Transformation.

July 31, 2014 at 6:12 am | Posted in And I ran (I ran so far away), Career angst | 3 Comments

Thank goodness I pressed “publish” the other day. I feel so much better now that I posted it.

I just hate feeling wishy-washy. Posting that I want to quit my job, but I can’t… or won’t… or some combination thereof… posting about that seems, well, disingenuous.

And redundant. OMG, so redundant. How many have you heard about how miserable I am with the job for SO MANY YEARS NOW? Seriously, Serenity. Either DO something about it or shut up already.

But I had to address it, because even though I KNOW my happiness would increase in a lot of ways if I quit my job, the anxiety over money and the lack of stuff we can do as a result of losing 40% of our income would mostly negate it.

I just need to figure out a way to navigate this career I have now AND focus on what’s best for my family.

And, quite honestly, it’s my nature to move, to DO something, to plan for the next thing, and a lot of times I wonder if my freakouts about how much I dislike my job is just a smoke screen for this desire for change. Yes, it’s true that my job does not bring me much joy. Or even satisfaction, if I’m being honest.  But this seems to be my pattern, too. I’m miserable and I feel this need to change things up, because the change will make me happy.

That’s not really how it works, though. Change for change’s sake isn’t the right choice either.

So I am trying to temper my all or nothing tendency here and figure out a plan that is rational, reasonable, AND gives me more of the things I like about my job: time to run, time home with Lucky, and enough money where I don’t need to worry about paying the bills or taking the random weekend away.

So now that you’re caught up on the work-Serenity-induced-drama, there’s so much more I want to talk about.

Like running.

For the past four years, I’ve been kind of obsessed with running races. I hired a great coach, ran track intervals, added weight training exercises specific to running, and was strict about my calorie intake to get into a weight range which would put me into a “lean” body fat percentage. Because when you’re running, every pound counts, and the leaner and lighter you are, the faster you can go.

Last summer, you guys, I was THERE. I was 2lbs away from my goal body fat percentage, I was running fast, I wasn’t injured, and I was ready to set the world on fire. I wanted to run a Boston Qualifier race in my October marathon.

The thing is, marathons are tricky. If something goes wrong, it can really affect your time. We’re talking an extra half hour on your time because of a blister. I did not have a good race day – instead of BQing, I blew up into tiny little runner pieces on the back half of the course.

I came out of that experience with a renewed vow to hit my training hard over the winter and see if a different strategy would get me at least a sub-4:00 marathon.

And, of course, this winter was terrible. It was frigid and full of snow, and I didn’t bother taking the conditions into account whenever I went out and ran my runs. Consequently, I trained myself right into the ground. I got slower and more tired, and I couldn’t get my legs to turnover. And I was cold ALL THE TIME. And hungry, too.  OMG, so hungry. And cold.

(Did I mention the cold and hunger?)

It was awful.

It wasn’t until my friend D remarked to me, when I was complaining about yet another cold and snowy run, I guess I just don’t get why you insist on doing something that steals your joy.

She might not have said those actual words, but holy shit, she was right.

So I changed my goal for my spring marathon. I ran slower and ate more. And on the incredibly, awesomely, frustratingly hot day of my marathon, I ran a full half hour slower than my personal best.

And I decided that day that I was done with marathons for the time being.

Since then, I’ve struggled with insomnia and life stress and achilles tendinitis. And with all the anxiety, I’ve needed my running like I’ve never needed it before. Except the idea of racing – the time goals, pushing for a personal best, running when it hurts and keeping going – started to feel like a shackle, a chain around my neck and waist. Track workouts became stressful; I was now chasing my friends in last year’s pace group, panicking because I’ve lost fitness. I started to not to WANT to run. After two years of running 5-6 days a week, I started to take breaks.

It was too much, all of it. I needed a break from the (largely self-imposed) pressure.

So I made the decision not to run my coach’s summer clinic and instead run when I could manage it for the distance I want. I do have two races planned this fall: a 10k and a half marathon. But I am no longer running a training plan, or beating myself up for not hitting my paces. I’m running with people I enjoy running with, the friends who are chill and happy and run because it’s fun and a way to catch up with friends, not because it’s a way to get faster or look better or whatever. I run by myself without a watch, going only for mileage and not time.

It is SO FREEING – and I love running again.

It’s little things like this – walking away from personal best chasing because I now recognize how much pressure I put on myself. Allowing myself to be 5lbs heavier than some self-determined optimal weight because I now recognize that my number is completely arbitrary and allows for no joy in cooking – and eating – good food.

And, you see, THIS is how I know I’m going to be okay, that eventually I’m going to free myself from the restrictions and pressure and misery I heap on myself.

This is how I know I’ll figure out the work thing eventually, too.

It’s so hard to write about the subtlety of transformation. Because really, the fact that I am not focused on racing or counting calories doesn’t seem like a big deal by itself. But it gives me a lot of hope that I’m starting down a path of real self-acceptance.

And happiness.

Sometimes You Just Have to Press “Publish.”

July 29, 2014 at 7:51 am | Posted in Career angst, Crazy Talk (aka: Therapy) | 5 Comments

I have three separate drafts sitting in my dashboard right now. All of them are untitled. All of them relate to my last post about how I wish I could quit my job. Which I wrote more than a MONTH ago.

About halfway through writing those posts, I’ve just had to click away. Partly because I can’t deal with thinking and worrying and obsessing any more. Partly because I’m mad at myself that I can’t just walk away from a job which I have spent the past decade trying to talk myself into liking.

