Every Day is Saturday

Finding Joy in the Here and Now

On the Verge

Cliff Edge

Today is the day we prepare to launch ourselves head first into the “holiday season”, which, in my book, has always meant those weeks starting with Thanksgiving and ending on the first Monday in the New Year when I pretend I’m still working but I’m really not. Not much, anyway. As little as possible.

Oh I know, we’re all still “at work”, but what are we doing, really? Between the increasingly infrequent emails, the meetings that suddenly get cancelled, and the conference calls that no one shows up for, aren’t we really shopping online or arranging lunches/drinks/dinner/brunch with as many friends as possible before Christmas, organizing our family get-togethers (who’s bringing the green bean casserole?), and trolling YouTube for funny cat/dog videos? ANYTHING but actually working. Well, ok, we have to do something work-related, if only to justify our paychecks, but out of a regular 8 hour work day maybe 2 hours gets spent on actual work – the rest is just filling time. Am I right?

Of course, now that I’m self-employed and work from home you’d think I’d have gotten over this mentality, right? Wrong. For some reason, even if there isn’t really anything to do (or anything that needs doing right away) I still find myself at my computer, standing by just in case I get an email from a client or a new task from one of my colleagues.  And while I’m waiting, I start “goofing off”, just like I used to do when I went into an office. And actually feeling guilty about it, which is beyond crazy.

I’m a contract worker. Once the terms of the contract have been fulfilled, I’m done. I can do what I please with my time. I get paid for the work I do, not a certain number of hours in the day. And I am extremely close to being done with my contracted work this year. A few odds and ends, and that’s it! There’s some non-client-related stuff we need to do before the end of the year, and we will, but honestly, unless something changes, I’m looking at a very quiet December, work-wise.

So what will I do with my time? Hmmm . . .

  • I’ll bake a lot of cookies and give them as gifts. I did that last year and it was fun.
  • I’ll get my house in order. There are some cobwebs in places that have been there way too long.
  • I’ll read books.
  • I’ll work on stuff for my theatre company; we’ve got exciting plans for next year!
  • I’ll do things that make me happy, like listen to music and look up new recipes to try.
  • I’ll go to parties and concerts and movies and plays with my sweet hubby.
  • I’ll spend more time with my family.
  • I’ll do some writing (see, I’ve already started!)

Mostly, I’ll try to find the quiet in the middle of the holiday frenzy to be present, and to acknowledge how astonishingly blessed I am. I am loved, and I love. In this harsh world we live in, to love and be loved is an extravagance that millions of people can’t even imagine. When I think about that, my “problems” become very small indeed, and the simple joy of baking cookies or sitting down in the peace of my home to read a book seems luxurious.

So here, on the verge of the madness, stop and take a breath. Close your eyes. If you have love in your life, be thankful for it. It’s the only thing that matters, because it’s the only thing that will endure. Everything else can be taken away, even life itself, but the love you have given and the love you have received will always be there, waiting for you.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

photo credit: Cliff via photopin (license)
 

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What Day is It?

Calendar

I find myself, more and more, having no idea what day of the week it is. I have to stop and think about it, sometimes for several moments. “What was I doing yesterday?” “Was Downton Abbey on TV last night?” These are the clues I follow to locate myself on the calendar.

In my old job I used to get confused about what month it was. My work, then and now, involves planning for events that are many months in the future. I remember often having to correct myself when I would write at date as “June 17” when it was actually “February 17”. I still do that, but now it’s gotten even more complicated because I can’t seem to remember whether today is Tuesday or Wednesday or Friday. It’s gotten beyond the amusing phase to the downright annoying. I’m afraid it will get to the inconvenient, when I start showing up for things on the wrong day. “You’re telling me that my doctor’s appointment that it took me three months to get is tomorrow and not today, when I have rearranged two meetings so I could come today? And I re-arranged them for this time tomorrow? Really?” It hasn’t come to that, but I’m waiting.

