Monday, May 9, 2016

Imperfect Plans with Perfect Results

Being a perfectionist, my planning has gotten the better of me throughout the years.  Being a perfectionist who is also a mother has proven to be quite a challenge.  As they say, "the best laid plans often go astray."

Over the past eight years, however, I have had plenty of opportunities to change my obsession with things running smoothly.  When I closed my business in 2008, I looked at Hope's summer break from school, and using the actual words of "I plan to be spontaneous," we made lists of how we could spend days together.  She was six years old, by the way, but she shared many ideas of what we could do together throughout the summer.

Not every day went well.  I learned to be flexible when plans had to shift due to weather or places we wanted to visit being closed or any other circumstances.

This past weekend, Hope and I went on a trip together to Schaumburg.  We have traveled together as a duo before, but she's a teenager now, and since beginning my new job, I don't get to spend as much time with her.  Our primary purpose was her dance competition, but it was also Mother's Day, so I was hoping for some much-needed bonding time.  So much has changed with our relationship... I have held a few different jobs since she was six years old.  She has changed schools twice.  She is becoming a remarkable young woman who will enter high school this August.  And I am still working on so much with myself.  There are too many days that I wonder how in the world I am supposed to help this beautiful human become a "grown-up" when I still don't know what I want for my life?!

We had a few glitches in our weekend plans, but overall, we had a fantastic time.  I was easily able to shift my perspective and focus on all the good that happened.  She taught me how to take a "Mirror Selfie" and showed me her daily makeup routine.  She instructed me on how to do a "Messy Bun," but I don't think she ever realized just how much more long, beautiful hair she has then her mom!  She actually had me join her in one of her Phhhoto app videos (I am honored!).

We had long discussions, we danced and sang together in the car, we shopped, we got to be poolside.  We laughed... a lot!  It was a terrific break from routine.  And I think she respects who I am trying to be... or maybe she admires that I am still trying, and that's the point.  She's a person - I will never know all of what she thinks or believes, but I feel she would tell me the truth.

The entire "parenting" plan hasn't played out as I envisioned, but I am truly loving who this daughter of mine is becoming.  It's proof that successful planning is actually doing your best... then letting go and just enjoying what happens. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Now What???

Returning to work "full-time" has meant a lot more than being in my office at 8:00 a.m. every weekday.  While I am not able to physically see my daughter every day after she gets home from school now, it has hit me that in just four years, I probably won't even be able to physically see her every day.

She is going to be moving on to college, eventually a career, and if she wants, she will be a Mother... she has her entire journey ahead of her.

But I don't.  Hope has been my greatest accomplishment.  Yes, owning my own Wedding & Event Planning business was a true joy for me and I did love it.  Developing administrative abilities throughout my office positions from Accenture to Peoria Ballet and now Alpha Media is pretty fulfilling.  I like to be proud of myself as a daughter who has lived a pretty respectable life... Yet my focus for the past seventeen years has been to bring up a fantastic human being.  Granted, I am not "done."  I will be here for her as long as I am on the planet.  It's just that we are coming to a point where there isn't much more I can actually do for her, about who she is.  She has her identity.  It will change a bit, like we all do, but I've tried to help build a strong foundation and that part is over.

So, now what?  Is this that Empty Nest syndrome people talk about?  Of course I am ahead of the game - I am an obsessive Planner.  I am doing my best to enjoy where I am in my life right now, but my nature is always to seek "what's next."  To prepare for whatever moves I need to make, to prepare for the next change.  Clairee's line in Steel Magnolias echoes in my mind: "Well.  I really do love football. But it's hard to parlay that into a reason to live."

