A Love Letter to the Women who Work for me

Photo by katrinaelsi, https://www.flickr.com/photos/lyrabellacqua/2413965754/

Photo by katrinaelsi, https://www.flickr.com/photos/lyrabellacqua/2413965754/

Ugh. Y’all. I tried really hard not to write this thing, because it is so stereotypically female and EMOTIONAL. God forbid. Corporate leaders are not supposed to be emotional.

But bless your hearts, you didn’t get the perfect corporate leader, you got me.

And I’ve known I needed to write this blog post since Monday. I swear, I’ve been running from it, trying to shove it down and sit on it so I can’t hear it any more, and covering it up with distractions when necessary. But it keeps finding me in inadvertent moments of silence—when I’m walking to a meeting, lying in bed, or in the shower.

It even followed me home tonight, threatening to beat me up and hold me down, standing on my chest to keep me awake all hours until I wrote this.  And you, of all the people in the world, know how grumpy and useless I am when I don’t get enough sleep. So for the good of all that is sacred and holy, I’m writing this down so I can rest.

So here goes.

Since one of you experienced some personal sadness this week, I’ve been trying to figure out the proper Boss Response. How should Super Boss respond to the kind of sadness that they don’t make sympathy cards for, but that still invades your daily activities? I hate to admit that I have no idea.

I’ve also been trying to figure out the proper Human Response to your personal sadness, but I haven’t come up with much there, either.   (I blame my college registrar for failing to ensure that I took the Adulting 101 Course; I secretly feel that everyone else in the world mastered the curriculum, while I still regularly try to figure out what my face should be doing when someone is telling me a boring story.)

And as I consider this conundrum, I’ve been walking past your desks and wishing you could see yourselves the way I do. I wonder what would be different if you truly understood how beautiful, how brilliant, how amazing you are.

Look, I get it. You’re not perfect, and neither am I. We all have things we need to work on, our very own “opportunities for improvement.” But this letter isn’t about those things, because I have a feeling that most of you are well aware of what your particular “opportunities” are.

But I wonder how our company would be different if you strode into work every day understanding your true value, your full power. What if you swept in, sure of your abilities and unique skills, ready to tackle the big, important problems of our industry and organization, unfazed by the various personalities that sometimes make our work difficult (if not a momentary pain in the ass)? What if you truly knew how important you are?

So, for your sake and our work’s sake, I want to tell you what I really think about you.

To The One Who Works Off Site, I wish you could see how EVERYONE who meets you falls in love with you instantly. You should have seen all the gushing emails I received about you when you were brand new! You may not be crushing each and every goal, but you are achieving so many of them that we keep having to move the goal posts. You have so many amazing gifts, and you need to be sharing them in other ways than just the work you do for us. Write that book, baby. You need to write it and we need to read it. (Even if it is incredibly gory.) It will still change the world.

To The Newest Mom, I want you to know that you are doing a great job. I know the kind of product you turn out at work, so I am entirely confident that you are a spectacular mom at home. We are all in awe of your “customer service” abilities, including the way you keep a sweet and easy tone with people who are verbally berating you. But let me tell you that people don’t like you just because you’re nice and pretty and funny and snarky. They like you because you are YOU. So please breathe easy. You are doing enough. You have done enough. You ARE enough.

To The Newest Member of the Team, I wish you, especially, could see yourself through everyone else’s eyes. You don’t need to eat a can of green beans for lunch every day to feel good about yourself—you are literally gorgeous. And you don’t have to question your ideas. They’re always grand and lovely and just barely out of reach. (And those, of course, are the best kind.) We tease you about burying the lead, but you are amazing at what you do because you have a killer journalist instinct. Thank you for always finding a pitchable spin on the things someone wants us to publicize but that I am repeatedly sure no one will care about. (The snoozers.) You are kicking butt here.

And To The One Who Always Looks On The Bright Side, thank you for being the calm and steady voice of reason and regular provider of snark. When I am sure that Those People are all idiots and just maliciously, purposefully stupid, you find a way to make me laugh and lighten up. You have spot-on insights and a stellar judgment muscle. I am so proud of the BIG STEPS you’ve taken this year and the future development you’ve set yourself up for. You’ve been considering these things for a while, and now you’re DOING them! Great things are starting and moving and happening, and you deserve each one of them and more.

I wish you all could see how incredibly gorgeous each and every one of you is. And I don’t mean in a “she has a beautiful soul” kind of way or a “her personality makes her pretty” sense. I mean in a real, physical, you-are-beautiful kind of way. I see you over 71% of the days in the week, so I know what you look like. And you look amazing. (And even if I don’t see you daily, I regularly see you when you’ve rolled out of bed at 3 a.m., and if you can look THAT good on THAT little sleep, I feel confident that you look amazing daily.)

