Do the Hard Thing

I saw a documentary recently on middle class teens who became addicted to heroin after taking pain killers for a sports injury. After the prescription meds became too hard to find or too expensive to pay for, they switched to heroin and even ended up using needles, entering into a life that neither they nor their parents could ever imagine. What struck me most was the number of teens who described their surprise at how good they felt the first time they took the pills. One guy said, “It felt so amazing that I figured it had to be good for you.” This was an college-educated guy saying this.

I thought of all the things that feel good and are good for you, like snuggling a child and eating blueberries hot from the sun, or watching a sunset in explosions of orange, and going for a walk. But then I thought about how many of us find it easier to bury ourselves in our phones and not snuggle, or eat a bag of chips instead of the blueberries, or decide we’re too busy to watch the sunset and miss the colors that only last for a few minutes before they’re gone. There is a reason that so many people increasingly throughout the world, in first world countries, are overweight or addicted to alcohol or drugs or gambling. If you go to an American mall on a given weekend, it’s shocking how many people are fat, wandering around eating fast food and drinking soda, with tons of packages on their arms, for a day of shopping as sport. I’m curious how many of these people are in debt and can’t afford to be shopping for fun.

The fact is that the key to being successful is being willing to do the hard thing day after day after day, while everyone else seems to be having endless fun, if you believe social media. Tony Robbins once said, “Every successful person did what no one else was willing to do.” We read about Olympic athletes who train for hours per day in grueling weather conditions and through physical pain to get where they want to go. Entrepreneurs have been known to work 80 hour weeks. The Pixar creators apparently worked so much in the early days to launch their films, that they slept in their offices to save time. There are stories all the time of obese people who finally got up the courage to lose 100 pounds or more, one step at a time.

For me, the hard thing is eating healthy foods instead of junk food and sugar, and getting out there to exercise most days. It’s writing my blog every single week no matter what, for almost 2 years and with over 100 posts at this point. It’s showing up 100% for my coaching clients every single session and coaching some days beginning at 6:30 for Australian clients. It’s the discipline of meditation and chi gong. It’s being there for my kids when they are sick or struggling or need help or comfort, or just want to have fun, and putting other things aside. It’s tracking every penny that we have spent for the past 25 years, budgeting every month, and not wasting money so that we can spend on what matters to us– a nice home, private schools, international trips, and things like camp and skiing. I say this not to brag but to mention that many friends with similar income have asked how we can afford this, but they forget that we don’t go shopping for fun, or go out to eat often, or spend $30 at the movies, or buy fancy cars. (We have one car, an 8 year-old Subaru, which works great for us.) We do the hard things so that we can have what we want. It’s definitely not easy or even always fun, but it’s so worth it.

To find your world stage, ask yourself what easy comfort you rely on, like watching too much tv or eating fatty treats or shopping all the time, that you will need to give up to become well-read and fit and fiscally responsible. It is definitely not fun in the moment, but the rewards are so great. Remember, nothing that is that easy is usually good for you, particularly in the case of addictions. Life is not meant to be smooth sailing all the time.  It’s meant to be rewarding, and that comes from doing the hard thing that many people can’t or won’t do.

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Happy New Year!

As 2017 comes to a close and we look forward to 2018, I wanted to remind everyone that the answer is not a long list of resolutions to try to stick to, but instead a short list of Absolute Yeses for the new year. There will always be a lot of noise and distractions in the world, as well as family and friends with their own agendas insisting you do what they want. But in the end, it’s your life and your choice. You get to choose what works and what doesn’t. You get to decide what brought you joy this past year and what didn’t. You don’t have to follow the crowd and mindlessly do what everyone else does.

Here are some things I did in 2017 that I loved:

  1. I took on more wonderful coaching clients and really enjoyed being able to connect with and help clients from all over the world.
  2. I continued to write this blog, and got to guest blog for Live Your Legend, which was a great experience.
  3. I started performing again, after a long break, and now have several gigs.
  4. We hosted a French girl here for 10 days and then my daughter went to Arles, France for 10 days, all of which made me feel so hopeful about the world.
  5. We visited Seville, Spain and fell in love with it.