I wonder what’s gotten into me. I think it may be the hormones – I’ve been warned about “Menopause Brain.” It’s very early days for me, but my symptoms (if that is indeed what they are) seem to manifest themselves in an overwhelming desire to disengage with the days of the week.

To be fair, I’ve always had to work at keeping track of what day it is. For a certain period of my life when I was living alone and working in an office, I had a fool-proof method. Every morning I would get up, go get my coffee, and bring it back to my bedroom to drink while I was getting dressed. Inevitably I would leave my empty coffee cup on my dresser, which at first felt unsanitary until I noticed that I was using the coffee cup count to tell me what day it was. One coffee cup – it was Tuesday! I would wake up every morning and groggily inspect the number of mugs so I would know what lay ahead. Four mugs meant only one day to go until the weekend! On Saturdays I’d clear them all away in preparation for the new week. Don’t judge – it worked for me.

Now I just seem to walk around in a constant state of confusion about what day it is. I had almost convinced myself that today was Wednesday (it is Tuesday), and that I had missed my regular blog post day – again. I work from home, and most days are pretty much the same, unless I have a meeting outside the house or something. Even that won’t necessarily tell me what day we’re on unless I put it on my calendar, and even then, I catch myself staring blankly at the little squares with numbers in them thinking “Wait – tomorrow is Thursday? I thought today was Tuesday!”

Today is Tuesday, right?
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photo credit: Menonite calendar via photopin (license)

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The Long Game

long game

Sometimes I like to look back to see how far I’ve come. The other day I scrolled through my old posts, and the distance I’ve traveled from the time I started writing this blog to today seems like a very long way. There are a few major differences between where I am now and where I was back in June of 2013:

  • My work outlook has significantly improved;
  • My financial situation, although still uncertain, is less precarious;
  • I have accepted that I am indeed a writer, albeit a nervous one;
  • I have returned to my first and truest love – the theatre;
  • I have learned to by happy with my life the way it IS, not the way I want it to be.

The last point is the most important change. For the majority of my life I’ve looked forward to a time when everything would be great.

When I get my driver’s license, life will be great. 

When I go to college, life will be great.

When so-and-so asks me out, life will be great.

When I graduate from college, life will be great.

When I get that job I want, life will be great.

When I make $$$, life will be great.

I enjoyed all of those things when they happened, but they didn’t magically transform my life into the fairy tale I envisioned they would when I was dreaming about them. Because when the longed-for event happened, it happened to ME – who I was at that moment – so as long as the ME it was happening to wasn’t happy or satisfied, no huge transformation was possible. I was the same old ME, just with a driver’s license, or a college degree, or a new boyfriend.

The greatest gift these years since I was laid off have given me has been my perspective on what it means to be happy. I have been forced to look at my life in a way I have never had to before. For years prior, I was so busy running around acting like I ruled the world that it was easy not to ask myself “Are you fulfilled? Are you satisfied with your life the way it is?” If I had asked the question back then, it would have surprised me to hear that the answer was “No, I’m not satisfied.”

What a thing to say! I had a great job, a job I loved. I got to travel to amazing places. I met interesting people. I learned new things all the time. People looked up to me, admired me, sought me out. But even in the middle of all of that I found myself searching for something to look forward to. Most of the time all I looked forward to was the next trip to Europe, or Asia, or Australia. But I knew, even then, that something wasn’t right. I was always anxious and stressed out. I was so wrapped up in my own life I barely had time for my family and friends. I was turning into a soulless, career-driven caricature of myself; a person who I now know isn’t someone I want to be.

And now? I’m glad you asked. Now, I’ve figured out that the way to win at life is to play the long game. I’ve stopped expecting transformational change to happen in an instant. I’ve stopped believing that something has to happen before I can be happy. Do I want to be outrageously successful in my chosen career? You bet I do. Do I want to make lots of money and travel the world with my husband? Oh yeah – that’s at the top of the list. Do I need these things to happen before I can be happy?

No. Not anymore.

