Energy Recharge

The New Year has gotten off to what seems like a slower start than usual for me. In years past, I’ve embraced the New Year with a vigor of starting fresh. This year it feels like I’m walking in deep sand and having a hard time getting back to running on all cylinders.

This sluggishness has forced me to rethink my energy levels. Upon reflection, it became clear that I had been going through a long(er) period than normal of giving my energy away and have not done a great job of getting my energy back. It’s easy to get caught in the give-give-give mode. I’m realizing if I don’t start taking back more and soon, there won’t be much more to give. This realization helped me refocus on what I need to boost my levels of energy. I realized I need to put time and energy into my connections, because that’s what really fuels my soul. I made lunch and coffee dates with some friends, and have made time to visit a loved one who is recovering from an accident. I’m looking forward to connecting with my audience during public speaking engagements and through my writing.

These efforts are starting to pay dividends. I’m starting to feel like I’m catching up to the fast(er) pace and am keenly aware I need to continue to include sources of energy to keep myself going without burning out.

How are your energy levels? How are you staying on all the things you have going in the New Year?

The Scariest Thing of All – Part 1

There is a lot about parenthood that scared me when I first became one.

  • How will I care for the baby – feed, diaper, dress, bathe, soothe?
  • How will I take care of my house – shopping, preparing, cleaning?
  • How will I take care of my husband – be attentive, connect, enjoy?
  • How will I take care of myself? [Notice there are no examples – I didn’t have any example when I first became one, I didn’t know what taking care of myself looked like]

In the beginning, my top priority was to keep my baby alive and healthy. The realization that my husband and I were now responsible for this precious being was terrifying. The fear and anxiety I had were a result of this being something new I didn’t have much practice in, and an understanding of what a massive responsibility I had in raising my child.

What used to give me anxiety before my child before, which quickly waned once my son arrived, was keeping up my house.  Spotless countertops and everything being in its place just didn’t happen. I experienced some discomfort over the situation, but had to modify what I got stressed out about or I would be a mess all the time.

My husband and I have been a good team, but it hasn’t always been the smoothest of sailings. When things aren’t smooth it can feel scary.  What’s going to happen to us?  What’s going to happen to our family if we don’t figure this out? Etc. Occasionally, we’ve needed to regroup, reevaluate and reconnect to get our relationship back on track.  Not always easy to do with busy schedules and little ones to raise, but we make working on our relationship one of our priorities and I’m comforted by our commitment to see things through.

I have blogged much about taking care of your self and spend a good deal of time on this in my book and when I’m speaking to parenting groups. Despite the popular belief that the more you sacrifice the better parent you are, the reality is the better you are at taking care of yourself the better parent and partner you will be. Yes, you may be scared of being seen as selfish, but there is nothing selfish about it and therefore nothing for you to fear.

The scariest thing of all for me now is not being in control. I understand that I can only control my own actions. As much as I want to influence the actions of others I can’t control what they say, how they behave or decisions they make, regardless of the impact on my family and I.  I love life and want my kids to enjoy it as well, so I try not to get myself too concerned with this. If I did, it could be paralyzing.  Instead I try to be more self-aware starting with my own words and deeds. How I speak to my children, spouse, friends, relatives, co-workers, other parents, and people I encounter everyday?  Am I treating them the way I want to be treated? Am I living my life in a way that is healthy for my family and I?  If not, what will I do to make the change that is needed.

Control is powerful, but something each of us own.  It’s nothing to be scared of when it’s ultimately in your hands to change.

To Be Continued…

Today is my Birthday

I have friends who get bummed out when they turn a year older but I’m one of those people who love birthdays. I love all birthdays but mine in particular. It’s a day to celebrate and treat yourself. For me, it’s the one day a year I fully love myself and allow myself to be loved all day long. That may sound a little depressing I know, but don’t despair, I’m working on fully loving myself all the days of the year but that’s another story (and possibly book) for another time.

Last year was a milestone birthday year for me: I turned forty. As I prepared for the day I sought advice from friends that had gone before me. The resounding theme from pretty much everyone I asked was the same: that the forties were a great time in one’s life, that you will really start to get comfortable with who you are, and all the “stuff” we concerns ourselves with—like what we look like, where we are in life professionally and personally will all become less important. I was fascinated!  That all sounded so freeing.  Like many of us, I feel like I’ve been wearing heavy invisible chains most of my life: trying to be the right weight, look the right way, work hard to advance in my career, appear happy at all times regardless of how I’m really feeling inside, and the list goes on.

Now that I’m a year into my forties, I see that my friends were right. As my birthday clock readies itself to hit forty-one, I think about the year in review and smile. I feel like I’m continuing to get more comfortable with who I am and am much less concerned about things that used to monopolize my time. I am more honest and open about how I feel with my friends and seek deeper more meaningful connections with others. I’m happy with where I am, but still have a ways to go and I’m actually really excited about what the future brings.

No, I don’t like the idea of lots of wrinkles and I am dropping a bit more cash at the hair dresser than I used to, but these things also remind me of the road I’ve traveled to get here, and I can’t wait to see what I find on the road ahead.