It seemed a lot easier to know what I wanted when I was younger.  I am not sure of anything now.  I know I need balance.  I need to be able to have flexibility to continue to be available for my daughter.  I want to continue to exercise, enjoy time with my fabulous friends and dance any moment possible.  I want to make a difference and help the world be a better place. But determining what else I want now and how to get there is proving to be a challenge.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Our Reactions to Change

So much of our experience with change is perception. When we learn of something changing in our life, some of us immediately spring to a "life is over!" mentality. Other times, what seems like something so exciting can end up being a disappointment.

Changes are inevitable. People will move, people will die, new people will enter. Some changes are loss, while others can be a blessing. Either way, it is not the change that we can control, but we can work on our interpretation of it.

I used to have a sort of mental checklist that I used for happiness, as I am confident most people do. College, marriage, buy a home, upgrade the home, expand the family, travel... I am willing to bet, however, no one includes in that list to have their closest friends move, lose a child, have their employer terminate their position. So while we do plan for come changes, others knock us off course because we are unprepared and those changes are not wanted.

Some view me as 'pessimistic,' while I just think of myself as 'realistic.' Bad things happen - let me correct that: things happen which we interpret are "bad" in our opinions. I do not start everyday thinking "oh, no, WHAT will go wrong today?!" Yet I probably do begin every morning ready to troubleshoot any challenges. It has taken time, years actually, to be stuck behind an idiot in Peoria (yes, there are quite a few who don't truly understand the "fast lane" option in traffic), and instead of riding their back bumper and cursing them under my breath, I take a moment to realize that I am behind them for some reason. Too Zen for you? Just try it - at least for a while. Your heart rate will appreciate it, at least.

When you can let go of the "oh, this is horrible!" or "WHY does this always happen to me?!" mentality, it's pretty enlightening to just give that situation to a greater power. Whether you believe that God places everyone everywhere or in the balance of Karma or that life has ups and downs, it can be pretty therapeutic to "let it go" and just live. (With no pesky bill at the end of the session, too, by the way.)

With every change, you have a choice - you can be angry and resistant, and learn that you have no power, or you can look for any good in it and treat it as a new opportunity. If you honestly cannot find any positives about a situation, then at least it is a sign to let go and move on with something else. Life is short and there is much to do.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Big Changes

The past several years have involved some drastic changes in my career path, which has greatly affected my schedule.  I am a definite "creature of habit" and get quite upset if my routine is disturbed.

After closing my own business in 2008, my journey back to the "working world" hasn't been exactly smooth.  I am not blessed to feel I have a "calling" anymore, but I do have skills and experience that I feel compelled to share in order to earn money for some sort of living.

Working part-time was truly perfect for me.  As a mother, I truly valued being able to be home when my daughter ended her school days.  Cleaning the house and running errands during the week, I now view as gifts.  And I really, really loved going to lunch with my friends!

However, when I found myself taking the next step in employment, the job offer that fit my needs the best at this point in my life is a full-time role, Monday - Friday, downtown Peoria.  Major adjustment.  The changes that I have had to make daily (cleaning the house on weekends, putting myself together by 7:30 a.m. every day, unable to be home until almost 5:30 p.m.) have also led to a change in the checking account and some better financial security.

I also made a move from Event Planning into Accounting.  At the end of the work day, I usually don't "take anything with me," and so far, no one has called or texted me when I am out of the office.  Not that I am not committed to my job, but with Events, I was consumed.  Perfection of all events was my life goal.  Any aspect that went wrong, I amplified that it was my fault and there HAD to have been something I could have done to prevent it.
 
So this big change has been a healthy change for me.  I am still assisting Peoria Ballet with their events and able to be a co-Chair of the Hospitality team at my daughter's school.  I can only look forward to where I can take all these skills in the future.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Changes Not In Motion - Being Stuck

Lately, I have been obsessed with making a change... like, for the past six months or so.  While I strive to take initiative in my life and refuse to be unhappy, I continually feel I have no control whatsoever.  Every step I take to move to a road of recovery seems to lead to a dead end.