The long game means that I don’t look at my life in terms of what I don’t have now. It means seeing where I am in terms of the journey I’m on; I’m not where I was, and I’m not where I’m going. This perspective has given me the freedom to be happy right now. I wake up in the morning and look forward to each day, because it is absolutely chock full of possibilities! What amazing thing can I do today? What fun can I have? What can I do to show a loved one I care for them? What work can I do to take me the next step forward? What can I do just because I enjoy it? What stranger’s life can I brighten with a smile and a kind word?

I have never seen my life this way before now, and it didn’t happen overnight. It’s taken years of learning to stop struggling and striving against the forces I felt were conspiring against me. I have tried and failed many times in my quest for success, and each time I’ve become more patient. Life is a long song; sometimes it’s marching bands, sometimes it’s love songs, and sometimes you just hum along between choruses. It’s up to you to enjoy the music.

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Photo (c) 2015 Amanda Taylor Brooks

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Things To Do

Larger to do list

Last week I was too busy to write my blog. This week I decided I’d write a blog about being busy.

I like being busy. I like having a list of things, tangible things, to accomplish. I find it truly satisfying to go through a list like that and cross things off as I’ve done them. It makes me feel like I have purpose, like the air I breathe isn’t being wasted on someone who doesn’t do anything. I can say to the world “Look at what I’ve DONE” and feel like I’ve justified my existence. Or something like that. I’ve always felt this way, ever since I was old enough to understand what a sense of accomplishment was; the habit of making “to do” lists is one of a lifetime.

As a self-employed person who hasn’t had enough to do at times, in an effort to fill my hours with productive activities my “to do” lists have said things like “Read up on new meeting technology” or “Look for clients”. Yes, these are tasks that can show results, but they don’t provide the immediate gratification of “Send audition invitations” or “Book meeting space”.

Of course there are the regular, day-to-day lists; those things we all have to do on a regular basis. “Go to the grocery store” is a relentless demand that I sometimes ignore in favor of “Call husband and ask him to bring something home for dinner.” “Do the laundry”, “Clean the bathrooms”, “Empty the dishwasher” – I can derive some pleasure from accomplishing these things, but they’re almost the price of admission to life, the bare minimum you have to do. And you have to do them anyway, regardless of what else is going on, so I might as well add “Have blue eyes” or “Be grumpy in the morning” to my “to dos” because they are as constant as “Pay the bills”.

Then there are the fun “to dos”: “Get dressed for the party” is one of my favorites. “Meet sister for lunch” is always a good one. “Bake cookies for the housewarming” and “Go to conference” happen occasionally and are a real treat when they appear on my list.

Then there are the “to dos” that I long to write down. “Go to the spa”. “Pack for trip to London”. I’m hoping to be able to cross both of these off my list this year.

In the meantime, my “to dos” are getting both more concrete and more enjoyable. “Go to writing group” is something I’ve recently returned to. “Run short play festival auditions” is coming up this weekend. “Create Fundraising program” is an ongoing task that is both fun and challenging.

I have my list of things I need to do today, and I’m happy to say that I can now cross off “Write blog post.” It’s a great feeling!

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photo credit: blue_j via photopin cc

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A Place of – No?

Yes

We are told that we should live our lives from a place of “Yes”, but I’ve begun to wonder – is it possible to say “Yes” too much?

I was telling someone the other day about all the different projects I have going on now, and that I don’t care which one comes through, as long as it makes me a good living. I listed off all of the various people I’m working with on different things (including her), and it sounded ridiculous. How is anybody supposed to get all of that done, and done well?

So far that hasn’t been an issue because, unfortunately, not one of these ventures (or all of them combined, for that matter) has generated enough consistent work to keep me busy from morning to night 5 days a week. Which means, of course, that even though it sounds like I should be insanely busy, I’m just not. This blog entry isn’t a day late because I was working so hard. It’s late because my husband and I went to see a movie yesterday afternoon since both of us had completed our work for the day. That’s how most of my days go; I get up, I get my coffee, I fire up the laptop, I deal with my email, I may or may not speak to any one of the people I have ongoing projects with, I do whatever I need to do for my clients, I have lunch, and, unless I have conference calls in the afternoon, I’m pretty much done by 2:00pm. On the one hand, no, it doesn’t suck, but the flip side is that I am keenly aware that all this downtime isn’t producing any income.

