Category Archives: General Musing

Plan to Be Spontaneous

Spontaneity is an idea I’ve been playing with for years, and it really helps me live a calmer life.  I’m one of those people that is always thinking about things.  My mind latches on to ideas, plans, and imagines.

I truly do want to be spontaneous…and it’s not easy for me.  I’m often thinking more about the next thing than the current matter.  One of the really great parts for me about becoming a coach was learning how to be really present with my clients.  Precisely focusing on hearing what they are saying. Asking leading questions without having the ‘right answer’ to the question in mind.  It feels like magic to me!  I get in a zone when I’m coaching.  One of my personal clues that tells me I’m truly in the zone, is when I find myself out of my chair, moving around the house. When I’m unmistakably  ‘hot’, all of the perception and filters are off.  I say what comes to my mind without judgment.  My perspective is that whatever comes up in conversation is somehow needed, even if it’s just there to disagree with.  In the heat of the moment, I may say “An image of a bird just came to me” and when my client responds to that notion with “I’m thinking of an otter” we will then talk about the otter.  The otter will have meaning to the client.

All of that good fodder comes from being authentically present in my conversation with the client and all the other things going on at that moment.

My genuine trick to being able to be present with the client is behind the idea of “Planning to Be Spontaneous.”

If I’m taking a trip I know there are certain things that my brain will fiddle with incessantly if I don’t have them planned out. Elements like where am I going to sleep?  Do we have a map (No, I do not want a smartphone) is it likely to rain?

I don’t want to keep rehashing something I’ve already learned. What I really like is to be able to enjoy being present in the moment and not worrying about the details.   For example, when I used to go camping I had crates already set up so we could ‘grab’ and go.  There was a list, and I’d make sure the items I thought might be helpful, or even fun were packed.  I didn’t have to start from scratch each time.

One of my clients has a particular gift in this ‘being in the moment/spontaneous’ thing.  Recently he had an appointment to ‘pitch’ some possible investors on an idea.  As the meeting got started he realized that they were ‘pitching’ him, not the other way around.  Many of us might have been so focused on our ‘needs’ to not even notice what was really happening. He was clever enough to set his notes aside and just listen.

Here are some suggestions on how to plan for that ‘spontaneous’ perspective:

  • Plan specific pieces that might make things easier
    • Like writing out lists
  • Think about how you want to ‘be’ more than what you want to have happen
    • As in, the meal doesn’t have to be perfect, what you want is to have fun!
  • Check your general anxiety level, and give it a number.
    • If it’s low, great!  If it’s not, do something you know will soothe your nerves
  • Find ways to inject some fun or humor into something stressful to break the tension
    • Singing, blowing bubbles, etc?

Personally, I had a childhood fraught with anxiety and odd things happening in many different directions all the time. That experience without a doubt led to a correlation between that and my Plan to Be Spontaneous perspective! It has and will continue to serve me well.

You might find it a good idea too?


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Time to Draw Some Lines?

We humans, are all creatures of habit, and yet the last few years has messed with a bunch of our habits.  Activities like going to the movies, or out for a meal with friends went away.  No going to the library.  No visiting the zoo.  No in-person visits with doctors.  Zoom calls which were great in some ways by keeping information flowing for business, became quite awkward when it came to showing I could do the suggested postures in my desk area for my Physical Therapist!

My time was spent mostly reading and watching TV.  I have averaged several books a week.  Somehow the idea of doing creative things just never worked out.  I was frankly depressed and freaked out for most of the time.  Covid, Fires, Politics, Ice Storms, People Dying, Mass Shootings — all that piled up to the point where when I wasn’t anxious… I was numb.  The everyday problems that come up in life seemed much harder to cope with.

I’m doing much better now.   Fully vaccinated, the sun is out, and I had 5 (yep, five) live lunch dates with real people in restaurants in three weeks!  Wow!

The interesting thing is that I actually don’t want my life to go back to where it was before the Pandemic, etc.  I’m choosing to go forward and build new dreams for my life.  Going forward I want to apply some of the things I learned during all that isolation.  See, for most of the time it was me and the cat.   Although she can be vocal that doesn’t mean we can actually converse. Without daily human interaction, I had the space and time to really reflect on how my life was, is, and I would like it to be.

It’s time to draw some lines.                              Life is different now.

