8-10 min read
I'm technically in staycation-mode this week: home with my son and loving it. We have a few local excursions planned - nature walks, eating out once or twice, we took a drive out East this morning, but mostly we'll be home. Sleeping a little later, doing the puzzles and games we don't usually get to. Reorganizing and sorting the Legos - yep, ALL OF THEM. And what's great is that he's a little older and asks for alone time, here and there. To read, watch a science show, watch a fun TV show, not-step-on-lava... and I oblige.
And rather than cram in chores, I'm learning to take my alone time, too.
So, here's a little more backstory on me. I thought I'd let you out of the foyer, and a little further into the house. Let's hang in the living room...
So, I've been mixing and mingling a whole lot more in the virtual world lately, (thanks COVID), and I thought I'd peel back the layers a bit more and tell you who I am... off Instagram, etc.
What I do for a living, how I got here, why I love it, and why it matters so much to me. This is a second career, not my first. This career is the sea-change that I made. The coming home, the ideal lifestyle, the bliss that I worked so hard for.
And I seek for little, these days... as opposed to my youth... my dreams are different...
I'd like to buy a nice house in the outskirts of town with a wrap-around porch, maybe. (I rent.) Hand-wrought rocking chairs set up, that I bought at some country flea market in Pennsylvania, or something, while we were out exploring the falls. Yes, we. I'm looking to date again, soon. Once this pandemic has said its piece. I'm ready to start again, in the romance area. As ready as I'll get, anyway.
But back to my house... I'd like to have a pool table inside and an old school jukebox with my favorite songs loaded on it, but also, it won't look like an 80s museum. Far from it.
Farmhouse - boho - chic. Country, classy, elegant, comfortable. A huge kitchen, with lots of light, plenty of counter-space, sleek storage, room to entertain - a big open concept into the family room. I chop here, my son plays there (where I can see him and not helicopter him), the music plays from over there. A fireplace in the family room. Ah. Perfection.
And a big dopey, intelligent dog or two, to bark at squirrels and nibble on pizza crust and know instantly where to rest his head when I'm blue. A great bedroom for my son, with a proper study area and a desk and storage and lots of sunlight and decorated with all the things that feel cozy and inspiring to him. A spacious bathroom with an enormous bathtub, that adults can fit their bodies in, not just children. A micro-spa, is what we're going for, here. A yard space made for entertaining: a huge patio and simple furniture, a playspace for kids, more and more gardens for growing. Flower beds. A swimming pool. A hammock or two. A fire pit and a sky full of stars. And electricity in the garage to hook up speakers for all the music...
I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, that my dreams are no longer about proving myself, or becoming a different "me," but about creating a better, more fluid and efficient, and more aesthetic and pleasing environment to enjoy the life that I've already made for myself.
To grow, prepare, and eat beautiful and healthy food - and share it.
To dance, sing, read, play, laugh, lounge, and splash with others.
To rest, to nourish myself, deeply, and live each moment more fully.
No, I don't want to become. I want to savor: life, health, family, friendships, art, music, and the great outdoors. I'm blissfully at a place where I've let go of the need to prove, and have embraced the desire to live - in all my sweet imperfections. Joy is a practice. It's a practice because we're taught the opposite, our whole lives - to chase, to prove, to exhaust ourselves into depletion and depression and worse.
I'm done with all of that. I've found the middle space and I love it here. I can take very good care of myself, and not do it on a rigid timer or to someone else's chagrin. I do it for me, for my life, for my son, for a healthy and vibrant future. And I do it in a way that works for me and my life.
See, I started on the other side... hustling in the business/marketing/retail world. I dreamt of landing a high-profile gig in advertising in NYC. Skirt suits, pumps, print ads, lattes, a loft in Chelsea or SoHo, clubs and drinks on the weekends with girlfriends, single for LIFE, no kids, ever. No car? No car insurance. No worries, more money for me. More money for Italy and the villa I would buy. The gigantic purple (yes, purple) Mercedes SUV I would one day own. (It would've been completely electronic/solar and had hover-capabilities. Get on that Musk.) I was a powerhouse, in hiding, waiting to break out. It was always just around the corner. One more course. One more step up, one more networking event. One more home-based business idea. One more workshop series. One more connection, at the right time. At the right moment, I'd ascend out of retail and into the corporate world, effortlessly, with the right idea and my big, bright, plastered on smile (and wildly unhealthy interior world.)
Or so I thought.
The truth was that I based this dream on cheesy movies from the 80s and 90s. I blame the following empowered characters in film: J.C. Wyatt in Baby Boom. Kate Mosely in Picture Perfect. Katharine Parker/Tess McGill in Working Girl. There were tons of examples...