Ladies, I’ve been with our company for 10-and-a-half years, and I’ve done a lot of BIG things. The latest project I’ve taken on has been really financially successful and incredibly important for our organization in every domestic region we serve. But I can tell you, hands down, that hiring all of you is the best thing I’ve done here.

So when you come in to work in the morning, hold your head high. Sweep in like the Queen of Health Care that you are. Our company will only benefit from women like you operating at the absolute top of their game.

And you know what? Our world needs it, too.

Tomorrow, remind me to tell you the story about how I got promoted to my first executive position and questioned it every step of the way.

I even called the new VP of HR and told her that I wasn’t sure my boss should’ve promoted me.

Looking at it now, I know why I reacted that way, and one BIG REASON was that I didn’t really believe in myself. I was so preoccupied with all the things I wasn’t that I missed all the things I was.

And the truth was that I had been doing executive-level work for many, many years. I earned that position.

But I don’t want that to happen to any of you. That’s why I make each of you brag on yourselves at our weekly team meeting—because I don’t want you to miss any opportunities to recognize and internalize all the amazing things you’re doing.

I am, though, definitely bringing a balance sheet to one of our future meetings. I’m SERIOUS about all of you learning budgets, whether you like it or not. You shouldn’t have to learn it the hard way like I did.

Regardless, though, I want you to learn just how spectacular you are.

So keep doing what you’re doing, but please just do it with the firm understanding that You. Are. Amazing.

And I’m so lucky to be your boss.

On Being a Man

This afternoon, I’m simultaneously finishing a chapter of my book (more to come on that later), doing laundry and baking a beautiful breakfast I can eat quickly each morning this week.

A few years ago, doing all this at once would have made me completely overwhelmed, stressed and frazzled.

But it doesn’t today.

Instead, I am completing each task slowly, giving it all the attention it deserves.

Y’all, I am taking SUCH GOOD care of myself. Because I know what it’s like to strive for perfection, to feel like nothing I do is ever good enough, to work myself into a trip to the ER because I can’t stop and allow myself to rest.

But last year, I worked with an amazing coach who would listen to me tick off the things on my list, the schoolwork and the work work and the things around the house that weren’t getting done because of the two things above, and she’d let me FREAK OUT about it, and then she’d stop me gently. And she would point out all the things I was totally KILLING at the moment—the papers I wrote every weekend that were earning As even though I hadn’t cracked a book, the big project I’d just finished at work, the fact that I hadn’t punched that VP guy in the face, and the beautiful space I was creating for myself in our home. Before I could rush off into all the things that weren’t getting done, she would call attention to all the amazing things that were.

And then I was forced to admit that I really was accomplishing some spectacular things.

So it seems appropriate to be writing about all of this on Valentine’s Day, the day of love, because stopping to appreciate myself, pausing to celebrate my accomplishments and lavishing positive attention on myself are key to the process of escaping self-flagellation.

Last year, my main Core Desired Feeling was Fierce, and I definitely found myself having many, many opportunities to embody that. Almost weekly, I had to reach into my pocket and pull out my ferocity.

That got really old really fast, however. In the Fall, I told my therapist that I felt like I was going around stabbing people with a spear. (For their own good of course. They totally needed it. But I was having more Come to Jesus conversations and taking control of more things than I’d like.) And I told her that I was done with fierce, and my Core Desired Feeling for 2016 would be something softer, like Pretty.

But in the end, I chose something else. Because Pretty is nice, but it doesn’t sound like it gets much done, and I still had a lot to do. So instead, I selected Shakti, the embodiment of the divine feminine.

I know now that I can be fierce, that I can push through like a masculine sombitch.

But being fierce ALL THE TIME makes me really tired. And especially cranky, because I think grownups should handle their OWN STUFF.

So this year, I’m working to balance that masculine fire energy with Shakti, the divine feminine, the flowing water energy. Shakti gets stuff done, moves mountains and creates canyons and erodes beaches, but she does it her own way, on her own time.

I want to temper that DO ALL THE THINGS push with the WHAT THINGS WANT TO BE DONE question. Since I can’t do ALL the things, choosing the ones that are ready seems to be a very wise place to start.

