From Type A to Type Ahh

Be the Change You Wish to See in the World – Ghandi


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Now is When you Put it into Practice

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You know that theory about trying to change something, that the universe will give you ample opportunity to master that which you seek to practice.  Well thanks universe!  I received a call Friday from a key staff person letting me know that she is taking a job somewhere else.  I am truly happy for her.  This is a great opportunity and the proximity to her home will allow her so much more time to pursue things she loves.  It is the next step on her journey and I was pleased to assist her and even wrote a letter to my colleagues who were “stealing her away.”

Funny how the next step in her journey will be an opportunity for me to take several steps in mine.  She is leaving in the middle of a work crisis.  We are in the middle of a drought and our workload for our small staff of three is already nearly unmanageable. I have noticed that this time I don’t feel the same level of chaos and panic as I normally would.  I have known for a few weeks this was a possibility, and I have been making conscious decisions about what we can and can’t commit to.  That may seem like a no brainer, but not for someone, who in the past, has prided herself on seeming like I could handle the impossible it is not.  In fact you could say I was addicted to pole vaulting over the bar of any reasonable expectations.

As you may know from reading this blog I have been really working on change. I have been meditating on accepting the uncomfortable and just sitting with it.  For most of my life I have been a jump in there and plan out every possibility,  work until it is nearly physically impossible to do more, put aside everything else.  Now when I look back at those times, though I made an enormous personal sacrifice and so did my loved ones, I don’t think there was an appreciable difference in outcome other than the weird pay off I got from “doing the impossible.”  That is personally hard to admit but even a little harder to live with the fact that I made that choice over and over.

So here I am again, the opportunity and siren call of exceeding all reasonable expectations beckons. Like Odysseus strapped to the ship I am going to resist.  In fact that has already begun.  Mentally I have already said to myself about several potential events and activities, “that is impossible.”  I was supposed to go to an event Tuesday night, but I know that will add even more work and I can’t commit to that right now.  Do I fear that I will miss out on something? If I am being perfectly honest…a little bit. None of this will be easy for me.  I am pretty sure I will know I failed in someway when I lock into the present moment in some meeting or presentation and think, “why am I here?  I could be home. They don’t need me for this.”

The difference is now I know what I would actually miss by giving into that fear and addiction to succeed and surpass is what really matters. I no longer want to give up time with my husband, assistance to my mom, exercise, cooking healthy meals, contented purrs of happy cats, opportunities to volunteer, blogging and meditation.  Let someone else work on that new opportunity.  Right now my hands are full; it’s impossible.


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That is Not My American Dream…

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Here is my confession.  My husband and I are professionals in a two income earner family with only 4 legged children and…we rent (gasp).  I say that it is a confession because, at least in my social circle, I am asked two questions more than any others.  How many kids do you have? (Tackle that one in a later post.) When did you buy your house?  Awkward!  Sometimes I don’t even dispel them of the assumption that successful Gen Xers, with professional jobs all own homes.   I just tell them when we moved in and leave the rest to their assumptions.  There are several reasons I don’t go into it with most people.  First, I am pretty private, all evidence in this blog aside, I think my personal life is mine.

The more complicated reason is that I find the reaction I get, to be a little frustrating.  The various reactions have included:

  • Are you poor?
  • I thought you and your husband made a good living?
  • Don’t you want a home?
  • When are you going to grow up?
  • Do you take care of it?
  • Are you hippies?
  • Don’t you want the American Dream?

So if you are shocked that people would say these things to a grown adult so was I, but my husband and I have been renting since we sold the only home we owned in 2003 so I have gotten used to it.  Before you think we shun all conventionality we were on the track. Back in 1998 after 6 years of cohabitating (liberal hippies!) we decided to make it official and get married.  Like that was not enough “adulting” for one year…we also bought our first house about 7 months before our wedding.  Marriage and mortgage…look at us living “The American Dream”!  Long story short, the marriage worked the mortgage did not.  Our neighborhood transitioned, and not in that increased property value upwardly mobile way, but in that gang central, largest Meth House in the County way.  We felt trapped and it took almost a year to unload what had become a prison.