Now, where’s my cake?

Tea Time Me Time

Every morning I I make myself a cup of tea, it’s become something of a little ritual to give myself energy to begin the day. It’s both a treat (because I take it with both half and half and sugar) and a stimulant. I love tea. Hot tea or iced. Most of the day, you’ll see me drinking water or some form of tea. It wasn’t always this way.

Growing up in the South I was accustomed to drinking iced tea. With the consistently warm weather down there, hot beverages weren’t high on my list of things to drink any time of day. That changed when I attended a charity auction and participated in the silent auction. They had some perfume I really liked, that was part of a larger gift bag. I didn’t really care what else was in the bag, I just wanted the perfume.  I ended up winning the gift bag and when I opened it up when I got home and rifled through the contents, I found a gift certificate that included Tea-for-Two at a local tearoom. Mother’s Day was coming up in a few weeks, so I thought I would take my mom to the tearoom to celebrate.

I honestly thought high tea and tearooms were for ladies who lunch or people who had nothing better to do with their afternoons. I thought going to the tearoom was going to be a bit of a drag but I couldn’t have been more wrong. You get to dress up, sit with people you love and have good conversation, all while people serve you delicious food and endless cups of tea—what a treat! I had no idea a place like that could make me feel taken care of, pampered and reenergized.

Thus began my enduring love affair with the beverage. Now I try to go to tearooms as often as I can (though it’s never often enough) and I host tea parties for my girlfriends regularly where we chat for hours about work, our families and lives. I try to recreate a bit of that tearoom feeling, the joy I feel and the energy I get from going, each morning with my cup of tea. It’s a great reminder for me that I need to incorporate these types of rituals into my every day, if for no other reason than to reinforce to myself that I’m worth it. I’m a better Mom for it and better partner for it.

What rituals do you incorporate to take care of yourself on a daily basis?

What fills your soul?

I used to play golf, I used to ski, I used to swim, I used to walk around the lake, in fact I used to do a lot of things back when I had lots of time for myself. That all changed when my husband and I had our first child. At first I tried to handle everything myself from feeding, dressing and changing the baby to cleaning the house and cooking food for the whole family. I nearly had myself convinced I was okay with trying to juggle everything at once but alas, after a few weeks I reached a breaking point and finally admitted to my husband that I needed help. I was miserable and didn’t really understand why. I had been told that being a mother was amazing and would be so fulfilling. There were definitely moments when it felt amazing but for the most part it just felt exhausting.

On top of this, I felt guilty for thinking it was exhausting. I wanted to be above being human and feeling exhausted. I wanted to be a super mom who could do it all and still have energy left to burn. As I was trying to figure out how to adjust to all this, a friend asked me a really important question: what gives you energy?  [Note: I’ve blogged about this before, but was reminded that I still have to be mindful of this!] Truthfully I’d never really thought of it, but it was a great question. In many ways, we’re like those ubiquitous smart phones that none of us can seem to live without. We depend on them for a variety of critical activities during the day, but also need to recharge them or they become useless. After thinking about the question again, I shared with my friend that I could tell them what sucked up my energy, but couldn’t come up with one thing that was recharging it.  I realized I had been giving all of my energy away and hadn’t taken the time to figure out how to get any of it back.

After some further reflection, I decided that in order for me to determine what could give me energy I needed to figure out what filled my soul. One thing came to mind right off the bat: talking to my husband about anything other than the kids or work like we used to do when we were dating. He and I had often remarked how nice it was and how connected we felt after one of these in-depth conversations. As I continued to seek out what filled my soul, I realized that connecting with others in general gave me a good deal of satisfaction, whether with girlfriends over dinner or tea or other new parents with whom I could share knowledge and hopefully help out.

I had the pleasure of spending a long weekend with some very dear friends recently. It’s an annual tradition that’s always a wonderful time for us to relax, connect and take care of ourselves without the stress of having to look after our families. I go home after our trip each year feeling full. I don’t have as much spare time as I used to so I have to take advantage of these opportunities to get back to myself, one recharge at a time.

One Mom’s Diagnosis

I am sick of being sick. I caught yet another one of my children’s illnesses this past week. Being sick as an adult is way less enjoyable than being sick as a kid. My mom used to pull out all the stops when my sisters or I were sick as children. She’d check our temperature, give us medicine, sometimes a Coke or Ginger Ale—a treat for us at the time—for an upset stomach, rub our backs, tuck us in and even roll in the small TV on the portable TV stand from her and my father’s bedroom. If only we could bottle the love and care our parents show us when we’re sick. Wouldn’t that be powerful medicine? Being sick wasn’t fun, but being taken care of and cared for helped get me through it.

I struggled with the decision to put my children in daycare when they were young, but knew that going back to work was something that I wanted and needed to do. One of the ‘upsides’ of putting my children in daycare I was told was that they would be exposed to all the germs out there. You’ll see, other parents told me they’ll have tons of colds for the first year or two, and then it’s smooth sailing. When the kids who stayed home go to school, they’ll be the ones getting sick and your kids will be fine. Needless to say, that’s not how it’s worked in our house.

