Life Lessons From A Giant Spider Attack or Pull Yourself Together And Stop F’ing Crying

If you don’t know Anne Taintor, you totally should!

Let me set the scene for you, it’s a beautiful day and I’m driving to the gym. I decide to roll down the window. That’s when a spider the size of a small dog dropped down and was swinging in and out of the car right at my eye level. I tried to roll the window back up, but, of course, that trapped us in the car together. I pulled over. “Pulled over” sounds calm and rational. What I did was more like swerve wildly while yelling, “OH GOD!!!!!!!” at the top of my lungs until I eventually stopped pretty much in the middle of the street.

I flung the door open and thought maybe I could knock it down with my foot. Yeah, I hit the spider into the car and it started crawling in the window switches. Oh hell no. Big ass spider gets in, I get out.

Standing next to my spider infested car, I was completely clueless as to what to do. I was really prepared to just let the spider have the car, because clearly he wanted it more then I did. People would probably be understanding. “Hey, did you get a new car?” “Yeah, spider the size of a toddler wanted the other one.” “Oh, yeah. That happened to my cousin.”

Approximate size of spider

But I knew that wouldn’t work. So, I tried to calm my abject terror and opened the door. To my surprise, the spider wasn’t behind the wheel about to drive off. He was crawling next to the seat on his way to the pedals and I squashed him with my shoe. VICTORY WAS MINE!

So the lesson to me was: even though you think the giant spider is going to eat your face off,  if remove yourself from the situation for a minute and regroup then you can find a new way to attack the problem.

“Beth, did you ever get the opportunity to apply this lesson outside of this death defying spider incident?”

As a matter of fact, I did! So glad you asked!

Recently, someone told me that my goal of being a graphic designer probably isn’t going to happen like I expect and I should reconsider. I listened and smiled politely during the thirty plus minute run down of all the reasons why I was not cutout to be a designer all while going from dumbfounded to profoundly sad inside. They may as well have said, “You know all the time, the money, the sleep, etc. you sacrificed to go back to school? Totally wasted.” As the day went on, my feelings snowballed until I finally decided they were right. I was pulling the graphic design car over, getting out and letting the spider have it. I had been defeated and I was done trying. I kept hearing my teacher’s voice in my head telling me, “Don’t let them see you cry. You can cry here, in my office, but never do it out there,” and managed to keep it together.

It was sorta like this. “Look, Lisa. If you look closely you can actually pinpoint the exact moment his heart breaks in two.”

The next day when I was removed from the situation, something inside shifted. I went from profound sadness to anger. I turned into one of those girls on Maury Povich shouting, “Whatever! You don’t know me! I do what I want!”  This person does not get to tell me when to give up. It’s not like I want to play in the NBA or become a ballerina (but you better believe I would rock the shit out of the Nutcracker). I’ve only been out of school for 3 months, so of course I still have a lot to learn. I may never be Stefan Sagmeister or Louise Fili, but I will keep learning and improving. I will get where I want to go, because I am either too smart or too stupid to stop and I absolutely refuse to hand the keys to my ambitions over to someone who doesn’t deserve them. No one but me gets to decide when I am finished.

Truth be told, I’m always happiest and at my best when I’m fighting against something. So, Captain Bringdown, thanks for the motivation and, one more thing before I go:

BOOM.

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There Is No Switch

lightbulbOccasionally I think the alternate name for this blog could be, “Sometimes I’m an idiot,” because I share a lot of things that are new or revelations to me and imagine people thinking, “Yeah, no shit, dumb ass.” This is one of those weeks. It starts out weight/fitness related, but it it applies to everything in the end.

So the other day I was logging my exercise and reading a fitness/nutrition forum. I can’t even remember exactly what I read, but it was something like, “Of course I want junk food, too, but I want health more.” I could feel the lightbulb over my head. I guess I thought that there were Healthy Eaters and Everyone Else. The Healthy Eaters didn’t even want Doritos or cookies and were content with their sprouts and whatever the hell else they eat and were just born that way. I think I also thought if I forced myself into that Healthy Eater box, that eventually a switch would flip, (this is starting to sound like a particularly odd Twilight Zone episode), I wouldn’t crave junk and healthy eating would be effortless. Honestly, it just never occurred to me that the Healthy Eaters would want junk, too. Oh, I’m sure there are those freaks who are like, “Oh, no! Not me! I would rather have this big bowl of cinnamon flavored air then that big plate of nachos!” But they are the exception.

