Work Life Balance – Journey or Destination?

Work-Life-Balance-Sign-post-by-Stuart-MilesThat elusive lifestyle where we devote equal amounts of energy on career and all of the other important areas of our lives – health, family, faith – is the balance that we women continually strive to strike. Imagine what our lives would look like if we actually found that balance? What would your day look like? Here is how I envision my balanced day:

Sleep: 8 hours; Work: 8 hours; Family: 3 hours; Self: 2 hours; Spirituality: 1 hour; Key relationships: 2 hours

It’s fun to fantasize about having a day like this! The fact that I might only get 6 hours of sleep, 1 hour with my husband and the rest is swallowed up by work and my commute does not discourage me from trying to carve time to exercise, to spend time with family or to meditate some time during the week. I learned to adjust my expectations knowing that what I have to deal with every day does not stay in discreet buckets. Work seeps into home time and home issues seep into work time. Allowing that interplay has helped me feel more balanced.

One of my colleagues is a master time manager. Her schedule is quite intimidating. She will admit that her calendar makes her unavailable for the random conversation at work. But, it is her way of achieving work-life balance. I share that to say that there is no right formula for how we try to achieve balance. We try different tactics until we find the one that works for us.

To better navigate the journey towards work-life balance, I found it’s best to leave behind all of that baggage! You know, the guilt baggage about not meeting our own unrealistic expectations of being super-Woman to all. The destination of work-life balance is not the utopia we believe it to be. I think work-life balance is a moving target and the state we seek changes according to our goals and priorities, which change at different stages of our lives. So, work-life balance is not a destination but rather a never ending journey of awareness of how we spend our time. Over a lifetime, the search for work-life balance is our way of questioning, testing and discovering our life’s purpose.

If you’re frustrated because you are feeling your life is unbalanced, try different tactics until you are devoting time to priority areas in your life. But then, let go of the guilt and the belief in a final destination. Focus on the journey you are on to discover your life’s purpose.

If you’re life were more balanced, what would it look like? I look forward to your comments!

Much Love,

Dear Friend,

friendsHave I told you how much I treasure the gift that is you?
You, my true friend, came into my life, unexpectedly
And, from the moment we met, I knew there was something special about you.
Remember how much we laughed? So glad we still do!
I wish we would talk more often.

My friend, you are the sunshine that always lifts the fog and dissipates the clouds
You give me strength and courage when my steps are uncertain and shaky
You are my source of truth and wise counsel because you know my deepest fears, and have kept them secret.
And in those times when I was broken, you were there to gently put me back together.

You’ve taught me to be better, because I cannot BS with you.
In good times and in bad times, in all seriousness and in all silliness, you have made whatever was happening – much, much better.

Thank you, my true friend, for being ever present, ever kind, and ever loving. Even though many months may fill the space between our calls, I know we will pick up right where we left off.
Your friendship means the world to me and I hope to forever give to you
what you have given to me.

To you my friend, and to all who someone calls a true friend, I say
May God continue to bless you and, thank you.

Much Love,

Hold on, it’s complicated

emotional_baggage“Hold on, this is getting complicated,” is one of my favorite lines from the new series, Devious Maids which airs on Sunday nights on Lifetime.  I enjoy watching the cast of Latina actors but the show is not what I want to write about. I want to write about being complicated. We are complicated. Our spouses are complicated. Our parents are complicated. Every human being is complicated by the complexity of other people’s complexity. Take a minute to absorb that. It’s mind blowing isn’t it? Another way to view it is that our emotional baggage pushes and gets pushed on by other people’s emotional baggage. Some of us have baggage from childhood that we carry on our backs, not fully realizing it’s there but the baggage influences how we face life and manage relationships.

 

It is complicated. So much so that my brain cannot possibly imagine how much crap is in our baggage that goes back multiple generations. This continuous passing down of emotional pain struck me like a punch to the gut when I joined a remembrance of a friend who recently passed. She was a striking woman, very smart and made of tough fiber that got her through very difficult times in her life. As we gathered to remember and celebrate her life, we also acknowledged that she was difficult and stubborn and tough to love at times. She held tight to her beliefs and opinions some of which hurt some people very deeply. She was complicated and she passed down her pain to those around her.

 

Bearing witness to the pain continuing to have its effect even after the its host had passed on allowed me to revisit the baggage I inherited from my grandmother. My grandmother was really complicated. The wounds she inflicted on me were incredibly painful. Even though I grew up to learn and gain a logical understanding of how broken she was from the wounds she endured, emotionally I still carried the emotional baggage with me into every area of my life.  For over forty years I have tried to repeat, repair and change the dynamics of our relationship with other unsuspecting surrogates.

