I’ve spent time reflecting on the meaning of words. I started with the word “partner”. I refer to Martin as my partner. We’ve agreed we will never marry, and it seems awkward to call a nearly 60 year old man my ‘boyfriend’. “Partner” fits.
But, it’s more than a noun. What we do is partner – it’s an action. We join together to spend our free time, make decisions, travel, play games, share our lives. It takes effort. I wondered if getting labeled “husband” or “wife”, and forever being a noun, is a hinderance. How do you ‘husband’ or ‘wife’? They aren’t verbs. Partnering is an action and something we choose to do.
It’s the same as “love”. I think, too often, things go wrong when love spends more time as a noun – a thing – rather than an action. When we stop the practice of loving, the noun ceases to exist. It takes effort to keep the noun alive.
This week, I’ve been reflecting on the word “network”. I’m at a stage of life where I have a large, supportive network both personally and professionally. Again, to get to the noun, “network” was first a verb. I had to make the effort to meet people, talk to them, and find a connection.
I know there are some who ‘collect’ people to add to their networks. With social media and LinkedIn, they try to get as many people following them as possible. It’s more about the numbers than the connections.
For me, I need to know the people. There needs to be connection – however tenuous in some cases. Maybe I met them at a conference five years ago and we’ve never seen each other since. Still, we shared time and space. We had a conversation. We had to “network” to become part of a network.
I guess, what comes from my reflection (another noun/verb word), is a reminder to actively work towards the things that are important to me – my partner, my loves, and my work.
I don’t know who originally coined this phrase, but I heard it for the first time today from one of my coworkers. It stuck with me for the remainder of the day.
How many times do we get stalled, sidetracked, or defeated because of a need for perfection? I know I do. On one hand, I’m a “Type A” personality who likes to get things done. On the other hand, I’m a perfectionist. If something is going to be done with my name attached, it needs to be the best of which I’m capable. It’s quite a dichotomy.
At work, my analysis and storyboards need to be thorough enough to give the client a picture of what the training will be, detailed enough for the development team to put it together, and have a flow that is easy for a learner to follow. I’m working on something now that I’ve written and reorganized several times. Every time I look at it, I find something I want to change. If I want to make it perfect for others, it needs to be perfect for me. At some point, I’ll get tired of reworking it and simply want to get it done.
When I was a dog groomer, I had a hard time thinking a dog was ‘done’. There was always a stray hair, wonky curl, or some part needing “just a little more” attention.
When I clean house, I may set out to simply vacuum and wash the floors, and find myself washing baseboards, door frames, and windows.
Many years ago, when stuck in yet another rut because I couldn’t get something as perfect as I wanted it, someone said to me, “Sharon, you have to realize your 80% is someone else’s 100%.” Yeah, but…
It’s one thing to hear and another to put it into practice. I am driven to always produce, what I perceive to be, my best work. Imagine how it felt when one workplace started to use agile methodology. I had to learn the concept of “good enough” and get things out the door quickly so it could be tried and reiterated upon. It was uncomfortable…at first.
It didn’t take long before I started to see things didn’t have to be perfect. In fact, perfection impeded progress. Clients preferred regular updates and offering feedback during development, rather than waiting to see a finished product at the end. It made them feel part of the process and it helped us, ultimately, produce a near-perfect product.
I groomed a dog just last night and didn’t think I was finished after two hours of work. The owner, however, loved how much better her dog looked and walked away happy. If I’d wanted it to be perfect, I may still be grooming it – he was 190 pounds of dog!
When I competed in my first CrossFit Open, I knew I was not (in any way, shape or form) close to perfection for many of the movements. There were some I couldn’t do at all. Yet, perfection wasn’t the goal. Getting it done was. Being able to say I did it, for the first time at 50 years old, was enough for me. If I’d waited for perfection…well, I simply wouldn’t live long enough!
Think about your own life. When is “done” enough? What things need to be “perfect”? Is it realistic to want to achieve perfection? If so, at what cost?
When is perfection the enemy of done?
Yesterday, I responded to two of the the “10 Questions to Process Before you Wrap up 2021” posed by Nedra Tawwab on her Instagram feed. Today, I’m going to look at the next three.
What do I need to accept about myself and the other people in my life?
- We’re all doing our best. Sometimes it may not feel like it and I need to accept it’s my best at the time. I need to accept that others are doing their best, even if it doesn’t look that way to me because, like me, it’s their best at the time.
