Meetings

Back in May I received a call from my oldest daughter that she was pregnant. It was not a call I ever really anticipated receiving from her and amid her tears of joy and fear and anticipation she allowed me to be part of that day along with many others throughout her pregnancy, including all her ultra-sounds and many of her visits. Then last week, I was given the privilege of being with her while she labored valiantly and with honor. After 18 hours, she had a c-section with her husband by her side bringing into this world and all our lives, a beautiful, 8lb 2oz baby boy.

Within minutes of his delivery, she encouraged her husband to bring the baby into the recovery room and share him with me and my heart is forever changed. As their sweet baby was handed to me I was overwhelmed by their generosity of sharing him in those first few moments of his life and it has created a memory and a bond that can never be forgotten.

That was a week ago now and as I reflect back on that day, those moments, the memories, I am grateful again for this time away from work, living minimally and listening to my soul. Did I mention that he was born at 11:57pm? For those of you who have had a baby you know that that means they didn’t get out of recovery and into their room until well after 3am. Lets just say, it was a late night all around. And while I was grateful to hit the pillow that night (morning) I was keenly aware of the things I was not worried about.

I wasn’t worried about calling into work 4 hours later to let them know I’d need another day off. I was aware that not once during that precious time while my daughter was in labor did my phone go off with questions that would have pulled my attention from her. I was reminded that I wasn’t worried about any meetings I was missing, any places I needed to be or any things that were happening that I should have been overseeing. I had spent an entire 24 hours, totally focused on what was important. What an amazing and wonderful gift. To be able to be fully present as another human came into this world. This was a bonus from our decisions that I had not anticipated.

Joshua Becker says in his blog, Becoming Minimalist, “Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value by removing everything that distracts us from it.” I would say that my day last week was the pinnacle of those choices in our life thus far and enabled us to have time and space to be present for the things we most value.

I am happy to say that our sweet lil’ man is doing great. Eating and sleeping, with a calmness about him that I know was created by parents who intentionally grew him in an environment that promoted peace. Mama is doing well too. Her commitment to the things that she values, all through her pregnancy, which included clean eating, daily yoga right up to baby’s delivery and a home filled with a calm, peaceful love are already being seen in their son. His sweet demeanor and calm spirit are traits we see clearly. He is a testament to the intentional promotion of things most valued.

As for me, his Nana, I just continue to feel blessed. This has been a wonderful week. I have been free to be available as needed to my daughter and her new family, without guilt or worry. I’ve not missed a minute of it. It’s one of those experiences I had no idea would alter my understanding of grand-parenting and positively rock my world to the extent it has. Who knew meetings could be so sweet?

Man, I love this life!

Traded

Each morning since this new life adventure I am on started, I have watched the sun rise. I typically find myself sitting sideways on the couch, two pillows propped behind my back against the arm, blanket over my legs and hot coffee held between cool fingers…sitting in awe of something that has occurred every day since the beginning of time. As the colors change from cool yellow to bright orange tucked into long strips of morning clouds and then into the day, I never cease to be amazed. Truly amazed.

For many years my commute involved the sunrise. Best case scenario it meant it would be a warm day but one I would experience from behind glass windows on the third floor. Worst case scenario it meant it was low in the sky as drivers tried to traverse their daily drive without crashing into another car or truck going 70 miles an hour while weaving in between those impeding their drive. While I’ve always loved the sun, those mornings with the visor low and my sun glasses on in 30 degree temperatures made me less then appreciative of its bright, life giving light. Even on the days when I thought it was beautiful that thought rarely had time to continue on to appreciation as thoughts of the upcoming day quickly took over, pulling my attention from the wonder that was there for my enjoyment.

I’ve found a few of those things since being home. I had forgotten the pleasure of a long hot shower without time restrictions and music up loud, the joy of working out at 2pm instead of 5am and the middle of the day phone call with someone I love just to say hello and catch up. Yes, all of these things can be done at other times of the day to help with efficiency and to accommodate work hours and I do understand that is how life needs to work for most of us most of the time, but these small changes to my blossoming routine are bringing a deep, heartfelt joy that I had not anticipated.

One of the joys that has been rekindled in the last 25 days is working out, and in whole new ways. We used to go to the gym, daily, at 4:30am. We’d spend an hour or so there, rush home to start the morning and head to work. When I say I used to, I mean 7 years ago I used to. Fitness was one of the things that got swallowed up in my pursuit of the corporate dream. I was too tired to get up early and to exhausted in the evenings to add it to my hectic day. I watched my fitness level and my weight slip, trying to get a work out in on the weekends or in 20 minutes somewhere here or there, always to be disappointed in the outcome or what I could no longer do. Knowing I was losing all the progress I had made years ago, losing 60 pounds and being more fit then I had ever been, only added to my stress and anxiety and confirmed the voice in my head that here was yet another area of my life I was failing at.

