Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Search for Balance: New Priorities as a Working Mother

I'm no stranger to busy-ness. I work, I have a three year old son, and I'm studying for the PMP (Project Management Professional) exam, I'm planning a wedding, and planning a retreat.

Appropriately, the retreat is on .... balance.

Life Changes Make us Rethink Priorities
Balance has been that thing I've been searching for over the last three years. I had a child, and our lives changed. What once had been do-able (long hours, getting home after 8pm, working weekends) was no longer acceptable. I longed to spend time with my little Zoom.

Since the time he was very young, I had this achey feeling that each moment I didn't spend with him was a moment that I would never get back, that I might miss little things, special things, and that when it was all said and done, no paycheck or bonus or plaque or LinkedIn endorsement would make up for any moment lost with my son.

It's not that I stopped caring about work, but it's that I started caring about something else.

And the search for balance was on.

Balance vs. Perfection
In the last few weeks I've been reading a lot about balance. I think one of my favorite takes on the topic is by the author Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame). She wrote the following on her Facebook page:

"We are constantly being told that we should be achieving balance — that we should somehow exquisitely be negotiating the relationships between our work lives, our home lives, our romantic lives, our health and well-being, our spiritual selves. You can't read an interview with a famous woman these days that the journalist does not applaud her for having achieved BALANCE....and then if you turn the pages of that magazine, you will find ten more articles showing how you can achieve balance. too!

Be careful...

The word BALANCE has tilted dangerously close, I fear, to the word PERFECT — another word that women use as weapons against themselves and each other. ...

That being the case, I dropped the myth of BALANCE a long time ago. (I buried it right next to PERFECT.) My life seems happiest — as I tried to explain to this young woman the other night — when I just surrender to the madness, and embrace the glorious mess that I am...and also when I embrace the glorious mess that everyone else is, and the glorious mess of the world itself. My life gets the most painful when I try to set the entire mess (myself other people, life itself) into order. "

I feel funny even copying her words because my goodness, it's Elizabeth Gilbert, but I have to say this made me smile. And it made me think a whole lot about this elusive search for balance.

When we, as modern, amazing, delightfully smart men and women say that we want "balance" in our lives, are we actually saying that we want to be able to cram in all the stuff that we're supposed to be doing, and making it look easy?

And what exactly is all the stuff we're supposed to be doing? Having a clean house? An organized garage? A stocked and sparkling refrigerator? A full social calendar and exciting potlucks scheduled with our neighbors?

I don't actually know anyone that lives like that. (Although Pinterest would have me think otherwise.) And here we are, like Ms Gilbert reflects, butting up on the ideals of "perfection," strangely masked as "balance."

Re-Balancing to Match New Priorities
But back to balance ... I'm not sure I'd thought of balance in those terms before, but then again I kind of feel like this might be truer than I'd like to admit. As a new mom, I wanted to find a way to do "ALL THE THINGS,"  and my brain wasn't coming to terms with the fact even from a time perspective, there was no way to do all of that.

And even more importantly, from a heart perspective, if I got really honest with myself, I didn't really want to do all of those things anymore, because I had new priorities. I didn't just want to be a part of the "moments" with my son, but I wanted to lay the foundation for a great family relationship with him. I wanted to be a part of his education, his routines, not a mother who worked hard and was rarely around.

For me, balance really does boil down to matching my priorities and desires with where and how I spend my time. It means that I need to be honest with myself about the things I want to do, and upfront about things that I don't care about (or that no longer serve a purpose for me). 

And after reading Elizabeth's words, I think the search for balance is also about letting go comparing myself or my family against an unattainable portrait of perfection. It will take a mindful and willful focus to let that go, for sure. 

How do you see balance in your life? What kinds of things have changed your priorities? Did you have to re-evaluate your definition of balance at that time?

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Twenty Year Reunion at UC Santa Barbara

A couple of weeks ago we packed up the car and headed south to Santa Barbara for a twenty year reunion of myself and five of my closest buddies. Here's part of the road near Cachuma Lake. I love those California Live Oaks.

The planning for the trip had started years ago, as my friends and I realized that we were nearing the twenty year mark of having graduated.

It was a great trip. We stayed in the guest quarters of a private home that I found on Home Away. The gardens of the home were lovely and it was a little like living in the book "A Secret Garden." We had free reign of this gorgeous patio!

