Butterfinger Binge

Yup.

So I had my Big Girl Pants conversation, and it was fine, and then I wondered if I had set strong ENOUGH boundaries, and what would happen next. Leading this task force means that we’ll need to make some decisions, and they feel like either/or.

Either I will get what I want, OR a coworker I like and respect will get what they want. Either we will do things the right way, OR we will make a horrible, horrible decision, and everyone will find out that we really don’t know what we’re doing, and we are making all of this up. And they will know that we were out sick that day in Kindergarten when the teacher shared the secrets to life and how to be a good adult, and we totally missed out on that. Or at least I did.

In the midst of this, I’m trying to take my thoughts to inquiry, to question them, or to just be the voice of the angel on my own shoulder. (Because that devil has really gotten to be a pro over the last 30-plus years.) Because, well, I still worry.

Not EVERY minute of the day.

Just, you know, almost every minute of the day.

But living BIG doesn’t mean living EASY. And I am still amazing at my job. And I am still a woman of great worth. And I am still a divine soul learning the lessons of this life and trying to achieve my purpose. So I’d better at least start faking it ‘til I make it, because I have THINGS to do.

Like Homework

Last night, those THINGS included writing a paper for my MBA, and picking up dinner, and booking travel for a personal trip next week. (To a BOOK-WRITING SEMINAR, yaaay!)

So, since I am a divine soul who deserves to eat whatever she wants, I thought I would calm the storm inside and distract myself from the crappiness of paper-writing by eating a buttload of Butterfingers. Because I can do that. And, thankfully, I bought a bunch of Halloween candy for the neighborhood children and a bag of Butterfingers just for myself.

So I ate, and I ate, and I ate, because I wanted to. Because only I can make choices about what goes in my body. And in the end, it doesn’t really matter anyway, right?

Right. Except then I felt all gross. Overly full and sleepy and lethargic. It was totally unfair, and I could see where I got a little lost. Not wrong, just not where I wanted to be. Not in the “feeling good and healthy and energetic” zone.

As the Great Saint Anne Lamott once wrote, “It’s hard to remember that you are a cherished spiritual being when you’re burping up apple fritters and Cheetos.”

So I took good care of myself—I finished up my paper and took a long, hot shower, and put myself to bed. Because sometimes putting yourself to bed is the most spiritual action you can take.

My Coffee Can Plan

Do no harm, but take no shit

Reason 8,543 to love NPR.

I have continued to feel all good and all badassy today. Buuuut. . .I’ve still had some mud to slog through. Namely, three assignments due in the latest class (Marketing) for my MBA.

This has handed me a golden opportunity to test my, “I don’t give a shit” big-plan attitude. Of course this doesn’t mean that I don’t care, that I don’t want to do things well, that I don’t want to succeed.

I want to do all those things. But I don’t HAVE to.

I made an 82 on my Marketing quiz today. I think this is partially because I had time to read less than a quarter of the assignments this week. But it doesn’t really matter WHY. Because you know what that grade means about me?

The same thing that not eating a bundt cake sample meant yesterday. Absolutely fucking nothing.

I’m not done yet, though. This class is mostly group work (insert groaning, wailing, and gnashing of teeth here). We have a conference call at 8 o’clock tonight. So miles to go before I rest.

First, a Short Interlude

But I did give myself permission to take a short break this afternoon, and I watched Part I of Liz Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday.

And just about everything she said resonated with me. Liz talked about the hero’s journey. She talked about quests. And she told a story about what to do if circumstances in your life keep you from questing just yet.

You can watch it here. (Seriously, we’re not going anywhere. Go ahead.)

Okay, so if you are in a loud place or can’t watch it at work or whatever, I’ll summarize. Liz told a story of a woman in the ‘50s who got married at 18, had 5 children in 10 years, and whose husband just up and left her one day. When this happened, her oldest was 10 years old, and her youngest was 2 months. The woman had only a high school education, and had woken up one day as the sole provider for her family.

But that very day, she made a plan, and she started a practice. She put $1 in a coffee can every day, investing in a future when her life would not be so sad, so full of depression. When she would see the world.

She put $1 in a coffee can every day. Even though her family was always desperate for money. She knew that $1 a day wouldn’t break them. And when the youngest child left the house, 20 years later, she cashed in her coffee cans and sailed around the world, like she told herself she would. 

Liz said, “You might not be able to begin your quest today, but you’ve got to get your plan. Get your coffee cans going.”

Second, a Coffee Can Plan

So, friends, while I struggle through an MBA and a more-than-full-time job, here’s the beginning of my plan:

1. I will continue not taking everything so fucking seriously. Not every single solitary thing in my life defines my worth. In fact, really, none of them do.

I’ll still want what I want. I’ll still dream my big dreams. But I will not ascribe so much power to every silly thing. I will practice what Martha Beck calls intention-attention-no tension. I will focus on what I want, I will imagine it in as much detail as possible, and then I will let. It. Go.

