10 Ways to Survive the Rest of 2020

This year will go down as one of the most chaotic on record no doubt. We’ve had a global pandemic with a global economic shutdown, protests and riots that rival the intensity of the 1960s, Saharian dust clouds, murder hornets, fires that decimated Australia….the stuff of legends and dystopian nightmares. I would like to hope though that the next six months can be different.

My daughter recently toured High Point University where the University President, Dr. Nido R. Qubein, spoke about making the choice every day to be happy. This message truly resonated with me. We chose the life we live through the small habits and decisions we make every minute of every day. Our lives are not a well thought out novel written by a well published author. Our lives are a series of moments strung together in a tapestry. Each strand is a choice made with the best intentions and based on the limited knowledge we have in that moment. Taking inspiration from Dr Qubein’s speech, here are my 10 ways to survive the rest of 2020.

  1. Take a Social Media detox Social Media has become a haven for toxicity. We forget that it was created to help us connect with each other; to find our long lost best friend from Elementary School. But, Social Media has become a hotbed of negativity where blame-storming, name calling and hostile rhetoric get the most likes and attention. My 45 day Social Media Detox controlled my anger, lessened my anxiety and forced me to view the world with my own eyes. Which brings me to my second way to survive the rest of 2020….
  2. Get outside Fresh air is the best medicine for whatever ails you. I am not a doctor, but I know from experience that just a few minutes outside changes my mood, my emotions and how I feel physically. The best way to get outside is a simple walk around your neighborhood. And, when you meet your neighbors, you will be amazed at the wonderful people that live close to you. Even the grumpy old man down the street can’t help but smile when you offer to bring his trash can up his driveway from the curb. So, number 3 is….
  3. Help someone It doesn’t need to be hours of volunteering or paying for a stranger in the Starbucks line. Simply helping someone put their shopping cart back in the grocery store is enough. Goodness breeds goodness, and your simple good deed will translate to another. Those simple acts will bring you to…
  4. Smile more The first half of 2020 has beaten us down. We are exhausted. We are tired. We are sad. We are angry. We are confused. It all shows on our faces. Chose to smile at your kids as you walk into your home office for the 200th time since quarantine started. Chose to wake up and be happy. Chose to put a smile on your face. It is a choice that can change your day.
  5. Exercise more Exercise is the fountain of youth in my opinion. Your joints move better, your skin improves, you walk taller and you become proud of the way your body works. In many parts of the country, gyms are still closed, but everyone has access to YouTube. (This is my exception to the social media detox). There are MILLIONS of exercise videos on YouTube, some use equipment, others just need you and your body. The act of simply getting up and moving will release endorphins that create happiness (making # 4 a little easier). Plus exercise helps you sleep better, which brings me to my next survival tip.
  6. Schedule down time It’s difficult to unplug from work when working from home. Instead of finishing dinner and enjoying time with your family who was knocking at your office door all day, it’s easy to want to finish that project or reply to an email. But, it is critical that you take the time for yourself and your family. When my daughter was born, I started putting a time block on my calendar simply so I would leave work to pick her up from day care. That was 16+ years ago, but the premise remains the same. You have to schedule time to do the things you WANT to do. Remembering why you work so hard along with the goodness and positivity in your life, brings me to # 7….
  7. Practice being grateful I struggle with this, so I have started keeping a list every day of five things that I am thankful for that day. Before I go to sleep at night, I repeat them to myself. Admittedly, some days, I’m simply thankful that I chilled a bottle of Chardonnay, but practicing being grateful sets me up for my next tip….
  8. Appreciate waking up in the morning I know, I sound like some silly guru at the top of the Himalayan Mountains, but it is true. Starting your day appreciating the fact that you have a job to go to, or a family that needs you or a pet that steps on your face each morning is a gift. These little wonders that make up the strands of life breathe energy into our day, and while my cat putting her cold nose on my elbow the moment my alarm goes off is not ideal, I appreciate having the unconditional love. So, remember to ….
  9. Acknowledge the love in your life It is easy to take our spouses, significant others, kids, pets, family, and high maintenance friends for granted. After all, THEY ARE ALWAYS THERE now. Always. They are there with smelly socks, dirty litter boxes, walks in the rain and endless drama. But, they are also there with love. They are the people that help us through the difficult times. They teach us about art and music, philosophy, patience (sometimes LOTS of patience). They show us that we are strong and resilient. They are our tribe, our love. And love can move mountains. So, wrapping up my list …
  10. Learn to love yourself You don’t need endless social media likes. You don’t need the world to agree with you. And, you certainly don’t need to point out every flaw. You need to look yourself in the mirror every day. You need to look at that person and know they are a good role model. You need to know that by choosing to be happy and smile and enjoy your place in this crazy world is a perfect place to be. You need to tell yourself that you love you. Because you are the only person like you. To quote Dr. Qubein, “you are extraordinary.” Love your extraordinary self.

Every day is a choice. Every choice leads you down a path. What choices will you make today that will make the rest of 2020 a place that you WANT to be? We have six months left to make the most of this year. Make them count. Make them worthwhile. And, most of all, make them extraordinary.

