united in motherhood

Is resiliency overrated?

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At my 9-5 gig, I was discussing ways to improve the morale in our local San Francisco office with our Chief People Officer (CPO, yep, that’s a thing. So cool, right?).

For several months, employees in a different department than my own had been working crazy OT and quickly diving head first into burning out. They were getting bitter over the lack of communication, that the end was most definitely NOT in sight, and the fatigue.

With a history in the Army, I’m not surprised our CPO mentioned resiliency.

Sure, life requires resiliency. To be able to recover quickly from difficulties takes a mental and sometimes physical toughness. To persevere despite hardships and bounce back is somewhat of a learned behavior.

But I question the general assumption that everyone has a similar threshold for resilience. Like any muscle, resiliency grows through flexing it while overcoming trials. But when is it too much?

We tabled the resiliency discussion, promising to pick it up later this summer. In the meantime, we’d keep paying OT, providing dinners and breakfasts for those that stayed late or came in early, and giving a day off here and there.

Moving on, his next question to me was, “Do you feel appreciated?”

Those words cut through me and I immediately blurted out, “No!,” followed by a downpour of tears.

I did not expect to break so easily.

I may not have been experiencing the stress and long hours of my coworkers, but I was experiencing burn out as a working, single parent, trying to juggle it all well.

Sometimes being the mom is being the most underappreciated person in the room, especially when trying to do it all.

Also, as women, I don’t think we think about it until the question is asked point blank.

We do a lot – mentally and physically – and we don’t give ourselves credit. We keep forging ahead, resilient. Possibly too strong for our own good, as we carry heavy emotions, and most certainly too busy to stop and reflect, to feel and understand. We just keep trucking because we think that if we stop, all that we’ve built will crash.

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This recent article from Motherly hit home for me.

“…85% of moms said that our society does not do a good job of supporting mothers.

Eighty-five percent.

Society is asking you to nurture in an environment that does not nurture you back.

 

Through my divorce, moving, sick kids, and remote days, my 9-5 gig has accommodated many of my requests. Yet my schedule and commute keep me a slave to the corporate world.

Can you relate?

I feel this when I tell my daughters they can’t sign-up for a gymnastics class because the only times are at 3:30pm  on weekdays when their mama is working.

I feel it when they’re sick at school and I ask them to wait because I’m nearly 30 miles away, dependent on a train schedule, and I’m the only one who can pick them up.

I feel it when I’m depleted from a long day and they sound more like the Peanuts mom, than my two hungry daughters.

Despite only needing and wanting love, compassion, trust, grace and an eager ear to listen about their unicorn art work, being a parent to young kids is exhausting.

Worth it, but the job is an all encompassing, 24/7, position


Yep, I’ve written about this before, but it begs repeating.

We don’t need to hide behind phrases such as, “I’m fine!” or identities of being “strong” or “resilient.”

We’re designed to have emotions and not be ok. To feel knocked down and discombobulated on occasion is part of the human condition.

However, we don’t need to wrestle through these emotions alone.

  • We need to speak up.

  • We need to ask for help.

  • We need to have conversations with our loved ones about the imbalance we feel.

  • We need to ask for raises.

  • We need to create better boundaries at work and at home to help us feel more sane.

  • We need to say no.

  • We need to rest.

  • We need to get outside.

  • We need to go on adventures.

  • We need to step away from the grind.

Two things I’d love for you to consider and put into practice this week:

1. Give yourself credit 

We’re always evolving and growing. Recognize how far you’ve come and how much closer you are to the goal you’ve been chasing or the habits you’ve wanted to create in your life. If you haven’t listened to this interview with Michelle Obama, I highly recommend it. The whole thing is stellar but the first 5 minutes about Becoming, is priceless.
 

2. Celebrate little victories


As noted above, when we aren’t giving ourselves credit, we aren’t celebrating the little victories. If we aren’t celebrating the little victories, we’re simply grinding. Head down, and grinding, all the damn time. Life is too short to not have fun and celebrate. I promise the celebration, even if it’s a short victory dance to your favorite song in your living room, will create more space for creativity, excitement and breakthrough.

 

What can you put into practice this week?

Where do you need to speak up in your life?


I saw this quote from Arnold Schwarzenegger:

“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” 

Quotes like this on failure, especially coming from a man sometimes rub me the wrong way. However, I want to dissect it for a minute,

Our struggles are our story to share and to build bridges into the worlds of others. Hardships don’t have to translate into mustering up all of our strength to fight to the very end alone and barely get by.

Sometimes not surrendering equates to asking for help so that you don’t surrender to the darkness, to the loneliness, or pain.

Surrendering can mean surrendering your tendencies to hide and instead choosing vulnerability, allowing people to step into your life, to help light up the way, and to give you a purpose again.

I’ll say it again,

Remain patient,

Give yourself grace.

Ask for help.

Write down your goals where you can see them everyday and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Baby steps, my friend! You’ve got this mama!


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In the company of pain

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“I’ve given birth to two kids,” I joked. “Nothing compares to the pain of childbirth.”

