Happiness and Self Fulfilling Prophecy

I remember my very first performance review. I had sat nervously at my desk waiting to be called into my manager’s office, feeling very much like a student asked to meet with the principal. I watched as a colleague exited signaling that it was my turn. My boss slid a piece a paper toward me detailing his observations on my performance over the last few months. I ignored the positive comments and chose to focus instead on the weaknesses. Seeing them listed out in black and white (and there were more than a few) I suddenly wondered if I would still have a job after this meeting was over.

I am not a naturally quiet individual, but in this instance I held my tongue as I waited for my boss to get to the punch line. I could almost hear the dreaded words, ‘I’m sorry, but…” I tried to tell myself that it would be okay, at least I could say I now had experience, which was a quality lacking previously on my resume. Perhaps this time it wouldn’t take me quite so long to get a return phone call for an interview.

After several seconds of awkward silence, my boss asked me if something was the matter. My worries refused to remain silent a minute longer. I asked him if I was being let go. My boss sat back and laughed. “Of course not.” He then went over his positive comments again with me making sure I knew this time I actually read them, and that I understood that while I had room to grow, he definitely wanted that growth to be with the company. I have been lucky. He was a good boss.

I grew more confident and comfortable with my job and my performance reviews over the years. During one of these later one on ones, my boss asked me where I saw myself in five years. I believe I laughed and said something along the lines of “in your job.” I was only partially kidding.

Nearly five years to the day, I found myself seated on the other side of that desk with my own staff. I learned then that anyone can be an oracle, but before any prophecy can be fulfilled, it must first be either spoken (loudly) or shared (often) for the world to see.

I had unwittingly made a promise to myself that day. I said what I wanted and I did what I said I would. I declared I would be successful, and by most indicators I have been. I have experienced an upward career trajectory. I have a house on the edge of suburbia and cars in the garage. I even have the white picket fence.

But two years ago I realized that I had neglected one other truth. Success by other people’s standards does not necessarily equal happiness. I realized then that in order to achieve sustainable happiness, I had to treat it in the same fashion as one of my career goals. I had to issue a new prophecy. I had to declare I would be happy, and then say it over and over again. I had to make changes to my lifestyle and attitude in support of my goal. I had to pursue happiness just as hard or in some cases harder than I had ever pursued a promotion until my goal was transformed from raw belief to real possibility.

I may never become a household name, but I might. I may never become the CEO of a fortune 500 company, but I could. Those are prophecies for another day. Today, I am pursuing my dreams and not someone else’s. I still have work ahead, there are still things that send me into a rage or sorrow, but I am at peace with the choices I have made, and in this moment, I am content.

 

 

Or at least I am on my way.

I AM

Image courtesy of Florian Klauer and Unsplash

Law and Order: Snowman Victims Unit

Snow day in Canada

As mentioned previously, US Southerners do not handle snow well. The mere threat can send entire cities into chaos. In my hometown we usually see one or two winter storms per year consisting of the occasional flurry, but freezing rain is more the norm. This year we saw several storms back to back. The snow from one storm would melt only for the weather to double down on its next hand. Schools were closed (again). Garbage service was cancelled. Those restricted to a milk and bread diet were in danger of starving.

You might say it has been a trying month.

After being housebound off and on for several days, my family decided we had to escape. Bundled within an inch of our lives, we faced the cold and valiantly made our way down the front steps. The most recent storm had resulted in a sticky snow, perfect for making snowmen. We did just that. Soon our snowman was close to my height, which is an impressive snowman height for our part of the country (though not so impressive for a human), and was positioned proudly in the front of the yard for all the neighbors to see.

The next day, temperatures (finally) began creeping back up and the snow began to disappear from the rooftops, but most snowpeople were still standing. Most, but not our giant. Its three sections lay in pieces like large white bolders on the lawn. My sons were disappointed, but they understood that all snowmen eventually melt (Valar Meltghulis). I told them he was too big to last. Then 6 pointed out that there were words written in the snow at the base of our yard; “R.I.P Snowman.”

snowman crime scene

Image by Robert Donovan via Flickr

I suddenly realized that our snowman may not have met his end through natural causes. He might have been murdered. Cue the Law and Order gavel sound.

But why? What possibly could have been the motivation behind such a crime? Did my snowman make eyes at some other snowman’s snowoman? Did the local architectural review board deem our giant an eyesore? (They don’t take kindly to additions in the front yard without proper permits.) Did the roving pack of wild dogs deem our snowman a threat that had to be taken down? None of those theories explained the presence of the note.

Ultimately, I was forced to conclude that the culprit was likely some kid trying to impress his or her friends. He or she probably thought they were hilarious as they scratched their message into the snow. I’ll never understand why some people go out of their way to destroy something that they didn’t create, or otherwise spoil another’s experience as a mere whim.

There is nothing quite like muttering under your breath about those darn kids to make you feel old.

