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It’s Not Always Sunny: Navigating the 'Dips' with Grace and Gratitude

Erin: Welcome to Hotter Than Ever, where we uncover the unconscious rules we've been following. We break those rules and we find a new path to being freer, happier, sexier, and more self expressed. I'm your host, Erin Keating.

Today, I want to talk about managing the dips. You know what the dips are. You're going along great. You're chugging along towards your goals. You're generally optimistic and happy. Things are good. And then bit by bit, the darkness comes. And whether that's in the form of stress, or interpersonal conflict, or a bout of insecurity, or something gets triggered in your psychology.

When things start to look a little less rosy, a little more dark. It happens to everyone, no one can go along in life and stay chipper and optimistic and power through to get their goals without these sort of blips on the radar screen of life.

Lately, I've been in a dip. And the dip has come, partly, and this sounds insane, but Seasonal Affective Disorder, I think, is a real thing. I, like, criticize myself for being affected by it, but that's dumb, right? It is possible that the lack of vitamin D and the encroaching darkness earlier in the day has a physiological and psychological impact on people. And I believe that I'm particularly sensitive to that.

So every year around the beginning of daylight savings time, when the days get shorter and the night comes sooner, I find myself a little bit sad. I find myself a little less cheerful. I find myself mourning the loss of summer and that feeling of freedom that comes with the sunshine and summertime. Combined with that, an ex who is a little bit volatile and unpredictable in his own moods and his own behavior. Twin tweens, two 12 year olds who are going through their own emotional, hormonal, social, psychological storms all the time.

If I had a little chart or a graph, it would be like those sound meters on old stereos where you see the lines all lined up together, but they're all kind of going up and down at different times. That is my household. That is my life. And managing the mood o meter around here. Can be really intense. And being a single mom and absorbing the emotional experience of my children's lives in middle school and their social dynamics and their relationship with their dad and being in a custody family and going back and forth between homes.

Woof, you know, managing their parents, instability and imperfections. Wow. I mean, it's a lot for them and then it's a lot for me to absorb everything that's going on with them and to want to be the one person that they can count on for tenderness and love, understanding and support when I'm having my own moments.

Wow. The reality of single motherhood has really sunk in for me this year, especially in the last couple of months. I also was working on a consulting job that was incredibly demanding for a short period of time and it overtook everything and my self care flew out the window. So I was eating candy over Halloween, which I haven't done in almost 10 years.

I've been allowing myself to eat sugar. I have a bad relationship with sugar. I guess I need to experiment again with that to learn that lesson one more time. When I was so busy, I couldn't exercise for two weeks. And I've really come to understand that exercise is a key to my mental health, my wellbeing, a positive relationship with my body, a feeling of strength and agency.

Wow. I mean, all this stuff. All at once. Coupled with I have been on a high of liberation for the past about 18 months, and I have been feeling free and sexual and fun and energetic and pretty and alive and living in my body in a new way. I mean, there's just been so much good stuff going on. I have been released from the stress of a corporate nine to five or eight to seven.

I have been shielded from the life of commuting and meetings and endless zooms and all of that and thrown into the life of a creative person, which very much resembles my life in my twenties where I did what I needed to do to make money. And I prioritized my creative work. And wow, I mean, that's a lot, right, just to take a moment now with all of you to acknowledge that's a lot, that's a lot of change, that's a lot of new stuff, that's a lot of pattern breaking, that's a lot of revelation, and why I expect the run of positivity.

And optimism and enthusiasm to continue uninterrupted is silly, right? Because no one can have only highs and no lows. No one can have only sunshine and no darkness. No one can have only winning days at the craps table and never lose a bet. So where I'm at is just working really hard on being in acceptance that there are dips.

I know you feel them too. I know you wonder when the dips happen, when they'll end, when you'll ever come out of it. When I indulge the dip, I go deeper into fear of the future. I make a stew of all the things that could go wrong. I lose my sense of gratitude. I lose my sense of perspective and I focus on the oh fuck of it all, the what have I done of it all.

It's not that I want to go back to the life I used to have, but that life had predictable contours. That life had predictable misery as well. That life had predictable stress and pain. I don't want to go back. I don't want. What I used to have, but I want the optimized optimal version of what I'm building today and it's un-fucking comfortable to be in the transition between what once was and what I believe can be It's uncomfortable to be in the day to day ups and downs sometimes I'm an optimist.

I believe that things are going to work out and part of why I am a successful optimist is because I have a track record of success that I often look at and point to and go, nope, that wasn't a fluke. I can actually believe that the future is bright. I can actually believe that I will manifest the life that I want.

I can actually believe that I'll get the things I need to get me through and that I will find joy and peace and happiness. Because when I have set out to get things in the past, now that I am 52, I know that while the only constant is change, my changes have always been for the best. My journey has always taken me to the next place where I needed to go.