 

While being in this reflective moment I searched for answers about how to disown the baggage so that I can heal and make different decisions in my life. I found an article by Dr. Bedrick titled, “Restoring Soul: Putting Psyche back in Psychology,” that made me pause. Dr. Bedrick contends that sometimes the things we try to fix in ourselves (depression, sadness, etc.) are the very medicine that we need to heal. If I understood his main point, then I have to go into the nexus of that pain to find healing.

 

Once I heard someone say that all people on the planet – regardless of age, race, ethnicity, education, socio-economic status, gender or sexual orientation want these two things: more love and less pain. So following Dr. Bedrick’s advice to go into the pain feels to me counterintuitive. Yet, I see it as the only way to truly lighten the load of emotional baggage that has been passed down to me.

 

We’re all complicated and I know I will leave this world with unresolved issues, questions unanswered and deep old wounds that didn’t heal.  Knowing that I have caused pain to the people I care about does not feel good either.  But, I can do something to reduce the load of pain that continues to oulive us by facing the darkness so that I can shed old negative patterns and create positive ones.  I hope that by opening my heart and sharing this with you will create the space for you to reflect about the baggage you may be carrying. Thank you for reading and sharing.

 

Much Love,

 

To read Dr. Bedrick’s article click here.

 

 

 

 

Rebuilding Trust After Infidelity

tree shoots
One of the most difficult bonds to repair is trust. Have you ever been betrayed? Then you know what I’m talking about. Many years ago I was in a relationship with a man who cheated on me. I remember feeling deeply hurt and could not reconcile the who, what, when, where, and how’s of his infidelity. After a big confrontation and a lot of tears (on my part) and pleadings (on his part), I decided to stay in the relationship. He was totally devoted and loving for the first few weeks after I caught him but eventually he continued having other relations. Still, during the period when he was pretending to have changed his ways, I sulked and reminded him how much he had hurt me every chance I got. It was exhausting. Eventually it became toxic. I couldn’t forgive and he couldn’t do enough to convince me to trust him again.

Trust is a delicate bond and to rebuild it is not a matter of simply willing yourself to forgive and overlook the hurt. The person who violated the trust cannot expect that a few weeks of revved up attention and doting is going to get him or her back into good graces and restore the relationship to how it used to be. Expectations about the healing process, from both parties, are often unrealistic. To help calibrate expectations it may help to think of broken trust like the cutting down of a tree that once stool tall and solid. It has been reduced to a stump and regrowing the tree will require careful nurturing to encourage the small shoots that with time will begin to emerge. To rebuild trust, both parties have to be in it for the long haul and understand that there will be many painful days before some level of trust is restored.

To repair my relationship, I recognize that I first had to acknowledge my pain and also let go of my desire to punish and inflict pain on him. My sarcasm, bitterness and resentment made him miserable, which was the desired effect, however my actions threatened to permanently contain me in my own pain and misery. I also had to believe that we could get past the infidelity and be willing to communicate about my doubts and request for him to take measures to relieve those doubts. Instead I got involved in a game of gotcha and interrogated him all of the time. If he wanted to be in a relationship, he could have regained my trust by being willing to listen and reassure as often and as long as I needed it and, or course, by being honest and open. He would have had to have consistently behave in way to demonstrate that he was dependable and trustworthy.

Writing about how to repair trust after someone we care about has violated it makes the healing sound so easy. The truth is, it is extremely difficult to rebuild trust. The only way to get through the most difficult times is to ask yourself, is this relationship worth it? If so, you owe to yourself to stick it out. If not, it’s best to end the relationship as soon as possible and save yourself the additional pain.

Much Love

Talk or Fight? We Decide

(Please take 5 minutes to respond to this survey about mentoring. http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LWZS6BL Thank you!)

My husband and I had a big fight a few weeks ago. Well, actually, it wasn’t the duration or the issue of the fight that was big, it was the magnitude of my anger. I remember the moment. It’s like when you know you’re going to burp and you feel the gas bubbles coming up through the middle of your body just before it comes out of your mouth. That’s how the anger started. As my husband was speaking to me, I remember feeling the anger beginning to bubble in the middle of my body. I made the split-second decision to allow the anger to explode versus just letting the comment wash over me. My husband was pushing a button, and he knew it. I knew it too, but I chose to let the anger take over.Now I was heated. My head and heart were pounding and I heard myself raising my voice. I became so upset, and so determined on defending my position that I lost my appetite and was silently fuming for the rest of the night. The next day was no better. I was at work and I felt tired, sad and angry. It took a few days for me to recover from that episode.