It’s like that old line about “You can’t go home again”…because what was home has changed.  Instead of trying to recreate how it was, we need to find the value in how it is now.  In 2019 I went back to Wyoming to visit my cousins who live in the house my great-great-grandparents built in 1900, after having settled there in 1882.  I had spent many summers there as a child with my Grandmother, Cup Cake.  Of course, some things were the same — the wallpaper in the guest room comes to mind. And yet many things had changed both in the house and the town.  I had the idea in my head that this would be a ‘farewell visit’ — That I would be saying ‘good-bye’ to all that had been.  Instead, I found that I actually liked many of the changes.  They made things more livable.  There is a Walmart, Home Depot, Albertson’s, Ace Hardware, and a Japanese Restaurant!  The best improvement yet, the landline at the house is no longer on a party line!

Change can be good!  Especially when we choose what we want to change.  That’s where drawing the line comes in.  What do you want to be different as you come back to the hustle and bustle of life?  I want to honor myself by being careful and protective of my time and energy.  For me, the “Build an Empire” stage of life is in the past.  Helping people and making a difference through my coaching practice, has been satisfying and I will continue to do it.  However, I’m less intrigued with the pushing to find more clients part of business, and I never liked ‘networking‘ so that there is a line drawn for me.  I’m enjoying the semi-retired phase that I’m in.  There is a money piece to that.  I have fewer clients and make less cash. At this point in my life, that’s just fine with me.  The line may be a bit wavy, but it’s there!

I’m noticing that many people are wanting to make different choices around their work.  That working from home thing isn’t all bad.  I think with miss a bunch of opportunities to actually create connections by not being in person.  Less time driving, and getting dressed may be worth it?

I’ve drawn some personal lines too.  Ones about who I want to hang out with, and who I want to let go of.  I just don’t seem to have the energy or enthusiasm for those that I don’t ‘click’ with.  When I was trying to build my business I was more willing to spend time with people I had little in common with.   I would pretzel myself to continue the connection.  My guess is that you might have done something like that in your life too?  It takes a bunch of energy and patience and seems silly to me now.   There are plenty of folks who I can click with, and plenty of people that I don’t have a great time with!   If you’d like to make a similar change, my suggestion is that you don’t actually have to tell the person you don’t want to ‘play‘ with them anymore.   Just be less available, and let them naturally drift.  They aren’t wrong or bad, they just aren’t your ‘cuppa tea.’

Where are you in your life?  What line or lines would you like to draw?  What areas are working for you?  Where would you like to make some changes?  Give it some thought.  It’s a perfect time for you to consider your options, and make some choices.


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Mixed Signals

We all know about mixed signals, don’t we?  You know, that thing where someone says one thing, but really means something else? Signals come in a variety of ways. Let’s explore a couple:

The Hint: This one has been around forever. The hint is primarily used so that if the person you are asking something of doesn’t like what’s being asked you can easily retract it.  Frankly, women (Including, I hate to admit, myself) have been using this one for centuries.  Men still don’t seem to have caught on to it.  For example, she says:  ‘The grass is really getting long isn’t it?’  What she means is: ‘Please mow the lawn.’  What he hears is just a passing comment about that lawn. The silent war continues?

The Dodge: as in “dodging a bullet”. I’ve been in several relationships where this one was used.  A prime example is this money one with my first husband.  I had hit a place where I was tired of handling the money and paying the bills.  He volunteered to take over for a bit.  I kept asking how things were going and he kept saying ‘coasting along.’ The truth is that they were ‘coasting downhill into oblivion!’ He had gotten a new job and was going to be gone for several weeks of training.  I said I would take overseeing the household expenses since he was going to be out of town.  Well, when I finally looked at our bank accounts, there was nothing in the checking account…nothing!  Keep in mind, this was a time before credit cards.  I ended up eating all the sardines in a can and Ramen Noodles left  in the back of the cupboard while he was getting ‘wined and dined.’  I’m sure it’s not a surprise to you that after that experience, I always stewarded the money!  The Dodge never really works, it just postpones the truth and pain.

