I am NOT a Fish Out of Water!

Most of my life I have felt like a fish out of water. I don’t really fit in where most other women do. I don’t really fit in with the men either. I have tried to figure out why I don’t have the stereotypical “female tribe” I see around me. Why am I not invited to do some of the things those female types do? Never mind that I don’t enjoy most of what they are doing and don’t really want to go. I still want to be invited. Don’t get me wrong, I have a ton of friends and some really good close friends. I’m not living life alone. But I don’t live it like most other women. I never have. I have always been able to make friends with boys easier than with girls. I feel more comfortable hanging out with guys and there is nothing sexual about it. But that can seem awkward for others, so I keep hanging out with the guys to a minimum. I have beat myself up for not fitting in, wondering what is wrong with me. Wondering am I not good enough? Am I not fun enough? Am I not nice enough? I could go on and on.

Over the years I have tried repeatedly to diagnose what I perceived was a problem with me. As a coach, I help people through issues such as this quite frequently. Why couldn’t I figure it out for myself? Turns out it is easier to help others than it is to help yourself. Helping yourself to truly become self-aware and to then make changes is hard. Really hard. Thankfully there are some truly self-aware and gifted people in the world that give nuggets of their wisdom and experiences to help inspire us. I love to listen to podcasts and run. This is my time to be alone and consume the information that fills my fuel tank.

On a run this week I was gifted with a beautiful story that has led to one of the most powerful epiphanies of my life! Brene Brown was interviewing Glennon Doyle about her new book, Untamed.  I have now listened to this podcast 3 times and I am reading the book. Thank goodness for the forced slowdown and quarantine because I can indulge myself over and over in this fabulous gift of information.  As I listened to Glennon talk about herself and life, I felt like it was me talking. It was within a different context, but the feelings were the same. Glennon tells the story of a cheetah in a zoo she was visiting with her children. The cheetah had been trained alongside a Labrador to help tame her. I don’t want to steal Glennon’s thunder, go get the book, but the gist of the story is this:

The cheetah was born into captivity and trained to act like a dog. It is the only way of life that she has ever known. But deep inside, the cheetah feels that life should be more than this and that she is not meant to act the way she was trained. When she is alone in her zoo exhibit, she is different and wild again. She dreams of wide-open savannahs and freedom, of a life more beautiful than the one she has even if the one she has is good enough. But how can she dream of this if she has never seen or experienced it? Why can’t she just be grateful for how good her current life is? It is because she is a cheetah!  

In Untamed, Glennon uses the cheetah story as a metaphor for the way women are tamed or trained to act. We are taught to “be good”, “speak correctly”, “know our place”, “be perfect wives/mothers/friends”, “not complain (i.e. bitch)”, “be thin”, “be beautiful”, “be sexy, but only at the right time”, and most of all “be grateful”.  If we do not live up to the expectations society has placed on us, we feel like we are not enough. If we are not grateful in our “good enough” lives, we feel guilty.  But what if deep inside we feel like the cheetah? Like life is supposed to be different and more beautiful than this?

 I have let my inner Glitch tell me a ton of lies over the years and I have believed them. Lies like, I don’t fit in because I am not enough; I am not pretty enough; I am not smart enough to contribute, I am not polished enough to be effective. The cumulative effect of believing these lies is that I distance myself from work and personal obligations and goals to avoid failing at them. After all, I’m not enough.  I have told myself I am not valuable enough to contribute and kept quiet even though my gut told me I was right. I have told myself I must have some type of defect because I don’t act or want to act like most women. I perceived that this was true because when I do act on my instinct, the reactions I would receive were mixed reviews. I have questioned all of this over and over and over and over. Ultimately, I asked myself if I was crazy.

 As I ran listening to the podcast with Brene and Glennon and I heard the cheetah story and the questions being posed, I stopped running dead in my tracks. I immediately began to cry. Not sad tears but tears of relief and joy! For the first time in my life I KNEW what I had been trying to figure out about myself. Inside I am like the cheetah! I want a life more beautiful and different than what I think society has said I am supposed to have. I AM NOT CRAZY! And most importantly, I AM ENOUGH!

