Happy But Can’t Stop Worrying About When the Other Shoe Will Drop?

Fotolia_8597771_Subscription_L-133x200Yeah, I know that feeling. You are definitely not alone. Let me share with you a Universal Truth (for realz – a Universal Truth!) that will chance your whole perspective about this whole worrying-when-life-is-awesome thing.

But first – what the hell does that phrase mean anyway? Did shoes used to drop out of the sky for no reason when you were happy?

I actually looked it up. It seems to stem from a very old story about a traveler who would drop his shoe loudly on the floor when taking it off, thus waking the person sleeping in the room below him. Then, the person below would lie away annoyed and waiting for the other shoe to drop so he could release his anxiety and fall back asleep. Apparently the traveler was not so nice and would lay the second shoe down gently knowing it would keep the other guy awake as he waited for the other shoe to drop. How sinister!

In any event, the point is we have a tendency to think something bad will happen when things are going really well. You’re in love, you are enjoying your job, you are feeling healthy and fit, you look freakin’ awesome in those new jeans, and you think, “Shit, I’m feeling so good. But this isn’t going to last…”

And you’re probably right about that.

I say this NOT to buzzkill you, but to remind you of the truth that the only constant in this world is CHANGE! Nothing stays the same. When you feel blissed-out like, “Wow today was AMAZEBALLS!,” you will eventually have a day where you feel more like, “Eh, today was just alright.”

The cool thing is the converse is also true. When you feel awful, the world does light up again. Nothing EVER stays the same. EVER.

Ultimately, I think we feel this “waiting for the other shoe to drop thing” because we know the Truth of the Universe – that things are constantly changing – yet we get attached to wanting them NOT to change.

That’s where the suffering starts. When we get attached to what’s going on expecting it not to change.

The suffering that comes along with attachment and thinking it is possible for things to never change happens in regards to good feeling and bad feelings.

It happens when we are in the depths of despair and get even more depressed thinking that we may always feel this way and can’t find a way out.

It also happens when we are attached to feeling good, hoping it will never end – and then get even more bummed when it does.

Here’s the thing – even though things change, we don’t have to get all nihilistic about it. This is not a reason to say to yourself, “Ah what the hell. Why bother enjoying this awesomeness? It’s not going to last.” Nor is it a reason to perseverate on when things are going to change.

The solution to this issue of waiting for the other shoe to drop is to be in the present moment. To stay in the now. When you start worrying about when the bad thing is going to happen, tell yourself, “Whoa, Nellie! Is there a shoe on my head? No! So I am going to stay fully present in this moment and enjoy it. Enjoy it fully!”

Ask yourself, “What is going on RIGHT NOW?” Oh! Check it out! I’m feeling good!

The more you are able to be fully present with yummy juicy feelings, the more you are able to stretch them out in time, perceive them as lasting longer in that Einsteinian-time-warping kind of way. And who knows – it may be a REALLY long time before that feeling changes, so there’s no need to brush it aside with worry. If things are bound to change, you might as well have an awesome time while they are amazeballs, RIGHT?

And if you’re feeling down, know that this too will change. ‘Tis the law of the Universe, yo!

Please do share below about your experiences with the fear that shoes will start falling when you’re happy. I always read and respond! And I want my tribe to get REALLY good at enjoying life’s juiciness when it’s going on;)

Complaining: Do you find yourself complaining a lot these days, or know someone who does? Enter: CHOICE


Students on an Alaskan Outward Bound mountaineering course: the ultimate breeding ground for complaining...and learning not to.

“Who you are, what you are, and where your life is going are all choices”~Joseph Luciani

It can often be easy to fall into the mindset that life happens to us, and when we experience life from this point of view, we often fall into the pattern of complaining when things aren’t how we’d like them to be.  “I hate how I am always so tired” “The house is so messy” “My boss is a jerk” “I hate that my boyfriend is always late” “I am so out of shape” “It is so annoying how so-and-so always complains” (that one is particularly ironic!). All these statements, while perhaps speaking complete or partial truths, send out an energy of helplessness when we just use them to complain. Enter: CHOICE. We can actually choose to do something about most of these things, and at a minimum choose how we respond to it. They need not suck us dry of our energy, which is what complaining does. We can be happier as a result! And that’s kinda the point, right?

