Beautifully messy madness 

A friend sent me a sweet compliment tonight, expressing admiration for how I’m (apparently) balancing a career, a family and fitness coaching. And I thanked her. And then I laughed, and told her that she is crazy because my life often feels like legit chaos. 

It never feels like we’re doing it right, does it? Or well enough? But I think we are and we just don’t recognize it. Too busy on the hamster wheel to smell the roses.

Tonight I ate microwaved scrambled eggs and broccoli for dinner. The baby screamed bloody murder for 30 minutes when we put her down. Jim and I are both tired and working in silence. The kitchen is a messsss and I haven’t finished unpacking from my weekend trip. And I had three cavities filled yesterday, so there’s that. 

I looked around skeptically after receiving my friend’s kind words and wondered what I’m possibly doing right. I have a gazillion emails to get through, people I owe calls to and miscellaneous projects to finish. It sometimes feels like I’m trying to swim up a waterfall. 

But this chaos is almost completely self imposed, and few things I feel pressure to do are all that important. 

So tonight I’m going to give myself grace, and accept that unexpected compliment in all its glory. It’s ok to embrace the beautifully messy madness that makes our lives so sweet. 

  

On Mother’s Day 

You squirm when you’ve finished your bottle, temporarily disoriented, before stretching and adjusting to find the perfect position. Once you’re comfortable, you release a deep sigh and I feel your whole body relax. Your fists gradually unclench as you ease into sleep, breaths falling into a soft rhythm. No matter how big you grow, you can always nestle in just right. It’s here, in the quiet darkness, that our connection feels most electric. That I am most thankful for and aware of the magic of this role. 

  

The Day I was Yelled at in the Doctor’s Office

I had a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday and arrived a half hour early, as instructed. I filled out forms, provided my insurance information and then I waited, and waited. I’ve spent plenty of time waiting for medical appointments, and typically I don’t mind this unqualified alone time. Have smartphone, will travel.

But on Wednesday I had a lot to do at work, so I was stressed to be away from the office, particularly because it meant I would be staying late, and missing time with baby in the short but oh-so-sweet window between daycare and bedtime. Being a working mom is good, most of the time, but when things interfere with that precious window of quality time, ain’t nobody happy.

After waiting nearly an hour, I went outside to make a work call, asking the staff to grab me when they were ready. So naturally, right in the midst of an intense conversation, I got summoned back in. I was trying to wrap up my call and make mental notes of what I had to do, while stepping on and off the scale and hurrying after a medical assistant.

She showed me to a room and excused herself. Not 30 seconds later she poked her head back in, and when she saw I was still on the phone, promptly shouted at me that she was trying to do her job and I had to get off the phone RIGHT NOW. I don’t do well when people yell at me (…does anyone?), and I was so taken aback, overwhelmed and just tired that she might as well have smacked me in the face.

The irony in this situation that I was also just trying to do my job.

When I shared the experience with my colleagues they asked what I did; if I yelled back. I didn’t – not my style. I was sweating and holding back tears in Introvert Hell after being publicly scolded.

I mean, sure, I had visions of telling her that the jerk store called and was running out of her, but I recognized that I was likely engaging in one of her pet peeves, that she might be having an awful day or enduring hardships I know nothing about. The office delays had nothing to do with either of us, but probably meant that she would be working late and missing time with her family, too. I decided to assume positive intent. Not to excuse her behavior – but because I was still responsible for my own.

Looking back, I wish I’d taken a minute to apologize to her and explain that we were navigating similar circumstances. We probably could have laughed about it. Hugged it out.

Maybe next time.

 

“A luxury is a nonessential item.”

From NYT Motherlode Blog / Allison B. Carter:

Sometimes the language we use to talk about our choices as families can be really grating. “Lucky to have the luxury of staying home” is a common phrase, but Allison Carter, a stay-at-home-parent who planned and sacrificed for that “luck,” resents the implication, at least when it comes from other people who have the same luxury of choice, but made a different one. “A luxury is a nonessential item. An indulgence. What I do is essential, and certainly not self-indulgent.”

I do, indeed, hate it when the word “luxury” is used to define my role as a stay-at-home mom. But not for the reasons you might think. I am not here to argue who works harder: a working mother or a stay-at-home mother. I stand firm on my belief that it is hard for everyone. What goads me are the financial and lifestyle implications this statement carries.

great read on an important perspective.

The balancing act 

I think balance is the name of the game I struggle with the most in life. I tend to be a lover of structure — not in the sense of having a spotless home or color-coded calendar — but in terms of how I seek to understand things. If X is right, then Y is wrong. I’m open minded on most issues, but setting parameters in my own life helps me feel like I know what I need to do to succeed. 

Take money for example. I’m a saver, through and through. I’m not over the top (although my husband might disagree), but I worry about financial stability a great deal. Despite the fact that we are in great shape and blessed with a comfortable lifestyle. Despite the fact that we have lots of savings as a cushion. Despite the fact that friends and family would undoubtedly help us out if we needed it in an emergency. I know ALL these things, but sometimes it’s hard to treat myself to a nice haircut or new clothes, because there are more responsible things to do with the money. 

