I Will Face It When It All Blows Up

standing on the edge

There’s a big difference between strategic planning and strategic planning that stands in the way of doing something even greater because we refuse to deviate. I’ve learned this the hard way, yet still need the daily reminder. Consistently, I walk the line between control-freak and someone who embraces change.

I outline plans to stay focused and on-track and in reality, those plans rarely work out that way. People change their minds, get distracted, surprise me; things happens late, quit working, don’t function as intended; deadlines don’t get met, done deals don’t happen, circumstances change.

What I know for sure is that starting with a plan gets you one step closer to the goal but also having a plan for when those plans don’t work is just as important.

A mentor once told me, “shit happens.” Regardless of whether you’re a fan of the phrase or not, you might remind yourself of this when you’re stuck and can’t seem to move forward. When people tell you there are no other options, when you are faced with the way it’s always been done, and especially when everything blows up in your face, there is change in the air and there are new opportunities standing right in your way. Plan on seeing them.

There’s No Easy Way To Put This–This Isn’t Even A Good Headline

I have a very bad habit of being late. I don’t want to be late and I usually believe I’m trying really hard to not be. Other people’s time is just as if not more important than mine and I’m aware of how rude it is to take precious moments from someone else’s day because they are waiting on me. My tardiness isn’t routed in a lack of awareness for time and the lives of others, it’s a habit I lean on because it fulfills what I refer to as my never-ending need to do one more thing.

The alarm rang at 4:45 this morning and instantly I was on. I’m on from the time I open my eyes until the moment I go to sleep at night. My brain is usually in over-drive, cataloguing things I feel need done to keep order in my life, to accomplish what I want to accomplish, to stay ahead. I just feel better when I leave for work and the plants, workout done, laundry folded, house picked up, that picture frame that broke a few months back glued back together, a hole from a nail in the wall patched and painted, and the bags ready to go to Goodwill loaded in to my trunk, which I will drop off on the way to the office.

Most of my life, I have believed that by living like this, I was being efficient. I was allowing myself the organization and determination to accomplish more, be more. Last week, though, when I walked out of work an hour and twenty-five minutes later than I had planned on leaving in order to meet Matt and friends for dinner, instead of feeling satisfied that I had gotten everything done, I felt guilty and worn-down. And believe me, this was not a new feeling. It’s becoming increasingly hard to shake the feelings of disappointment and remorse as I show up late again, because I was finishing up something else.

Because I’m a half-glass-full, if it’s broke, I can fix it, and if it’s not broke, it probably still needs fixed kind of woman, that feeling that despite everything I am able to get done in a day, I’m still losing has become undeniable. So, here I am, amidst a pile of to-do-lists and best intentions, an anxious, often-late, albeit, fairly polished mess. What now?

I used to contemplate ways to become more efficient in order to get more done and legitimately, there still are plenty of things I can do to become more efficient and manage my time better. But what I realize now is there’s really no sense in honing those efficiency skills if I’m just going to fill the space I create with more things to do–making myself, as usual, just a little late for the next thing.

In no way am I advocating leaving the things that need done completely undone. I’m reflecting–or better yet, trying to remind myself–that perfection is a silent killer of many things, timeliness being one of them. My obsessive need to find the perfect picture for a blog-post before I allow myself to post, to not walk out of the bathroom without wrapping up the curling iron, even though I’m already in a rush, to fret about the page on the station’s website that needs updating, even though no one has noticed and it’s been months–these are all things I obsess over because if they are on my list, and I’m working towards them, then I can control them. I create an illusion of control for myself by creating more lists and doing one more thing with each spare moment that I have, and coming full-circle, making myself late for nearly everything, which leaves me spinning.

Here goes–one foot in front of the other. Today, I’ll allow myself to do what I can, to do things in spite of them not being perfect or maybe even complete, to give up control and keep moving forward. Today, I’ll be a little more on-time.

I Screwed It Up, But I’ll Keep Trying

barn

 

Today started out as a good day. I woke up at 4:30, got a quick workout and stretch in, showered, and turned on my Pandora station curated around the music of The Cure. I had high hopes for today.

