The Busy and The Quiet

There are very few times in my life that I am alone any more.  Especially, times where I am alone and not connected to someone or something via my phone.  This is one of those times (don’t be bothered by the being connected to my blog….that is a part of the relief).  The kids are off to a movie with Jon and I am due to a friends house in about an hour.  But, for these 45 minutes, I am alone.  No sounds around me in the house other than my fingers typing, and the hum of our house as the dishwasher runs and the laundry is in action.  

I realize in this moment how I have almost forgotten how to sit silently.  The things I should be doing race through my mind:  should I prep the food for dinner; is the laundry ready to fold; maybe I should squeeze a quick workout in; I haven’t called my best friends from high school/college in a long time and should take this minute to make that happen; I have been meaning to get back to the book I got half way through on vacation and now is the time; what could I start on to make this week go more smoothly.  So, I force myself to keep writing as a way to not relinquish this time to the constant to do list in my mind.  

When did this happen?  Was it the onset of kids that took all my quiet moments and turned them into times filled with things?  Was it my job progressing to the point where I don’t have time during the day to take a deep breath?  Did this set the precedent for “no deep breaths, ever”?  Maybe it is because our world is on at all times (email, text, Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, etc.).  Maybe it is because Jon and I are productive people….and don’t want to let a minute not help us to progress something forward.  

In reflection, it is a choice.  I like to squeeze a lot into my life.  I enjoy the things with my family, and my job, and socializing as a part of our community.  I enjoy my friends, and the outdoors where we live and staying connected to friends from prior times in my life via phone, text, email.  I enjoy the busy.  

But, I also like the quiet.  The slight dripping I hear from the kitchen sink, the idea of a nap, being bored.  A weekend with no plans, the time to take a spur of the moment road trip.  The ability to answer my phone when my mom calls versus texting her I am in the middle of something.  The free brain space to dream about things that make me happy, without making a plan about them….simply imagining what could be.  

To live my life to the fullest, it takes the ability to do both of these things.  Not letting either the busy or the quiet dominate my time.  Being comfortable telling myself to redirect if I get too heavy on one side of the scale.  This is one of those moments.  I have been running too hard the last few months.  Not enough quiet, not enough writing, not enough open space.  It shows up in my health (sitting here with a cold), my kids (they show me my stress as if they are a mirror) and my temperament.  Time to redirect.  

Commitments: Make The Next Half Even Better (and Longer)


I am 38 years old with two adorable kids and a wonderful husband.  2 working parents with travel schedules, building a new house, trying to be involved in our community, and trying to be great parents.  Living life in a place I love, with the people that I love.  Pretty much the luckiest woman around.  You could also read this as overly busy but trying to have it all.

For the last few weeks, as I have been working on planning for my husbands 40th birthday which is coming this fall, I have been coming to grips with how short life seems.  I know that this may sound melodramatic.  What hit me in talking with Jon about turning 40, is that mathmatically, given the average life expectancy, we are about half way through our life (or a little past that).  This can either scare me or make me celebrate what lies ahead.  What it actually has caused me to do, as I start thinking about it, is to wonder if it is true.  We have a number of family friends or relatives that are dealing with serious cancer, and I have a coworker who is 48 who has recently been diagnosed with Stage 2 ovarian cancer.  All of it is shocking, and sad.  In particular those who are so young, and haven’t lived the life that they have claimed to have wanted.  It is a morbid thought, but my worry-meter has been rising.  This worry was capped off this week when I attended the “Go Red for Women” luncheon hosted by the American Heart Association.  One of the speakers was a 38 year old mother of two boys who had a major heart incident at the age of 31.  Yikes!  A little too close to home.

But, the worst thing I can do is to worry.  Worry fills my head and my time with ideas and thoughts that have no fruit. So yesterday, as I sat writing this at the salon while getting my nails done during “girls day out” with my lovely Katharine, I have a renewed commitment to enjoying the moments of my life (even the stressful and busy ones).  A commitment to making choices in my life and our families life (our food, our exercise, our habits) that create a long healthy life together.  And, a commitment to make what I hope is a longer second half of my life even better than the first.

The Art of Prioritization: One Small Choice At A Time

On the quest to find time for brain space at work, I have been ridiculously focused on prioritization. And, practice makes perfect….or at least makes things better. There is no easy way to become great at this overnight, but I am commited to continuously improving my skills.

The attempt this week is visualization.  As a former gymnast, one of the techniques that I would use prior to competing in a meet, literally right before I would be up for my routine, was visualization.  This is a simple step…closing my eyes, and picturing myself completing the perfect routine.  As a teenager, I thought this was a stupid task.  My coaches would insist on it, and half the time, I would close my eyes and start thinking about what I was going to do the next Saturday night.  Now, looking back on this training activity, it was a brilliant way to calm my mind and to focus on the outcome that I wanted to achieve.  Maybe if I would have realized this then, my gymnastics career woudn’t have been so average!  Nevermind on that, most of the average came from my athletic capability…nothing a visualization could change.

