Last week I had a day that started out like any other day. Until I came home and heard a squishing sound when I stepped onto the carpet.
It took a few seconds to look around and register what had happened. My desk, my chair, the floor, everything in the dining room I use as an office, was covered with water.
I stood over my desk and water dripped down onto my head. My computer was sitting in a puddle.
The first thing I did was freak out. Then I got a towel and tried to dry off my computer the best I could. I called the apartment managers and pushed the button for emergency.
While I waited for the maintenance people to show up, I cleaned up. Some things on my desk were salvageable, so I dried and them and moved them out of the way.
Some things were ruined, like the beautiful box I kept all my great ideas in, written on stickies and scraps of paper. Luckily, the ideas inside were dry.
What worried me the most was my computer. Yes, I am good at backing up and I had just saved a bunch of stuff that morning. But there may have been things on there I didn’t get to. My computer is precious to me, not just for what it holds, but for what it allows me to do.
The maintenance people came and started to clean-up. They found the source of the leak. I was very happy to hear it was the air-conditioning unit above me, not the toilet.
They brought in fans and a dehumidifier and put them under the giant hole in the ceiling.
More guys came in with special vacuums to suck the water out of the carpet. They used it on my beautiful chair, too. They said that, eventually, they’d get everything cleaned up.
But I still didn’t know if my computer could be saved. It was too late to take it to Geek Squad. All I could do was wait.
I surprised myself with how calm I stayed. At first I wanted to cry or scream, but the feeling went away fast. There was no point. I couldn’t change what happened and yelling wouldn’t actually make me feel better.
The only thing that could make me feel better was finding out the truth about my computer. It would either work, and I would feel relieved. Or it wouldn’t, and I’d come up with a plan. Fix it or buy a new one and transfer all my stuff.
It was the waiting that wore on me.
So I did the only thing I could. I watched an episode of Nashville on the DVR and then I went to bed.
In the morning, nothing had changed. I woke to the sound of the fan, like a giant white noise machine, only louder. I still had a hole in the ceiling and my books were in stacks in the living room, drying out into crinkly pages with swollen middles.
But I knew that everything would be alright. My computer would work, or it wouldn’t. I could replace the books. My desk and chair could be cleaned. I couldn’t do anything about what happened. And I can’t do anything to prevent it from happening again.
We can’t stop the ceiling from falling on us, the pipes from bursting, our bosses from choosing someone else to promote. The crap is going to happen.
The only thing we can do is breathe, stay calm, and watch some good TV while we wait for it to work out.
Have you ever had any at home disasters that surprised you? Broken pipes, crashing ceilings, or no heat? How do you deal with bad things that are out of your control? And, is this a clue that it’s time to move as soon as my lease is up?
* My computer is fine, thank goodness! But I still have a hole in the ceiling…
When we’re still in our “meantime” place, it can be hard to enjoy our surroundings. Especially when our surroundings are a crappy apartment with thin walls and a faint mildew aroma.
I got tired of looking around at a place I couldn’t stand and always thinking about the better place I am going to next. We can’t actually live in the future, no matter how hard we try.
So I thought about my clothes, and how I am enjoying what I have in my closet now and mixing it with a few new pieces. I am not going to wait until I am the “perfect” weight to buy new things. I would never do that to myself when it comes to my body. So why do I do in other areas of my life?
The room I hated the most was my bedroom. With the door open all I could see were the sheets I never liked from my last apartment and the blanket I’ve had since I was ten years old. They were what I used to pack things in my car when I moved across the country. Not exactly a part of my design dreams.
Every time I caught a glimpse of them, I was reminded that I am not where I want to be. That I am making do.
It’s hard to focus on living in the moment when all you see are reminders of the past. It was time to change the view.
I had been waiting to decorate until I was in a place I liked. But, that obviously wasn’t working. So, I sucked it up and went to Target.
And, you know what? I had a great time going up and down the aisles, planning what my room should look like now. Right where I am. I found the perfect duvet cover and sheets to give it a pop of color. It even came with throw pillows that made me feel a little fancy.
When I went home and set it up, I liked what I saw. And now, I can actually enjoy where I live. It’s fun, yet classy. I love to prop my head against the decorative pillows and read before bed. And, now I actually look forward to going to sleep.
It may be the meantime, but it’s a meantime I can actually appreciate. Because when I look around, what I see makes me smile. It’s so much easier to live in the present when I like how the present looks.