Dealing With Criticism in a World of Critics

I have been blown away recently at how critical we are with each other. “You didn’t handle that well at all.” “Why are people so stupid?” “Look at this moron.” A simple scroll through social media proves that we have become a culture of critics. Even some face-to-face conversations have become confrontational, especially when our opinions don’t match. But, criticism like this does not allow for the acknowledgement that we are all individual people with our own individual viewpoints, and many times, we will not agree.

Very few people like disagreements and confrontation. In fact, high conflict personalities are easy to recognize, and people with these traits are often avoided at all costs. But, what happens when a friend or family member becomes confrontational over wearing face-masks during Coronavirus? Or, you disagree with your closest friend about politics? Why do these people, that typically have our best interests in mind, suddenly become critical and judgmental of our opinion?

Theory – We have a desire to be “right” and anyone who disagrees with us therefore must be wrong.

As children, we are conditioned to “do the right thing” – don’t do drugs, do your homework, get an A on a test. Being right is the equivalent of having value, and being wrong is embarrassing. We are not taught to learn, we are taught to pass tests and do what we are told. It drives a fundamental desire to always need the right answer. But, what happens when there is no right answer?

Life is more than a series of standardized tests to pass. It is composed of a series of lessons where right and wrong do not exist. Politics is a great example. I consider myself a conservative, but that does not mean that I do not care about social issues. Begin a conservative simply means that I do not believe the government should dictate how I feel about social issues. We are all individuals capable of making our own choices. Each of us has had different experiences that frame our world views. I do not judge how you live your life. However, recently, I was called a “moron” and “selfish” for supporting the reopening of the US economy, and the fact that I do not wear a face mask unless required. I was not asked why. I was not asked how the pandemic affected my personal finances. I was not asked how I had been affected both mentally and financially from the lockdowns. My intentions were judged immediately and cast as wrong. There was no dialog about differing points of view. There was only judgement.

How can we disagree without criticism?

There is a saying I have heard both in business as well as my personal life, “sometimes you have to chose being right over being happy.” It is sometimes a choice. But, this phrase infers that we cannot have both, which is wrong. It is imperative though that when we do disagree, we do so with the intention of learning about the other person.

But, if we are conditioned as children in school to always be right, when do we learn how to learn? When do we start to realize that learning is a series of questions?

When we stop asking questions of each other, we stop seeing each other as individuals. When we assume we know the motives behind someone’s actions, we stop treating them as people with feelings and ideas. Attacking each other over different opinions will not bridge gaps, it will only widen them. So, how can we disagree without becoming critical? In the example above, I asked the question, “what makes you feel that way?” I wanted to understand why this person thought I was selfish for wanting to go back to work. That simple question opened a dialog about their fear over bringing the virus home to their family. It also allowed me to explain how anything on my face, including face masks, put me into a full blown, hyper ventilating claustrophobic panic. That simple question, rather than allowing assumptions, opened a conversation about our different viewpoints on this virus.

At the end of the day, understanding our differences helps us realize that we are all different. We all want love and stability. We want to be accepted for who we are as people. Sometimes there is no right or wrong, but a simple question can help you find the wonderful world that exists in between.

How do you deal with your critics? Let me know in the comments. And, don’t forget to like, share and follow!

Four Lies About Being a Perfectionist

I’d like to think of myself as a perfectionist. After all nothing is worth doing if you don’t do it right, right? 🙂 But, I found that being a perfectionist isn’t always about being perfect. We simply strive for it, and perfection changes form based on the steps we take along the way.

Lie #1 Perfectionists waste time on the little details. Cautious and methodical, perfectionist are always on the look out for the best solution. We appear hyper-focused on trivial details because we are seeking how to best solve a problem. The details lie in figuring out “how” once we understand “why.”

My husband and I were trimming a tree this weekend. Both perfectionists, anytime we start on a project together there is always a moment of disagreement on the best way to tackle it. This time, our opponent was a HUGE oak branch laying on our neighbor’s roof. I suggested resting a ladder against our neighbor’s house to trim the branch piece by piece. My husband wanted to cut it as close to the trunk as possible all at once. We spent about five minutes going back and forth when he finally said to me, “if the branch comes down on my head when I’m on a ladder, where do you expect me to go?” Ah-ha! Valid point! Breaking his leg and head were definitely not part of my plan.

Truth: The details that we seem to get caught up in as perfectionists are actually unanswered questions.

Leading us to Lie #2 Perfectionists don’t ask for other’s opinions. We’ve all heard the adage, “it’s my way or the highway.” But, the thing about perfectionists is that we have already run through multiple options in our head before bringing the problem to others. We each have created internal systems that work – for us! We learn from our failures and the failures of others.

