Week 6 – Mindfulness

Please enjoy a summary of this week’s post on Youtube.

What are you doing right now?  What are you thinking about?  Are these the same?

Since I quit my job and am on my journey of transformation to discovering the ‘new me’, I have struggled with being present in the moment.  Every day, I spend way too much time thinking about ‘how things are going to be in the future…when I get a job…when I finish my book…when people read my blog…when Spring comes…when – you fill in the blank here.’  I am not enjoying (much) the here and now!

Oh yes, there are little episodes that distract me for a period of time. Like the news comes on and something peaks my interest – that’s 30 minutes.  If something exciting happens – I get an order from my Amazon store; someone phones (or more likely texts) me; I attend a planned event (few and far between now); getting mail (really?).  But these are merely distractions that simply amuse me for a short period -there is no experience of joy, which really, isn’t that what life is all about?

In order to perform my best when I am teaching a fitness class, I have really learned to ‘be’ in the moment and ‘see’ all the participants and ‘feel’ the energy of the movement and ‘enjoy’ the overwhelming warmth and health and breath running through me at that precise instance.  I have come to crave this feeling.  I love talking with the participants and getting a little bit of their life into me.

Writing also provides me with great joy…and great frustration.  I procrastinate for long periods before I sit down and write, but when I get there, I become lost in the moment.  The minutes and hours just fly as I delve into the realms of a completely different world.  I think I procrastinate because I know that it will be hard work to find just the right words and perform the research to ensure realism, making the effort seem huge for the small resulting text.  Invariably, I am interrupted by family, responsibility, and life demands.  Much of the time I leave distractions turned on, like the tv and the internet and e-mail, inviting interruption – not quite sure why.

The other day, I noticed that I spent the entire morning planning what I was going to do when I have a job that provides cash-flow and how our life would be different.  I realized that there are no guarantees in that thought.  I need to enjoy the right now and I need to ensure that I can afford the right now.  The only guarantees I have in life are those that I am willing to put my full effort and passion into.

When I was working, I used to daydream about a day when I would not have to ‘work’ so that I could pursue my dream of writing and building a business.  Now that I am not working full time, I am wasting that time away by worrying about money and thinking about yet another future time when things will be ‘perfect’. I am here to tell you (and me) that there will never be a time when things are perfect. Nobody has that.  Just pick up any celebrity magazine or website and you will see all the scandal, bad choices and plain old unfortunate circumstances many are currently in.  Read the biography of anyone that you admire and hold on a pedestal and you will see that they struggled and overcame very unperfect situations by committing to their passion and goals.

To find great joy, we must give ourselves the permission to experience great joy.  Joy is around you at all moments, you just have to open your eyes.

I just ate the most marvelous eggs and toast!  Beautiful music is playing on the radio upstairs in the background.  Anticipation of writing this blog has got me excited, especially being able to produce a video which I find so much fun, hoping that I will reach someone who can use this information to get them through a tough period.

There are ways to engage mindfulness.  Practice makes perfect, or at least makes it better.  You can work at living in the moment; being present to what is right in front of you; experiencing joy in this precise instance.  Small things like doing a puzzle – word find, crossword, Sudoku – bring you into this very moment and help to centre you.  Try it.

Eckhart Tolle tells us that the only guarantee we have is the present moment.  We cannot change the past and the future is uncertain.  All we have is memory of the past and anticipation of the future.  Think about that for a couple of minutes!

When we spend too much of our time thinking about what we want that is lacking in our life, we cannot enjoy the now.  Many times, (like above when I so yearned for time to write and now that I have it am procrastinating), we get what we thought we needed in order to be happy and find out, that’s not it – I’m no happier!  Everything you need to be happy is within you and within your grasp at this very moment.  At this moment, you cannot be any more than what you are, and what you are is wonderful!

What do you have control over right now that you can focus on?  Happiness does not have to be elated joy at every single instance of my existence.  Realizing this, I can appreciate the little things in my life and the happenings of this exact moment.

Take time today to pay attention to everything you do.  As you drive to work, really look at the weather, the other drivers, the things occurring outside and inside your car or the bus or your bicycle.  Listen carefully to each conversation and don’t worry about what is coming up next, except if you have set aside time to plan for it.  Embrace interruptions by paying attention to what they mean and what purpose they have for you.  Open yourself to receiving joy right now.  Really taste each bite of food you put into your mouth today and savor how it makes you feel.

When you are pursuing a goal, set aside specific time for the purpose.  If your mind is ‘clouded’ with other thoughts at all times, you cannot be right here enjoying this moment.  Being focused on the current can provide a deeper understanding, connection with the other people or things involved, and a feeling of great contentment or joy!  You will see, hear, feel, sense, taste, and smell things you have never noticed before, even if you are doing the same old thing you have done day in and day out forever.

Also, speaking of same old same old, try something NEW!  Do your routine tasks in a way that is different for you!  Listen to a different news channel or radio station.  Use your non-dominant hand for a routine task.  Say more than just ‘Hi, how are you?’ to a coworker and learn more about them.  Take a different route to work and REALLY look around.  Go to a different grocery store.  Change around the furniture in a room.  Go to a movie during the daytime on a weekday – and eat popcorn!  Wear a different hairstyle!  Phone someone you have not talked to in a while.

Today, I will take joy in removing the snow from my sidewalk; the brisk, cold air reminding me of how fresh and clean the outdoors are!  If someone walks by, I will talk to them.  I am looking forward to teaching a spectacular fitness class tonight and engaging with the people who came specifically to get fit and feel well!  I am stoked about working on my novel outline this afternoon and finding out what my characters are getting up to!  I will turn off the television, radio and e-mail to ensure distractions do not take my focus away from their importance.  This very moment, I am content writing this post, carving the words into something that will inspire, relax or spark something within you!

 

Exercises and Questions:

The Oprah website has some suggestions to refocus mindfulness that will take two minutes each to complete:  http://www.oprah.com/inspiration/Simple-Steps-to-Mindfulness/1

Read Eckhart Tolle’s take on mindfulness: http://www.oprah.com/inspiration/Eckhart-Tolles-Guide-to-Transforming-Your-Life_1/1

Spend time being mindful.  Challenge yourself to focus in the moment for the next hour, morning, whole day, or week.  Write down your experiences and things you noticed that you never saw before.

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Week 5 – Why Do You Work?

Watch a summary of this week’s post on Youtube! I had a lot to say this week, so there are three parts:  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3Okay, okay, I know everyone needs money to live.  Not all people get money from a job, and everyone needs only enough money to cover…their needs.  Housing, transportation, food, medical care; whatever these things look like to you in their bare minimal form, are your needs.  Over, and above that, we have wants.  What we want from our life in most cases costs more money. Where money is not a concern because you have enough, there are other things that factor in to why you choose to work.

I have always felt that I was in a situation where I had to work to provide a financially stable life for my family; feelings had nothing to do with it.  I did whatever was presented to me because I was afraid of the consequences of not having money.  My husband and I did not have a lot of money when we first started out, and there were so many things that we needed that we could not pay for, but at the same time there were so many things that we wanted and we just could not keep up.  Throughout my entire career, my main motivator was $MONEY$!   Always, I felt unfulfilled, tired, and often used.  But, when I got a raise or a promotion, I did have a feeling of pride to be earning more and more.  With most increases and promotions; however, there came more responsibilities.  Responsibilities for things that I already did not enjoy doing.

Working should make a person feel good about themselves.  Doing a job should allow you to use skills that you enjoy using and excel at.  Working should provide a sense of pride, self-esteem, self-worth, and make a contribution of some kind to mark your spot in the Universe.  I have had all of these feelings to some degree in all of my jobs.  There was just something lacking.  There was not enough ‘essence of Evelyn’.  I have a need to infuse my spirit into this world and leave a huge mark across the planet that reeks of Evelyn!  I don’t care if you think it stinks or smells like the most wonderful flower in the world, or something right in the middle.  I just want people to remember that I was here.