Do you like where you are in your life now? Can decorating change how you feel about a place? What have you done to help get through the meantime?
I have always been kind of anti-New-Year’s-Resolution. I thought they were silly and more of a way to pick on ourselves. Just an excuse to beat ourselves up for eating real food and liking our bodies with some curve.
I guess it was all those resolutions to diet and lose “the last five pounds” blasted across all the magazine covers and the ads for morning talk shows.
I thought I was better than all that.
The past few years my resolutions have been things like: I will drink more alcohol, I will stay up later at night, I will shop more, and I will go out dancing more often.
They were not tough resolutions to keep. It was sort of my way of flipping the bird to the whole idea.
But this year there have been a lot of changes in my life. When I moved across the country and took a job that is 80% time, I had to make some changes. Not full time means not full pay, so something had to give.
I decided that thing was CrossFit. It is exercise, but maybe it was a luxury. So I found a big gym just up the street with a pool, classes, every machine you could think of, and even a cardio movie theater. And all for only $10 a month.
I thought I was a financial genius. After all, if I really wanted to exercise I would do it anywhere. Right?
Wrong. After all those months of CrossFit going back to a big gym was hard. I had trouble motivating myself to go after a long day of work. There were no coaches waiting for me, no friends in class to ask where I’d been, and worst of all it was boring.
I’ve hated cardio machines for as long as I can remember. I also hate running and most of the other cardio exercises you can do on your own.
But I kept trying to force myself to go to the gym I hated, and then feeling guilty when I drove straight home instead.
Normally my step-mom and I make goals for the year every September. The start of the school year seems like a good time. And we make goals, not resolutions. Things that we want to accomplish, classes we want to take. It is never about beating ourselves up.
This past September I was unemployed and living in my best friend’s playroom, so my only goal was to get a job. Needless to say, I didn’t have to mull that one over with my step-mom.
So this year we’ve decided to come up with resolutions, over the phone. The first thing that came up for me was exercise. I want to want to work out, and I definitely want to be strong and healthy. I really want to get back to the place where I was physically before I moved out here.
I was on my way to doing a real pull-up and my push-ups on the bar where getting closer to the ground.
It made sense that my New Years Resolution would be to work out. But I didn’t want to do it in a self-punishing way. That never works out well.
Then my step-mom asked me an important question: How much is it worth to you?
Being healthy and enjoying exercise is worth a lot. Really, it is worth more than my cell phone or cable. And it’s certainly worth more than the drinks out and the shopping I do with the money in my budget for entertainment.
Maybe my New Year’s Resolution isn’t to work out, it’s to re-adjust my priorities. Remember what is important in life.
I found a nice CrossFit gym close to my new home, where I will be working out in 2013. And they even give a teacher discount. It seemed meant to be.
Who knows, maybe next year I won’t need a resolution at all. Or maybe it’ll always be to take another look at my life and my priorities. What’s most important should always come first.
And enjoyment should be up there at the top of the list, whether it’s about my job, writing, people in my life, or even exercise. There’s no reason we can’t be happy and healthy. Sometimes we just need a reminder, even if it’s something ”silly” like a New Year’s Resolution.
Do you have any resolutions for the new year? Is that something you do regularly? Or are you a skeptic like me? How do you want to spend the next twelve months of your life?
I was watching a fun show the other evening about a kick-ass woman who saves the day, and the world, on a weekly basis. Every time I watch a show like that I end up a little bit inspired and usually wanting to take some sort of martial arts or self-defense class.
But then one of the characters said something that made me mad.
The heroine and her boyfriend/partner in saving the world were talking and the heroine apologized for saying something upsetting. Her boyfriend said he understood. He got that weepy look in his eyes and the background music got all romantic. Then he said, “I know it’s not because you don’t love me, it’s because you don’t love yourself.” Then he stepped in closer like he was about to kiss her. “But I can teach you how to love yourself.”
And that’s when I yelled at the TV. Because he was so wrong! And I hate to think of all the young women out there who might see the show and think that the right man can solve all their problems.
Because I remember when I used to think that, too.
I also remember the moment when I had everything that was supposed to make me happy. I remember sitting there with the great guy who loved me, in the nice apartment with the great view. I had a good job that I liked and a closet full of beautiful clothes. I even had a flat stomach. But I still wasn’t happy.
I remember thinking, “He’s here, he loves me, so why do I feel so bad?”
There’s nothing like being in a room with someone who loves you when you don’t love yourself. I’d never felt so alone.