I don’t think this is solely an issue related to fitness and is true of all goals. We go around thinking a magic switch is going to flip that is going to keep us constantly motivated, give us unwavering commitment, and make us laugh in the face of obstacles. When that doesn’t happen and it’s still a struggle, we figure something is wrong with us and give up. But there is no switch. There is no big moment where we stop wanting to take the easier path. The only difference between those who achieve their goals and those who don’t is that those who achieve have figured this out already. They know the road that leads to the final destination is not flat, perfect pavement, but full of potholes, cracks, u-turns, construction, “bridge out” and “slippery pavement” signs.

It kind of sounds like bad news, but it’s really not. It takes away any invisible barriers we have put up that hinders up from becoming a goal achiever. There’s no difference between us and them. There isn’t really an us and them- it’s everyone. We’ll still crave Doritos, the hardest part of working out will still be putting on our shoes, and it will always be easier stay with the familiar then to venture into the unknown. It doesn’t make us defective or destined for failure. It just makes us human. Keep your eye on the prize, keep moving forward, and realize you’re stronger then almost anything that can come your way.

I Don’t Like Talking To Me

The Cave lyric

This line from the song, “The Cave” has been my mantra whenever I need to push a little further.

Several weeks ago I had a conversation with a classmate and I just haven’t been able to get out of my head. Without going into details, she asked me for advice and every suggestion I gave was met with a “Yeeeeeaaaaah, but…” and then a monologue on why that won’t work because her circumstances are so radically different then mine (they aren’t). I was left frustrated and thinking, “Well, why did you even ask me?”  Then that jerk “reality” slapped me in the face and I realized I do the exact same thing when I am like when I’m- ahem- not open to suggestion. It was like being face-to-face with a part of yourself that you not only don’t like very much, but try really hard to ignore. I immediately wanted to call everyone who has ever offered me advice and apologize.

But it got me wondering why we resist help when we ask for it? Do we really think we know better? Or that our problem is so completely unique that no one could know the trouble’s we’ve seen? Or maybe we’re afraid of taking that leap to real, lasting change? I think I’ve always been working with that last one. Even if you are doing something crappy, at least you know what to expect day after day. The devil you know is better then the one you don’t, as they say. Not only is change scary, but it takes a commitment and hard work. Without those two things our goals are only daydreams.

I’m not going to lie, the hard work stinks about 90% of the time, but satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment that comes with achieving your goals is so worth it and, between me and you, it’s addictive. For real. I was never much of a goal setter until the last few years. Actually, that’s not right. I was a goal setter. I wasn’t a goal achiever. Not that I’m out filming “Be Rich, Like Me!”  infomercials from my yacht flanked by my cabin boys, Keanu Reeves and Adrien Brody (don’t judge, you have your imaginary celebrity boyfriends and I have mine), but the first few little goals got met and then it was like, “Now what?” So, I set a couple new ones and work towards those. Trust me, they don’t have to be major things or even very fixed. Lately I’ve been trying to add a minute on to each interval I run per week (like this week it’s a 6 minute interval, next week a 7 and so on). Sometimes I have to extend the deadline or I just can’t  muster the energy.  But even if it’s 3 times a week, it’s that much more then the week before and all of it adds up. Now, if I don’t have a goal to work towards, I feel kind of lost.

Back to the topic at hand, this conversation also got me wondering about how much good advice I tossed out over the years because I thought I knew better or the other person didn’t know what they were talking about or I was afraid to change. I’m sure it’s a ton, but I’m also sure everyone else has done the same thing. It made me think of that saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I used to wonder where my “teacher” was or wish for someone to tell me, “You need to do this, this, and this and your life will be awesome!” But here’s the thing, those teachers, they’re not just people who stand at the front of the classroom. They’re all around us. They “appear” because we become aware enough to recognize the lessons they are teaching us- whether they even know they are teaching or not. The person I was talking to taught me a huge lesson about myself even though they didn’t mean to.

