of?
- What can you ask for?
- What boundaries can you create to make sure your decisions and solutions you seek are integrated with your life (and not separate from it)?
How did that feel for you? What mountains did you expose? What mountains were a figment of your imagination? Were your values coming into play? Don’t be hard on yourself, this is the nature of life. Commend yourself for taking some time to really stop and think about your life so you can best live it, and not just go through it!
If you feel comfortable sharing any thoughts or questions that sparked for you I would love to hear – so write them below in the comments. We can learn so much from one another all while we do some learning of our own.
Thanks for being here and holding space for you and me.
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