My work has always had an analytical component. I excel at reviewing data, breaking it down into smaller chunks and communicating it to business leaders in a way that drives behaviors for optimal performance. I was not always good at it though. I thought explaining the details would make me the expert and others would simply agree and follow my direction. I failed at driving results. When I finally got the courage to ask someone why my suggestions weren’t being taken seriously, I was smacked with the realization that I needed to take other people’s viewpoints into consideration. It didn’t matter if my plan and data were accurate, what mattered was whether or not it was valuable for the people that had to execute the work.

Truth: Perfectionists don’t realize they need other opinions until they fail.

Which leads us to Lie #3 Perfectionists expect everyone to be perfect. Highly competitive, a perfectionist’s goal is a perfect solution. Group think is not in our nature. We cannot ignore biases. We follow a trail until the end even if we end up somewhere completely different than where we intended. It is not that we expect everyone to be perfect, we challenge those around us to think about a problem differently to create the perfect solution.

Image Credit: BrianTracy.com via Pinterest

My daughter is a perfectionist (I’m guessing it runs in the family). I have written before about her ability to set lofty, yet realistic goals. One thing that she always does is ask for opinions – from teachers, me, my husband – people whose opinions she values. She researches YouTube Videos and TED Talks endlessly. She does this so she can make a plan to achieve her goals based on what others learned through a similar situation. The people she talks to and the videos she watches are not to achieve perfection, but to achieve a perfect plan to reach her goal.

Truth: Perfectionist must rely on others to create a perfect plan.

Finally, Lie #4 Perfectionists are stubborn. We will not settle. We are never happy nor satisfied. We are an all or nothing group who seldom delegates because we believe our way is the best way. This lie is somewhat true in that we are relentless in our pursuit of a solution. We will stubbornly pursue a path or a train of thought to it’s conclusion. It can be frustrating for us as well as those around us.

I withdraw from others when I am working through a problem. With the recent Coronavirus quarantine and my furlough from work, I spent hours formulating a plan (you can read about it in this post). I was relentless in my pursuit of a solution to a lack of paycheck and ability to take care of my family. I stubbornly rejected my husband’s narrative of, “it’s going to be ok” because I needed to work through it myself. I was scared and was seeking a way to fight out of the darkness, shame and isolation. But, his relentless pursuit of my well-being gave me the support I needed to start this blog. I am expecting a return to work date this week. I have a launched a writing campaign. I could not have achieved any of these solutions without the bold, stubborn, thick-headiness that my husband and I both possess.

Truth: A Perfectionists stubbornness stems from their need to process information and formulate a plan.

Perfectionist have a desire for excellence. We constantly strive for success rather than allowing our past successes to dictate our future successes. We live for each moment to solve each individual problem. We never want to be just “good enough” because it is a cop-out to finding the best (i.e. perfect solution). The critical component is that our perfect may not look like another person’s perfect….and THAT is a perfect solution in itself.

Image Credit Psychology Today

How do you view perfectionism? Are you a perfectionist? Was this helpful showing a different viewpoint? Let me know in the comments. And, don’t forget to like, share and follow!

Behind the Scenes of My Structured Life

We all have that one friend that always seems put together and on top of everything. Seemingly confident and happy, they go through life poised and in control. It’s me. I’m that person. And, I’ve got to tell you, behind the scenes, it is definitely not as effortless as it appears. It requires purpose. But, what happens when that purpose begins to change?

There are endless articles about the habits of highly successful/productive/efficient people. A Google search returned over 65M in fact. But, I would argue that while I am efficient and productive, I do not feel successful right now.

Image credit: QuoteFancy.com

Success is defined as accomplishing a goal or purpose. Productivity is the act of working toward that goal or purpose. Historically, my goal and purpose was to always be available for my daughter. I knew the day she was born that my purpose here on earth is to raise my daughter. It sounds cliche. But as a former single mom and as a working parent, every decision I have ever made was based with the sole intention of being available for her. But, as she approaches the end of high school, l find myself seeking a new purpose. She no longer needs me to be available to drive her to theater auditions and practices, cheer tryouts or games. She does not need me to come to every appointment or drive her to work. I no longer need to coordinate camps for school breaks. My schedule, built on ensuring I could be all things for her, is freeing up as I have fulfilled my purpose of creating a vibrant, emotionally and intellectually intelligent, goal oriented young woman.

I am incredibly structured in my life and use time blocking as a way to organize my priorities. I struggle with lax timelines and “let’s just see where the day takes us” plans. I am meticulous about managing my time. At work, my calendar is blocked for everything from executive meetings to researching trends to brainstorming how to go to market with our next product. Quarantine and my furlough due to Coronavirus has had an impact to my otherwise impeccable life scheduling. Couple this with a looming empty nest, and my meticulously crafted schedule starts to look like a hamster wheel. But, it’s not. It has it’s own purpose.

I follow this time block schedule every day while quarantined and furloughed.