My kids did catch colds almost instantaneously when they started in daycare and seemed to be sick non-stop until they were about two years old, when at last the constant illnesses did seem to wane. I thought we’re in the clear, excellent! It felt like what had been prophesized for me by those knowing parents was coming true – the kids would be sick often when they were young, but not sick later.

It didn’t hold for long. Soon I started to experience another trend. I would get sick when the kids did or get sick even when they did not. I have always been relatively healthy, rarely getting sick, but since my kids have been in daycare and now elementary school, I feel like I get sick as much as I did as a child. I have had countless colds and stomach viruses. I even caught both strep throat, which I remembered as a child’s illness, and a 24-hour stomach bug that was running rampant through the daycare that somehow missed my children altogether but got to me.  How could that be?

Of course, any of us can get sick at any time. Germs are everywhere and our best defense, as we tell our children, is to wash our hands frequently and cover our coughs and sneezes. This rash of illnesses also made me wonder if I was somehow contributing to the germs that were taking hold in my body. Was I as healthy and strong as it had been as a younger adult? Had I somehow allowed my body to become more susceptible to germs? Was I taking care of myself? Was I getting all the vitamins and minerals I talk to my kids about?

It got me thinking about my overall health. I exercise regularly and do eat my vegetables, but also know that between my own activities and my children’s, I run myself ragged.  I’m still working on how to get myself to that ideal healthy-all-the-time state; assuming it’s even possible. Sadly, my mom isn’t here to take care of me, rub my back, care for me when I’m under the weather and reassure me that everything is going to be okay. But I realize that I need to show myself the same kind of love and care my mother used to give me: not just when I’m sick, but all the time.  It might not come in bottled form, but it’s tangible—allowing time to rest and reflect, being more selective in the activities my family commits to and being more purposeful in taking care of myself—that’s the best defense I’ve come across for taking care of myself daily, more powerful than any medicine I’m aware of.

How do you defend yourself against getting sick?  How can you better take care of yourself?

Emerging Victorious

I recently had my first book published. Many friends have been very encouraging by telling me how proud they are of me. While I am grateful for their praise and support, the reality hasn’t really sunk in yet.  I keep asking myself the question, why don’t I feel proud?

When I was younger, I swam on our neighborhood swim team. The team practiced every weekday morning throughout the summer. I loved swimming. I loved practicing with kids my own age and learning from the older ones. There was always an opportunity to push myself to be better. I loved competing at the swim meets where I could demonstrate the progress I’d made and bask in the glow of a hard-earned success.  Any time I swam my hardest and won an event I felt deep feeling of accomplishment. It made me feel proud and reinforced the notion that all my hard work would pay off. Like many burgeoning young athlete, my early success in the pool lead to a childhood dream of competing in the Olympics. I could truly visualize myself swimming the vigorous lengths and emerging victorious, making my country proud.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve struggled with feeling such genuine pride in myself. I’m still very good at pushing myself to achieve my goals, but I often don’t allow myself to truly acknowledge my accomplishments. There have been some notable exceptions. Moving cross-country for a job when I was in my 20s made me feel proud.  Traveling alone overseas for a few weeks in my early 30s made me feel proud. Speaking to parenting groups about what I’ve learned along the way made me feel proud. The common thread between these accomplishments was that I took a risk needing to know if I could do it. I knew if I didn’t try I would regret it.  It made taking the risk greater and the reward taken from the accomplishment more satisfying. Yet, though I’ve written and had my first book published, which I never predicted or dreamt I would do, and the risk is quite possibly the greatest I’ve ever taken, the feeling of accomplishment hasn’t come, at least not yet.

Maybe it’s because this is a new beginning for me. It’s the first step toward the life I want to live, one in which I am more creative and able to push myself in more satisfying ways. Not just the life I’m feel I’m supposed to live—the one I accepted as a young adult that may or may not align with my true passion or calling. How many of us truly pursue our dreams as adults? It’s scary and overwhelming to go after what we really want–especially with a family to support–but what do we miss out on if we don’t push ourselves to try? Or perhaps it doesn’t fall into the category of something I needed to do and I wouldn’t have felt regret it if I hadn’t done it.

Maybe down the road, I will look back and feel proud that I was brave enough to take the first step and push myself to accomplish something I didn’t even know was possible.  Maybe in the moment, I’m still feeling to vulnerable and nervous about the huge step I’m taking.

My dream of becoming an Olympic swimmer didn’t become a reality for a variety of reasons that were out of my control. As an adult I returned to my favorite sport when I joined a Masters league (a competitive swimming league for adults). With a lifetime of perspective between myself and my childhood ambition, I realized the reality that I’d never had the necessary leg strength needed to be an elite swimmer. I still love the sport and it comforts me to know that I avoided losing my entire childhood over a goal that wasn’t meant to be.

Writing feels like something that is much more in my control; fortunately there are no age limits or strength requirements. I decide what comes next on this journey for what comes next, another book or something else and determine how hard I need to push myself beyond this. I’m looking forward to what comes next and while I don’t know what the future holds; I do know that pushing myself to live the life I want to live helps me visualize myself emerging victorious.