Part of my journey the past few years has been about my health. Or rather the decline of my health. And while I am not a physician and I’m not making recommendations by any means, I think my path is worth sharing in hopes it might help someone else see how stress can manifest itself physically. When I got my first entry level corporate management position I weighed about 135, worked out daily, had great eating habits and I was not on any medications. As I climbed the ladder, increasing my responsibilities, my salary, the stress and the hours I worked, those things began to take a hit. Small, little changes at first. One workout missed due to a 7am meeting. Two workouts missed for another meeting. Medication to help with ‘hormones’ because my stress level was increasing and my sleep was interrupted nightly by an overactive mind. Two years ago, after lots of tests and doctor visits I was diagnosed with an unspecified auto-immune disease and three more medications were added to the daily regime along with my cortisol being so low it was almost undetectable. Then six months ago, an ulcer with three more meds and anxiety with another med to counter its affects and help me sleep. By the end of every day I had taken 9-10 pills.

9-10 pills A DAY! I am 51 years old. At lunch with a physician friend of mine this week, she gasped when I told her …”that is what you expect from a 90 year old” …. I know. I knew. BIG sigh. It was one of the many flags that told me things had to change. More than a flag really….more like fireworks exploding overhead that something had to change with bombs and lights and thumping music. YOU’RE KILLING YOURSELF! We all know that, don’t we? That stress is bad for us. We’ve read article after article about de-stressing, meditating, being present. But I didn’t see a clear way out until I did.

With that knowledge, one of the things I committed to myself and my family when we made the decision for me to take this time off was that I would make my health a priority. I had visions of hitting the gym first thing in the morning again like I used to, lifting weights until I was too sore to sit for three days, doing hours of cardio weekly and pretty much returning to my 40 year old self, preferably within 60 days.. But what I have found has been a sweet, sweet path leading to something completely different.

While I’ve tried Yoga a few times in the past, my daughter, who is 41 weeks pregnant today and still practicing every day, has made Yoga part of her life for years and last year had the opportunity to go to Bali for a retreat. I have first hand seen the changes in her spirit and in her body and the benefits it has added to her pregnancy. So I started there. I asked if I could practice with her a couple mornings. I figured hey, she’s 8 months pregnant, I should be able to keep up with her, right? She graciously chose 30 minute practices, provided the mat and blocks and encouragement. And at the end of each time together, I found myself tearfully aware that I had just done something really good for my body and my soul. Our first practice together was on Christmas day and I am proud to say I’ve not missed a day since. I’m improving daily. I am surprisingly sore many mornings from the day before’s practice but I look forward to it like I’ve rarely anticipated exercise before. It’s been a wonderful addition to the healing of my body and heart.

And even as I contemplate writing this next sentence I am asking myself who I am, but,… I’ve started running. While I find myself wanting to say all the parts of it I’m not good at or talk about the distance, I am going instead to say I am proud of me. It was one of those things I had said I could never do. I was told in fourth grade that I was a ridiculous runner because I smiled too much. I have always believed I am not athletic. I was afraid of looking foolish, I thought I was too old, I have a bad hip, blah, blah blah….but I started by walking up to an hour a day then, a couple weeks ago I thought, fear is not going to keep me from trying this…and I ran. And damn, my body can do it! And it feels really good. I’ve successfully added it to my exercise routine and look forward to that feeling when you first step into stride.

While I am proud of these parts of my adventure so far, it’s not why I feel compelled to write today’s blog. The part I really want to share is that due to these changes in my fitness and leaving the environment that was not healthy for me, I am off all medications. All 10 of them. The symptoms of the auto-immune are completely gone. Any discomfort I am feeling is that of well used muscles after a workout. I quit the anxiety meds when I gave my notice and the ulcer has healed. I am not a doctor, and I’m not recommending anyone just stop taking prescribed medications, but for me, this is the best outcome to date. Its been just 7 weeks. That is an amazing and fast physical turn around. One I had not believed could happen so quickly, if ever. But our bodies rebel against anxiety and stress and when I didn’t listen for so long, it just kept getting sicker and sicker. We are meant to live healthy, happy lives.