I would like to leave that legacy to my family and the world.  But also, I would like to earn a profit from my work while I am here so that I can provide a life for myself, my husband and my children that will allow us to experience all we can from this amazing planet.  My work is my service.  My work should provide the world with something it would otherwise be lacking.  Earning money may be a different path.

What I have learned is that where ever you are in your life, you can change what you are doing to make the most of your life.  Working for money is a problem.  Working for fulfillment is wonderful.  Work for money and save it as much as you can so that you can put your money to work for you!  Then, work for fulfillment.

I didn’t make the decision to leave work all of a sudden.  It had been building.  And building and building.  A series of events, actions and decisions led up to the ultimate leap.  And even though all this thought and decision led up to it, it was indeed a leap.  One does not just jump, one must also close one’s eyes, hold one’s breath and believe.  Believe that whatever happens is better than what is.  My leap began a long time before…years before.

I always thought I was going to be a writer, or a journalist, or at the very least, a teacher.  I was also an artist.  In high school I took the art option which totally pained my mother.  Art, music, drama…what’s the difference?  The difference was that I could draw – really well.  My Dad was also very artistic.

I didn’t become a writer.  Instead, I applied to Engineering at the University of Calgary and was accepted, but I did not have the money to attend, so I opted for Secretarial school.  In my early 20s I found myself in love and pregnant.  During my pregnancy, I worked as a secretary at a computer software developer.  I hated it with every fiber of my body.  Through a company-sponsored program, I was able to take my certification as an AFLCA fitness instructor.  I began the course when I was 8 months pregnant and took my final exam when my son was 2 weeks old.  After our son was born, our families rushed to get us make our communion legal, which was completed in an intimate marriage ceremony with 250 people, most of whom I had never met.  Yes, everything was coming together exactly how I planned (insert sarcasm here).

Believe it or not, I was tested as a genius in high school and even attended special classes; however, my actions were not representative of a genius.  I was given a job as a Purchasing Clerk at the hospital with a promise that “if you screw up you will hand in your resignation.”  Fortunately, I was pretty good at it.

One great thing about working in an office environment was that I got to take in-house training and external courses.  I loved it!  Learning is like cocaine to a Brainiac.  I was in heaven.  I took courses at the University of Calgary in Purchasing and Supply Chain Management.  In-house, I took anything from Myers Briggs personality testing to medical terminology (I was working in a hospital after all).  I also taught fitness classes at lunch at the in-house gym.A couple years later, we had another baby, but it was ok because it was a granddaughter as I agreed to (?).  Returning to work, my career excelled and I got a promotion to a systems analyst.  I really enjoyed this job where I got to help implement a computerized materials management and accounts payable system and train all the staff.  I was definitely in my element.  I was, however, finding the pressures from my extended family to act a certain way and have a certain amount of money, very difficult to manage.  Soon my husband was offered an opportunity to move to Manitoba.  A fresh start?  Not sure, but we jumped in and I quit my job. 

We lived in Manitoba for two years and I loved it!  We lived in a small town and I worked as an Administrative Assistance for less than minimum wage at the Salvation Army Crisis Centre in a nearby town.  It was extremely fulfilling work that actually cost me to go to work.  We had so many close friends and fun activities. I joined Toastmasters, which I loved, and of course, taught fitness classes at several different facilities.  Charles hated his job, so much that I think he was depressed.  He finally left to work at the Future Shop, which was just a use-and-abuse job where they ran you ragged.  He lost 40 lbs. working there.  He had it and ended up being despondent and non-communicative. His parents called one night and begged us to come home; it didn’t take much to convince him, but I really did not want to go. This was the first place I felt like I really fit in.  I think this was the only time we came really close to breaking up.  We did end up selling everything we had, including my car, and moving back to Calgary to live with my in-laws.

A week after we returned, my grandmother passed away.  It was very difficult for me.  My old boss from the hospital got me a job with her husband’s company, an offset and digital printing company whose main client was Nortel Networks.  I started as a Quality Coordinator and took my certification in Quality Management and Lead Auditor training; however, I did not really like it.  I also taught courses in Purchasing because of my previous background; I really enjoyed teaching and excelled at it.  And yes, I was also teaching fitness classes.  At this job, I was asked to start up a lunchtime learning program and had a pretty decent budget.  Every second week, I brought in a motivational video and a free luncheon for all the staff.  This is where I started to learn about the great motivators – Earl Nightingale, Brian Tracy, Anthony Robbins, Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, Zig Ziglar, Dr. Wayne Dyer, and I’m just getting warmed up!  I was very inspired.

 

 

 

 

Soon I took the opportunity to request a move to a customer service role, as I was really not enjoying Quality Management – too many rules for me.  I was given the account to be the direct contact with Nortel, and I really liked it; however, my work hours started to extend and I could not keep up, especially with two small children, teaching my Purchasing courses, and instructing my fitness classes.  I asked for help several times and was finally told that I could use an assistant who was already over-committed to other people.  That summer I took 4 weeks off work to make up for the overtime I had put in and I got myself another job.  For a Nortel Supplier!  What?

This was a startup company that had purchased a portion of Nortel’s manufacturing of wireless receiver units.  It was a lot of fun driving around working out of my minivan to set up the new office for the warehouse, and then opening a brand-new company.  I really liked the GM who was a good-natured, funny and very caring person who just loved his job and people.  He used to walk around in his socks because his shoes hurt his feet and he drank a lot of coffee.  The office staff noticed that he never took time to eat lunch so I stocked the fridge with lots of things that I knew he liked to eat and periodically took a little tray into his office, which he greatly appreciated.  This great boss asked me to make a photo album of all the employees with their names and the group listed.  He used this to check names before he did his daily walkarounds.  He wanted to be able to call people by name and be able to talk to them on a personal level.  We received many great gifts from our vendors, but he did not keep any of these, he would give them out to staff as awards when he caught them ‘doing things right’.  Tickets to events, food trays, chocolates, even bottles of alcohol.  The staff absolutely loved him and would do anything for him.  Unfortunately, about 2 years later, he received a promotion which took him to Ontario.  He was replaced with the VP who was a little stricter and to the point. He was actually trained as a ‘rocket scientist’ and was not as good at personal relations.  When Nortel went out of business our company went through the process of being ‘shut down’.  We got a new GM who did not care about people at all. I had a coworker named Brenda who he consistently called Nancy.  She never said anything to him because she was scared to death of losing her job.  Finally, one day I had had enough.  The three of us were in a meeting and he kept calling her Nancy.  I stopped him and said “Why do you keep calling her Nancy, her name is Brenda!”  She got all embarrassed and said “That’s ok, I don’t mind.”  Our GM’s response was, “Whatever.  Nancy, Brenda, same thing.”  I was so angered.  He called her Nancy for the rest of the meeting.  I was really happy when this company folded and we were all handed our pink slips. My boss approached me and told me that I could stay as they really valued me, and if I wanted to stay they would find me something to do. I thanked him, but said I would like to try to find something on my own.  What had started out as a great place to work ended with a crash.

I decided to do something that was not so stressful, so I applied for Admin Assistant jobs and got one at a school for Olympic Athletes.  It was fun getting to know all these athletes, but the work was not very fulfilling, and it was a contract, which soon ended.  From there, I went to another school district in the purchasing department.  Two weeks after I started there I knew I hated it.  I would get up every morning and ask myself, “Should I go to work or kill myself?”.  Then I would go to work and about an hour later realize I made the wrong decision.  They actually had a sign posted with their values, one of which was ‘We tolerate others.’  Really?  So now I am being tolerated?  After lamenting to my friend, she suggested that I consider a course she had heard about called ‘Production Accounting’.  This was accounting for oil and gas well production.  I investigated and decided to sign up to take this certification.  I LOVED it.  I don’t know if I told you before, but Math and me, we’re like best buds.  I really dig it.  There was so much satisfaction when I handed in my resignation!

