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  • Archive of "reflecting on self" Category

    Purple means friendship. Duh.

    April 20, 2009 // 2 Comments »

    Posted in reflecting on self, relationships

    One. Two. Three knots.
    Charlotte and I tied matching purple wish bracelets on our ankles as if we were still thirteen year old girls. As if Charlotte was not going to turn thirty at the end of the month. As if I wasn’t waging a one woman battle against my biological clock.

    We wished for friendship.

    We had hemmed and hawed over the display for a while. Did we want passion? Charlotte has passion and since I have my true love, that ruled out red. What about wisdom? I pushed for wealth instead. After all, I have student loans to pay.

    Friendship it is.

    So we stood in the sun, tying cheap bracelets on and wishing for friendships.

    It did not escape either one of us that friendship was what we received.

    As we get older, our little girl traditions get lost along the way as we find boys and reject boys, as we find ourselves and then find out we were wrong, as we set out to take over the world and later realize we don’t want the world the way it is now. We put sleepovers on hold so we can be adults, make dinner and pay bills.

    We forget how important those traditions were when we were small. Some women get to be reminded when they have babies of their own. The language those children may use with each other might be different but the intent is the same. The embroidery floss bracelets traded will always look the same.

    I don’t want the bracelet to fall off but like all childhood traditions, it must ultimately pass. This time in the form of falling off without help from me.

    Making responsibility feel good

    February 9, 2009 // 4 Comments »

    Posted in politics, reflecting on self, work life

    It can be easy to forget but there are some major differences between taking responsibility and taking credit.

    Taking credit is the easy part. Taking credit can look like self promotion. Sometimes it looks like showing a project to your team when you know your project will improve the way your team works. Taking credit feels good. Usually, we like to take credit when we accomplish something we think is noteworthy.

    Taking responsibility isn’t always easy. Taking responsibility is looking at something and recognizing that it needs to be better. Taking responsibility does not have the same feel good feelings attached to it.

    The biggest difference is the internal aspect. Taking credit is an outward action. Taking responsibility has to happen internally.

    When you take responsibility, you take ownership. Maybe it was a project you worked on that did not go as planned. Maybe it was a situation that wasn’t handled with grace and class. Maybe you led a team that failed to accomplish its primary goal. Taking responsibility in those situations is not going to give you the warm fuzzies.

    But both actions are the key for personal and professional growth. When you only take one and not the other, you sell yourself short.

    By only taking responsibility, you paint a picture of yourself as a failure. Sure, you could grow from those moments but after a while, management (or your spouse/family/friends) will begin to wonder why you are even here.

    By only taking credit, people begin to wonder. At first you may seem to be the office rock star, but after a while, people start wonder where you are when things aren’t going well. After all, if you are amazing at everything you do, there’s this giant list of junk that no one else could fix. How are you going to fix it when all eyes are on you? Later on, your coworkers will wonder if you even deserved any of the credit you received in the first place.

    As with most everything in life, there is a delicate balance to maintain between the two. And the people who are good at maintaining that balance are probably the people who are advancing in your office. And the same people who are good at maintaining the balance are also the people who are good at office politics.

    Once you gain skill in maintaining the balance, taking responsibility will have more to do with take ownership of an area of your company and less to do with taking responsibility for what may have gone wrong.

    And that always feels very good.

    Commitment is Liberating

    February 8, 2009 // 8 Comments »

    Posted in choices, love, reflecting on self, relationships

    Out of everything Starbucks has printed on the side of a cup of the years, my favorite is The Way I See It #76.

    “The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating – in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is remove your head as the barrier to your life.” – Anne Morriss

    I’ve loved the quote since the first time I saw it. I read it out loud at my best friend’s wedding as I made my toast (she may have laughed because I had been carrying it in my purse for months or maybe it was because something I loved was related to coffee yet again). Before I moved in with Brian, I had the quote hanging on my dresser mirror to remind myself of its importance each morning as I started my day. I since lost the quote but it still came to me from time to time.

    Commitment is deeply liberating. It is a fact that proves itself on a daily basis.

    When I committed myself to my marriage, so many other aspects of my life came into place. I had the freedom to take risks in my career because of unconditional love and support. I did not need to worry about the port I would return to at night so the chaos of my career was not overwhelming but manageable.

    When I committed myself to my writing after a long period of neglect, I felt a surge in my creativity and in my sense of who I am. The commitment to craft words that could stand for me released the built up tension in my mind. I didn’t need to worry about what I was going to write, what my ideas would be, or how to best articulate my ideas – I just needed to stay committed my writing. I was liberated.