 Turns out I am not a fish out of water!! I have been in the wrong water. It is time to jump out of the small, tame pond and to jump into the ocean where I belong! It’s no wonder I have a fascination with the ocean and mermaids. It is where I know deep down that I belong!!

This is a scary and thrilling revelation for me. It is very freeing as well. I can be exactly who I feel inside I should be. I know I am a SMART, BEAUTIFUL woman with a lot of wisdom to contribute to the world. My optimism is contagious. I value authenticity and humility. Ambitious, altruistic people are my people.  I am intimidating to some and my bluntness can be cutting. But I LOVE BIG and care more about humanity than myself. I deserve BIG LOVE in return and won’t ever settle for less; even if what I have is good enough. I am grateful for what I have but am more grateful for what will be. I won’t temper my feelings, actions or words anymore because society says that is not how a woman should behave. I have a lot to give to the world that I have been holding back because I have feared what others might think. I did not trust myself enough that I could stand in my true self and be successful.

 Look out! I’m not a cheetah, but I am Gina. It’s time to really let her shine!

An Epiphany!

Learning to manage my time is a complex thing. It is easy to stay busy completing tasks. The hard part is prioritizing those tasks. I read a great article that said that people that jump from task to task rather than having laser focus on one and completing it are less effective. Boy! That stung! I am the queen of ADHD (and yes I have it!). I am always jumping around from task to task. I take my pride in my ability to multitask. Most times I can circle back around and finish what I’ve started, but the truth is that some things fall through the cracks and I fail to complete them. This drives me crazy and causes me tremendous stress and guilt. So my big epiphany for the weekend is to start one task and finish it. Stop jumping around. Don’t laugh if you figured this out as a child! Ha! Actually, you can laugh at me and this simplistic idea because I’m laughing at myself. Sometimes the answer is staring you in the face and you look right past it. Back to time management, if I must pick a task and finish it before starting another, this means I must prioritize things. Before my epiphany, I didn’t really have to decide what was most important to me or what should be done first because I was doing everything at once. I’ve thought a lot about how to prioritize. Some things must be completed because timing dictates that I must finish them, not because I rank them high in importance to me – like laundry! It is not important to me to do laundry on a Sunday, but my family appreciates clean things to wear during the week.  There are other tasks in my life that must be assigned a level of importance so that I can make a good decision on how to prioritize my actions and time. This is all coming full circle to the first blog I wrote and the idea of putting on paper the things that are important to me.  I’m not quite ready to share that list yet because I’m still working on it, but I can tell you that I will look at the list differently now that I have a new component of time management to consider.

Prior to this journey I had been doing  a lot of introspection and found there are several things about me and my life that need attention. I chose the path of downsizing to address the changes, but downsizing is just the tip of the iceberg for the things I need to do. It’s work time now but I promise to be back tonight with another blog talking about the complexities of life and how to pursue happiness. Have a great Monday!!

Time is all we have

Time is all you have.

William Penn said that time is what we want most, but what we use the worst. That’s certainly true for me! I am 100% Type A (no surprise to you who know me!). This is both a blessing and a curse. I love this about myself because it makes me driven, ambitious, and competitive. I hate it because it stresses me out when I feel like I don’t have time to live up to expectations. (Such as this blog! I’m writing about time and don’t have time to finish this!)  I have been complaining about not having enough time since I was a teenager. I have vivid memories from college and early in my career when I was stressed about not having enough time. I would call my Dad to vent and get reassurance that things were going to be ok. He told me time and again, “Gina, time is all you have.” It seems like a simple statement and is easy to dismiss, but if you truly break down the message, it is very profound. How do I define time? Is time defined as my work day? Is it the amount of time I have at home or with my family and friends? Is time my 44th year which I am dedicating to downsizing? Or is time larger than that? Time is the whole of my lifetime. I have found that I tend to define time differently depending upon my immediate life need. If I have a deadline at work, that is how I define time. If I’m looking at Facebook memories of our daughter, that is how I define time. So on and so on, I think you get it. Regardless of what things come and go in our life, be it people, possessions, or jobs, the one thing that remains is time. My Dad was telling me to manage my most valuable asset, my time, and everything else would fall into place. Time is all I have.