The perspective of lack of choice begins at a young age. Back in the day when I guided mountaineering courses for at-risk youth with Outward Bound, I would remind the students that none of them had to be there, and that if they didn’t want to be there, they could go home. To be on a challenging expedition and have it be a success, you had to want to be there. The response was often, “I don’t have a choice. I have to be here or I have to go to a correction facility” or “If I went home, my parents would send me to military school, so I don’t have a choice,” and other such examples…and more complaining. The point, however, was that while the choices available may not be the choices we want, everything was a choice nonetheless. You can choose to stay and play and work hard in the mountains, or choose to go to military school, for example. These choices also shape the next part of your life, as well as how you experience the present moment and circumstances. As the days on these courses went by, these young kids starting saying things to each other like, “Well, if you don’t like what I cooked, you have a choice: either carry it out or eat it, but please stop complaining about it because I worked hard at it even if you don’t like it.” Harsh? Not really. Life is too short for complaining. There are way better things to do at dinnertime in the mountains, like watch the stars and tell stories. Complaining drains not only you, but those listening to you.

This perspective can get even stronger in adulthood after years of feeling limited in our options. In my coaching practice today, a common statement is, “If you only understood the circumstances, you’d realize I don’t have a choice.” Well, as in the above example, just because we don’t like the options doesn’t mean we don’t have a choice. Choices are often tough, and we’d often rather not make a choice at all. Yet, that too is a choice made (isn’t there a Rush lyric about that????). The main distraction in a situation where all our choices, well, suck is that we forget we have a choice about how we respond to it. After all, really we are complaining because we aren’t happy. So…how can we make choices that make us happier when we can’t change the facts?

One woman at a coaching workshop I was at described being targeted at work to be pushed out of a partnership that she had spent years working towards. She felt absolutely helpless and attacked and was complaining effusively about it (note: sometimes when we are complaining, we can convince ourselves we are actually just telling a story). When asked why she was choosing to feel so defeated about this, she responded by saying, “I don’t have a choice about feeling this way. If you just understood the situation, you’d see I have no choice about how I feel right now. This stress is REAL.”

Well, exactly. The stress IS real. However, it is also real that we choose how to respond to a situation. This does not dismiss the complete awfulness of her situation. There is a time and place for processing the grief around that. However, she had already done that, and now her goal was to feel better in a circumstance that wasn’t going to change anytime soon. She spent many minutes describing her scenario in detail trying to get people to understand why she felt so bad. She was asked once again to think about why she was choosing to feel that way. As you can imagine, there was a lot of resistance around this. However, eventually, after quiet moments alone and support from others, at the end of the day she realized she could step out of her anxiety about the situation, and move into a place of more grace and power. She had decided that’s how she wanted to be in this situation. When this finally happened, it was a huge shift for her. It didn’t change the circumstances. They were still very real, and very awful. However, it did change her experience of it to one that better served her and made her happier. It stemmed for realizing choice in what we do and how we choose to be. Her complaining and helplessness were draining her, and now she could come from a place of more clarity and action.

So, what to do when all that annoying stuff gets in the way? If you can, start with trying to make requests instead of complaining. For example, if someone is always showing up late with you, instead of complaining to your other friends about how they always do this, make the request that they be more mindful about being on time because it is important to you, and being on time is a sign of respect for you (some people don’t feel that way!). If they continue to be late, then either don’t expect them to come on time, or don’t make plans where being on time is important. If your dessert at a restaurant is bad, don’t call the waiter over and complain about it. Just make a request to get a different one. If they don’t oblige, write a review stating the facts and don’t go back. Make a valiant attempt to change the situation. Complaining will just wear you down. That’s the last thing we need!

If you honestly can’t change it (not just thinking that you can’t change it, or are immobilized by fear about changing it), then try this: LET IT GO! Try your best to shift your perspective and see the bigger picture; do the work to be in a perspective that serves YOU better and allows you to be happier. How to do that is a huge topic, but you get what I mean. We’ve all done it at some point in our lives: However hard it might have been to let go of being totally angry or jealous or sad, at some point we realized that it was no longer serving us, and we moved on to bigger and better things.

Choose to be happy, either by changing your circumstance, or your perspective. You deserve that…and more! I realize this is easier said than done. But isn’t that the truth about most things in life worth doing?

“If you can change something, why be unhappy? If you can’t change something, why be unhappy?”~ Shantideva