The 30 Day No Yelling Challenge: What I Learned.

So. My No Yelling Challenge.

I HAD intended on updating you weekly about how it was going; the writer in me imagined that I’d see real progress over the course of the month and I could close out the challenge with a neat and tidy ending: I learned so much about myself, and I’m kinder, gentler, and a better mom and wife to boot!

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

I still yell sometimes, even AFTER working at it.

Part of it is years of ingrained behavior and reactions. My default to pretty much everything is annoyance. Little annoyances over the course of a few days turn into frustration. Lots of little frustrations build up over time, and like a pressure cooker, I inevitably POP.

And then I’m yelling.

It was clear to me that first day (where I yelled at every one of the Important Beings In My Life at least once) that this was going to be a REAL challenge for me.

Because it’s a simple fact: I am not zen, as much as I’d like to be.

So last month was not a success if you define success as becoming a zen mother/wife/dog owner who never yells.

But it was a success in other ways. Because I figured some stuff out.

The first thing I figured out? Generally, I yell before I even realize I’m yelling. It’s a weird thing to say, I know. But there was a moment soon into the month where, as I was talking, I realized that my voice was raised and I was punctuating my statements with emotion. I wasn’t angry at that point.

But I could see how someone outside my head would think that I was mad.

I had never noticed that about myself.

And, of course, it makes sense that I don’t just go from calm to screaming in 60 seconds, that things build up before I lose it.

I spent time trying to figure out how to prevent getting into a situation where I yell. What were my hot buttons? What did it FEEL like when I was getting into the red zone where I snapped and let my frustration out?

I noted a couple of things:

1. I need space. I need, on average, an hour or two a day where I don’t have to interact with anyone, where I can be alone with my thoughts and feelings and breathe. (And yes, this confirms that I’d be an abysmal stay at home mother.) I struggle with this, because time alone seems like such a luxury. But I am a better person for it.

2. I need to simplify. My worst days are the ones where I am trying to do too much: squeezing in a run before daycare drop off then 3 hours of commuting time and a busy workday, only to have to go out for dinner with a friend or do dog training classes or whatever. Then, Jeff’s focus on work only while I’m gone – the coffee cup on the dining room table, the dirty dishes in the sink – are enough to blow my top.

3. I need sleep. I can subsist on 6 hours of sleep for a bit, but it’s not enough, and when I’m tired I get snappish and grumpy and have very little patience. Ideally I need 7-9 hours each night. Which means I need to commit to a regular bedtime, no matter what. And I also need to be on alert when I haven’t gotten enough sleep that I will have a harder time with patience.

4. I need to let go of expectations. I discovered that I was far more stressed out and therefore yelled when I was trying to do something special for Owen or Jeff or the dog. Seriously, go ahead and laugh, but I was that mom/wife/owner who was hissing through my gritted teeth I am doing this for YOU, so you better [expletive] ENJOY IT. And it was because I had set myself up with EXPECTATIONS. In my head, I had created a fantasy image of how things would go, and when it didn’t meet those expectations, I would get angry at them. Which, if you think about it, is a twisted sort of hurt. Acknowledge, please, I’m doing something NICE for you? I’d love it if you thanked me for it.

The biggest thing I got from this month was the ability to take a step back and observe my actions and reactions. Because until the Challenge I had never really acknowledged that my yelling was because *I* was missing something – either sleep or space or my expectations were out of line or I was doing too much.

I always explained it simply as the fact that no one listens to me, and they only way they listen is when I yell.

I still find myself raising my voice more than I prefer to, and I will be the first to admit that there are days where my patience is worn thin within minutes of waking up in the morning.

(Or when I say something to Owen for the THIRD. FREAKING. TIME and he looks up and says, “What, Mommy?” like he’s never heard my voice before. ARGH.)

So, yeah, it is inevitable that there will be days where I’ll snap at him or Jeff or the dog. This is real life, not some fairy tale where I make some sweeping changes which results in Happily Ever After.