The Deep Cover-Up: in this instance, we grab the symptom instead of the issue underneath.   We seem to be upset about one thing, but it’s really something else.  Most often, we don’t even know we are doing it.  Now both parties are missing the communication. Here’s a great example: I have a client who is very extroverted and married to a guy who is quite introverted.  Opposites attract, right?  She is exasperated with vigor about how much time he spends on his phone, texting, Social Media, email you name it. Now, is this really about the phone?   Nope.  It’s actually about the isolation pressed upon them in these Covid days. She was used to being around people, bunches of them, all the time.  Even if he gave her all his attention all the time, it wouldn’t fill her need. Can you see how we often don’t dig deep enough to figure out what the real issue is?  We are pretty much trained to come up with a quick solution, and often that only serves to create more frustration. For my client, it was less about her husband being on the phone and more about her not having enough people contact to fulfill the need to be around others. Seeing what the real underlying issue is, helps both of them solve the problem.

Can you see that the result of ‘sending’ these mixed signals is most often confusion and sometimes anger and pain?   I think it’s quite likely that one of the main reasons we resort to such tactics is to avoid being vulnerable.  Vulnerability has often gotten a bad rap.  We think that opening ourselves up to others will always cause pain.  Sure, we have evidence for when it did…mostly in our youth.  It was kids at school or possibly anxious or controlling parents.  It was rooted in situations where we didn’t have personal power. Now we forget, that as adults, we DO have personal power.  We can honor ourselves and our truth.

I truly think when we are vulnerable and are living a life of being open and truthful we are very powerful.  We are unstoppable.  Nothing someone says can really hurt us when we are clear and standing in our personal truth.  We can risk admitting we are afraid, or sad, or angry in a clear manner.  By doing just that we may actually get what we need from others without having to send mixed signals!

We have plenty of challenging things to deal with these days, truly an overwhelming reality. We are often much more on edge. If you are clear and direct in your communication with others, you have a better chance of getting what you want, or at the very least knowing that the recipient of your intentions has no doubt what you want.

Let’s make all our relationships including the one with ourselves better without mixed signals!


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Shell Shocked

Pun intended.  That’s what I am, Shell ‘shocked’. I’ve arrived at the thought that this year has been like being in a War, that’s what it is. The year 2020 has felt like we are living through a modern war.  For most of us though, we aren’t on the ‘front lines’ of the fighting.  We are at home waiting.  I keep thinking about WW2 and my family’s experience of waiting for months for word about my dad who had been shot down, only to find out he was in a German POW camp.

We are similarly stunned, bewildered, and indefinitely ‘on hold.’  Sure, we go through the daily motions.  We try and maintain the banner of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On.’  There are signs and signals all around us that there are very scary events happening right outside our doors.

This isn’t news to any of you.  The pandemic is omnipresent.  The political division is more than extreme.  Instead of blackout curtains on our windows, we are covering our faces and sometimes, identities in protective masks.  There has been toilet paper ‘rationing’, protesting in the streets, and superspreader events.  The storms and hurricanes are relentless. There were fires literally on either side of me.

Sure we adapt to our surroundings, it’s what we humans do.  We Zoom.  Watch endless television: Netlix, old movies, and mindless game shows. We read books, mostly on tablets since the libraries are closed — I’m average one every two days!  We joke about eating our feelings – personally, I’m figuring keeping the weight gain to about a pound a month is acceptable, right?

Additionally, there are people who are getting all sorts of things done — good for them!

But what about those of us that feel that it’s all out of kilter?

We try to name the problem.

  • It’s like Groundhog’s Day, we live the same kind of day over and over again
  • How about the 1946 Film Noir classic ‘The Lost Weekend’ — The movie follows the desperate life of a chronic alcoholic over a four-day binge
  • Maybe we somehow fell into an alternative Universe?
  • According to one particularly crazed individual, it’s China’s fault

Naming the problem always seems like a good place to start.  ‘You can’t fix/change what you don’t acknowledge’…right?

Bottom line:  this whole year was challenging from the start, AND then the arrival of Covid added insult to injury!

Personally, I’ve found myself making odd mistakes.  I’m perpetually and most easily distracted.  Time is a disfigured and deceitful thing.  Did I see that movie on Netflix yesterday or last week?  It’s all kinda one big blur.  And what happened to summer?  We usually have a summer — I just seemed to have missed it.

I suppose I could have dementia setting in — and I think it’s more likely something like a combo of Situational Dementia compounded by Situational DepressionSituational is the keyword here.  It’s not my biology, or actions that have created this.  I’m reacting to the circumstances —and so are you!

My goal here is not to be a Debby Downer.  I’m just wanting to give a bit of recognition to how hard this is.  Please, let us all understand, deep down, that this too will pass — eventually.  Things will change.  You can honor your grief — yes, grief! There is grief all around us just as if we were the citizens trying to get by on the home front while our soldiers are fighting a war for us.