It has been over a week since I have had the time to sit and write. Correction, it has been over a week since I have managed my time correctly and have been able to sit and write. I have been frustrated and feeling overwhelmed because I feel like I don’t have enough time to accomplish everything. A normal day for me goes like this –

  • Morning: Wake up at 4:30 and have coffee, hopefully force myself to do some exercise, get our daughter up and ready for school, pack her lunch & snack, make sure the dog is taken care of, get myself ready and leave the house by 7:30 to drop her at school and head to work.
  • Work day: Most every day is jam packed with meetings of all kinds. When I am not with someone, I am working like crazy to finish my work load. I usually work thru lunch. If I do go out for lunch, it is for work. (I squeeze in a friend lunch every once in a while, but not often. Today was a treat!) I frequently have work obligations outside of normal business hours at social gatherings and various events with which TTS are affiliated. I work a lot.
  • Evening: Either pick up our daughter from after school homework club or relieve the babysitter, make sure she has finished her homework, practiced piano & violin, and make a decision about dinner. We try to always eat together as a family, sometimes at the table and other times in front of the tv watching a show we all enjoy, but together. After dinner, comes cleaning up and getting our daughter to shower and to bed by 9:00. At 9:01, stick a fork in me – I’m done. I am lucky because my husband helps with dinner, the kitchen, and getting our daughter to bed. After she goes to bed, I crash.

Somewhere in the middle of that is laundry, straightening up the house, grocery shopping, and making sure all other household appointments are handled. My husband works in Birmingham so any vet appointments or doctor appointments are mine. Whew, I’m tired from just typing this out.

Please don’t think I’m complaining. I love my job and the people I work with. I love my family too. It’s just that as I look at my schedule, I realize there is no time for me. I never have alone time and as an introvert, that means I am constantly exhausted. It also means there is no extra time to accomplish my goal of downsizing and blogging about it.

I’m telling you all of this because it explains why I am choosing to downsize. I want to manage my time better so that I have more time to enjoy life and to stop being exhausted. I think less home obligations will free up some of my time.

The irony in all of this is I can’t seem to find the time to downsize so that I can better manage my free time. It’s a good thing I gave myself a year to figure this out! Time is all I have…

Eating an Elephant

 

Eating an Elephant

September 18, 2016

What a week! It feels great inside to make a decision and to have a clear goal to attain. The path to the goal might be difficult, but I still love having something on which to focus. This week turned into a normal juggle between home and work. Our daughter wasn’t feeling well this week, so I had to stay home with her and miss some work. That normally stresses me out because I have so much to do, but this week was different. I was glad to have some unplanned time at home to begin to look around and decide how I want to start this downsizing plan. It only took about five minutes for me to become completely overwhelmed at the size of the project! I honestly had no idea where to begin. Over our almost 18 years of marriage, we have accumulated a lot of stuff! I couldn’t decide what needs to go and what needs to stay. I could tell our daughter was watching me. She has always been an old, wise soul in a cute little girl body. She has a wonderful way of bringing me back to center and reminding me of the lessons I try to teach her. I told her I was having a hard time trying to decide where to begin. She laughed and said, “Mom, how do you eat an elephant?” I love when I get confirmation that the things I’m trying to teach her have taken hold. I was reminded of the morning we were chatting as I was taking her to school. She was feeling overwhelmed at her busy schedule of school, homework, and various other activities. I then asked her how to eat an elephant. We had a great discussion about doing it one bite at a time. Now, she was teaching me and she was right. I have to eat this elephant one bite at time!

My first bite was to tackle the junk drawers. You know, the places you throw things that you don’t want to get rid of but you have no idea where to put. I brought in a large trash can from outside and began to fill it up! I did this for all of my hidden places and organized as I went. Two 39 gallon trash bags full later and I had eaten my first bite! Next, I went through some of our daughter’s toys. Awhile back one of our best friend’s dad coined my favorite term ever – Gibblin’ shit. This refers to all of the little junk our children collect at birthday parties, fast food restaurants, etc… The stuff we hate and they love. Out it went! Next bite eaten.

