Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, episode 188, Blank Slate Fears.
Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, the only podcast that offers a proven process to help you work through your grief, to grow, evolve, and create a future you can truly look forward to. Here’s your host, Master Certified life coach, grief expert, widow, and mom, Krista St-Germain.
Hey there, welcome to the podcast and welcome to 2023. We have survived 2022. It’s hard to believe 2023 is here already. Actually if I’m being honest, 2023 is not here for me at the time that I am recording this podcast because I have to get it done before I go on holiday here. But doing a lot of reflecting lately and thinking about what I loved about 2022, what I learned, what went well, what didn’t go well, what I want to do differently in 2023, what I want to create going forward.
And as I’ve been thinking about that it continues to fascinate me how scary sometimes it can feel when we come into something new, the future, a blank slate, if you will, creating from scratch. Just thinking about what we want in the next chapter of life. And so that’s what I want to talk to you about on the podcast today. I’ll also tell you that personally I am amazingly happy because my daughter is home. If you’ve been listening to the podcast, you know she spent the fall in Costa Rica studying and she is home.
And of course she’s very busy and she’s hanging out with friends and trying to see everyone while she’s home but it’s just been really nice to have her hanging out on the couch with me. Last night we watched Stutz on Netflix. I recommend it. If you have Netflix, go check it out. It is a documentary about a psychiatrist and it’s done by Jonah Hill. It’s his psychiatrist. And he has really interesting visual ways of explaining things. If you like this podcast I think you’ll really like that show. It’s useful and I think it’ll give you some things that might help you going into 2023. I really enjoyed it.
Also we did, remember I told you I had a brand new training that we did on the 20th? It was amazing, loved it. It is now available to you, of course, you can’t catch it live anymore. I only did it live once. But it is available to those who apply and are accepted for Mom Goes On. So if you go to coachingwithkrista.com/workwithme you can apply for a spot in Mom Goes On. And if your application is accepted, meaning we believe that we can help you. It’s not fair of me to accept people into the program who I don’t believe are in a position that I can help them. That would not be kind.
But if we do believe we can help you based on the application then that will give you immediate access to that training. It went almost two hours. I really didn’t intend for it to go that long but there was so much value in it. So I hope that you will check that out if that feels interesting to you.
Alright, so let’s talk about blank slate fears. As I was preparing for the webinar that I just did, which was all about how widowed moms can love life again without any of the junk that doesn’t work, the toxic positivity, the forced gratitude, the grief book reading, like any of that. I went back and I was reading through the journal that I kept after he Hugo died. It was very cathartic for me for quite a while to sit on my back porch and write to him and just tell him about my day. Just process what I was experiencing in my grief. In those early days it was like I can’t even believe this happened. This is so unfair.
There was so much emotion in that journal but it was really helpful for me to just write it all out to him and to continue to have conversations with him. And I read an entry that talked about, this was after I had already joined a coaching program, which that’s a story for another day. But I was kind of past that early acute grief. I was trying to figure out, okay, how do I actually love life again? And so I had joined this coaching program. And one of the very first things that this coach was teaching me was how we don’t really consider many of us, what we want at a certain point.
When we’re little, when we’re young we’re dreaming and we’re thinking about what do we want to do for a living? And where do we want to live? But for most of us that means we go to school, we get some sort of an education, we find a job, we find a partner. We get married, we have kids and we just kind of settle down. And once we own a house or have put our kind of stake in the ground and we have a regular job, we really just kind of stop dreaming because we aren’t taught to dream after that point. All the things we’re taught to dream about kind of lead up to that point.
And then in middle age we’re just kind of going through the motions. And then what a wakeup call spousal loss can be, losing your person. And you notice that everyone else in the world is back to life. And you’re kind of sitting there wondering, if life is this short, if it’s this precious, if it’s this precarious, what do I want to do with it? Am I doing what I want to do? Am I living the way that I want to live? And so back to what I wrote in the journal. This coach was telling me it’s okay to dream again, it’s okay. You could create anything you want in the future.
You can create your future from scratch. It is literally a blank slate. And what I read in the journal was my response to that and how conflicted it was. I remember feeling excited at the idea but also quite afraid at the idea. because until that point it really didn’t feel like a blank slate was available to me until she told me that it was. I was just kind of always doing what you do. You get up and you take care of the kids and you get them to school. And you go to work and you pay your bills, and you come home.
You do the things that adults are ‘supposed to do’. Which doesn’t mean or for me it didn’t until that point, dreaming, creating, considering what could be possible to me. And I wrote this journal, and true to Hugo and I was like, “Oh my gosh.” It’s just hitting me that I actually still could do whatever I want with my life. I don’t have to keep working in this job if I don’t want to. I could do something else. And it was equal parts scary and equal parts terrifying, I mean equal parts exciting.
So that’s what I want to talk about because here’s what I think. Uncertainty will always be a part of our human experience. When we think about what we want going forward we might think it’s all going to play out in a particular way. We might be pretty certain that it’s going to happen the way we think, but nothing is guaranteed. Clearly if you’re listening to this, you lost your person. That was not what you expected. It was not what I expected. So uncertainty as much as we don’t like it as humans, will always be part of our human experience.
So we want to learn to relate to it in ways that serve us, which doesn’t mean that we have to create certainty. It means we have to decide how we want to relate to uncertainty, decide how we want to think about it. Think about it in ways that serve us. And for most of us, me for sure, our brain won’t do this without intentional guidance. When we think about uncertainty, if we aren’t intentionally guiding our brain what will often happen is that we think about this blank slate in front of us, we think about the future, we think about possibility.