Here are some things I let go of this year:

  1. I stopped putting up with doctors I didn’t like. I switched my internist, OB, dentist, and my daughters’ pediatrician, all of whom are much better.
  2. I stopped giving endlessly to one-way friendships and raised my standards for what I expect in a relationship.
  3. I set up boundaries around my work hours, so that I could be more productive, and screened carefully for new clients, so that I work with clients I enjoy.
  4. I didn’t host Thanksgiving or Christmas this year, and my family had a simple staycation this holiday. And next year, we will be traveling at Christmas, so I don’t have to spend hours buying and wrapping gifts that frankly none of us need.
  5. We quit going to church, after bouncing around various churches for the past 10 years, realizing that we feel more religious when helping others or hiking in the woods or traveling.

As you think about this next year, with 365 new days waiting for you to experience them, remember that how you spend your days is how you spend your life. And if you don’t have a clear plan for how they are spent, others will decide for you.

Here are my Absolute Yeses for 2018:

  1. Spirituality: connecting with what matters to me on a daily basis
  2. Health: putting my diet, exercise and sleep front and center
  3. Family/Friends: making sure I spend time with family and friends who matter
  4. Creativity: making my music and writing a top priority
  5. Coaching: growing my business and serving more clients from all over the world
  6. Adventure: making sure that my life is full of fun, travel and new experiences.

What are yours? As you seek your world stage, think about what you have to say no to in order to make room for your yeses.

Happy New Year to all of you.  Wishing you a new year filled with joy and peace.

 

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Let Go of Perfect

In Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, Richard Carlson wrote that it’s easy for many of us to find fault with everything, to the point that we miss the joy of life. I think this is very easy to do during the holidays, when expectations are sky high and yet so many things can fall short of our expectations. For those of you who are like me, who tend to be perfectionists and want everything just so, it’s a great lesson to let go and not hold on as tightly to how things have to be. Last night, for instance, my family and I went to see the old movie It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen in an old movie house. When we arrived, there were almost no seats, the place was run down, and my daughters’ arm rest, which was covered in gum, actually fell off. We could have gotten upset, but instead we just laughed about it, and remembered the slum we lived in when we spent time in Sydney a few years ago, that was falling down like this movie house, and then we enjoyed the movie. And today, when we went to my son’s choral concert, we ended up surrounded by people who were either chatting or texting or checking their PayPal accounts during the concert as soon as their own children weren’t singing. I just gently said “shhh” to a few people with a smile and let go of the larger fact that they were acting rude. I was able to enjoy the concert and they got the message. I didn’t have to get drawn into analyzing other people’s insensitivity.

Tonight my daughter celebrated her 15th birthday with 25 of her friends, including boys. Since many of her friends are from all over the world, because she goes to an international school, half of the parents didn’t RSVP.  My daughter texted her friends as well, but even as we were heading to the party, we didn’t really know who would show up; texts were coming in, asking where and when the party was again. I had to accept that even though I was raised to respond to invitations promptly and write thank you notes, that this may not be important in other cultures. So I just took a deep breath and accepted that whatever happened would be okay. In the end, we had two last minute no’s and one last minute yes and two people arrived late and one person left early and everyone had a great time. We did have a party room that only sat 16 people, so the other nine had to stand, but we squished them in by the door and handed them cake and soda and they were fine for the brief 10 minutes we were in there. One dad couldn’t seem to find the venue to pick up his daughter so I had to talk him through using Google Maps, and another boy hid in the bathroom since he was feeling socially awkward, but my husband and another kid were very kind to him and made him feel better. We also got kicked out of the skating rink since it closed at 9pm, so we stood in 15 degree weather outside, waiting for the late parents to pick up.  We ended up hanging out with a  bunch of kids in our car until those parents had arrived, which ended up being fun.