    That is why commitment is liberating. It frees you from a question that plagues your mind and consumes your energy. Instead you energy is spent on what you love, what you care about, what is most important in your universe.

    My internal critic had a lot of time to practice being a critic. That was also called being a teenager. But the danger with that is as time goes on our inner critic grows stronger, more jaded. The critic sees why this won’t work, why this won’t be a fairytale ending, why you don’t deserve what you want. Commitment scares my internal critic. Commitment reminds my critic that she does not run the show. And there are times when it is appropriate and relevant for my critic to make and appearance but that is most definitely not all day, everyday.

    After the turmoil of the critical teenage years, it seems to me that your twenties should be an exercise in learning how to listen carefully to yourself and how to take what the critic says with a grain of salt. It makes me wonder: do the people who learn how to listen to themselves in the twenties enjoy a more peaceful thirties and forties?

    I hope so.

    My soul needed glasses

    February 6, 2009 // 1 Comment »

    Posted in choices, reflecting on self

    For the last couple years, I’ve had a very hard time driving at night. Everything was glaring and horrible. I couldn’t read the street signs and it got so bad that I didn’t go anywhere at night if I hadn’t been there numerous times already. I couldn’t read the street signs before it was too late for me to make the turn I had been looking for.

    I knew I couldn’t really see but yet I did nothing to fix it. Except bitch about it. But in the end, bitching didn’t help me see. All bitching really did was get friends to volunteer to drive when we carpooled. Probably due to a fear of dying while I was at the wheel. And while I did not get into any accidents, I did have the opportunity to frequently drive around the suburbs and wonder “Where the hell am I?”

    But in December, my dear sweet husband poked me in the eye. Hard. Like bleeding hard. Like I had a headache for a week hard. Like if I thought signs were blurry before I had no idea how bad it could be hard. Like it is impossible to look sexy when one eye is red hard.

    After several years of complaining, I finally made it to the eye doctor. I always had a reason why I couldn’t go. I wasn’t paying for vision coverage. My health insurance wouldn’t cover it. I didn’t have enough money. I didn’t have enough time. I made an appointment right after I graduated from college but then the office had a power outage seconds before I was called back and then I never rescheduled my appointment. It would take a poke in the eye.

    And of course, Brian had poked me hard enough (by this time I was more prone to use the phrase “brutally stabbed me in the eye with his finger”) that the doctor could not perform an eye exam, he could only make sure my eye wasn’t damaged. Two weeks later, I made it back for my first real eye exam since the nurse’s office in elementary school. And two weeks after that, I had my very first pair of glasses. Which make me look very smart and very sexy, thank you very much.

    And then, I could see what was right in front of my face.

    It turns out my vision was no where near as bad as I thought it was. I only have a slight astigmatism in both eyes. It can be corrected with glasses. It is not a big deal.

    But my frustration and my inability to act until something was really wrong made it a big deal.

    Bitching is really just a lot easier than actually getting up and doing. Doing take effort. Doing takes desire. Doing takes a decision.

    Bitching just takes your motivation. And who really needed that motivation anyway?

    Bitching also robs you of your dreams. When you are too busy complaining about what you don’t have, what you don’t want, what everyone else has, you have no time or energy left to dream and then take the necessary steps to achieve those dreams. The negativity sucks your ability to achieve and leaves you with nothingness.

    Glasses for my face somehow turned into glasses for my soul.

    Self Knowledge Comes In Waves

    January 15, 2009 // 3 Comments »

    Posted in challenges, choices, reflecting on self

    Charlotte called me out again last night on my lack of “no” saying abilities in the midst of a rant about people asking me to do inappropriate things. Which sucked because she was completely right – people do ask me to do inappropriate things on a regular basis, probably because there is a good chance that I won’t say yes but I won’t say no and I’ll do what needs to get done anyway because I cannot handle the incompetence that surrounds me.

    Once again, I hate it when she is right. Which happens to be all the time. (Or at least enough of the time to know that it is more often than when I am right.)

    While I know that its good that I have friends who are smarter than me in some respects, who know themselves and have the confidence to say something to me when I’m doing something dumb, it can be irritating. Maybe I do want to make bad decisions. After all, I’m only 26 and while I’m married, I don’t have any kids. Maybe I should try to do as much dumb decision as humanly possibly before there are children in the hopes that I can get it all out of my system.

    And then it hits me like a freight train: this is what living in community really looks like. Having crazy friends who are smarter and wiser and more mature than you are call you out on the things that will ultimately hurt you and hurt your growth.