One of those is the book I’m working on, which I’ll hopefully be sharing more about this year. You may see some other changes too, like a new email list and some other things that will help me “build a platform” so I can sell the book when I finally finish it.

breakfastBut for now, I’m going to sample this beautiful and fierce breakfast and give thanks to Shakti that it will be waiting for me all week long.

Paris, Beirut, and True Safety

A Facebook friend posted his thoughts about the Paris attacks yesterday, lamenting that he felt torn between nuke all the bastards and peace is the only way. I wrote most of this last night, and amended it just a bit—he’s a pastor, so it’s decidedly Christian, even though Christians are really pissing me off right now. Or maybe BECAUSE they’re pissing me off right now.

Anyway, his words really helped me frame an issue I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, about how we should respond to violence in Paris and Beirut. On one hand, it seems like our country’s original mucking around in the Middle East contributed to conditions that allowed terror groups to flourish there. On the other, how could we let violence persist by just leaving it alone to grow?

So what do we choose? Which side are we on? Pacificism or war?

The more I think about this, though, the more I think it’s a false choice. We believe the choice is between military action and the safety it will bring or pacifism/”no action” and the danger or risk that it will bring.

But I don’t think this is the case. In fact, I think this is really what the gospels are about. Jesus seems to be repeatedly reminding us that safety does not come from position or power or money or possessions. It also does not come from following the rules perfectly, which the Pharisees seemed pretty attached to.

But there is no such thing as safety. Your son could be immaculately conceived and still wander off when you’re not looking, scaring the crap out of you, and then be kind of a jerk about it. You could be the son of God and still get slaughtered and tortured and mocked. You could pledge your unending allegiance to Jesus and then take it back repeatedly while a lot of people are watching.

Your five-year-old nephew could get diagnosed with leukemia and die a few days after his seventh birthday, even if his parents fed him a mostly organic diet and ensured he didn’t do anything really risky or stupid. You could save for retirement and do all the right and safe things, only to watch it all go away in a stock market crash.

Nope. Safety can’t be earned or achieved or even promised. You can’t create it by following enough of the rules. This is why the Buddhists teach non-attachment, because attachment to things or outcomes or even safety brings suffering.

Instead, safety comes from realizing that every day, almost every moment, brings the opportunity to choose between love and grace or the rules we think keep us safe. It comes from understanding that this love and grace starts with accepting ourselves, and then flows out to loving and graceful actions to others. Because unless you understand that you are fundamentally okay, you can’t extend that grace to others. You can’t sustainably flirt with old people at the grocery store, or to donate to organizations that support refugees or effectively raise foster children or forgive your enemies. You have to understand that you’re okay today and you’ll be just as okay tomorrow whether you get what you want or not. You’ll be held and supported and loved then just as you are now, in this moment.

That’s safety—the freedom that comes from understanding that nothing is permanent and therefore, nothing is really safe.

And since nothing is really safe, then everything is safe.

I’m not advocating for frolicking down dark alleys—safety and stupidity are two different things. But I am saying that since you can’t earn safety, you can, finally, be safe just as you are.

Only Natural

Also known as: officially coming out of the Closet

It is pretty well known that I do not really “like” nature. It’s dirty, there are bugs out there, and above all, the temperature is usually all wrong. Camping is akin to torture for me, because there are few things I want to do less than hang around outside, especially if sweating or discomfort is involved in any way.

It’s funny, then, that I’ve been drawn out into nature lately. I’ve been walking for hours outside in the summer heat of Texas. Why in the world would I want to torture myself by wandering around outside in the hottest part of the year, sweating like a pig because it’s hot as balls?

Well, there are a few answers to that ridiculous question.

First, because it keeps paying off. The first time I followed that weird tug to go walking around the neighborhood when the heat index was over 100 degrees, I wandered into a grove of trees and wound my way past some small, muddy ponds to a bigger, only slightly less muddy pond with a beautiful fountain in the middle.

I’d visited this pond before (although, admittedly, not when it was quite so hot outside). But I had never noticed a little bridge that serves as a walkway over the pond and the creek running from it.

As I walked over it, I saw a praying mantis on the bridge railing, which I consider a sacred symbol.

I didn’t know then that praying mantises actually live in Texas, and that they are fairly common and a friend of many a gardener. All I knew was that the praying mantis is a symbol for the sacred, the shaman, for God, the inner knowing. To me, that praying mantis was a big, freaking deal. It meant that not only was I in the right place, but that the place I was in was holy, divine, and special. That I was supposed to be here.

Mississippi Kite. (Look closely).

Mississippi Kite. (Look closely).

