Thursday, January 29, 2009

Stop and watch the dog chase the ball

I think the usual saying is "stop and smell the roses," but I live my life in dog analogies...

This morning I got up at around 7:30. By 8:30, I'd learned that my mother is in the hospital and my dog has cancer. Not a great start to the day. As many of us know all too well, life can be going along cheerfully enough and then suddenly hit you with a right hook out of no where.

This unfortunate duo of wake-ups ties in to another lesson that I've lived and learned during my 39th year of introspection and change:

Its a good day when the dog is chasing the ball, so stop, watch and enjoy. As we were all vividly shown in Marley and Me, a dog's life is short, but oh so joyful. We should all aspire to live such full and exuberant lives. Dog's are masters of living in the moment, enjoying what's right in front of them, and not holding back actions or emotions out of fear. I think loving a dog, and participating in their shorter lifecycle can give humans a deeper perspective on our own lifecycle, which although longer in years speeds by just as quickly.

I so vividly remember being 12, doing the math, and saying to myself, amazed, "Wow. When I'm FORTY it will be 2009." In 1981, this seemed impossibly far away.

Last June, I suddenly looked up from my career desk and didn't like what I saw. For the previous 17 years, I had focused almost exclusively on career, career, career. Bigger, higher, faster, better, and more were my primary hallmarks. But, I didn't really know what I was trying to achieve.

So, with no plan, I abruptly decided to quit my job and take six months off.

It was slightly terrifying to just quit. I had no idea if I'd be able to sail back into my career if I decided to go back. I had no idea how I'd make money if I decided not to go back. I just knew that things were out of balance and I needed to reorient my life.

I took a step to the side and spent six months hanging out with the dog, focusing on writing, getting in shape with a trainer, cooking, enjoying the Bay Area, prioritizing friends, and cultivating a new relationship.

I realized that even though I got off the career merry-go-round, the world didn't come to an end like I feared it might. The opposite happened--the world came to life. All the pressure I'd felt over the years about career, job, day-to-day BS, were all pressures I'd put on myself. Newsflash to self: No one else had any expectations for me but me.

And, when I was ready and excited about going back to work, a fantastic job presented itself that was right in line with the new life I was trying to build. Now I'm excited about marketing again, have a strong belief in my company, am working downtown in San Francisco for the first time, riding my bike to work, and thinking about how to make my marketing programs "sustainable."

Life throws things at us, both good and bad. That we can't control.

But, we can control how we're living our lives in the spaces between those unexpected right hooks.
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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

T-Minus Three Months: The Ever Elusive Cohesive Whole

I have to admit that I’ve completely lost interest in my blog over the last three months, which should be fairly obvious since I’ve posted zip. My last post talked about “creating a cohesive whole” between my newfound personal and professional lives. I’ve often felt like a split personality in my approach to these two sides, and I will continue to work on this as I enter my 40’s.

Still, now that I’m less than three months from turning 40, I feel the need to close out the “project,” of my 39th year, and be ready to evolve into the focus for my new decade.

I’ve never been great at finishing things. I inevitably get bored about halfway through and want to move onto something else. As a child, this constantly frustrated my mother as I skipped from stamp collecting to movie star photo collecting to bug collecting to piano to clarinet to tap to jazz to girl scouts to 4H to voice lessons to creative writing to photography…and on and on...

About 9 months ago, I wrote my first blog, which contained a list of things I wanted to accomplish before I turned 40. Here is that list:
  • Finish the novel I've been working on for 8 years

  • Get in amazing physical shape before all my body parts start to head south

  • Figure out my next big career milestone or...

  • Decide to quit my job altogether and see where that leads

  • Have more and better sex...ahem...

As I barrel around the calendar on the last few laps of my 30’s, some of these things I’ve accomplished very successfully, some have taken on completely different iterations, and others (ahem, my novel) are still sitting out there waiting for my attention span to come back around to them. I’m not going to articulate the specifics, mainly because it just doesn’t matter. The important thing is what I’ve learned along the way, so I’ll direct the focus there.

Over the next few days, I’ll take my learnings one by one and post them here. Starting with this one:

Ask for what you want. You might get it. In my personal life, I’ve spent a lot of angst and turmoil over the years HOPING that I’d get what I wanted or needed in my relationships. I would never verbalize my wants or needs. This seemed terrifying. And funnily enough, I never seemed to make progress towards a healthy, fulfilling relationship. Instead I stayed too long in the wrong relationships HOPING things would change. I also attracted partners who were commitment- or communications-challenged. Hmmm.

I would NEVER do this in my work life. I always ask for what I want in my career whether its money, responsibility, title, etc. Still, this prospect seemed daunting with regard to personal relationships.

I could write volumes on how and why this changed for me during my 39th year. I won’t. Suffice to say it was hard work, but there was no magical formula. I just changed my way of thinking and stopped being afraid of what would happen if I asked for what I wanted or needed.

I’ve been amazed at the positive response.