Avoiding the black hole

I haven’t run in two days because my legs are back to not moving.  I’m assuming this is psychological, but to be sure, I am taking it easy and instead doing things like cleaning out closets.

If any of you have had spouses or family members with job issues, you know that you tend to go to this dark place called self-blame.  Because being angry at the provider for no longer providing is not productive, and certainly not conducive to re-providing, you decide that it must be all your fault.  It is the only possible explanation for the potential demise of your family.

If I had kept the house cleaner, if I had made more nutritious dinners, if my libido had been more robust, if I was more like so-and-so…If I had drank more, if I had drank less, if I had run further, if I had not run…none of this would have happened.

So you start floating through space when your eyes close at night and you see the black hole and you try your best to avoid it.

This black hole will suck you in and make you feel terrible, you will stay in bed all day, you will stop washing your hair, you will give up on life.

So you try to smile and enjoy the floating and you use all of your might to avoid the hole, because you know that if you give up and let the hole suck you in, you will take the rest of the family in there with you.

You can’t do that.  You CAN’T.

The only possible way to avoid getting sucked in is to gather information and try to build up your buoyancy.

We watched the Notre Dame vs. USC game on TV the other day.  ND is MFP’s Alma Mater, and this is the first year since he graduated that their football team has pulled off such a glorious season. (It was a long time coming.)

Because I can’t see football as just that, and because I am curious about leadership, I began researching Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly as soon as the game ended.

I found an article in Sports Illustrated that attempted to explain the team’s amazing transition from losing to winning under his leadership.

“When I got here, the locker room was a mess,” says Kelly.  “I’m not saying these kids were badly coached, but it was a mess.  So we started there.  We called it unconscious incompetence.  At the beginning it was unconscious incompetence.  Now it’s in their DNA.  And from day one we preached mental and physical toughness.” (source)

From there I researched unconscious competence, thinking that perhaps this is the name for my problem.

At this level you are blissfully ignorant: You have a complete lack of knowledge and skills in the subject in question. On top of this, you are unaware of this lack of skill, and your confidence may therefore far exceed your abilities. (source)


The idea is that you start at the bottom of the ladder, and the idea is that you move up as you learn, until you reach the top, unconscious competence.

This is when you are doing everything right without even thinking about it;  being competent has become second nature.

In Kelly’s case, he made doing everything right, everything from putting away one’s helmet in the proper spot, to running plays perfectly, unconscious decisions for his athletes.  Second nature.

In my case, I would keep the house better organized and generally preach “winning at life,” until it becomes second nature to all of us.  Yes, it sounds tiresome and boring, but remember, the alternative is the BLACK HOLE.   So bear with me.

Once I put a name to my problem and vowed to change my ways, I immediately began cleaning out drawers and closets.

We moved into our house in the spring of 2009.  It was a fixer.  The original owner raised five kids in the house which boasted two awkward additions and lacked air conditioning.  The matriarch had been moved to a home, and she left hers behind in disrepair, in dire need of updates.

Our family of five replaced her immediately, even though the house needed a few weeks of deep cleaning and painting before it was inhabitable.  Youngest was three.

I struggled to unpack, clean and paint, as MFP immediately went back to work.  A few weeks of exhausting work later, I was paralyzed.  I decided to go for runs instead of unpacking.

Which leads us to today: we inhabit a house that we love, but that never quite had a chance to provide us the structure and organization that we need as a base for our outside lives.  We have been utterly overwhelmed since the day that we picked up the keys.   Living in a state of unconscious competence has hardly set us up for success.

In order to cope I am cleaning out my family’s locker room because doing so is helping me to encircle the black hole without fear. 

At least for now.

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