But when I do lose my cool, it’s a warning: I need something. And if that means I need a few minutes with my pandora Trip Hop station or I need to text my best friend and bitch or I need to go for a walk around the block, then that’s what I have to do.

And so I’m calling last month a Win.

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In The End… (aka: A Catch Up Post)

So.

It’s the day before my Official 30 day No-Yelling challenge, and I think I’ve figured out some things about myself. Which, hopefully, will help me figure out other ways to express my feelings before I pop and yell at the people (and dog) I love most in this world.

1. I am actually yelling before I realize I’m yelling. It took me looking at myself from the outside to realize this; there was a moment this weekend where I thought, Hey, wait a second, my voice is raised! when I wasn’t particularly angry, just kinda annoyed.

Looking at it from my husband and son’s perspective though, I would think I was yelling too.

2. I am more prone to yelling when I am trying to do too much at once. For example, I generally snap at nighttime, when I am making dinner, keeping an eye on the dog (so he doesn’t chew our moldings or pee on the floor), half-listening to Owen asking me to play with him, cleaning the kitchen and counters so I can get dinner on the table on time. Et cetera. I have very little patience at that point, which means I need to simplify.

Do less. That’s easy, right? 😉

3. I need more time in a day. No, seriously. I’m commuting 3 hours a day. Slowly, the time spent in traffic is sucking the soul out of me. I didn’t realize how edgy traffic made me until the day I pulled into daycare and screamed my head off – for ABSOLUTELY NO REASON. (Thankfully the windows were closed and the kids were inside and no one witnessed me.) It was a bit of a revelation to me – I thought music was enough to keep me occupied.

The idea I’m wasting 3 hours of my day in the car, in traffic, kills me.

So I downloaded a book about dog training onto my iPhone. Wa-LA! I am now using that “dead time” to be productive – getting tips on how to train Finley.

And now I’m not counting the minutes I’m wasting in traffic because I feel like I’m getting something accomplished. Win.

So far, anyway. 🙂

4. I need to be kind to myself. 37 years of yelling when I’m mad won’t be undone in a day.

I’m well on my way, I think. For me, just being aware of my triggers is huge in terms of trying to change my behavior.

And the coolest thing? I’ve found women who want to do the same thing as me. We formed a Facebook group where we support each other in the challenge.

I just love knowing that I’m not alone in this.

______________________

I ran my goal race last weekend – the half marathon I’ve spent the last few months training for.

I went into it with three goals.

The A goal was to break 1:45:00. This was aggressive, I knew, and I didn’t really BELIEVE I had the ability to run that fast for that long. I’ve had very few miles in my training that were run that fast.

The B goal was to break 1:50:00. This was the realistic goal for me – the one that would be hard but sustainable.

The C goal was to break 1:55:00. This was a comfortable goal, or if something happened mid-race like a muscle/tendon tweak or something.

Now, mind you, meeting ANY of these goals would have meant a personal best. My fastest official half marathon time was run this April; I clocked in at 1:56:31.

The race was hard. I never really felt comfortable – which meant I raced it like I needed to. But if it weren’t for my friend Jen, who ran with me in the middle miles, I might have gone slower.

But I met my B goal. I finished in 1:49:15.

I’m thrilled with this time. Seriously, I ran my first half marathon three years ago, in 2:18:18. And since then I’ve taken nearly a full half hour off my time.

It’s shocking and empowering and exciting stuff. And gives me SO much hope for my fall marathon training.

____________________

The Career Stuff. Yeah, it’s still hard. I have been considering quitting my job altogether so I can be home more. It would simplify some things, for sure. Laundry, groceries, housecleaning, bills. All me. Jeff could focus on his work only.

But it would also complicate things, too. Money would become an issue. And back in the day, when Jeff and I sat on a beach in Fiji, we talked about living a life where money wouldn’t be an issue.