This was about the same time I ‘discovered’ Robert Kiyosaki of Rich Dad Poor Dad, and stumbled onto ‘The Secret’.  I started as an entry-level clerk in an enforcement group with the energy regulator.  We dealt with the extremely bad operators who had left a debt with the province and basically refused to follow the regulatory rules, and we also dealt with Mineral Lease expiries.  I was also able to teach fitness classes at the on-site gym during lunch hour, and I continued to teach classes in the evenings.  I really enjoyed this job and took two more certifications while there – Upstream Petroleum Completions, and Unconventional Oil and Gas, as well as about a million in-house leadership and other types of courses.  As well, I took my Business Analyst certification.  Eventually, I moved to the production accounting group to use my training.  I found that I had a gift for finding problems and patterns and was asked to lead a new team.  I was later promoted to a Manager position.  It was this point were my demise escalated.

I like to think I am a pretty smart girl.  Each time I took a job, I figured it out quickly, and then training was presented to me to increase my knowledge in the job.  I always took the training – whether I had to pay for it or not, I took the training.  Whether it was something I was interested in or not, I took the training.  Then I learned to set goals to get positions that I wanted that earned more money.  There was no other reason that I wanted those positions than to make more money, so I would set my intention to learn everything that I could of skills required for those positions and more often than not, I would be promoted.  Along the way, over the last 35 years or so, I have also tried to pursue my dreams of becoming a business owner and a writer; however, the commitments that I had made to my J-O-B requirements usually trumped these efforts.


Working just for money was not fulfilling.  To combat this, I spent massive amounts of money to fill the hole in my life. Writing and business courses galore that would just inspire me enough to feel deflated.  Hundreds of fitness workshops to learn more and more and more about health, fitness, and exercise.  Dance, kayaking, cycling, running workshops, rock climbing.  And at the very minimum two continuing education course per year to get a certificate or diploma related to my current job.  I have always felt deprived of getting a University Education because I did not think that I could afford it.  If I add up the thousands of dollars I spent on all these other courses, I could have probably got myself a Bachelors, Masters and possibly a Doctorate over that last 35 years and come out way ahead.  Shoulda, coulda, woulda.  Hindsight and all, blah, blah, blah.  But I didn’t.

I always thought working was a means to and ends, but…there have never been any satisfactory ends.  Sure, I made it all the way up to a Manger-level, making a six-figure salary, but I was miserable and unfulfilled.  It took quitting that job to make me realize why I really wanted to work in the first place.

During my tenure at the energy regulator, I was privileged to try out some experiences that truly changed me.  Charles and I partnered with someone he worked with to start up a small fruit stand called ‘The Cherry Pit’.  We operated out of a downtown market and at various festivals around the city.  Our niche was that we offered cleaned and prepared fruit in personal and larger sizes that people could snack on at the venue they were attending.  Our specialty was cherries, but we also had strawberries, grapes and trail mix.  As our clients were attending festivals, they wanted to eat the product right then, they did not want to have to take it home and wash it.  There were long hours and hard work involved, but it was worth it.  We met so many interesting people and made a lot of money.  After two seasons, the market was shut down.  We tried to continue by just going to festivals, but it was too much work and used all our weekends. The business ended.

We also took a course in investment real estate and bought our first investment condominium property.  I really enjoyed this as well; however, the market took a turn and we sold the condo and took our cash.

This little encounter with business really inspired something in me.  I was always dissatisfied with working for a company, but now, I had seen the alternative.

Now that I am not working, I have mixed feelings of needing money and wanting fulfillment.  I am trying to be cautious to not fall into the same old trap of taking a job out of fear.  This week, I started a job for exactly that reason.  In the month leading up to my first day, my mind had been going back and forth between why I should take this job and why I did not want to do this job.  The overlying factor was that we need money.  I had decided to do whatever I have to do to take care of that.  I thought this was my only option.

I went to the training for two days.  The trainer was very impressed with me and I must say she was quite amazing at her job.  In the back of my mind a nagging thought pressed on my anxiety, telling me I was giving up all my writing time for very little money and a lot of hard work (this was an outside physical job).  I was becoming resentful and crabby at home; my stress was resulting in headaches and chest pain.

Day three I woke up at 6 am.  I lay there thinking that when training was complete, I would have to get up at 4 am each day, and I did not know how I was going to do it.  I stomped around the kitchen getting ready and mumbling under my breath.  Finally, I told my husband that I was very angry at myself for not being better prepared in my life and that I really did not want to do this job.  I drove to the training, angry, anxiety building in my chest, head pounding.  When I got there, I went to the Human Resources office and spoke with the hiring agent.  I asked her to bring in my trainer and I told them both that this job was not for me and I could not continue.  After a brief but very open discussion, they thanked me for being so honest.  The hiring agent told me that more people should have this type of integrity for themselves.  This made me feel wonderful and that I had made the right decision.

I am now still looking for work that will use my existing skills and allow me to continue to pursue my goals.  I have picked up more fitness classes to teach.  I have set an intention that I will take on all casual fitness classes that I can fit into my schedule without impacting my writing, and if I have not secured a job that pays enough to cover our needs in the next three weeks, I will then pick up permanent fitness classes to get this cash flow.

I know that we are in a downturn.  I know there are not a lot of jobs and there are thousands of people applying for these jobs.  I also know that I can teach enough fitness classes to cover my bills and we can reduce our costs a little more if required.  I want to work to feel fulfilled, not just for money.  I want to be true to who I am and my goals.  I am seeking out ways to earn money from my writing as well, so that I can continue to do what I love.

Luckily for me, (and I think this goes for just about everyone), the jobs and training I have done over the years, all led to providing me the skills, life lessons and perspective that will help me achieve my life-long goals.  This was the path that I was meant to follow, otherwise, it would be a different Evelyn writing this right now.

 

Questions and Exercises:

  • Why are you working? What need is it fulfilling for you right now?
  • What are the pros and cons of your job – write them out?
  • What would you like to do if money and skills were no object and you could do whatever you wanted to do? How can you get there – what would it take?
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Week 4 – Fear, Guilt, Shame and Vulnerability

You can view a summary of this weeks’ post on Youtube.  Part 1 and Part 2.

I have to continue the tale of my journey by telling you all the negative stuff.  It happened.  If you are going through a major change in your life, it is going to happen to you too.  You cannot ignore the ugly stuff just because it’s ugly.  In fact, we should look at it so hard and so deeply that it becomes beautiful.  That’s what I am hoping happens.

Fear hides behind every corner; it’s lurking in the shadows of everything you do, waiting to pounce.  ‘People’ are always telling each other Get out there and live your dreams, love yourself, do what makes you happy, and don’t ever give up on you!’, but you know, I don’t believe they have really thought that statement through to understand what it really means.  Getting out there and living your dreams is scary.  When I hear that statement, do they think I am then supposed to feel ‘Oh, ok!  Now that I see this is acceptable to ‘people’, I can go ahead and live my dreams!’  Not so.  Fear stands in our way.  Fear is asking us, ‘What if?’  ‘What if you fail, Evelyn? What if you fall on your big fat nose and can’t get up (cause you do have a big fat nose, Evelyn, and now everyone
will see it)?  What if you don’t make enough money to pay your bills, Evelyn? What if everyone laughs at you, Evelyn (oh will they laugh)?  What if you let everyone who is depending on you down, Evelyn?’
  Fear never, ever asks you, ‘What if you’re just fine and you do it right, and everything works out ok?’

Fear has a couple of besties known as Guilt and Shame.  As we have learned from Brene Brown, Guilt is that feeling that I’ve done something wrong; Shame is Guilt’s big sister and wants me to be very clear that I am wrong!