- I need to accept that it’s OK to lean on other people. I pride myself on being independent. Others see me as a strong, confident woman. In many ways, I have a toddler’s attitude of “I can do it myself!” This past year has shown me it’s OK to ask for help – whether it’s to move furniture or cry on a shoulder.
- Similarly, I need to accept that others want to help. The people in my life support me. They’re here for the good and the bad. Just as I want to be there for them, they want to be here for me.
- 2021 taught my life is never what I expect it to be. When it started, I had no idea I’d be buying my own condo and rehoming my dog. Yet, here I am – on my own and dogless. I need to accept the adage, “The only certainties in life are death and taxes”.
How did I cope with uncomfortable feelings?
There were SO many uncomfortable feelings in 2021. There was the end of my marriage, moving out, buying a new home, no longer being Dad’s caregiver and his decision to move into assisted living, realizing I spent the last 10 years with a narcissist…it was quite a year.
- I cried.
- I talked things through with, and sought advice from, my partner and my friends.
- I read blogs and listened to podcasts.
- I journalled.
- I went back to the gym when Covid rules relaxed
- I sat with the feelings and thought about the possible root cause. I knew if I could figure it out, I’d be able to work through the feeling.
- I worked with a psychologist and started EMDR therapy.
How can I better manage my reaction to my feelings?
- I can start by recognizing the triggers that cause a reaction. This has been the focus of the work I’m doing with my psychologist.
- I can accept it’s OK to have feelings of joy, anger, grief and that these feelings are valid. There’s no need to repress them and pretend everything is OK.
- I can examine the cause of the feelings. Are they a result of my personal values?…memories?…experiences? What can I do more of (for positive feelings) or differently (for negative feelings)?
- I can give myself a time-out if my feelings start to cause I reaction I’m not ready or able to control.
This blog took a long time to write. There was a great deal of writing and rewriting as I processed the questions. I don’t think I’m done with them. I feel them working their way into my head and I know I’ll be revisiting them over the next few weeks. I expect that’s part of the exercise Ms. Tawwab has posed. 🙂
I’ve been following quite a few therapist-type people on Instagram this past year. One of the people I follow is Nadra Tawwab (@nedratawwab). Last week, she posted “10 Questions to Process Before You Wrap Up 2021”. I thought I’d consider her questions in our blog.
“What did 2021 teach me about myself?”
It taught me:
- I am incredibly resilient. Life handed me quite a few lemons, and I continuously made lemonade.
- Related to above, I can handle a great deal of change.
- I am able to take care of myself – emotionally, spiritually, financially
- I’m not afraid to ask for help. Sometimes it was answered, other times it wasn’t. Either way, I didn’t try to do everything myself.
- I value alone time. I love to socialize, but I need to recharge on my own. It was wonderful to have a place of my own where I could have quiet.
- I don’t really know who I am. For so long, I was a wife, mother, and caregiver. With those roles no longer my focus, I was at a loss. Who am I if I don’t apply a label? What makes my heart sing? These questions no longer unsettle me. I see answering them as a journey that will extend into 2022.
- I have a tremendous network of support. I knew this, but it was a good reminder. I have friends who love me.
“Who showed up for me, and how can I nurture those relationships?”
I promise, I didn’t think of this question with the last bullet point above!
Many friends showed up for me – some in person, some via video messaging, some via text. In no particular order:
- Vanessa and Selena – my co-blogger and co-podcasters. These women keep things real for me. They celebrate with me, support me, and call my out on my bullshit when needed.
- Lana and Derek – my former neighbours and very good friends. I used to live across the street from them and our boys grew up together. They have always gone above and beyond. It was harder to move away from them than from my ex-husband!
- Martin – boyfriend extraordinaire. His belief in my ability to become my best self is unwavering.
- Nathan – my son – a self-proclaimed “momma’s boy”. 🙂 He’s been busy starting to live his own life, but still finds time to talk to his mom.
- My dad – he’s always believed in me. All he’s ever wanted is for me to be happy and he supports whatever makes that happen.
There are so many more; too many to list.
How can I nurture these relationships?
Keep being me. All the people in my life are here for a reason. Just as I see something that draws me to them, they see something in me. The best thing I can do is continue to be my honest, authentic, caring self who makes time for the people important to me.
There are 8 more questions. I’ll get to them all eventually. 🙂
I haven’t been very active in this blog for the past couple of months. My life has taken some unexpected, sudden turns and I feel like I’ve missed the “calm” and have landed firmly into the “storm”.