I wish it were that easy. I wish I was the kind of person who could just quit, walk away, be happy and free, with the wind blowing in my hair and daisies dancing and fairies flying around me, playing beautiful music.

I wish I was the kind of person who DIDN’T stay awake at night worrying about money.

I wish I could walk away and deal with the reality that in not working, I take resources away from my family; resources that are just as important as my time and energy.

I wish my headspace wasn’t so exhausting.

I wish I didn’t feel like quitting was WRONG.

I wish I knew what the hell I wanted to do with my life.

The thing is. I make 40% of our total family income. Working my dreaded part time hours. And yes, if I subtract out self-employment taxes because I’m a contractor, it’s not nearly as much as it seems on paper. But it’s significant, and we’re still paying for student debt, and I have family that’s strewn about the United States, and already I haven’t seen my sister and brother since March 2013. Oh yeah, and did I mention that I needed a new car imminently because mine had a crack in the head gasket that couldn’t be fixed because the head screws were frozen?

I just can’t justify quitting outright.

And I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, so it’s not like I can even plan my exit strategy and ramp up something ELSE in the meantime.

But clearly my work schedule was not working for me anymore. This summer has just been too crazy.

So what I did instead of quitting was email the woman for whom I work and tell her I could only manage 20 hours a week this summer, and that we needed to bring in another resource, because that wasn’t going to cut it with all the changes the auditors wanted the client to make. I told her that things were different this summer because Lucky wasn’t in full day daycare and Charlie wasn’t working from home. And I told her that I couldn’t give her more than 20 hours a week, and that was BEFORE vacation plans, since Lucky and I were just about to head to NC for two weeks to visit my sister and niece and nephew and my brother and new nephew and niece and friends and other family.

And I knew it would not go over well, because she is not the kind of person who handles changes from her expectations without reacting. This was a HUGE change from what we’ve always discussed: that I am the person who is responsible for this project, first and foremost, and I need to be willing to work whatever hours necessary to get the project completed on time.

If I’m being honest, I had kind of hoped, in a faint way you hope for these sorts of things, that she would be pissed enough to replace me altogether.

She was pissed, yes. But she did not replace me.

Instead she made it clear that I needed to cancel my trip to North Carolina and honor my commitment to her and the client by getting our project back on track.

And I caved. I cancelled our trip to North Carolina.

I don’t like disappointing people. I have taken the term responsibility entirely too seriously, for what I’m realizing has been my whole life. I don’t like telling someone who counts on me that I’m not up for the task.

There is so much of this entwined in who I am as a person, I can’t make a decision that, when you step back and look at it on paper, seems like it should be easy.

I can’t quit my job. But I can’t keep working in this situation, either.

In the meantime, I have been formulating my exit strategy. I recently had a meeting with a family therapist – a friend of a friend – about helping her come up with an accounting system for her business. But it’s clear from me from our discussions that it’s not necessarily going to be a profitable endeavor for me. It’ll be money – a little bit. But not exactly what I’m looking to get from investing time into doing more accounting.

I’ve also had coffee with the closer-to-my-house equivalent of the woman for whom I work – a guy who owns his own accounting firm and could always use extra help. He’s not interested in hiring a contractor, would want to hire me as a part time employee, but wouldn’t tie me down to a yearly hours requirement like the woman for whom I work now. He also nodded in agreement when I told him that ideally I’d work mother’s hours three days a week, and mentioned that he and his wife decided when they had their third child that they were going to try and make it work on just his salary. It’s important to be present for your children, he told me. I can’t say I’m excited about the idea of doing what I’m doing for more years – even closer to my house AND on better hours! – but I guess I feel strongly that I cannot walk away from the money without having some idea of what’s next.

That’s where I am right now.

And I haven’t pressed “publish” on any of these posts before now because I’m bitterly disappointed in myself for not having the courage to walk away from something which clearly brings me no joy. I can see it so clearly: it’s my own damn fault that I feel stuck and miserable and tired and joyless. I not only CAN do something about it, but I SHOULD. I have always felt that if you have control over something, and you choose to do nothing, you forfeit the right to complain about it.

I choose to do nothing, therefore I have to deal with the reality the way it is.

So that’s why I haven’t posted in more than a month. I still don’t know what I’m going to do. And I know there are so many of you reading this blog who want to scream at me “JUST QUIT THE FREAKING JOB!” I mean, hell, *I* think that to myself, too. Just quit the job, deal with the fact that we lose 40% of our household income. It’s just money, Serenity. Get out of there.

I wish it were that easy.

It’s not.

(And I’m going to press publish on this one.)

When the Wants Make Themselves Known.

June 17, 2014 at 1:22 pm | Posted in Career angst, Choosing Happiness., Crazy Talk (aka: Therapy) | 8 Comments

Since my post about not knowing what I want, I’ve gotten a whole lot better about sitting and listening to myself.

And when you listen to something long enough, you inevitably find one.

It’s a doozy.

I think I need to quit my job.

And the idea absolutely, unequivocally terrifies me.

Let me back up and tell you how I got here first.

Ever since I put out there that I wanted to go into business for myself, I’ve been talking with people and telling them that I’m thinking about trying to do something new, to go out on my own. For me, it’s been a way to try in the idea of running my own business and communicating to people that I’m interested in getting business if someone knows someone. Plus, talking about it helps me suss out my own feelings on the whole situation.