My challenges have always pushed me through to the next plateau. But fuck, just cause you know that life goes in cycles and that it goes in seasons doesn't mean the dips don't happen. Doesn't mean it doesn't sometimes get a little dark in my head. In my twenties, when so much about my life was unwritten when all I had was big goals and big dreams and hope that I would be a creative person for a living, that I would find someone to love me, that I would build an adult life, that I would make enough money, that I would find creative fulfillment, that I would find my place in the world, that I would find a career in an industry or, or an artistry that welcomed me.

I was so fearful in the first couple of years after college, that things would get really dark for me because I wanted so much, I wanted so much. And I did not yet have the evidence that I could manifest the things I wanted in my life. All I had was optimism and hope. And then the flip side of that, the fear that I didn't know whether I would ever evolve into the person that I imagined myself to become.

Today, I don't have that fear and today I have a couple of tools to handle the dips. One, I understand that they will pass. So I don't know if that's a tool or just a knowing, but I've seen enough. I've been through enough. I've lived enough. I've felt enough that I know this too shall pass. My uncle, who was a Shakespearean actor, said that to me once when I was in my twenties and I was lamenting something.

And he said, Erin, 'This too shall pass.' And I thought, well, that's, huh, that's interesting. That's right. This too shall pass. You can think that in the good times and you can think that in the bad times. You can think that when you're having conflict with your ex husband, when things aren't moving fast enough in your life, when, you know, for me, I'm in this relationship and I'm in love, but I'm also.

Sometimes I get scared that my messy life with my ex husband and my children and all of that is going to be too much drama for him to handle. And that he'll all of a sudden say, you know what, Erin, you're not fucking worth this. Like, I can't, I can't do this. This is too much for me. I need you to be a certain way and you're not that way, or I need your life to be neater than it is. And I am afraid of that. And at the same time, so much of that is in my head.

So much of that is in my head of thinking that I have to not have love because my life is real and messy and emotional and sometimes fucked up. That's not the truth of what's happening. You know, that's my fear running rampant and telling me stories.

And the thing that I come back to is just trusting that I can ride out the discomfort. When I was younger the discomfort was intolerable. The discomfort caused me to be a compulsive overeater, caused me to be occasionally depressive. And I don't know what people could see on the outside I'm very good at seeming like I have my shit together. I'm very good at pretending that I am you know, super buttoned up and part of that is not an act, a lot of that is not an act.

But sometimes I just put on a brave face so people couldn't see what I was going through. Today I'm more integrated. Today I accept that the darkness comes with the light and that fear comes with love. And that you can't always be hopeful and optimistic that you are going to experience things.

And I, there is a culture and a cult of eternal positivity that I think is really toxic and dangerous that I see reflected in social media a lot. I am not a believer that you can always be positive. I am a believer in feeling your feelings. This, too, shall pass.

I have gotten better at reaching out to friends, at leaning on my therapist, at journaling when I'm having feelings that are overwhelming, just getting them out of my body and onto the page. Writing has always been my friend. In that way, I have always been my closest confidant through my journal. It always makes me feel better. I do talk back to the pessimistic voice in my head. I do try to turn the radio station when it's telling me nonsense, things that are too dark that are damning me in some way that are saying this is foolish, what you're doing is foolish. The way you're living is foolish. Get your shit together, Erin, live in reality.

That inner voice can be very chiding and aggressive and. I make a practice of talking back to it, and telling it, this moment is just a moment. I'm allowed to feel fear. I'm allowed to feel overwhelmed. I'm allowed to be tired. I'm allowed to feel lonely. The trouble comes when you tell yourself, everything is okay, and things are not okay. That's lying. That's lying to yourself.

And lying to myself is the thing that got me into the biggest trouble in my life in the past. That kept me stuck in a long marriage. That kept me in chronic overwork mode. That had me competing professionally in a way that, you know, felt good when I won. But you can't only live for the wins. You have to somehow be okay with the ups and downs.

Another thing that I think is challenging me these days is that I am working really hard on having better boundaries. When you have better boundaries, it can be very lonely to stand up for yourself, to assert your worth, to tell people they can't treat you a certain way, they can't talk to you a certain way, that there are consequences to their behavior in terms of their access to you. That's really scary sometimes to set boundaries and to accept the consequences of that when you're a person who wants approval, meaning you're a person, right? Like, who doesn't want approval? Everyone wants approval.

So when you're a person, It's hard to set boundaries and to accept that maybe other people are not going to like the things you have to say, and maybe you want approval from those people. But at the end of the day, you only have you. You are the person who needs to have your own back.

And if you are a person who has sold yourself out in order to go along to get along. If you have tolerated intolerable situations in order to make other people happy at the cost of your own wellbeing, at the cost of your own self esteem, your own sense of self worth, it can be very difficult and very painful to change that pattern.

And I'm in the process of trying to change that pattern in a couple of relationships in my life. And it is really fucking hard. It is really hard, but it feels better. It does feel better than selling myself out.

So I started talking about the seasonal change and the fact that it gets dark early. And here I am holding my own boundaries and my own worth, and it's all part of the same thing.

