On My Mind – 17 – Making the Invisible Visible

On my way to work, I have to exit the freeway relatively quickly. The offramp overlaps with the onramp and they are both very short. Every single time I make that merge, I am worried and stressed. Ever since I got in that accident a month ago, I’ve been even more nervous than usual. I keep thinking I’m going to get into an accident at that merge. So a few weeks ago I started this new habit: each time I make the merge successfully, I say “thank you for one more safe day” out loud. 

Brene Brown has this story in several of her talks where you see a super happy family in a car and they are singing out loud and happy and she asks what happens next and of course almost everyone says horrible things like they get in a crash, etc. Our minds are wired that way and she talks about tools to help with the foreboding that joy begins. She talks a lot about gratitude and building your catalog of good moments. And that when the tougher things do happen, that collection of gratitude helps so much more than the armor you’ve put on by stressing or expecting the worst. 

So this is my way of making my own collection of gratitude moments for this particular case. IF and when I get in an accident there, I know that I will say all the bad things to myself. I will beat myself up. I will say I am always so bad at it. I will go on and on. So to ensure my brain can understand that for the one accident I might have, I’ve had 1000 good merges, I need to make those 1000 merges real. I need to make sure I don’t take them for granted. I need to make sure they are visible. Which is why I say it out loud. I need to hear it every single day.

We often do this in life where we have the choice we’re making but not the invisible other choices we made because of it. Like I choose to go to Sydney for work which means I am choosing not to be with my kids or husband that week. I am choosing to pick this job over the other I am doing at the moment. I am choosing to add a bit more chaos to my schedule. I am choosing to make it harder for me to exercise. It’s still totally valid to go to Sydney, and I will, but making these other choices visible allows me to acknowledge them and take mitigation steps if I want to (or cancel the trip if one of these options seems more important.) Inaction is also a choice. If I take no action on exercise, I am choosing to get more unfit. Even if it doesn’t feel like a choice, it is one.

I’ve been working a lot on making the invisible visible so that I can continue to live intentionally and collect those gratitude moments. I know I will need them when the time comes.


On My Mind is a year-long project for 2018. You can read more about my projects for 2018 here.

On My Mind – 16 – Being Intentional

Last week at work someone made an offhanded comment that got stuck in my head. And then I followed up on the comment with someone else, and their response, even though delivered kindly and with explanation, also got stuck in my head. And I’ve been spinning on those all week.

I’ve also been waking up in the middle of the night worrying about my upcoming flights to Sydney and Tokyo. I am staying in Sydney until Saturday because I get there on Tuesday this time and thought staying three days would be insane. But now I am worried that maybe I should have come back Friday so as to not spend all Saturday recovering from my flight and wasting my weekend with the kids. For Tokyo, I am leaving around 6am on Mother’s Day and flying through Seoul so I can go business class and it’s taking me around 6 hours longer. I am wondering if I should have left a day later and not missed another weekend day with my kids but then reminding myself that getting there a day early is probably the sane thing to do especially since I will only be there for three days. And yet, I wake up in the middle of the night worrying about all these things. The comments people make, the flights I’ve already booked, the one, two days I will miss.

And all this worrying is making me stay awake at night so that when I am with my kids, on vacation, I am exhausted, unable to be present, or my mind is spinning and not focusing on being here with them now. 

What a waste.

Here’s what I know: I like my job, I like being good at my job, I like working. I even like working hard.

But.

But I love my family. I love my kids. I love watching my boys grow up. I love sitting and doing work with them. I love hearing about how their days went. I love being deeply connected with their lives.  I know that I have another 4-5 years before David is off to college and another 8 with Nathaniel before he, too, starts his own journey. I want to be here for all of those days and I don’t want to go chase some stupid career goal I don’t have.

It’s so easy for me to spin other people’s throw away comments. I’m such a pleaser that I worry constantly that I am not pleasing someone. Some comment about going away when I should be here with my kids, or how I travel so much, some comment about how my title should be X or Y. Some comment about how I am not doing enough. It doesn’t even matter who is commenting, I just always want to apologize and please. 

