Everything in the universe at this moment is telling me that my biggest lesson in life is about saying “NO.” Each day I find an article, read a book, have a conversation that reiterates the ongoing dilemma I have with life. What can I truly handle? Have I bitten off more than I can chew? Yes, and no. It really depends. I do know that I need to figure out a way to scale back. Part of that means that I have to say “No” more and more and more. How does one do that when your modus operandi is to help others, solve problems, and to try to make the world a better place one day at a time?
I wanted to share a few of the ideas that have been bombarding my thoughts these last few days. I came across this Steve Jobs quote:
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
If I could truly do what Jobs said, maybe I could have a fraction of the success he had in life. It has become a common theme for me these past few weeks and months to figure out how to scale back at work and at home and yet life feels like it is a treadmill on the highest speed, and sometimes at the highest incline. At times it feels like the buttons are inoperable and I am not able to adjust to the appropriate speed, so it means running crazy fast and then wondering how long I can sustain the speed.
Make Realistic To-Do Lists: “We often bog down our to-do lists and make them not feasible for us to accomplish [plus] we underestimate how long it’s going to take us to do something,” says Sexton.
Prioritize tasks. Choose three major tasks to focus on for the day and add other tasks as they pop up throughout the day to a separate list, readjusting your priorities throughout the day if required. It’s a lot easier to look at a list of three tasks than 30. Once you knock off the first three items, choose your next three priorities from your lengthier list.
I do not feel like I have a problem with To-Do Lists, tracking what I need to do, or prioritizing my tasks. I feel it is having too much happening at once. Too many projects to track on, too many deliverables, and not enough time or bandwidth to execute or strategize on how to make it all happen.
How have you learned to say, “No?” Teach me. I want to learn. I want to know what has worked for you.
My sister sent me a text message the other day about a mouse and mouse nest her husband found in the glove box of their car. Um yuck. I can understand why it might happen. They live in an urban area and park their car in a garage that can easily be rampant with mice, as theirs has easy access from outside. He told her he has had that happen before and that their mechanic indicated that the mouse is able to get into the glove compartment through the engine.
However they arrive my sister and I both share a similar exclamation that we NEVER want to be the ones to open the glove compartment and have a mouse stare back at you. Especially if you are driving down the road and reach over to grab something from the glove box (yes, safely…but admit it you have done it before). If I was driving, and open the glove box, and see little eyes staring at me, I might drive off the road. Yuck, yuck, yuck.
It reminded me of a memory from when I was a freshman in high school. My sister was away for her senior year at boarding school (and she might have been home on break, I do not remember). I do know I was a freshman based on the apartment we were living in – if you can call it that. At the time, my mom was recovering from months in the hospital, and then months in a nursing home. We were broke, and somehow she had found a way to go back to school. Due to her classes, we were eligible for a small apartment (600 square feet), that was government subsidized. While I have no reason to complain, it was drab, drab, drab. The walls were made of cinder blocks, and most of the windows were high up (since we were on the first level due to my mom’s wheelchair).
I digress. The real intent of this story is that one day when I was making dinner for my mom, I opened the broiler drawer at the bottom of the stove. (Now let me assure you, we rarely used the boiler aspect of the oven. As it was, it was not a full size stove/oven. As Chris can attest I have never been great at cooking so I can only imagine what I was making for my mom in the broiler.) Yikes. What I saw looking back at me was not at all what I expected. It was a hamster, wood shavings and all. I freaked out, shut the door, and to this day I cannot remember what we did. Did I call the management company? Did I call a neighbor that had more confidence with critters than I did at 15? I think I did call the neighbor that had a ferret (who also irked me).
My sister’s mouse reminded me of the hamster that had been living in our stove. We believe it might have been from a neighboring apartment and been living in the walls. It makes you think a bit more about those scratching sounds you might have heard in the walls the other night…
11 years of marriage. I cannot tell you that marriage is a perfect place. It is full of love, laughter, frustration, emotion, and so much more. I love almost every minute of it, because I am walking forward with Chris. More than being lovers and spouses we are best friends. A best friend that I can truly say anything to at any moment. He might not always like what comes out of my mouth, but at least it is the truth. Here are a few ideas of what I think are steps toward a happy marriage:
Go to bed together every night. If you cannot orchestrate that, then if one is going to bed before the other, come and tuck the other in. I know that might sound old school, or childish, but do it. It will make a difference. It is a way to connect at the end of a long day and allows your spouse to relax. Having said all that, Chris is the night owl and I rarely get to tuck him in. Better yet, what we often do is go to bed together, snuggle, and then the one that is not tired gets to read and/or catch up on episodes of their favorite TV show on the iPad. A win-win situation.