While Fear was busy telling me that I had made a big mistake quitting my job, Guilt reminded me that I had let all those people down at work who now are going to have to do the work that I left behind and without my support or protection (you see, I really thought that I was shielding some staff members from unpleasant dealings with the higher ups).  Shame clearly wanted me to understand that I failed because I could not take it and was not good enough.  Fear also wanted me to hide my feelings so that everyone would think I was just fine!  I definitely was not fine, and in truth, I’m still not.

When I was in Grade 2, I read my first Stephen King novel, Carrie!  It terrified me!  Since that time, I have been addicted to fear.  I love horror novels and that intense anxiety of being afraid; chills running up and down my spine.  I have always felt that fear makes me feel so ALIVE!  The fear of failing at life is not nearly so exciting.  It is a different type of fear.  Mind-numbing, self-esteem-crushing, action-paralyzing fear that can leave a person hopeless and sad, because it just goes on and on, and we feel like we cannot do anything to get away from it.  At least in my horror books and movies, at some point they end, and the feeling of intense relief I get afterwards is rewardingly satisfying.  There must be a way to turn the prolonged fear into the relief and satisfaction!

I began telling people what had happened to me and how I was feeling.  I did not want to come off as a ‘victim’ or whining, I just wanted to be honest and open, and perhaps hear other people’s stories, so I could feel validated.  I was acutely aware that I was 100% responsible for the situation I was in and how I was feeling.  My ex-company and ex-boss did not fire me.  They did not ask me to feel anything about my job or my new responsibilities, they just required that I do it.  There is no one to blame, and maybe…just maybe, there is actually no blame to lay.  I mean, I was beginning to see, I had done nothing wrong.

Speaking out and telling my story, I had to be vulnerable.  I had to be willing not only to tell the dirty details, (trying to keep it ‘clean’), but also to endure the feelings and emotions that went along with the story telling.  I also found out to be careful who you talk to, not everyone is on your side.  There are so many people, especially people you trust, love and rely on, who absolutely will either not agree with your decisions or they believe that people should endure anything in order to keep a job.  This latter one was the most common thread I found.  I did try to explain and justify to people why I left my job and why I was feeling what I was feeling, and then I realized…it does not matter what they think.  Each person is different and they have their own reasons for feeling the way they do.  AND, big ‘AND’ that I must continue to tell myself, why would I let somebody else tell me how my life should work?  It’s my freaking life!  The experiment should be to learn what they think and see if you can use any of it.  Don’t let other people’s opinions change your mind.  Look for the nuggets of truism in their words, but verify all facts and throw away things that are just anecdotal opinions.  Vulnerability can open you up to a lot of judgmental opinions, or, (shudder), someone taking great satisfaction in hearing about your failure and loss because on some level they don’t want you to win. But, it can also free you of being worried if people will find out the ‘truth’ because now they know it.

Since I have been off work, I have found myself facing these emotions to cover a myriad of events occurring in my life.  Each time, I must combat them anew, but I am finding it easier to pull myself out of the mire and take a more positive view sooner.  I felt guilt that my husband was covering all the bills with his job and I would minimize my own needs if they cost something.  I felt shame that I could not get a job; no university degree – who is going to want to hire me?  Fear dug its angry claws into me again when I looked into the future and saw my dream of owning a franchise and writing books flying away from me.  Vulnerability was there, holding my hand each time I told my story to an inquiring mind.  Well, I quit my job and I was not yet able to buy the franchise like I had intended.  I am going back to work for a while, doing an entry-level position so I can pay the bills.  What were they thinking?  What would they say to me?  Does it matter that I don’t have a quick-witted comeback for those negative retorts and comments?  Nope.

I will admit, there are some people whom I do not want to reveal my whole self to. I have had bad experiences in the past with some of these people and sometimes I just do not feel that I am ready to handle it.  I know that eventually I will be able to deal with anything anyone can throw at me, but heck, I have the time right now to prepare myself emotionally, so why not take it?  I do not owe anyone a damned thing!  This is about me.  ME!

Yes, I am afraid.  Afraid of not having enough money to retire; afraid of not reaching my goals, or of being really, really old when I do.  I am afraid that the job I do get will impact my writing time.  I am also afraid that I do not know what to do next (most of the time).

Guilt.  Not as much any more.  There are some times when I spend too much money that I feel guilty, but I have pretty much reached a place where I am only filling ‘needs’.  The few ‘wants’ I am willing to splurge on – my dance lessons, some beauty products, workshops – I have discussed these with my husband and they have been put in the budget.  I know that I have the ability to make enough money to pull my financial weight, so I am good here.

Shame – there is a lot of this.  I am not good enough to get a high-paying job; they pass over my resume.  I am not at the socioeconomic level as many of my family members, friends or peers, or at least where I think I should be at my age of almost 52 years old.  I tell myself that I don’t really want a job anyhow as I soon will be the proud owner of a franchise, but as that is not a for-certain fact, I still fall into the shame trap.  It is very difficult.

Keeping my focus on my goals and eliminating things that do not contribute to these really help me to keep going.  When I find myself slipping, I look at what I have control over right now that I can do to move me forward and I focus on doing that.

Fear, Guilt, Shame and Vulnerability are things that each of us need to deal with. If you open yourself up to facing and accepting these, you will be surprised at how much you learn about yourself and how many other people are experiencing the same emotions.  Keep calm and stay focused.Exercises and Questions:

  • Find three people you know who have had a similar experience to the one you are going through. Go out for coffee – a neutral environment is better – and ask them about their experience.  Try to not interject your own experiences or opinions.  Just listen.  And learn.
  • What are the things that you have control over to do right now? Plan how long these things will take to do – does it take a couple of hours, an afternoon, a whole day, or a week to complete this task or list?  Make a commitment to focus on only these things and complete them in the planned time-frame.
    • If you are having a hard time getting going, make a list of little things that you have to do and start checking them off your list. Soon the big important things will seem easier to get started on.
  • Write three lists: Those things you fear; those things you feel guilty about; those things you feel shame about.  Cross out those that you have no control over.  Pick one or two items that you can do something about right now and make a plan on what you will do.  Open up to your vulnerability and tell your story truthfully to at least one other person and watch how you feel.

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Week 3 – Quitting and Self Esteem

Please visit Youtube for a video summary of this post!  Part 1 and Part 2

I have always felt that I was pretty good at my job anywhere I worked.  In fact, I was damned proud of my skills, knowledge and expertise.  Each place I have worked, I have experienced other staff members coming to me for help – resolve work-related or data problems; seeking my expertise on quality, publications, presenting and information related to the scope of my work; asking for advice on how to proceed with their own work; and, can you believe it, seeking personal advice!

Always, I have felt confident.  I felt strong, sure and positive I knew what I was doing.  I had a reputation for learning things inside and out, so that I actually did have the correct answers. I knew what I was doing.  Even when I didn’t know what I was doing, I knew that I could figure it out.  When I encountered a new situation, I had the skills to evaluate it and make appropriate decisions on how to proceed.  My colleagues treated me with respect and value.

Leading up to me finally leaving my last job, my self esteem took a hammering.  There were big projects and lots of work. Over the course of two years I had four different leaders; new procedures, new work, and five new computer systems were implemented; everyone was required to attend training at each step.  The organizational chart changed so many times that I lost count.  As these changes came in, I was quite accommodating and accepting, but something was lost in the midst of it all – treating people with value and dignity.

Details are not required.  Everyone does what they believe is the absolute best they can do in any situation, and sometimes they cannot see what will turn out in the end.  Damaging souls is often not considered when changes are required, or perhaps it is, but sometimes casualties are acceptable.  It doesn’t really matter anyhow.