I’m expertly skilled at defying logic to find ways to worry. This comes into play with my health, too. I work out almost everyday and make healthy food choices the majority of the time. Yet when I see someone ordering a salad when I got a burger, I will often question my decision. 

It’s enough to drive you mad, the “shoulds” and the analyzing. Especially because I’ve seen what happens when people fall too far to one side of a behavior. They miss out on trips with friends because they can’t rationalize spending the money; they keep their houses uncomfortably hot in summer to save on the utility bill, they never see anyone because they are always working; they never order what they really want on the menu because of what the nutritional content  is, or they spend endless time in the treadmill that could be dedicated to family. 

Everyone has their own challenges and quirky “things,” and we must be respectful of and embrace these in others, but we also must reach out when we see someone we love losing balance. Because life really is too short to focus on the wrong things. It’s a tried and true cliche, but if you consider what someone on their deathbed* (*what the hell is a deathbed, anyway? Sounds awful) might offer up as advice, it won’t be to spend more time at work or running laps, it would likely be to fill your days with the things and people you love.

I’ve lost friends suddenly –  lives cut short so unfairly and unexpectedly – and when I find myself struggling with balance I think of them, and what they’d urge me to do. Which is exactly why I just went and got a pedicure instead of catching up on work, going for a run or doing laundry. 

  

 

“I know what you just discovered, are you ok?”

She doesn’t tell me what she knows I’m going to discover on my own, but she pops up at the right moment to say, “I know what you just discovered, are you ok?” –Nancy Dubuc

Nancy’s quote from her recent NYT interview describes her relationship with her predecessor as CEO at A&E. It’s a art — being there without hovering — and I ‘d never heard it articulated this way. I relate to this on so many ways; as a mother, daughter, wife, friend, professional, etc. I’m constantly trying to insert and remove myself.

No matter how you slice it, lots of things matter in relationships. And sometimes the tone, timing, or nature of an interaction matters more than the frequency. More often than not, the best people to surround yourself with are the ones who decline to dictate a precise course to follow, or weigh in with strong opinions, but instead find ways make you feel safe through subtle interactions.

Simon Sinek on Leadership

[…] You know, in the military, they give medals to people who are willing to sacrifice themselves so that others may gain. In business, we give bonuses to people who are willing to sacrifice others so that we may gain. We have it backwards. Right? So I asked myself, where do people like this come from? And my initial conclusion was that they’re just better people. That’s why they’re attracted to the military. These better people are attracted to this concept of service. But that’s completely wrong. What I learned was that it’s the environment, and if you get the environment right, every single one of us has the capacity to do these remarkable things, and more importantly, others have that capacity too.

[…] When a leader makes the choice to put the safety and lives of the people inside the organization first, to sacrifice their comforts and sacrifice the tangible results, so that the people remain and feel safe and feel like they belong, remarkable things happen.

[…] The reason we like flying Southwest Airlines is not because they necessarily hire better people. It’s because they don’t fear their leaders.

[…] You see, if the conditions are wrong, we are forced to expend our own time and energy to protect ourselves from each other, and that inherently weakens the organization. When we feel safe inside the organization, we will naturally combine our talents and our strengths and work tirelessly to face the dangers outside and seize the opportunities.

[…] The closest analogy I can give to what a great leader is, is like being a parent. If you think about what being a great parent is, what do you want? What makes a great parent? We want to give our child opportunities, education, discipline them when necessary, all so that they can grow up and achieve more than we could for ourselves. Great leaders want exactly the same thing. They want to provide their people opportunity, education, discipline when necessary, build their self-confidence, give them the opportunity to try and fail, all so that they could achieve more than we could ever imagine for ourselves.

[…] If you had hard times in your family, would you ever consider laying off one of your children? We would never do it. Then why do we consider laying off people inside our organization?

[…] This is the reason so many people have such a visceral hatred, anger, at some of these banking CEOs with their disproportionate salaries and bonus structures. It’s not the numbers. It’s that they have violated the very definition of leadership. They have violated this deep-seated social contract. We know that they allowed their people to be sacrificed so they could protect their own interests, or worse, they sacrificed their people to protect their own interests. This is what so offends us, not the numbers. Would anybody be offended if we gave a $150 million bonus to Gandhi? How about a $250 million bonus to Mother Teresa? Do we have an issue with that? None at all. None at all. Great leaders would never sacrifice the people to save the numbers. They would sooner sacrifice the numbers to save the people.

[…] Leadership is a choice. It is not a rank. I know many people at the seniormost levels of organizations who are absolutely not leaders. They are authorities, and we do what they say because they have authority over us, but we would not follow them. And I know many people who are at the bottoms of organizations who have no authority and they are absolutely leaders, and this is because they have chosen to look afterthe person to the left of them, and they have chosen to look after the person to the right of them. This is what a leader is.