Since then, I continue to see amazing things on my walk. For instance, that muddy water is actually full of life, of fish and turtles and tadpoles, but you have to be still and watch before you can see any of that beneath the fine layer of muck. I often run into squirrels or cottontail bunnies or ducks. I’m learning to tell the difference between the call of the Cardinal and the call of the Mockingbird. And I now know what a Mississippi Kite looks like (in addition to the fact that it eats large bugs). Every time I take that walk, I see something new or exciting or vibrant and energetic.

Second, and on a related note, it’s my church.

Most people I know, whether they are religious or not, believe in a higher power of some sort. So do I. While I do not exactly believe in the vengeful God of the Old Testament or the all-powerful God of the New, I do believe that at the center of the Universe lies a divine, powerful love that connects us all.

I also believe that we all have guides who have chosen to join us in this lifetime to help us learn the lessons we came here to learn and to live the biggest lives we possibly can. Some people call them spirit guides, guardian angels, the higher self, the ancestors, or God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit. I call mine the Board of Directors or, sometimes, “the committee,” and I think they are all of the above.

When I’m quiet, or in trouble, I often hear them speaking to me. (No, not like voices in my head, although sometimes it probably appears that way.) I hear a voice that sounds just like another thought, but I can tell that it’s not coming from what I consider “me.”

Lots of people have had this experience when scared, or lost somewhere, or just trying to make a big decision. They get an insight, or a thought from somewhere else, and they follow it because it just feels right. Sometimes this happens to me when I’m driving, and I know that car on my left-hand-side is going to try to move into my lane while I’m still in it. Or when I’m trying to locate a new address, and my GPS isn’t updating fast enough; somehow, I know where to turn and when.

The Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary.

The first time I took that walk out to the bridge, I heard that same voice as I approached the grove of trees. It indicated that this was a sanctuary. (It also indicated that I should NOT WALK SO FAST, DAMNIT. SLOW DOWN.) Perhaps it didn’t use those exact words, but I got the picture.

NO, REALLY, SLOW DOWN. YOU WALK FAST NATURALLY. WE DON’T MEAN SLOW FOR YOU. WE MEAN SLOW. THIS IS A SACRED PLACE. SLOW DOWN AND PAY ATTENTION.

Okay, so maybe I didn’t get the picture immediately, but I got it eventually.

I slow down when I enter the sanctuary, and keep that pace as I approach the bridge, which I consider the Holiest of Holies.

And third, it helps me deepen my intuition.

Many gurus say the same thing: if you want to hear that voice more often, you should go out in nature. You should meditate. You should feed your body only the things it wants. You should stop and take breaks in your day to listen.

It appears that I am moving on all of those fronts (more on that some other time), and the trips out into nature are just one step in a journey of many. They aren’t the first steps, but they wouldn’t be possible without all those before it.

And they are more important to me now, as I think using my intuition, my ability to read people and hear the truth that lies 10 layers underneath what’s being said, will be key in what lies ahead for me where my career is concerned.

So as I finish my highly analytical MBA, I’m also beginning to turn within and to listen more often, more reliably. I’m working to strengthen my Right brain in addition to my high-functioning Left. I think most of you knew I was pretty woo already, but it was time to start the process of coming out of the closet.

After all, everyone has a sixth sense, so tuning in to mine is really only natural.

Hustling for Worth, Part 1

Drawn by Mr. Abby.

Drawn by Mr. Abby.

A few weeks ago, I was listening to a recording from the “stop fighting food” class I loved, and the coach said something that really changed things for me. Because she was so, so, totally wrong.

She said something like, “The premise of pretty much every religion is this: How do I feel okay, just as I am, now? How do I know, in every moment, that I’m okay?”

And I thought, “What kind of religion did you grow up in?! Were you raised by Richard Gere or Buddhist monks or The Dude?”

Don’t get me wrong, I was raised in a loving family that was closely tied to a (mostly) supportive church family. But the whole church culture—while it gave me many things—did not teach me that I was fine, just as I was. It taught me that I was a horrible sinner, and I needed saving.

Thank goodness Jesus could save me, as long as I did all the right things—got baptized, knew I was saved by grace, and kept up the good works. And I’d also have to behave. Like ALL. THE. TIME. I’d have to spend half my week at church, and not have sex out of wedlock, and memorize my Bible, and not be gay, and do well in school, and did I mention not having sex?

Luckily for me, I was pretty good at behaving, but I was also very good and knowing what everyone else should be doing, and shoulding myself to death in the process.

This is when I learned a skill that I like to call, “Hustling for worth,” which is the exact opposite of knowing you’re fine.