It always amazes me how wonderful life can be when we let go of needing to seek perfection, when we let go of rigid rules and expectations, and when we accept that cultures are different– not everyone values responding or being on time, and that’s okay. When you let go of that, then the magic appears. You enjoy the concert and don’t worry about why the audience is so inattentive. You enjoy the birthday party and don’t worry about not having enough chairs, or getting kicked out of the venue into the cold. You come up with a Plan B, which is more creative and fun. You realize that you don’t have to be the perfect hostess and follow all the rules, which frees you up to notice the dynamics of your daughters’ first boy-girl party. You get to notice the joy that these kids felt just being together, and you realize that they didn’t care if they had a seat or were kicked out in the cold, as long as they could hang out longer.

To find your world stage, try to soften your rules, expectations, assumptions, and judgments. The world is large and we are all so different. If we let go of what needs to happen, we start to see the magic of what does unfold, for better or for worse. This holiday season, remember that you don’t have to be perfect, but instead be open to whatever comes.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

For those of you who are American, I want to wish you a happy Thanksgiving. For those who are from other countries, it’s a great time before Christmas comes to remember to give thanks for all of our blessings, both large and small. It’s so easy for many of us to get caught up in the endless wave of consumerism and to crave more, when in fact the greatest lesson is being happy with what we have.

Chelsea Dinsmore, who took over her husband’s organization called Live Your Legend after he died two years ago, posted recently about the importance of gratitude, particularly in times of grief. Her husband was killed from rock falling as they were nearing the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Chelsea had to spend days climbing back down the mountain while her husband’s body was carried down with the group, and yet she chose even in the darkest time to look for whatever gratitude she could find. She shared this poem, which I am in turn re-posting here. I love the idea that not having everything we desire allows us to have something to look forward to, and that going through hard times enables us to build character. It may not feel that way in the moment, but we can often see it later looking back.

In a world of presidential tweets, airbrushed models, sound bites, fake news, and false social media images, it’s a good reminder to know that there are no short-cuts. Instead, we need to remember the basics: Show up, work hard, do your best, be grateful, and be kind to others. In Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, Richard Carlson once wrote, “Be grateful when your mood is high and graceful when it is low.” I think of that often when things aren’t going as well. And these days with all the bad news, from horrific shootings to natural disasters to nuclear threats, it’s a test sometimes to be graceful. But gratitude makes that possible.

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, take some time this holiday season to be grateful for all you have. As you seek your world stage, remember that there is nothing more attractive than a grateful person.

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don’t know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.
Be thankful for the difficult times
During those times you grow.
Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.
Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.
Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.
Be thankful when you’re tired and weary
Because it means you’ve made a difference.
It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are
also thankful for the setbacks.
Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
and they can become your blessings.
~ Author Unknown ~

 

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Let Us Give Thanks

It’s hard to believe that the holidays are once again upon us. It seems like just a few months ago that I was making New Year’s Resolutions and committing to brand new goals, when in fact here we are with six weeks left to our year. I must admit that I do love this time of year, with golden leaves, crisp air, mittens and pumpkins and dressing up, gathering with family, twinkling lights and shiny ornaments.

My kids aren’t little anymore– my younger child will be a teen in 3 months, so I’m no longer doing the snow suit dance in which you get both kids in all the layers and then someone has to use the bathroom. They listen to music that consists of lots of breathless men playing the ukulele and I long for some Elton John or Aretha or even Queen.  We’re not going on “hikes” in the neighborhood anymore to collect leaves in our buckets to make into pretty pictures. We still pick apples most years, but really fall has become the backdrop of a busy back-to-school season, with dances and sleep-overs, homework, soccer practices and games and lots of scheduling and logistics. We don’t have anyone dressed as superheroes with capes anymore, but my son did volunteer to go to a diversity conference today so that his classmates would know that white guys care about diversity too. My daughter no longer dresses as princess who can change bad to good with her wand, but she helped a woman this fall who had collapsed by the road. She didn’t have a wand, but she had her cell phone and called 911, waiting until the EMT arrived.