6AM-9AM – Me time – morning activities, feed the kitties, workout, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast

9AM-1PM – Professional development – take online courses, read industry news, connect with peers on LinkedIn

1PM – lunch

1:30PM-3PM – Current Project (blog development) – write new posts, marketing & promotion, connect with other bloggers

3PM-5PM – Mommy/Daughter time – plan dinner, binge watch shows or pick a movie, take a drive, sit outside and talk

5PM-7PM – Dinner – prep and eat, no screens

7PM-9PM – Veg Out Time – Finish the movie or show from earlier, delve into the abyss of social media

9PM – bedtime

Time blocking allows for free time with a purpose. But the endless repetition of the hamster wheel can be demotivating. That’s why I actually schedule down time (i.e. “veg out time”). This is time for my mind to drift to endless possibilities. Honestly, this is when I do some of my best thinking….because I’m not thinking.

WHY DO I DO THE THINGS I DO WHEN I DO THEM?

Putting structure around the unknown helps us cope. Positive life changes like an upcoming empty nest during a time when the world is full of unknowns creates increased stress and anxiety. Change is hard for all of us. A structured schedule of daily habits makes it bearable. It actually offers the opportunity to find my next purpose. Rather than aimlessly running through this part of my life, I can methodically think through the next step and take actions toward whatever that purpose ends up being. My self imposed structure provides a certainty in uncertain times. The timing of each event is important. As a morning person, I am most productive before 3PM.

Do you need help structuring your day? Do you have tips and tricks for navigating life’s changes that you’ve incorporated into our current global change event? Do you want to know more about time blocking your day? Let me know in the comments.

Empty nest syndrome is a real adjustment. My husband and I are getting ready for it. His kids have all left, but Lindsay leaving for college in a little over a year will mark the first time in our relationship that we don’t have kids with us. As a blended family, we have had our kids since day one of our relationship. Being empty nesters is scary. After 13+ years as a family, do we even know how to be a couple? Without the need to be available, I am free to pursue a new purpose. But, what is that new purpose? My scheduled life is my way of searching for this answer. Is my new purpose the next step in my career? Is it this blog and the community that I am becoming a part? Is it something else entirely? Only time will tell.

Don’t forget to like, share and follow!

I Totally Understand The Hulk

Image Credit: The Economic Times

In The Avengers movie, Bruce Banner turns to Captain America and says, “that’s my secret, Cap, I’m always angry,” and I felt that in my core. Recently, I have had an underlying rage simmering beneath the surface. It’s a slow boil waiting to emerge when called upon. It’s the culmination of perceived slights throughout my life coupled with current events that seem to creep up at the most inopportune moments. It is my inner Hulk wanting to emerge and “smash.”

Anger is a common feeling. Most people can relate to it, and all of us have triggers that make us angry. Feelings of being threatened or attacked or feelings of powerlessness will cause anger. Being mistreated or slighted in someway or disrespected by those we care about will also provoke a response that is the complete opposite of sunshine and rainbows. Here’s the thing though – how we feel is based on how we interpret the situation. And, our feelings are our own. For example, I become enraged when I feel disrespected or slighted; a lack of empathy will trigger my anger in a nano-second. Maybe you are the same. But, to someone else, the choice of words that led to MY feelings of disrespect may not affect you at all. I’ve written before about how we interpret life through our own personal lens. So, why does my anger seem to live just below the surface ready to emerge like the Hulk lately? I’ve come up with a few reasons:

  • I’m sensitive to criticism. Being out of work has led me to feel judged and not valued. Combine that with the stress of paying bills, and you can see that Coronavirus has upended my life. I feel powerless to change it and am extremely angry about it.
  • People have their own problems, so I keep my feelings bottled up. I don’t talk about it but being a stepmom is hard, and there are limited resources. Blended families while founded on the premise of love, are not always bred with love. There are extenuating circumstances to every blended family. Without a foundation of love from all sides, difficult situations become the source of anger and frustration. I am angry that I failed at being a stepmom even though the circumstances were never in my favor.
  • Anger makes me uncomfortable. Physically, at 48 years old, my body is changing more than it has since I was a teenager. Perimenopause is a true physical change in the body that has emotional and physical symptoms just like puberty. Remember being an angry teenager? Society accepted your anger. Society has very different expectations though for a 48 year old woman.

Before I go on, I’d like to provide some context. I’m 5′ tall and range between 115 to 120 lbs. I am by no means a physical representation of the Hulk. I’m more like a Pomeranian – really loud but you could easily pick me up and move me to another room if needed.

Let’s explore some of the typical recommendations to handle anger:

  1. Breathe. We can all agree that breathing is good. But, when was the last time you actually stopped and thought about your breathing? For me, it’s when I’m working out and the instructor says, “Remember to breathe.” When you’re angry, are you REALLY going to stop and remember to breathe? In my experience, it is only after the Hulk has emerged that I think to breathe. At that time, it’s too late.
  2. Express your anger before it becomes overwhelming. This assumes that I am consciously aware of my anger before the big green guy emerges, and that I am also comfortable telling people how I feel. (I’ll refer to you to the list above, the second item). This is not going to happen.
  3. Give yourself a time out. Confession – I wasn’t good with timeouts for my daughter. I truly suck at them for myself. The timeout process gives me more time to fester on my perceived slight. It replays itself over and over again. And now, I have further bottled up my emotions with no outlet. Remember when the Hulk was encapsulated in The Avengers: Ultron? That didn’t work out so well either.
  4. Exercise – regularly and often. This one works for me. It is my saving grace. Regular exercise has so many benefits, but relieving my anger and frustration is one of the best. A good kick boxing session helps clear my mind and focus my energy. A high intensity yoga flow will help me feel grounded and sane. A walk or run will clear my head. Exercise helps me mentally and physically. Plus, I am convinced that it is the fountain of youth.