Course, we also talked about balance, so it’s not like there’s not complications there.

What I have the hardest time with is the fact that I am currently working mostly part time. Yeah, I spend three hours in the car when I’m at the client. But this week? I’ve worked only two days. And I make good money.

I could trade that for a job closer to home, where I make half of what I make now. It’s still accounting – I could do bookkeeping pretty damn easily. It’s just, well, I can’t get excited about taking ANOTHER accounting job for less money.

I wish I had clarity or passion for ONE thing. I am so envious of the women who knew in high school or college what they were going to be when they grew up. Those women had a vision and goal and passion.

So that’s why it’s so hard to take the step and stop doing what I’m doing now. I’m hoping to find that magical place of balance. I don’t need to LOVE my job, but I also don’t want loathe my time there, either.

I keep telling myself I’m doing the best I can with what I have today. It’s all I can do.

So that’s my update. For now anyway. 😉

My 30 Day Challenge: This is Going To Be A Tough One.

So here’s the thing.

I’m a yeller. I was raised in a family of yellers. My family yelled when we were happy, yelled when we were sad, yelled when we were angry, yelled when we were having fun. We just… yelled. It was part of the family identity. Hell, it’s hard to find a family in my town of New Jersey that DIDN’T yell! It’s just what we did.

Thing is. I married a New Englander: a man who grew up in a family of Not-Yellers. And though I contributed DNA to our son in the form of coloring and eyes, he’s pretty much a carbon copy of his father in personality and temperament – with a little more chatter, maybe.

I know I’m not alone when I say that I yell far more than I’d like to. I yell because I struggle with patience. I yell because I struggle with having my words heard. And I yell because I swear to god there are days my words mutate in the milliseconds they hang in the air – by the time they get to Jeff and Owen, all they hear is: “Wah WAH, waah WAH.”

I am like a balloon that keeps inflating when this happens. I say it a little more passionately – while feeling, come ON! Just LISTEN TO ME!

And then all of a sudden I’m yelling. And I’m angry. And it’s effective, of course. Both Owen and Jeff listen to my words if they’re said angrily.

The problem is, I don’t much LIKE the emotional fallout of the yelling. I don’t like the way it makes me feel. I don’t like being angry all the time. I don’t yell at people at work – because it’s disrespectful. And I shouldn’t yell at home, either – at the people I love most in the world.

And yelling is not effective – honestly, if the only way my kid and husband listens to me if I’m yelling, what does that say about my communication skills? Not much that’s good, for sure.

Yelling is a bad habit, and I want to break it.

And via the beauty of social media, yesterday I stumbled upon the blog The Orange Rhino. And the author of the blog committed to 365 days of Not Yelling, and her experience with it is so eye-opening. I love how she blogs her struggles so honestly, and I love that she’s committed to making her family better.

I want to make our family better. I am so lucky to even HAVE this family, and they deserves better from me.

But I can’t do a 365 day challenge – it’s overwhelmingly long.

But what I’ve discovered with my running: it usually takes about a month for me to find my groove: that space where it doesn’t feel as hard. Where my muscles don’t hurt as much when I’m not running or running… and I stop THINKING about it. It becomes habit.

So I made the decision last night.

I am committing 30 Days of Not Yelling in June.

Except I’m starting The Challenge a weekend early, because that’s what I do. (I’m not kidding, either. I start my New Years Resolutions in November so they’re habit by January. Yes, I know it’s OCD and ridiculous, but I like getting a head start on resolutions. :))

I have the feeling that this is going to be one of the biggest challenges I’ve undertaken.

But I’m up for the it.

I’m blogging about it because I want you all to keep me honest. I want to share with you the ups and downs of my Not Yelling Challenge in the coming days and weeks. Because the act of writing this post commits me to it: it will act as a contract on the days where I need to scream in frustration.

There HAS to be a better way. I’m committed to finding it. Will you all help?