The bed was comfortable and we felt slightly spoiled by the lovely linens and pretty bathroom.

On the first day, we went to the East Beach. Zoom loved playing in the water and chasing "hoppers."

That night we stopped by Isla Vista, which is the college town next to UC Santa Barbara. I lived there for two years, at my sorority house. It was nice to see one of the tags Gamma Phi along the wall at the Sig Ep house.

We got burritos at Freebirds (an IV institution, and the original), and then headed back downtown to hear some music. The sky that night was unreal.

We spent the next few days hanging out with old friends, eating great food, and celebrating the 4th of July. One of my favorite moments happened on the last night when we were eating pizza at Woodstock's in Isla Vista. The kids all found their way outside, and in a surreal moment, twenty years after I'd left this lovely college town, they jumped up on the tables outside and started singing and dancing. I guess some things just never change.

My Zoom is the shortest (and youngest) of the crowd of party animals.

On the way home, we stopped off to feed the ostriches and emus at Ostrichland USA. It was a new highlight. I even bought a very cheesy coffee mug!

These emus peck really hard, so you have to hold on to your bowl-attached-to-a-dustpan tightly!

So where are you headed this summer? Any trips down memory lane planned?

Happy Travels!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

About My Last Year in a Terrible Job or Why I Left Advertising

In the book Abundant Simplicity by Jan Johnson, I discovered a quote that hit home pretty hard for me.

"Marketing folks have identified the masters we don't even know we are serving. 'Marketing theory says that people are driven by fear, by the promise of exclusivity, by guilt and by greed, and by the need for approval. Advertising ... promises to resolve our discomfort with a product.' Advertising also plays in to our fears that we won't have enough, that we'll miss out, that we'll be shown to be inadequate, that we'll be misjudged, rejected and left out, that we'll face others' disapproval, anger or disappointment."

This last year I took a job back in advertising, with a former boss who assured me that I could "do the work in my sleep." The office prided itself on being the most profitable of all of the agency's offices across the globe, and boasted having a well known local company as it's "bread and butter" client.

It turned out that I was being hired to work on the worst account in the agency, one that had never kept a project manager or an account manager for a full year. That the profitability came at the price of scheduling all employees well over 50 hours a week, and that the client was a renegade nightmare.

Add to this a CEO who obsessed about what time each employee came in each day, perching himself at the end of the room so he could keep track of each person's attendance. And there was the fear that if your account was doing poorly and showed up on his radar, you'd be lucky if you shook his attention and micromanaging ways.

So you can guess what happened. Our account had a tragic year, with clients changing roles just as we were working on key parts of a large project, and the scope of the project changing wildly up until right before launch. A coupon was going live and we had to have the supporting pages up on our site to support it. And everything came to a head the weekend before this was going live.

That weekend, I got several calls from the CEO. He was worried, and I got the sense that he wanted me to know that this project now had his attention. At a critical point, it became apparent that folks would have to work the Sunday of the weekend. One of our programmers is very religious, and the CEO said to me,"Make sure Bob finds a way to work tomorrow. I know he's a very religious man, but I'm also sure that God would not want us to lose this account. Make sure he understands this!"

In other words, he didn't give a rat's ass about the people on the team, or their religious beliefs, he just didn't want to lose a client.

I felt sick to my stomach as he said this. Dry heave sick.

It was also right about then that I decided I was over and done with advertising. Sure, I've worked with good agencies, but the fear, or rather the Fear, had jumped in and taken control it was ruling everything we did as an agency. Not only were the principals of advertising being observed in the product we were making (creating ads to entice people to buy a product for fear they were not good enough), but those same principals were ruling the management of our agency. It was fully living up to Johnson's observation above that, "Advertising also plays in to our fears that we won't have enough, that we'll miss out, that we'll be shown to be inadequate, that we'll be misjudged, rejected and left out, that we'll face others' disapproval, anger or disappointment." 

During that phone call, I was well aware that I was being asked, if not told to step over some pretty serious personal boundaries. There was NO way I could ask a co-worker to deny his religion, or ask him to work when he'd made his own boundaries around working on Sundays clear to me.