Of course, doing that doesn’t work. Because if I am pleasing someone, I am displeasing someone else. Time and attention are limited resources and if they are going to one place, they are not going to another at the same time. When I feel unsure of my own choices and destination, it becomes that much easier for me to sway with others’ comments. For me to spin constantly.

But when I know what I want, I listen so much differently. I hear what they say and then filter that through what matters to me. What resonates with my own values and thoughts and goals. I take what helps and leave the rest. I am so much better at walking down my own path when I know what that path is. 

This is why it’s so important to me to live intentionally. I know that when I have spent time thinking about the life I want to live, I am so much better at constructing it, sticking to it, and living it. 


On My Mind is a year-long project for 2018. You can read more about my projects for 2018 here.

On My Mind – 15 – Living the Moments

As we approach the end of the school year, there are a lot of moving parts in my days. The kids’ schools have culminations or discussions around what next year looks like. They have school trips and projects that are finishing up or final projects starting up. My kids’ school doesn’t have exams or grades so that’s less of an issue for us, but compared to what they do instead, exams might be easier and certainly would take less effort from the parents’ perspective 🙂

Anyhow, so this season is about to end which means we’re going to transition into summer and then transition into a new year in the fall. I generally don’t do well with transitions because of the relatively regimented life I live. I don’t like all the readjustment I have to make. Especially since I’ve recently made a huge readjustment as I move into my new role. 

But one of the things I’m learning is that life is all about transition and as I walk into the next few years, I see many big transitions in our life. My son will transition to high school in one more year. My little one will be transitioning into middle school at the same time. And then just a few years after we’ll be neck deep in college tours etc and then he will hopefully transition to college (and high school for the other.) these are big transitions. We will then have to transition into being home alone. Just writing this down makes me want to weep. 

And yes, I know these are still 5-8 years away for us. But I also know how quickly time passes. I know that there will be tens of other transitions I can’t even imagine now (hopefully positive ones and not unexpected sad ones.) Life never goes according to plans. But here’s what I’m thinking as I sit here: life is passing by so quickly. I can’t remember most of the last 13 years and definitely not much before we had David. I remember many moments of course but I can’t remember the way I lived when I was 15 or 20 or 25. I can’t remember details of my daily life. 

And chances are when I am 55 I won’t remember the details of this life. The stuff I fret about now, the ways I use my time, the books I read, the lunches I pack, the things that frustrate me. It will all slip away. What I will remember is how a moment felt. The moment David saw Nathaniel for the first time. The moment they both started school. The big moments and also the little ones about how they like their ice cream. How it feels to snuggle with Jake on the couch etc. My life is all the moments I live with the people I love.

As all these transitions come and go, I want to focus on those moments. I want to really be present in the moments. So much so that I can lock in the way they feel, the smells, the sounds, the way my heart swells and fills me with light inside. The deep contentment I have in those moments. I want to remember those and take them with me forever. 

So as we walk into this new season of summer and adventures, this is what I want to remember. Live the moments. 

 


On My Mind is a year-long project for 2018. You can read more about my projects for 2018 here.

On My Mind – 14 – Getting it on Paper

 

This photo has nothing to do with what’s on my mind except that it’s making me happy. And I get to go back to Sydney in a few weeks and that makes me happy too. In fact, I will be traveling to Sydney, Tokyo, Boston, Italy, France and Spain in the span of two months which both delights and terrifies me. 

Anyhow, what’s on my mind this week is anchoring myself. I’ve been going a mile a minute for a bunch of weeks now, especially as I started taking on my new job. I have had all the feelings. I had the car accident earlier in the month. My son became a teenager. School is almost over. And as all these things are happening, I like to be able to take note and connect with the people in my life. Especially with my kids and husband. 

But a big part of that connecting is also me being connected to myself and my feelings and thoughts.

I do a good amount of self-reflecting here but when things get busy I feel I need deeper reflection and that’s exactly the time I don’t do it enough. So I am excited to do this 100 days of journaling plan. I can and do take my journal everywhere anyway. And knowing what’s on my mind allows me to be more thoughtful in my response, so I react less or at least I know why I am reacting. 