During the initial change, leadership provided positive motivation; however, we staff and middle management endured excruciating amounts of work with unrealistic deadlines, overwhelming overtime and travel and cancellation of vacation time.  Everyone was stressed, tired, and miserable.  Then, the big changes to the human resources pay level scheme was rolled out.  All of the people on my team essentially were demoted.  At the same time, there was a hiring freeze and a freeze on wage increases, which to my knowledge is still ongoing three years later!   A change management program was introduced to help staff navigate through all the changes.  Special training was provided to all leadership so they understood how to help staff and to ensure they were not just telling them to ‘Get On the Bus!’  Unfortunately, it appeared that my leadership was the ‘Get On the Bus’ types.

I was struggling with getting my head around what my new job even was. One day it was one thing, then next it did a 360.  I felt confident in my direction with all the projects I was assigned to, but then was reprimanded, but not provided any new direction.  Apparently, I just should have known.  My self esteem was getting shot to Hell!  My leader and I got along very well; however, she seemed frustrated with me and would argue facts that I knew.  She would never allow me to explain my point.  There were a couple of occasions when I went behind her back to resolve a problem.  I was getting frustrated, and I could tell she was too, but there was no information coming to me.  Although I was NEVER told what to do, I was often told what NOT to do.  Believe me, I asked.  And asked and asked.  I got reprimanded for that as well.

Soon, I just stopped trying to guess what I was supposed to do.  I had no idea.  All at once, no, not gradually, I was being told that the work I was doing was not what I was supposed to do, but the changes were not clearly (actually not at all) relayed to me, and I struggled explaining them to my team.  People would come to my team with work that we had done in the past, and I was being told this was not my job!  But, I was never told this until I was given the work.  Some days were great and my team was celebrated for doing fantastic work; the next day everything would change and we were given different direction and reprimanded.  I was put on projects which I believed I knew how to proceed, but then

By the time I decided to leave my job, my self esteem was crushed.  I had no idea what
was expected of me, felt that I did not know what I was doing, and frankly, I did not care. Yes, I could have held on; just go through the motions and hope that I could pass through to the other side relatively unscathed.  The problem was that in my whole life, I had never not given my all; doing my very best to put out exceptional work.  I was struggling with not caring and it was making me feel like a failure.  Feeling like I was letting others down kept me at a job I hated longer than I should have stayed, but eventually, I realized that maintaining what little self esteem, dignity and mental health I had left was my prime directive.  For once in my life, I had to do what was right for Evelyn.

My feelings of inadequacy and failure went on after I quit.  I spent many nights tossing and turning having dreams about my former job.  A recurring dream (nightmare?) that I had was being called at home many times to answer questions about my work.  I told them I didn’t work there any more.  Somehow, they convinced me to come back part-time and temporarily to help them through the transition.  Why I agreed was never explained in the dream, but I know that I continuously said to them ‘I don’t work here anymore!’  In the dream, I was ‘demoted’ to working as the admin or receptionist, but I had to run around the office and train the staff who were taking over my old job. I was not allowed to ‘do’ the work; I had to train people how to do it.  No one could figure it out, even those who had worked with me before.  At the end of the dream, I would always go into my old boss’ office and tell her, ‘I don’t work here anymore; I’m not coming back’.  The dream would end with her saying ‘Ok, we’ll see you tomorrow.’  The next night, I’d be back!

 

 

Dreams were not my only torment.  I felt that I had left my team and my coworkers to perish in the fires of hell.  Hoping they did not hate me too much, I still was nervous to contact anyone.  Then right after I left, I found out that several more people were fired.  This just sealed it for me.  If those wonderful, valuable, capable people were let go, then surely if I had stayed my number would have soon been up!  I catastrophized everything I thought about!

Each day I would go for a long, long walk on Nose Hill, listening to music and thinking of what my next steps would be.  I felt so useless.  I felt powerless.  I felt paralyzed.  I did have plans, but I had no idea how to execute those plans.

I quit my job in April, by the end of November I was looking for another job.  As
I mentioned in week 1 & 2, my pursuit of purchasing a Subway franchise had not gone as planned.  This continues to be my quest, but in the meantime, I am going to have to get an income.

Fitness classes were not as profitable as I had expected.  Yes, I had been a fitness instructor for 23 years. In 2010, I left my certification lapse and stopped teaching.  Now that I was back at it, I felt inept.  For my recertification, I had to perform a class for a practical assessment.  I planned and practiced and made a wonderful little mini routine to perform for my assessor.  Come that evening where I had to perform, I am not sure what happened, but I completely flubbed it.  It was like I forgot how to talk, I forgot how to move my feet, and I totally forgot how to keep on the phrase of the music.  What the Hell?  I had been doing only dance for the last 6 years; I was pretty sure I know how to hear music phrasing.  Thank goodness the assessor was very understanding and she gave me a pass with wonderful comments.

Next, I had to tag-teach with the fitness leader at my gym.  I was nervous and hot; sweating profusely and a tacky, dry mouth!  I knew a lot of the participants from my previous years teaching there, but again, I totally flubbed it up!  The next week, I taught again, and my personal assessment was – awful!  I was feeling so useless I just did not know how to teach any more.

Getting back to the job search.  Obviously, Calgary is in a down turn right now; oil and gas industry has laid off thousands of people, and this has a ripple effect on all the other industries.  I do not have a University degree, but I do have several diplomas and certificates in a variety of skills that I felt would make me desirable in a variety of industries.  Boy was I wrong.

Every job I looked at not only wanted a University degree, but a Masters was preferable or ‘an asset’!  Even all the fitness jobs wanted a Kinesiology degree to make $13-17/hour!  Really?  My self esteem again began to wane.  Each day I perused the postings and got more and more deflated.  If there was a job I thought I could apply for, the notification identified that over a hundred people had already applied, or it paid minimum wage.  Because of the goals that I have set for myself, and the overwhelming fear I have of being overwhelmed again, I was looking for part-time or at least temporary work, but I needed to make about $2,000 per month.

After six weeks of sending out resumes every single day, I only received one interview request.  This was for a school bus driver position.  What?  So many conflicting thoughts went through my head.  Did I really want to do this – drive a bus?  Well, at least I would have a skill I could use in case of a zombie apocalypse.  At the same time, I was not sure that I had the ability to drive a bus.  I went to the interview and they were happy to hire me.  I am starting my training January 3rd (unless of course, something comes up before then).

In so many ways, I feel like a big loser.  My skills are obviously not as valuable as I thought they were.  My self esteem needed a real boost.

The mind is a marvelous thing and we can convince ourselves of almost anything.  I heard a story of a man who had been in a coma after a terrible accident and suffered amnesia.  Before his accident that had put him in this state, he had just been a regular guy, with a regular job, no exceptional acts of heroism in his past.  He had been shy and reserved and unassuming.  Awakening from his coma, the doctors told those loved ones gathered around him that if they wanted him to be motivated to get better, they would need to convince him he was valued and loved.  They realized that he was a clean slate.  Over the next weeks, family and friends told this man that he had been an inspiration to them.  He was told he had been a military hero and performed amazing deeds, missions, and rescues.  Nothing could stop him.  The man believed whatever his loved ones told him and began acting in the manner you would expect with a man of his (made up) past.  He was confident, funny, engaging and loving.  He truly believed that he was the person they told him he was.

Now, I do not know if this story is true, but what if?  I decided that I could give myself a little positive boost by using the old trick of starting my sentences with ‘I am’ and giving myself incredible tasks to do.  I like to write lists about what I have to do during the week.  I decided instead of writing:  Groceries; Teach Fitness; Clean Kitchen; etc., I would provide myself positive direction.  I wrote:  Buy nutritious groceries for the family I love; Teach a spectacular fitness class; Make my kitchen sparkle.  Immediately, I started performing the tasks the way I had written about them.  I really paid attention to the groceries as I picked them up and on purchased what we needed.  My very next fitness class was amazing – I was joking and having fun and did not miss the beat of the music once!  Perhaps this could work!

