Tolerating the Tolerable: How to Break Free of a Frenzied, Frustrating Life

In my book Transforming Divorce, I wrote a chapter called “What are You Tolerating?” I wrote the chapter (and book) to help women going through a major relationship breakup, to look at their lives and assess what they don’t like.

A breakup provides an opportunity, as upsetting as it is, to clean the slate and start with a blank canvas. With this new opportunity to expand your life, you not only want to think about what to add to it, but also what to leave behind.

You don’t have to go through a stressful and messy breakup to provide you with the opportunity to look at your life and ask yourself what is working and what is not. Start by asking this simple question:

What are you tolerating?

What don’t you like in your life? In the book, I ask the reader to set a timer for 5 minutes and write down in a stream of consciousness (without pausing to filter out your answers), what you don’t like in your life.

For example, you don’t like:

  • Your neighbors
  • Your car’s rear-wheel drive
  • Your lipstick color
  • Your front door color
  • Your child’s comforter and sheet set
  • The kind of coffee you drink
  • Your dinners out or a certain restaurant you frequent
  • The workout schedule (or lack thereof) you go by
  • The music you listen to
  • The carpet in your bedroom
  • The dishes in your cupboard
  • The light that’s out in your hallway
  • The commute to work
  • Your coworker or boss
  • The shoes you wear
  • The facial lotion you use
  • Your living room wall color
  • The pillows on your couch
  • The extra 15 pounds you’ve put on
  • Your teenager’s sass
  • Hundreds of emails in your inbox (yeah, I see you!)

Do this exercise and see what you come up with. Set a timer for 5 minutes and write down everything you’ve been tolerating in your life.

Next, ask yourself this question:

Why are you tolerating these things?

No judgement here; no reason to beat yourself up.

Now ask yourself this:

What can you change on this list?

Go over your list of tolerations and ask yourself what you can do to change these things.

Some of the things on your list you may not be able to change – or at least right away.

You don’t have to tolerate anything. You can physically change it or change your reaction to it. Even becoming aware that you’re tolerating things changes the unhealthy pattern of toleration.

You aren’t stuck. You are not powerless.

Actually, you are amazing! You have tolerated a list of frustrating aspects of your life that you probably didn’t realize was going on. Your stress level will go down if you start addressing some of the things on that list.

I’ll give you an example from my own life that recently happened. I have a drawer of Tupperware containers – containers for leftovers. Since I cook a lot, I have a lot of extra food at the end of our meals. Having good quality containers with matching pieces (lids and bowls) helps with the clean-up process.

Over the last few years, I would purchase containers, but they didn’t match and some were cracked overtime. The drawer was just a mess! Instead of putting up with it, I purchased an entire new set of Tupperware and gave all the old stuff to my husband so he could use it in his workshop.

Now I look in the drawer and it looks like it’s out of a magazine. It’s neatly organized, it matches, and it gives me so much pleasure because I use them every single day.

What a difference!

personal growth

I know: it sounds too simple to make any real difference, but it has made a huge difference! I make healthy, gourmet meals every day, every meal. I am in that drawer several times a day. Over time, that’s a lot of mini-exposures to frustration – of not having the things I need and frickin' tolerating that! I want to support myself and all the things I love doing. I want to have fun doing them. I want that for you, too.

It’s amazing how we as humans can learn to tolerate things in our lives. In turn, these seemingly little tolerations can have a big impact on our emotions and moods.


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