    Along with that freight train comes the knowledge that my desire to make stupid decisions prior to baby making has nothing to do with what I think it is all about. There is no lifetime maximum pay out on stupid decisions. Potentially, I could make stupid decisions all day, every day until the day I leave this earth. My desire to make stupid decisions, however fleeting or dominant that desire may be, has everything to do with me wanting a free pass at life.

    I don’t know that wanting a free pass at life is necessarily a bad thing, but I do know that actively pursuing that desire is ultimately destructive in the end. That free pass would strip away the vibrant colors that come with learning how to make good decisions. That free pass does not exist in the ways we hope it would.

    This wave of self awareness is overwhelming.

    But I have friends like Charlotte who encourage me to be in community but not let myself turn into the community’s bitch. And in order for that community to thrive, the burden of responsibility does not need to fall on a small handful of individuals. The burden of responsibility does not need to fall on me (even if I secretly want it to fall solely on me).

    My plan to just say yes to things to the things I love instead of wasting energy on saying no to the things that drain me might just be a failure. And that’s okay. As always, it is finding that balance between extremes, that sweet spot that healthy and sane and rational.

    I still have a very long way to go.


    January 12, 2009 // 1 Comment »

    Posted in goal setting, habits, money, reflecting on self

    I usually make a laundry list of New Year’s resolutions for myself. I am going to do this. I am not going to do that. I am going to completely transform my life and there is no room for mistakes because I’m only going to live this life once and it has to be perfect.

    To which the universe likes to respond with uncontrollable laughter.

    Last year I was better. Last year I only made five New Year’s Resolutions. And I did better with them than I usually do. I did write more. I did start reading regularly again (and once I got over the initial hump of reading, I enjoyed it enough to find time for it again). I did take better care of myself (thanks Adam!).

    If the quality of a year can be based only on the success of New Year’s Resolutions, then 2008 was my best year ever.

    Then again, maybe it is a really good thing that New Year’s Resolutions success is not the only aspect to quality of life.

    I had a plan that I was going to do away with my Resolutions this year. And that’s why I did not write about them earlier. Because I wasn’t going to acknowledge the new calendar year in such a way.

    Slowly but surely (okay, not slowly, I caved in about a week), I abandoned my plan. I just couldn’t do it. I could not open my pink planner everyday of the year and not see my list of my resolutions (carefully printed on my favorite stationary), waiting for me to be inspired by my best intentions.

    At least this year, I’ll only have one resolution: I’m doing quarterly goals.

    I’m trying to think about it this way: The only thing that I know about my life twelve months from now is that it won’t be the same as it is today. How can I write a good resolution if I don’t know where I’ll be? And if things aren’t going the way I hope they will, if life gets in the way, if whatever happens, a New Year’s Resolution isn’t going to do me any good.

    With resetting my goals every quarter, I’ll give myself a chance to keep an eye on where I’m going and make sure what I thought would work actually does work. It also gives me the chance to set smaller, more manageable goals and still have focus when a goal is complete.

    I’ve set a meeting with myself on April 1st to evaluate how my first quarter worked out. Two big items for discussion with myself involve how successful I was with paying down credit card debt and not making any new purchases (ie: using the library instead of spending my hard earned cash on books I don’t have time to read yet).

    Here’s to 1Q09!

    Can I say no?

    January 6, 2009 // 4 Comments »

    Posted in priorities, reflecting on self

    My mother says I have a problem saying no and she tells me this frequently, as if I have never heard it before and as if it will be the most profound piece of advice a mother can give to her daughter. She says it in the tone of voice that tells me she feels the need to correct this shortcoming in me as an adult because she did not realize it was a problem when I was a child.

    This is a long term pattern of behavior. Someone should have realized that I had a problem in the third grade when I refused to quit ballet even though I believed that ballet classes were a level of hell previously unrecognized and I was convinced that my ballet teacher was out to get me. I didn’t want to quit because I might like someday.

    These days, my mother points out my problem saying no when I say no to her. Or try to establish healthy boundaries with my mother. Which I guess are not pleasant concepts for her to deal with.

    I’m told the latest example of my inability to say no involves me using a vacation day to go with a neighbor to family court. However, I beg to differ. I think it was an excellent example of my ability to selectively say yes.

    By going to court to support my neighbor, I said yes to my community. I showed support to a young mother who has three kids and no family in area. Being apart of a community takes hard work and good effort. And being apart of a community means staying involved even when you would rather stay in bed.

