Are you riding the blame bus?

Are you stuck in the past? Spending too much time thinking about something that happened yesterday, or last month?

Endlessly rehashing conversations and berating yourself for saying something dumb, not being kind enough, or that whole host of bad decisions from 2009?

I didn’t treat her well. That was very poor behavior.
I made that huge mistake at work. That was so dumb, and it cost our company a lot of money.
I said that thing that I shouldn’t have. What an idiot. I should have been more sensitive.
Can you believe it? I called that guy seven times in a row. SE-VEN.

Maybe you have been taking a really long ride on the blame bus. But now it’s time to get off.

Here’s a concept I got from Brendon Burchard, my very favorite personal development guru.

Everybody talks about letting go of the past, but one way to really make peace with yourself is to develop a real fondness for what happened. A kind of nostalgia.

Yes, I said that one thing, and it was pretty dumb. But other than that, we had a really great time that day.

Of coooourse I called that guy seven times. That is so hilarious of me. Maybe it looked a little crazy, but I really liked him.

People make mistakes sometimes. But I learned from it. I won’t do the same thing again…

This means appreciating the past: the relationships you had, the time or work you put in, the good feelings you got to feel.

If you’ve been riding the blame bus, take a moment to really appreciate the good things about the situation. Yes, maybe some things went wrong. But if it was 90 percent good and 10 percent bad, then you get to choose which parts to remember.

I know which one I would choose…

Don’t want to call your parents? Read this.

My mom got sick a month after I graduated from college. It was a tumultuous year full of hospital stays, and for a long time, we didn’t know if she would live.

Fast forward almost ten years, and my mom is still with us. We didn’t lose her, but due to the complications of her illness, we got a very different version of her. A very confused one. Most of the time she knows who I am. If not, I can always remind her. But it’s not the same.

It’s hard. I can remember getting annoyed with her before she was sick because she was telling me a story I’d already heard, but now she doesn’t remember those stories.

These days, my mom doesn’t call anymore. It’s my dad instead, telling me about doctor’s appointments or what he’s watching on TV. And maybe sometimes I’d rather be doing something else, like watching my own shows, or going out with a friend, or doing my work.

But I love my dad. And I love my mom. And some day they’re not going to be around. And I’m going to miss being able to hear the stuff I think is mundane now.

So now I invite 55 year old Kristyn to the table. She wants nothing more than to talk to her parents. And I’ve noticed that that has changed the conversations.

I get a lot more interested. We get beyond the surface stuff. We talk about more than just doctor’s appointments and what’s going on in my sisters’ lives.

This is a trick I invite you to try. With anything, really: time with your kids. Dates with your significant other. Work celebrations that you’d rather not attend.

Because if life has taught me anything, it is that things are always shifting. They are never certain. And even if you can’t imagine the day that something won’t be the same (your job, your family, your friendships), that time is probably coming.

So if you can find a way to savor your experiences now — and turn them into memories, not just events you weren’t really present for — you might thank yourself one day.

How often do you wash your coffee mug?

Long ago, in my dating days, I went on a first date.

We were talking about how much we both liked coffee when he said, “My officemate doesn’t wash his coffee mug. He lets it sit on his desk overnight, and it gets really gross rings around the inside. It can’t be sanitary.”

And then he said exactly what I didn’t want him to say. “Do you do that?”

Yes. I do. I let my cup sit out overnight and I wash it in the morning. What can I say? It makes for fewer trips to the kitchenette.

But I was preeeeetty excited about this guy. “Of course not,” I said. I smiled and changed the subject.

A more honest answer would have been, “I do. But I might be willing to change the habit.”

As you can imagine, this relationship fizzled long before he could discover my slovenly coffee habits.

I was super sad. Like, embarrassingly sad for way longer than I should have been. Eventually it became comical. He played the banjo — maybe that was why I was so bummed?

I persisted in my sorrow. Cleeeearly I had said something horribly wrong and nothing good would ever happen in my life.

But… years later, we are all happy. Everyone is doing well, living separate lives, and I still leave my empty, dirty coffee cup on my desk all too frequently.

If something doesn’t work out the way you thought it would (like a job, friendship, or family situation), then it brings you closer to reality. It frees up your time and energy to pursue other good things.

Other cool banjo players who don’t mind that you don’t wash your coffee mug. Deeper friendships. A better job.

It does not mean that you are a devastated failure clown, so you shouldn’t treat yourself as such.

It could, instead, be an indication that there is something else positive lurking in your future, for you to work toward and discover.