That was the first time I started to realize that other people couldn’t change the way I felt about myself. But it was still awhile before I fully understood that I was the only one who could show me how to love myself.
There is an epidemic of self-hate in our culture right now. And unfortunately, that paired with the instant-gratification and consumerism makes us think that there is some magic fix for everything. I can’t stand to look at myself in the mirror, but if I buy these shoes, try this diet, or date this guy then everything will be OK.
But that is all a lie.
We can try all those things and we still won’t love ourselves.
I tried so many different things. I read self-help books, I journaled, I interviewed everyone I knew who truly loved themselves to ask how they did it, I even paid $300.00 for a twenty minute phone call with some guru on self-worth. I was desperate.
Some of those things helped. The books and the friends gave me ideas. The journaling helped me see that the relationship I was in wasn’t good for me. And getting out of it was the first step in showing myself how much I love me.
The path is different for everybody. And once you get to the other side, it’s hard to remember exactly what you did that worked. But the thing you remember the most is that you have to do it yourself.
Besides getting out of that unhealthy relationship, the thing that I think helped me the most was kind of cheesy. I looked myself in the mirror everyday, with no make-up and messy hair, and I said “I love you, Emma” out loud to my reflection.
I know, try to hold in the laughter. It sounds like something you’d see on a Hallmark Original Movie.
But when you can stand naked in front of a mirror and love yourself no matter what you see, you don’t really care how you got there. You love yourself too much to worry about that. You may not remember the exact steps you took, but the one thing you know for sure is that you did it yourself.
Because no one can do it for you. Only you can love yourself.
Have you ever battled with self-love and self-worth? Do you remember what helped you? Or are you one of those rare people who grew up already loving themselves? Any idea on how to battle the epidemic of self-hate?
One day last week the light on my dash board came on, telling me I needed gas. I only have to fill up once a month and I’ve pumped gas about half a dozen times by now so it shouldn’t have been a big deal.
But it was.
I’m living in a new apartment, in a new city, and learning a new job. So after a long day of new I wanted the trip to the gas station to be fast.
The problem is I don’t know my new neighborhood yet. So I have to rely on my GPS to get me around. Sometimes my GPS is my greatest ally. And sometimes I think a treasure map and a compass would be more helpful.
I drove around for over an hour trying to find a gas station. Every time I’d turn or go through a light my GPS would flash “re-routing” and give me a different map. I was tired and hungry and all I could think about was sitting on my new couch.
And I knew that when I got home, there’d be other things to do. Check my email, take out the garbage, unload the dishwasher. Then pack my lunch and get ready to do it all again the next day.
We all have so much going on in our lives. Work, family, obligations. Not to mention the things that bring us joy. I think we live in a culture that expects us to do too much.
Sometimes I really feel like that hamster on the wheel. Totally exhausted and I haven’t gotten anywhere.
It seems like we always have to go somewhere or do something. We fill up every hour of the day and wonder why we wake up tired in the morning.
That evening, the trip to the gas station was almost more than I could handle. When I finally found the place, I realized I had made a complete circle around my neighborhood and driven by my apartment twice. It was getting dark and I felt the time to get things done slipping away.
When I walked through the front door and thought of everything left to do, I almost started crying. That trip to the gas station had pushed me over the edge. When we have so much going on in our lives, even something small can become the thing that breaks us.
I decided that rest was more important than any chores I thought I needed to do.
Making my lunch was a must, but I could take out the garbage and unload the dishwasher another day.
Because we can only do so much.
If we push ourselves too hard and try to do everything at once, something small could become the straw that breaks our backs. We could end up in tears and out of gas on the side of the road. Or we can choose to go home and do nothing.
Sometimes nothing is exactly what we need.
Do you ever push yourself to do too much? When you feel like you need a break, do you give yourself one? Do you think our culture is too busy and focuses too much on doing? I’d love to hear any advice for not getting to the breakdown point.
Since I discovered CrossFit I’ve been loving working out again. I thought it was just about the workout and looked for other CrossFit gyms that were closer to my house, and a little bit less expensive would be a plus.
I found just the place. They had an intro type class, so I signed up.
When I walked into the gym it had a different feeling than the first one I went to. It was smaller, so I wasn’t as intimidated to step inside. And the other people taking the class seemed like my kind of people.
I thought it would be perfect.
The first class went really fast and I didn’t quite get what was going on. We learned four or five new exercises in a short amount of time. Actually, every one else seemed to learn it except for me.