I have chosen to interpret this experience as a compliment. Out of all the snowmen on the street, they choose ours to destroy. Therefore it had to be special in some way. It caught an eye. It stood apart and was therefore worthy of notice if only for an afternoon.

As Dr. Seuss put it, “don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

The neighborhood kids might have taken our snowman out (and gotten away with it), but they won’t take us down. We did something right once. We can do so again. We will rebuild, we will make the next one bigger, stronger, or at least mightier than before, but…hopefully not until next year – I am so over this winter.

 

Thanksgiving away from home – what could be better?

Has anyone's Thanksgiving ever gone like this?

Has anyone’s Thanksgiving ever gone this smoothly? (image from wikipedia.org)

I considered myself fortunate. We were traveling for Thanksgiving, meaning I wasn’t going to have to cook (a good thing for all involved – just ask my hubby sometime about my poultry cooking skills). I didn’t have to clean. All I was expected to do was to enjoy time with my family. Silly me. I forgot that I was traveling with a toddler.

I had barely closed my eyes on Thanksgiving eve when I heard my toddler’s cry in the adjacent room which he was sharing with his brother. I immediately sprang out of bed to see what was the matter worried that might wake up the rest of the household. I was ready to once again hear, “Where Monkey Man?” This time however it wasn’t merely a request to locate his favorite toy, he was sick, and not just with the sniffles.

I rushed him to the bath while the hubby took care of the linens. Eventually we were forced to turn the lights on while I rummaged around his bag looking for his spare set of pajamas. It turned out I needn’t worry about waking his brother. My eldest didn’t even bother turning over. (Man, I wish I could still sleep like that!)

Cleaned up, my toddler clung to me like a life raft. The hubby passed by carrying our travel toddler cot. (You could smell it from a distance.) Even if we had a spare set of sheets, kiddo wasn’t going to be able to sleep on it again any time soon. I had resigned myself to a night on the couch or rocking chair. when the hubby came by again. This time with a pillow in hand. He volunteered to stay on the couch so that our son and I might sleep more comfortably on a bed.

In hindsight, I think in the end he may have gotten the better end of the deal.

It was still a loooooonnnnng a night. At home, my toddler’s bed is near the ground and has guard rails. My in-law’s guest bed, on the other hand, is very tall and all sides are completely exposed. Each time my kiddo shifted, I worried he might slip over the side and plummet to the ground. I was afraid that the cries we had already heard that night would be whispers in comparison. I tried to pull him back closer to me, but that only served to wake him up enough to remind him that his tummy was still upset.

Several trips back to the bathroom later (progressively less necessary),  I realized that what I was doing wasn’t working. Unless I wanted to be completely worthless the following day, I was going to have to find a way for both of us to sleep. I realized I was going to have to give him more freedom of movement. I placed a few pillows near the bed’s edge, just in case, but then I let him go. Soon I heard soft, contented snores and I allowed myself to also fall into a light sleep.

I awoke hours later to the touch of small fingers on my forehead. (Oh no! Dawn is still hours away – please, please try to go back to sleep!) My little boy whispered, “Where mommy go?”

I answered, “Mommy’s here. Are you okay?” (yep, the couch was definitely the better option)

“I better.” Then no more words. Instead, he snuggled next to me, and the soft snores resumed in short order. Even though I knew right then that it was only a matter of time before I came down with whatever illness my toddler turned outbreak monkey possessed (4 days to be exact), I couldn’t help but smile. I’ll take what I can get.

My toddler used to only want to be with me. Then one day he stopped, and now prefers the company of his dad. All too soon, I know this stage will also be over and he’ll only want to be around his friends. I’ll eventually have to let him find his own way in life, but it is good to know that he’ll still look for mommy now and then.

Imperfections can be lifesavers

Water drop, blue

Water drop, blue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While in college, I took an introduction course into nuclear engineering. As part of the class, we visited a small reactor owned and operated by the university. Within the facility stood a deep tank filled with water required for regulating the reaction. The entire tank was illuminated by a series of lights embedded in its walls making the water glow like a sapphire in the sun. In addition to the striking color, I also noticed how very still the water was. Its surface wasn’t marred by a single ripple. I’d never seen anything like it. I thought it was beautiful. I wish I had taken a picture, but the people operating the facility weren’t fans of that idea for some reason.

The professor warned us to stay back. The water was beautiful, but it was dangerous. However it wasn’t radiation that we had to worry about.

In order to maintain a controlled reaction, the water in the tank had to be absolutely clear of all minerals or other imperfections. As my professor explained, if we were to fall into the tank, no amount of kicking or flailing of arms would slow your descent. It didn’t matter if you were born part fish. You weren’t going to be able to swim (or float) back to the surface. To float, you have to be able to displace mass. Your body needs those minerals to push against in order to move through the water.

The water was deadly due to its perfection.

I no longer pursue perfection. I am not saying that I don’t always try my best. I just now better appreciate my limitations. I am learning to recognize that some of my ‘flaws’ might actually be helping to keep my head above water.

