Talking yourself in off the window ledge.

keep-calmIt can be very windy up there, clinging on by your fingertips, the gusts pulling you every which way.   I have learned to talk myself down from the metaphorical window ledge over the years and it’s becoming an interesting new trend, the idea of how we can talk ourselves in or out of things, talk ourselves happy or heartbroken. (I’m not talking here about talking ourselves into another slice of brownie here. That’s impossible).

I used to be a Drama Queen.   Can you believe it? Before Life started playing emotional volleyball with me, I actually used to go seeking drama!  Now I just pin myself to the wall and hope I don’t get seen when the swirling skirts of Life’s Drama Queen swooshes past me.

In my 20’s and 30’s I sought out life, making small things into dramas just to get that feeling that something was happening (even though plenty was). Then in my 40’s when lots of stuff REALLY happened, I did the opposite. When real drama hit, I went calm.  I went controlled. I went….. the opposite of Drama Queen. 

I realised that in times of real crisis, there is no time for drama.  You’re too busy fighting or flighting, or eating your way though a small cavern of dark salted chocolate. 

The power of our own mind, is far more damaging than any crisis we might face.  No matter what goes on around us, the only thing that matters is how deal with it.

I wrote an article recently about women who have literally talked themselves celibate, despite having partners who fancy them.  I know women who talk themselves out of things all the time because they’re not sure other people will think it will look good, or be ok.  My mum was terrified of being ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ – the worst crime a middle-aged woman could commit – and would talk herself out of perfectly flattering and fitted clothes because she believed she had reached that age where women become de-sexualised, and should fade into the background of society (while remaining at the foreground of the family).

Two new books have come out recently on this idea of how we think drives how we behave, and if we can change the way we think about something, we can change the way we succeed with something.

The first is called Designing Your Life which explores how you can change what’s not working in your life by turning ideas on their head.   More biased towards your working life, they explain how we have two kinds of thoughts in life: “blockers” and “enablers”.   (I would add to this that these labels also refer to people in our lives too – get rid of (or learn to block) the blockers and surround yourself with enablers!)

When we’re being dysfunctional, we get stuck on the blockers – “My house is stuffed to the gills with crap and looks like its been ransacked by a gang of very untidy burglars and therefore I can get NOTHING done”. We can learn to talk ourselves down from that and use enablers to push ourselves to action – “Right, make a list and tackle one room at a time.”

It’s all about reframing the problem (rather than coming up with answers.)  When I ran the marathon two years ago I never believed I could do it. I would look at the map of the 26 mile course and wilt. Then someone gave me a spreadsheet of training runs, and told me to only look at one week at a time. Three miles. I could do that. Then five miles. Then six miles. Before I knew it, I was on the week that said 18 miles and when that happened the course map suddenly looked possibly, just maybe, do-able.

Reframing the problem – and in life, reframing the story – helps you see it in a way that perhaps you might just manage.  See yourself as a forty-something year old frump and you will be a forty-year old frump.   See yourself as a women ready to unleash herself into the second half of her life, and you suddenly can emerge wearing leopard skin boots and laugh at those ridiculous articles with headlines such as ‘Women over 50 shouldn’t wear jeans!’    Reframe that picture right away – women over 50 should wear whatever the fuck they want.  With frilly knickers on to if they so desire.

The second book out is a lighter approach but with the same sort of idea – it’s all in your own mind: the power to self-elevate or self-destruct.   In his new book Happy, Derren Brown (the magician) explores the idea that every day of our lives we tell ourselves the story of what happened to us.  What he teaches is that we can change that narrative.   The events won’t change but only how we react to them.

Last year, all I could see was loss. My marriage ended (about as dramatically as it can get), and I had to face a whole new life and situation.   This year, all I can see is opportunity.

Thank goodness my Drama Queen years are over.   I have taken her portrait down and reframed that picture.

About Grin & Tonic by Alana Kirk

Bouncing into middle age armed with courage, ambition and a pair of tweezers (chin hairs for anyone over the age of 45 reading this) I am a writer with a mission: to redefine this midway point in my life when the last thing I want to do is hang up my high heels and become invisible. This is the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end. A single mum to 3 fabulous girls, an author, and a fundraising consultant, both ends of my candle are on fire. As I enter this new stage of my life, I want to explore what it means for 'mid-aged' women today, who were promised they could have it all, ended up doing it all, and just do not identify with the traditional image of middle age.
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