2. Write. I want to write a book some day. Because while I would love for that to make me rich and famous (and it could), what I want more is to help other women find the light. That light in them that whispers softly, “You are beautiful. You are more than your life circumstances. And you deserve to be happy. Today. Right now. Not when the kids are out of the house. Not when you lose 20 pounds. This very second.” I want to go all Liz Gilbert on everybody.

So I will write SOMETHING at least every week. (Blog posts totally count.)

3. Speak. One of my other big, hairy, audacious goals is to give a TED talk. Speaking is something I’m good at, and also something that scares the pee out of me. It’s exhilarating and frightening all at the same time, and I want to do more of it. So I’ll seek it out and bring my A game.

And when I end up flailing and saying “buttload” to a group of CEOs, I’ll turn it into blog fodder.

4. Tomorrow, I will start kicking butt and taking names at work. I’ll tell that guy that it’s great that he wants to call together a committee to look at my stuff. Really. But since I head up this area, I’ll be co-leading it with him, thankyouverymuch. And I will not worry about the outcome of that conversation or the task force. Because it means nothing about me.

I’ll also have at least 1 conversation I really need to have. It probably won’t be fun, but it needs to happen.

And I’ll make plans for another conversation like that in the coming weeks. (I just need to arrange some other things first.)

First Work, Then the World

See? I told you that seatbelts needed to be on for this one. Now that I’ve let you in on my innermost depths, what’s your Coffee Can Plan? Feel free to share in the comments below. Or Facebook message me. Or write it down and put it in your God Box.

Just do something, yes?

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Following the Rules

Part of Abby’s Epic Adventure has recently included trying to show up more as my authentic self. That sounds like it should be really easy, but it turns out that my authentic self (my real, eat-all-the-cupcakes-when-no-one-is-looking-self, my true Love Ninja self) has gotten buried by decades of shoulds. Things like, “I should wear a dress today, because it’s more professional,” or “I should pass on dessert because my tummy roll is getting aggressive” or “I shouldn’t tell her that women who claim to LOVE cardio exercise are not getting into heaven because no one can stand them, because then she won’t like me anymore.”

I’ve been seriously shoulding all over myself.

Dropping that mess and uncovering the real me has been a process. I mean, I don’t expect to wake up and discover that I like camping or anything crazy like that. But I am learning that I can let the real me out to play more. . .slowly. . .and it can be a really fun thing.

And, you know, sometimes it gets in the way.

I’m sorry, but your authentic self is showing

This morning, an important committee I lead made a presentation to some really important people in our organization—the regional CEOs of our hospitals, their boss (our company’s COO) and one or two corporate Senior Vice Presidents. I work for a Catholic, non-profit health system, so we’re pretty conservative. And some of those people are SUPER conservative.

I was up in front of them with my pretty slides, trying to prey on their comparison flaw by telling them that the for-profit hospital systems were all doing what we were asking them to do, so they should do it, too.

I said, “They’re making a BUTTLOAD of money at it.” [Slight pause, silence in the room.]

“I mean. . .a BUCKETload.” [Explosion of laughter.]

I got a bit flustered, then recovered by talkingreallyfast and passing the Clicker of Great Power over to one of my co-presenters.

Now, I know what you’re thinking—in your organization, this would not be a big deal.  Probably no one would notice.  Your boss has definitely said worse things to you in front of other people.

But you have to remember that my company is basically run by Nuns, and these gals have some pretty clear rules. For instance, we only recently dropped the mandatory pantyhose clause from our dresscode.

In my company, we don’t really use vaguely inappropriate language in front of groups. We absolutely don’t curse, we don’t wear heels over 4 inches high, and we don’t say butt. I was pretty embarrassed—after all, it’s my job to coach executives on how to give speeches—but I figured everyone had forgotten about it, and we’d all move on. (Ahem, did you just read, “I teach people how to give presentations, so I should be perfect at them” here? Because I totally did.)

However, on the way out of the meeting, one of the SVPs stopped me to tease me about it, and we shared a few good laughs.

When I got back to my office, I had an email from the COO. The subject line was, “I think we should change our strategy,” and the body of the message said, “To ‘We want to make a buttload of money.’ “

I laughed out loud, then wrote him back and agreed that he had just shared a freakin’ great idea.

So, perhaps, it’s okay to show my authentic self (even when I don’t necessarily try to). My Inbox certainly gets more interesting when I do.

You know, assuming I can get through the buttload of stupid emails first.

When Your Supernatural Helpers Need Supernatural Help

Today, I am sad. And I’m thinking a lot about the helpers in my life.

Joseph Campbell is famous for investigating many hero myths from many cultures and distilling a pattern from them. This pattern, often called “The Hero’s Journey” can be broken down into about 15 steps. (And to prove I’m not making this up, I’ll cite Wikipedia to support my credibility.)