This holiday season I want things to be different for me.  I will not rush or overspend or eat until I’m stuffed. Instead, I will try to be present and more moderate, to spend time enjoying the season, to take my time. It’s not easy to do, but a great start is gratitude, remembering that most of us are not escaping war-torn countries, many of us have enough to eat and a place to sleep, and some of us have work that makes us happy.  Today I went to the mall with my family to do some evening shopping and realized how easy it is to pull away from gratitude when you are surrounded by excess– store after store with beautiful things to look at and buy and own. It takes really presence not to get sucked into believing that you will be happier if you own all the shiny objects that are for sale. I tried a few things on in a horrible dressing room with unflattering light and three- way mirrors. It’s a wonder that I bought anything and left feeling at all good about myself in that light and with those angles.

When my kids were little, we used to spend time in the car talking about what we were grateful for. My kids came up with the most wonderful ideas. Here is an excerpt from a Christmas letter that I came across recently, describing the year when my kids were 4 and 2: “Will talks so constantly that Isabel can’t get a word in edgewise. He also loves to shout, “thank you, God!” whenever we’re driving. When we ask what they are grateful for, Isabel tends to be practical, mentioning her house and her friends. Will is more specific—“I’m grateful for blackberries, rocks and gourds. And peaches and mouths.”

So this holiday season, remember that a big part of finding your world stage, is realizing the parts of it that you already have. Let us be grateful for our own version of “peaches and mouths” and shine a light on a world that so needs our joy and our peace.

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Wheat vs. Chaff

In the Bible, John the Baptist uses the image of needing to separate the wheat from the chaff, to determine who is worthy of heaven or not. The phrase has evolved in a more secular way to mean that it’s important to separate what is good or necessary from what is not. But this is what so many of us struggle with. In this complex, 24/7 go-go culture, with stimuli coming from everywhere, it’s not so easy.
That’s what I thought until my son got really sick last weekend. In the blink of an eye, my normally healthy 12 year-old, went from happily playing to doubled over in pain.  Within two hours of his very first hint of pain, he couldn’t even walk. My athletic, energetic boy was crawling to the door, until my husband picked him up like a baby and carried him to the car. Less than four hours after we arrived at Boston Children’s Hospital, surgery had begun. Two hours later and well after midnight, the surgery was successfully completed.  I’ve never felt so relieved that it was over and he was safe.
But a funny thing happen; things started to become crystal clear for me. I had been struggling for some time to clarify who my friends were, making excuses for the “busy” friends who never call. But in a crisis, it all makes sense. People either show up or they don’t. My parents, who are amazing, dropped everything and drove down to stay with me and help out for four days and nights, since my husband needed to fly to Japan on business for a week. My friend Lorraine called me at the hospital and asked what she could do. Did I want a visitor? Could her son, who is my son’s friend, get homework?  He ended up enlisting most of the 7th grade in making cards, even though many middle schoolers feel that they are past the card-making days. But my son got homemade card after card from girls and boys, with drawings, jokes, funny sports clippings, science puzzles, and effusive lines like “We miss you so much!” Every day he read them and I’m sure it’s why he is healing so well.
In addition, my friend Ann texted her husband to come visit us in the hospital and he cheered us up by explaining exactly what they do in an appendectomy. My friend Meghan emailed a number of times and asked what she could do, and later in the middle of her two weeks of “service” as a doctor on call in the hospital– which is 24/7 work– she picked up a balloon and card and had her son drop it off, to my son’s delight. My friend Alysa called and emailed and offered to pick up groceries. Val contacted me, even though her son had had a liver transplant only weeks before, to check in. Leslie came by with her son with cookies and funny stories. Heena and her son came by with a cute card and a much-needed visit. Both Alison and Joel sent sweet texts. My friend Carol called and emailed and we caught up by phone. Riya and Hattie sent nice emails. Paula emailed her concern and followed up a few times. And teachers emailed their concerns and best wishes.
The best thing about a crisis is it really does help you to separate the wheat from the chaff. All these friends, some of whom I am closer to than others, were the wheat, the healthy part that is nurturing. But some sadly ended up showing themselves to be the chaff, including one “friend” from college who, in spite of my trying to connect with him for the past 6 weeks, well before my son’s incident, just couldn’t be bothered to return my emails or calls. When I finally texted, after my son’s surgery, he responded with a promise to connect the next day, which never happened. Before, I had been fretting that maybe I should take this personally. But after my son’s surgery, it was clear as day, that this was not about me. This was his problem and I was needing to move on. I no longer had time for the chaff in my life.
And there were other things this week. Spending joyful time with my parents matters, while catching up on bills can wait. Snuggling my kids matters, but cleaning up my messy office can wait. Watching a good movie or a funny show matters, but responding to all 130 emails like I had a gun to my head, just doesn’t work for me. Most people will just have to wait. Spending time outside in this glorious fall weather?  Yes please.  Spending one more second wondering why a non-friend doesn’t call? Nope.
To find your world stage, remember that your time and energy are precious. None of us knows when we could go from fine to doubled over in pain, needing surgery.  Seize the healthy days you have and when crisis does come, as it does for all of us, remember to separate the wheat from the chaff.  You’ll see that it’s really easy to do when you focus truly on what matters.
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Put Down the Phone