So, in my quest for coin, I’ve said “Yes” to pretty much anything anyone had proposed to me that could possibly result in financial gain. As you can imagine for the past few years I’ve said “Yes” a lot.

Them: “Do you want to start a new group to discuss the future of work and make money putting on conferences?” Me: “Yes!”

Them: “Will you design brochures for my business and help me create strategy and run my employee meetings?”  Me: “Yes!”

Them: “Will you help me re-write my website and create a marketing package and represent me to groups as a professional speaker?”  Me: “Yes!” (twice)

Them: “Will you join me and some other people to build a new business from the ground up, a process that will require you to give up your own attempt at self-employment in the same field?” Me: “Yes!”

That’s just the stuff that could make me some money. I’ve also said “Yes” to lots of things that won’t. And, in addition to all this, I’ve embarked on my journey as a writer, which should absorb my non-working hours, but I find that I get so obsessed with the idea that I have to use that time to generate income that writing seems like a betrayal to myself and those who depend on me to earn some sort of a living. So, instead of using those hours to do something that I know feeds my soul, I sit here in front of my laptop flailing around, jumping from one thing to another but not focused on much of anything except some vague idea that this is what I’m “supposed” to be doing.

It’s making me crazy.

Please understand that I am flattered that some people think so much of me and my skills and talents that they want me involved in their projects. It has been a balm to my battered self-esteem to be so desired. That’s probably the biggest reason why I’ve said “Yes” to things that I’m not well suited for. Just so you know, I’ve been honest with those people who’ve asked me to help with with stuff I don’t really know how to do, but they don’t seem to care. So I’ve been muddling through, hoping not to screw things up too badly, and feeling like a total fraud, even as I’m told I’m doing a great job.

I’ve never been afraid to tackle things that I’m not 100% sure what I’m doing, but I seem to have taken on an extraordinary amount of it in my eagerness to keep myself open to possibility. This is where the idea of “Yes” falls down – when you say it indiscriminately. I’ve turned into a project slut, someone who’ll agree to do anything for even the most vague possibility of making a buck, and it’s made me feel kinda dirty.

But I don’t know what to do about it. I genuinely care about every one of the people with whom I’ve agreed to work, and I want to help them. I want the business venture I’m involved in to flourish, even as I have no idea how to make that happen. I want to find that magical formula of doing what I love and loving what I do. So far, it has eluded me.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, something magical did happen. I was invited to join the board of directors of a new theatre company. Almost all of the existing board members are longtime friends of mine, and the mission of the theatre is one that I am extremely excited about. AND I have the experience, skill, and talent to make a genuine contribution to the group. And even though it is a non-paying gig, my feelings about it and my willingness to jump in without reservation has cast all my other ventures into stark relief.

So I’m in a quandary. Do I gently, lovingly, let go of those projects that are getting me down? Do I, for the first time in years, say “No”?

It’s not in my nature to abandon someone who needs me, but I’m beginning to see how I’ve stressed myself out trying to do things I don’t know how to do. Or the people I’m doing them with seemingly aren’t as committed as they said they were so I’ve wound up dragging them along, even though the project was their idea to begin with. It’s emotionally exhausting, all this caring about stuff that’s going nowhere.

I’ve had to admit that I’ve been so busy trying to do right by everyone else that I’ve forgotten to do right by me. I’ve said “Yes” over and over, thinking that opening myself up to all possibilities was the best thing to do. I know now that, for me at least, this has been a losing strategy.

I’ve decided that going forward, I’m going to start saying “No” to those projects for which I feel no personal passion. I’ve tried substituting other people’s enthusiasm for my own, and it hasn’t helped them or me. I’ve lied to myself that I feel passionate about things that I just don’t. It’s the only way I’ve been able to rationalize the lengths to which I’ve gone to make some of these projects happen.