I don’t know if this is the case for everyone, but for me journaling is always the best way for me to see how I feel. I figure it out as I write. I connect with it as I see it on the page. 

So it’s time to get it on paper. 


On My Mind is a year-long project for 2018. You can read more about my projects for 2018 here.

On My Mind – 13 – Living Life like Work

 

 

I was talking to one of my clients this week and she was saying that she has been really busy at work and so has been dropping her requirements on some of the ways she spends her time outside work, like gym or meal prep etc. We talked a bit about not sacrificing the things you do to live a better life when you’re choosing what to drop but we then spent some time chatting about structuring life outside of work in such a disciplined matter that it feels like work.

This is what I do.

I have a lot of scheduled items in my free time. I have exercise every morning, blog posts on the weekends, family photos on Saturday mornings, teaching the kids at night, not to mention all the kid stuff like drop offs and pick ups and teaching there every Wednesday and going to a bunch of school commitments, etc. My life is generally very structured.

Which, for the most part, serves me. I know that when I am not very organized, I don’t get anything done. I can sit on the couch for days without choosing to exercise. This is true even for the things that give me joy. I can get lost in wasting time as much as the next person and structuring my life is a way I get around this pull of inertia.

There are times I completely get sick of it. Sick of myself. Sick of all the things on my list. Sick of wanting to try so hard. And I take the day off or sometimes the weekend off.

But then I get back on it because I feel strongly that this is what keeps me stronger. It’s what helps me be the best version of myself and it’s what helps me live my life intentionally. And if work deserves my loyalty, discipline and dedication, so does the rest of my life.


On My Mind is a year-long project for 2018. You can read more about my projects for 2018 here.

On My Mind – 12 – Working Around vs Working Through

 

And perhaps the one thing

that you have spent your 

life working around is the

one thing you are meant to

work through instead.

The above is a quote from Chloe Wade’s Heart Talk which has many, many gems but this one stopped me on my tracks as I was listening.  As I get older, one of the things I’ve been making peace with is that I am unlikely to change a drastic amount at this point. And maybe even more than that, that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with me. Like most people, I have my flaws and I have my advantages. I still work on myself a lot and try to be the best version of me as often as I can. But I’ve shifted my perspective to focus more on who I already am and working with myself instead of always judging myself or trying to be something I am not.

But one of the side effects of this kind of thinking is that I work around things more often now. As I opened my book and read these lines, I thought to myself, should I be working through things more? Is my new way of thinking getting in the way of progress in some areas? And I guess here’s what I’ve concluded.

I still do have things I want to work through but some of them will come naturally and others will be forced upon me by circumstance. And there will still be things I work around, or maybe around is the wrong word here, these will be things I own and just work with them. Instead of judging myself, I will just acept them and own them, like how I like to get to the airport hours early. This is who I am and I am okay with that. 

But then this quote made me think that maybe there are also things that I just drop. Things that I don’t work through or around but I just release them. I don’t have to hold on to this stress anymore. I don’t have to worry about them and maybe I don’t have a lot of working “through” but it’s things I can just let go. I spend so much time worrying and judging and beating myself up. I overworry about details that don’t end up mattering at all in the end. And maybe part of growing up, growing older is also just letting some things completely go. So that’s what’s on my mind this week. 

My plan is to pay attention in the next few weeks to which things I am working around. Where I feel like i am spinning longer than necessary, etc. And then to give myself a moment to think whether they can be dropped. My hope is that at least some of them can. 


On My Mind is a year-long project for 2018. You can read more about my projects for 2018 here.

On My Mind – 10 – Giving Grace

I had a car accident last week. 

While I’m okay, my kids are ok, the other person’s ok and even the car is mostly okay, it still shook me of course and it comes with a lot of inconveniences around insurance, body shops, having to function without my car for a while, etc. etc. But none of these inconveniences matter as much as how hard i’ve been on myself about all of this.

I don’t do well with causing problems. I don’t do well with disappointing or letting others down. I never want to be a burden. I want to help and never hurt.

So when I am in situations like this, it’s really hard for me give myself the grace that would be really easy to give to my husband, friends, or my kids. I just have this endless loop in my head about all the things I should have done instead, all the ways this will bring harm to the people I love, all the ways in which I am such a burden.

