Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sexless and the Holy City: Procrastinate your way to success!

This past Chanukkah, I was sitting around making homemade menorahs with some of my friends and we were talking about emotions. Not in the way you would perhaps imagine: a scene of the Golden Girls at their kitchen table, around a cheesecake. Sharing memories, laughs and tears. No, we were talking about how hard it can be to allow ourselves to be comfortable with our emotions. I thought if so many of my girl friends have this roadblock, what's going on with the guys?

A quick survey of a handful of my guy friends confirmed what I was thinking: they have no problem feeling their emotions. If anything, many of them had a hard time getting out of them, they were so comfortable in their feeling. Meanwhile, I work at keeping myself either happy or mildly annoyed. Sometimes when I drive or cycle, a third emotion, road rage, will emerge. But I'm alway working to get back to happy. I'm just uncomfortable feeling anything else.

Then, I came across an article on procrastination. I have always been motivated by deadlines, aspiring to be one of those people who lives by, "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today." But, other than occasional bursts of productivity here and there, I tend to be motivated by: this has to be done now.

Or at least I used to be.

The author describes the main force behind why we procrastinate: because we are uncomfortable. The project we need to do is hard or we're scared we can't do it well, so we avoid thinking about it, seeing what's new on facebook or talking on the phone, until we're so stressed by the deadline that we don't have time to doubt ourselves. Panic overcomes all other emotions.  I realized my discomfort with being uncomfortable wasn't only a dating liability, but a professional one too. I stopped what I was doing, walked over to the mirror and looked myself in the face: I hadn't left everything that was familiar and comfortable to made aliyah because I was scared of discomfort! What was I doing to myself? I was so caught up in my realization that I didn't notice my roommate standing next to me and asking me why I was talking to myself - now that was uncomfortable. I just smiled and went back to work.

And that's the strategy I've maintained over the past few weeks. When unproductive behavior starts knocking at the door I recognize what is happening, look for the emotion that I'm trying to avoid. Spend some time with it until everyone is comfortable, smile to myself, and resume work. I won't say that it's been easy, or that I haven't fallen off the wagon a few times since then. But the more I do it, the easier it becomes. I've gotten to know myself better, had more deep, meaningful conversations with friends, and my to-do list is shorter than ever. When it comes to life, whether it's with relationships or our professional life, the only thing to really be afraid of is the idea that we never really tried. That's an idea worth being uncomfortable with.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Best Things Happen When You Don't Get What You Want

I'm a big Rolling Stones fan. One of my favorite songs by them is You Can't Always Get What You Want. Despite the actual morbid words of the song the refrain is so true - sometimes you might find, you get what you need. This might seem like hopeful fluff, but I see it time and again in life. The following is the most recent example.

One of my good friends got married yesterday in the US. She really wanted to get married in Israel, where here and her chatan live, but for various reasons, it had to happen in the US. As anyone who has been on the internet probably knows, Jerusalem has suffered through an unprecedented snow storm. Who knows what would have been if she had actually gotten married today in Jerusalem as she had so hoped for.

So the next time something you really want doesn't pan out, rather than being disappointed or frustrated, I think the best thing to do is just sit back and smile, because something even better is coming your way!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Miracles: Seen and unseen.

Tonight is the last night of Hanukkah. In Judaism, the closer you get to the end of the holiday, the more special the time is, so there is a lot of powerful energy available for us tonight. Here is something short to think about as you light your candles.

In my opinion, the big miracle of Hanukkah is the fact that there was that one jug of oil waiting for the Maccabees after they beat the powerful Greek army. You know the Greeks tried their best to treif up all of the oil, so that the Jews would be left with nothing.  Unlike the Roman destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, the Greeks weren't interested in destroying the building, but the soul of the Jewish people. Symbolically to them, this meant extinguishing the light of the ever-burning Menorah.

But guess whose plans were thwarted.

As we know, there was one jug of oil that remain untouched, and fit for use to rekindle the light.
G-d hid that jar one from them, and set it aside for us. Who knows what else G-d has hidden away, set aside for us when we need it the most.

We are at the beginning of winter - months of cold darkness. We need to take this thought with us, to light the way. G-d is always working miracles for us. We might not see them - but when we least expect it, and need it the most, it will be there before our eyes.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sexless and the Holy City: Wash, Rinse, Repeat

I was up late rehashing a relationship (with a guy we'll call Mr. Silicon Valley) that just ended with my platonic life partner over What's App (welcome to the future), when he finally just cut me off, "He's not that into you!! Delete his number, delete his texts, delete his emails and MOVE ON!" I knew he was right. And if the guy really wanted to, he still knew how to get in touch with me. As someone who enjoys uncluttering her life, this felt good. I was able to fall asleep pretty easily after that.

When I woke up the next morning, it was a different story. I still had something gnawing at me. I'm not the type to pine over a guy who isn't into me, B"H. Usually I can confidently chalk it up as: their loss, moving on. But there was something different about this situation. I tried to think - what was the thing that was bothering me the most about the way everything had unfolded? It struck me - I had gone out with a  different guy a few days ago who was really great, but very shy. I was the one carrying the conversation. During the date, I laughed to myself at how the tables had turned. Mr. Silicon Valley was always giving me a hard time about being too shy and withdrawn. I felt like G-d put me davka in that situation to recognize how silly my behavior with Mr. Silicon Valley had been, and to learn not to act like that again.

If Mr. Silicon Valley had been the first one to comment on this behavior, I could chalk it up as lesson learned and move on. But I realized, he was the third guy I had gone out with since January that I really liked, and he was also the third guy to tell me that he felt like I was being too shy and difficult to read, and therefore not want to continue things. That was the source of the discomfort I was feeling.

It's one thing to make a mistake once. It's another thing to make a mistake twice. But my heart sunk when I realized I did the same thing three times, over the period of almost a year. That's plenty of time to conduct a lessons learned and implement changes (as a former project manager, I always think in these kind of terms). I kept trying to remind myself that I did show that I had changed my behavior with this last date, but it wasn't enough to deflate the disappointment I felt growing in my chest, along with a determination to not keep making the same mistakes. I recognized a familiar cycle brewing:

1. Fail at something spectacularly
2. Resolve to change and never do that thing again!
3. Put too much pressure on myself, and inevitably fail

Wash, rinse, repeat!

This behavior isn't unique to me, by any means. The fact is, I can't think of one person I've met here in Israel who isn't a little hard on themselves. In order to make it here you have to be driven. The harder you are on yourself, the easier it becomes to fail, because when you put anything under too much pressure, it's bound to explode.

Fortunately for me, I'm incorrigible (and I bet you are too). You don't get to fail so many times unless you have the ability to constantly pick yourself up and believe in your ability to do better next time. Even if you don't enjoy the constant picking yourself up and dusting off before trying again, know that each time you get up, and can recognize what it was that you did before that was problematic, the more likely you are to not make that mistake next time. Who learns how to ride a bike the first time out? Who graduates college without failing a few tests? Who finds happiness in love without having their heart broken first? Not too many people. So, don't be so hard on yourself (I'm definitely speaking to myself here). If we focus on being grateful for every subsequent opportunity we have to correct these mistakes, to conduct ourselves in the way we really hope to, then the easier it is to align our behavior with our desired outcome.

Not that it will be easy, no matter what it is we are trying to correct. Growth usually only comes through hard work. Ultimately, slowly but surely we'll build the muscles we need to change our behavior. All we need in the meantime is to believe in our ability to do better and wait for the next opportunity to try.