How do you measure the moments that add up to a day? Consider this thought by Ellen DeGeneres:
“I get those fleeting, beautiful moments of inner peace and stillness – and then the other 23 hours and 45 minutes of the day, I’m a human trying to make it through in this world.”
We’re all just trying to make it through in this world, and that’s something I don’t think we admit to ourselves often enough.
Raise your hand if you spilled coffee on yourself this morning.
Raise your hand if you went to work with mismatched socks or ones that you swore were black, not navy blue.
Raise your hand if you blew your diet today with one fell swoop of the donuts in the kitchen.
Now ask yourself, is anyone keeping score of all these #fail moments, or is it just you?
I used to believe my daily fails were listed like a scorecard on my back, so anyone with a passing glance could see how many times I raised my hand to the questions I just asked you. And while I can easily conjure up a self-deprecating joke to explain away my clumsiness, I always felt everyone else was just better at “doing” day-to-day life than me. How do you shed that scorecard?
1. Check Yourself and Your Perspective
When the national magazine I worked for underwent massive layoffs in January, I felt like I lost my identity and lost the big gold star I had on my life’s scorecard. That gold star was a successful career and without it, I felt like I didn’t matter as much as everyone else. Then I realized I’m not the first person this has happened to, and I’m certainly not the last.
Scrolling through Twitter, I read something from Deadspin editor-in-chief Megan Greenwell that flipped my perspective. I’d never been told, “Do not be ashamed to talk about it.” That was ground-shifting.
2. Look for the Good …
Even if you’re the biggest realist you know, I know that it’s not always easy to look on the bright side of things. But I’m not talking about washing over what’s wrong to force a brave face. I’m talking about reframing the situation.
I realized for the first time in my life, I have more time than money, and that’s something I had to learn to embrace. I spent my first summer at home with my son, instead of shuttling him to morning and afternoon summer camps near my office. This school year is the first time I’m getting in the carpool line for afternoon pickup, instead of picking him up three hours later at after-school care.
After I picked up my son yesterday, he told me in between bites of Goldfish, “I like being home with you in the afternoon after school.” I told him I like it too. That’s the benefit of looking on the bright side to reframe your situation, rather than letting the situation run you.
3. … But Be Realistic
But I’m still not one of those women who says being a stay-at-home mom is the best job they’ve ever had (because I’m not). I admit my ego still feels bruised after losing my identity as a digital content director and full-time working mom who could afford the little luxuries that save time, like ordering Amazon Prime Now to get a gallon of milk, Lunchables, and my beloved Diet Cokes delivered in two hours when I’m too tired to stop for them on the way home.
4. Realize the Grass Isn’t Greener on the Other Side
Now that I’m out of the corporate world, I realize there was a LOT of soul-crushing stress that I never realized was so toxic.
I don’t have the stress of office politics, being afraid to piss off the wrong person, and worrying that I’ll blurt out the snark I’m really thinking in a meeting.
I don’t feel the stress of competing with male colleagues that seem to garner more respect, more voice in the room, and more recognition because they have a chromosome that I don’t.
I don’t feel the stress of competing with women who are my boss or my co-workers, and beating myself up about the fact that I’m admittedly doing so.
They say you can’t see the forest from the trees, so take opportunities when you can to see things how they really are. You’ll realize where you ended up isn’t too bad after all.
5. Just Do You
Sure I still have stress, but my stress is fighting with my head to get writing and get productive. I worry that I won’t get my weekly column done in time for CandysDirt.com, or I’m not feeling prepared enough for a podcast interview that just got slated this morning. It’s a different kind of stress because it’s solely on me. For someone that’s always comparing myself to others, that’s the best kind of stress I think.
And yes, that’s a self-inflicted stress that can be uncomfortable to deal with, but I can do something about it. I can ask Alexa to play the EDM song, “Evacuate the Dance Floor” and I can take a dance break until I feel better. (It works.)
You know what else works? A Diet Coke. There’s a commercial with actress Gillian Jacobs sipping a newly-redesigned slim can, talking about Millennials wanting to live in yurts. (I had to look it up, too.) While the ad spot was criticized as defensive, I think it squarely makes my point. Over the years, I had plenty of playful debates with co-workers about my bad Diet Coke habit, and they were right. I ended up with a kidney stone, and nearly stopped drinking Diet Coke altogether.
But when I’m trying to rally myself to get writing, it’s OK if I have a Diet Coke. When I’m trying to perk myself up, it’s OK if I have a nibble of that donut. Those are little infractions I let myself indulge in because I know what works for me. So, figure out what works for you and do it. That’s the benefit of working for yourself and relying on yourself to create something great, rather than worrying about what everybody else is thinking or doing.
So, how do you measure the success of a day? Is it a coffee-stained scorecard or a self-driven desire to accomplish something today?
I finally learned that being laid off seven months ago changed my life in the very best way. For the first time in my life, I have more time than money, and it’s the best thing I could have ever asked for.