There are nooks and crannies where dust bunnies hide on my floors and corners where cobwebs still hang. According to a post I read earlier this week, all this means is that I’ve gotten a jump on my Halloween decorations. There are days in which there is more work to do than hours in the day. On those days, I could burn the midnight oil trying to do everything myself and still fail. Instead I recognize that I have colleagues who are more than capable of sharing the load. In fact, and this one is hard to admit, there are some tasks that others are actually more capable of completing than I am. I don’t have to do it all.

I don’t want to do it all.

By admitting to myself that there are just some things I don’t care about, by admitting there are things others can do better, I’ve found I can focus more on my family and my true priorities. Instead of stressing out about being the best that I could be, I am learning to be content with being the best me, flaws and all.

Megan Cyrulewski on Dancing in Puddles

A few weeks ago I was nominated for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award and I looked to see who other the nominees were. I was not surprised to see that one of these was Megan Cyrulewski. Since her blog launched, Megan has routinely supported authors by featuring numerous author interviews on her site. I was fortune enough to be included in that list. This Saturday, August 2nd, Megan will be releasing her own first book, a memoir, entitled Who Am I?: How My Daughter Taught Me to Let Go and Live Again. In it she details her journey into post-partum depression, divorce, domestic violence, law school, and her struggle to survive with her sanity intact. Her story helps to provide hope during times of challenge that things will get better.
I am thrilled to be able to support this book launch by featuring her writing on my blog. I hope that the following inspires you as much as it did me.

Sometimes you just need to dance in the puddles
by Megan Cyrulewski
I’ve been stressed lately, I’m not going to lie.  I feel like I have a million things on my plate and my plate is spilling over.  I have anxiety disorder and sometimes my anxiety goes up a notch when I’m overwhelmed.  This is how my life has always been.  Nothing has ever happened a little at a time.  I’m riding even for a long time and then everything starts again all at once.I’ve been feeling sort of like a robot lately.  I have deadlines and I know what needs to be done so it gets done.  Each day I have a list in my planner (my old-school paper planner) and by the end of the day, everything is checked off.  I should feel a sense of accomplishment, but all I see when I look at my planner is what I have to do the next day.Yesterday when I came home from working on something, Madelyne (my daughter) was upset.  I asked my mom what was wrong and my mom said that Madelyne was upset because she had a potty accident.  She peed in her pants.  Madelyne, unfortunately or fortunately, is already a Type A personality like her mommy.  She doesn’t like to make mistakes.  Everything is supposed to be right and in order.  That is a blessing and a curse for both of us.  Sometimes I need my life to be orderly and neat, which means I’m right on schedule.  But as I looked at the tears on Madelyne’s face after her accident, I realized in that moment that bumps in the road are okay.I told Madelyne to get on her rain boots because we were going for a walk around the block.  Madelyne loves to go outside so she immediately jumped up.  The tears stopped falling and a smile replaced her frown.  She was confused as to why she was wearing rain boots instead of her tennis shoes, but I told her it was a surprise.  She took my hand, we waved good-bye to Grandma and we started on our walk.

It had rained the night before and I knew there were going to be puddles on our walk.  When we got to the first puddle, Madelyne started to walk around it because that’s what I usually tell her to do.  This walk, however, was different.  I jumped smack dab right in the middle of the puddle.  Water splashed everywhere – our boots, pants and even on Madelyne’s jacket.

“Mommy,” Madelyne said, “We have to go home now and change our pants because they are wet.”
“You know what, Pooks?”  (My pet name for Madelyne is Pookie sometimes shortened to Pooks) “We’re going to dance in the puddles today.”  So I continued to dance.
Madelyne stuck one booted foot in the puddle.  She looked at me, her eyes questioning.  I smiled.  She took a few steps back and then leaped into the puddle.

“We’re dancing in the puddle!”  Madelyne exclaimed.
“We’re dancing in the puddle!”  I exclaimed.
“And it’s okay if our pants get wet!”  Madelyne yelled.
“And it’s okay if our boots get wet!”  I yelled.
“Because we can always change them when we get home!”  Madelyne screamed.
“Because today we are dancing in the puddles!”  I screamed as we twirled around.

When we were a couple of houses away from home, Madelyne told me how much fun she had on our walk:
“I love taking walks with you, Mommy.”
“I love taking walks with you too, Pooks.

Madelyne slipped her puddle-soaked hand in mine.  “It’s okay that our pants are wet.”
I smiled and gripped her hand.  “It’s okay.”

We walked up the driveway.  My mom watched us from the window.  She laughed when she saw us in our wet pants.  After I put a new dry pair of pants on Madelyne, she gave me a hug and whispered in my ear, “I love you because you are my mommy.”

As the tears streamed down my face, I whispered, “I love you because you are my Pookie.”

Sometimes, you just need to dance in the puddles.