So if you’ve given me advice ever, I apologize. From now on I promise to be more open to it….most of the time sometimes once in a while maybe.

Stress or I’ve Learned Something

I had a rough week. Seriously, how bad is a week that you actually pray for a Monday so you can start over? Even though I wanted nothing more then to get in bed with my iPod and pull the covers over my head, I couldn’t. I had to keep going. Written out like that, it sounds all triumphant and heroic, like I was running up a mountain, planting the American flag, and sounding a big ‘ol “WHOO-HOOO!!!!” while “Eye of the Tiger” played. Yeah, that’s not how it went.

I wanted to run to everyone I know and beg them to tell me if I can do this (‘this’ begin life in general, I think).  But then it occurred to me, if you keep going to people and asking them, “Can I do this??” imploring them to build you up, eventually they are going to start questioning your abilities, too. As much as I wanted that validation from others, I had to find other ways to deal with my stress.

I’m not athletic. Considering I’m 5’11”, chunky, left-handed and into art, this should surprise no one. But I’ve learned is that exercise is as good for your mind as it is for your body. My head feels clearer afterwards. Maybe that’s because my mind is busy repeating, “Oh dear God, please don’t let me die” over and over? But since I started working out regularly at the end of February,…. But wait, there’s more!

GOALS!

I was recently chatting with one of my design classmates who is about to graduate. I asked her what she had planned after graduation and what type of work she was looking to do. She shrugged and replied, “I’m just going to send out a bunch of resumes and hope something sticks.”  You have to realize that I have no pokerface whatsoever and was silently praying that she couldn’t see that I was thinking, “OMG! THAT’S your ‘plan’?!!??!!”  Overall, our teachers do a good job showing all the options and different paths that are available to us as graphic designers. So, yeah, this was shocking to me. My point is not to gossip about a classmate, but to illustrate the importance of concrete goals.

Up until fairly recently most of my life’s goals have been weight loss related. Those who know me in real life know that those goals…um…have been less then achieved. Anyway, I fell into my last job and floated through life, more or less hoping something better would come knocking on the door. Eventually I realized that the only way out is through and it was up to me to improve my situation. So, I had to quickly get acquainted with goal setting.

For me, it’s not setting the goal that’s the hard part. I am going to be Empress of Chicago. Boom. Goal set. See how easy that was?  It’s the allowing myself to achieve it that is scary (or in the case of my impending Empressdom, scary for everyone else). I never envisioned myself as much more then a secretary . So going in a completely new direction is sometimes overwhelming. Being completely honest, if I start to look too far into the future, I get anxious. Like panic attack anxious. I start to think, “But what if I can’t? But what if I do get there there and I fail?? But what if…but what if…but what if….”

Judging from this passage in Steven Pressfield’s, The War of Art where he calls this “the Mother of All Fears,” I’m not alone in my madness:

We fear discovering that we are more then we think we are. More than our parents/children/teachers think we are. We fear that we actually possess the talent that our still small voice tells us. That we actually have the guts, the perseverance, the capacity. We fear that we truly can steer our ship, plant our flag, reach our Promised Land…..We know that if we embrace our ideals, we must prove worthy of them. And that scares the hell out of us. What will become of us? We will lose our friends and family, who will no longer recognize us. We will wind up alone, in the cold void of starry space with nothing and no one to hold on to.

Pretty terrifying, but pretty accurate description of the fear.

In order to stop any sort of resistance from snowballing out of control, I’ve been making small goals to get me over that next hurdle. Sometimes they are incredibly small, as in, “What can I do today/this hour/the next 5 minutes that will get me that much closer to my goals?”  Then I’ll catch myself doing something that a few months before I didn’t think was possible. All those little goals add up and it makes the bigger goals not loom so large.

If we give in to this feeling of fear, then we give even more power to our insecurities and get no place. It’s like that saying, “A ship is safe in the harbor. But that’s not what boats are for.” You were meant to sail. We all were. But it really helps if you at least have an idea where you are going.

Music inspires me more then anything and the song, “The Cave” by Mumford and Sons is the perfect soundtrack for this post. It has a banjo! Who doesn’t love banjos? Oh, put your hand down and just watch it!