I’ve been working on a project these past few months, and for it, I’ve been keeping a new list in my bullet journal. To add to my lists of the little things I love, and favorite podcast episodes, and books I want to read, and the things that are saving my life right now, I’ve added a new one: the frustrating moments from my days.
It sounds out of place, right?
I’m an idealist by nature, an optimistic, glass half-full, the sun will come out tomorrow kind of girl. It doesn’t feel natural to keep a list of frustrating moments. In the moment, as I document these snippets from my days, it doesn’t feel good. It makes me feel like I’m screwing things up.
Some days, these precise reminders of how I self-sabotage, or let someone hijack my plans, or just fall victim to bad luck feel pretty gross. I can’t deny how things are going wrong; it’s right there in print, the handwriting my own.
But, because I’m also a rule follower by nature, I track these moments, even though I don’t particularly want to. I’m still tracking them, every day, choosing to attend to what’s frustrating me.
– accidentally waiting a week to respond to an important email
– not finishing my most important task of the day before predictable after-school carpool/dinner craziness
– spending 30 minutes writing a thoughtful and gracious email declining a collaboration because I don’t have time right now (the irony!)
I thought it would be one long exercise in self-mortification, and sometimes it feels like one. (See above.)
But you know what? After it feels gross for about 15 minutes, noticing the frustrating is strangely empowering.
Keeping this list has made me realize how often I deny what’s killing me. This sort of behavior looks so ordinary I didn’t even notice I was doing it, pasting over my frustrations with dismissals like It didn’t take that long. It wasn’t that bad. I didn’t mind too much.
But when my frustrations are out in the open, clearly articulated, right there in print, I can actually do something about them. (If this idea sounds familiar, it’s because I spend two hundred pages talking about this idea in my book Reading People.)
Nothing can change if I’m ignoring or denying things that might scare me. Noticing and naming my own tendencies towards self-destructiveness is the first step in pulling out of them. And I’m seeing how writing these things down is helping me change them.
I still write down my daily frustrating moments, but there aren’t as many to note as there were a couple of months ago.
Knock on something right now for me, because I can’t help but think that will change. I’m certain to enter a new season with new challenges, new frustrations. But noticing what’s killing me? It’s helping, right now.
I would love to hear about your experiences, both past and ongoing, with frustration, denial, facing reality, and change. Tell us all about it in comments?
P.S. When it’s frustration that gets the ball rolling, and one question to ask yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed. For more about my journal: this is the method I use.