Another thing that has struck me in this comparison to WW2 is this sneaky bit of survivor guilt that I sometimes feel.  ‘Who am I to complain about not visiting my people, or being able to go to a restaurant?’  I want to hold an understanding place for all of us, myself included!  It’s hard for us to actually talk about the fear, grief, and uproar in our lives, so instead, we bemoan not being able to go to the gym or get our hair cut.

Let’s call 2020 the Onion Year…meaning we peel a layer and cry. Then, you go find something to make you laugh on Netflix.

Our true task is to get through this pandemic while retaining as much kindness, understanding, and care for ourselves and others as possible.

We don’t have to be in the emotion of this all of the time to honor it…however, we do need to see the dark side to get through it to the light.  Please know that others also see it and are working our way through too.


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Taking the Hard Way?

Sometimes, we just don’t have a choice.  We have to ‘buckle down’ and slog through the problems and obstacles of everyday life.  Many of us, myself included, come from families where the hard times were very present.  I remember my fiery, redheaded grandmother saying We know how to get through the hard times.’ Getting through them, became a badge of honor.

But what about the moments when it’s not necessary?  The opportunities when we really do have a choice?  Too often, we decide that we are supposed to suffer, when we actually can choose not to.

Allow me to talk about this phenomenon in our business lives.  I’ve had my share, actually more than my share of wacko bosses.  One, in particular, was a screaming, blaming, conniving, pouting bully.  I put up with it for too long.  I resigned myself into thinking that was just how it was.  That THIS mindset was part of what working meant.  Finally,  I made another choice. The choice was, to leave.  What broke the ‘spell’ for me, came down to, working many long overtime (unpaid) hours on a project he complained;  wasn’t done yet. That was it. Decision made!  I stopped working overtime and started looking for another job!

As a coach, I have run into quite a few clients who got tangled and distracted in this idea that we are supposed to put up with the ugly, frustrating, and frankly rude behavior of others in order to pay our dues’, or they would never succeed.  I beg to differ.  I think working, under those circumstances, wears us down and distracts us from the bigger picture.

On a larger and more important level, this mindset also reinforces the idea that things HAVE to be hard!  They don’t.

Long ago, I had a new client who was a real estate agent. Her business cards touted that she was really good and handling difficult people.  Wow!  She was actually asking for difficult people!  And she had been very successful at attracting them and all their aggressive, abusive behavior.  She was exhausted and feeling very stuck.  I’m glad to say she recognized that she had other talents to bring to her career and did very well without having to slog through the mud! 

I have this phrase I use around this kind of tricky stuff.  I call it ‘The Curse of the Competent’. Just because you are good at something, doesn’t mean you HAVE to do it!  I spent years figuring that out.  I was a very good Accountant.  It seemed like the right career, and I did love parts of it…mostly, the people part.  I couldn’t care less about crunching numbers.  People always wanted to share the next great financial article or book with me. I finally figured out that just because I’m good at numbers and accounting doesn’t mean I have to do it!

Let’s look at one more example of this confusion of thinking that we have to’ put up with really challenging circumstances and people.  Another client of mine has a small, but successful tech business. He has a brilliant guy working for him that would make Sheldon Cooper look like a fun-filled, empathetic guy!  This particular client recently had one of his customers call him on a Saturday with a problem that the client demanded  be fixed over the weekend. When my client explained that he couldn’t, in good faith, promise that the fix would be completed before Monday morning, the phrase the customer used when it was explained to him that it might not be able to be fixed immediately  was; ‘That is unacceptable!’  The fascinating thing about this mess is that my client told me that having to deal with The Sheldon working for him had made him more able to deal with the frustrated client in a calm manner. Yes, that is certainly a good thing.  And wouldn’t it be even better if he didn’t have to deal with either one of them?

There were plenty of times in my life when I kept accepted these challenging people.  When I started saying ‘NO’ to them they stopped happening! I think it’s an ironic law of the way the Universe works.  You keep getting ‘temptation pieces’, meaning another example of the same mess until you stop accepting them.  Oh, and by the way, you will receive louder, nastier, and scarier examples, just to get your attention, until you do stop engaging in those places!