    I said no yesterday to moving in with my neighbor temporarily. Partially because I didn’t really want to and partially because my husband would not have been pleased. Saying no to the request I couldn’t handle allowed me to say yes to something else: I can be a friend to my neighbor and not a court appointed supervisor. She has enough people in her life functioning as supervisors. What she really needs now are girlfriends.

    Most importantly, yesterday I said yes to my little somewhat balanced life (although, I did hear rumblings that I was unhinged to be using my precious vacation time that way). I acknowledged that in my life, balance might not be measured in the same way that other people measure it. While I still don’t have my perfect definition of what balance is, I am one step closer to a working definition.

    Thinking more about my mother’s observation on my no saying abilities makes me wonder: would we be happier if we learned to say yes to the things we love instead of worrying about saying no to the things we don’t love? And is there a difference between the two? Could we get farther in our careers by choosing to say yes selectively rather than learning to set the boundaries that allow us to say no?

    Is the expectation that saying no is a skill to be developed making it harder for us to be happy?

    Did blogging change anything?

    December 16, 2008 // 1 Comment »

    Posted in blogs, choices, reflecting on self, What if?

    Last week, I was certain that blogging had not changed my life in the least so I didn’t submit an entry in Brazen’s contest. After all, I have been blogging since I was a sophomore in college and the most those blogs ever did for me was anger my boyfriends and that was something I was probably going to do on my own and in person anyway.

    But for the last year and a half, I’ve been running Rising Up and its grown into something I am really proud to have my name on. It is my little blog that could and a source of excitement in my day. My blog has been a tool in my growth.

    Last week, I still would have told you that blogging has not changed my life. Last week, I would have told you that I would be doing all of the things I am doing now even if I did not have my blog. Last week, I would have told you that the only person whose life has changed as a result of my blogging was my husband – mainly because I write about him and then he reads it on the internet while strangers comment about the way he lives.

    I also would have told you that things that have changed my life include my adoption, meeting my husband, joining my sorority and my involvement at The Well.

    I don’t have any dramatic stories about saving the world because of blogging. Instead I can tell you about meeting Kathrin Ivanovic through my blog and working on Change Blogger Philadelphia together. I’m not trying to save the universe – I’m just trying to have an ongoing conversation about change in Philadelphia and its suburbs.

    I can’t share a romantic story about how a man once commented on my blog and lo and behold we fell in love. Instead I can tell you about meeting my husband at church through his sister and deciding to get married without ever dating. I never meant to find true love on the internet but I’ve been blessed to have a blog that gives my husband and me something to talk about at night.

    I wish I could tell you that someone discovered my blog and decided to pay me six figures to sit around and be fabulous all day. Instead I can tell you about learning how to find the time to feel fabulous. I can tell you about the ongoing adventure this lesson can take and how the adventure evolves as I do.

    While I would love to think that I’d be doing all of the same things if I was not blogging, the truth of it is I wouldn’t be. Had I not started blogging, I would have never connected with Brazen Careerist. Had I not connected with Brazen Careerist, I would have never connected with Adam Gilbert (and started working on my fitness goals), Connie (and started working on my career goals) or Kathrin (and started working on my change goals). I would still be married. I would still have the job I have now. I would still have my own home. I will still have community.

    But I wouldn’t have blogging and the possibilities that it opens up. I would have different possibilities in my daily life that I don’t have now. Because with all of the doors that blogging can open, it closes other doors. That’s not a bad thing – it just means that those opportunities are not presented to you because of the time you have invested elsewhere.

    In my world, blogging has been subtly life altering. Nothing so dramatic that it shook me to my core but consistently pushing me towards a life that is consistent with my values and my dreams.

    This Unhinged Life

    December 3, 2008 // 7 Comments »

    Posted in choices, family life, home life, reflecting on self

    I’ve never been the poster child of a balanced life. I’ve always been a person of extremes. I used to tell people that it was a side effect of my ADD – I couldn’t choose what was going to take my attention but when something did have my attention, it had it completely. For the most part, I was okay with it.

    But it does not lead to a balanced life.

    As an adult, it leads to a very unbalanced life.

    Part of me wants the balanced life because everyone else wants the balanced life. And if everyone else wants it, then I should probably want it too.

    But part of me wants the balanced life because I think it would be easier on my husband. While he says he knew what he was getting himself into when he decided he wanted me to be his wife, I’m not always sure he fully comprehended just how unbalanced I can be when I am left to my own devices. I have this idea in my head that part of being a good wife is being a balanced wife (this goes hand in hand with my suburban dreams of vacuuming in pearls and my house making it on the home tour).