To be fair, our house felt like a mental prison before that.  See there are two very important characteristics hubby and I share.  First we moved a lot when we were growing up, and that was sort of ingrained in us. Moving is a great way to invite fresh energy, and force you to evaluate your stuff.  Even if like us, you stay in the general area, you are in a new neighborhood and will find new favorite spots.  Life is a cabaret, right?  The other trait we share is an intense aversion to home improvement projects.  There has never been a Friday evening in our home with the following conversation:

Me: You know what we could do this weekend?

Him: Rip out the carpet and put in some tongue and groove hardwoods (Whatever those are)

Me: Exactly…It is like you are reading my mind.

Never happened…never going to happen.  We just don’t value that.  When we owned a home we felt pressure all the time.  We had all these ideas about what we would do…but we hated the idea of doing them.  We like a plug and play home and we like calling someone else to tell them something is broken.  We are weekend warriors, if that involves being outdoors: running, biking, hiking or attending art festivals.  If it includes a reserved parking space at Home Depot, you probably won’t find us there.

How do I answer my well meaning colleagues’ and friends’ criticism of our Peter Panesque hippy choices?

Just so everyone can relax.  We are not poor in fact we are very fortunate and make more than we need to meet our needs. I have a home.  My home is where my husband and cats are.  I am very grown up.  I have a responsible job, I care for my husband and aforementioned home, and I take care of my elderly mother and aunt.  I take a lot of pride in my home.  I clean it every week, it is easy because my husband and I don’t clutter every space.  I pay someone to maintain our yard, because our time is worth it.  I contribute to my neighborhood and I support local businesses. We may in fact be the newer version of modern hippies but we are okay with that.  Lastly, your idea of the American Dream is not my idea of the American Dream, but thanks for thinking of me. In truth hubby and I have a long term plan and it involves retiring early, in around 8 years, and moving to the Pacific Northwest and downsizing.  If it feels right we may buy a place.  If not we are still okay living our own American Dream.

 

 


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Mindfulness Through a Cell Phone

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I found some space to be more mindful and intentional in the weirdest place.  I found it in my cell phone.  What was this magical elixir that freed up the time I usually spend responding to an ever present inanimate task master…notifications.  I turned them off.  I mean everything, except my phone and text because my phone is also used for work. Guess what?  After the initial withdrawal, and checking my pulse to make sure I in fact did sill exist if a tiny red number failed to appear on my screen, I felt free.  I mean truly free and peaceful. It was liberating and I could breathe deeper and easier.

I never realized how hard it is to  fully engage in a conversation or activity when my pocket or purse are vibrating and moving slowly of their own power, like one of my cats’ toys. It is this constant roadblock to the mindful and meaningful connection I have been looking for.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not a luddite.  I still like technology.  I still believe good use can come from my cell phone.  I am typing this on my laptop not carving it on a stone tablet, that would greatly decrease the frequency of posts.  The big difference is now I am in charge of what the benefits are.  Incidentally, prior to this little experiment I thought I was in charge.  Humbly, what I have come to realize is that little flat glowing screen was in charge.

As well as shutting off notifications I also removed some unnecessary apps.  In fact I believe the app I use most now is Insight Timer, my meditation app, and the podcast app.  Both of which help me learn and are consistent with other goals I have set.  Before I could not imagine not knowing the moment someone wanted me or reacted to something I said or posted.  You know what?  It turns out it is even better when you are sitting across from that person fully engaged and you get to react right back.  No thumbs up needed.


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Clarity at the Crossroads

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Last week I went on a job interview.  I am not out of work, I am not even unhappy at work.  I happen to be one of those fortunate people who work in a field that really aligns with a core value of mine.  Why was I interviewing?  Funny, that is the question that kept popping in my head during the interview.  In fact when asked, “why do you want to leave your current job?”  I said, “to be honest, I am not sure I do.”