At the same time (and this is what is so different for me than previous jobs with unbalanced management approaches), I had a strong and liberating sense that this man had no control over me. He'd lost my loyalty awhile back, because I couldn't get behind his fear mongering. I saw right through it as a weakness. I know who I am, and I know what's important to me, and I'm not afraid to do what I know is right. I know my faith and know that I am worthy of being loved and respected, at home and at the work place. It's taken a long time to get here. Even if the CEO was nervous about the outcome, I know that I have what it takes to carry the project across the finish line successfully. And I wasn't about to let anyone else's fear or anger or disapproval mess with my head. No, the stakes were too high to let myself get flustered.

You see, I'm one of those project managers that works their butt off to get my job done correctly. I was sacrificing my own time with my family, and I'd spent days' worth of overtime working to get this project out the door. I'm not a slacker. I'm not one of the people you have to worry about.

And so I called Bob's boss. We came up with a different plan to get the work done and let Bob have the day off. And I called the CEO, who likely wasn't pleased because I hadn't followed marching orders and told him what we were doing.

Did we launch on time with that coupon? Damn straight.
Did we lose the client? No. 

Did I look for a new job starting that Monday because I was fed up beyond belief by the total lack of respect for people's beliefs and time? And of a place being driven by fear? Yes.

I couldn't be happier to have left, and to have left on my own terms. I'm happy that I recognized the Fear for what it was, and stood up to it in my own way. I'm pleased that my project launched, and that I stayed true to myself.

And that's what the next three years are all about for me. Staying true, becoming the person I already know I am, and really living out some of the things I know are true - (and to paraphrase Anita Roddick) -  that work can be fun, that it can be conducted with love, and that it can create a powerful force for good.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Ten in Three: My Plan Over the Next Three Years

In my sheepish return, I said I had some big plans over the next three years. So, let's cut to the chase and get sharing!

In October of last year I started working with a life coach, the wonderful and amazeballs Michelle Ward. I was working at a very terrible place (more on that later!), and yet it felt so good to know that I'd started planning my great escape and working on the bigger picture. On whatever came next.

We spent 4 months working on things. By the end I knew I wanted to be some sort of an entrepeneur, running my own business. Initially I thought I'd be an "Inspiration Architect and Business Consultant" because I love helping people figure out how to do things. And I love helping people figure out how they can feel inspired, and figuring out where they feel inspired.

And then I got thinking. What I LOVE is the people. Their stories. Helping them remember the spark of what's true to them, what made them happy as a child, what their heart sings to do. It's about the people. Even now, as a project manager, my favorite thing is the interpersonal skills, the leading, the inspiring, and the cheering on of teams, even when the going is tough. And so then, why not be a life coach myself?

*This is when my heart got racing and I knew I was on to something.*

Ten in Three on Welcoming Spirit
And so, without further adieu, my "Ten in Three" list:

In 2014:
1. Get married! in October.
2. Pass my Project Management Professional exam.

In 2015:
3. Begin training as a life coach in the Courageous Coaching Training Program. (January)
4. Get the word out and start marketing myself. (All year)
5. Plan a retreat for Michelle Ward's graduates in New York! (June or July)
6. Begin taking on clients as a life coach. (May - August)
7. Graduate! in October

In 2016:
8. Work on jumping off on my own as a coach in 2016.
9. Take a little time to hang out with Zoom before he starts kindergarten.
10. Get my company going and kick butt.

So that's the plan. It's ambitious, it's life changing. And super exciting. 
What ten things are you going to tackle in the next three years?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Sheepish Hello!

Welcoming Spirit has sat dormant for a year, and so I'm a bit sheepish as I come back and say a quiet "hello!" It's been a year of big learnings, of bad jobs, and strange days.

I was trying so very hard to find balance, and over the course of two jobs in a year, only managed to find a couple of truly dysfunctional work places. Painful, as I'd joined up when two people I'd worked with before assured me that they were great places to work.

And so I kept looking, and have found my way back to a place where the people are kind, they like each other, and the work is doable.  It is a good feeling to laugh at work again, and to have a new friend who sits next to me. On days she deems "too quiet" she gets out a rubber pig and squeezes it a few times, and it makes a loud squealing noise and everyone laughs.

I swear these are my people ;-)

And so, based on my search for balance, I also now have time for this. This blog, for you, for readers and community, and I've missed it.

