Monthly Archives: February 2013

Going by Feel

I spent so much of my life doing what I thought I should do instead of what I wanted to do, that I lost my sense of touch. I wasn’t listening to my heart, and spent my days fulfilling my many obligations. It was an ok life, and I wasn’t suffering by any means, but I sure wasn’t thriving.

A few months ago, when I got my freedom through a corporate layoff, I made a commitment to myself: seek out what makes me happy, and let the warm feeling that washes over me when doing something that I’m truly excited about be my guide to making decisions. Essentially, I am regaining my sense of being in touch with myself.

Every morning I wake up and have an idea of what I hope to do for that day. I’m a planner, and that hasn’t changed in my quest of listening to my inner barometer. But now, I ask myself in the morning what I want to do. Sometimes my day ends up as planned, but often it doesn’t. I may feel like not hiking, and that’s ok—I can hike tomorrow. I may want to take the morning off to walk around a park with my dog, and will get my work done in the afternoon. That’s ok too.

I’m learning that being happy, and actively seeking out my happiness, is the best motivator for me. Showing my suffering as my dedication to a commitment is no longer my method for proving my worth. It sounds silly, but looking back now, I realize that’s exactly what I did. I worked the longest hours to prove that I was a good employee; I sacrificed my personal life to show that I was a hard worker. All these years later, I see that the person I hurt most was me, and that all I gained from my years of self-sacrifice is the learning that it’s not right for me and the ability to recognize that I’m doing it. Balance.

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I’m learning to live with less judgment, as doing what feels right makes me happy, and being happy is an end goal now for me. Not that I don’t like seeing that list of checked off items that I’ve completed and feel proud of how productive I’ve been that day, but sometimes, that’s not the day I need. And I now accept that without judgement.

There’s always tomorrow. Today I’m going to have fun.

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Go Grab a Spoon

This Friday is ten years since I last time I said goodbye to my grandfather. I told him that I love him and we hung up; I didn’t know it would be the last time that we would talk.

He died two hours later.

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What would you say if you knew that the conversation you were having with someone you love dearly was going to be the last that you’d ever have? I have been thinking about this often as this anniversary approaches. There was so much that I didn’t say as I didn’t know that I would never have the chance.

Pop, you were my hero and I worshipped you with all of my heart. As I got older, I learned that you truly were a hero, serving on the front lines in World War II. You were so in love with grandmom and though I groaned when I saw you sneaking a kiss or patting her on the butt, I secretly thought it was amazing that you cared about each other so much after 46 years of marriage.

You were my biggest fan offering never-ending encouragement when I was putting myself through college. You never graduated from high school and were so proud. When I told you I was going to take a semester off to work so I could continue in school, you wouldn’t hear of it, and insisted on paying my rent. You did it in such a way that I was able to maintain my pride while accepting your incredibly generous gift. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I picked things up from you, like your sweet tooth. I’ll never forget seeing you at 85 years old with a half gallon of ice cream in your lap, spoon in hand. When I teased you about it, you simply shrugged and said, “Hey, I’m old. A little ice cream isn’t going to hurt anything. Want some? Go grab a spoon.”

I miss you every single day and still, ten years later, catch myself going to the phone to call you. I am the person that I have become because of you and Grandmom, and I live my life to honor you. Your love, guidance and support have meant the world to me and provided me with a loving and supportive safety net because I knew you both always believed in me. You have always been there, every step of the way.  Even now I feel your presence and it comforts me. I am so grateful to have had you in my life.

We found your note to my brother and me and to this day it still brings tears to my eyes. “I love you Sammy and Danny. You are my world.” I designed a pendant and wear it on a chain by my heart.

I love you, more than my words could ever say. I love you. I now realize that you knew all along, and that I really never did need to say anything for you to know.

 

The Heart of the Matter

When I was 27, I was dating a guy for a few months when he asked if I had ever been married or engaged. I answered “no”. He looked at me and said, “What’s wrong with you?” Ouch. I felt that I had so much I wanted to do in my career, and I didn’t think I was ready to get married. And now, I was feeling somehow deficient. It hurt.

Fast forward fourteen years. Looking back now, I can see that I was in no way ready to be married at 27. Or at 37, for that matter. I have been doing a lot of soul-searching in the last few years to really get to know me; not the me that I presented to the world, and not the me that I thought I should be, but me. While knowing who you are isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for marriage, or even a successful union, I knew that it was important for me.

I’ve never had children, something that raises questions when I share that with people. Though no one has been tactless enough to ask me what’s wrong with me for not having children, I often feel that question in the conversation. Convention is to get married and have children, and I’m bucking the trend.