Hustling for Worth

worth2Since I was bad and needed saving, I needed a ruler of some sort—some kind of measuring device to make sure I was okay, making progress, on the path. I mean, I talked to Jesus all the time, but I couldn’t hear him in return, so I needed something else.

Therefore, I developed an intricate, subconscious rating system. I was okay as long as I:

  • Didn’t get pregnant (Luckily, I’m still winning at this one),
  • Was attractive but not slutty
  • Conformed to expectations about what to wear, what to look like, what to say, how to be, etc.
  • Was thought of well by everyone else
  • Had the right friends
  • Did well in school
  • Conformed to cultural expectations about what my body should look like
  • Went to the RIGHT church 3 times a week (or more)
  • Spoke up for myself but wasn’t bossy
  • Was perceived as smart
  • Chose the right career
  • Made a lot of money but gave a good amount of it to the poor
  • Was amazing but humble
  • Agreed with major forms of authority
  • Gained enough weight to have boobs and a not-so-flat butt, but not enough that I got a tummy
  • Was feminine but not so girly that I was whiny
  • Married the right guy
  • Had a personal relationship with God
  • Was never wrong
  • Could express emotion without really feeling it
  • Was witty but not too funny
  • Never learned to curse
  • Sponsored a child in a third-world country and wrote her a letter every week
  • Etc.

This is the highly abbreviated list; I’m sure you can think of plenty of your own. And just reading this brief selection makes it clear that I have lived most of my life outside of myself—trying to decide what some other person wanted me to be and then just subtly leaning that way a bit. (Not in major ways, because those girls are hella needy.)

Unfortunately, I think this is the case for most women, but it stops here for me.

I’m not exactly sure what the answer to this issue is, but I’m trying some experiments that might help us out here. Some of them involve liberal applications of ice cream, while others involve not trying so effing hard.

So stay tuned, and maybe I’ll manage to create my very own measurement system that actually works.

Hey, Coworkers: I’m Really, Truly, not at all Pregnant

So remember that one time when someone asked me if I was pregnant, and I wasn’t, and we all had a good laugh about it?

No, me either.

But I do remember that time when I told my health coach that the worst thing that could happen if I gained weight was that people would think I was pregnant. And then, of course, 2 weeks later, someone asked me if I was pregnant. (Um, no.)

And it sucked, but we got through it.

So, of course, it happened again.

SERIOUSLY. NOT PREGNANT.

Earlier this week, I was walking a new coworker around the office, introducing her to people on our floor. When we got to the other side of the building, we walked to the far corner so I could introduce her to someone I thought she’d need to work with often.

As we got around that corner, a woman who works on that side of the building started YELLING excitedly at me. (This was, of course, not necessary. This building is almost entirely open concept, so I could’ve heard her perfectly if she had been 5 feet away, instead of 15.)

“ABBY!” she screamed. “LOOK AT YOU! YOU’RE PREGNANT, AREN’T YOU?” (Insert international pantomiming motion for pregnant belly here.)

“No,” I said, walking over to her. “I’m not.” (Insert me working really hard to not show her the international hand gesture for “fuck you” here.)

“YES YOU ARE!” she said. “I CAN ALWAYS TELL! YOU JUST HAVE THAT GLOW ABOUT YOU, AND YOU’RE SO PREGNANT.”

“No,” I said, “But you’re going to be really embarrassed in nine months.”

“OH, YOU TOTALLY ARE. I CAN ALWAYS TELL. YOU JUST HAVE THAT GLOW, AND YOU LOOK SO HAPPY, AND YOU ARE DEFINITELY PREGNANT.”

Well, then, what more is there to say? Plus, there was obviously not another way to avoid belligerent yelling about my body, so we left.

Later, my coworker came over and asked, “So, do y’all have a pregnancy joke, or was she really not getting it?”

Um, the latter.

Put Down the Onesies and WALK AWAY

Therefore, I feel compelled to clear this up for everyone: I do not intend to get pregnant any time soon. (If at all.) I get it; I’ve been married a little over 3 years. And because you had a bunch of kids right after you got married, you think that I should, also, be pushing an 8-pound-6-ounce screaming, helpless bundle of joy out of my ladybits.

But ohmigawd, I have shit to do.

Don’t get me wrong—I have the utmost respect for mothers. I think parenting is probably the hardest job that exists, and there is so much effing judgment no matter what you do. (Dads, you do great work, too, but I don’t think you get near as much judginess as the moms do, so after them, you come first, okay?)

