Monthly Archives: May 2013

A Different Ruler

I’ve always been an achievement-oriented person.

I remember being a child and always striving to be the best at what I set as my goal. It could be grades in school, and being the best didn’t just mean getting the best grade on a test, but also getting a better grade then I did on the last test.

Though I can be competitive with other people, the person I most often compete with is myself. I’m always striving to improve upon what I’ve done in the past to constantly set the bar higher. I’m not a very athletic person: hand-eye coordination and balance are unfortunately skills that I was not blessed with, so the primary venue for my competition has been professional.

I always had to put the bar higher and had to achieve professionally to feel successful, happy and confident.

What about now that I am in a professional limbo of sorts? I’m not looking to rise another rung on the corporate ladder and I’m not seeking acclaim for the work that I do. Instead, I’m looking to work regular hours doing good work, but not investing more of me than is required to get the job done.

I decided that I had to redefine achievement.

I started this process of changing my mindset during my sabbatical of sorts, when I was enjoying my “lady of leisure” status. Now that I’m back working in corporate, I find I need to remind myself of my goals and why I’m here so I don’t fall back into the same hole of giving too much of myself to my work.

I now measure my day by how many things I did that I enjoy, or that I find rewarding. These are things like visiting with my hospice patient, hiking with my dog or a rescue dog, going to pet therapy, writing, meeting friends and hiking, among others.


Image courtesy of Felixco, Inc. /

A Goal to Look Forward to

Last week was a really crappy week at work. The honeymoon period at my new job wasn’t very long; maybe a day or two at the most. I unfortunately demonstrated competence, and got completely overloaded with work as a result. I learned that my  full-time project actually isn’t even a project but a program [the difference being that I am managing 10-15 smaller overlapping projects at a given time and not one, requiring a rather skilled juggling act].

As I’m learning how much my job actually entails and how different it is from what I was told and what my boss thought it was, he gave me another project because the person managing it isn’t managing it at all and it’s “off the rails”.

I do appreciate the vote of confidence, but my 45-50 hour a week job just became…??? I have no idea, but it certainly isn’t the 40 hours that I expected and very clearly stated that I was offering when I interviewed. I’m not very good at saying no traditionally, and not very good in situations where I feel that I can’t succeed.

Talking with my boss twice didn’t seem to help, and I was told that once I get over the learning curve, it’ll be fine.


Then the other Project Manager’s boss, my boss’ peer, called me to discuss. I had interviewed with her and we connected well, so she called me to say that she was concerned with my running both projects and asked how I felt about it.

My hero!!!!

She then arranged a call with the four of us (including my boss and the other Project Manager) to talk about roles and responsibilities and to walk through expecations for these projects. Apparently she had done some work on my boss in the meantime, and it appears that his expectations may be reset.


Apparently my big learning from this job is going to be saying no and setting boundaries regarding my work/life balance. I don’t want to have another week where I’m working more than 50 hours, exhausted, cranky and feeling like I’m climbing a solid-faced wall with toothpicks. There’s no time like now to begin my lessons, and my work computer will remain shut for the weekend. I’m learning.

Better late than never.


© Tsmarkley |

Breaking Up with my Past

Ever find yourself saying any of the following:

“I have to, because I said I would..”

“I blame my mother…”

“That is how I was raised.”

This last one is my personal favorite and I recently caught myself using it. Now, I moved out when I was sixteen years old, so I haven’t lived with my parents for twenty-five years. So.. really? How does anything that happened that long ago dictate my decisions now? I caught myself saying it and laughed out loud.


When I was in my mid-thirties I realized that I couldn’t blame my parents anymore for things in my life that I wasn’t happy with. I had been living on my own at that point for longer than I had lived with them. Doing so seems kind of ridiculous.

I understand we’re imprinted in our formative years, but at some point, we have to recognize that we are an adult and make our own decisions. So, if there’s something I don’t like, I alone have the power to change it.

How empowering!

Painting My New Landscape

Now that I’m back working in a corporate job, things have changed in many ways. Some are more obvious than others.

Color PalateImage

I must admit that getting a regular paycheck is nice. I really enjoyed my “lady of leisure” time when I wasn’t working, and found some satisfaction in prioritizing where my money goes. I considered what was important to me that I was not willing to give up, and didn’t miss out on any of those things. For anything else, I decided to not spend the money to give me more time. There was something very satisfying of feeling that sense of control over my expenses.

Hours in the Chair

I now need to make those same decisions about my time. When I had all of my time at my disposal, I could do most of the things that I wanted to do. So, I’m prioritizing some of the things I most enjoy doing, like hiking, visiting my hospice patient and my other volunteer work, and spending time with friends, to be sure that those don’t slip.

Choosing the Right Brush

I’m finding that time seems to pass as a big blur since so much of my time now is dedicated to work. Monday blends into Tuesday, and before I know it, it’s Thursday and I’m counting down to the weekend. I don’t want to wish my life away by counting those precious hours to the weekend. I want to be sure that every day includes some things I enjoy and that I try to find some pleasure in my work.


Life is always a work in progress. I now do a better job of making decisions that are consistent with the person I am. The challenging part that I am facing now, is what to do about it: making a choice to consciously do what feels right, and not be guided by what I think I should do. Or not getting caught up in trying to be the best, and trying to please other people at the expense of myself. Sometimes this includes turning off my work when my hours are over, and not dedicating more time and energy to it than are required. It is also going to include setting realistic expectations of what I can do with my boss, as I’m already getting pressure to take more work on then I believe I can reasonably do.

Every day is a new opportunity to pull out my brush and practice my painting skills with some abstract concepts like balance and happy. It takes lots of practice to become expert at anything. Spending time consciously making decisions with where I spend my time won’t always be easy, but every time I practice that skill, it will get easier.

My Reminder

I manage chronic neck and back pain, and I’ve learned over the last few years to implement a regular self-care plan to try to keep it at bay. I woke up with a kink in my neck that would not go away and quickly arranged for a massage and chiropractic visit to ward it off. 

Only, this time it didn’t seem to help. Two days later, I woke with my neck completely seizing and in tremendous pain. It was the day before I started my new job. I rested much of the day and iced it while taking Advil, but nothing seemed to help.

My first day passed in such excruciating pain, worse than I’ve ever felt in my life. I had absolutely no mobility in my neck. Not a good start. 


I’ve found the concept of self-care to be a challenge. I’m quick to help care for others who need it, but don’t always offer myself the same courtesy. But this time I did! I recognized that I was having an issue, and did take some preventive measures to try to resolve it. 

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize that the timing is quite suspect, and that this happened because I was about to go back to work in corporate, where I know in my heart I don’t want to be. Through the mists of pain, I kept thinking, “Why did this happen? What could I have done differently to avoid it? And most importantly, what can I learn from it?” I was really concerned as the last few jobs I’ve had have been pretty awful, so is this a harbinger of what’s to come?

I believe that accepting this job is the right decision for me right now, and I own that decision. However, I know that I need to pay special attention to taking care of myself to ensure that I don’t get sucked back up into “the ick,” as I call it: the politics, the drama. It’s difficult for me watching people behaving badly and not feeling weighed down by it.

Perhaps this was a warning to be sure I keep my head out of it, do the work I need to do and be done with it, making sure I don’t absorb all that goes on around me. Keep my eye on my goals, and stay at the job for what I want to get out of it without getting caught up.

Sometimes, a muscle spasm is just a muscle spasm.  Or sometimes, it could be a rather unpleasant reminder that I need to stay true to myself. Ok, I recognize the lesson. Now please make it go away.