Children are so different than adults when they feel bad. Children don’t whine and lie around in self-pity. Our daughter had a small fever and didn’t need to be at school, but she didn’t feel lethargic. I believe she was inspired by my actions, so she decided to head to her room and start her own downsizing. I received some great advice on my last blog (go read it) so I was very careful to not step in and try to control what she decided to keep and to purge. I gave her four categories to classify her belongings: 1. Things she wants to keep; 2. Things she wants to donate; 3. Things she would like to sell; and 4. Things that need to be trashed, then I left the room. She’s such a rock star and I am so proud of her. She did a great job and everything was her decision, so she feels fantastic about her work. Another bite eaten!

Over this weekend, I moved on to my next bite. Purging the various things I’ve collected and that are sitting around the house. They are nice and look great, but I don’t need them and don’t want to move them. Some of you may have noticed that I went a little crazy on FaceBook selling things. This was a small bite and just the beginning of our downsize project. Stay tuned over the next several weeks. I will be selling furniture and clothes as I have time to sort through it all.

I’ve gone back to read my first few blog posts. Wow. They were pretty negative sounding. We all have ups and downs in life. I began this journey because I’ve been in a down time. I’m ready to climb out of that valley. The first few steps (elephant bites) have been taken. I’m feeling energized and ready to continue!simplify

Challenge Accepted

September 14, 2015

The only thing constant is change. I was born with an entrepreneurial mind that thrives off change. I evaluate situations and look for ways to make things more efficient, productive, and to solve problems. A couple of the things I am best at in the business world is cutting costs and doing more with less to increase the bottom line. I love doing this at work and in my professional life. I find it very ironic that making the decision to do this in my personal life has caused me unbelievable anxiety! Last night we took some time to look at houses. Of course the houses are much smaller than the one we are in now. Downsizing is what I want to do, but as I stood inside a home with much less space than mine I felt claustrophobic. This process is going to be more difficult than I imagined. We had discussions last night about how to start to trash, donate, and sell things in our existing home. A good friend said, “Get rid of it all!” I know he’s right so I’m not sure why I almost threw up. After we came home, had dinner, and put our daughter to bed I became overwhelmed with anxiety and emotions. I felt angry and sad.  I downed a glass of wine and headed to bed to escape my feelings. Who wants to feel all of that?! This morning I see things more clearly and I realize that I am going through the grieving process. I am grieving the loss of my expectations of what life would be like. The reason I almost threw up is that all of the possessions we have stand for a piece of my expectations. At work, I know that one of the keys to being successful is to manage others’ expectations. Somehow, I neglected to manage my own. Last night, I found myself sliding back into the blame game in my head and being angry over the things I felt others should be doing to help fulfill my expectations. Then, I got lost in the anger of feeling alone. These are all very toxic thoughts and feelings that I impose upon myself. No one else makes me feel this way. No one else can fix my feelings either. As I travel this path of downsizing, I see that I need to grow and heal in a variety of ways. It’s interesting to say that downsizing will make me grow, but I believe it will, at least internally. I believe it will heal my soul too. Last night revealed to me that this is not going to be as easy as cleaning out our house and moving to a smaller one. This is going to require cleaning out my mind and heart as well. Everyone that knows me knows I love a challenge. Challenge accepted…

I have been overwhelmed at the number of messages of support, empathy, and stories of battles from all of you. We all have so much to learn from each other but for some reason we keep things inside and fight battles alone. I’m not sure what the solution is to build a community that is supportive but I’m thinking about it. I promise to answer all of your messages as I have time. Please keep them coming!we-fear-change

 

Miserable is a Strong Word

September 12, 2016tiana_motivational_by_discordantprincess-d60b6lt

Miserable is a strong word. I don’t use it lightly. Yes, I am miserable and have been for several years. I’ve spent a lot of energy blaming others and trying to explain away my unhappiness at the expense of everyone else. If so and so would do this or not do that… blah, blah, blah… I always came up with an excuse for my misery that revolved around others’ actions. My poor husband has been the target more than once and I hate I’ve put him through the blame game. I misdiagnosed my misery for a long time thinking it was grief. We lost a daughter six years ago and it was the most horrific thing a family can experience. I still grieve her loss and will as long as I live but I now know that my grief is not the cause of my misery. It has taken me quite some time to diagnose the root of my misery, but I’ve figured it out. The cause of my misery is me. Rationally, I’ve known this but accepting it is easier said than done.