And on and on it goes into a spiral of crazy proportions. 

So this time around, I am trying really hard to give myself grace.

I have the kindest husband in the world, who is saying all the right things and trying really hard to coach me through this. My family is kind and supportive and loving and want me to remember to focus on the fact that this could have gone much more poorly and that we are all feeling well. And I am trying to remind myself that problems are part of life. Things won’t always go right. I’ve been incredibly lucky in my life that so much has gone right and I don’t want to dishonor that by exaggerating the impact of things that go wrong. 

But it’s still tough. And I am having to work hard to coach myself and to give myself so much grace and not to let the negative tapes in my head own the conversation. I know that to some people this is a nothing. It’s annoying sure, but come on already, a lot of people have accidents and no one was hurt and move on already. But that’s not how I’m built. And what makes me this way is also the same thing that allows me to be empathetic and caring to others and careful when I make decisions and on and on.  I firmly believe that the characteristics that serve us so much also have a shadow side that make life difficult when in different circumstances.

So I don’t think this will change. I don’t even want to change it. But what I want to do is learn to cope with it better when it happens. Learn to slow down and give myself the big, big dose of grace I need. 

So I’ve been trying to do that. Here’s to hoping I can get better at it each time. 

 

 


On My Mind is a year-long project for 2018. You can read more about my projects for 2018 here.

On My Mind – 09 – On the Path to Stronger

 

My word for this year is Strong. 

Strong has a lot of meanings. And while my goal is to get mentally and emotionally stronger this year, I first picked this word because I wanted to get physically stronger. I want to end 2018 considerably stronger than I started it. While I would also like to be thinner, fitter, and healthier, my first priority is still to get stronger. 

Over the course of my life, I’ve been thin and I’ve been relatively healthy but I’ve never been strong. It’s just not an adjective I would associate with myself. I can’t bench heavy weights, I can’t do pull ups, in fact I probably couldn’t carry either of my children at this point. (They are not babies anymore!)

I have some problems on my back and neck and jaw and I’ve always had chronic pain. But I’ve lived with it forever and I will say that I’m likely in less pain now than I’ve been in most of my life. I am also stronger now, too. I’ve been going to the gym at work for at least 3 times a week since last August. That’s six months of solid exercise. 

But it’s nowhere near enough.

And I’ll be honest that I don’t have it in me to spend two hours at the gym each day. I don’t have the initial strength and the ongoing discipline to push boundaries here.

And yet. 

And yet, I have this huge ache to get stronger. I watch instagram videos of women who can lift heavy weights, do pull ups and otherwise have the skills I seem to be craving. If only watching others would make me stronger, I’d have totally won by now. 

Alas, it does not.

So I want to work on this a little at a time and make consistent progress. My path to stronger is going to have to look like slow and steady progress. I did the Whole 30, 10mins of cardio, 10mins if strength, 10 mins of stretching in January and 30 days of yoga in February and now I want to make a new goal for March. Something I can do every single day regardless of where I am and how busy I am that day. Something that’s a clear indication that I am getting stronger. Something that builds my muscles, my cardiovascular health, and my mind. 

I understand that the path to strong is long and arduous but some days I just wish it weren’t so hard.


On My Mind is a year-long project for 2018. You can read more about my projects for 2018 here.

On My Mind – 08 – Look Forward to, Like Doing, vs Like Having Done

Those of you who’ve read here a while will not be shocked to hear that I do many, many things each week. I try to set specific goals for myself and then I also try to achieve them. I am an Upholder so the only person I need to be accountable to is myself. I work hard to honor who I want to become. 