I can debunk every theory and helpful tip, with the exception of exercise because it’s the only one that has historically and consistently worked for me. No one wants to see a crazy Pomeranian acting like the Hulk. It’s laughable! I have found that identifying the why works better for managing my anger before I become a green, fluffy furball. Couple it with a positive coping mechanism, and like the Hulk in Endgame, I can merge them together to make myself a better person. I don’t always succeed though. At the end of the day, while I understand the Hulk, I am not a character with a written script. I am a person trying to navigate the world along with 7 billion others. I fall down, get up and try again.

I hope this was helpful. How do you manage your anger? Let me know in the comments below. And, if you liked this post, please click the “start” below, subscribe to my email list and share with your friends.

The Ramblings of Today

My mind is a complete blank. Prior to having this blog, on days like today, when my stress level is through the roof and the fear of what is to come is overwhelming, I would simply write words on paper. I would ramble through the voices in my head and get them out on paper. Seeing the words form is therapeutic for me; I have dubbed it, “free writing.” There is no structure or theme, just free words on paper. Sometimes, the words come out violently – a kind of verbal diarrhea. Other times, the words get stuck and come out in fragments. Today, the words are stuck – they are there, in my mind, but stuck in a chasm of fear and anxiety.

Why Fear? Why Anxiety? I am overwhelmed by the positive response I have received from this blog. Whether from LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, the comments I have received are encouraging. You like what I write and my stories resonate with so many of you (“you like me, you really like me“). You have given fuel to my purpose. But, the reality is that I am now fearful of how to keep you engaged. My stories are real and true; I will never make them up for the sake of writing every day. But, to grow this blog, I have committed to writing something every day. I’ve put pressure on myself to show that the Insta-perfect world is not the real world. The real world is full of struggle and unknown. It’s also filled with wonder and unlimited potential. Both are scary for their own reasons. Both have left me feeling stuck today. This definitely is not an Insta-worthy moment.

Working the plan. This time in history is unprecedented. We don’t know how to act or what to do much less be able to plan for the future. I am a planner. I look at a current situation, review past experiences, evaluate the possible outcomes and make plans. It’s what I do in life and what I do in business. Unfortunately, both of those things are on hold right now. So, I am stuck. Stuck unable to forecast and plan. Stuck in the abyss of the unknown. But, I did set up a plan when I was furloughed. A plan that involves writing every day, trying to help others that may not be able to put feelings into words. I am working the plan. Some days are better than others. The goal of the plan is to feel productive every day. It is easy to sit on the couch and wait for a phone call. It is easy to binge Netflix or Disney+ for hours on end. But, those things are not productive, and now more than ever, I need to feel productive. I need to continue working the plan.

Planning time off. Here’s the problem with my plan to be productive every day – when I am not productive, I feel worse about myself. Welcome to today. I was not productive yesterday. My furlough is scheduled to end on April 30, yesterday was the 23rd. I have another full scheduled week to go. I was overcome with the unknown. The desire for this all to come to an end. The need for my company to either tell me I can come back to work or I was done. Planning for downtime though is just as important as planning for productivity. When planning a project, I schedule downtime to allow for the unknown that will inevitably arise. This downtime allows me to meet my scheduled project deadline or, if I am lucky, deliver earlier than expected. The downtime allows time to reflect and experience the moment. But, unplanned downtime can drag you into the abyss of self loathing and self reflection. The moment becomes the only thing, and the moment can suck sometimes. Coming to grips with those feelings though can actually propel you forward. I’ve come to learn that time off is good. I went for a walk yesterday! A walk! In the middle of the day! The fresh, warm, Florida air was amazing. My head was clear, and I determined that it was ok to be unproductive for a day. It was ok to say, “I’m not ok today.”

What the hell is my point? After reading through this multiple times (the first draft was honestly just words like, “plan,” walk,” “what to do, what to do”), I realize that my point is that sometimes it is ok for us to not be ok. Sometimes, we need to feel the warm sunshine on the backs of our necks to clear our heads and removing the blocks in front of us. Allow ourselves to simply ramble along. Let the day take you where it wants. Trust that your plan can tolerate a few missed hours. I definitely do not recommend it as a lifestyle choice, but I do recommend it to clear your head so you can get back to being the person you want to be for your friends, family and yourself.

Thank you for allowing me to ramble today. Take time for yourself to ramble. And, let me know your rambling thoughts in the comments below. And, if you liked this post, please click the “like” button below, subscribe to my list and share with your friends.