By the time 6:30 rolled around, I was just about ready to leave the house, looking forward to a few moments to myself in the office to get ahead and think creatively. But then it all went to shit–and I let it go that way. A few small things stopped me from leaving home when I wanted to and instantly, my attitude changed. I left twenty minutes later, but with an attitude that was not even a shadow of the hopeful one I had when I first woke.

My desire for perfection gets the best of me every time. Funny, I know, as I write a blog about the celebration of all things challenging, imperfect and full of courage. But I guess that’s partly why I write it. Those things that I admire, that excite me and motivate me, are also the same things I often struggle with the most.

I dislike the feeling of vulnerability (pretty sure I’m not alone in this) but I’ve done enough research and reflection to understand that vulnerability is as much a part of being human as is strength. I’m constantly seeking examples of strength in vulnerability in order to hopefully one day be more at peace with myself.

I am completely aware that I hold myself (and often everyone around me) accountable to really high standards. I believe that to be better today than I was yesterday, it’s necessary to keep reaching just beyond my capabilities. But when things don’t go as planned, it’s easy for me to forget the truths I know and get caught in that desperate need for perfection. The world starts spinning, I lose touch with the mindfulness and intent I started the day with and I am certainly no better today than I was yesterday, so I’ve lost in more ways than one.

There is a line at the end of a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks that says “Live not for battles won. / Live not for the-end-of-the-song. / Live in the along.” Perhaps one day I’ll learn to stop myself before I fall in to my very own perfection-trap. Until then, I’ll continue searching for the courageous and the imperfect and the beautiful which remind me to let go and experience more happiness.

 

 

Only In The Darkness Can You See The Stars -MLK Jr

martin luther king jrIt’s difficult to write about something as serious as injustice and inequality. I get angry at the general cruelty that people can display towards one another based on biases they carry that have nothing to do with that person at all and I’m often overwhelmed by the amount of discrimination that happens casually and simply every day. Still, I recognize that the ability to recognize how far we have to go to reach equality is a gift from the people who struggled and become a part of the past we now have the pain and privilege to reflect upon.

I’m not really certain I know what fights to fight to make a difference or how to incite change on a macro level. As hard as it is to write about these disparities, the conversations aloud can be even harder to have–leaving everyone involved feeling raw and exposed. But when I look closely at any change that’s ever happened, there’s a theme of small gestures, brief acts of courage,  people stepping up to challenge what is accepted but not right, one meager moment at a time.

So here’s what I tell myself and I hope it might mean something to you as well: When you go to bed tonight, when you wake in the morning, when you’re standing in line at the store, when you’re watching the news or when you’re tucking your kids in at bed, think to yourself, “Could I do one thing better?'”and then do that one thing.

 

Why We Should All Find Courage To Fail More

courage-imperfect

Residents were outraged in the town of Reading, PA in November when the city erected a very sad-looking Christmas tree in town center. Residents were so bothered by it that their disapproval made national news. The City Council president even led a charge to have the tree replaced.

When I first heard the story, I thought of my own Christmas tree experiences growing up. Each year, dad and I headed out to pick our tree and my mom would remind us to pick a tree that was “healthy, full and not too large.” And each year, dad and I would return with what my mom called a “Charlie Brown Tree.” My intentions were good–I never meant to ignore my mother’s requests–but as we walked through the rows of trees, there was always that one, you know the tree I’m talking about, the straggly, half-dead already tree that was missing branches on an entire side, was entirely too tall for the amount of needles left on its limbs and typically, it leaned drastically to one side, which would cause the ornaments to fall of the day we put them on.

I felt sad for the residents of Reading, PA who thought that their Christmas tree was an embarrassment. I wished they could see it for its beauty and purpose–to bring people together and create a sense of connection with one another.

This week, a new report came out–the city had decided to embrace their “ugly” tree and even dubbed it a “Charlie Brown Tree.” People were coming from all over the country to see the tree and celebrate it’s imperfection and beauty.

Reminiscing over my own love-affair with the “Charlie Brown” imperfections in life, I realize that it’s easier to embrace them when they are imperfections that are not my own. The things I view as strength and courage in others because of their imperfection, I typically view as inexcusable failures in myself.