Tell each other what you think as much as possible.
Try not to snap or react. Sometimes we are grumpy, have a poopy day, and we snap. Okay to be fair, Chris is WAY more patient then I am, and I snap way more often than he does. Do not take it personally. You know when your pants feel too tight and you plop down on the floor of the closest ready to explode with tears? Be there for each other at those moments. I know, I know 99% of the time it is the woman sitting on the floor. So to all those husbands out there. Sit down next to your wife and listen to her emotions, her hormones. Just love her immensely on those days.
Eat together at your kitchen table. Do it without your iWHATEVER device, your DVR, or Netflix. Absorb those moments together. We do not do it often enough, but when we do if makes life feel so different. Sad, but true.
Communicate, communicate, communicate. Just because you might have been with and lived with someone for 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 years does not mean that you should ever stop communicating. I should have made this point first because to me it is by far one of the most important aspects of marriage. Talk it out. Share what is on your mind. Listen. Discuss and resolve.
A happy marriage. No prescription. Just start with respect, love, and a listening ear. It is all up to both of you.
While I was somewhat fascinated by the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, I was actually more curious about the viral nature of Facebook and how quickly it spread across the Internet, and then it faded away. There were definitely pros and cons to the entire initiative. It sparked interest, and knowledge around ALS, but it also prompted folks to not be happy about the use of water when the state of California is in the middle of a water shortage, and there are plenty of countries in the world that need water. Interesting? Yes. Responsible? Maybe not.
So when I recently was tagged to do the Gratitude Challenge, at first I was like, ‘Ugh. Seriously… another thing?’ (Sorry, Whit). Honestly, I did not have time to think about something like that. I had quite a few full days, was away for the weekend, and knew I had another full work week ahead of me. I sat on it and did nothing instead. Of course I was not agonizing over it, but in the back of my mind I thought this is actually a good thing. If social media encourages us to share what we are grateful for, then that is a good thing. How often do we reach out and tell someone who we care about how much they mean to us? How often do we stop, breathe, and think about all the good in our lives? The Gratitude Challenge on Facebook is to share 3 things you are grateful for 5 days.
I am not a Pollyanna, but I am definitely one to make lemonade out of lemons. I have had my fair share of shit happen in life and I think you have two choices: Whine, complain, and think poor me or find a way to deal, look on the bright side, and be grateful for what you have in life. Of course, I might initially whine and feel poopy about the hand I was dealt, but once I get the ranting out of my system, I move into solution mode. What we often forget is that we have WAY more than we can ever imagine in life.
Kudos to whoever started the trend and is sharing grateful ideas, thanks, and positive juju across Facebook. That is something I can support, and it reminds us of all the good in our lives.
Over the weekend, my sister and I were discussing a blog post, called: “Give me Gratitude or Give me Debt” that we recently saw on Facebook. It was about a woman who posted pictures of her kitchen on Facebook and received comments about all the things she could do to upgrade her kitchen. Never expecting the comments and pondering them further, she realized how grateful she was and shared more about what she had then what she was lacking. It was an eye opener for me. Think about the endless possibilities of comments that others can share with one – to many on Facebook. It can mean an amazing outpouring of love and support, and it can also mean and outpour of critical comments that might not been so helpful to you.
Her blog post was a reminder that we all have way more than we can ever imagine. Take my sister for example. She has a beautiful, extremely happy, brilliant (no I am not biased) daughter. A family that is just what she wants. She lives in California, loves the sun, and is about to embark on a new adventure in the next few weeks. What is not to love about that life? Of course, as with any change in life, there are many unanswered questions, but that is part of life right? I feel amazingly blessed. I enjoy my job, love my home, have an amazing husband, and hope that one day we too will grow our family so that our niece Charlie will have a little cousin to boss around. What is not to love about my life? Sure I work hard, sometimes am stressed out, and often do not allow enough time for myself. If I were to say I lacked anything in life, it would be: time.
I am grateful.
Back to that kitchen and the comments on Facebook. Those comments are ones that come from this “perfect world” mentality that surrounds us. It is definitely a “first world” problem, and I do not know if it is an American issue, or one for many affluent countries. We strive so strongly (and I am just as much to blame) to have this perfect world. We want everything to be just so. The kitchen with the updated refrigerator, stove, updated cabinets. The list can go on and on. We do just the same for our body, clothes, furniture, and other worldly possessions.
Yet, if we just start with what we already have, I think we’ll realize that we have so so so much more than we can ever imagine.