Please pause and take some time to look at where you keep repeating the idea that you can somehow change a really awful dynamic by working harder at it.  Then start letting go of those people and situations.  When you are in a better place mentally, you are more effective, and more able to actually contribute to others.  It’s well worth letting go of the old pattern and ideas.

Let me know if you need some help untangling it!


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Just Waiting?

It feels like that is what’s been happening since the pandemic began – which feels like years ago to many of us.  We are all waiting,  stuck on hold listening to bad music and having no idea how long it will be before someone picks up the phone.

There have been way too many stressful things going on this year.  So many, in fact,  that we spend more and more time stunned by new and ever-changing information and circumstances.  Personally I’ve reached the point that nothing surprises me anymore.  It’s all so wacky and somehow beyond rhyme or reason.  I do often ponder the idea that we are currently living in an alternative universe…somehow everything is ‘up‘ all at once.

I’m not going to list all the components of what is going on in our country and around the world.  One thing I know is that everyone is feeling off-kilter – whichever side you are on.

To me, the biggest issue is that our lack of control and predictability leaves us weary and fearful.  Then, to add to the stress, our Inner Critic voices start lecturing us on what we did wrong, or didn’t do, or should do.…on and on it goes.

The truth is that the one thing we can actually control is our response to what’s happening.  We can choose how we respond.

Personally, I’m done with waiting for the return to “what”, was.  Based on my own adventures, I know that life changes, and things do not go back to the way they were.  Sometimes the change is good.  Sometimes it’s super challenging, but it’s never the way it ‘was!’

Here’s what I propose;  Stop Waiting!  I don’t mean that you do something wacky or out of character.  I’m suggesting that you start taking action.  Action that is designed to help you feel and believe that you have some control.

You might already be familiar with the “Law of Attraction” idea of:

  • Intention + Attention = Manifestation?

I have my own riff on it:

  • Thoughts/Ideas/Dream  X  Action = Results!  

In addition to changing the language to something simpler, I also change from an addition sign (+) to a multiplication (x) one.  Yes, it’s a math thing and an important one.  If you don’t have clear goals you create wonky results.  If you dream all the time and never do anything towards turning that dream into a reality, nothing will happen.  Zero multiplied by anything else is still zero.  

Now, in the middle of this mess, how about you start generating some ideas and taking some action instead of waiting?  You’ll be practicing adapting NOW instead of waiting for everything to go back.  You’ll be ahead of the curve.

Let me be clear.  Your dream/action may be about connecting more with friends.  It may be about learning a new language. Perhaps,  finding a new career.   The notion that matters more is that you will no longer feel like you are just waiting!  Perhaps it’s the real wisdom in the old adage “Life is what happens while we’re making other plans?”

What are you going to choose as your new ‘normal?’   How are you going to make it fit your goals and values?


Shell Tain, The Untangler


Usually I do fewer blogs over the summer because people are in more ‘vacation’ mode.  This June I didn’t blog because I truly couldn’t find anything substantive or inspirational to say.

I’ve been reading a lot.  Mostly novels about WW1 and WW2. Trying to make sense of what the world went through then, and what we are going through now.  Naturally, I found a bunch of similarities.

Here are just a couple:

  • In a way, we have had a small taste of rationing…granted mostly about toilet paper, and hand sanitizer (which I still can’t find).
  • Curfews and stay at home rules create the same kind of isolation and restrictions as the blackouts did during WWII.
  • Inability to gather together, restrictions, rules – those are all part of war, aren’t they? As Americans, we get really grumpy when we are restricted.

It all comes down to a loss of control and autonomy.

The pandemic/Corona Virus/Covid 19 thing is scary.  It’s beyond our ability to really grasp. The numbers continue to rise, and many people want to just believe it isn’t there. After the Spanish Influenza of 1918 finally left in 1920, people and schools just pretended it never happened.  They did not have the research and science we have now to share with the world how to protect against it, so they just turned a blind eye to it.  Frankly, similar to the people today not keeping social distance, or wearing masks as states ‘open up’.

This health crisis we are in is very much a ‘War’ – However, instead of fighting another country this time, the enemy is a virus.  As such, we don’t really know how to manage or cope with it.  The techniques we would use in any other circumstance don’t even come to mind. New information comes to us in many forms ( some good and some bad) and it’s hard to know whom to trust and follow in these challenging times.

Oh, but wait, there are a couple of other BIG things happening that also have us all concerned.  We are in the midst of a Presidential election year that is likely, in my opinion, to be the most important one in our existence as a country. It seems that we are finally, really getting serious about recognizing the critical importance of treating all humans as worthy of ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’, as promised in the Declaration of Independence.