I have almost always worked with or for working mothers, and I could not respect them more—they do the hardest job in the world in addition to the job they get paid for, and they almost always feel like they are failing at something. Mothers of the world, you have my deepest respect and admiration.

But that does not mean I am in the process of becoming a mother myself. Or that my plans about motherhood are any of your damn business.

It’s not me, it’s you

And, for that matter, neither is my body. So let’s review, then, the times that it’s okay to comment on someone else’s body.

Never. Nada. Not. At. All.

Seriously, no body talk. Do not comment if someone looks smaller or bigger or taller or shorter or better or worse. Because you don’t know what they’re going through. They could have miscarried or started chemo or just, well, done nothing. Unless it’s your body, it’s none of your damn business.

If you want to give someone a compliment, find something that’s not body-related. Tell them how great their new perm looks, or how much you appreciate that they hold in their flatulence after a big meal of Mexican food, or what a great job they did not strangling the woman who badgered them about being pregnant. There are MANY other nice things to say about people that are not body-related. (This goes double for children.)

If you wouldn’t yell it at the CEO, don’t yell at anyone else. No one would think it was appropriate to yell about a man’s body from halfway across the office. (“HEY BOB, HAVE YOU GAINED SOME WEIGHT?! YOU GOT SOME JUNK IN THE TRUNK GOIN’ ON!”) Therefore, let’s quit doing this to women.

And speaking of men, let’s also quit waiting for men to lead this effort. Trust me, ladies, this is too important to wait around hoping that someone else will do it. This one’s on us.

Let yourself off the hook so you can do that for other women, too. Listen, I don’t feel bad about being tall or having red hair. It has never occurred to me that either of those things made me bad or wrong or unattractive. So why would my weight get that kind of play?

Next Stop: Body Love

And, really, I have to hand it to yelling idiot lady—she was right about one thing. I have been dressing to hide my body because I’m uncomfortable with my new visible belly outline (which my friends call VBO). And I’ve been wearing lots of clothes to camouflage it because I’m not able yet to flaunt it.

My tummy hasn’t appeared because I’m pregnant, but just because this is the size my body is right now. It’s as good as anyone else’s body, and it is kind of the thing that makes life possible for me. That breathing in, breathing out thing couldn’t happen without my body.

So I will try to embrace my tummy, to think of it as pregnant, in a way. Because I’m hoping that THIS is the tummy I’ll have when I learn to love my body, to accept it and honor it as it is today, to bless it as my home in this go-round. THIS tummy will help me birth body acceptance in myself.

And the fact that I don’t have to push anything out of my ladybits to get there is the best part about it.

Travel Restrictions

There are some good things about flying.

There are some good things about flying.

I’m just back from my rest and rejuvenation retreat in Portland, Oregon with my fellow Epic Fucking Badass mentees, and we had a beautiful time bonding over meditation and massages. It’s not every day that you meet more members of your tribe, but I just added another five to mine.

My husband and I stayed over a few days to explore the city, and I’m happy to report that we both loved it. I think he’s ready to pack up all the pets and just move on over, but I’m not so sure that I love rain THAT much.

The crappy part, though, is that we had to go through some airports to get there and back.

I travel a lot for work, but there are still some things that REALLY get to me. I can handle delays and taking off my shoes to walk over the nasty airport floor and airplane bathrooms. But I cannot handle airplane seats that lean back. I will know that I have truly achieved enlightenment when I can sit behind someone in an airplane and not get incredibly pissed when they lean their seat back into my face.

I know it is possible to lean your seat back in an airplane. But just because you CAN do something doesn’t necessarily mean that you should.

For instance, I CAN run up and down the aisle of the airplane naked, farting and yelling obscenities. But this sounds to me like a smelly and drafty endeavor, so I choose to remain in my seat, fully clothed, with some guy’s head in my lap instead, jabbing my knees into his back and violently snapping the seat pocket at random intervals.

I mean, just because something is possible doesn’t mean it is a good idea…

But we got through it. And then we got home, and there were clothes all over the bathroom floor, and I could hardly walk through it, and I started freaking out because I have a jam-packed day of work tomorrow while my body readjusts to Central time, and a huge paper due this weekend, and I got a bit overwhelmed.

My orchid.

My orchid.

But then, I realized: ORCHIDS. I have a plant that was nearly dead, but has decided it would like to keep living inside instead of in the compost pile, and it is beautiful.

So maybe we will get through all if this and come back to fly again. Hopefully without seats that lean back this time. . .

What kind of woman do I want to be?

lionpic

At the start of my EFBA mentorship, my mentor and I spent some time talking about what kind of year I wanted 2015 to be.