This weekend was the end-of-school bash for Lucky’s school. My running friend from town and her husband were there. In one of the first times we ran together, I asked my friend what her husband does. Not being a business person, she told me she wasn’t quite sure, but that he had worked in consulting for a bit and now was working for a company. And he was very, very busy.

So I assumed that he was in sales.

Except I was wrong. Turns out, he’s in the SAME INDUSTRY AS ME. We bonded over shared frustration about where the industry is headed, how we feel like our jobs are spent covering the auditor’s asses instead of creating real value for our companies and clients, and how hard it is to work for the industry right now.

And he told me that he knew a guy close to home who was in the same business who always needed help; he had contracted for him before his kids were born and stays in touch.

It was perfect – I could stay doing that I do, without having to commute! Perfect, right?

I went ahead and requested to connect on LinkedIn on the referral of my friend’s husband, and for a bit, I dreamed about the idea of not having to commute into Boston anymore and still keep money coming in. I mean, really, it couldn’t be more perfect!

I’d still do exactly what I’m doing now, except I wouldn’t have to spend 3+ hours of my day in the car.

And then, Sunday night into Monday morning, I was up most of the night with insomnia.

(The insomnia. Oy, the insomnia. I have had some pretty bad nights since my marathon on Mother’s Day. I might have slept more than 3 hours at a stretch once, maybe twice. Most nights, I pass out at 9, then am up from midnight until 3 or 4am, with some ‘naps’ here and there. It’s awful and torturous and I have done almost everything physically possible to manage it: melatonin, turning off my devices, going to bed when tired, avoiding caffeine, meditation when I DO wake up, white noise, allergy medication.)

I didn’t really make the connection until my therapy appointment yesterday, when my stress levels were through the roof. I sat in my therapist’s office, and, trying not to cry, told her I could barely breathe sometimes when I think about going to work.

My insomnia started right about the time I went back to work after my two month hiatus.

It’s not the commute. It’s not the schedule.

It’s the work itself.

I haven’t LIKED the work in a long time – since before Lucky was born, quite honestly. But see, I don’t HATE it ,either. And I think that’s what gets me: I don’t hate my job. I just don’t care.

And the more I start to focus on the things I want, the more I read about living the kind of life I value, the more I am realizing that there’s something missing as it relates to my work right now.  It’s never more clear when I’m sitting in traffic on the Tobin Bridge; in those moments I have a clear existential crisis, where my entire being is screaming, THIS IS WRONG! THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY!!!!

I thought it was the commute. I thought it was maybe the kind of work I’m doing. Or maybe the company. Or maybe it’s just because I’m tired, because, you see, I CANNOT FREAKING SLEEP. I have been telling myself for years now that I can’t leave this job, it’s good and flexible and I don’t hate it and it’s good money, and it’s irresponsible to leave a job and take away resources from my family merely because I don’t CARE about my work. I tell myself to find something else instead – that I can’t leave until I have a good idea of what I want next, because really, it’s money and money is good.

But the thing is, I don’t know what I want to do next. I spend a LOT of my time and energy casting my thoughts around, trying on careers, researching the next steps and realizing that yeah, I don’t have the time or money for more schooling that would be required.

So here I am. Still no clue of what I want to be when I grow up, but realizing that my current situation is fast becoming untenable, emotionally, for me.

Yesterday, my therapist asked me, So what will it take for you to leave your job?

I don’t know. I really, really don’t know. Leaving is terrifying for me. I don’t know what I’m going to do next. I don’t KNOW what that life will look like. I’m scared of the sacrifices I’m going to force on my family if I decide to leave. And man, I feel SO selfish in saying, well, I don’t HATE my job, but I don’t like it, and therefore I’m leaving it.

I mean, really, who gets to do that?

But I can’t keep living like this either. I feel stuck, and anxious, and I consciously have to force myself to breathe when I think of all the work I’m going to have to do in August, while paying a nanny to take care of Lucky because there’s no more camp. Instead of being home with him, getting ready for first grade, I’m going to be juggling commuting into Boston and Charlie’s traveling for his summer meeting and making sure the dog gets enough exercise and all the work I need to get done.

I don’t know if I can do it.

I feel stuck and scared and tired and sad and anxious and I wish I knew what to do, really DO about the whole thing.

I’m hoping that by putting it out there, writing it all out, maybe I’ll figure out some way around it.

Inheritance.

June 16, 2014 at 6:51 am | Posted in Cult of Personality, My life, Parenting, Stuck with You (aka: Family) | 5 Comments

I think I’m going to call my late 30s as The Time of Insomnia. Because I can count on one HAND the nights I’ve slept the whole night in the past 3 months or so.

Gah.

Last night I was widethefuckawake for about an hour. And I have a strict rule when I am awake overnight: no devices, no computer, no books. The first two are to avoid making my insomnia worse, but the second is because I don’t believe a book should be used to help me fall back asleep. Books are all their own: a journey, an escape, a way to connect, a way to feel, a way to not feel. They are not a means to an end, though.

So what I try and do is slow myself down. I breathe a bit and try and slow my thoughts down. I suppose you can call it “meditating,” though I’m not quite sure I actually get to a place where I’m focused only on my breath. I more feel like I’m soothing an overstimulated baby, trying to get her to relax and drop off into slumber.

And last night, as I was doing this, a thought popped into my head.

I wonder what traits I inherited from my grandfather?