One caveat: there are a couple of projects that I will continue to work on, even though I’ve lost that loving feeling for them. It’s better this way; I can do the work that’s required of me without putting so much importance on it. I can still care about my work without NEEDING it to be successful to justify my fake passion for it.

That realization has set me free to give my heart to what I am honestly passionate about. I know what some of those things are – the theatre, my writing, my family and friends. I wonder what new passion may be out there, waiting for me to make room?

photo credit: @Doug88888 via photopin

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The Dog Days of Summer

dog days

What does that mean, anyway? According to Wikipedia:

“The Dog Days originally were the days when Sirius (the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major) rose just before or at the same time as the sun – which is no longer true, owing to precession of the equinoxes. The Romans sacrificed a red dog in April to appease the rage of Sirius, believing that the star was the cause of the hot, sultry weather.

Dog Days were popularly believed to be an evil time “the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.” according to Brady’s Clavis Calendaria, 1813.

In Ancient Rome, the Dog Days ran from July 24th through August 24th, or, alternatively, from July 23 through August 23rd. In many European cultures (German,French, Italian) this period is still said to be the time of the Dog Days.”

I was telling my mother earlier that I’ve felt like August has been the longest month I can remember. Today is only the 19th, but it seems like two months have passed since I got back from my big trip to New York on the 1st. She told me something I didn’t know about her, which is that she’s always disliked the month of August. She said she seems to get in a funk every year at this time. That’s what got me wondering about the “dog days”.

I’ve never really noticed if I seem more prone to feeling down during this time of the year. I do always feel sort of let down after my birthday passes on the 8th of July; the rest of the summer seems empty until we finally get to Labor Day. And it gets hot here in the Southern United States. So hot that you’d rather sit on the porch in the shade than go play in the lake. When we get into the dog days, most of the time even the shady porch is too hot, and you wind up spending all your time moving as quickly as the heat will allow from one air conditioned space to another. It’s hot y’all.

And there’s been a lot going on lately, most of it not good. If you read this blog you know about all the drama with my 20-year-old Honda Accord (which from now on I will always refer to as the “stolen car”). You also know that my dear sister-in-law is in treatment for cancer (and blogging about it most courageously here). You know that my self-employment journey has been one of tremendous ups and downs – and I’m on a downswing at the moment which is no fun even though it is most likely temporary. I’m trying to be helpful to my family and my friends, but I feel like I’m not doing anything particularly well at the moment. Dog days, indeed.

Of course there are good things. I’ve had some wonderful times with great friends over the last few weeks. I had a huge breakthrough in the novel I’m working on – I have finally realized what it’s actually about. Now that I know where I’m going, I can get back on the road with it. My business partner and I are moving ahead with our plans for the future; we may leave some clients behind, but that’s ok. We know we need to keep moving forward. It’s scary, but exciting, too.

So even though I do feel stuck in the doldrums, I know the breeze will kick in soon. It always does, and when I’m sailing along I’ll look back and think, “What was I so worried about?”

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photo credit: mstephens7 via photopin cc

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Peaks and Valleys

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.com

Lately I’ve become distressed about the impact that relatively minor physical discomfort and mood swings seem to have on my ability to get shit done. I’ve been telling myself that when I used to get up and go to work in an office every day I didn’t have to fight through periods of extreme apathy like I sometimes now experience, and a headache would rarely cause me to miss a day of work. Of course, I’m older now, and I believe I’m in the beginning stages of what is delicately referred to as “the change”, so it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. However, I’m worried that I am in danger of giving in to my lazier nature, which I absolutely cannot afford to do. What happened to that girl I think I remember, the one who would drag herself out of bed no matter what?