A Case for Reopening America…or not

It’s been a rough day. I pride myself on keeping a positive attitude. Preparing for the worst while hoping for the best has always been my mantra. When you are prepared, you can overcome most obstacles, and usually a positive attitude will carry those plans further than you expected. Unfortunately though, today is not that day. The dread of being furloughed and potentially out of work long term is starting to sink in. Recently, posts both for and against reopening the country are surfacing. Which side you are on, in many cases, depends on your outlook and life experiences.

I can argue for and against almost anything. One of the benefits and detriments of my personality is that I can see multiple sides of a discussion – always. I completely understand why the country is shut down during Covid 19 – it is an unknown virus with not yet proven outcomes. However, I also completely understand the need to reopen the economy – the unknown outcomes are preventing people from working and providing for their families. The risk versus reward is difficult when there is so much unknown. According to Worldmeters.info/coronavirus, as of today, April 22, 2020 2.6M cases have been reported, or 3.4% of the world’s 7.8B people. The United States has had 829k cases reported, or 0.3% of the US’ 328M people. I know of only one person who tested positive and was been given a clean bill of health after five days of flu like symptoms and strict quarantine.

As of today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 4.4% of the US population is currently unemployed. Unemployment has been linked to increases in depression and anxiety (https://www.iwh.on.ca/summaries/issue-briefing/unemployment-and-mental-health). Personally, I know dozens of people who currently cannot pay for food or housing because their businesses have been shut down, they have been laid off or furloughed.

Do we risk overburdening the health care system with an unknown virus or increases in mental health cases? Is the risk of an illness outweighed by the need for people to take care of their families? Is the fear of an unknown virus worse than the fear of homelessness? Is the fear of a second bubble worse than the fear of a complete economic collapse?

We only know what we know. My Dad once told me, “believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.” It is an adage that has resonated with me from high school through adulthood. We view everything in this world through our individual, personal lenses. My personal biases and past experiences will frame how I view a situation; and my personal experiences are different from everyone else. In this instance, my past experiences of being out of work as a single mom are likely clouding my visibility. Much like when you go to look for your glasses that are on top of your head – you have convinced yourself that they are not there, so you never look. I have convinced myself that paying my bills is an critical factor of life (no one else is going to do it for me, after all). Therefore, the lens with which I view economic impacts is a personal one affecting me and my family. In today’s overwhelming abundance of information, everything you hear or see has been filtered through someone else’s own experiences and biases. Hearing information has an extra filter further clouding the picture. Who can we trust in a world of constantly filtered information? Can we even trust ourselves knowing that we are biased?

Caring about people is inherent. Humans are tribal by nature. The tribe protects us, so we care about the people in it. I care about how Coronavirus is impacting people. I am not advocating for opening everything as though Coronavirus didn’t happen. There is a real fear on both sides, and I do feel for those that have been impacted by this pandemic. I just do not feel for them as much as I feel for my own tribe – my family. To Reopen America, we must be diligent and smart. Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis, reopened our beaches last week but is keeping our schools closed. Beaches are open and outdoors. Schools are confined hotbeds of germs even under normal circumstances. I support this fully. It is methodical, specific and tactical and allows for reevaluation if and when needed.

When most people think alike most people are wrong. Group Think is an enemy of progress and freedom. Group Think has led to everything from genocide, to poor business decisions (remember the Internet Bubble Burst?) to bad fashion trends (I’m looking at you low rise jeans). Happily, in the case for Reopening America, we do not have Group Think. In fact, our government was designed with checks and balances to prevent Group Think. But, social media and the media in general has pitted our tribes against each other. The voice of “50% of the world’s population will die” is combated with “25% unemployment is not unreasonable.” Humans are tribal. We want to belong because there is safety in numbers. In the case of Coronavirus though there seems to be all risk and no reward – you either get sick and die or you lose your job and the ability to support your family. Panic and fear emerge because there is no perceived safety. Personally, the risk of contracting the Coronavirus does not outweigh the reward of being able to go back to work and support my family.

We do not have to agree. I am not advocating for a complete rewind. But, I do not believe that keeping US citizens on virtual house arrest is a viable solution. It is not sustainable. We cannot live in fear of the unknown. There are likely many of you that disagree, and that is good. It is ok to disagree with each other because disagreements foster our ability to look at a problem differently. Disagreements force us to view life through a different lens if we are open to seeing it. I welcome your thoughts in the comments. Be safe, be well. Take care of your tribe.

Finding Motivation During Chaos

It’s been over a week since I was furloughed due to Coronavirus. The first few days were easier than I expected. I had a plan for each day, and I was eager to keep busy. Flash forward a few days, and it’s not as easy. Planning and keeping a routine has helped, but the burden of being out of work coupled with the uncertainty of the future has begun to feel stifling. My motivation is waning.