It’s terribly hard to embrace things that have the potential to make us feel vulnerable, exposed or not-enough. Lately, I haven’t written much. It’s not that I don’t want to, I’ve just let the fact that I haven’t had the same luxury of time to write stop me from writing anything, in fear that it wouldn’t the best I could do. Working out has sadly the same theme. Sidelined for a few months after foot surgery, I’ve let my disappointment of losing my normal “fitness” level stop me from finding the time to do anything at all. And because I’ve been traveling a good bit the last month, I told myself that I shouldn’t even bother putting up a Christmas tree, since it wouldn’t be the quality of spirited decorating that I typically dedicate to this time of year. In the case of each of those things, I let my perspective that I would not do them well enough stop me from doing them at all, robbing me of the happiness I know I would get from them if I just tried.

Maybe there’s nothing to the story of tree in the town center of Reading, PA other than was something the media latched on to and made popular. I choose to see it as a great reminder that what is not-enough for some could be perfect to others. It’s a reminder to embrace my own imperfections and live more authentically because of them, not despite them. Everyone loves a good underdog success story but someone’s got to muster up the courage to be that underdog after all.

When You’re Feeling Vulnerable, Choose Courage

https://www.flickr.com/photos/miikas/109320999/ I’m going to tell a story that’s not my own. It’s one that has affected me deeply and has been a powerful reminder many times, when I’ve been faced with the fear of feeling vulnerable in my life. It’s also a story that embodies what this blog, The New Remarkable, is really about–authenticity, courage, fear, failure, imperfection, challenge, change and as Brené Brown puts it, Daring Greatly. This story  (in my own words) belongs to Brené Brown, who encourages us all to live as our authentic selves.  Brené was getting ready for a work trip. She was with her elementary-school-aged daughter, Ellen and they were running in to Nordstrom so Brené could grab something for the trip. Ellen asks her if they can go to the children’s department to exchange a pair of shoes her grammy had gotten her. Feeling messy and rushed, Brené wanted to say no, but told her daughter, “yes, we’ll do it quickly.” In the children’s department, there were three beautiful women. They were all tall, thin, impeccably dressed with high-heeled boots and not a hair out-of-place. With the three women were their three girls, equally as beautiful. Brené and Ellen walked past them to the children’s shoe department, close by.  There was music playing and while she was picking out shoes for Ellen, Brené noticed a flurry of movement out of the corner of her eye. She looks up and sees Ellen dancing to the music. She was performing her latest dance obsession, the robot, without an ounce of self-consciousness or worry. While Ellen was busy breaking it down in her own world, Brené looks over and sees that the three beautiful mothers had completely stopped what they were doing and we’re just standing there, wide-eyed, with their heads turned towards Ellen. The three beautiful daughters, also focused on Ellen, seemed right on the verge of laughing out loud. In that moment, Brené wanted to say to Ellen, “come on, pull it together–be cool.” But in the back of her mind, she heard a voice that said, “Don’t betray her.” Instead of telling Ellen to stop dancing and move on, Brené looked back at her daughter and, while she admittedly, did not turn and do the moonwalk, she did  bend over and did her own version of the robot and said to her daughter, “awesome moves, have you seen the scarecrow?” I know this story is not my own, but I’ve got hundreds, thousands of instances in my life where I’ve been faced with the decision to “do the robot” or to choose to be someone else; someone not authentically me. Moments like these are not unique to me. On some level, we all experience this pressure nearly every day. But when it’s real to us, that potential vulnerability can feel like weakness. We want our children to feel beautiful as they are, squash that inner critic that we adults listen to too often and for them to make decisions that embody who they are–not who they think they should be. But it’s not about what we want for them–it’s about how we treat ourselves. On a day like today, Halloween, I think about Brown’s reminder to live authentically. Instead of seeing this dress-up day as one where we hide behind the outward masks we chose to wear, we could choose to see ourselves each as that child with the ability to dance like no one is watching. There’s a lot of joy in authenticity but it doesn’t come easily. What we see as courage in others, we see as vulnerability in ourselves. As Brown says, “courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

“It’s not the critic who counts. It’s not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled. Credit belongs to the man who really was in the arena, his face marred by dust, sweat, and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs to come short and short again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming. It is the man who actually strives to do the deeds, who knows the great enthusiasm and knows the great devotion, who spends himself on a worthy cause, who at best, knows in the end the triumph of great achievement. And, who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly” Theodore Roosevelt

Photo Cred: Miika Silfverberg

 
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