So, over the last week or so, I have been visualizing the things that I will dedicate my time and brain space to on my way to work.  A simple five minutes of quiet time in my car (don’t worry, no eyes closed), provides me a window to visualize what I want to accomplish with my day.  I find myself sorting through priorities, thinking about the problems I am trying to solve, and focusing on what I want to accomplish.  So far so good as I feel not only more relaxed as I head into the day, but also more focused on the tasks at hand, and willing to focus my calendar time towards the most important things for the day.

Is it sustainable?  We shall see.  Let’s hope it works better than it did for my gymnastics career.

Confessions of a Chronic Over-Scheduler

It has been a month of very few blog posts and very little free time.  Tonight, I find myself writing from 30,000 feet with two little kiddos perched next to me watching movies on our long flight back from Christmas in State College.  It honestly feels like this may be the first free moment in my life in December.  Maybe I will say this every year, but this seems to have been the busiest holiday season yet.  All fun things, but lots of things.

We traveled back to Ohio for Thanksgiving and flew back to Park City on November 28th.  From that day, until today, every work day and every evening had a purpose.  Some work or holiday preparation task that had to be completed.  November 29th – get the Christmas tree and decorations up.  November 30th, first ski days planned.  December 1st – begin the board meeting at the kids school.  December 2nd – Christmas cards created.  December 3rd – finish the full lists of who gets Christmas cards and get the hunt for addresses closed for the year.  December 3rd – work event.  December 4th – prep for Christmas cookies.  December 5th – Christmas cookie party.  December 6th – holiday calendar started.  December 7th – finish and order holiday calendars, 3 holiday parties.  December 8, 9, 10th – work trip to Ft. Lauderdale.  December 11th – kids school holiday party.  December 12th …. Gingerbread house….you get the point.  This schedule went on all the way up to December 21st when we flew back east.  We survived.  It all happened, and we had a wonderful Christmas with Jon’s family.  But, today I am tired and a little sick.  I can’t help but wish for a relaxing night or two in front of our Christmas tree at home with no place to go, no task to complete other than just relaxing.

It makes me wonder, what has to give in my life to have things be just a little less scheduled?  I don’t want to give up any of the fun things we fill our life with, but I also feel like keeping the pace we keep makes things go by at the speed of light.  I worry that with all of the things going on, I am not able to live in the moment.  My brain is always planning or processing the next thing to do as that is the only thing that makes them all able to fit into our schedule.

The funny thing about this is that I have always been of the belief as a parent that I won’t over-schedule our kids.  I see so many families of elementary age kids (and older) and they have so many activities going on that it seems like they don’t get time to just “be” together.  Jon and I talk about this and purposefully work to have our kids only in extracurricular activities if it is something they really enjoy, and only about 2 a year.  Ironically, I don’t apply this same principle to myself.

calendar-book-636Why am I a chronic over-scheduler?  Here are a few things that I have thought about.  Good, bad and ugly.

A Feeling of Obligation – Bad, even Ugly at times

I feel obligated to do as many things as I can with my time.  Obligated to my family, to my work team, to myself.  I feel like if I can do something, I should.  I feel lucky that throughout my life I have learned to be confident in my ability to take on almost anything.  This confidence is based in a belief that although I may not be great at whatever it is that I am trying, I will try to figure it out.  I also love variety.  The problem with the combination of these personality traits is that they lower the barrier of saying “yes” to things.  And when I say yes, I build obligation.  So, why do I feel obligated?  Who knows.

A Desire to Be Helpful – Good, but also Bad when it means no time for me

At the core of who I am, I like to help people.  I see something that I can help with, and I offer to help.  Often times this adds things to my list to do list and I want them there.  The most obvious sign of this is my list of both formal and informal mentees.  Over the years, this has been one of the most fulfilling parts of my professional life.  Ultimately, it is what has led me to want to lead a large team of marketers.  The trade-off, and there is always a trade-off is giving up time that I have for myself.

A Way Things Should Be Done – Generally Bad, and even Ugly

This is the one I have worked the most on in my quest for self-improvement.  I have historically had the perception in my life that there is a “best” way to do things.  This standard that I created for myself often times added a fair amount of stress to my life as when things aren’t done this “best” way, I get frustrated.  In the beginning of leading teams, this belief that there is one way to do things (my way) made me a horrible leader.  Nothing was ever good enough.  The best thing about this experience was that it forced me to change.  Having kids was the next big life change that helped me to value things not going my way.  My kids almost never see how brilliant my way is!  By having this belief, it has historically caused me to take more time doing things than they need.  In a life of time scarcity, this is a problem.

I Love Doing Things – Good!

I truly love relationships, challenges, being active and trying new things.  This is the most honest and good reason that I over-schedule myself.  I like it.  Doesn’t mean I like some of the consequences of the over-scheduling, but I do truly enjoy doing the things that I do.

So, good, bad and ugly this seems like why I do what I do.  Any advice out there from other over-schedulers?  Is it a lost cause, or can you change this about yourself?