Each morning while I sit and watch the sun rise, coffee in hand, I am acutely aware of what is missing in my life. For me, that is a fistful of meds, anxiety about my upcoming day and a belief that no matter how hard I keep trying, I am failing.

I feel great. I still cry most days so grateful for this gift of time and the blessings of family support, the ability to get healthy, the examples of how to do it and the encouragement to do so. I would trade it again for the paycheck and the title.

For now, I’ll enjoy the rest of this morning, quietly finishing a second cup, then retire to my space to enjoy getting healthy, my way, while I wait patiently for our next grandson.

Thanks for reading. I want to continue to share my journey in hopes that it encourages someone to reconsider what ‘arriving’ looks like for them and to remind myself again and again that my health, my life and my happiness are worth more than any amount of zero’s.

Until next time,

-rache

the Hustle

Today marks two weeks since I left my corporate job and all that came with it. Hours, salary, people, identity, title and stress. I’m proud of how I have spent these two weeks, taking my daughter to her doctor’s appointments for a grandson that is due any minute, studying, meditating, working out and incorporating Yoga into my daily routine. I’ve made a new meal every night and I’m enjoying the planning and prep like I used to.

Before I quit I made a list of things I’d like to explore while I have this year off and I continue to add to it as new things either come to mind or I see something and wonder about it. Some of those include more time to paint, make cards, send cards, learn macrame, work out daily and spend time in a new devotional. What was not on my list is the time I’ve had with my daughter as she puts the final touches on the nursery for her upcoming son. We spent one day this week touching up the crib and creating a wall in his room with a beautiful saying about changing his world, that my daughter hand wrote, on the wall!! Its so personal and beautiful and I feel blessed to have been part.

I’ve been invited to her appointments and yesterday got to see and feel his sweet little foot while hearing his heartbeat. All of these wonderful adventures were not things that I had planned. They were spontaneous and delightful as they played themselves out in the most perfect ways.

I had lunch with a friend who shared some very enlightened thoughts on acceptance and expectations. I have thought on our conversation and her words so many times since we met and know that they are a launching spot for growth this year. I look forward to seeing where they lead and who I become based on the time we spend together.

And I’ve cried every day.

For over a year I’ve been reading about and trying to practice being present. I’ve been meditating when I could find time and spending time trying to be silent all in the hopes it would ‘help’ and this week, so much of that study has started to show itself as benefit. I’ve had quiet moments of clarity that I have not before experienced in my life, and overwhelming gratitude. Hence the crying.

I can’t believe this is my life. Every moment choosing how to spend my time and my energy. Where to focus thought and the ability to spend time doing things I know are helping make me healthy. Not once have I felt rushed or pushed or had anxiety about how to get it all done and yet at the end of each day I still have things I look forward to doing tomorrow, things I didn’t get to today. I make a list every day of things I’d like to accomplish, marking them off as I go and forwarding any undone to the next day, and my soul is at peace.

I’ve had two occasions this week to be in a craft store (don’t worry MP!) and each time I was drawn to the planners. I like planners. I like tablets and binder and notebooks. Truth be told, I just really love any kind of paper. As I perused each book, looking for the details that made each of them different, I had the thought that maybe I ‘needed’ one. After all, I do have appointments to keep track of, things I am doing that are scheduled. I thought I could put my daily list in it and grocery needs and you know… have a planner. The last one I opened had each day scheduled by the half hour. A slot every thirty minutes. I immediately said, out loud, “I do not want to be that scheduled”. It actually gave me angst to think about having things so rigid. My daughter later commented that she was surprised by the comment because she has always known me to be a planner. Someone who found value in being busy because busy meant successful.

She was right. As I’m contemplating why I burned out of corporate America, part of it was my need to be seen as and to be busy. After all, busy is the outward way we know we are progressing and accomplishing, right? It was the way I knew I was climbing, growing, becoming ….something. But sadly, I believe that was part of what makes many of us slowly die inside. We give up the things that fill our time, the things that help us stay healthy and alive, for the busyness of meetings and demands that are pitched as urgent or vital. It happens slowly. First I gave up just one work out a week. Then I remember having the conversation with MP about what the minimum amount of workouts I’d need to do to maintain where I was at that point would be. It happened slowly but I traded, little by little, all the things that made me alive and happy for the things that kept me busy. The hustle was addicting and I was a junkie in the darkest sense of the word.