When I spoke to my mom about this she had some advice for me. She said that I should have let the comments go by instead of latching on to them. She offered strategies. Counting, deep breathing, ignoring the words, and staying calm were the actions I should have taken, according to mom. By the way, this is the same woman who argued with her husband all day long, every single day of my life. Just before my dad passed away, my mom discovered a Zen way of managing crucial conversations. Basically, when my dad pushed her buttons, she would ignore him and calmly say, “why are you yelling, I’m not yelling at you am I?” According to her this worked like magic and my dad would stop his ranting, at least for a little while.

As I was listening to my mom’s advice I was thinking defensively. How can I just roll over every time he decides he wants to make hurtful comments? Isn’t it enough that I am giving in 4 out of 5 times? Isn’t worse if I repress my emotions? But, I also wanted to know, who can possibly have this kind of composure when someone is deliberately trying to make you angry? My defensive self wanted to ask her these questions. Instead I listened and tried to take mental notes.

I am reading Critical Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler. I am less than half-way through it and I am still having a difficult time believing that I can have that level of self awareness, composure and elegance to guide a difficult conversation away from anger and towards productive dialogue. The examples provided in the book to demonstrate some of the principles seem completely unrealistic to me. I feel I would have to be Mr. Spock to do this! Yet, I am willing to try.

So far, the principle I have found most helpful is to stay focused on what you really want. This requires examining my motives and being clear as to why I am having the conversation. So, let’s see how that would have worked in my recent fight with my husband.

It started when I realized I had missed the deadline for a refund on my car’s warranty. I was upset with myself for having procrastinated and now it was 5 days too late. I told my husband and was contrite about it. However, my real motive for the conversation was to hear him say that it was okay and that he understood, so then, I could forgive myself. But of course, he didn’t react that way at all. He became angry and it made me even more upset. The conversation took a turn for the worse when he enumerated his views as to why I had missed the deadline. This is how the fight came about.

Had I been able to remain focused on what I really wanted from the conversation, the outcome could have been much different. If I wanted his acceptance of the situation and his understanding, I would have redirected the conversation back to the truth. If I had said, “Cariño, I screwed up. I am sorry, can you please forgive me?” I don’t think that things would have escalated to where they did.

The stupid and unimportant things that lead to anger are never what the fight is really about. More than likely what it is really about is our need to feel loved, accepted and valued for who we are. Being aware of our true motives behind every crucial conversation is key to dealing with anger.

How do you deal with crucial conversations? Any advice?

Much Love,

The Pains and Gains of Starting Over #startingover

Photo by Eve Anderson from markmallett.com

Does the idea of starting over cause you grief? Starting over, whether we volunteered to do it or it was imposed on us by an employer, ex-husband, or fate, is not always easy. I recently started a new job and am feeling the pains of being new. This past month I have been in the deeply uncomfortable condition of not knowing – anything. Contrast that to just six weeks ago when I was managing a contract where I knew everything (well, at least that’s what I think). Being the new kid on the block is fun for just that 30-minute introductory meeting. After that, I just want to get to work and be productive. I know that it’s my high sense of responsibility talking. My calm logical brain understands that learning takes time and it will be a good 4 to 6 months before I feel like I am working at 85-90 percent. Still, my productivity instinct is drowning out my brain’s logic.

 

The next four tips to starting over are meant to help me you through this period. As I reflected on my feelings and thoughts over the last couple of weeks, this is what emerged as my starting-over mantra.

 

Get comfortable with uncertainty

When starting over, it often means not knowing what comes next. We don’t know the steps to take, we just know we have to move forward. The problem begins with figuring out where to start. The volume of possibilities is daunting and we can be paralyzed by the fear of failure. This is when I remind myself that even if I fail, I will succeed because failure brings invaluable lessons. Getting comfortable with uncertainty also means asking for help and allowing others to contribute to our journey. Let’s not let our ego rob us of a wonderful opportunity to receive from others. Let’s also remember that uncertainty is a temporary condition that will yield to confidence as we try and succeed at new things.

 

Be patient on your climb up the learning curve

I remind myself that kindness to ourselves is recognizing that we can’t learn everything in a day, a week, or a month. Learning is a life-long process. Lately, I have spent countless hours reading everything I can get my hands on about my new work. After suffering from sleeplessness and headaches, I recognized that I’m over-doing it. “Drinking from a fire hose” effectively describes my attempt to run up the learning curve. But, how much could I really learn and retain if I read constantly to the point of fatigue? Surrendering to the learning process, and giving myself the time to combine experiential and knowledge-based learning is a kinder, gentler way of starting over. Let’s practice patience as we learn new things.