I’m not aiming to get into specific conversations about any of these circumstances.  I’m just wanting to point out that they are all very present for all of us right now.

What I do want to do, and what I often aim to do with my blog, is offer some insight on ways to make the road through it all a bit easier.

One of the components missing from the losses we are now suffering and many of the great losses from our history is, Ritual.

Humans are pattern makers, and ritual is a reflection of that.  To my thinking, ritual serves a multitude of purposes.  It signals us as to when something is starting – such as, the lights being dimmed in the theater.  It prepares us for when something is over – closing prayer or benediction. For centuries humans have thrived on customs surrounding birth, coming-of-age, marriage, and finally, death. Rituals give us the opportunity to step away from the world for a bit and honor what we are feeling.  We use ritual to honor both sad and happy events.  We use it for closure and acceptance of what we can’t change and must endure. Within the container of ritual we process our feeling and fears.  We make it easier for us to continue on.

Here’s an example of a place where ritual is sadly missing.  The ironic sounding place named: Hart Island is near the Bronx in New York and it is basically a mass burial ground. Burials on Hart Island include individuals who were not claimed by their families or did not have private funerals; the homeless and the indigent; and mass burials of disease victims. So many  Covid 19 victims. We saw the stacking of the caskets on TV, but we didn’t see any memorial service to go with it.

Even if you haven’t lost a friend or family member to Covid 19 you still may have your own personal things to mourn, both large and small.

Ritual is part of what is missing right now!  We don’t really have a protocol set in place for these important, life-changing circumstances.  We can’t sit with our dying grandparent.  We can’t gather and hold hands.  We can’t visit and hold the new baby in the family.  It feels like the emotional side of this is just getting whisked away in the expediency of staying safe.

What we have been doing is the white knuckle version, just trying to get through.  We have no idea how much longer this will continue so, let’s change that!  Let’s get creative!

Rituals don’t have to be somber or serious, they don’t have to be any way at all.  What they need to do is involve something that has meaning to you.  Something that allows you to acknowledge and start to heal those losses. You may end up with a myriad of them.  You may also find you have been practicing some rites without giving them the title of ritual. Acknowledging that the action is a ritual helps.

My favorites often have fire involved.  I like writing something I would like to change or banish on paper and then safely burning the paper.  My cat, Miss Teak, has a bizarre observance of looking intently at a photograph of her predecessor, Ponzu.  It’s definitely a ritual.  You’ll find one or more routines that fit you, just look around a bit, maybe even do some research and see what calls to you.

Rituals can help us figure out what to do with the emotion and the sentiment around all of these challenges we have no way to control.  Ritual is written deep in our history as humans.  Please find ways to use it now when it is so needed!

Shell Tain, the Untangler

Wild Geese

These are tough times we are all going through, and during tough times, I often find solace in poetry.  I was recently drawn back to an old favorite of mine by Mary Oliver.  I hope you find it as relevant as I do.  Take a gander…

Wild Geese

‘You do not have to be good. 

You do not have to walk on your knees

 for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile, the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.’

Peace out!

Shell Tain, the Untangler

It’s the Little Things

There are lots of big scary things happening in the world right now.  Frankly, that’s not new.  What is new is that the same frightening things are happening to people all over the world at the same time.  As much as the idea that we are “all in this pandemic together” may be comforting, it’s true that at the same time we are all in this alone.

We have things in common and on the other hand, we have things that specifically challenge each of us.  Each day, we must find our way through not only the circumstances but the emotions they bring up.

For me personally, it seems to be the little things that both push me “over my edge” and bring me joy.  That’s probably not a new occurrence. Now that the day to day hustle has slowed down to a crawl I’m much more observant of myself and my reactions.

I have been working a bunch on pivoting in the face of the adverse things! I did a blog just a couple of weeks ago about pivoting when something doesn’t work   (Lot’s of Pivoting)   It’s a way I have learned to move past the obstacle or problem.  Things that break, don’t work, aren’t what’s expected…you know, everyday stuff we’ve come to depend on that seems more complex than it used to be!  Little things!

Just when I’m exhausted from coping and pivoting and I don’t think I can take it anymore, some wonderful little thing happens!  For example,  I got an email from a client I haven’t worked with in years, telling me that our work around money has really helped her, and has given her the strength to cope with the money issues of this uncertain time. Or when I find a joke on Facebook that really tickles me, or a friend calls to share something funny.