The two male EMTs laughed as they lifted me into the ambulance, proceeding to question me about my pain level and vertical jump standards.

Clearly my vertical jump was not as high as I thought since I failed my school playground (pick-up play time) box jump, resulting in tearing that sweet spot between your knee and your shin.

It was such a freak accident.

I missed, felt the pain, but DID NOT expect to lift up my unscathed pant leg to see a 3” gaping hole in my leg. I was not supposed to be witnessing the inside of my body, let alone the collection of blood pooling.

Perplexed by the sight, I quickly ordered my oldest to get her friend’s mom that just walked by; to my youngest, to go to the car and get my wallet and dying phone.

They obeyed, not quite understanding the urgency as my mind raced on what to do next. It was obvious I would need stitches. Going to the ER however, was not on my Wednesday evening agenda.

In their absence, as they followed my orders, I closed my eyes and breathed. I prayed and visualized my leg healing.

Their running steps with a fellow teacher brought me back to the moment, needing to explain what happened again and again to the newcomers and EMTs.

Once situated on the gurney, I kissed my girls goodbye as they went with their friend for the evening and I went to the closest ER.

The pain was bearable but escalating in intensity. My body shaking and cramping out of holding my leg in a weird position, and most likely warding off shock.

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It wasn’t until the EMTs left me in the ER waiting room when I felt the gravity of the pain: I was alone, my leg was throbbing, and the anticipation of what was coming (shots and stitches), heavily clung to me. For the first time, I let it all go, cried and felt all of the feels.

The 1% left on my phone was my lifeline – texts to friends to pray, a call to my dad to come, if he could, and of course an Instagram post. Ha!

In that moment, the following dawned on me:

It’s ok to feel pain without having to rationalize it.

It’s ok to cry

Its ok to hate being alone

It’s ok to be scared.

It’s ok to surrender.

What a simple concept in theory. Yet in practice, we make it more difficult.

As women, we hold onto this façade of having our lives together when we may be falling apart inside. We may not be able to articulate the feelings in their heaviness, so we don’t. We shield our wounds, our pain, our questions, and only show a little bit of vulnerability, to appear authentic but not weak.

Yet, when we grip onto our expectations, our routines, our kids, our spouse, our past, our fears, our anger, our façade, our life so tightly, we miss out on the blessings that surround us every day.

Let go!

From the point of the injury to the waiting room, I clung onto composure. I confidently directed my kids to find help and to gather my belongings from the car; I maintained focus and an upbeat attitude. It wasn’t until I was in that waiting room I could let it go and feel. I could let the anxety and shakiness I was holding in, pour out externally.

I’ll say it again, let go! It’s ok!

When we let go, we can accept the waves of emotions that consume us – the fear, the pain, the annoyances of others not moving fast enough, as well as the highs of joy, love, sunsets, and beauty – but we don’t need to allow them to define us. We’re emotional beings after all. Not allowing yourself to feel the weight of an emotion or the circumstance means you’re disengaging from what it means to be human, to be authentically YOU.

You’re disengaging from a God-given emotion that is inherently you.

SIDENOTE: You’re held by an incredible God who knows you and loves you, and wants to graciously bless you, despite all of your mess-ups, failures, mistakes, cruel words, and busted shins. I may not understand now why this needed to happen, but it did. I can accept that and move on with my life, grateful for the doctors and nurses that know what they’re doing, as well as knowing that I’m loved and cared for by someone who holds the universe in his hands. I can feel the pain, and yet laugh knowing this is part of my story, even if it’s a silly one in the grand scheme of the tapestry of my life. I can let go of wanting to control everything because the creator of the universe, who ensures the sun sets and rises daily, knows ME and has a plan. Sure, I need to participate and not sit idly by, but I relax and loosen my grip.

How often do we do this? How often can we fully surrender all the pieces of the puzzle to God?

While I knew my injury wasn’t life threatening (although I will admit that at one point, I thought, this is it, I’m going to have to get my leg amputated!), I couldn’t help but think about how accidents like this happen in a split second, all of the time. Lives altered by a jump, by a glance down while driving, by uncontrollable circumstances…..

I was leaving my girls for the night, but some leave for good.

Not to be totally morbid but it’s the truth!

Something so silly as a freak accident playing on the playground with my daughters reminded me that our days are not in our control; our lives are rather short. Stop playing small and pursue those things that light you up; love hard; give hugs; have living room dance parties; travel the world, do all the things and LIVE!!

Above all, love this one life!

We’re not guaranteed tomorrow. Carpe diem!

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In case you’re curious, the remaining night unfolded as such:

Like a jouster preparing for battle, ER attendants wheeled me back with my leg sticking straight out in front of me. Once comfortable-ish in my private room, nurses took x-rays to make sure I didn’t fracture anything, as well as to ensure no foreign pieces entered my body. We confirmed I was good to go on stitches and nothing else, I got a tetanus shot as they cleaned out the wound (double whammy of distracting pain), followed by several rounds of numbing agent directly into the wound and 10 stitches, creating an excellent check mark on my left leg. Now on to recovery. For tips on what I’m doing to help the process, check out this post.