Monday, May 30, 2016

5 of 2eleve. Putting Down Roots...For Now.

I entered 2016 intent on discovering twelve new things to embrace and learn with the cadence of one a month.   The first several months of year, I took on writing and building a stronger voice.     After four months of focusing on business writing - which I am still doing on a weekly basis - I needed to hit the pause button.  I found myself learning, and yet, with a third of the year complete, I needed to change gears.

Professionally, I've had a good year so far.  Personally, it's been a little rockier.   I realized just how much as I sat on the beach Saturday, overhearing a conversation between two married women.  They were loud, and it was impossible not to key in on their conversation.  Sitting in their beach chairs, they sat complaining.  About their their husbands.  Their children.  Their lives in general.   I lay on my towel, trying to hard to focus on the music playing rather than their negativity.  And yet, the comment that got me close to standing up and telling them to zip it was when one woman said, "I wish I was single would be so much easier."  Girlfriend, pleeeaaaasssseeee.

For me, being single does not represent freedom.  It can often represent loneliness.  Of course, there are side benefits, such as making financial decisions on your own and not having to compromise on dinner choices or vacation destinations.  But for someone like me who thrives in being part of a team, it kind of sucks.  

My daughters are now teenagers, and spend much of their time with their own activities and their friends.  This is as it should be.  My job is to give them the tools to become independent women; but to do so means to give them their space.  I'm increasingly aware the incredible bond we've formed over the years will be tested in the coming years as they sprout their wings.  And with that, it's also painfully clear that in just a few short years, it will be just me left. 

Which brings me to May's challenge.  I decided to put down five year roots. 

When I got divorced, my instinct was to run.  I wanted out of Andover, away from the home we had built and raised the kids in and all that surrounded it.  I wanted a fresh start, and yet, I had two daughters desperate for the stability of their friends and school as our little family navigated our new normal.   So I took one simple step.  I moved out of our family home into a new space, far more appropriate for the three of us.  

It's a lovely place, but far from my dream home.  It's smaller, but it was brand new and allowed the kids to attend their same schools.  It was a bit of change for me, and minimal damage for them.  And yet, somehow, in the almost two years that I've been there, it's never truly felt like home. 

Everywhere I've lived previously, I took pride in decorating, and adding those special touches that make a house a home.  This time, I spent my time and energy ensuring my daughters could create their own special rooms, knowing how important their private spaces would become to them as they entered their teens.  To walk into their rooms every night is to smile and appreciate their unique personalities.  Each has filled their space with the elements that make them, them. 

And yet, the rest of the house was largely ignored .  I sold nearly every stitch of non-kid furniture when I moved.  I wanted a fresh start in every possible sense.  Unfortunately, I was so busy, I suppose I subconsciously said, "f*ck it."  In other words, in my mind, the house was a place to sleep and eat for seven years until my younger daughter went to college.  I suppose that in my head, to invest in making it special was to emotionally give up.  To "put down roots" and make it mine was to say, "I'm happy with this choice, and I'm giving up.  This is my future." And then I realized that was really stupid.

For the month of May, I embraced that I don't ever give up.  I'm "stuck" in this house for another five years now.  How silly of me not to make it a place I am proud to live for the time that we are there.  In other words, I've come to realize that it's ok to be satisfied with something for a period of time, while still looking ahead to the future.  

So I'm getting some help from a friend with a keen eye for design.  Together we purchased new furniture, rugs, lighting.  We are partnering on the selection of the perfect shade to paint the walls.  I'm giving up control to let her add those small little elements like baskets and frames to give the place warmth.  We are turning this little house into a home.  

It's been a fun project, and fun to see it come together.  Rather than resent the house for being a temporary place to sleep for a few years, I'm changing my mindset to become one of  embracing that this is a home filled with love...and it's pretty too. 

May has been about understanding that committing to something, even if it's just temporary, doesn't equal complacency or settling.  In this case, it's about making the best of a situation and understanding this is just another life transition.  I'll look forward to moving to a place that suits ME when the girls move out.  Until then, I'll make this the best place it can be. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

4 of 2eLLLve. Destination Unknown.

April is complete and somehow,  so is the first third of the year.  It's moving way too quickly.  I have so much I want to do, and the time literally seems to fly by. 

As I rose this morning, I quickly scrolled back to the projects I have taken on over the previous three months of 2016.  I noted the new habits that have been created, and how interwoven everything has become.  April, ultimately, became about creating the outline for a book.  

I have been playing with two book ideas for the past several months; one business, one novel.  Knowing I had ideas for both, it took me quite a while to get started this month on direction.  Each day when I sat down to really make progress on defining exactly what it is that I wanted to write about, I realized I couldn't focus on which was important to me.  In general, until I become crystal clear on what I am trying to accomplish, I mess around and try to stay open until things begin to gel together in my mind.  That process works well for me getting to clarity; but during that period of time, I feel ungrounded.  It's hard for me to enjoy the journey when I'm just trying to figure out the ultimate destination of where I am going to end up.

But that's how I got there, mid way through the month.  I decided to pick the destination first, and then began to work backwards.  And it all came to me while I was heading out on vacation with my kids.

Every year, I try to take my daughters somewhere to experience the world outside of our little suburb. In London,  they sat and chatted with a homeless man who made them rings just because he believes his work puts smile on people's faces.  They've experienced the poverty of Jamaica,  and witnessed a child drown in Aruba.  Of course, they've experienced some wonderful, things all these places have to offer as well.  However, if I'm taking them somewhere, I want them to experience all of it; not just the incredible art work and tourist check-the-box items.  I want my kids to understand their life at home isn't the only life out there.  The best way I know how to do that is to get them out in the real world and not just hear about it; I want to them to experience it. 

We always end our trip with a conversation about where we want to head next.  This time, I was beaming that their choices are beginning to show signs of budding world adventurers.  South Africa and Vietnam popped up at the top.   And as we added these places to our wish list, a lightbulb hit.  

I can do both types of books.  It's not an either or scenario.  It's about prioritization; just like our travel destinations.  Which comes first should be based on some basic data points like timing, cost, flexibility, and which creates the best outcome for us at the time.  I can choose one, and still look forward to the other sometime in the future if it still looks appealing.  

Once I had that clarity, I knew exactly what my writing destination would be.  And then I decided to keep applying my vacation planning strategy to get started. 

My life at work is extraordinarily scheduled.  Meetings often start in the early hours of the morning, and I'm fortunate if I can carve out a 1/2 hour window during the day with no work so I can use that time to return calls, check off small items.  Real work is done before the sun comes up, or after the sun goes down.  So when I head on vacation, I try to do the exact opposite of that.  Once we have our destination, I work with the kids to find one thing each day we want to do, see or experience.  We do this so we know that while very open ended, we can purchase tickets ahead of time (who wants to spend their time waiting in huge lines?) and know we have some defined purpose.  The rest we leave wide open so we can wander and experience as it comes.  

It is a strategy that works for all of us.  And ultimately, it's the strategy I'm applying to my writing.  Pick the destination, add a little bit of structure so I can make a bit of progress every day, and then just go DO.  Somedays are amazing, some are a little bit messy and disorganized.  And I'm totally ok with that.  I've learned that those messy, disorganized times are where the real learning and experience come from. 

So April was about finding my next "project" destination, and then beginning to map out how to get there.  And just like when my kids and I chose a new place to travel and the world seems wide open for us to explore, my mind is doing the same thing right now.  I'm like a kid with a passport open looking forward to getting a new stamp and I am excited to see what's going to happen throughout the whole trip.