My life is at a curious point: in just five years, my little girl will have graduated from high school.  I am desperate to embrace every moment I have left with her in my home.  At the same time, I find myself truly missing her younger years and wishing I had treasured those times more than I did.  I realize I have always been "wanting better" - for myself, for her, for our lives in general.  Regrets.  While they surround me, I try to push them away to focus on the here and now... hence, reducing future regret...?

As a certified Event Planner, I am always looking ahead.  Though the present moment is all we actually have, I admit that I look to what is approaching - I know it is a way to distract myself from all that currently disappoints me.  I have wanted to show my daughter how to be strong but compassionate.  I have tried to be an example of a "working woman" who also cares for a home and manages a household.  By working part-time, I have devoted myself to be available to her while showing her that I want to contribute to the work force.  Looking at my resume, however, I wonder if she has seen how dissatisfied her mother has been in her career path (circles still make a path, right?).  It takes a lot to meet my expectations in every aspect of my life - and being a perfectionist certainly doesn't help.  It eats away at me... I am being overtaken by a desire to find a role that fulfills me, utilizes all my experience and expertise, but also sees that I need to have a work-life balance.

People make mistakes.  Women make mistakes.  Mothers definitely make mistakes.  But have I learned from all my errors, all my poor choices.  I feel overpowered by the fear that I don't have much time left to be the mom I have wanted to be.  I am consumed by my own deception that if I could only plan my life better that I would be happy.

No matter what I do, I am sure I will have regrets.  It seems instead of obsessing about the perfect situation, the perfect role, the perfect example, I should look to my teenage daughter on how to just enjoy the moments we have while we have them... She seems quite good at that.  Maybe I am not such a failure after all.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Too Much Change... a Good or a Bad thing?

A wonderful friend and cousin of mine posted a few days ago about making a change, about the fear of needing or wanting to change too often.
 
While most people fight change, fear change, resist change with every fiber, when is it unhealthy to change "too often?"  I didn't realize how much I now rely on change to help me until I read her post.  As a human who was forced to embrace change, when is it enough or when is it too much?
 
When you know that you can make something positive out of any experience, you also know that disappointments can lurk and that other changes are possible.  "If you aren't happy, do something about it."  As my "Birthday Book*" says for my birth date: "Refuse to be unhappy for long."  (Like it's that easy!)  But there is a fear that satisfaction will never be met and the grass will always appear greener.  Will anything ever be good enough?
 
Again, I am going to look to that complex, scientific noun/verb/magical force of Balance.  I believe there is a healthy amount of change and acceptance and that it varies with everyone.  I think it is healthy to step out of your comfort zone and to try something new... but I also know that a perfect situation is impossible (or will change eventually).
 
The Serenity Prayer comes to mind, but also knowing that Happiness is not a destination, it is part of experience as is Sorrow and Frustration.  The key is to continue on a path where you are happy more often than not, to make the change when you see a turn that is appealing, but also to know that the bumps in the road can be signs that the route you are on will be worth your journey.
 
  
*The Secret Language of Birthdays, Gary Goldschneider/Joost Elffers
Copyright 1994

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Preparing to Spring

Spring is probably the most anticipated time for changes. For those of us in Illinois, or anywhere this year that has been hit particularly hard by this winter's snow, ice and frigid temperatures, I think we are all quite ready for the change of seasons.

This week also marks Lent. I am not Catholic, but I hold respect for other religions, and I truly advocate meditation and reflection. The new Associate Pastor at our church just wrote about the origins and the purpose of the 40 days in the published bulletin. The sentences that struck me are the things that I never hear anyone talk about when it is Lent. Our beings rise from ash, return to ash, and our responsibilities are what we do with our time in between. Sure, Lent is a time when all of us can look at our temptations and practice restraint, but this year, I am particularly going to focus on my purpose in this life.

As the temperatures start to rise (we all hope!) and new life in plants and trees form, let us all look inward at what we have to offer for growth and change. I am ready to spring forward.