Hustle, Rest, Repeat
Hustle Hard
Hustle beats talent when talent doesn’t Hustle
Some days I’m humble, some days I struggle, but I always Hustle

Its cool to be a hustler! Even cooler to be labeled or seen as a hustler. I’m not saying that working hard is bad by any means, and I know that hustling is a catchphrase at the moment that encompasses pouring yourself into your dreams and I’m all for that. I also believe its worth considering the cost of the hustle with a measurement larger then the corporate ladder and to not buy into the idea that hustle for hustling sake is healthy for everyone.

This is the first of a few things I’m realizing just two weeks into my journey. For me, the manic hustle, the busy for busyness sake was my enemy. There is always going to be more, always going to be another meeting, another crisis, another need and I let those things wiggle their way into first place, before my health, my fitness and my family. Its easy to see from this side looking back the quiet progression and how I got caught up in believing I was just doing what needed to be done.

As I contemplate that progression and the opportunity to re-evaluate things, I hope to continue to cry every day. Tears of gratitude. Tears of becoming.

I’m going to live my life without a day planner for a while. I’m going to live outside my norm of filling ever minute and consciously continue to minimize in my life. I’m learning about me and I don’t need time slots all filled in to do that. I’m choosing who I want to be and I’m getting ready to meet the newest member of this amazing family. While my days are full, I am far from busy. Each thing I do is a choice and I am enjoying every thirty minutes of it !

This is my year of Discovery and I am more excited every day as I experience new things about myself, my life, my family and my world. My path to and with minimalism is taking me down this very unique road and for that my heart is overflowing with gratitude.
Thanks for coming along with me on the journey.

Until next time…

-rache

The Leaving

I gave my notice through email because I had been waiting for a call back for days
So…I sent my resignation letter through email and didn’t like doing it that way one bit
But it was time.

Three days later, with no acknowledgment of having received it, I sent it again asking if it had been received
(Looking back, I should have sent it with a return receipt, I know)
The next day I got the following email with its one word answer

“Received”

And then they went silent for the next two weeks
No emails
No exit strategy discussions
No questions
Just silence from their corporate office half way across the US

And….I was confirmed
This is the company that I couldn’t quite figure out for the six months I was there
Why don’t people answer my questions or emails?
Why are all the processes set up as if to make things more difficult then they need to be?

The job turned out to be totally different then what they told me when I took it
But it was exactly what I needed to make the change

And so…. I left corporate America
I think for good

I plan to take a year off
Really think about what I’d like to do
No more management
No more trying to tell people who have an MD or a PHD behind their name what to do

And here is the blessing and really what made this choice even optional….
We’ve been preparing for this for months
Years really
And didn’t even know it
Well, not specifically anyway

We became debt free earlier this year and since then we have been saving 90% of my paycheck and donating the other 10%
So we already know how to live on the Cowboys salary

We downsized our living space and our ‘things’ and started living a minimalistic lifestyle almost a year ago
There will not be big adjustments to make there either

I don’t know a lot of people my age, 51, who get an opportunity like this
I feel so blessed and excited and hopeful

Not everyday has been blissful while making this decision
One day I was so overcome by fear as my inner voice started to wonder what the hell I was doing…that I had to pull my car over

“If there is a recession, you’ll never work again”
“You’re too old, you’ll never be hired again”
“You’re going to ruin all your retirement plans”
“All you know is the medical field, you’ll never get into something else”
“You’re so selfish, broken, unable ……..”

I realized it was fear talking to me
None of those things were real, none of those things were true
And once I acknowledged that fear, and where it was coming from, I found a beautiful peace wash over me
A feeling I’ve gone back to whenever I start to feel anxious since then

And, so I jumped.
I left the job one week ago
Its was really hard to not be able to pass off the tasks in a professional way
To at least talk someone through where different projects are at or things to be watchful for
Actually, talk to anyone at all
I did not do the transition like I’d have liked to
But that wasn’t my choice
I wish them well

This week I have started a list of things I want to do with this time
I want to look back at it and know I shook this gift for all it was worth
I want to get fit and healthy again, read daily, mediate, worship, incorporate yoga into my weekly workouts, send notes weekly to those I love, journal, walk, swim, create
I have so many plans
and I’m so excited for this adventure.

One last note….
I know there is something I can’t even imagine coming
I’ve felt it for a while now and for the first time in my life I’m totally ok waiting to see what that is….
I’m not looking yet
I’m not trying to figure out what it might be or how it will work
I am not going to create it
I’m just going to work on me and wait to see what God has waiting for me
Because…its going to be great!

I plan to write more about leaving Corporate America too, but for now….I can hardly wait for this next Grand Adventure!