When my son was about 10 weeks old, I brought him in for a check up. I felt like I had not slept in weeks. I was exhausted, grumpy and barely holding it together. To make matters worse, I was on maternity leave. My day was an endless series of him napping, me trying to get things done, then feeding and diapers. I was at home by myself and had not learned that one of the keys to getting through days with a newborn is to sleep when they sleep. I was also recovering from complications to a Caesarian surgery, and could not stand up straight. All calls from the family business had been forwarded to me, because the rest of my family had gone on a vacation on the Baja Peninsula to celebrate my dad’s birthday. My phone rang from 6 am to midnight about every 2-3 minutes. I am 100% certain that those 12 weeks of maternity leave were the most stressful, difficult weeks of my life. Side note: I have heard some of my male co-workers refer to maternity leave as “vacation.” Stop that. Now.
During the check up, the pediatrician made a comment like: “Oh, it will be ok, you seem like a pretty put-together new Mom.” I was absolutely shocked. Mouth agape for 3 seconds shocked. I had been able to sneak in a shower that day and wasn’t covered spit up, so it was one of my better days. But “put-together”?
I don’t ever want to give someone the impression that I have a perfect life or have it all figured out. My Agile Best Self work helps me have many, many more great days, and bounce back from bad moments much more quickly. It is helping me move through all of the volatility and uncertainty that has roared in with the New Year of 2020. But I still have work to do.
This morning I blew it again. My son (now a teenager) spends alternate weeks with me as part of the 50/50 custody arrangement. By the time I find my groove with just me and my 2 dogs (“the 3 of us”), we have to adapt again to having a fourth being in the house. The dogs and I love the time when my son is here, but it is an adjustment for the 3 of us to turn into “the 4 of us”.
This morning, I had to get up an hour earlier than expected. Not the way I want to start a Monday. The older dog sleeps with my son (not in her crate) and gets up earlier when he is here. The puppy was barking in his crate and freaking out. The puppy had eaten a pair of flip flops the night before. By 8 am, I had several texts I had to attend to that needed a quick response. My inner critic took over and made me an insurmountable task list for the day. An inner critic’s task list has all items listed as either HIGH PRIORITY or YOU HAVE NO HOPE OF EVER STARTING THIS SOUL SUCKING TASK. And, yes, inner critics like to use all caps.
I snapped. I yelled at both dogs as they were alternately jumping all over me or making it impossible to get past them to their food. Normally I enjoy their enthusiasm and am a little more patient. Not today. Time to bring out Brian’s go-to principle.
Agile Best Self Principle #8: Prioritize “being more” over “doing more” for sustainability.
What did “being more” look like? I had to figure out where all of this negatively was coming from. I took the dogs out on the deck. I sat down and wrestled my daily task list out of the inner critic’s hands. I purposely prioritized being intentional and mindful. What was I missing? All of this emotion and frustration was building up from somewhere. What was going on? I learned that I had some mental models to adjust.
First, I needed to bring back a sense of control in my life. I also needed a sense of progress. In the midst of all of of this chaos and work and life commitments pulling me in different directions, I did what any person would do. I figured out what I absolutely had to do in the next 30 minutes.
Agile Best Self Principle #10: Simplicity – focusing on what energizes your best self — is paramount.
First, take a shower. Second, stop and do a pedicure.
What? You may think me irresponsible for putting aside the responsibilities of my business to do a pedi. Here is why. I was already on the verge of being overwhelmed with a project that took up most of my weekend. For those who don’t own your own business two words of advice: 1. Don’t start your own business that involves tight turnaround times and other people unless you are willing to be on call 24/7. Yes, 24/7. I have people that call me at midnight. I have people that call me at 2 am. I have things that need to be organized on the weekend. Yes, the majority of work happens during reasonable hours, but that isn’t always the case. 2. Don’t expect anyone who isn’t in the same business to understand. When pipes freeze or a furnace goes out during a -40 cold snap, action is required. The image below isn’t what my current project looks like, it is just what it feels like to me right now.
This is why I chose the pedi: Over the weekend, during timeline, sub-contractor and work negotiation. I noticed my self-pedicure was looking a little ragged. Let’s get real. Being a self-pedicure, it started out ragged. During calls, texts and research on materials, every time I looked at my flaked toes, I thought: “When is this never ending project going to be over. When can I go back to having an hour or two to myself to do things I want to do….Like have a real pedicure?”
It’s not about the pedicure. It is about having a consistent reminder that through this month long project, I will be able to have a little bit of time for things that are for me and me alone. I will be able to have some time with my family. It isn’t all or nothing. This upcoming project will not be the the same as one I had last year. The one that sucked up all of my energy and left me emotionally and physically exhausted at the end of each day for two months. Yes, it will be hard. Yes, there will be surprises. Yes, I will most likely lose my cool in the next month. The trick is to turn things around as quickly as possible and not let the inner critic take up too much space in my head.
I need to move ahead one foot after the other, noticing my pedi, noticing that I have taken time for myself.
Copyright © 2021 Michaele Gardner and Brian Hackerson