It’s the little things that add up and really matter.

Sometimes the positives just come by themselves.  Sometimes they are like a response to the negative — For example, when finding fresh rhubarb at the store cheers the part of me that is hunting like mad for toilet paper.

The best example I have of the ‘duel-aspect’ thing is my recent internet adventure.  My internet was literally making me crazy!  It would be on for about a minute, off for a minute, on  for 3 minutes…on and on it went.  I kept thinking/hoping it was some temporary glitch.  I finally gave up and called my internet provider.  About half an hour later on the phone with a representative, it was sorta fixed and a guy was scheduled to come sort  it out the next day.  (This in itself was a miracle…I have often had to wait for days for someone to come out…and for me that means no internet and no phone!  Yipes)  Meanwhile, several weeks before the internet decided to get petulant, the Pandora Music app stopped working on my theoretically ‘smart‘ TV.  It worked on my tablet and my computer, but not the TV!  It just froze.  This was a big deal because crazy dancing to music from my youth has become the only viable form of exercise available to me while Covid-19 is with us.  Another cause for pivoting…and not in a good way. The tech was nice, friendly and not only fixed the internet, but I asked if he had any suggestions about the Pandora thing and he fiddles with the TV and gets that working too!  Hot Damn!!!  It’s a little thing, but it sure made my heart sing to be able to rock out and dance myself silly once he left!

There are really several things to ponder in this blog:

  • We are all doing the best we can
  • Perhaps it’s the little things that make a difference for you too?
  • Who knows a broken internet may end up with a fixed Pandora!

Please take some time to find out what brings you back to joy, and what helps you through angst.  It may even turn out to be the little things.


Shell Tain, the Untangler

Decisions, Decisions

My last blog was about pivoting.  This week’s edition is about how we make decisions, including ones about where and when to pivot.  Today, we will take a deeper dive, if you will, into how our brain makes choices and a plan you can use for making all types of decisions more effectively.

Here’s a fact that you may find startling — every single decision you make is determined by emotion!  The way your brain actually chooses which one of the choices you have explored you will act on is emotionally based! 

Ready for some science?  The bottom line is that the part of your brain that flips the switch and makes the choice is located in your prefrontal cortex, the emotional center of your brain.

Sure, you ponder, do research, fret, look things up online, ask friends, find experts,  read about and write down your options — and ultimately it’s your emotional center that makes the choice.   People who have had brain injuries to their prefrontal cortex can analyze all day long, they just can’t reach a decision, so they spin and spin.

The other piece of science that is crucial here is that humans can only hold about 7 or 8 things front of brain at a time.  This limit creates the circling and spinning game we do of looking at the same data over and over.   Your brain has stored all the data you put in it, you just can’t pull it all up at once.  Trust that your deeper brain has gotten the information and will use it.

The real trick to making effective selections and judgments has a couple of simple steps:

  1. Gather good ‘neutral’ data without trying to choose as you go.  We tend to kick something off our list too soon, just to narrow the possibilities. It’s a problem we have all experienced. Resist the temptation to take options off the table during the gathering process unless, of course, there is a giant deal breaker.
  2. Narrow to at least three choices.  Somehow two choices are just too black/white, on/off to really give you choices.  Now is the time to get pickier.  The success of this method is based on having gathered accurate information.  Remember the adage “garbage in, garbage out”…we don’t want that!  Name the alternatives with just a couple of words for each of your choices.
  3. Grab as many sticky notes as you have choices and write those short names on them.  Now place the notes in a row on your desk, night table, wherever.  They can be in the same room or not.
  4. Go to sleep.  Try not to think about your choices.  Leave the analysis behind.  Nod off.
  5. When you get up stumble groggily to the row of choices.  Which one calls you?  Just the gut reaction as you scan them will do.  That is your true choice!

Your brilliant brain has done all the work for you — you just need to trust it to do what it does best!

If you are noticing that your brain and computers have a bunch in common, you are right.  After-all, humans created computers!

I hope this process will help you make choices that really work for you.  Recognizing that the choice is based on the data and emotion is the important part – even if you don’t try the sleeping on it thing.

I’m guessing that we all will have some tough decisions to make in the months ahead. I hope this helps make that process easier.


Shell Tain, the Untangler