My Grandpa C was my absolute favorite person in the WHOLE WORLD when I was a kid. I wouldn’t even pretend that it was otherwise – from the moment he came into our house until the moment he left, I was by his side. He was such a loving grandfather; the only one in my family that touched me with love. He was quick with a hug, didn’t mind me climbing into his lap, even when I was at the age where most adults said, you’re too big for this! and always seems to put a hand on my head or shoulder or my arm; letting me know when he was near.

He made me feel safe and loved when he was around.

We didn’t share blue eyes – my older cousin got them instead. I liked to think that maybe I inherited his musical talent – but years after he died, my other cousin got into chorus, and when we heard him sing, it was like my grandfather was there. T definitely has the same amazing, booming tenor voice he had.

I clearly didn’t inherit his ability to sleep. He used to fall asleep on our couch all the time, but call it watching TV with my eyes closed. Just resting my eyes! Apparently he always did it, even when I was an infant and my parents were living with them, he’d be holding me on the couch, me looking around, wide awake, him snoring.

I definitely did not inherit his ability to make friends with everyone new he met. He used to sell Amway, back in the day, and the man could chat up someone he didn’t know so well that people used to tell me, Your grandfather is such a great man!

I really don’t know much else about Grandpa C otherwise, quite honestly. He died in 1995, not quite a year after we lost Amy, and I never got to have an adult relationship with him. So I don’t know what traits of mine I inherited from him, biologically, anyway.

What I remember is how safe he made me feel, how loved I felt when he was around.

It was Saturday when, as I was in the middle of writing a grocery list, Lucky pushed his way into my lap. He climbed onto me, all bones and angles and elbows and corners. And I stopped what I was doing and wrapped my arms around him and gave him a kiss on the head, even though I was noting how big he was and how hard it was to have him sit in my lap. But, you know. I still carry him upstairs, even on the days where I’ve had a long run and my legs are tired and it’s really, really hard to get up those stairs with 45lbs of 6 year old clinging to me and Charlie and I decided that age 6 was too old for “free rides.” Every morning when Lucky comes down, I pick him up and he snuggles with me quietly, all curled up, his chin resting on my shoulder, his feet dangling.

And last night, in the middle of the night, I realized something.

I do with Lucky the same my grandfather did with me. Even though he’s probably too big to be carried, I do it anyway. Even though when he sits on my lap SOMETHING hurts me, an elbow or knee or bony butt bone.

Even though I’m not very physical with affection to anyone else in my life, Charlie included, I am with Lucky.

I give it to Lucky because I remember how good it felt to have that kind of love and affection, how safe I felt with my Grandpa C. I do it because I always want Lucky to feel loved and safe with me. Because as he grows, that’s going to be what he remembers. Because it’s how I forge our closeness. Because Lucky’s like a flower; I almost see the tangible benefits of my affection with him.

And so, in a way, that is my inheritance from my grandfather. I might not have gotten his blue eyes, and making music is something in my past. I might not have the ability to make friends with everyone, and I definitely am not at all a sales person.

But I give my son the same kind of love and affection he gave to me.

And in that way, part my grandfather lives on through me.

What’s your inheritance from your grandparents? 

Want?

June 3, 2014 at 1:25 pm | Posted in Choosing Happiness., Crazy Talk (aka: Therapy) | 3 Comments

So here’s the thing about my last post.

The homework my therapist gave me is based on the idea that if I am in the process of actively creating a life that makes me happy, I might not care so much about what people think of me – or at least I wouldn’t base my own happiness on someone else’s arbitrary definition of success.

Because I care too much right now.

I care that I have no answer to “what have you been up to?

I WANT to say something like this: Oh, 3 MORE years of fertility treatments, two miscarriages and realizing that the family we dreamed about will stay a pipe dream. But it’s okay, because I can devote time now to wasting HOURS of my life commuting into Boston, where I spent my time on the Tobin Bridge regretting my life choices from years ago. Because, hey, lots of debt in student loans and no time or the energy to change careers right now. So instead, I’ve been focusing on running marathons – ah, yes, you’ve seen on Bacefook. Annnd, you think I’m obsessed. Maybe I am, because it’s the only time I actually FEEL like a success. Except not really, because my marathon times are getting slower, not faster, and I’m pretty sure I won’t actually qualify for the Boston Marathon anymore. But it’s okay, I don’t REALLY want to run it anymore because I hate being cold and running in the winter sucks. And plus, it’s not like I love marathons. I just like feeling hopeful, that with hard work I put in I can actually see results.

You?

I say nothing instead. And I walk around the people who used to know me best, feeling lost and alone. Which is stupid, because I know for a fact that a lot of them have had loss in their own lives. I mean, shit, the couple who hosted the party just recently had a baby after a lot of struggle – miscarriages and trying for some months.

I am NOT alone. Not ever.

It’s just situations like parties where I feel in sharp relief, the missing pieces from my life. I want to feel fulfilled, and connect with old friends, and feel full and happy and not at all like I’m missing something.

And I think I’m realizing, as I stumble over writing down some simple wants in Athena:

I’m not sure I actually KNOW what makes me happy.

My life, up until this point, has been a series of Happiness Experiments, a try-something-out-and-see-if-it-sticks kind of approach. I’ve been a kind of happiness chameleon – always up for something new, but trying on the stuff that friends like to see if it’s something that makes me happy.

I’ve always been like this. And I am pretty sure that’s why I’m having a hellish time writing down what I want.