To combat my feelings of inadequacy, I started doing things that I knew I was good at and would do an exceptional job of.  I needed to feel like a winner.  I needed to feel successful.  After a while, I made myself do things I considered hard and I would use this little technique.  Telling myself to prepare a marvelous talk, go to a fabulous interview, enjoy a smooth fitness class, prepare a delicious meal, really made a huge difference.

People telling us that we are good enough, or have skills, or need to feel confident often does not have any affect on boosting our self esteem. We need to believe it ourselves.

I tell myself ‘I AM’ a creative writer; my stories are interesting and inspiring.  ‘I AM’ buying a franchise business.  ‘I AM’ a great friend, lover, mother, woman…etc.

Things are picking up.  I still have feelings of inadequacy.  I still feel low self esteem on occasion.  I still am going to be a bus driver (for a while).  But I have methods to combat these feelings and keep going.

 

Questions and Exercises:

  • Write down a list of items that you need to do in the next week and use positive adjectives to motivate yourself to excel at them.
  • What are some things you can do to boost your confidence right now? Some examples might be:  Play a game you know you will win (crossword, Suduko, word find); clean a room or a closet and make it sparkling and organized; learn something new or do something you have never done before; go for a long walk (by yourself or with a friend).
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Week 2 – I Quit My Job. Now What?

Check out Youtube for a video to accompany this blog post.

I quit my job.  Now what?

I had a dream.  But I think I didn’t prepare for it; or maybe I didn’t think it all the way through.  Maybe this was someone else’s dream.  Things don’t always turn out exactly the way we dream (or pretend?) they will be.  There are usually a few (hundreds) snags in the road to success!  We need to believe in our dream enough to overcome those roadblocks and keep on driving to the destination. 

I really, truly thought that I was going to quit my job, buy a Subway franchise and sail off into the sunset (sort of), but that is not even close to what happened.

Having left my job, I thought I was pretty safe for several months.  In the meantime, I thought I would recertify my fitness instructor training and then make about $2,000 a month teaching fitness classes so that I could search for a Subway Franchise to buy.  Things didn’t turn out quite that way.

I did recertify my fitness instruction which was a long arduous process.  I managed to get a once-a-week class, and another casual on-call position.  No $2,000 a month.

My little online business was picking up somewhat, but I was still losing on it.

I did apply for a franchise, got the documents, went to the lawyer, researched, researched, researched, and finally found SIX franchise opportunities that fit the bill.  After meeting with the bank, we were pretty sure we could do it!!! Excitement. I worked with the owner and drafted a deal; I contacted an appraiser and a lawyer.  Then my bank called again – they thought we were just a little short to make it safe.  I went over the numbers again, and must say that I had to agree with the bank.  I did not want to rushintothisjustbecauseIhadwantedtoownabusinessformyentirelifeandtherewasnothingsoimportantasowningabusinessandI – couldseeallmydreamscomingtrueandflyingawayatthesametime, but – I just didn’t have enough money.   We would have to wait.  I would have to get a job.

I do believe in God.  Not the religious God.  Not the bible God (although I believe that the people who wrote those stories, and the people in the stories were very likely real people; and the stories represented lessons that we all need to know).  I do not believe God is a sentient being that created the earth as creation is described in the Bible.

 

I believe God is Love. God is energy.  The energy and connection between people; between you and I; between everything in the world.  God is the vibes and attitude that we send out into the Universe.

Everything created is because of this energy.  Everything destroyed is because of this energy.

There was a study released on December 7, 2016 by the American Journal of Epidemiology, that concluded we will live a longer happier life if we approach life with optimism and happiness.  This makes sense.  Isn’t this just a substantiation of ‘The Secret’?

I am feeling like my journey towards my life purpose is finally taking traction; things are happening for me.  I am writing, blogging, making videos, connecting with people, and people are connecting with me.  I am feeling like I moving towards my purpose.  At the same time, my beautiful gift of time is coming to an end.

Although I do need to get a job to earn some money, it can be a part-time position.  I just need to earn enough to ensure we are not overspending and using our savings, so that I can continue working on my dream.  Now I really have to make sure that I’m not wasting the little time I have left in my day.

Remember 168 hours?  That’s our week.  That’s everyone’s week.

I feel like I have 18 more days (probably 15 by the time I post this) for something AMAZING to happen.  Then, it’s the first working day of the New Year and I’m on deck and expected to perform.

What’s going to happen?

Sending positive energy out into the Universe!  Let’s see.

Things to think about or exercises to do:

  • What do you need to do in order to pursue your dream but ‘keep the lights on’ at the same time? Do you need to get a job – does it have to be full time or in the profession you are trained in?  For example:  could you work at a store at night restocking shelves so that you have your daytime free.
  • What are you going to do when you hit those inevitable bumps in the road? The journey from A to D, does not always go through B and C…plan for failure, and get back up.
  • What are you using your 168 hours to do? Is that the BEST use of this time?  It’s all the time you get.
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Week 1: Why I Left My Job

woman-on-a-ladder

Also view a summary of this post on Youtube: Part 1 and Part 2.

Do you ever feel like you are watching yourself from the sidelines as you move through your day; as if it is someone else’s life?  Oh, you are making decisions, taking actions and getting all the results of your action, but it’s not you.  This person doing all these things is a clone who has been programmed to do whatever it takes to get through this game of life.  There are always those glimpses into joy where you can release and do the thing you love, but they are fleeting, and often you are exhausted.  You just hope to get to the end with a little time left to do what you have always wanted to do with your life.  Maybe when you retire.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?  What turned you on and made your eyes sparkle?  Could you see yourself working at that thing for the rest of your life?  I could.  I wanted to be a writer.  Perhaps a journalist, but I would still write novels.  And an artist.  Maybe I could write kids’ books.  I could also visualize myself as a teacher who wrote books on the side.  Not once, did I envision being tied to a messy desk in an open-concept cubicle with unrealistic deadlines planning extremely boring procedures and systems for some business that I painter_with_heartwas totally not interested in working under a boss that did not appreciate my wonderful writing skills.  How did this even happen?

As I said before, this was not my life; I was not living the life I was meant to live.  This job was not what I was meant to do and yet here I was, doing it.  I did not attend university; instead, I got married and had kids, and had to make ends meet.  How I got there is a story for a different time.

How many times are we told by other people – our parents, siblings, coworkers, friends, people we respect – people who we actually believe know more about life than we do – that you just have to suck it up and do what you have to do to make a living?  I was making a living alright – over $100,000 a year – pretty good for someone who does not have a University degree.  Where else was I going to get that?  There were our finances to think of; retirement; kids’ weddings; other future goals.  But…I was miserable.  Through my misery and lack of fulfillment, I had resolved to see it through to retirement, but it would be a slightly early retirement, no later than 62.  My company had a pension and mine was growing nicely.  I thought I could do something I hated and put my dreams on hold for a little money.  When did I lose my integrity?

dollar-signs

With this resolution, I persisted and tried very hard.  Yet, I continued to feel that my life was streaming before me, hurrying its way to an undetermined, but rather consequently predictable ending. I was having major regrets for all the things I had given up to make big money.  Throughout my career, I had made many attempts at pursuing my ‘dreams’, but in hindsight they were just mild wishes; no real action took place.  Oh yes, my husband and I had a small business that we really enjoyed, but when the rules changed, we just let it peter out; we didn’t take any action to keep it going.  And yes, I have written one novel and one non-fiction book as well as countless short stories, but I never did anything to get these into print.  Lazy.