This week the weather has been glorious– the last gasp of summer with just a hint of fall. I have been out with my phone taking pictures of the azure sky and green leaves just starting to turn color. Yesterday I walked around Larz Anderson Park and relished the light dancing on the pond and the explosion of water coming from the pond’s fountain. It was one of those beautiful days that was so glorious, you couldn’t help but smile and be grateful.

And yet, all the people I passed in the park were head down, staring at their phones. There was magic going on all around them and all they had to do was look up, but they didn’t. They missed it all.

I see babies looking up at their moms with big toothless grins and all they see is the top of their moms’ head, buried in their phones.

I hear silence in restaurants because families are not talking with each other but instead all staring at their devices.

I notice parents at soccer games who actually miss seeing their child score a goal because they are so distracted.

I know from my coaching clients how lonely they are because they are looking up at the world and no one is there to greet their gaze.

Recently I went on a walk with a neighbor. I left my phone at home, but she didn’t, and she took three calls during our hour walk, even though she had the time to take care of them later since she is not working and all but one of her kids is grown. And yet later in the day I spent 90 minutes with a very busy friend, who works and has three young boys, but her phone was off and her attention was on me. There is nothing more important than giving your full attention to someone else, no matter how busy you are.

My teens joke that I will never be addicted to my phone, because half the time I can’t even find it. When I do, I find that Facebook and Instagram are pale imitations of life. Why admire a picture of a park, when you can actually be in one and use all your senses? What’s the point of “liking” someone else’s dinner if you can’t be present at your own?

Here’s what I know: what is happening right now will not be repeated. It’s not like a movie you can see again if you missed it the first time.  There’s only one time when your son learns to walk those first few wobbly steps, or when your daughter learns to read or when your new boyfriend confesses he really likes you, or when you see your friend walk down the aisle. And when I see the sky streaked in a beautiful pink, there is only one conclusion I make, as I tell my kids: “God is showing off.”

To find your world stage, remember that now is the time. We think we have endless time but we don’t, even if we get to live to old age. If you don’t notice what is around you right now, it will slip away, never to be repeated. So put down the phone and open your eyes to the glorious world all around you.

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Dirty Money

Lately I’ve been hearing about money a lot from my clients. In some cases, they have a lot of money but feel guilty for having it, as though they did something wrong. In other cases, they have very little and feel bad about themselves for not making the kind of money (yet) that they want from their dream career. I remind those with a lot of money that money is a powerful tool that can be used for good, to help with an election, to fund new green programs, to add to an underfunded school. So much good can be done in the world, but money is the engine that makes it happen. Bill and Melinda Gates are two of my heroes because they turned their vast fortune into a foundation that is actively changing the lives of poor people around the world. If they had just gone and volunteered somewhere, that wouldn’t have been nearly as effective. For those clients who don’t have enough money, I remind them that there’s no shame in not having enough or struggling, but it can be a great motivator for getting out of the house and working harder. The gift of having to make money is that it pushes you to succeed in a way that people with trust funds don’t have, which is why the children of celebrities are often not as successful as their parents, since they don’t have to be.