Yes, I did push through headaches and shoulder stiffness and sinus congestion and all that other stuff. I did force myself to get dressed and drive to the office and sit at my desk when I would have rather been pretty much anywhere else. Yes, I did that – we all do that because we have to. When I compare my recollection of what it was like to have to go into an office each day whether I felt in top form or not to how I react now when I’m not feeling my best, it seems like I’m ever so quick to take an aspirin and go back to bed, just because I can. Is that a bad thing? Shouldn’t I just make myself get up and go downstairs and fire up the laptop and get on with it?

Or am I remembering it all wrong?

One interesting facet of working from home is that you have an opportunity to really get to know your body’s rhythms. There are days I wake up and I feel ready to leap tall buildings. I approach my tasks with relish and I seem to get everything on my list done, and more. Then there are days when I can’t focus for five minutes on anything; my thoughts rush from one thing to another, and I start tasks only to quit and pick up something else that I also don’t finish. Then there are days when I just don’t feel well in my body. I’m tired, and things are sort of achy. I hate those days. I try to push through them, but I find that the quality of my work is lessened, and I make mistakes that I would never make on a good day. I’ve learned not to push too hard, and that looking like an idiot in front of a client isn’t worth losing an hour or so of my day to a nap.

Now that I’m thinking about it, I’m pretty sure I had these same sorts of days when I went into an office. I definitely remember days where I felt as busy as a bee but I didn’t seem to get anything accomplished; I just buzzed from one thing to another in rapid succession. I remember days of my brain being so foggy that I would look for things to do that didn’t require much thought, thereby minimizing the the chances of making an embarrassing mistake. I remember days of feeling ill, but since having a nap wasn’t an option, I’d just suffer through and be totally unproductive all day. At least now I can go lay down for an hour; often I come back feeling refreshed and am able to attack my to-do list with new energy.

So, maybe it’s not that I used to have some superpower that allowed me to push through the down days, maybe I’m just better at acknowledging them and reacting appropriately. Sure, there are lots of times when I have conference calls or deadlines that force me to keep engaged when I’d much rather watch TV or take a nap. But I’ve come to accept that my work day doesn’t just happen between 8 and 5; I can, and do, work very odd hours. In addition, when I’m done with my work for the day I’m done; I don’t have a boss who wanders around trying to catch me goofing off. I still sometimes have that mindset, that I’m required to sit at my desk for a certain number of hours, being available in an instant in the event somebody wants something from me. The wonderful truth is that I don’t have to do that. If my head hurts, I can take a pill and go lay down until it passes. If I can’t focus on a particular task, I can put it to the side and do something my reduced attention span will allow. If I’m on fire, I can work ten hours straight without a break. It’s up to me to choose how to respond to the context of each day as it happens – to go with the flow of the highs and the lows.

What a gift.
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photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

 

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Onward and Upward!

Hot Air Balloon

I had lunch yesterday with someone I’ve known for many years. We used to be co-workers at a company where he was much farther up the food chain than I was, but things change and people move on, and in the time since we’ve both left that company we’ve become friends. In the past few years my friend has had his share of struggles, both personally and professionally, but now, after hanging in there and trying new things and generally toughing it out, his patience and perseverance have been rewarded. He has landed a fantastic job with a great company, right here at home. I am so thrilled for him – it’s wonderful when you see a friend who has been going through so much in life finally, finally catch a break. And what a break! It’s an awesome opportunity, and he will be amazing, I just know it.

Listening to my friend tell me about his new job and in turn telling him about all the great things that are happening in my professional life made me realize how far we’ve both come. Also this week, at the request of a couple of friends, I posted a short description of my journey, since apparently I haven’t been very forthcoming about what’s going on with me professionally. I summed it up like this:

After I was laid off (almost 4 years ago now! Amazing!) I looked for another job in my field to no avail. It didn’t take long for me to decide that I really didn’t want to go to work for someone else again anyway, so I’ve been pursuing self-employment ever since. In that first year I established ATB Meeting Design, promoting myself as someone who is a value-add to any company’s existing meeting planning team as I specialize in content development and general session production. I have had a few clients for ATB, but I realized that it’s very difficult to be on my own doing what I’m doing. In addition to ATB, in 2012 I formed How We Work with a partner; it was a project born out of our mutual interest in the “workplace” conversation. We made a valiant attempt to get it off the ground, but I think we aimed too high at first, and were ultimately unsuccessful. It’s still around, dormant at the moment – but who knows?