I recall one of my first impactful moments that tweaked my motivation for change – not yet the epiphany I needed, but definitely some basis for those yet to come.  I attended a retirement planning session at work.  As the presenter worked his way through the day unfolding what we could expect in retirement, many attendees made comments that got me thinking.  Most of them realized they would need to continue working as a contractor or start a small business after retirement to supplement their pensions. The attendees had calculated right to the day when they would retire, barring any medical issue.  Many said that they had been holding off on their hobbies or interests so that they could have the time and money they needed to pursue these in their retirement.  My little mind was thinking, ‘Hmm, my employer gets to tell me when I can retire, how much money I will have, and what my life will be.  I’m sorry, I don’t think so!’

Many of you may be thinking, what makes you so special?  What are you planning on doing, robbing a bank?  No.  I am going to take control of my life and my destiny and stop letting fucktards who think they own me determine what happens to me!  Do the rest of you actually believe this is OK?  I don’t.  I had no idea what to do, but I can tell you I’m no dummy.  Nor are you.  Look at all of the things you have accomplished in your life.  Really think about it – make a list!  Now, why are you letting someone else determine how your life will turn out?  Honestly, I was working my ass off to get a mediocre retirement.  Why wasn’t I willing to work my ass of to have a fantastic life, NOW!

Right here, I could whine and moan about my job.  The unfair practices, the oppression, the bully leadership, the unrealistic overwhelming deadlines, and the lack of empathy; stressed-workhowever, if you work for an employer, you already know about this.   Every company has these things to some degree.  Yes indeedy, there are lots of open-minded employee-focused companies out there, but I have yet to work at a truly great one.  And everyone’s got a sob story that would break your heart – oh, I didn’t go to university; boohoo I didn’t grow up rich; waaah I have so many bills and so much to do all the time.  Show me one person who doesn’t have something to whine about.

I think the events at my organization just happened to catch me at the wrong time in my life, when they tried to change too much on me, and I had already allowed life to keep doing me over and over again.  And thank God, this organization did irritate me enough.  What changed for me is I FINALLY realized (big epiphany here) we only get ONE life.  Yes, I know, we all know that.  But do we really?  What have you done for the last 10 years?  The last 20?  The last 30?  Probably pretty much what you have always done and are doing right now.  Sure, maybe you changed companies a couple of time, but did you really make any huge change, a real difference, some impact on you, or someone else, the world?  What was your plan in Grade 2 (mine was to be a published author, not yet done after almost 44 years)?

Everyone in the world has one thing in common.  Rich or poor, black, white, Asian, clock2educated or illiterate; we all have the same amount of time.  168 hours to be exact.  The great equalizer.  Each week you are given this 168 hours and it is up to you what you do with it.  While employed at my last position, I didn’t have a lot of personal time. I was struggling to pursue my personal goals of writing books and keeping my fitness and dancing up.  Like so many other people, I was falling into the routine of getting up at 4:30 am, arrive at work at 7 am, leave between 4:30 or 5, or 6, or 7 or later pm.  Just enough time to get home and get ready for the next day, eat dinner and go to bed.  Yay!  Still, I thought I could make it to retirement – only 10 or so years away.  I had given up my precious time to an employer. (Is this epiphany number 2?)

Yet, I continued to work.  At a job I did not like.  With leaders who did not respect me (most days my leader didn’t even say good morning).  Under rules I did not agree with.  Doing things that did not interest me.  A company merger brought significant (more) change.  My job changed drastically.  Staff were fired.  Those that stayed were bullied and abused, we were expected to do much more with less and wages were frozen.  Like so many others before me, I was stressed. womanworkheadache

Things spiraled on.  I did nothing (really) about it.  Oh sure, like anyone else who thinks they are going to be fired, or stuck doing something they hate the rest of their life, I worked on my attitude, I tried to learn new things, I tried to network and ‘get with the program’.  I realized this program was not for me.  But I let it go on anyhow.

My new leader took her position in October.  By February, I was in my doctor’s office.  I was having a panic attack.  My doctor gave me some medication and told me to get some counselling, which I did.  The counselor told me to leave my job.  I did not.  I told her that I needed to persist and work it out. She insisted this environment was toxic to me and my issues may not be resolved.  I pushed forward and continued.  Things got worstressmeterse.  I was now working OT every day and through lunch most days.  I missed a lot of dance classes. Oh yeah, and I was not writing.  Not a word.  I started a little online retail business and that helped to motivate me, somewhat.

Every week something changed in my job.  The scope of our team’s work changed repeatedly, but these changes were not clear to me.  Soon, I felt very unsure of what exactly my job was.  Even though I tried to work this out with my leader, I know that she must have been under the same pressures that I was feeling.  The message is just relayed down through the layers to the troops and action is expected.  I don’t need to belabour the details, the environment got worse.  My self esteem and confidence was waning.  My team had always been known as the place everyone would come to if they had a problem and we would work it out and help them resolve it.  Now I was being reprimanded for doing what I thought was my job, and in reality, I had no idea what my job was.  I also did not care.  I didn’t want to do it.  Not fun.

My second panic attack hit on February 23, 2016.  I had just had my 51st birthday three days earlier.  I met with my leader to discuss some issues my team was having – potential staff absences, deadlines looming and no possibility of making them, and information required from another team.  I think the thing that specifically set me off, the proverbial ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ was our last conversation.  It was not contentious, it was not threatening or demeaning.  It was real.  I explained that a person on another team owed me some information that I really needed to meet a deadline.  I was concerned because this person had been working so much overtime he was sending me e-mails at 2 o’clock in the morning in an effort to keep up (not catch up, that would never happen).  I did not want to stress him out by demanding the information right away and I asked for her thoughts.  Her response was ‘He’s responsible for his own busyness.  Ask him for the work.’

I get it.  I know we all need to prioritize and figure out what is the most important.  The problem was, absolutely everything was urgent, number one priority and needed now.

I felt my chest tighten.  A deep sharp pain right in my sternum, like really bad heart burn.  My left arm and shoulder blade were aching.  I shifted in my chair.  It was five o’clock, already 30 minutes past quitting time.

“O.k.”  I said, “I’m not sure how we are going to handle it, but I will do what I have to.”  This seemed to satisfy my boss or maybe she was just relieved that I was leaving, but to tell the truth, I just felt bad for her because I thought she must believe that she could not change any of this lunacy.  I decided that I could not do anything else that day, so I packed up went to my car and left.

panicattackdemoDriving down Memorial Drive, I could feel the ‘indigestion’ coming up my sternum to my throat.  I could taste bile.  My left arm was aching so badly that I could barely hold the steering wheel with it.  I was finding it difficult to breathe.  My head was pounding.  Tears were streaming down my face making it difficult to see.  “You’re ok, you’re ok, you’re ok!”  I told myself over and over again in a soft soothing whisper.  But I was scared that I was not ok. I sure didn’t feel ok.  I did not know what I was going to do.

Writing this now, I still get a feeling of dread and terror for myself.  It’s like reading a story about another woman and I just want to reach out and give her a hug.  I guess that feeling will always be with me, so scared, so alone, so sure I was about to fail the biggest fail of my entire life.

When I got home I immediately poured myself a big glass of red wine red_wine_glassand ran upstairs to the bedroom.  I changed into comfortable travel clothing and packed an overnight bag.  I had decided that when my husband got home from work I was going to have him take me to the hospital emergency – I was pretty sure I was not having a heart attack, but I thought it was much more intense than just a panic attack.  By the time my husband got home at 7 pm I had changed my mind.  I put my bag away and decided I would figure out how to make this work.  In the meantime, I called the Employee Family Services hotline and asked to set up a series of appointments with the same counselor I had worked with the previous year.

The next morning, I still had the excruciating pain in my chest, the shortness of breath and the overwhelming feeling of dread; my beautiful, wonderful, supportive, caring (superlative adjectives could go on forever here) husband drove me to the doctor. He was determined I would not be going back to work.   My doctor could only give me two weeks off to gather my composure and a prescription of Lexipro (excitalopram oxalate) to help me deal with my anxiety.  I really felt that I didn’t need any medication; I just needed to be out of the environment.  She said that I would need something when I had to return to the environment.  Really?