In some cases, clients have beliefs that money is somehow evil. A lot of people confuse the famous quote about money from the Bible. They think the phrase is, “Money is at the root of all evil” but in fact it is, “The LOVE of money is the root of all evil.” In other words, greed is a problem, because it corrupts people and turns people away from kindness and generosity. But having money is not a problem. It can be an incredible force for good. And yet, many people inherit toxic beliefs about money that keep them from succeeding. I spoke with an artist recently who felt that having to work “for the man” was beneath him. He felt that groveling for money was unbecoming because all money was corrupting. I did try to remind him of all the great philanthropists throughout history, but he was not convinced. I suppose that this kind of attitude can work if you are independently wealthy– you can have streams of income arriving without having to interact with money and then you can do whatever you want with your time. But most of us need to work. And this artist needed to make money since he has little savings and no retirement. He was asking me about some “get rich easy” solutions to create enough passive income that he wouldn’t have to worry about money. I reminded him that those don’t exist. The reality is that that’s what everyone wants– to make a lot of money easily doing something that is quick and easy and not illegal.  But if it were that easy, everyone would be doing it. The internet in some ways is like a modern day Gold Rush, in that the early adopters made a lot of money different ways. But for everyone else who has followed, it’s a lot harder because so many more people are competing.

The way to have an abundant life and to claim your world stage is to look at and change any limiting beliefs about money, such as “Money is evil, it doesn’t grow on trees, or it corrupts everything.” Remember that without money, you can’t create what you want to do in the world. But with money, you can give to causes you care about, travel, give to your children, create or fund great art, and really impact the world.

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Surviving the Storms

The past two weeks has been horrendous for those in Houston affected by Hurricane Harvey. Thousands of people are displaced, living in shelters. And the stories pouring in are horrible. A preacher and his wife drowned in their car trying to get across town.  A man was found floating in his home, since he hadn’t been able to get out in time. A woman was killed when an oak tree fell on her home. And for those who survived, the stress of getting back to normal is overwhelming, since it may take years for that to happen. For home owners without flood insurance, they have lost their largest asset. For renters, some are getting pressured to pay the next month’s rent on a home that is now uninhabitable. Those who had to abandon their cars in high waters, are now having to claim them from an impounding agency for hundreds of dollars that they may not have.

This week, Hurricane Irma has barreled through the Caribbean, destroying most of St. Martin and knocking out power on many other islands. And now it’s headed for Florida, where millions are trying to evacuate.  But in many cases, they can’t leave because of gas shortages, and there’s no bottled water if they stay. As my minister said, “No gas to leave, no water to stay.” My cousin is prepared and staying put in a safer part of Fort Lauderdale, and I’m just praying that she will be okay. She did reassure me that she has a lot of water, a good generator and lots of canned food. She also knows to sleep in the bathroom without windows when the winds get strong.

But for those of us not living in Texas or Florida, we feel helpless, wondering what we can do. The best thing is to stay in touch with friends and relatives and let them know you care. The other thing is to give to organizations like the Red Cross, which are reputable and will get the job done. Unfortunately fake charities emerge during crises, just as they did during Katrina, for instance.  It’s better to go online and give to a charity that you have vetted than respond to a charity you’ve never heard of soliciting money.  Chances are they are not real.

For all of us, whether we are directly impacted by these storms or not, we all must deal with metaphorical storms in our lives that can make us feel like the air has been knocked out of us. For some, it’s losing a job. For others, it’s losing a relationship. For others, it’s a death. One of the girls at my son’s school lost her 9 year-old sister to brain cancer last year.  Not even a year later, she just lost her mother to cancer as well. One of my daughter’s friends is battling cancer and had to leave school today for a seizure resulting from the steroid treatment. I was glad that she followed up to see that he was okay.