I already learned the lesson about not all teachers being equal in their ability to teach. But somehow I let that gnawing feeling in my stomach slide.
I was new to class, maybe it would just take a while. I’d get it eventually.
Two more classes came and went and I was more frustrated each time. I knew it wasn’t all me.
Maybe I have high standards when it comes to teachers. Maybe this was a gym better suited to quick learners or people who already knew what they were doing. Me, I go for mastery. I don’t want to move to the next thing until I have the first thing down well.
The skills kept piling on top of each other and I was just going through the motions.
That feeling in my stomach got louder and started to push up into my chest. I knew what would come next if I didn’t do something about it.
And I did not want to start crying in the middle of a gym.
I was frustrated and upset, and I didn’t want to be there anymore. So I took a deep breath and put my hand on my stomach.
I made a decision right there in the middle of the workout. I told myself I wasn’t going back to that gym.
As soon as I thought the words, my body calmed down. The tightness stopped traveling up my throat and my chest opened up. I could breath again.
I made it through the rest of the workout and walked out the door without looking back. I knew I had made the right decision and I knew where I wanted to be.
But that old nasty self doubt started creeping in again.
That gym was cheaper and closer to my house. Maybe if I stuck it out through the intro class I’d get a better teacher in the next one.
I began the process I usually do, which is to call someone and ask for advice. But, as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I knew I was right the first time. She said there were always more than two choices, and started searching for other gyms.
My gut cramped up and I knew what it meant. I didn’t need to check in with anyone else. I already knew what I wanted.
Two sentences is faster than I’ve ever figured that out before.
I smiled to myself and thanked her for talking me through it. When I got home I emailed the first gym I went to and signed up. I didn’t care that I’d already paid for the intro class. I knew where I wanted to be.
And that is where I’m going.
My gut has been thanking me ever since.
Do you listen to your gut when making a decision? How do you deal with self-doubt? Is phone-a-friend one of your strategies?
The other night I went out to Karaoke with some friends. We were excited, so we went early and got a table close to the stage. I have been doing a lot of work on myself lately, and I felt like I was taking my new, confident self out. I was ready to get up there and sing badly, because it is fun.
We ordered drinks and watched the other tables fill up. People weren’t dressed like they were out for a good time. One woman even came in her housecoat. I figured it was going to be a casual crowd. That would be good for my Karaoke debut.
Then the lights dimmed and the DJ came up to the stage. He sang a song I’ve never heard of, but of course he was good. Otherwise they wouldn’t have given him the job. While he was doing his solo the shiny silver ball on the ceiling started turning and colored strobe lights flashed onto him.
It was a party atmosphere.
One of my friends wanted to sing right away, so she put in for a song by herself. I figured that she sang about as good as I do and she was just ready to have fun. We all worried a little when she chose a Shakira song. That woman can do things with her voice that I don’t even understand.
I underestimated my friend.
She got up there and sang! She even did that wobbly voice thing that Shakira is famous for. People in the bar clapped along during the song and cheered afterwards. I was amazed. I had no idea my friend could sing like that.
That is when the fear started to set in. People going up on stage could sing. Really sing. For me, Karaoke had always been about drunk fun. I took it as seriously as singing in the shower. The thing is, I’m not actually good at singing. Sometimes I jokingly use it as a punishment with children. Do what I say or I’m going to sing you a song. It always works.
As the night progressed I had a few cocktails and got in the mood to sing, even badly. Three of us went up together to sing “Like a virgin” because no one takes Madonna seriously.
With the bright lights in my face and the words flashing by on the computer screen, I was terrified. Faces in the audience stared up at me like, “What is she doing?” I could tell they wanted me to shut up and sit down. They were not having fun.
Which meant I had trouble having fun. If I turned away from the audience and focused on my friends and the song, it was a blast. When the song was over and we went to sit down I started wondering, when did Karaoke become so serious?
I felt a pressure to be good and talented in order to get up on stage. I wanted to tell the people at the other tables that I have other talents, singing just isn’t one of them. Does that mean that I shouldn’t get up and have fun?
Then it dawned on me that I was the one putting pressure on myself. We do it all the time. Maybe it’s because we’re women. I’m not sure. But we seem to think that we have to be perfect at everything we do. If I can’t do it well, then I shouldn’t do it at all.
But there is no such thing as perfect.
And no one can be good at everything.
