I am back at Dating With Dignity after a nearly four week hiatus traveling in Europe. I was traveling with my three daughters ages, 14.5, 12, and 8, plus my partner of 18 months, The Brit. We have all travelled together before, including three weeks in Hawaii, what seems like a zillion long weekends in Scottsdale, Arizona and Napa, California, as well as a two week trek through the Northwest and Canada last summer.
I had nothing but HUGE expectations for this trip, and never for a moment intended it would be anything less than perfect. And that, my dear friends, was my BIGGEST mistake.
Perfect? What the hell is perfect, anyway?
After all, who is “perfect?” What trip is ever “perfect?” What accommodations are “perfect?” What weather is “perfect?” Nothing, I might have realized before leaving, would be perfect.
Yet, despite my advanced training and professional accolades, when the “shit hits the fan,” and I am under stress, I consistently struggle with wanting to categorize everything into TWO categories — For example, a person is “In” or “Out.” A situation is “Good or Bad.” In fact, because of this tendency to think in terms of only “black” or “white,” and demanding nothing less than “perfect” I spent much time during my hiatus reminding myself to live, “in the question mark.”
What is the Question Mark?
I like to use imagery to help clients (and myself) understand what life is like when lived “in the question mark.” Imagine then, if you will, the two extreme options. For example, the man I am dating is “in” — meaning he is “the one,” or he is “out,” meaning I must break up with him immediately. If I choose to live in the “question mark,” however, I am standing smack dab in the middle of both these extreme options.
What, though, does it feel like to BE, to LIVE life in the question mark? Here’s how to experience those feelings so that you can begin to go there effortlessly when you feel yourself heading down the path of “either/or” black and white thinking
1. Think of a situation or person you might typically categorize into either “bad” or “good.”
2. Close your eyes and imagine yourself standing at a crossroads with two distinct road signs pointing in opposite directions. One sign reads “in,” or whatever extremely positive category you choose, while the other sign reads “out,” or the opposite of the other sign.
3. Walk towards the positive alternative — this is the road that will lead you to the “good” feelings, and then experience these positive feelings completely. Feel into experiences, thoughts or actions that create these “good” feelings. Pause here for 30 seconds, feeling these positive feelings completely without judgement.
4. Now, walk towards the negative alternative — the road that will lead you to the “bad” feelings. Then, feel into the experiences, thoughts or actions that can create these “bad” feelings. Again, pause for 30 seconds to feel into the feelings completely without judgement.
5. Walk back to the crossroads. How does it feel standing there, in neutral territory? I know that for me when I stand in this place it can feel completely foreign. I feel “out of control,” and often it’s because in the “question mark” I don’t know how I am “supposed” to feel. It can be SO strange because in this place — in the question mark — there is no definitive answer. It is purely the experience of simply BEING.
During my trip to Europe I put myself in the question mark often — especially when my kids were arguing or I was frustrated with The Brit. Reflecting now, I can’t believe how often I found myself fantasizing the options or outcomes that were the result of choosing to see an experience as either black or white. For example, I either want to marry The Brit tomorrow, or break up with him tonight. I am NEVER taking my kids on a trip again, or I am planning next summer’s trip across American in an RV and hoping I can have them for 3 weeks instead of 2 1/2. Ultimately, I was able to get to the question mark without much grief or frustration, and begin to simply experience EVERYTHING without judgement. What a joy it was to live in this beautiful yet slightly uncomfortable place!
Life in the question mark is neither black or white. It is GREY.
Life in the question mark requires simply being. Life in the question mark means experiencing life without judgement. Life in the question mark requires that I shift my focus from “the destination” to the journey itself.
And so it is the journey …the process… the learning…and being able to experience moments of sheer joy, frustration, or even anger… that becomes just as important as “the date,” you might go on next weekend, as seeing the Eiffel Tower, walking by the Thames, or viewing Michaelangelo’s “The David” in all it’s magnificence.
Let go of “perfect,” check out GREY today and see what life is like when it’s YOUR Fall color. I can’t wait to hear how it goes…
P.S. If you have a tendency towards “black or white” thinking and are curious what other limiting thoughts, beliefs and actions might be stifling your love life, make sure to take the “D-Factor” Date-ability Assessment ASAP and work with me directly to create YOUR plan for change now!