I grew up inspired by a feminist grandmother who walked city blocks to work at and network with these huge firms: Estee Lauder, Helena Rubinstein, etc. She was a secretary, I learned later. It wasn't anything glamorous, it wasn't a CEO role or anything. But to me - she was a shining jewel in a sea of PTA moms and stained sweatpants and monotonous perms and brownie meetings and Avon ladies. This woman had color. Sass. Attitude. At the right time in her life, the brightest joy and laughter bellowed out at parties, because she was happy. Making her own choices, for herself. The women before her never had the choice. She was doing what she pleased, after a lifetime of dealing with what life dealt her - which wasn't so inspiring.
All of these influences in my youth drove me toward a deep yearning inside, for excitement, cities, commotion, productivity, endless creativity, lightning fast ideas, constantly studying and pushing myself to be the best in what I wanted to do - to get people to invest their time and money in ideas and products.
I played field hockey in school, and I got to be a scoring full-back (yeah, from way back there in defense, I'd get goals), by practicing - hitting balls against a brick wall - constantly, while the other girls made up cheers and talked about nail polish. I bit my fingernails into bloody stubs, I had no interest in nail polish. Our coach instilled that ambitious drive in me: "if you want it, you have to work hard for it. Sharpen your skill. Excellence comes with time, passion, and repetition." So, I did that. And I got very good. We were "undefeated," we never lost a game. Not one, and I was proud to be a part of that. I didn't play the sport after school, but I took the lesson with me.
And the truth is that we excel at what we truly love, if we allow it. It's hard to invest passion, time, and repetition into things that we feel are mediocre or not the right fit. It just won't come off right.
I gave my dream of being a hot-shot one more chance, when I moved to Boston in my 20s. I didn't have the credentials to level-up, in the Boston city scene - I needed a degree. All the bigger, more flashy jobs needed at least a Bachelor's Degree in some sort of business discipline. I had dropped out of school. I was broke. I had an eating disorder. I was becoming an alcoholic, drinking myself to sleep. I was unhealthy, deep inside. I was anxious and depressed and lost and always searching for something, late at night.
I can see it so clearly now, those days WERE my rock bottom. I've been healing and climbing back stronger and wiser and higher ever since.
After that moment, it all changed. I knew that I needed to live a life that opened more doors, that provided for a lifestyle that was healthier, slower, kinder, more abundant, and more beautiful and peaceful.
I was an artist at heart, but didn't have the cut-throat drive to go all-in for it. To turn my most precious heartfelt things into monetary goodies. That part of me had to stay wild and medicinal. I'm okay with it. So, I found libraries. There was something intuitive about it, for me. What I loved about retail was pointing people to what they wanted. Solving the dilemma. Finding the answer. Helping.
When I began working in public libraries, instead of persuading people to invest their time and money into products or services, I was encouraging them to invest their time and money into themselves and their dreams, their health, their curiosity, their education, their futures.
I scoffed at librarianship, early on, as a teen. I thought it meant being a quiet bookworm. I was loud. Passionate. I bounce a lot, I have high energy. And I didn't read all that much. I talked, I expressed, I organized, I lead, I learned. But would I fit, could I belong, in a library? Shhhhhh...
Even in that first interview, I remember being asked, "so...how are you with Reader's Advisory, do you read a lot?"
I was honest. My heart sunk, I felt bad about it, but I told the truth: "I don't read all that much. I love film, and I love story, in general. But I'm here for the people. I help people find what they want, when they need it. And I figure I don't have to read all the books in order to match people with the right ones to read. I can read reviews and summaries, and still find them what they're looking for...right?"
Well, spoiler-alert, I got the job. And to this day, I don't read that many novels. They really have to wow me, pique and keep my interest. And be available on audio. I read tons of self-help, personal development, creative genius, psychology, religion, some biography and memoir, spirituality, gardening, philosophy, and so on. I'm the non-fic girl. And I'm okay with that.
What I love about my career is that it's dynamic and multifaceted: the best librarians are not just avid readers. They're listeners. The greatest gift that we have to give, from behind that desk, is our attention. Our patience. Our understanding and interest in helping someone we've never met before to find whatever it is that they need. And sometimes, what they need is not even in the library. Librarians are listeners, among so many other things. Surrounded by eons of inspiration, motivation, rhetoric, facts and figures, possibilities, histories, and stories of wonder. Information. We sit within heaps of it, daily. If we're lucky. And it feels like home, to me - if I don't know, I can find out. There's so much hope, empowerment, and peace in that. And these days it's not just books - there is the digital landscape, as well.
And there are the fun, everyday parts, like recommending books, organizing stacks, reading reviews, giving computer tutorials, putting fun projects and programs together, hosting workshops and book clubs. True librarianship, in my opinion, requires empathy. We listen. We observe. We locate and provide and make someone's life a little bit better. We communicate. We hold space. We serve. And I really do love it.