Change is hard. No matter who you are or what the change is, change is difficult. From a change in daily commute due to an accident or construction to an overwhelming change like moving (or a pandemic), we all cope with change differently. My coping mechanism has always been to rely on routine and structure (Hello, OCD!!!). Unfortunately, when a change is so disruptive that it forces my routine to change, I become almost paralyzed. I have learned to give myself up to my plan. Today, motivation was low, but my plan is to write in my blog everyday. Ta-da, welcome to today’s topic on motivation! It took me twice as long to write this as any other entry to date, but I worked the plan. I tackled the change. And, as an added bonus, I felt productive doing so. Change forced me to take action on the plan I had developed earlier.

A body in motion stays in motion. Much like physics, productivity breeds motivation. Once you get started on something, it is difficult to stop. The simple action of getting up and walking the dog becomes a habit, and that habit becomes an intrinsic motivation – you simply MUST do it. You feel good when it’s done. The simple act propelled you to be productive. Motivation isn’t always jumping for joy, sometimes it is a simple nudge. That simple nudge to do the things that are the right thing to do. You don’t necessarily WANT to walk your dog in the rain, but you have the motivation to do it because the consequences of not doing it are far worse.

Consequences are strong motivators. The consequence of not walking your dog gives you the motivation to get up even in the rain. What about the consequence of not being able to pay your bills this month? The motivation to look for work to be able to support you and your family becomes overwhelming. Desperation creeps in. This desperation can lead to unintended consequences, which then drives further desperation. The abyss of chasing a paycheck has started. Your motivation to go to work becomes an obligation to show up rather than a desire to do a good job. This is no longer motivation, this is evading consequence, and it was born from desperation. You are motivated by fear of loss rather than the desire for gain.

Fear is overcome by faith. I am a Christian woman with Christian values who is not ashamed to say that my faith has been tested these past few weeks. While I know there is a bigger plan in motion, the fear and uncertainty has me craving answers. But, something profound happens to me when I pray for help; I am reminded of how blessed and thankful I am for what I do have in my life. My faith in God eases my fears by showing me the gifts I have already received – an amazing husband that provides financial stability, an independent daughter who has excelled at virtual learning, the opportunity to pursue a different path in this blog, the support of colleagues that have written recommendations, and a sense of well being despite the chaos around me. My faith has given me motivation in a time of fear. My faith shows me that even though I cannot see it, a light (that beacon) is showing me the way forward.

Even if you are not Christian or are an atheist, believing in something bigger than ourselves provides a calm in the storm so that true motivation can flourish. Motivation drives us to be better than we were the day before, to be stronger than we thought we could be in a time of change. It points us to a higher purpose. Finding motivation in a time of chaos is really about finding our true identity; the person we were meant to be. Motivation is the beacon that we look for to guide us through the tough times. No time in history has been like the one we are in right now. Your personal motivation will keep you moving in the right direction. Don’t allow fear to be your motivation, let your motivation come from within and drive you forward.

Fumbling Through My Own Expectations

My blog is called “Story Unscripted” with the tag line “This Life Is Not What I Thought It Would Be.” Why? The expectations I set for my life have rarely come true the way I envisioned them. Don’t get me wrong, I would not change a thing in my life. I am the person I am today because of my life experiences. But, I have finally figured out why I failed at my expectations. Goals are specific and time oriented. My expectations have been about feeling and future state – the what was more important than the how.

Expectations are goals. They need not only a what, but also an appropriate how and an equally appropriate and reasonable why. I’ve fumbled through many moments learning this lesson.

Fumble # 1 Knowing WHAT but not HOW. My daughter, Lindsay, is currently a junior in high school. Going through the college review process with her has reminded me of my expectations at 16. Lindsay’s expectations are tangible, focused and specific – major in International Business at the University of South Carolina, graduate and get a job with Disney. At 16, my expectation was that I was going to work and live in Manhattan – a corner office and co-op overlooking Gramercy Park. That’s it, that was the expectation. How to get there and what I was going to do for a living were virtually irrelevant. Needless to say, I failed at this expectation. I fumbled through the college selection process eventually choosing a great school for the wrong reasons. My dad helped me get my first job after graduation, in Manhattan no less. It was a great job but my next expectation had starting taking a hold of me…

I wanted to get married, buy a house and have a life filled with friends and fun.

FUMBLE #2 Knowing WHAT and HOW but not WHY. By 22, my expectation of the corner office with the great apartment started to fade away for a new expectation….suburban living with friends as family. I had convinced myself that if I stayed with my 16 year old dream, I would die alone. (Have I mentioned my flair for being overly dramatic???) I had a new budding relationship with a man that would become Lindsay’s father. My new expectation was born – the suburban life surrounded by friends and fun. We were married in what could only be described as the best party EVER. We bought a house in the suburbs of Philadelphia and spent weekends with friends skiing in the winter, kayaking in the summer. We had fun, we had friends. As we approached our 30s though, my expectations started to change….

I wanted a baby. I had a what and a how, but I didn’t know why. The why would become the plague of this expectation.