About the time that HWW was winding down, a new project came up with one of my nearest and dearest friends from my former job. She and I and three other former colleagues put together the new company, Moventus (www.moventusgroup.com), which is a full service, globally-based event planning company. We are focused geographically on opportunities in the Middle East and Asia (my friend is in Dubai, and we have two other colleagues in Hong Kong). We officially launched last September, and we already have several clients, one of which is the Industrial Asset Management Council. We are supporting the IAMC’s international events; since the first of the year we’ve planned events in Singapore, Munich and Birmingham, U.K. We are actively pursuing other clients and continue to reach out to our network.

I’m happy to report that after a long struggle and a couple of unsuccessful attempts, I am working with a group of people I love doing work I enjoy. It’s paying the bills, too, and I have every expectation that Moventus will continue to grow.

These two events – lunch and the writing of this post – were incredibly uplifting. I feel so happy to be where I am now, moving confidently into the future with the support of great friends and family around me.

I also want to tell you about this other thing that’s happening. Those of you who read my blog might remember the post called “The Disappointment Trap” from a few weeks ago. In it, I talk about how I stopped wanting things, and how I think that’s ultimately been bad for me. The “thing” I mostly stopped wanting for fear of being disappointed is to travel. I love traveling, and it was the aspect of my former job I missed the most. Well, I started actively wanting to travel again, and since I made that decision, the most incredible things have been happening:

  • I’m flying to Portland, OR today, all expenses paid, to attend a meetings industry trade show as a “hosted buyer”;
  • I am putting together a one-day symposium for a dear friend on Long Island, New York, and I’ll be headed up there to run it next month;
  • I got a call from the executive director of a real estate association inviting me to moderate a panel at their upcoming conference in Boca Raton – again, all expenses paid; and
  • I will be going to Dubai in September or October for a week of strategy sessions with my partner and possibly a gig (we just got a request for a proposal for an event there in October that, if we get it, I would help manage).

The last few weeks have been absolutely incredible. It’s like the floodgates have opened! I can’t tell you for sure that just wanting to travel has brought all of this about, but I do believe that if you put good thoughts and feelings out there that those are returned to you. You have to be open for new things to enter your life.

I also want to point out that this week is the one-year anniversary of this blog. Which is amazing to me. I never thought I would still be doing this a year later, but here we are!

So, Thank You to everyone who reads my little missives each week and to those of you who have reached out to me with your love and encouragement. It means more to me than I can possibly say. Here’s to Onward and Upward!

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photo credit: messycupcakes via photopin cc

 

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The Disappointment Trap

Disappointment

If there’s one lesson I’ve learned too well over the last few years it’s how to avoid disappointment.

The journey of self-employment is a near constant cycle of hope and rejection. I can’t tell you how many times over these past four years I’ve been encouraged about something that has happened – an exciting conversation with a potential client, positive feedback from mentors about the direction and scope of what I was trying to achieve, actual interviews that I walked out of totally convinced I was going to get the gig – only to be disappointed when it didn’t come through. I learned, like so many people learn, to stop wanting whatever it is that I’m pursing so that if it doesn’t happen I won’t feel so devastated.

This seems like good advice, and you hear it a lot. I’ve reduced or eliminated a lot of pain over the years by teaching myself to not want things. That piece of business? Yes, it would be great, but you know, it’s probably not going to work out, so I’m not going to think about it. That trip? Yes, I’d love to go to that place on business, but I’m not holding my breath. These are the kinds of things I’ve said to myself to spare my feelings, and they work. I’ve gotten really good at not getting my hopes up.