Since I am trying to be more intentional and more present, I really had to sit with this the rest of the day.  Why did I need to say yes when I was called about this job?  There is the obvious, it is flattering, when you are skilled enough in your field that others pursue you.  I have had that happen before and usually I decline.  This time when I really thought about it, I had to admit that at 48 I may have succumbed to a little peer pressure.  I don’t mean the kind like when we are in high school and we whip out our first fake ID to be accepted by our cooler friends…just me?  I mean I have been with my utility for 16 years.  That kind of loyalty or (sloth and lack of ambition) as it is now seen can be a career killer.  Also I rose pretty quickly through the organization my first 8 years, but have been in my current upper management position for the last 8 years.  According to everyone I see who keep asking me “what next?  What’s your next move?” I am supposed to be seeking my next goal.  I went in search of that answer.

Only what I found out is I already had the answer. It is just not the traditional upward mobility, fueled with unmatched ambition answer.  The answer is “this.”  I have reached the place I always wanted to go, and I am happy here.  We are financially stable, all our needs are more than met.  We have another 8 years at our current positions when we can leave with a substantial retirement income and savings and move from the south to the Pacific Northwest and downsize our life’s dream.  I have earned tons of leave so I can take time off with my husband and we can enjoy the hobbies we love.  I have time to volunteer with causes I care about: the water profession, a running coach for my husband’s disadvantaged students, and at a no-kill cat shelter.   I have banked enough sick leave that I could take a year off with pay to take care of my mother if I had to.

My career itself is enormously rewarding.  I protect the environment, help our citizens and community.  I have the trust and respect of our leaders and our community.  I have decision making autonomy and endless variety in my daily tasks.  I get to use my strongest skills and because I have mastered my job, I get to mentor others and travel around the state and country teaching and learning from others.  I remembered how grateful and content I am for all of that sitting across from a very nice General Manager of a very good company who will find the right person for them.  It just won’t be me.  I am not sure if I would have been aware enough to hear my soul so clearly; if I had not started down this path to living more mindfully and quieting my mind through meditation and simplifying.


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Shrinking my Wardrobe Made Me Feel Better

Are your clothes judging you?  Or rather are you using your clothes to judge yourself?  A few weeks ago I would have said no.  Now I know I was wrong.  I thought having endless options of what to wear and when to wear it was the way to feel like you always had clothes that would make you feel good, no matter what.  You know what I mean if I am having a “fat” day what clothes will make me feel attractive.  If  I am having a “hot” day which will highlight that?

As I am focusing on living more simply, I have been reading up on minimizes my wardrobe.  I took a few weeks and I have finally made my initial cleaning in all categories.  It resulted in a pretty significant reduction.  It had some important results.  Some I could expect from other efforts to simplify, but some I found surprising.

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First, I no longer hate opening my closet and my drawers.  I used to really dread it.  Mostly because it took forever to find anything, and sometimes it took so long I gave up on looking for the item I really wanted and settled for something I did not even like.  Also it gets old pretty fast, when you are hit by something falling out of your closet every time you open it.  Why that has not bothered me for decades I am not sure.  Now when I open each drawer and closet I can find in seconds exactly what I am looking for at that moment.  It has been weeks since I was hit by a hangar, shoe, or suitcase.  Also did you know drawers not overfilled actually slide open and don’t require you to brace your foot on the cabinet while you pull it open.  All of that I might have expected.  Still I am enjoying it.

The surprising thing I noticed is I now love my clothes.  I don’t mean I love clothes and I am headed out to buy more.  I mean the clothes I kept make me so happy.  As I was cleaning out, I asked myself honestly how do I feel when I wear this?  I am a pretty confident girl who does not tie herself in knots about how I look.  I actually found that the answer to that question was often things like: fat, out of shape, out of proportion, tight, sloppy.  Umm, who starts out their day or any activity with the goal of feeling like that?  Apparently me before now.  Now I have less choice and maybe for some people who might be a bad thing, but for me, everything I kept makes me happy and feel good about myself.  Truth be told I am none of the things my clothes accused me of being.  Who knew efficiency, peace, and self-esteem could be found in a more streamlined wardrobe?