It's an evolution. It's a life. I'm trying to live authentically, deeply, richly. I'm trying not to push aside the feelings I'm feeling.

The only way out is through. I truly believe that. I believe that for you, if you are feeling dark feelings, if things feel hard, if you feel scared, and it's so important to have your own back, no matter what that looks like.

For me, sometimes it's turning on the hot tub, even though it costs too much money to heat it and sitting in it and letting it massage my back and chilling out. Sometimes it's taking an edible and letting myself just be a little fuzzy. Sometimes it's prioritizing time with my boyfriend, even though my kids would prefer if I didn't go out.

What are the things that you do to take care of you when things feel hard? What are the things that make you feel like you can get through whatever the dip is? How do you handle it when the darkness comes?

You don't have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. And so many of us want to be in denial over the fact that this happens and always put on a shiny, brave face to the world, but at least to ourselves, we should be able to acknowledge, yeah, you can't have the sunshine without the darkness. You can't have the day without the night. You can't have the chocolate without the peanut butter. Oh, you could, but it's not as good. You definitely can have the chocolate without the peanut butter. And you can really just not have chocolate at all, that doesn't seem to be the choice I'm making these days.

But it's inevitable, right? That things will be imperfect. Life is not perfect. Even someone like me who has gone through this radical, positive transformation in the last couple of years, I don't do it without fear. I don't do it without questioning. I sometimes say to myself, Oh my God, you should probably look for a job. You should probably go back on the path because it's safer.

But then I know that that's not right for me, and I'm determined for the first time in my life to live through my intuition, to trust my body. My body has been giving me so much new information these days. Now that I'm in my body for the first time, I think in my life, my head and my body are truly connected.

I think for so long, I lived only in my head. Especially when I was in a marriage where there was no intimacy and where I didn't have a consistent way to connect with myself physically. And I was so mean to myself about my body, my food, my weight. It felt safer not to have a relationship with my body.

But today, my body is my friend and it gives me all kinds of information about how I'm actually feeling. And I am super tuned in to my nervous system. I am super tuned in to when I feel on edge, or when my breathing is weird, or when my stomach is rumbling and I have to run to the bathroom. Like, I feel everything in my body today. I'm so grateful for that.

I was ignoring this whole response system that is set up for me to understand how I'm feeling. One reason I know that my boyfriend is great for me is because when I sit with him and I touch him, I feel my nervous system calming down. I feel comforted. I feel good. I'm not, I'm not anxious or worried near him. When I'm with him, I feel peaceful. It's amazing. It's absolutely amazing. I feel like he regulates me, and I regulate him.

And I guess I just keep coming back around to gratitude. Because I think at the end of the day, when the darkness comes, the thing you lose the most quickly is gratitude. You lose perspective on all the things that you have in your life that are good.

I have loving friends. I have love in my life. I have passion. I have beautiful children who I feel very close to. I have a roof over my head. I have resources. I have professional opportunities. I have a strong sense of self. I have a great resume. I have a closet full of pretty clothes. I could put them on at any time. That sounds so superficial, but you know what? It feels really good to remember.

I have a hot tub to climb into to make my back feel better. I have a healthy body. I am generally mentally pretty stable, though I don't always feel that way.

What's your list look like? What does your list look like? What are you grateful for in the material aspects of your life? In the spiritual aspects of your life? Do you have a relationship with a higher power? Do you have some faith in the universe? Do you have a great mom or a great sister or a great friend? Do you have a path you like to walk when you go out to exercise?

Do you have a beautiful relationship with nature? Do you have a craft that you practice? Do you have books that you love? Movies you return to? Do you have a community that you can lean on? People who know you? People who care about you? What are you grateful for?

Gratitude is the counter to the darkness. Love is the opposite of fear. What are you going to choose today? Today I'm going to choose love. I've chosen fear a couple of days in the last couple of weeks. It's okay. It's okay. We're all just fucking doing our best. I love you hotties.

Thanks for listening to Hotter Than Ever. We are going to be experimenting with formats in 2024. And one thing I'd like to try is to have folks reach out to us @hotterthaneverpod on Instagram, DM us with any conundrum you're facing in your life, any puzzle you're working on about life over 40 career reinvention, starting over dating, love, sex, my favorite subject, single motherhood divorce. You know, the kind of things we talk about here on this podcast.

Leave me a DM. I'll read it on the air and I will try to help you work through it. I am deeply unqualified to give advice, but I am highly opinionated. I am compassionate and I am likely to make jokes. I can't vouch for the quality of my advice, but I am excited to try to help.

Hotter Than Ever is produced by Erica Girard and Productions. Our associate producer is Melody Carey. Music is by Chris Keating with vocals by Issa Fernandez.

Thanks for listening, hotties. It means a lot to me that we have this close relationship and I can talk to you about what's on my mind and hopefully it resonates with you and what's going on in your heart. Come back next week for more deep thoughts.


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