Some of the storm is physical – my dad moving into long-term care, my roommate deciding to buy me out of our home, finding a new home, getting ready to move, and work projects coming fast and furious.
Some of it is emotional – feeling as though I’ve let Dad down (even though he’s the one who asked to move), angry at my roommate (soon to be ex-husband), frustrated from dealing with him, excited about my new place, sad that my CrossFit gym is permanently closing (thank you Covid), and happy with how things are going in my current relationship.
Some of it is mental – I find myself paralyzed by indecision. I’ve never had the opportunity to purchase and set up a home just for *me*. What do I like? How do I want to set it up? What works for *me*?
I alternate between feeling as though I have everything in order and, like today, feeling as though everything is out of control. It’s uncomfortable.
I try to get comfortable through “to do” lists. I love the sense of completion I get when I can cross something off the list. Thing is, the closer I get to the closing date, the longer the “to do” list seems to grow. It feels like a hurricane increasing strength as it moves towards land.
Will the storm’s strength decrease before it reaches land, or will it hit land and wreak havoc?
I need to stay on top of my self-talk and reflect on what I’m feeling.
Yes, I feel overwhelmed. I need to focus on what needs to be done *right now* and not think too far into the future. What do I need to get done today?…tomorrow?
I need to focus on creating a new home and filling it with things that sustain my physical, emotional, and mental well-being and rather than dwelling on what I’m leaving behind.
I need to remember that – yes – as I pack and realize I have a lot of “stuff”, I don’t have to unpack it all in one day. It’ll be OK to move things and decide it doesn’t serve me anymore. Reduce, reuse, and recycle – I can do that anywhere.
I can peruse Pinterest to get ideas for setting up my new home. Or, I can set up the rooms next week and feel free to change my mind as I live in the space.
I may not have experienced a calm before the storm, but I feel there’s a tremendous calm waiting for me after it.
It’s the last day of a long weekend, and I’m up so the dogs can be fed. I’m also up to enjoy some solitude in my house. Everyone else is asleep. It’s the only time of day where there is absolute quiet and no expectations of me.
When I invited my parents to live with us four years ago, I had no idea how much work it would be. In my mind, I’d pictured fishing trips with my dad, working together in the yard, and going shopping with Mom when she felt like it.
Little did I know it would become an endless parade of medical appointments, that their health would decline so rapidly, or that Mom would die from a massive head injury sustained from a fall in our garage. In the past year, my Dad started to lose his vision and is failing before my eyes.
So much has changed in the past four years in addition to my parents. My marriage ended. My son graduated high school. I found a new partner. I lost my job, and found another. We’re also one year into a global pandemic.
There are days I’m overwhelmed. Most days, I’m grateful. As much work, and at times frustration it’s been, being able to care for my parents at the end of their lives gave me time with them I haven’t had for years. I moved away from home in my early 20’s and never again lived in the same city. Visits were three or four times a year and weekly phone calls.
The job loss was a blessing in disguise. It gave me time to take stock of where I’m at and where I want to go. I realized I’m not ready to retire, despite how much the idea appeals to me. I learned how much I’d ‘muted’ my true self to try to make the marriage work, and began to bring my ‘self’ forward. I examined what it was about me that made me choose partners who, in the end, were not good matches. I can go forward with new self-awareness.
I do not live a conventional life. When we realized our marriage no longer served us as a couple and acknowledged we were – indeed – roommates, my husband and I opened our marriage. Through that, we both found people who give us the relationships we want. When the pandemic hit, he invited my partner to stay with us on his days off so we didn’t have to rent AirBnbs. Both his partner and mine helped us build our deck.
Yesterday, Valentine’s day was marked by formally signing our separation agreement. We’ve decided to stay in the house together, but separate. I occupy the second floor, and he is finishing the basement to live there. We will share the main floor. This arrangement gives us an economical way to live independently of each other, keep the house we like, the yard we love, and our pets. How long it will last, we don’t know. It works for now.
My day is about to start. I hear Dad coughing in his room. Soon, he will need me to guide him to the kitchen, make his breakfast, and get his medications ready for him. The silence will be shattered by the sound of game shows and “The Big Bang Theory” coming from his TV. When my son wakes, he will start chatting and gaming with his friends. This will carry on long after I go to bed.
I cherish these moments of solitude where I can sit in a sunbeam, drink my coffee, and not have any immediate responsibilities. It’s a gentle way to start the day.