(And by wants, I mean the kind of wants that make a like me person happy. Not the “I want to be a better parent” or “I want to be better at running marathons” or “I want to walk the dog so he’s not a butthole.” I can be capable and make my life easier for other people, and I want to be a better kind of me, but that sort of stuff is the surface things. I’m talking about the wants that fill up my soul, the ones that help make my life whole, and the ones that bring me some more moments of contentment which might outweigh the lost and alone feelings I seem to fill myself up with.)

So of course my therapist is right; this homework is a really good thing for me. It’s good for me to sit and think about the sorts of things I CARE about. Because I tend to be one of those people that has a hard time prioritizing the things I want to do based on my values or what makes me happy. So having a few items to focus on when I have free time, it’s a good thing.

It may have taken me forever, but I was able to write down three things on this week’s list.

You want to know what they are?

1. Try a new recipe. I don’t talk a lot about my love for cooking and making good food, but I LOVE to cook. I love trying new things, finding quick and healthy recipes that taste good. We’re also currently on a budget since I didn’t work much in March and April and we had some out-of-the-ordinary expenses those months, so the very best new recipes are the kind that either a) use what we have in inventory, b) take advantage of a sale at our grocery store, and/or c) all of the above.

This weekend, mussels were on sale. Shockingly, Lucky LOVES them and I know he’ll eat them. So I made an Ina Garten recipe for steamed mussels that was out of this world. Charlie actually drank the broth at the end of the meal and looked at the leftover broth somewhat sadly, saying, I probably shouldn’t get a straw, right?

And then we went and got ice cream at a local creamery. It was awesome.

2. Finish a book. I have four books going right now – not counting the audiobook I borrowed for my long ass commutes. I pick at each one here and there, but I feel spread too thin. My plan for tonight is to include a full HOUR of reading. (An hour! Luxury!) I’d love to finish one of the books I’ve started this week if I can.

I love everything about reading; the escape it provides – and the opposite, depending on what I’m reading. I love to learn about something new. I love to see the world through a different view. I love getting lost in a book – and finding myself. I love books, and I don’t spend enough time with them anymore. It’s time I change that.

3. Visit with a good running friend before she moves to North Carolina this weekend. I have already taken her out for a night AND we’ve driven together to a race a couple weeks ago, but we have avoided saying goodbye. I want to see her and hug her and tell her how much I’ve loved having her live nearby and how much I’m going to miss her. Even though Lucky and I are going to see her in July when we visit my brother, because she’s moving literally a town over from where he lives.

Still, though, I’m going to miss her. And she needs to know how much she means to me before she moves.

So that’s my list of wants for this week. It might have taken me WAYYYYYY too long to write these down, but I feel like it’s a good first step.

Flummoxed.

June 1, 2014 at 4:21 pm | Posted in Crazy Talk (aka: Therapy) | 4 Comments

We went to a Memorial Day gathering with all my college friends last weekend. And I’m not entirely sure why, but I felt awkward and uncomfortable the entire day.

Which is really odd. My BFF was there. Her husband. Other friends who we see pretty regularly.

And then, too. These people were my family at one point in my life; closest to me. I’ve known some of these friends for more than half of my life.

I couldn’t really explain why it was so awkward, though I feel like it was the question: What have you been up to?

The answer, really, is not much.  And I felt like I had some secret, again – like I was hiding some kind of dark failure from everyone.

I was surprised and taken aback to feel this way.

And my therapist suggested that maybe if I wasn’t so focused on what people thought of me and my life; whether I met some kind of external criteria of “success,” I might not feel so gawky and awkward and bumbling. And she challenged me to spend some time writing down what I want from a week. Not the overall, arching LIFE GOALS – just a few simple things I want from my week.

I left her office feeling excited, because OMG her homework dovetails precisely into Athena and what I want to get out of her.

Except. I’ve spent EVERY DAY since then with the open book, on a page called “Wants…”

And I have nothing to write.

Quite literally, my mind goes blank.

What do I want from this week? From today?

I have no idea.

It’s scaring me a little, the idea that I really have no idea what I might want in a given week. Or maybe it’s really the fear of writing something down because I’m afraid I won’t get it.

Either way, I’m not sure what to write.

And I’m not really sure what to do about it.

Twenty Years.

May 28, 2014 at 9:04 pm | Posted in Intention (Living)., milestones, My life, Stuck with You (aka: Family) | 8 Comments

I didn’t even notice.

On Sunday morning, I was lined up with a friend to run a half marathon in Boston.

And it hit me when the bagpipes began to play Amazing Grace.

What’s today’s date? I asked my friend. Is it the 24th?

No, she responded, perplexed that I’d ask in the middle of a moment of silence. It’s May 25.

More than 20 years had passed since my cousin died.

And I didn’t even notice the day.

*   *   *   *   *

I haven’t had much contact with my cousins, not really, since my aunt passed away. I see what’s going on in social media, of course.

One of my cousins is recently divorced and dating a woman he met in Brazil – for work, maybe? I don’t know, only that they post gushy love notes on Basefook in Portuguese, and he seems to travel there a lot.

My other cousin, hugely overweight the last time I saw him, is barely recognizable in his pictures; he’s lost so much weight, he looks like a different guy.

My uncle seems to be happy with his new wife; there are lots of pictures of the two of them with their dog on beaches in North Carolina. The Caribbean. In Europe.

It’s kind of funny: I had no idea he loved to travel. He and my aunt went to the Cape every year, and Disney with the grandkids… but that was it.

Have they all changed? Or did I just not KNOW them before?