I was thinking on the drive home this morning that while I do a lot of things, I think people assume that I feel the same way about all the things I do and that I must really have good sense of discipline. One of the things I’ve learned as I get older and live more and more intentionally is that if I wait until I feel like doing things, I will never do them. There are many many many things in my life I do because I know that I will be glad I did and not because I like doing them. In fact I’d say there are three categories for me:

  • Look forward to doing: These are things I can’t wait to do. I really love doing them and I am excited when I know the time is coming. There are very few items on this list: reading, some vacations, hugging my family, date with certain friends and resting/sleeping. That might be it. There are many one-off items on this list but routinely I probably only really look forward to these few things. 
  • Like Doing: These are things that I don’t always look forward to but as soon as I start doing them I love them. I am immediately glad I am doing them. This is a wide list for me but here are some examples: tucking nathaniel in, taking math classes with the kids, body pump, yoga, stretching, vacations that aren’t on the previous list, online classes, spending time helping my kids, volunteering at the kids’ school, scrapping/art/journaling etc.
  • Like Having Done: This is, by far, the biggest list for me. These are things that I know are good for me but I rarely naturally want to do them and I don’t always enjoy doing them (sometimes I might but it’s not consistent enough to make it to the previous list). Many of the growth areas of my life (or the chores) would fall in this category. Things like: cardio/barre type exercise, eating healthy most of the time, getting up early, driving kids to their extracurriculars, picking kids up from the school, cleaning out my email, packing lunches for the kids, crossing off all my todos, self care like getting my hair or nails done. Putting cream on my body, flossing, etc. 

I try to have a healthy distribution of the three things but the third bucket is always biggest for me. I don’t like doing these things any more than the next person but I try to balance it out by having enough things in the other two and by reminding myself that I am always grateful at the end and that these efforts accumulate. It’s a lot of self-awareness, tracking outcomes, and self coaching to remind myself that it’s worth it.

Now that I am seeing it all laid out in front of me, one of the things I want to work on is balancing each throughout my day/week. I want to make sure I do combination of these every day and each week. The weeks when it’s so much more of one vs the other are always the weeks I feel off balance. Even when it’s all #1 and none of the other two. I benefit from having all three in my life. 

And of course there are things that i do that I don’t like to do and am not glad I did, but I try to reduce those as much as possible. Those can accumulate into a life that feels draining and bitter and that’s something I don’t want to experience any more if I can help it. 

 


On My Mind is a year-long project for 2018. You can read more about my projects for 2018 here.

On My Mind – 07 – Not Sorry

I’m not on many newsletters anymore, mostly because I never have time to keep up with the emails and then I find myself getting annoyed when they pile up. So I’ve unsubscribed from any of them that send content frequently enough to annoy me. Susannah Conway is one of the few I still receive and I often like reading what’s on her mind.

Here’s what she shared this week from her instagram in response to it being her 45th birthday:

This feels like a really massive pivot point, as if this is truly my mid-way point between birth and death (assuming I make it to 90). I’m not having a midlife crisis, but rather I’m feeling a sense of “well that’s it then, NO MORE MESSING AROUND!” I am utterly grown-up and know myself so thoroughly I don’t want to apologise for anything anymore. Not that I have been, but there is always a lingering “sorry” somewhere isn’t there. Sorry if I’m taking up too much space. Sorry if I’m speaking about things I shouldn’t speak about. Sorry if my beliefs don’t match yours…

Having true as one of my core desired feelings this really resonated with me. I find that I definitely also have a lingering “sorry” all the time and I want to put it down. I don’t have any desire to be arrogant or full of myself. But I do want to be able to own who I am and just make peace with it. 

This doesn’t mean I don’t continue to grow and improve, those are my core values and I will always work on myself. But, I don’t want to spend my life apologizing. I don’t want to choose to be with people around whom this feeling is heightened. I want to be able to embrace me. Embrace who I already am, both the goods and the bads. 

Glennon Doyle Melton often speaks about how we can do hard things but we can’t do easy things and this is so very true for me. I have a hard time with small, easy daily life things that so many people seem to move through seamlessly and yet I can do many things others would consider hard. Instead of beating myself up about the small things, I just want to learn to acknowledge this about myself, get the help I need for the easy things and spend my energy on the hard things.

I know that so much of life is about learning who you are and making peace with that instead of fighting who you should be. And as I approach my mid-life, I want to make sure to remember that not only intellectually but in my being. I want to shift my mindset and way of living so it honors who I am more and leads me to a more fulfilling life. 

One without unnecessary apologies.