First, the hero receives a call to adventure. And then, naturally, the hero refuses that call—because adventure sounds scary and it might mess up her hair, or require a bathing suit, and she hasn’t tried on one of those since 1989.

Then, eventually, she finds an elastic hair band and her ancient one piece, sucks it up, and begins her quest. She is almost immediately met by a guide/magical helper who provides supernatural aid.

And this is where today’s thoughts come in.

My Freshman year of college, one of my best friends lost both her grandparents—who she was very close to—in a car crash. I was totally distraught that I couldn’t rush home and be with her, so I called my student mentor, who faithfully drove over to my dorm, picked me up, and listen compassionately while I ugly cried/snotted in his car. And somehow, I felt better afterward (if a bit more congested and red-faced).

That mentor happens to be Kent Brantly, who has been all over the news, as he recently contracted Ebola in Liberia, where he and his wife were serving as medical missionaries. I’ve been sending him healing thoughts, and I’m sure many of you have as well. I will forever be grateful for what probably appeared to him like mundane support, but to me felt like supernatural aid.

I’ve also been thinking about my buddy Karla, who we learned passed away this weekend. Karla was just a few years older than me, but was truly a legend in my mind.

When I was a teenager, I was gawky and awkward, with a face full of pimples, a mouth full of braces, and huge hair. (Please, everyone, talk to your daughters about the purpose of mousse.) I never felt like I really fit in anywhere, and Karla was one of the cool older kids in my youth group and at my school. She took me under her wing and adopted me, taught me important life lessons like “Boys are stupid,” and made me feel cool.

When I didn’t see anything worthwhile about myself, Karla did, and she nurtured it. I owe her for her supernatural aid as well.

So I’m sad today, after such devastating news. And this is the time to be sad. I even sent myself home early from work today, which is kid of shocking.

But the beautiful part about all of this is that the hero’s journey continues. Campbell says that “One has only to know and trust, and the ageless guardians will appear.”

And after that, the hero crosses over the threshold into adventure, separating from her known world and journeying into the unknown.

Onward.

How to lose 5 lbs. in no time

I came across a major breakthrough in weight loss a while back when I was working intently with a “weight shift” life coach. (Who I would highly recommend, btw.)

After writing down and sending in each and every thing I ate for weeks, along with how hungry I was when I started eating and how hungry I was when I stopped, then answering a whole bunch of really hard questions about eating and emotions. . .I was pretty sure I had lost a few pounds.

I wasn’t exactly sure, because our scale is totally unreliable, and because I don’t get on scales much. I subscribe to Anne Lamott’s theory that getting on a scale is like asking Dick Cheney to grade your inner soul. And that diets make you fat and crazy 99% of the time.

These things never turn out well for you.  Or Dick Cheney, actually.

Anyhow, I digress. I was feeling a bit cocky, so I decided to try on some dress pants that had been unbearably tight a few weeks before. The pants and I had become mortal enemies because I had to unbutton them as I got in the car to drive home from work, now facing a long road of shame and ice cream cravings.

So I put on the offending pants as I got ready for work. . .and they were incredibly loose! I must have lost at least 5 pounds!

I did the touchdown dance and marveled at my success as I finished getting ready. Hey, this coaching thing really works!

And then, I got into my car to drive to work . .and noticed the secret to my success. Apparently, although I had zipped the pants, I hadn’t buttoned them. No WONDER they felt so loose.

When I buttoned them, they were only slightly uncomfortable, which I STILL counted as a major improvement!

Mindless dressing FTW!

That’s a stupid name for a blog.

Sorry if you thought this was a home-improvement blog. It’s really a self-improvement blog.

I know the name’s deceiving; I really tried to name it something gentle and spiritual to signify my quest to become truly zen and a fully-realized Ninja of Love.

But that just didn’t feel quite right. Almost like pantyhose—it looked nice, but kept cutting into my waist and ladybits.

So, instead, I named it after the phrase I usually shout in my head when I’ve encountered obstacles on my journey to accomplish something HUGE like getting CEOs to agree on a communication plan or installing a case on my cell phone.  I tend to try harder, push through, and attempt to bend circumstances to my will by pure force.

However, I usually end up tired and frustrated. Much like when I was seven, furious about a grave injustice. I would vow to teach my 11-year-old brother a lesson, and charge straight at him with all the force my tiny 90-pound body could muster. Regardless of my naïve enthusiasm, though, this stunt never ended in victory, but instead in him palming my head, holding me out at arm’s length as I pummeled the air.

Unfortunately, this stunt still doesn’t work. . .on CEOs, cell phones, or my brother. So I’m in search of another way.

Wanna join me? I can’t promise regular posts, but I can promise flailing, yelling, and the appearance of some Snarky Love Ninjas.

We may not find enlightenment, but if we find truly tasty, healthy, calorie-free chocolate, that will be enough for me.