I don't take job stress home with me, really, my work is a blessing. And I don't have to take my actual work home (with the exception of this year and quarantine...) I don't suffer long train rides and commutes. I work two minutes from my son's school and can be there in a moment if I need to. I get along with my co-workers. I work in a gorgeous and naturally beautiful area and can take walks to the water on coffee breaks. It's a great salary, the best benefits in the state, lots of paid time off. It's quite ideal, actually. I'd love a 4 day work week, but that's a story for another day...
Every career or business has its ups and downs, but I love what I get to do. Who I get to help. I love the pace. The steadiness. The integrity in it. The honesty. The purpose.
If you're curious about this field, in Public Libraries... here's what you need to know. It's way more than just loving to read books:
I'm grateful for where I'm at. What I've got. I used to feel as though I were behind, somehow, and I've seen - undeniably - just how good I have it. I'm happy. I want things, but I build slowly upon what I've got. My needs are met. It's a great place to be.
My priorities today?
Motherhood and work/life balance. Nutrition. Exercise. Aging gracefully. Budgeting wisely. Free and wild expression and meandering moments of bliss and wonder - whenever possible.
4 min read
Repost from earlier blog, 2018.
Crisis. Chaos. Urgency. Demands. Anxiety and fear. Social change.
There's been so much, lately... and while I unapologetically let myself wander into flow-zones and creative bliss and write into inspired mindscapes, I work - daily - in public service. My career has been in the study, tending, and serving of humanity since I was young.
And the two greatest gifts that working in service of others can give - are perspective and empathy.
And I love what it does for my writing, I love the deeper dive it gives me, into humanity. I love the widening lens I have on myself, on my relationships, my life, as I learn more about human behavior. But I've also become better and more adept at crisis management, in times of trouble - and more precisely, communication during crisis.
Energy can rage high during times of crisis, and we've been hit with crisis after crisis, lately. The fear, pain, grief, and tension all come to a head over wrongdoing, inequality, unfairness, crime, acts of hate, personal loss, environmental devastation, petty disagreements, perceived hurt, lasting uncertainty, you name it.
It's so easy to get swept up in the fear - and it can distort the way that we communicate, even when our intentions are good and just. It's easy to react with anger. It's harder to respond with compassion. It's a practice, and a worthy one. Anyone that works in service - at any level - ought to be practiced in responding with awareness, compassion, and a calm-assertive mindset.
Confronting someone from a place of grounded awareness is often uncomfortable. It's tempting to shout and rage and blame, though it comes with regret and a handful of misjudgments and mistakes and even unintended harm, sometimes.
We've all been there, in our personal and working lives - there comes a time when we all must speak up.
Personal situations put us in the center of confrontation so often in our lives: it comes up when we have to share sad news, like an unexpected health crisis or the loss of a loved one. It comes up when there is a betrayal of confidence, or a wicked misunderstanding. It comes up when we grow and want more for ourselves - and we need to voice it. It comes up when we have to speak out against something immoral that we witness.
As we journey through life, opportunities to practice confrontation pop up constantly. The minor ones come and go, easily:
But it's the big ones that shake us and make us uneasy - it's the ones we don't like to think about. The confrontations that may cause change.
In the workplace, it comes up in the form of professional disagreements. When a supervisor must correct staff, or enforce a rule or regulation. When staff must speak up to a supervisor. When changes sweep through an organization, and staff must be re-educated. These are simple bubbles of change that rise up, anywhere.
And these dynamics occur in all sorts of relationships. In romantic relationships, friendships, work relationships, and larger scale relationships, as well. Government officials and the citizens who elect them. Between country leaders and other country leaders. Race, gender, ideology, religion, anything that denotes a kind of belief about oneself, their community, and the greater world engenders an idea of relationship. We are constantly in relationship - with ourselves and with others. We fight often, within ourselves, until we seek peace and find a resolution, and continue on down our path - and so it is outside of us, as well.
Any conversation that might result in an unpleasant emotional state, for one or both parties, can be unsettling. It's just the way of things and feeling nervous before a confrontation is normal. Not wanting to hurt someone's feelings is a normal, healthy reflex. It doesn't make us weak. But the truth must always come out if we want to ensure healthy relationships, on all levels. We must always say what needs to be said - sincerity is paramount, overall. When we swallow it down and over-accomodate others, we internalize and stifle ourselves, which is never healthy in the long run. And when truth must be spoken, those emotional soft spots should be respected, but not allowed to run the conversation.
"Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind – even if your voice shakes..." Maggie Kuhn
When the moment comes to deliver the news or ask the question or raise the issue, a series of things can happen:
But stay with it. Speak the truth, deliver the goods, even if you tremble or turn red. Your body will have a reaction the first time you do it, as the rush of energy pours out, it won't feel good. You might sweat or cry afterward or feel anger or want to withdraw for a while. Sharing truth is vulnerable. But know that truth - most times - is always better on the outside, and that the waves of emotion that rush in for both parties, should subside quickly. Nerves will settle. The anxious feeling doesn't stay long and the liberation of not holding it in anymore will leave room for something new - for some growth, for some forward momentum, for some new inspiration in the relationship.
It's been a long quarantine, here in New York.
100+ days locked down, at home, virtual everything: schooling, working, coping, getting sick and thankfully healing fast. And back to work, in levels and layers, bit by bit. A little here, a little there, and then full-time and being in the center of the community, again.
No summer camp, and switching and maneuvering and juggling and accommodating, accommodating, accommodating. Big themes... flexibility, humility, creativity, gratitude.
There's a steady travel ban on, and if I, say... go see my Mama in Georgia for a week, that means about a month of vacation time. If you're a 9-5 er like me, that's definitely not doable. So you busy yourself, you connect in other ways, you check in. You keep breathing, though you miss people - FAMILY - terribly. You say a prayer of gratitude if they're all okay (they are.)
And then, maybe you get asked to house/dog sit, somewhere close. A different place, up and off the island. Still New York, still "safe." Family. And you breathe... because the chance to spread your wings - just a little - feels like magic.
But traveling with kids during COVID comes with some prep-work:
1. Pack sanitizer for the road, especially those unexpected rest-stop visits. I pack wipes for bathrooms - for germs and in case there's no paper in there. Be smart. Think ahead.
2. Charge up an iPad or something, if you're a single parent. Something to watch, listen to, being in the car for hours can get boring for littles. Boredom can lead to seat-kicking, yelling, and those big, awful, woe-is-me-I'm-bored tears. Bring things. Don't like gadgets? Mad Libs still work. Or picture books, if they're really little. But bring stuff. (Always keep a big Lego stash in your purse or man-bag.) Like any other road trip, basically.
3. Pack extra face masks. Don't leave the house with JUST THE ONE ON HIS/HER FACE. Kids are slippery, they drop things.
4. Load Mommy's playlist. Lay down the law: the driver picks the music. Kiddo can bring headphones and The Wiggles greatest hits, or watch Trolls 2 on the iPad. It's okay. Mommy (or Daddy) needs to focus on the road, and that focus needs the right music or audiobook or podcast, or whatever. Period. DO NOT NEGOTIATE WITH THEM. THEY ARE CRAFTY. OWN THE SPEAKERS UP FRONT. You can do this. Stay strong. Be the pack leader. Like Cesar says.
5. Snacks. You don't know what you'll find at rest-stops. Pack road snacks. Cut grapes, carrot sticks, berries, pretzels, fruit gummies. Most healthy, some fun treats. I usually hit a place for coffee and breakfast on the road, first. We'll have a few goodies if that stuff runs out.
6. Sunscreen. No-brainer, but sometimes we're so overwhelmed with masks and germs that we forget about the basics. The Sun still burns. Pack the SPF. It's summer.
7. Keep your cool. While on the road, you may encounter the... UNMASKED. Some folks, for whatever reason, will not show the courtesy. If you pass them, understand that they have their reasons. A summer road trip with your kids isn't the time to educate them or spew statistics. Just keep your distance and walk on, I think. Our kids learn from us - don't pick unnecessary fights. Or if you are of the UNMASKED persuasion, I'm sure you have your reasons (though I don't understand them), but keep your distance from those who do practice these safety measures. It's common courtesy. Be cool.
8. Don't be on your phone that much. If you're getting away for a quick long weekend, don't spend that precious time scrolling. Enjoy the new digs, the fresh air, family, the nice slow pace. Share pics, post updates, and put it down. Cherish the time away. Unwind. Connect.
9. Plan activities and food choices. It's nice to have a few structured things planned for the weekend. A local farmstead to hit. Open restaurants. A local ice cream shop. Hiking around a nearby lake. Kayaking, maybe. State Parks usually have some wonderful recreational things to offer for families. You just don't know what'll be open and closed these days. Check it out ahead of time.
10. Grownup activities. Kids will go to bed and you'll have some time at night. Bring stuff just for you: a good book, some journals, your current project, a yoga DVD. Bath bombs. Something just for you. Make that time, even while you're away. You'll thank yourself later. There's no feeling quite like needing a vacation after your vacation. We've all been there. So don't overbook yourself, work in rest-time. Keep it simple. Make it sweet.
I'll see you next week! xoxo