37: Cheers to a little frustration

30: Be the conductor
31: Follow the fear
32: Plant the seeds
33: Completion is freedom
34: One thing at a time
35: Bigger follow-through
36: Protect the fragile and unruly

37: Cheers to a little frustration

Oh man. Listen. I went on another birthday hike this year, and it wore me OUT. I am not in the same sort of headache purgatory that I was last year, but I do finally have one (a headache) setting in, and I know I asked a lot of my body today, and what I most want is to rest. Mama’s tired, yo.

What’s this past year been about? Getting things unstuck. Really cherishing the sweet spot of “the right amount of frustration.” I have this new theory about this I’ve been called the “bitters theory of frustration.” But it’s me, so why not a little backstory first.

Our kid is now 3. A couple months ago, her daily note from preschool came home with a couple lines about how, at the beginning of the day, she’d come in and said “I need some help with my zipper, because two year olds don’t have a lot of motor skills yet.” Nathan and I looked at each other and laughed, and then went “we really have said ‘motor skills’ to her before, haven’t we.”

It’s a weird thing to say to a little kid, though. And I started thinking about the moments that push me to use more complicated language with her, and realized that it’s when I’m just a little frustrated. Not vibrating with frustration and upset, not perfectly content, just ever so slightly frustrated. Using slightly overcomplex language is a way of very gently trolling a child, which makes me feel like I have any control over the situation, but isn’t outwardly wretched. (It also means she ends up with these vocabulary options that are surprising for her age.)

And then I realized…this is actually true in every part of my life. To return to the “bitters theory,” I like a glass of plain fizzy water. But I LOVE a glass of fizzy water with a few shakes of cocktail bitters in it. But NO WAY am I drinking a glass of plain bitters. The frustration is the bitters, see?

My latent frustration at work, coupled with my relative happiness in my erstwhile role, pushed me to reach out, over and over, to people I liked and admired and respected at work. I asked for help navigating a role change, and information about where their teams were at. They tried things, reached out to their managers, advocated for me. (This has been happening for years, but I picked up the pace this year.) They didn’t always know quite what to do, but the past year has really proven to me that I do make an impression on folks. I kept reaching out, and kept fostering those relationships (something I’ve been wanting to do anyway!). And this spring, one of them was well-timed, and my coworker Cian knew just how to advocate for me, and his upper-level manager confirmed he had perfect timing, and that’s how I’m nearly a month in to a 6-month internal apprenticeship in software engineering. I’m on an especially great team, in over my head with Clojure, in a role that I’ve been trying to work towards for, oh, eight+ years?

Meanwhile, somehow I learned about forest therapy again (inspired somewhat by the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku — forest bathing — but also its own thing), and went on a few guided forest therapy walks. I had this sense that it had something I needed — I was frustrated that I hadn’t found a way to get at certain things inside myself, and once I read about it I went, “oh, I understand now what it is to feel called by something.” (I tried resisting for a while; it consumed me.) There are things I have cracked open for myself by sitting and doing nothing for 20 minutes, or going for an incredibly slow deliberate walk, full of noticing, for a few hours, that feel like they would have taken me years to realize otherwise. And long story short, that is how I’m two months in to a six-month forest therapy guide practicum through ANFT.

Truly, this year I don’t actually feel like letting go of last year’s theme. So I’ll see what I can do to carry it forward. But my newfound appreciation for a soupçon of irritation can’t go undeclared.

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