I’ve been in an internal struggle for several years now. I had expectations of what life should be like. I thought that if I worked hard, I’d be successful and I expect everyone around me to adhere to that philosophy. Tiana is my favorite Disney princess because she knew you had to work hard to fulfill your dreams (plus she makes great gumbo!). I have worked hard and for the most part, I’ve been pretty successful. Now, let’s define successful. Hmmm… is it having a great family? (check, got that!), is it having great friends? (check, got that too!), is it having a big house in the right part of town? (check again), is it having a career that others perceive as important? (checkmate). Lots of people define success in these ways and so did I. In fact, I expect these things because I’ve worked hard for them. I expected those things to make me and everyone around me very happy. I’ve spent the last 6 years turning myself inside out to achieve and retain “success”. Once you have acquired the house, the job, the cars, it takes more work to keep them up – a ton more work!! So much work that the other components of a successful life begin to suffer – the spouse, the family, and the friends. I don’t care what anyone says – it is impossible to have time for everything. There is no such thing as the perfect work life balance. I’ve tried for years! My expectation of what my life should be versus what is feasible is the cause of my misery. I’ve decided it is time to appreciate everything I have rather than lament over my expectations. I love my house, I love my possessions, and I love my neighborhood. It will be hard to let them go but I know it will be freeing. I want less yard! I want less dust! I want to use my time at home with my family to enjoy them! My definition of success is changing.

Please understand that I don’t judge anyone for their definition of success. It can and should be different for everyone. I know that to be happy I have to articulate my definition of success and focus on it.  If I were independently wealthy, this might not be so hard! HA! All joking aside, the first step of my journey is to identify the things that are truly important to me – the things I can’t live without. I’ve asked my husband and daughter to do the same so we are working on our lists this week.  After we determine what is truly important to us, we will make a plan to purge the rest. Downsizing here we come! I do have to tell you that this whole concept has scared our daughter! I think she thought we were going to become desolate. I explained to her that downsizing does not mean you can’t have nice things. It just means you have less of them. That has eased her mind!

I’m a big believer in giving those that choose to spend time with you a concrete take away that makes the time they spend with you valuable. As I share my journey and you spend your time with me reading my posts, I’d like to give you all some thought provoking questions. They are the ones I am trying to answer for myself. The questions for today:

  • Do your expectations of what your life should be get in the way of you enjoying what you truly have?
  • Is your definition of success feasible?
  • What is truly important to you?

I can’t wait to share our lists with you! I’d love to hear your answers to the above questions too! Let’s make this a conversation!

My Birthday Present to Myself

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I’m stressed out. I’m tired. I’m guilt ridden. Heck, I’m downright miserable. I keep telling myself to be positive, to be grateful. After all, in the grand scheme of things, I have a great life. I have a handsome, smart, caring husband and we are coming up on our 18th wedding anniversary. We have a clever, gorgeous daughter that attends one of the best private schools in the state. We live in a huge house with a pool in one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in our city. We have nice cars and we are members of the country club. We get to vacation at least twice per year, usually more. All of this and very small debt. I have a high profile job as the CEO of our local tourism agency and I get paid very well. From the outside looking in, it would appear that I have the perfect life. This is a great life but truth is, it is not the life I want. Yesterday was my 44th birthday. I made a promise to myself. I am going to make the changes needed to be happy by my 45th birthday.

I’ve decided to write this blog to chronicle my journey. Not everyone will understand me or what makes me happy and that is OK. It takes a lot of different types of people to make the world go around. I want to tell this story for a few reasons. First, is that I want to keep a record of what happens over the next 12 months. When our daughter is older, I want her to be able to read this and understand how to achieve happiness, however she defines happiness. I also want her to know that her destiny is up to her, just as mine is, and that if we want something to change, we must change it ourselves. Action is key.  Second, I want to hold myself accountable. I expect that as I make changes in my life, I will face some difficult times.  I do not like to give up or fail, but like everyone, there have been times when I did. I am less likely to give up if I know someone is out there watching my journey. Finally, I hope that by sharing my journey, I can inspire someone to take the same trip. No one’s will look exactly like mine but maybe there will be some nuggets of inspiration and hope that will encourage someone needing to make a change.

Let’s get this journey started.