I told her about my 5 Core Desired Feelings (fierce, flow, radiant, luxurious, connection), and when she asked me to pick a word/phrase/motto of the year, I chose FIERCE, which I define as “powerful (full of might, strength) + clarity (the quality of being clear); commanding.”

When she asked me how I want to feel this year, what kind of woman I want to be, I said, “Like a mama lion.”

Because while my life is amazing, I’m not entirely thrilled with all of it. I’m tired most of the time, and I have this bad habit of working myself into burnout, of giving too much to everyone else and not sticking to my boundaries.

But I know for a fact that mama lions don’t put up with that stuff.

I had the amazing opportunity to go to Africa in 2014, and I got to see all kinds of animals—giraffes, rhinos, elephants, leopards (my favorite), water buffalo, hippos, etc.

sleepinglionsWe also saw quite a few lions, and they all pretty much looked like this. I learned that lions sleep 15-20 hours a day (so I think I might apply for that job when I’m done with the one I have now).

As we watched, they woke up for a few minutes, and I got to see them interact with other members of the pride; they were generally pretty affectionate, much like my sleepy kitties are with one another.

But everyone knows that you do not want to cross a lion. Lions might be expert resters, but their power is most evident when things need to get done (like hunting), or when someone crosses a line. The momma lion will let her cubs tug at her, she’ll let them play bite, but when this starts to get on her nerves or interfere with her sleeping, she’ll swat at them and go on (or just get up and walk away). She sets a boundary and rests in it.

Unlike me, who sets a boundary and then perseverates. “This is how it is,” I’ll say confidently, like I’m wearing my big girl pants.

And then I’ll go away and think, “OMG, did I set the boundary firmly enough? Did I say the right things? Maybe I was too firm. What if I hurt their feelings? Should I have been more clear? Because if they try to cross the line again, then it might be my fault. OH NO – what if they cross the line again? Clearly that will mean I am a failure. But more than THAT, we’ll have to have this direct and difficult conversation all over again, and I do NOT like conflict. Oh Lord, if I don’t get this right, I will end up alone and unloved, destitute in a van down by the river.” (Don’t ask me why it always ends there, it just does.)

So I would like to be more Mama Lion—more clarity and less agonizing.

To commemorate this, I dug a piece of art out of our guest room that I had bought for another purpose (long story) and took it up to my office. I know it’s not a MAMA lion (based on the mane it is probably more of a DADDY lion), but it still gets the job done.

I see the lion when I walk into my office, and when I’m sitting at my desk, the lion stares back at whoever’s in my guest chair, reminding us all that I am an Epic Fucking Badass.

The one question you never ask a woman

You should totally check out her entire photo shoot.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about food, and it’s about time to get back to my favorite topic.

The Stop Fighting Food Master Class I’ve been in (which I highly recommend; do not hesitate to sign up next year when she offers it again) has taught me many things. First, that living in allowance is not about what I eat, it’s about how I feel about what I eat. It’s about not making myself wrong regardless of what I eat. (When I first heard I should live in allowance, I was all, “Yaaay! Bring on the enchiladas and ice cream!” Then I realized that my body really functions best on salad and red meat. Good thing I am trying not to hate my body, or I would’ve been royally pissed about that one.)

Second, I have learned that perhaps I do not have control over my weight. I have only ever been able to control my weight in short bursts. And then, you know, ice cream and enchiladas happened.

Let me say that once more. I do not have control over my weight. That popping sound you’re hearing is probably my mind being blown again.

I understand that fact can be hard to believe because, well CULTURE. (Notice I did not say “science.”) So I highly recommend stories like this and the work of Linda Bacon, including her book Health at Every Size. It is life-changing.

Any hoo, for the sake of the length of this post, let’s assume we all agree on that one. Also, let’s just agree that women are not afraid of fat because of fat itself, they’re afraid of what they make fat mean. I have learned that when I’m having a “fat feeling,” it’s usually caused by insecurity about something else like my job, whether or not people will like me, or about the horrible things that will happen to me if I wear my hair curly in public. (Seriously, that last one happened just a few days ago.) When I’m worried about fat, it’s almost always about something else in my life that I’m trying to control.

Like that one horrible thing

Before Christmas, one of our executives stopped by my office and conspiratorially asked the one single question that you do not ever ask a woman. Ever.

“Are you pregnant?” she said.

Yeah, THAT sound is probably my heart dropping into my larger-than-it-used-to-be stomach. (And not because I’m pregnant, damnit.)