On My Mind is a year-long project for 2018. You can read more about my projects for 2018 here.

On My Mind – 06 – Keeping it Fresh

I’ve been thinking a lot about taking chances lately. Risks. Jumping into unknowns. Stretching. 

One of my Core Desired Feelings for 2018 is “fresh.” When I picked that word, here’s what I wrote:

Maybe this is my brave word for this year. Fresh to me means something that’s new to me, something that stretches me, helps me grow and learn. Something that keeps me engaged and makes me feel alive. Something different. An adventure. A permission to explore.

I look at that and I am uncomfortable a little bit. I am the kind of person who likes routine. Predictability. Consistency. Those are words that represent me. They don’t really sit side by side with adventure and stretching. But I also have an endless thirst to grow, reflect, learn. So that thirst often propels me to step into situations that are scary for me.

In 1999, I got the opportunity to take a six-month job in Tokyo. At the time, I was living in New York City with my husband and we had no kids. My work was okay but not great. This job, while in the same company, was for a manager I really liked. But I didn’t know a word of Japanese and I was really really scared to go. 

Which is why I went. 

I figured if I was this scared, this would be an opportunity for growth. I thought about it, tried to be logical, but honestly in the end it was all about my gut. My gut screamed “go! go! go!” so I went. 

And It was tough. But it was also amazing. I wouldn’t take back those months ever. They are still some of my best in my life. 

When I look back at my life, I notice that all the times that I really loved, I was taking a risk. Moving to NY, living in Japan, quitting my job to teach in the Bronx, moving out of NY, our cross-country trip, moving to San Diego, moving to the Bay Area, asking to work from home.  And of course having my kids.

These are all cases when I walked into the unknown. I hoped and prayed for the best. I had really tough moments. But I remember each of them with joy now. It’s what makes my life interesting and full. Growing, while tough, is also really rewarding.

I’ve found myself in a similar situation lately and my gut is screaming at me again. Here’s to taking leaps. To feeling the freshness of the unknown.

 


On My Mind is a year-long project for 2018. You can read more about my projects for 2018 here.

On My Mind – 05 – Saying No

Last week I wrote all about saying Yes. Very soon after all those thoughts came to my mind, I also thought about how it was important that I get better at saying No. I am a helpful person by nature and I am also extremely productive so I can easily get myself into a situation where I do the work of 3-4 people. Which isn’t a problem by itself, but it can become one. 

Especially if I sign up for things that are a bad combination for me. For example, one of the volunteer positions I hold for the kids’ school is working with two other parents and coordinating an event that happens three times a year. Partly because I didn’t understand the requirements well and partly because my working style is so wildly different that the other two, this one job has driven me to tears a few times this year already. It takes away energy I don’t have and adds stress that is not worth it. I should quit this job. 

But I can’t. I feel bad because I’ve committed so it feels wrong to walk away before the year is out. I’ve tried to quit a few times and I haven’t been able to do it. But I really should. I will say that I’d committed to some other volunteer position at the kids school which would actually start next year and I did back out of that after my experience here. I just don’t have it in me to commit to two years on something that might turn out to be just as poor a fit for me. I still volunteer a lot at the school. I teach once a week and I am Nathaniel’s class-mom and I organize the snacks for Math Counts. 

None of these things help my kids much but they help me be involved in the school and form connections and appreciate the school more. All of which are good things. But it’s time to say no. This work and especially the stress of this work is getting in the way of actual time I could be spending with my kids or husband or by myself or even working. All of those are more rewarding. 

And I need to learn to say No. I need to understand that I always overfill my life and that’s actually okay (for me.) What’s not ok is not being careful about what I fill it with. Things that suck energy are not allowed. Things that make me cry definitely are not allowed. So I need to learn to say no, I need to learn to quit, I need to learn to let things go.

As I often tell my clients, saying yes to something is saying no to something else (even if that other thing isn’t super visible to you at that moment.) This is also true the other way around. Saying No to something means I am saying Yes to something else and I need to remember this. 

So here’s to saying No more.


On My Mind is a year-long project for 2018. You can read more about my projects for 2018 here.