I've got some ideas ... a new logo (yay!), a new layout is on the way, and then I have this crazy list of 10 things I need to over the next three years.

So say hi, if you would. I'm glad you're here and I'm glad I'm back.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Bravest Thing, Running Through the Fields

The first thing I read this morning, as I lay in my bed, just waking up was this, shared by my friend Kathy on Facebook.

the bravest thing by the beautiful due

maybe the bravest thing
is opening your eyes in the
morning and placing your
two feet on the cold floor and
rising up against the gravity
of the night. maybe that’s the
brave thing from which all other
bravery flows, the brave to
seek ye first. maybe that’s the
single thing God requires of you,
the spiritual discipline that takes
all your will to muster. Swallow
down the fear, my child, and face
the dawning day for what the
surface of the world needs most
of all is bravery skipping and
you, yes you are the stone.

The words stayed with me as I showered. I'm a shower thinker. It's where things just fall in to place in my brain, where things make sense.

And I thought, yes, for right now, it's brave of me to get out of bed. To shower, to pick out mostly clean clothes (I totally wore the same jeans as yesterday) and go in to work. To push beyond a cold that I can't shake. There's a silent courage as I steer my car through traffic for up to two hours to get to my office. It is not my favorite job, but frankly, it pays a mortgage and feeds a family. And I'm not giving up.

The irony of my day job and my love of leading retreats was not missed this morning, either. I stand in front of groups and tell them to be brave of heart, that often times courage is just the act of showing up. That we must give ourselves credit for showing up.

And yet I'm so hard on myself; demanding more than I know may be reasonable. There is a list a mile long in my head and on Cozi just waiting for me. I'm not giving myself credit for the million things I do. I can only see what's undone, what I wish I could do, what I wish I had time for.

This morning, though, it sunk in that I'd done "the brave thing from which all other bravery flows," I've risen from bed, rising for the day, rising to meet challenges. I'm trying with all of my might to be "bravery skipping," running through the field, and all the while plotting and acting to make my dreams a reality.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I'm Hereby Giving Myself Permission To ...

- be lazy

- act a little crazy

- be mad that the last year has not been what I chose or even what I tried to make it 

- see that there is good in the bad

- “lean in” to boundaries which is the opposite of the stupid Sheryl Sandberg "leaning in" not really care about the climb or the ladder or the executive world

- like Laura Ingalls Wilder and Battlestar Galactica and Firefly because they are all about discovering new things and living life on the edge of what’s known, and not being afraid to say its not easy

- spend time doing things I like and tell that one lady leading that getting ready for baby class to go jump off a cliff because we don’t have to stop doing what we love just because we become parents. 
We should do even more of what we love when we become parents

- follow my own path, even if I’m not altogether sure where that’s going to lead, or if it will please my parents or whoever the heck “they” or "them" are

- love the Franciscans and what they stand for, while still loving other religious ideas

- be fascinated by the impact of generations, and which generation we each are a part of

- want to help people figure out what they want to do 

- give more of a try at photography

- be upset about my current job

- own and live and breathe that I AM a retreat leader. I’ve already done it. Already living the dream. Now I just need to figure out how to do it every day

- say things are not ok

- raise my kiddo how I want to, and not worry about other people and how they raise their kids

- explore new things because that’s probably what those never-ending dreams of going back to school are telling me - that I need to find a new thing to do, to follow my heart and just go see what happens. I never really lived out “religious studies” but I spent so long studying it. I need to figure out what it means and why I have spent so much time with it

- get over other people worrying about what I do. or what it means about me. or what it means about them, or anything. I want to do what I love.

- talking about what makes me happy and just going for it

- speak my mind if something just doesn’t make sense and I’d suggest doing it another way, especially in any capacity in which I’m being paid for such an opinion.

- join a religious group or attend a church if that’s what I want to do.

- forget to send thank you notes, knowing full well that I really meant to and now it’s somehow way past the ok amount of time to say thanks, when I really love those people

- say no to the stuff I just don’t want to do

- be a mom

- listen to Fall Out Boy, The Shins, Jimmy Eat World and musics, and cry my eyes out every single time I hear "Goodbye Love" from Rent 

- believe that I have the experience to make it happen.