Next epiphany incoming.  So, now we as a society are prepared to drug ourselves up to cope in excruciating environments where there are unreasonable demands and irrational, unrealistic expectations.  My mind was already starting to make decisions for me.

I didn’t require the whole two weeks to make my decision to leave my job, but I did want more time to deal with it – a luxury I did not get.  Suck it up, take a deep breath, put on those big girl panties and face the music.  I had been very angry, but that anger was directed at myself.  In truth, I felt sorry for my leader, for the people who were left, and for the universal belief that this is how things just are.  I was able to manage my feelings and my thoughts to articulate words that explained my message well.  The work and environment did not align with my personal goals and pursuits.

This is my life. My ONE life.  I am going to start living it.  That’s why I left.

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Questions or exercises you can do on your own:

What is your personal goal, passion or life purpose?  Are you currently living it?  Why?

What is it in your life that is not working for your right now?  Why are you putting up with it?  What are you willing to do?

List your current age and the age of all the significant people in your life – your spouse, children, siblings, parents, grandparents, etc.  Now list the ages of all those same people in 5 years; 10 years; 15 years; 20 years.  What are you waiting for?

 

 

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It Can Change Anyone

A small man met Peter at the fence; he could not tell the man’s age, but saw experience in the washed out grey eyes.  His hands were as gnarled as the petrified fence wood, but  he nimbly unlatched the gate to let Peter in.  Without a word the man stepped out of the way to let Peter through, and quickly re-latched the gate, glancing behind Peter deep into the night.  The little man turned and led the way up the path in silence.  Peter had to hurry to keep up.

They neared a small farm house where the little man motioned for Peter to wait.  He disappeared around the side of the house and appeared a moment later carrying a spade.  Peter felt his guts knot, but stood his ground.  The man walked past him and nodded for Peter to follow, which he did.

They trudged briskly through a field in unspoken agreement for a good quarter mile, then Peter saw her.  He knew it was her, even though he could only see a silhouette.  She looked like an out of place time traveller in this new millennium.  She wore a full length A-line skirt, and Peter was sure a petticoat.  Her fitted jacket with poofy shoulders and a high collar buttoned down the front making her waist look inhumanly tiny.  Her long brown hair was swept into a loose bun at the nape of her neck.

‘Thank you for coming,’ she whispered as he approached.  The little man nodded and continued walking, turning to the right and continuing with his spade into a wooded area.  She knew he’d come, Peter thought.  When it came to Dahlia he had no choice, he could never deny her.

She leaned in grabbing his hand tightly and planted a subtle yet lingering kiss on the corner of his mouth.  Then she quickly turned leading him through the tall grass. He felt warmth ooze up his cheek and licked his lips where hers had touched.  ‘It’s in the barn,’ was all she said and dragged him quickly towards an old yet sturdy building hiding in the dark near the wood the little man had disappeared into.

night-over-the-barn_426-19321859When they reached the barn Dahlia dropped his hand and gave Peter a long knowing look.  He nodded at her.  She reached out and  grasped the metal door handle, pressing down on the lever and yanked the door open.

The pupils of Peter’s eyes grew to adjust to the dimness inside the barn and then his eyes widened as he realized what he was seeing.  His jaw dropped a little and he felt a scream rising in his throat; he swallowed it back and took a step inside.  Dahlia stepped in with him and closed the door behind them.

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Can I get three things?

Alien Bugs BunnyEach day things happen to us.  Some of them crappy; some of them better; some of them … meh.  What you focus on will influence your happiness.

Try this test:  For a month, at the end of each day sit and reflect for 10 minutes.  Think of three things in your day that made it great. Write them down if you like.  Think of those things and remember how you felt at the time; did you smile, did you laugh, did you feel thankful or grateful, did you make someone else happy.

These do not have to big, grandiose, life-changing things.  Every day miracles will do just fine.  You saw some beautiful flowers.  Your dog was happy when you got home from work.  The grocery clerk told you a funny story.  Back to the Future came on tv just when you had a free 90 minutes.  You were thinking of a good friend you haven’t talked with in a while and they happened to phone.  You found five bucks in your jacket.

So what about it?  What smacked you smiley today?

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So, You Like to Dance….

I like to dance; in fact, I LOVE to dance.  Dancing allows a person to create an experience through movement and music.  It allows someone to connect with themselves and express their emotions in a beautiful and fluid form.

Dance WesternYou don’t need to be athletic, flexible, or fit.  You don’t need to have rhythm, an ear for music, or catch the beat.  You don’t need to be beautiful, wear the latest trends, or be able to stand on your toes.  You just need to move.  Movement can inspire.  Movement can show pain, fear, helplessness, love, passion, beauty, and in fact, anything you want it to.

Dance when you are happy.  Dance when you are sad.  Dance when you are angry.  Dance when you just don’t care.  But dance!

Dance to me, fills me with emotion.  I love to experience emotion – feeling what is buried deep within a song.  It is creative.

There are so many kinds of dance and I think I love them all.  Hip hop, ballet, tap, jazz, ballroom, Latin, swing, two-step, square dance, Celtic Step, Bollywood, disco, and all types of ethnic dances.  I love to watch people step through those musical rhythms and make their way to the end of the song.  The story they tell always fascinates me.

I would love to hear what you like about dance.  Would you like to learn to dance?  A particular dance?  Do you have a dance story? Tell me how dance makes you feel or a dance experience you have had.

Waiting.  Dance on.

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A Note Left To Me From My Husband

A note left to me from my husband this morning:

“A woman has to live her life, or live to repent not having lived it.”

Today I had resolved to live my life and his beautiful note was a reminder that I am truly loved and supported.  I am trying to reach that pointHearts Double in my life where potential failure is not a barrier to my dreams, but rather a challenge to overcome.

In two weeks, I will turn 50 years old.  I have not started my own company.  I have not published a book.  I am still allowing others to decide what my life will be.  I continue to work at a job that I do not like, it is stressful and everything is an emergency – someone else’s emergency – and what I do really has no impact on this world.  I am not happy.  I am holding myself and my passion hostage to the need for money, stuff, and the approval of others.

Reading Oprah Winfrey’s book “What I Know For Sure” one entry hit home with me.  To paraphrase, she says “I’ll never forget the moment when I decided to always choose myself.”  She was leaving a job to pursue a passion; he told her “You’re going to fail.” (We’ve all heard that one before.)

She replied, “You’re right, I may not make it and I may be walking into land mines. But if they don’t kill me, at least I’ll keep growing.”  She chose happiness and it was her choice.

That’s really all I want.  I want the choice.  There is always a choice and I have to be ok with the possibility of failure. The ability to pick myself up, dust myself off, and try try again!

I am afraid of so many things.  I am afraid of how quitting my job will look to others – will it look like I am giving up?  I am afraid of not having that big fat pay cheque every 2 weeks.  I am afraid of hurting my family financially.  I am afraid of not being financially ready for old age (I AM turning 50 you know)!  I am afraid that my idea will fail and I will not have another idea.  I am afraid it will not be as fun as I think it will be.  I am afraid of missing out on other things while I am trying to work on my passion. I am afraid of people judging me, laughing at me, thinking they are better than me.  I am afraid I’ll lose (something).

Today, I am at the point where I believe that I can work through all those fears.  I am not confident that I will succeed, but I am 100% confident that I will try.  Today I am willing to put aside everything else to work on my passion (not just think about it) and put the DO into action.

Today, I am willing to look like a fool, ask stupid questions, and take risks in order to work towards my goals without worrying what other people think.

What are you afraid of?

What are you willing to do about it?  Today.

Tell me what you did today to achieve your goals and what fears you stomped to the ground.

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