Ask the Coach — Week 18

This is the column where, each week, I’ll be answering one website visitor’s question in hopes of supporting all visitors through shared (and likely, relevant) challenges, triumphs, and struggles.

Dear Kerri,

Within the next year, I’ll be hitting a milestone birthday and find myself in a tizzy about how to celebrate. I have input coming at me from all directions.

“Your wife should throw you a big surprise party!”
“Ooh, you could take an exotic trip.”
“Just have a nice dinner with your family.”

Aspects of those suggestions sound both lovely and horrific all at the same time. I’m getting caught up in what I should do so much so that I can’t determine what I want to do. And I fear that what I choose will end up not feeling “enough” after it’s all said and done.

How can I sort through the spinning thoughts to get clear on what best suits me?

Baffled in Biloxi

Dear Baffled,

Happy early birthday!

Celebrating ourselves can evoke so many different emotions. You may be dealing with feelings of worthiness, entitlement, the fear of seeming selfish, battling with societal expectations, and more.

Give this journaling exercise a try to help sort your mind. Before beginning, be sure to ground your energy first (see my response in Ask the Coach — Week 15 for a great way to do just that). Once you feel present, open your journal and do a “mind dump” on all the different thoughts, ideas, and feelings you find coming to surface when considering how to celebrate your big day. The idea here is to just clear your head; nothing more. Once you’ve captured everything that you can at that moment, close your journal, and walk away.

Come back the next day and spend time writing on some of your options — focus one entry on being thrown a surprise party; another on taking a trip; and so on. Throw down some pros and cons for each, and, most importantly, pay attention to how your body is responding to each idea and journal entry. Are you shrugging your shoulders? Clenching your jaw? Feeling butterflies in your stomach? Make note of that as well. Now, close up your journal and walk away.

When you next come back to your journal, be sure to go through a centering/grounding exercise again before moving on to this step. After you feel present in your body, go back to each idea’s entry and notice what feelings are coming up as you consider them. Are you afraid if you have a party that no one will be able to come? Does it tense you up to think about being the center of attention in this way? Are you excited and flattered to think of many people showing up for you and honoring you in this special way?

When you consider taking a trip, are you thrilled at the idea of getting away from it all and celebrating your day with just your wife or a very small group of family and friends? Do you feel a bit disappointed at the idea of not celebrating with more people? Does it not feel as “special” or does the intimacy of it feel just right?

As you explore each option, remember, no reaction or feeling is wrong. Just let yourself jot down any and every thing that comes up for you. Then, once again, close the journal and walk away.

For the final stage of this exploratory exercise, I want you to ask the little child inside how she’d like to celebrate. Sometimes using a pen with a playful color ink or marker can help you more quickly write from that younger place. Let her mind roam free! Who would she like to celebrate with? What kind of environment does she see herself in? What makes her feel special? Write on this last question extensively. Consider giving it its own page with the question at the top — “What makes you feel SPECIAL?”

As you get clearer on how you’d like to celebrate, get ready to set some boundaries with those in your life who are projecting their desires onto you. As ideas or questions come your way, think of a simple way you can move the conversation on — something like “Thanks, I’ll give that some thought,” or “I’m considering many options.” This way you get to speak your truth while also indicating you’re not interested in discussing it further.

The more you honor and give time to all these sides of you, the less likely you’ll be to have regrets after the fact.


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