*   *   *   *   *

About a month ago, my sister in law asked me how old my cousin was when she died. I told her that Amy was sixteen; I vividly remember her sweet sixteen birthday party, when I was a senior in high school. I was into Jimi Hendrix and classic rock and especially Pink Floyd. I wore this awesome tye dyed long purple dress and black converse to her party, my long hair pulled back into a ponytail. I remember feeling so much older at that party; here I was on the cusp of college, and they were stuck in high school.

But wait.

She died a year later, when I was home from college for the summer.

No, I said. She was seventeen when she died.

My sister in law then told me that she had seen someone, a psychic,  in the hopes of getting in touch with some of her and Charlie’s relatives. And the night before she went to see this woman, she had thought of my cousin in passing – only because, she told me later, she didn’t have any sort of unfinished business with anyone in her family like she thought maybe I did.

And that day, the psychic told her that there was someone in the room, not a relative of hers, but someone who wanted to talk to her. A young energy, the number 17 stuck in her head. And whenever the psychic focused on the energy, she felt this massive pressure in her temple, a squeezing feeling in her head. And the other people in the room were pushing her forward – they were trying to help her be heard.

My cousin shot herself in the temple when she was 17. And it is SO what she would have done – hoodwinked a number of strangers to help her hijack someone she didn’t even know’s psychic reading.

I thought about going to see this woman, but I’m not sure how I feel about the whole psychic thing: because, you see, a psychic once told me I’d have two boys – twins that wouldn’t come together.

And I’m not sure I know what to think, this idea that my cousin is hanging around, hijacking people’s psychic readings to talk about herself. Why would she do that?

*  *  *  *  *

When Charlie and I were planning our wedding, I dreamed of Amy a lot. Always in those dreams, she’d show up and I’d feel this crushing sadness come over me. I’d always end up saying something like, I wish you could be in my wedding. But you are dead.

Recently I started dreaming of her again. Except this time, in my dreams, she’s NOT dead. Her absence over the past number of years is explained away as “she went away for a while.” And I’m always thrilled to see her alive and happy and in it, we’re a family again. The kind of family that has reunions and sees each other every year on the Cape.

*  *  *  *  *

The thing is, I don’t know what kind of relationship Amy and I would have if she were still alive.

We were the kind of cousins that might have had a huge blowout over something ridiculous – too close, in that best friends/worst enemies kind of way. I sometimes imagine she would have stayed in Jersey and turned into one of those girls I loathe from my early days: close-minded, full of drama, always finding something wrong with her situation in life. And of course, she’d be uber-fertile, one of those women who keeps telling me I should just relax and it’ll happen, and really, did I want the chaos of as many kids as she had? I mean look at how crazy her kids make her – I’m lucky I don’t have to deal with that.

What I know: the passing of the women on my mother’s side of the family has affected me on a profound level. It’s like the female energy from that side of the family grounded me and made me feel whole. As time goes on, I miss my aunt more and more.

And I feel unraveled and untethered somehow by the fracture in the family.

*  *  *  *  *

Twenty years ago, my cousin Amy committed suicide. Her death affected me profoundly: everything I am today is a result of her death.

I still wish I could have done more to help take her pain away.

I am still angry that she died three days before I had a chance to hug her and tell her that life got so much better once you escaped our stupid close-minded blue-collar small town.

I will always regret she never tasted the happiness and freedom I felt that first year of college.

I miss her.

And I think I always will.

Athena, Happier, and A New Outlook.

May 22, 2014 at 12:53 pm | Posted in Choosing Happiness., I Write. (aka: writing projects), Intention (Living)., Meditation., My life, Random Stuff | 2 Comments

Mel had a post a few weeks ago about her new bullet journal, how she spends time putting her thoughts on post-it notes and has no real organization of those thoughts. She posted a couple of days ago; her little red notebook Charlotte has changed her life.

When I had my lightbulb moment, I realized I needed a good place to brainstorm and write down ideas for going out on my own. So the very day, I went to Staples and picked up my very own bullet journal.

Mine isn’t red, it’s black. And I named her Athena.

photo(8)

I initially set Athena up similar to Charlotte. I don’t need another calendar – all of our stuff is in google AND on a large dry erase 12 month calendar in our mudroom. So for the calendar page, I merely write down a few words about that day; the things that stick out for me. On the opposite page, I have a list of tasks that are more future-oriented; most of them relate to going into business for myself; networking ideas and people I should talk with, as well as a list of bills in the future I need to remember (like my life insurance policy, CPA renewal, camp fees, etc). The third page is a miscellaneous page, where I record blog post ideas or menu ideas or running training ideas or dog training ideas.

And initially, for the fourth page, I tried doing a “May Daily List” which would be a daily list of tasks. But it didn’t really work for me; I already have task lists for work and for home in places that are easy to access. I didn’t really need one place for both; my process works for my life project management.

So I deviated.

*    *    *

Last week my friend D mentioned to me that she had heard of an app called Happier. And she didn’t know much about it, but it was a place where you could record your happy moments during the course of the day.

And it seemed to me a GREAT idea. Because the longer I see my therapist, the more I start to see just how many times I actually sabotage my own happiness. I will take a moment – maybe even a few hours – where I feel amazing and good and happy… and turn it into something that’s negative.

Like my Mother’s Day marathon. And it was hot, and my strategy of slowing down in the first half didn’t actually turn into a faster back half of the marathon. And I ended up walking more than I would have liked to. In the moment, though, it was okay, and good. My family was there – they held me up in those miles; I got to see them cheer for me SO many times – and I had energy left for the last half mile, where I started running and didn’t stop – even sprinted to the finish.