I can say that I never met the right guy, or that I didn’t want to do it alone, but the truth of the matter is that if I truly wanted children, I would have had them. I’m a very driven person. I did try fostering a teenager for a while, but that didn’t work and left me feeling that I just don’t have what it takes to be a mother. I’m not sure it’s true as being the mother of a teenager is hard. Being a mother to a teenager that you have only known for a couple of years is a commitment worthy of a saint. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that.

I’m also afraid I will feel like my mother, who felt trapped and forced to have children, even though she didn’t want to. As a small child, I understood this. When I got older, she shared this with me. It was really hard to hear my own mother say that she never wanted me. I never, ever want to make another person feel like that.

The truth is, that I simply wasn’t ready to get married, and to have children. And the bigger truth is that much as I love children, I don’t want to have them. There will always be a part of me that questions that statement: maybe I’m scared, or maybe I just didn’t have the right circumstances. And both may be true. Though my answer to the question, “Do you want to have children?” has flip-flopped through the years, my answer is now: no.

I do love being around children, though. I visit my nephews several times a year, volunteer with kids through Gabriel’s Angels (a non-profit pet therapy organization that works with children at risk) and with teens at Florence Crittenton, and love to see my friend’s kids. For me, that’s enough.Mason & Sawyer

So, when the teens that I volunteer with at Florence Crittenton were asking about my age a few weeks ago, I didn’t answer. Not because I’m unhappy with my age. Frankly, I find it kind of hard to believe that I’m actually 41 as I feel like I’m now growing up and finding me. And I love the self-confidence and self-sufficiency I now feel. But mostly, I changed the subject because their next question, in the tact that only a teenager can really get away with, would be, “What’s wrong with you?” And while I am comfortable with my age and single status, I still do get a little defensive when I feel I have to explain why I’m not following convention when it just doesn’t fit me.

Checking the Closet

When I was a little girl, I was sure there was a monster living in my closet. It was safe in my room during the day as the monster was asleep, but at night, the closet door had to be completely shut or the monster would come out. My nighttime ritual was that my dad had to check inside the closet, then shut the door fully before letting me blow out the light. If the door was open even a crack, I couldn’t fall asleep.

ImageI launched my business last week, called Volto LLC. I created the concept almost three years ago and started the process of creating the business, but then I chickened out. I got scared by the ‘what ifs.’ You know, “What if I don’t succeed? What if I can’t get any clients? What if I can’t make any money and have to go back to a corporate job, embarrassed and a total failure. Everyone will know.” Instead, I took a corporate job and told myself it was the right thing to do, despite the irony.

A couple of months ago, I decided it was time to resurrect the Volto concept. The same thoughts and feelings of dissatisfaction with my corporate work experience that led me to create the business three years ago had never subsided, and the song grew louder inside of me. Freedom. When I consider my personal definition of freedom in this context, here is the list that I came up with:

I want the freedom to:

  • do work that I love
  • that offers mental challenge and creativity,
  • that ‘does good’ and helps people,
  • with people that I enjoy and respect
  • while maintaining a balance with other important needs in my life (my volunteering, travel, etc.)

My professional work at corporations gave me certain pieces of this list, but never all of them. Generally speaking, I was unable to maintain a work-life balance that I was happy with, and while I often did work that I enjoy which offered mental challenge and creativity, I often felt that it was missing “soul” in terms of helping people. My volunteering satisfied that requirement, though to fit that in to a level that felt right often meant squeezing my personal time with friends. Finding a balance that feels right has always been a challenge, so I it’s time to try something different. I’m ready.

With Volto, I will offer copywriting (strategic marketing writing) and marketing consulting, work that I have been doing in a corporate setting for years and enjoy. I will also offer career coaching, which I have been doing for friends and coworkers informally for years as well, rewriting resumes and preparing people for interviews and negotiations. This freelance business will allow me the opportunity to set a schedule that I want and work with people that I choose, helping them with their various writing and consulting needs. I will be able to decide whom I will work with, and will be able to choose the projects I will work on to ensure balance in my life. It’s my dream and will check off every item on my list.

I still have the same fears of failure, which have plagued me most of my life, leading me to follow a path of working at large corporations— what I thought I should do because it was safe and expected. But instead of sinking into the fear, I now ask myself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” My answer is that the worst thing that could happen is that I decide to not pursue this opportunity, my dream, because I’m scared, and spend the rest of my life thinking, “What if I had started that business?”

So, after taking a step back and giving it a lot of thought, my question now is “what have I got to lose?”