In life, just as in storms, there is no clear cut path to preparedness. But just knowing that braving storms is part of the human condition makes them less scary because at least we know that we’re not alone. As you seek your world stage, remember that sometimes the best thing you can do is to stop what you’re doing to call a friend or to write a check to those in need.  To be a tiny light in a world of constant storms and suffering is a gift indeed.

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Be Kind to Yourself

As we head into fall and back to school and a quicker pace of year, it’s important to remember to be kind to ourselves, as we go from fewer emails to endless ones, and from no expectations to many. My husband always teases me when it’s the first of the month, because that’s when I try out new resolutions. And if the first of the month is on a Monday, there’s even more pressure. And if the first of the year is on a Monday, well then I need to be perfect! This may sound silly, but we all have times of the week or the year when we expect more of ourselves and hold ourselves to a higher standard. Fall is one of those times for many people, between back-to-school expectations and upcoming holiday obligations.

Here’s how my Sept 1st (and 2nd) went. I was so busy attending to endless emails, and school registration forms, and helping a child whose mouth is in pain because he just got braces, that I literally forgot to post my blog until tonight (Saturday night). I didn’t realize this until I was on a walk that started so late in the day that it ended by flashlight. Everything took longer yesterday and today than I thought. It’s hard not to feel defeated by that. But I’m trying to remember to be kind to myself.

Here is a list of some of the things I did just by email or phone (no other chores included) in the last two days because I know you all can relate: I spent an hour trying to arrange a bed delivery for my son with an angry moving company guy from NY shouting at me that they had to deliver the bed on the one day that won’t work because it’s the first day of school for one kid, it’s my husband’s first day of teaching this fall as a professor, and I have morning coaching clients. But this guy was trying to tell me why they needed to deliver that day since “all of New Hampshire needs beds” the other days. (I tried to point out that Massachusetts is actually closer to New Jersey than New Hampshire so they could swing by on the way, but he didn’t really listen.) Then I spent two hours trying to find a dermatologist who will take a patient until 15 years old (many won’t for some reason) so my daughter can have a minor cyst removed. Then I set up a phone date for a friend going through a hard time, scheduled a robotics team for my son, set up a play date, looked into liability for Toastmasters for rentals (don’t ask me how I got involved with helping with this– thankfully I wasn’t able to help after all.) I emailed my minister to ask why the world seems particularly crazy these days, as well as my mom to let her know that my son’s braces are fine. Then a client, then my niece regarding her school pictures, then more playdates, tons of school scheduling, release forms for a school nature trip, arranging dropping off charity items, looking into legal documents for my business, reviewing two separate soccer schedules and one choir schedule, another client, the science museum regarding online tickets, and signed my son up for online algebra tutoring. Believe it or not, that took two days.

To be clear, I don’t write this because any of this is scintillating. It is not. I write this because many of you have similar lists. And here’s the thing: we think the problem is with us– that we can’t get stuff done in a short period of time, in spite of endless other things to do, when in fact maybe the problem is the list is too long and impossible.  I often wonder what it means to actually have a village raise a child, because I’m raising two and I’ll tell you that after almost fifteen years of parenting, there is no village. I’m going to repeat this. There is no village!  It’s you and your spouse, if you’re lucky, doing the best you can, plowing through emails to help your kids do the best that they can, hoping that someday they will get into a college you have heard of and can afford, and when they get out of college, that there will be jobs available that don’t involve serving hot drinks, and that not all the jobs will have been outsourced to India.

In the meantime, you can breathe and be kind to yourself and to all the other moms who are starting to look frazzled and it’s only just beginning. By late November, I wish all moms could take a break until January 2 and let their husbands just do take-out for December. To find your world stage, remember that every day you are creating a life you love (or don’t love) by your choices. You don’t have to get it all done. Even when you try– as I did the last two days– it still won’t get done.  So just be kind to yourself.

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