    So I’ve been trying to measure my success in a balanced life daily. Did I go to the gym today? Did I work a reasonable work day? Did I cook dinner? Did I spend quality time with my family? Did I accomplish all necessary grooming activities? Did I pay the bills for the week?

    But I’ve been forgetting about the “me” things. My writing isn’t exactly a group activity. I love to paint but I don’t think I’ve managed to spend time in my studio (a corner of my basement) in at least a month. Reading is a vital to me as breathing air but I find that I have not made a dent in my books to read pile and I’ve stopped writing down titles that I think might interest me.

    In my quest for a balanced life, I’ve become unhinged.

    Part of this has to do with my buying into the suburban dream that we can have it all. We can have the perfect house with the perfect meal on the perfect table and the perfect job pays for the perfect meal with a perfect family with perfect manners sitting at said perfect table. But life doesn’t work that way.

    Part of this has to with the fact I never really established what my own balanced life would look like but I made criteria to judge my progress. I put my cart before my horse. And since I didn’t know what my own personal balanced life would look like, there was no way for me to integrate that with my family’s balanced life. I needed a good, strong definition but all I really had was everyone else’s ideas.

    The biggest part of this has to do with me trying judge a balanced life daily. I was staring at the grain of sand and I thought I knew what a desert looked like. I lost my sense of the big picture and with that, I lost my sanity. I was making myself insane with unrealistic ideas of what balanced looked like.

    Maybe the solution is to realize I won’t ever be able to judge a balanced life in terms of days or weeks. The overall balance is much more important that what a Monday looked like. Maybe the only time we can truly decide if a life was balanced is after we retire.

    For now, I’m trying to abandon my dream of a balanced life. I’m not a balanced person and I want the freedom to be unbalanced without feeling guilty for it or disappointed in myself.

    All I really know is that I don’t want an unhinged life.

    Don’t worry, my Swingline stapler is safe

    November 25, 2008 // 3 Comments »

    Posted in reflecting on self, work life

    It’s been a work in progress for a few months but my desk finally moved. I have to admit, when they first started talking about moving my desk, I didn’t believe any of it. Neither did my cube mate who would be moving with me – too often we heard such ideas and not much ever seemed to come of them.

    But now it is the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and I am sitting at my new desk. During the whole moving process, I kept making jokes about being able to see the squirrels and holding on to my Swingline stapler (okay, the stapler thing might not have really been a joke – I am very attached to my Swingline Optima PowerEase stapler).

    Somehow, I survived the move and my Swingline stapler is in my top desk drawer, right where it belongs.

    Despite the hassle of packing up my desk to move it to another desk twenty feet away, there is a lot of good that came of it.

    1. Moving your desk is a great time to clear the deck. If your company is anything like my company, you probably acquire a lot of paperwork on your desk that you are 95% certain has absolutely nothing to do with you or your work. The process of packing gives you a little more freedom to take a second look at documents and figure out who they actually belonged to. When I took a few extra moments, I was able to find out why things were left for me and clear up questions about what I do and what others do as well.

    2. I threw out so much junk. Clutter can seep into our professional and personal lives completely under the radar. Whether you are moving your desk or your home, moving is your chance to ask if you really need something. Do you really need to have three stock pots in your kitchen? Do you really need to have four catalogs at your desk that sell the same thing? It becomes easier to take a few minutes to ask and answer these questions because you can justify the time spent by saying it saves you energy.

    3. It gives you a good break from the routine. We all have our daily rituals and routines even if the majority of our day is not routine. We get to work, we start our computers and we grab a cup of coffee. We check the schedule, answer our emails and create a game plan for the day. None of these things are bad – they can be very good methods for getting things done. And getting things done is good because it is what you are being paid to do. But the routine can get to us after awhile and sometimes we crave a break. Moving my desk was a great day to take a break. Instead of staring at a computer all day, I was up and about. I was physically doing things. And the change of pace was good – kind of like that well rested feeling that comes from taking a three day weekend.

    4. You get to reclaim your space. Was your old organizational system working well for you? What were the downsides? If you could redo all of it, what would you change? Sometimes it is really hard to justify taking the time to ask yourself these questions and then follow up on the answers – or at least it can be for me. I work at a small company and because we all wear many different hats, I know I will never have a slow day. Sure, I needed to be able to move my desk quickly but I also needed to know that as soon as I was in the new desk, it would be business as usual. Part of not losing time in the days to come meant honestly asking and answering these questions.