“No,” I said matter-of-factly. “I’ve just gained some weight recently.” (Note that I resisted the urge to make excuses about how I gained some weight learning to be free of food and living in allowance. That’s big.)

“Oh,” she said, looking a bit shocked, “Well you were feeling bad last weekend at the Christmas party, so I thought, you know, maybe. . .”

I quickly flipped through my memories of the Christmas party, and did not remember feeling bad. Also, it’s flu season, so if I HAD felt poorly, there could have been about 5,476 other causes. I’m going to guess this was a poor excuse for a cover-up.

“No,” I said, “If I felt bad, it was probably the result of spending 17 hours out of my weekend up at the office waiting for the Christmas party to be set up,completed, and then taken apart.”

I honestly don’t remember what either of us said after that. She probably mumbled something and got out of my office ASAP. That’s what I would’ve done.

So mommas don’t let your babies grow up to ask women if they’re pregnant

I admit that the whole conversation really threw me for a loop. I don’t know exactly how much weight I’ve gained since I don’t get on the scale any more, but I bet it’s no more than 5 pounds or so. I just happen to be graced with genes that instruct my body to store fat around my tummy. (Note to self: in next life, opt for body that stores weight in boobs.)

I felt pretty crappy about the whole thing for a while. Getting dressed was even more judgy and difficult than usual.

Until I remembered that this fat feeling was brought to me by yet another insecurity. Here’s what that insecurity sounds like in my head:
What if the people I work with don’t think I’m young and pretty any more? Then they won’t want to work with me, and I won’t ever get promoted again. They’ll all think I’m lazy and undisciplined, and my career will just end here. No one will share any gossip with me, and then I won’t be able to write good communication any more because I won’t know how people are feeling, and I will end up destitute and alone, in a van down by the river.

It’s amazing how deep that river of insecurity runs

But here’s the thing I really hate: as I realize I don’t have control over my weight, I’m also uncovering all sorts of other things over which I have no control. You know, like pretty much EVERYTHING. I can choose my actions, but I cannot predict their outcomes. And I cannot control what other people think about me. There will always be some people who dislike me no matter what I do and some who like me no matter what I do.

I think I’ll hang out with the ones who like me. Especially if they like ice cream and enchiladas.

So if I get asked if I’m pregnant again, I will chose between 2 options:
1. Send them the “I’m not pregnant” photo shoot above and pretend it’s me
2.Respond with, “No. Why? Are you?!”

Other ideas welcome in the comments. 🙂

2015: The Year of Playing Big

eIn my last post, I mentioned that I’ve started a year-long mentorship program to help me fulfill my goal of playing big.

And I’m PUMPED.

Let me introduce you to the Epic Fucking Badass (EFBA) Mentorship.

My mentor is a master certified life coach, grew up as a Missionary’s Kid, and has a blog I LOVE to read. I have a history of paying women to shepherd me along in my Woo-ness, and Anna is High Woo. A Priestess of Woo. Part of the Reformed Woo set. She leads with her gut, her intuition, but she still GETS STUFF DONE.

And she said my blog was “yummy.”

If you want to know more about the EFBA mentorship, you can read about it in one of Anna’s emails.

But if you’re not the clicking-through type, here’s an excerpt:

. . . It’s ALL RELATED. What you wear, how you handle your bills, how you show up in the boardroom, how you talk to your kids. My year-long EFBA Mentorship is the only coaching program I know where you can get support with ALL of it.

It changes EVERYTHING when you have something in place to catch you when you falter.  Someone who will hold the vision for you when you’re too tired or discouraged to do it for yourself.  Someone who pushes you to stick to the path you want– even when it’s hard– so that you GET where you want to go.

I still have never gotten a flaming message in the sky that said, “Hey Anna, you’re supposed to help people with their lives and run a thriving business and write a book! Here’s a grant and some childcare!”

Nope.  I declared it.  But then? There was another crucial step. I lined up the systems, structures, and accountability that would help me get where I wanted to go.  I continue to hire coaches, mentors, consultants. And I write scary checks that make sure I have skin in the game so I don’t walk away when it’s hard.

This year, I’ll talk to Anna every other week, spend some time with her other four mentees at a relaxation retreat and for some horse whispering, and rely on her to help keep me on track. Anna’s really into fierceness and luxury, so I think we’ll work well together.

I’m really hoping she’ll help me decipher what I most want to be when I grow up and help me map out how I might get there. I know that part of this will include sticking to my guns NOW so I can honor the intentions I set for the year.

That’s the foundation I’ll build on for whatever’s in my future (which, thank goodness, is something other than January).