And our brain will offer us thoughts like I could fail. I don’t know what I want. I don’t know how to do it. It’s too much. I have never been able to do that before. Who am I to think that I could do that? Or maybe I’ve never done it without them. Our brain will offer us a lot of unconscious, unintentional, fear producing, confusion inducing, anxiety ridden ways of thinking about the blank slate that is in front of all of us.
And if we continue to listen to our brain’s initial reaction to that blank slate that’s in front of us, that uncertain future, that possibility, then we’ll feel afraid, and confused, and anxious. And afraid, and confused, and anxious humans don’t really take advantage of what’s available to them. If we’re acting from fear, and confusion, and anxiety we don’t really try to take the risks that we might want to take. We don’t really try to pursue the goals that we might want to pursue.
We don’t even try necessarily to dream about what we could do with the blank slate. We don’t give ourselves the ability to try something and learn by doing. That’s when we start worrying and second guessing ourselves and we stay stuck in inaction. And we literally prove our thoughts true. When we’re thinking, I don’t know what I want, we’ll feel confused. And then we won’t figure out what we want. And we will actually prove to ourselves that we don’t know.
And when we think that we could fail, and we feel afraid, and then we let that have us not trying, we literally prove our I could fail thought true and block ourselves from success. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with us. That just means that our brain’s initial reaction to that blank slate isn’t usually very useful. So what I want to offer is that we can still have that initial reaction. We can still feel fear, and confusion, and anxiousness, or worry. And those things don’t have to be problems as long as we choose our response to our reaction.
You might think about, you start thinking about the future and then you get this like gut punch of I couldn’t do that without them. You feel guilty about it. Okay, that’s your brain’s initial reaction. Nothing’s gone wrong, it’s just the brain being the brain. A part of our primitive programming says, “Don’t take risks. Risks are scary. Stay safe, stay in the cave.” We expect our brain to react that way. But now we need to choose our response. We need to normalize that initial reaction, meet it with compassion and then pivot to an intentional response.
So here’s what that can look like. Your brain offers you something that creates fear, something that creates anxiety, something that creates confusion. And instead of listening you respond with, “Of course, this is the part where my brain has an initial reaction. This is the part where my primitive brain tries to keep me stuck in fear, and protect me and keep me safe.” and we say things to ourselves like, “Hello, mid brain, hello, humanness, hello inner critic.” We recognize that reaction as not the truth of who we are and not the only thing that is available to us.
So many of us are having unintentional reactions that are maybe caused by past trauma. Hello past trauma, I see you. I see you. This is the part where my brain tells me that it’s scary, this blank slate that’s in front of me. And if I just stay safe in the cave, I won’t die. Thank you brain, thank you for trying to keep me safe. I see you.
And then once we’ve normalized it, we’ve met it with compassion, we pivot and we choose something to think on purpose. We don’t have to get rid of the fear. We don’t have to get rid of the confusion necessarily. We don’t have to get rid of the anxiety. We don’t have to get rid of any of it but we’re going to choose our response to it. And by that I mean thoughts like, I can figure this out. All things are figure out-able as Marie Forleo says. I can figure this out. Maybe I could succeed, what if I could? It could all work out. Other widows have done this, why not me? Maybe I can do this too.
The only way I fail is if I quit and I’m not quitting. What if this were possible for me? Maybe this is possible for me. Maybe my past has nothing to do with what I could create in the future. Maybe I’m becoming a person who can create something different for herself. It’s possible that I could be successful here. On purpose responses to our brain’s initial reaction. Uncertainty isn’t going anywhere. It is a part of being human. If we want to create something new we have to be willing to let our brain do what it does and react. But then we see that it is not the truth of who we are.
Our brain’s initial reaction might not be so useful and that’s okay, we just pivot. We pivot to something that is more useful. We’re still allowing our humanness. And by the way, this isn’t toxic positivity. This is not some sort of nonsense where we have to only feel good all the time. This is a way of thinking about the truth of being a human, which is that we do feel fear sometimes. And we do feel anxious sometimes. And part of our brain will try to block progress with confusion but we have the ability to choose something different for ourselves.
We have the ability to choose our response to our brain’s reaction and that’s what I want you to start thinking about as you go into this new year. What is it, if you could just wave a magic wand and create something that you wanted in your life going forward, what would you create? What would you let yourself dream about? What would you let yourself try? And if fear comes up, okay, normalize it, no big deal. Meet it with compassion. This is just the part where, and then pivot. Choose a thought on purpose and then go get whatever it is you want.
And I guarantee you that what you’ve created in the past has absolutely nothing to do with what you are capable of creating in the future, unless you decide to believe that it does. I promise you this. I’ve done it for myself. I look back at that journal entry. I was still working a 40 hour week job. I was brand new to even being a life coaching client. I still struggled to imagine what my future was going to look like without him, let alone believe that I could be happy, genuinely happy.
And holy cow, what have I created since then? And you can do it too. We can all do it. It’s available to all of us, but we’ve got to stop going with our brain’s initial reaction if it’s not helpful and start choosing our response. That’s what I want for you.
Alright, stay warm out there, friends. Welcome to the New Year. And remember whatever is going on in your world tell yourself this, I say it to you, you say it to yourself, I love you. You’ve got this. Alright, take care and I’ll see you next week, bye bye.
If you like what you’ve been hearing on this podcast and want to create a future you can truly get excited about after the loss of your spouse, I invite you to join my Mom Goes On coaching program. It’s small group coaching just for widowed moms like you where I’ll help you figure out what’s holding you back and give you the tools and support you need so you can move forward with confidence.
Please don’t settle for a new normal that’s less than you deserve. Go to coachingwithkrista.com and click work with me for details and the next steps. I can’t wait to meet you.