Sure, there were plenty of people there that night who could sing well. But they might not be able to change a diaper with one hand, tell a funny story off the top of their heads, or write a book. We all have things we’re good at and things we’re not. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do the things that we aren’t good at and just have fun.
I may not be a good singer. But I know how to have fun.
So when the DJ called our names again, I got up there with my friends and sang “Faith”. I stopped worrying about the people out at the tables and thought about how much fun I was having. I danced and sang and didn’t think about how close the microphone was to my mouth. It was even ok if they heard my voice. And, really, that’s the way George Michael would have wanted it.
Sometimes we need to let go of the pressure to be perfect and just have a good time.
We can’t be good at everything.
Do you feel pressure to do everything well? Are you willing to try things you aren’t good at?
Goals are important. They help us move forward and know what we are working toward. Having goals keeps us on track and motivated.
For me, fall seems like the start of something new. So that is when I sit down and write out my goals for the year. Of course I end up going back and refining and editing them throughout the year. And sometimes I add new goals and change others completely.
But I realized that I have been missing a big step along the way.
I never stop to celebrate.
I keep making goals and keep working toward them. And when I meet a goal, I make a new one that takes me further down the path. Sure, every once and a while I’ll look back and see how far I’ve come. But then I turn back around keep moving forward.
I don’t stop to pat myself on the back or even say “Good Job, Emma.” And I definitely don’t take a day off.
In fact, I never really thought about it until the other day when I was talking with a friend. In the two weeks since we’d talked she had done some amazing things. It was like she had started a whole new career in those two weeks, and it was beginning very successfully.
But she hadn’t seen it. She felt like she was always working, but never getting anything done. It wasn’t until I made a big deal of it that she could see it was a big deal, too. In that moment I realized how important it is to celebrate every step along the way. Every success is important no matter how small.
So, why can we see it in other people and not in ourselves?
I don’t know the answers. And the truth is, I don’t really care why. I just want to work on recognizing my accomplishments and stopping to celebrate them.
Maybe I’ll start with writing a list of everything I’ve accomplished in the past year, month, and week. Or maybe I’ll pull out my old journals and read over the past goals that I’ve already met. And I’m definitely going to start keeping track of all those little scraps of paper where I write down all the little things I want to do.
So I can celebrate each and every one of them.
We don’t have to throw a party every time we cross something off our to-do list. A little acknowledgement can go a long way. But we really do need to stop ignoring our efforts and only focusing on the end goal.
It is too easy to look all the way ahead to where I want to be five years from now and realize that I’m not there yet. But if I stop and look back to how far I’ve come already, I really would want to throw myself a party.
So that’s what I’m going to do.
It’s party time!
Are you always focused on the goals ahead? How do you celebrate the small steps along the way?
Have you ever been to a picnic or bar-be-que where the food was so good you just kept piling it onto your paper plate? Even if you try to separate the sweet from the savory, when the plate gets really full everything ends up touching. The juice from the greens and the baked beans pools in the center and starts to seep through the paper. The piece of cornbread balanced on the rim is so close to falling off that you have to sit down right away. And put a napkin between you and the plate.
The food is good and you really want everything on there. But you know that it’s going to fold in the middle and everything will fall onto the ground if you try and put one more thing on your plate.
Well that is how life has been for me lately.
Trying to sell a house, find a job in a city on the other side of the country, and keep up the job I have now is already a lot. Then I add writing, working out, and oh yeah, sleeping and my plate is more than full.
Last week, I almost had a melt-down. A temper tantrum like a two year old. After working all day and then hitting the gym, I just didn’t have the energy to move furniture when I came home. So I sat down and cried. Then I called a friend.
She told me it was all going to be ok, and that I was normal to be stressed out. Then she gave me the best advice I’ve ever heard.
Just do one thing a day.
That’s it. It was like a great weight lifted off my shoulders and it was easier to breathe. I had worked out. That was one thing beyond my everyday tasks, so I considered myself done for the day.
I got out a piece of paper and made a list of everything I think I have to do. The list was long, and it will probably keep growing as I discover more things to be done. But I can get it done one thing at a time. One thing each day.
I know that I’m not going to give up writing. I can’t give up eating or sleeping, or working of course. But I don’t have to complete a to-do list everyday to feel productive. If I organize the closet today, take out the recycling tomorrow, and go to Goodwill the next day, by the end of the week I’ll have taken a good chunk off of my to-do list. And I’ll still have enough energy to smile.
One thing a day.
What do you do when your plate gets too full? Do you go, go, go until you drop? Or are you a baby steps person?