You guys, I felt SO GOOD that afternoon. I did what I wanted to, and I didn’t care about the time.

But the next day, when I looked at my splits, I started talking myself down. And by the end of the day, I had decided I was, in fact, no good at marathons. And I FELT shitty about the race I had run just the day before.

It’s ridiculous: I am sharing my headspace with this bitter, angry old lady who finds fault with EVERYTHING and demands that I don’t enjoy feeling good.

And so I have this idea that maybe writing my happiness down will diminish her power over me; somehow I feel like putting those moments into words cements them somehow. Makes them more real. And when they’re real, Agnes (my bitter old angry lady) cannot take them away.

So I’ve been recording my happy moments in my Happier app. And honestly, I love it: I love how you can take a picture of something and attach it to your happy moment. I love the moment of “Eureka!” when I realize I feel good and am in the midst of a happy moment. And I love how easy it is to put it into words.

*    *     *

And this is where Athena comes in.

It’s not really enough for me to have an app that houses all my happy moments. I need them in a place where I can see them all the time, remind myself when Agnes’s criticism is too big and loud for me to ignore.

So after the “May Miscellaneous” page, I added a “May Gratitude” page. And I am writing those moments that are bigger than just a simple recording in an app; the ones I want to repeat – my points of focus in a given month. I want to make those repeatable and big; large enough to turn the volume of Agnes down.

Athena is my Gratitude Journal.

And I am counting on her to help take the power away from Agnes and put my happiness back in my own hands.

A Lightbulb Moment.

May 16, 2014 at 2:49 pm | Posted in Career angst, Choosing Happiness., milestones, Mindful. | 8 Comments

So I’m back at work. And yesterday, I left a doctor’s appointment in Peabody a little later than I wanted, then got stuck in traffic heading into Boston for a client meeting.

Thankfully I JUST made the meeting, but in the moments where I was stressed out, worrying about disappointing my client, frustrated with sitting in my car doing absolutely nothing (at freaking 10:30am. WTF?)… I had a thought which could potentially change everything for me and my family.

I’m not sure what it is about Tobin Bridge traffic, but I’ve had a number of life-changing lightbulb moments on that bridge. Like a year ago, when I decided we needed to get a puppy.

Anyway. Yesterday, the thought struck me:

I can’t do this anymore.

I have spent this week sitting in traffic in order to sit in a meeting where people talk about the wording of internal controls. And whereas it seems like everyone else in the room actually CARES about finding the right words and making changes to the internal controls in order to meet the auditors’ new criteria… I really don’t CARE.

I just want to do the work and go home.

Wait, scratch that. I don’t even want to do the WORK. Internal controls SUCK.

And I DEFINITELY do not want to spend 2-3 hours every day commuting.

It feels like I’ve been saying this forever, I know. And I cannot tell you how much energy I’ve spent over the years trying to think my way around my career.  (The cliff notes version of the issue: I am almost 40, I am not willing to devote my time AND money to learning a new skill. Whatever it is I end up doing, I cannot spend any more money on education to do so.)

And, too, there’s this idea: I don’t love accounting, but I don’t LOATHE it either.

My friend D and I have a joke: whenever there’s something that gets in the way of our daily chats (aka: work), we’ll respond: work is lame.

And the other day, she responded pretty thoughtfully that, for her, work wasn’t really lame. She liked her work, but when the circumstances prevented her from, say, eating lunch or leaving on time, that’s when it became lame.

It got me thinking. What do I actually LIKE about my work?

I like the people. I like being an expert, where they look to me for answers when they have questions. I like helping them get work done; in most cases they’re so understaffed that they’re truly grateful when I can offload some of the work for them. I like that I know how numbers from transactions flow into the financial statements. I love analyzing budgets; looking at what a company spent last month/quarter/year and where they’d like to dedicate resources this year.

Yes, I don’t LOVE my job, but there’s lots I like. And honestly, given my propensity for becoming obsessive about new ideas and goals in the first place, it’s probably good for my family and life balance that I don’t actually HAVE a job I love.

But I LOATHE the commute. I dislike the compliance work; I feel like all I do is help the auditors cover their asses – and create far more work than I believe necessary. I hate that for three days this week I’ve gone through nearly a tank of gas, spent $2.50 to spend 20 minutes every day on the goddamn Tobin Bridge, AND spent $20 for parking in the garage under the building. Every day I go in there, I spend $22.50. Not counting the gas and wear and tear on my car.

For what? To sit in meetings and argue over language wording of controls. And my overwhelming feeling is, MEH.

I can’t do this for much longer.

I’ve been considering, for a while now, going out on my own and getting my own small business clients who need help with bookkeeping, budgeting, reporting, and tax work. What has always stopped me before now is the fact that I’d have to start USING friends as networking pawns; asking people for favors, putting myself out there as a salesperson. I really just kind of hate networking; the idea of having an agenda to meeting up with someone other than a “hey! I haven’t seen you in forever!” makes me uncomfortable.

But I can’t commute to Boston anymore, you guys.

And I feel really strongly that people who own their own business should be able to focus on their BUSINESS, too. If you have a yoga studio, your expertise is in yoga, not financials and journal entries and invoicing and budgeting.

I happen to be good at the accounting and business stuff.

It really isn’t a sales pitch, then. I have a skill that people might need. And it’s just figuring out how to identify the need.