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An Ode to Letting it Just Happen

My husband and I are wrapping up our week off by going to the oldest Art Festival in Atlanta, The Dogwood Festival.  We did not even know this festival was this weekend and that is the point of this post.  My husband and I took this week off without any plans.  We went planless and without expectations and guess what ensued?  Life and simple joys ensued.  We won’t have a great answer to the question that always follows time away from routine, “what did you do on your vacation?”  Not because we did not do amazing things or have amazing experiences but they were not the traditional sound bite experiences.  We did not go zip lining in the mountains or body surfing at the beach.

Instead we had quiet conversations and held hands, we rode bicycles, ran and exercised our bodies.  We were quiet together and I spent time talking to my mother about the books she loves.  We cooked delicious meals and we shared his love of music with my at a seedy bar.  We laughed about all of it.  I had time to meditate and read.  These activities may not make great pictures but they made my life richer.   This is not natural or easy for me.  If you don’t believe me read my post on discipline and you will understand how unusual this is for me.  I am a planner.  In fact my good friend always imitates me by saying, “get a plan and execute the plan.”  I love a plan.  I am passionate about regime and routine.  As I move toward a more open and relaxed me, I am trying to put it in its place.  I am trying to use routine to allow more time for the unexpected gifts to develop.  It is not easy but it is so worth it.

Things-to-Not-to-Forget-for-a-Beach-Vacation

So no, maybe we did not have beautiful beach pictures.  Maybe some people may think “what a waste of time off.”   I think I leave this week off having had time to add to the things I value: mental and physical health, relationships, our cats, growth, reading and writing.  These are not your values.  Your time would be better spent doing something else.  What I would urge is to throw away the list and expectation.  Open your mind to the possible and not the planned.


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Using a Rainy Day to Simplify

I am on vacation this week or rather a staycation as it is now called, because apparently the idea of taking time off from work to just decompress in your own home is so crazy in our destination oriented world we had to label it.  So I am on staycation this week for my husband’s spring break. Today was a stormy day, typical of spring in the south.  So none of the things we like to do on our time off, all outside and many having to do with exercise.  We did a little cleaning.  Headed out to recycling in a monsoon to drop off cardboard and 5 different vacuums and floor sweepers that no longer work.  Forget that 3 of them we moved from our last house, knowing they did not work.  The other two never worked well and, as I am going through this process, I am realizing it is often better to get rid of the multitude of cheap inferior products and replace it with a better singular version.  For us the new vacuum is mind-blowing.  When my husband saw the newly vacuumed carpet he thought we had replaced it.  Let’s you know how useless its predecessors were.  Well they are on their way to the great recycling center away from here! I also finally got the planned cleaning of my drawers done.  I had already completed most of my clothes cleaning but I had left the drawers.  Got that done this am.

As a fellow blogger noted one of the things standing between me and more inner peace and outward presence is not physical stuff ,but digital clutter.  My work email is ridiculous and there are things I can do and will.  But my personal email is even worse and filled with solicitations telling me I need to buy this or that and what a great deal it is.  I will never buy this thing, I don’t need or really want, any cheaper.  Can’t miss that.  For the last week I have been unsubscribing from email lists and cleaning up my digital clutter.

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I also took the advice of a fellow blogger and cleaned out my contacts.  I probably had over 1,000 contacts.  My extended family is huge and my job is largely about networking.  Still that is ridiculous.  Let me share a few examples to show you how ridiculous.  Five contacts were for businesses that have not existed for at least 5 years, 17 contacts are dead, 28 contacts are numbers associated with previous places we lived, and over 100 contacts no longer work in the companies or industry any longer.  I got rid of at least 500 contacts and more than 2 dozens of those were duplicate contacts for the same people, obviously very important people.  The other thing I did was disable nearly all the alerts on my cellphone.  Do I really need to know the exact moment someone likes an Instagram photo or comments on post on LinkedIn?  Also thanks Waze, but I get to decide when I leave for a meeting.  If I need my phone to do that than I am too overscheduled and distracted.  It was a rainy day but in that storm I sorted my way to more calm.

The rain has stopped and a friend of ours in playing music tonight in East Atlanta so we are going to catch his show.  I am guessing it will be a lot more enjoyable, and I will be more present with my husband without my phone constantly reminding me I could be doing something else.