I woke up this morning in a sheer panic. It felt like there was a small rodent eating a hole in my stomach from the inside out. Graphic and gross, I know, but that’s what it felt like. I usually don’t wake up before 8:30am but it was 6:00am and my body refused to sleep any longer. Actually, my body was yearning for sleep—my mind refused to let it happen.
Last night at a powerful-woman, inspiring-idea-studded event called the “Happier Hour” two women I don’t know who recognized me from this blog came up to me to tell me how much they’ve enjoyed reading it so far. Woah! I launched two weeks ago and I already have fans. It felt good and it totally freaked me out at the same time. It made me uneasy and self-conscious. It made me smile in a really goofy way. It made me scared. It made me proud. It made me want to throw up.
Back to me in bed this morning at the ungoddessly hour of 6:00am. My mind was going totally nuts about money. And I was listening intently, even cheering it on to give me more evidence as to why I am a total disaster and I’m going to go broke in two months and I should probably just curl up and die. I tried a favorite Louise Hay affirmation: “All is well. Only good can come of this situation. I am safe.” No go. The little rodent in the pit of my stomach cheekily gnashed his gnarly little teeth at the idea that I could let myself off the hook so easily.
I tossed and turned and tried to go back to my delicious dream in which I was spooning with a guy who looked like a cross between an Abercrombie and Fitch model and Mark Ruffalo (one of my all-time top crushes). Not happening. Up I sprang to do some intense cash flow calculations. When I get scared I like to do projections of some sort —usually I look at my calendar and plan my year but today my brand of projection was financial. I looked at my expenses up through July 1st and my income for the same period. Before I wrote it all out and did this reality check I had a running monologue that went something like this: “I don’t have enough money for what I want. Who am I to think I can spend the summer at the beach writing? That’s too expensive. I’m too young. How dare I take such an indulgence? I should cancel. Good. I’m going to cancel the trip and spend the summer in the city eating ramen noodles and not getting pedicures. Better yet, I’m going to sell my apartment. Yes, that’s brilliant. I’m going to sell my apartment and move back to Maine and spend no money ever again.”
Yet when I did the numbers there was a significant surplus in income versus expenses in my life for the next two months. I’m often so scared and stuck in my head, too busy beating myself up for past spending and being scared of future expenses to take a moment to get real and look at the truth. And when I looked at the truth this morning it was way better than I’d thought. Take that, gnarly-toothed, stomach churning rodent!
The truth is, I woke up this morning totally freaked out and in a complete mental tailspin because I had hit an “Upper Limit Problem.” Gay Hendricks goes into detail about this in his book The Big Leap but the long and short of it is that we each have a thermostat for how good we can allow ourselves to feel. Then, when something amazing happens that takes us beyond the level of good we usually allow ourselves to feel, we subconsciously create an “Upper Limit Problem” to bring us back down to our usual, comfortable level of feeling. (An “Upper Limit Problem” might look like picking a fight with a loved one, overeating, getting in an accident, etc.)
The moral of the story is multi-fold:
1. Get real about your finances. The reality of your cash flow might be delightfully surprising.
2. Sometimes your mind is not your friend. We think 60,000 thoughts a day; 98% of them are negative and they’re also the same thoughts we thought yesterday and the day before. Take them less seriously. As Marie Forleo said last night at the “Happier Hour,” “We have minds but we are not our minds.”
3. When things are going really well and then suddenly things start to go South, it’s generally an “Upper Limit Problem.” Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, thank your adorable mind for trying to keep you comfortably in a mediocre state of semi-happiness, and then go for bliss. I find when I acknowledge that the disaster that I think I see in front of me is simply my mind’s way of trying to protect me from getting happier than it’s used to, often that problem disintegrates.
What kind of “Upper Limit Problems” have you experienced? Have you ever been surprised by the delightful reality of your cash flow once you got up the courage to actually get real about it? Do you think I’m nuts? Are you nuts? Any and all comments welcome!