An unorthodox prescription for happiness

My husband and I were out to dinner a few weeks ago — a treasured luxury as new parents — and through the course of conversation and shoveling food THAT WE DIDN’T MICROWAVE into our mouths, I paused to ask a question.

“Hey, have you noticed I don’t cry anymore?”

Now, before your brain dashes through a million scenarios pegging me as one of those girls who cries at the drop of a hat, or whenever she sees a kitten, or if a Coldplay song comes on at the wrong time, pleaseeeee check yourself.

I’m not emotionless. But I’m more practical than dramatic. My default setting is to talk or write through feelings, and it takes a great deal for me to cry in front of anyone. Meaning, if you see tears, shit has gotten real and you’re in for the long haul. However, if you are lucky enough to be married to me, besides essentially winning the life lottery, you see the good, the bad and the ugly–which in this case, is me crying. A lot. Spouses get all the unedited bonus scenes. The tears, sick days, meltdowns, bad moods, violent flip outs over laundry…amiright?

Wanna know my sweet husband’s response to this?

“Huh. Yeah, you don’t. Are you on a new medication or something?”

(It’s ok to laugh.)

But here’s the thing. I’ve made some big changes in my life over the past few months, and the combination, although largely unorthodox, has had a significant impact.

The first change was leaving Corporate America after seven years spent in three giant public companies. I relish the experiences I had, the crazy opportunities these roles presented and the amazing friends who entered my life. I’m grateful for the ways I was pushed and challenged to grow professionally and personally. But I was burned out and disenchanted. I made a transition into a smaller, non-profit setting and am so much happier. Is my new job perfect? Well, no job is perfect. I still have long, hard days and moments where I want to pull a Jerry McGuire exit. But I am so much more at peace. I’m more relaxed and connected to my work than I have in a long time.

The second change was prayer. Now if you know me, you’re possibly shocked to read these words. You may be composing a text to me that reads as follows: “Dude, are you ok? Are the Sunshine Carpet Cleaners there?” And truthfully, I’m still surprised to write this. I considered not sharing it with the blogosphere. But I don’t like censoring life and we’ve already gotten this far. Incorporating prayer into daily life brings me the kind of calm that I’ve always loved getting from meditation and yoga. It’s just more personal, and frankly, way more necessary as a mom. Prayer isn’t necessarily about religion to me, although it’s definitely connected to faith. It’s more just a way to focus, regain perspective, practice gratitude and soothe my wackadoo anxious tendencies. At the risk of sounding crass, it’s like a cozy, emotional security blanket.

And the third change? Brace yourselves. It’s been drinking Shakeology. At this point in the post I anticipate that I definitely have some concerned people poised to text me. But wait! Here’s what I mean. I first tried Shakeology to help support my immune system. Not to get bikini ready. Not to be a hot mom. Please. Barf. I have a baby in daycare and she is a germ sponge. Anyway, after trying these shakes and learning more about all the things they do for my body and health, I was sold. I’ve never felt better. It’s premium fuel you can consume. I was so taken by the product that I almost immediately became a coach so that I could learn more and share them with others. Coaching is incredible. I’m connected to an amazing network of women and am humbled everyday to see the ways we are able to help others work toward improved health and fitness. This isn’t about all the things you might think. It’s not about money or weight loss or marketing ploys. It’s about inspiring others to feel and look their best. I wrote more about my journey here.

So in summary, all you have to do to achieve true happiness is quit your job, pray and drink a superfood shake.

I kid. Sort of.

I genuinely don’t know that any of this makes much sense, but I’m going to hit post now and try to avoid oversharer’s remorse.

1312218267495_3749940

5 Things to Say to the Working Moms in your Life

1. “I’ll drive.” This is music to my ears because my car is full of stuffed animals and tupperware and you might find yourself akwardly siting on a pacifier.

2. You’re doing a great job.” I often feel my life is a tornado, and that I’m failing at everything rather than balancing anything. There’s no such thing as too much  reassurance.

3. “We can do this meeting by phone,” or, “You can work from home.” Please and thank you. It means I can save precious time and spend more time with my offspring.

4. “Remember, your family comes first.” It seems so natural to assume we know this, but work — particularly leadership roles — come with a lot of pressure and expectations. Reminders of what really matters are a good thing.

5. “I know it’s hard.” I don’t want sympathy or special favors, but at a very basic human level it’s nice to know someone else recognizes the things you are juggling. If you’ve never worked while parenting a small human, I don’t know that there’s any way to fully explain the way things are sometimes just HARD, despite flexibility and support and good childcare. There’s an emotional tax on even the best situations, that sometimes just needs a pat on the back.

tina

we all can grow in tandem

In yoga, intructors often remind us that we’re ony competing against ourselves. We’re told over and over again to ignore others in the room and focus only on our own practice. And it’s an easy enough thing to embrace this in yoga — because we are independently struggling to not faceplant into another person — but harder to sustain in other parts of life.

This is how real growth takes place though: when we intentionally wear spandex.

Awkward pause…

Kidding. It happens when we focus on our own progress, devoid of comparison to outside influences. If we start to base success on a comparison to others, we put ourselves at a disadvantage (in yoga, this is when you fall over). But when we stay focused and support others’ success, we all can grow in tandem.

It’s a lesson you learn in any introductory business class — how supporting your competition strengthens your market niche. When others in your sector succeed, it also positions you for success. But when you strive to be the only player in a space, you isolate the demand for your services and limit your growth potential.

There’s certainly a need to differentiate your product and offer something unique, but it doesn’t need to come at the expense of eliminating others. I can name my favorite provider in any market from airlines to donuts, but I can’t think of a thriving industry where only one player is successful.

Your toughest competition usually isn’t among those doing something very similar to you, but in those who threaten your operation through something you can’t deliver. If I’m an average grocery store, I don’t need to be threatened by other stores like me. Should I watch them and monitor their performance? Absolutely. But I should pay closer attention to stores poised to offer things in a different way at a more competitive price point (here’s looking at you, Costco). There are enough people who need groceries for all of these entities to exist when operated efficiently, but generally speaking, competition fuels innovation and growth for everyone.

It’s this way in our personal lives, too. When we fixate on others and try to “surpass” them we gain nothing but a false sense of validation. It never ends. It’s freeing to recognize that there’s no limit to the good things that can occur around us, and we grow the most when we learn to celebrate all of it instead of just our own.

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.

 

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.

5 truths on a Friday evening 

1. There is a giant spaghetti squash rotting on the kitchen counter that I’m too lazy to carry outside to the trash. Jim offered to last week but I stubbornly declared “it’s not that bad,” and demanded he leave it. Joke’s on me.

2. I ate a large bowl of Minute Rice for dinner. Partially because I didn’t feel great this week, but mostly because it was the fastest way to get carbs in my mouth.

3. Every time I read the dosage instructions on the baby’s teething tablets I laugh because it claims they are designed to “alleviate symptoms of wakeful irritability.” Uh…every person I know has that. Should we all be taking teething tablets?

4.  I admittedly don’t like Scandal anymore, but I absolutely will not stop watching it because I still want Vermont and jam to happen. 

5. I have never made a March Madness bracket*

*ducks to avoid being smacked with a rotten tomato.