There’s something else here to think about.  The advice about not getting your hopes up is usually accompanied by the assurance that if you don’t, when something good does come through, it’ll be a wonderful surprise. That has certainly happened – some things I wrote off did actually come together. You think I’d be more excited about it when it happens, but it’s anti-climactic: “Oh, wow, ok. I got it. Great! Now, what’s wrong with it?” I have so trained myself to be disappointed that when something good does happen I can’t allow myself to enjoy it.

I’ve decided that this is a big problem and I don’t want to live this way anymore.

This decision is, of course, loaded with emotional risk. If I start wanting things again I’m sure to be hurt and disappointed. It’s inevitable. But I think I know now the price I’ve paid for emotionally detaching myself from the pursuit of what I want – I’ve lost  a lot of my former passion. I’m having to work hard to muster the enthusiasm required to build a business, which is a recipe for disaster.

Now, understand, I’m not totally disengaged – anyone who knows me knows that. I’m just not inhabiting my life as fully as I am capable of doing, and by holding back I’m cheating myself and everyone around me. So I’ve decided to risk my heart again, to want things, knowing I will be hurt. Instead of trying to avoid disappointment, I’ve decided I’m going to go all in, all the time, and if I get disappointed I”ll just get better at accepting it and moving on.

Living is risk. Loving is risk. But if you don’t take the risk you most definitely won’t reap the reward. And the reward isn’t necessarily achieving the thing you want – it’s the joy that comes from knowing you’ve given everything you have pursing your desires. You leave it all on the field, on the stage, in the meeting, on the canvas, on the page. That’s what’s real. That’s where the love is. That’s where you’ll find me.

photo credit: Scott Ableman via photopin cc
 

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Give it a Rest

Joey Sleeping

When I worked as a stage manager one of the things I did was to help actors memorize their lines. Mostly I threatened them with bodily harm if they weren’t off book by tech week, and that usually did the trick (I’m only half kidding). But through working with actors I learned a lot about how people learn, and absorb information, and make connections with words and ideas. I discovered that there was one surefire way to help someone struggling to come up with the right words at the right time: put down the script and walk away. Go to a movie. Read a book. Go to dinner with your best friend. Sleep on it. Do anything to take your mind completely off of the words you’re desperately trying to memorize. Give your brain a rest. If you do that, it’s amazing what happens – in a few hours and with no strain the lines will appear in your mind (well, usually anyway).

This working from home thing is a constant struggle for me in some ways. Mostly I get paralyzed when I don’t have a grip on what needs to be done in what order, because working for myself gives me more choices about what I do and when than I’ve ever had before. This is a good thing when I need to go to the grocery store, or do some laundry, or help my husband with his computer in the middle of the day. It’s bad when I’m trying to do things that aren’t necessarily connected to a deadline; I tend to put things off if I don’t feel that they are pressing. So those things start to pile up, and I begin the downward spiral of inactivity breeding guilt, which results in more procrastination, until all forward motion comes to a screeching halt.

That’s when I need to get the hell out of Dodge.

I know that walking away from my laptop is sometimes the most effective thing I can do to get me going again. Sometimes I get to actually go out of town. Sometimes I can find other ways to distract myself, but it’s hard to do when I know the thing is just sitting here, making me feel guilty for not checking my email every five minutes. It’s a vicious cycle.

But I did get a break this weekend (my sister and I went to visit my mother for Mother’s Day), and I’ve come back re-focused and ready to go. I’ve gotten more done in the last two days than I managed to accomplish all of last week (at least that’s what it feels like). And the marketing initiative for the event planning business that I’ve been toying with finally became clear, and I’ve actually written some things down.

Other stuff happened, too. I got a message last week from a long-lost connection, a friend really, looking to touch base. We had an amazing conversation, and when I got off the phone I felt like I could leap tall buildings again. When I get un-stuck it seems as if the energy I lost all comes back to me bearing gifts.

Y’all don’t know this, but this is my 50th blog post. I am very proud to have hit this milestone; when I started the blog I thought it would be a miracle if I managed to post anything at all after the first few. But here we are. I might post 50 more. I just need to make sure I walk away every now and then.

 

 

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