 

Clean house of old emotional baggage

I hope this happens to everybody and not just me. You start a new relationship and you catch yourself comparing your new guy to your old boyfriend. The new guy gives you strange looks as you continually reference your past. New experiences can trigger memories about where we’ve been, and so, we bring it up and we share. It is important to remember that as we broker new relationships, we have to leave room for making new memories, and that necessarily requires leaving past glories or hurts in the past.

 

Try on different hats

With starting over comes an opportunity to exercise adaptability. You are adapting to a new culture and norms. This is very exciting because you can adopt new behaviors, tweak your work style or try a new approach. Adapting to your new set of parameters also offers you a chance to re-invent yourself, and to do things differently. I will share my example. I was always the last person to leave the office in the evening. Part of the reason was due to traffic. But, contributing to that was the way I organized my work –most time-consuming matters were pushed to the end of the day. Now I have a chance to organize my work so that I am finished by 5:30 pm and leave the office at a reasonable hour.

 

Starting over comes with frustration and anxiety. But, it is also a great time of learning and growth. For this reason, it is a blessing to have a new start. With kindness towards ourselves and a willingness to learn, ask for help, let go of the past and adapt, we can receive the gifts the future has in store for us.

Much Love

 

A Violation of Trust And How I Helped

Graphic credit: joedonatelli.com

When an acquaintance asked me about problem I had been having I was perplexed. Why would she ask me that? I was caught off guard and didn’t know how to respond. I finally said something that moved us off the subject. After I hung up I began processing what had just happened. How could she ask me something that I have rarely talked about to anyone?  I took a few minutes to think and recall who we mutually knew. Then the link came to mind. There was only one person I had opened up to about this problem. My very brief delight in having solved the puzzle quickly turned into a deep disappointment and sadness. Wow…I thought she could be trusted.

Coincidently, Oprah’s Lifeclass tonight is about the terrible things women do to each other  –  like gossip. I am looking forward to hearing Oprah’s insights but until then, I am taking out the magnifying glass and taking a close look at my own situation. Surely I can’t point the finger at the gossiper without acknowledging that three of my fingers are pointing right back at me.  What role did I play in my friend’s betrayal?

With age and heartache I have figured out that I am a person that needs to feel liked by and connected to other people. I am much better at it now, but with this “condition,” I have a tendency to jump to BFF status in a relatinoship while still in the getting-to-know-you stage. Basically, what it boils down to is that I give away my care and trust too prematurely. When we are needy we are fallible, which is why it is important to be aware of our neediness because it often drives our decisions and behavior.

Whenever my friend and I got together we just let it all hang out. We talked about this, that and the other over a glass of wine, coffee or a meal. Boy did we have a good time! But, admittedly some of that good time involved gossiping. Thinking back, our bonding revolved around sharing our true selves which included airing our opinions about other people– things, I thought, we would never share with anyone else.

My mistake was to believe that she would not have a similar good time with another friend where my life was the juicy topic of conversation. I don’t betray people’s trust, and I don’t share things that people have told me in confidence or that are no one else’s business. But, I am ashamed to admit that I have gossiped and talked about people with the justification that it’s just “harmless talk” that will never leave this room.

As I write this I realize that there have been other times when I was totally blindsided by a friend’s betrayal. And, the pattern was the same. Perhaps the gossiper believed it was harmless talk that would never get back to me. But, each time those people couldn’t help but show me their cards. Sometimes it was a direct reveal, and others it was a set of clues that let me know that they were in-the-know about my business.

Now is the issue of how do I move forward with my friend. There won’t be a big confrontation. I will continue my relationship with her because I genuinely like her and respect her. I believe that the root cause of her betrayal was not a desire to hurt me. In fact, I am certain that it was not about me at all. Her behavior was driven by her own need to feel liked and accepted. Perhaps she wanted to get closer to this other person and believed that there was some kind of gain from telling her something that no one else knew. And/or, she wanted to appear more important and sharing my privacy was proof of her power. Whatever the cause, I am in not her judge or jury.

I am disappointed in me for deceiving myself that “harmless talk” would not come around to me. Gossiping or talking about other people’s lives is not harmless; it’s a game of Russian roulette and eventually you’re going to get the bullet. So, let’s stop playing the game and not gossip about each other. I am sad that I cannot trust my friend and that I have to be guarded around her, but I forgive her. I pray that she, and I, and others will heal from the wounds that make us needy and drive us to hurt others as a result.

Much Love,

http://www.oprah.com/oprahs-lifeclass/oprahs-lifeclass.html