Fumble # 3 Knowing WHAT, HOW and WHY but still not getting it right. By my late 20s, I had fumbled through different jobs. There was little to any stability, but the biological clock that I never thought I had started ticking like a time bomb. This is where my first marriage started to get shaky. After a separation in the spring and summer of 2001, Lindsay’s father and I got back together because I wanted a baby. It was simple, without a father I could not make my expectation a reality. I was edging close to 30 and could not imagine starting an entirely new relationship on the premise of my new expectation. The how and what worked, but the why caused the ultimate failure. The why needed a stronger foundation.

Fumble # 4 You cannot predict what you don’t know. Once Lindsay’s father and I divorced, I began dating my current husband. He has three children, and I convinced myself of the next expectation – we were going to be the Brady Bunch. Without diving too much into this failure of expectation (mainly because I am simply not ready yet), I learned that the what, how and why were all there. My Brady Bunch life was going to be achieved through mutual respect and communication because I loved this man and his kids. But, unknown variables in an equation will derail any analysis and best laid plan. The future is hard to predict, especially if you do not have or are blind to all of the information. You don’t know what you don’t know, and sometimes that’s OK.

Fumbles can ultimately become a Touchdown. My current husband and I have a great life. We are true partners that enjoy each other’s company, challenge each other to be better versions of ourselves and have fun in our own way. We support each other, not how we always WANT to be supported but how we each NEED to be supported. He is my best friend and my rock. My Brady Bunch expectation dissolved into a twist on all of my previous expectations. There are no endless streams of friends and parties, but there is a stability and an inner calm that I never knew was possible. All of my expectations have been achieved. They look very different, but they are there – financial stability, friendship and fun. I fumbled my way there, but I have gotten to my goal.

Expectations are goals. Goals are specific and timely but they don’t have to always be what you anticipated. I have learned through trial and error that you can be specific and timely, but your expectation may not be met exactly as you planned. The knowledge you gain along the way can often be better than you originally expected. Seek your goals, but don’t be afraid to fumble through them. Your failures will teach you more than your successes ever will.

Anxiety….It’s Who I Am

I have always struggled with anxiety. As a child, I remember asking to hold onto my Mom’s purse while she was in the fitting room at Macy’s. It was a tactic to ensure she would come back … for her purse, not me. I have always been told that I am too sensitive. On the flip side, I’ve been called, “cold,” “a bitch,” and “closed off.” But what I have come to learn, even as my anxiety grew with me through my teens, twenties and thirties, is that my anxiety is who I am. It is not something to be cured, and it is definitely not something that I can turn on and off like a light switch. It is me.

We all have fears, but anxiety is different than fear. Psychology Today states that, “fear is seen as a reaction to a specific, observable danger, while anxiety is seen as a diffuse, a kind of unfocused, objectless, future-oriented fear.” Everyone fears something – heights, bears, a new job interview. Fear spreads; anxiety is internal. I don’t have many fears, in fact none that immediately come to mind. But, anxiety is an undercurrent in my life everyday. It keeps me up at night worrying about the stupid stuff I said in middle school. It creeps into my thoughts during a meeting taking me to an argument with my husband which has long since been resolved. It smacks me upside the head during dinner, and I shut down focused on a horrible thought I had about my stepson so many years ago. Anxiety is not a response to a stimulus, it is a nuanced sentiment that is always present.

I grew up thinking my sensitivity was a bad thing, which triggered the “cold, bitchy” responses that I relied on in my 20’s and 30’s. But, my sensitivity (my anxiety) is actually good because it has given me empathy, which allows me to see things from 100 different perspectives. Overwhelming? Yes. But once I stopped trying to change this feature about me, I became better at managing it. I spent years in therapy trying to cure my anxiety, when I should have been trying to work with it. (NOTE: I am not a psychologist. This is my story and what worked for me. Your story may be different.) My flaw of hypersensitivity and nervousness has given me the gift of interpreting the world differently. The current trendy word is “empath.” My sensitivity has allowed me to build bridges in my workplace. A single mother unable to work overtime for fear of losing her government benefits felt comfortable coming to me with another solution to help the business.

Where it has not helped is with a broken bridge in my family. My anxiety has built a wall virtually impossible to bring down. My stepkids struggled when their mom was diagnosed with cancer and passed away. My stepdaughter and youngest stepson moved into our home when my daughter was around 9 years old. It was hard. The hardest thing any of us have ever done. There were blow out fights, they got into trouble at school, had run ins with the law and issues at school. My husband and I did the best we could, and looking back now, I don’t think there is anything we could have or would have done differently. But, their words then and their actions now still hurt. Yes, I said and did some things as well, many things that I am not proud of at all. I know all of the multiple sides to this story. But, my anxiety about allowing them to hurt me and my husband again will not allow me to mend the bond. I can’t just “get over it.” I understand it. I can see it. But, I cannot move past it.

The story of my anxiety it is not unusual. Roughly 40 million people suffer with anxiety. But, how I have grown to appreciate my anxiety is a bit unusual. My suffering is no longer an agonizing desire to change. It is now an experience I have learned to capitalize on, acknowledge and use when needed. My anxiety is not something I wish to change. It is a part of who I am. It is something I want others to know is ok. It is my biggest flaw and my greatest strength. It is my identity. It is my gift.

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