So I called a couple of friends this morning – close ones who happen to have their own businesses, who I knew would be supportive and help me out with tips and ideas. And they were great – helpful and supportive.

So yeah.

I think it might be time for me to strike out on my own.

In the short term, I have to keep doing what I’m doing: the woman for whom I work is understaffed already – as is the client I’m working for. And I committed to doing the 2014 controls work. I need to honor that.

But it doesn’t mean I can’t start laying the groundwork for my own business; trying to pick up a bookkeeping client here and there in the meantime.

I am so excited. And hopeful.

And a little nervous and scared, too.

When “Now What?” Is Unhealthy.

May 9, 2014 at 10:50 am | Posted in And I ran (I ran so far away), Mindful., motherhood, Moving On. | 3 Comments

A couple of you remarked on my last post that perhaps goal setting isn’t bad, and maybe if I adjusted my goals to be more about family and living in the here and now, maybe some fun trips, et cetera, I could satisfy my need to have a Plan AND be able to focus on my family.

And I agree – that would totally be a win.

If I could just do that. A goal, in and of itself, isn’t bad.

For me, though? Dysfunction comes into play when I’m going for a goal. With me, it needs to be MORE. Add a touch of obsessiveness, some perfectionism, a need to research the hell out of every detail, and all of a sudden it isn’t just a simple goal anymore.

Case in point:

Last year, I decided I wanted to run another marathon, kind of as a “EFF YOU IF!” sort of thing. My first marathon was a shitshow in that I ended up injured with ITBS, and it took a LONG TIME to rehab from that.

So at the point where I decided to run last fall’s marathon I really had one goal – finish the race without being injured.

And then I started training.  My training went really, really well. I was faster and lighter and all the consistency in my mileage kept me from being injured and I was stronger. And so by the time I got to the race, I had myriad goals, one of which included qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

I did not qualify the day of the race. In fact, my race was similar to my first marathon in that I ended up walking most of the back half of the race. When I walked away from the race, I really didn’t have anything positive to say about my experience.

EXCEPT: I ran that race 45 minutes faster than my first marathon AND I finished uninjured. So by all rights, I SHOULD have come away happy.

I have never pegged myself for a perfectionist; whenever my therapist alluded to the idea that I might be, I always resisted it. Because I believed that perfectionists believed they could actually achieve perfection. Me personally? I know I will never do anything that’s perfect. I’m not good enough to be perfect.

But. I do feel this need to be MORE. Maybe I won’t be perfect – I know that about myself – but with everything I do, I need to be just a little more. I can’t just do something, I have to push myself. When I know I am capable of something, I need to perform to my capability, no matter what it is.

With running, I know am capable of running a BQ. All my training has shown me this. Therefore, whenever I run a marathon I need to run a BQ. Period.

The thing about marathoning, though? It’s hard. The marathon is fickle. If you didn’t fuel right, or drink enough water, if you wake up sad, or you didn’t eat the right things the week before, or it’s a sunny and hot day when you’ve been training in bitter cold… all of it can impact your race day.  So even if you’re an experienced marathoner, pacing on marathon day is TOUGH. I have a friend, who has run 30 marathons over the past number of years. And he told me recently: maybe 1 in 10 races he actually gets his pace right.

It was unrealistic, then, for me to expect a BQ on my second ever marathon.

But I came away from last fall downtrodden. And  I decided I just needed to work harder. I set off this winter with a goal of running really hard – if I aimed at a 3:30 marathon, then on race day it would be cakewalk to get a 3:40, right?

I ran hard this winter… and nearly burned myself right out of running altogether. I got slow, and tired, and achy and old and angry, and I had more runs where I loathed every minute I was out there than I ever have since I started running.

I would have continued to do it, too, if it weren’t for my friend D, who commented that she didn’t understand why I was pushing so hard to do something which seemed to steal my joy. And in that moment, I responded with some lame reply about how I needed to get better at marathons, and this was the right way to do it, and it probably was just it being winter and cold and I’d feel better in the spring.

But that comment was the catalyst: it got me thinking.

I was pretty miserable. Why was I making running so HARD on myself? Who really cared if finished a marathon in 3:40 or 4:10? My kid would love me regardless. Why didn’t I just run for happiness? Could I find that joy in running again?

So I slowed down, and took the pressure off myself. I ran with a slower pace group at track practice. I focused on looking for the happy in my running. And as the weather improved and my legs rebounded, it got easier, and I was SO much happier.

I run the marathon this coming Sunday. My goal, if I can call it that, is to run comfortably: walk the water stops, yes. But run the whole damn thing. It’s Mother’s Day, my family will be there, and we’re going to eat lobster afterwards, just the three of us.

The thing with me and goals is that I can’t do them in moderation. If I call it a goal, if I start planning, it becomes an obsession. And as I do more research and learn more, I start to increase my expectations. And then it no longer becomes fun or meaningful; it turns into something I have to prove, a way of showing myself I’m good enough, or strong enough, or more than okay. I have a need to feel capable, and the way to do that is to master whatever goal it is I am working on.

That is why I’m trying NOT to have goals right now. Sitting in stillness, deliberately eschewing a Plan is the only way I can think of to help me understand WHY I feel like I need to be More. I need to step out of this pattern. Maybe just for a short while, but long enough to actually SEE what I do to myself. I feel like the more I can change my pattern, the feelings that come up will help teach me why they’re patterns, and maybe I can find a way into longer lasting contentment.

Or something.

(Yet another post where I’m not sure if this makes sense. It’s still confusing to me. Sigh.)

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