This week, pay attention to what you’re choosing to dwell on. Specifically, if you are dragging yourself through the mud over some soggy conflict, or finding some other way to treat yourself like a criminal, please notice that. Is that mindset doing you any favors?

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Ask Kristyn #4: “I’m scared to like someone again.”

Have a question for me? Email it to kristyn@kristynchildres.com
with the subject "Ask Kristyn."

Hi Kristyn,

I have been on a few dates with a wonderful guy named Jeff. Things are going well. I feel like I should be really happy about this all the time, but instead, I am dealing with some fear and sadness. I like Jeff, and that is scary. I can’t help but feel afraid of when he discovers the things he doesn’t like about me, like my too-white legs, or how I get really emotional about things sometimes. I know these aren’t the most productive thoughts, but I’m scared to like someone again. I have a case of the sads, so I am just doing things slowly and letting it be.

The Sads

Dear Sads,

Fear and uncertainty are the cost of creating something new.

The novelty brings you all these fluttery feelings. But there’s also the dread.

Because during the very early stages of dating (and maybe pursuing any kind of dream), you don’t know.

You don’t know if what you are building, or hoping to build, is even a real thing.
You don’t know where it might go.
You don’t know who else is in the picture.
You don’t know if the other person is just really skilled at saying words that sound good (even if they aren’t true).
You don’t know.

But still. You really like the other person. And you are willing to take a chance and keep exploring things. Even though it’s scary.

There is a lot of uncertainty, and I would wager that Jeff is probably feeling some of those same things. It’s the cost of all the new and budding feelings: the gift and the challenge. All that hope, hand-in-hand with the very real possibility that it might not turn into anything, and you might get hurt.

But I wonder if Jeff might end up really, really liking all the things you mention. The things you’re afraid of him discovering. Your too-white legs. How you get emotional about things sometimes. (Like maybe he spent five years with some weird robot-like girlfriend, and someone like you, who shows some emotion sometimes, might be a welcome change. After all, if you’re emotional about something, it just means you care, right? And sometimes it’s nice to be cared for.)

But even if he doesn’t like those particular things, here is what I know to be true: there are a million other wonderful things, most of which you probably aren’t even aware of, that Jeff may get the joy of discovering about you.

And that would be a privilege.

Three Tips for Keeping Your Heart Open When It’s Hard

how to stay vulnerableIf you’re like some of my clients, you struggle with keeping your heart open and not locking it away in a Doom Fortress.

This happens with best friends, partners, family. It doesn’t matter how long the person in question has been around, the length of your history or the depth of their devotion. The Doom Fortress still beckons. You still fight the temptation to close off your heart.

The situation might look something like this:

A conversation doesn’t go well and you start to feel unappreciated. Not cared for. Like maybe you should be treated better.
And you start to consider retreating into the Doom Fortress.

You are having a really good time, and you start to worry about the future — maybe something will happen and it won’t always be so good. What if you get hurt?
And you think it might be a good idea to hide in the Doom Fortress.

A friend or loved one doesn’t pick up the phone or return your text or thank you for your birthday gift.
And you seriously consider kicking them out of your life.

You move to a new town, you don’t meet anyone for a while, and you find yourself hanging out in the Doom Fortress.
Solitary. Locked up. Safe. Alone.

I watch people go into the Doom Fortress all the time, and here’s my opinion about it:

Your friends and lovers and family need your help. Sometimes they don’t even know there’s a problem — they have no idea how grievously they have offended your beautiful heart, or if they have some inkling, they don’t know how to fix it. People can be pretty clueless sometimes, but chances are, they have good intentions.

They’re just living their lives and trying to show they care, taking care of the stuff they have to take care of. But something triggers you, and you decide to put up the emotional drawbridge, hang out inside your Doom Fortress, and not allow them in.

So here are some questions to ask yourself the next time the Doom Fortress is beckoning.

  • Will this get me what I want in the long run?
  • Is the Doom Fortress really beneficial to me, or do I just perceive that it is keeping me safe?
  • Have I considered that something else might be at play, too (Person X is busy, might be upset with me, has her own Doom Fortress, just wants to relax for a while after work, or lost her phone)

This isn’t a message about not giving up. It is fine to draw lines where they need to be.

But I want you to draw lines of your choosing, when it is beneficial to you, and not because you feel that you HAVE TO. I want you to be intentional about your actions, not driven to do stuff because you think it’s the only way. There are lots of ways, lots of paths, lots of perspectives.

If you can bear to keep the connection open, it is sometimes a better route.

So next time you find yourself staging a retreat into your Doom Fortress, ask yourself: is this really the truth? Is this really what I want? Is there a better way?