Mind over matter

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Caroline Greene started early in life to be an overachiever.  In eighth grade she won all the academic awards. Then she headed off to Philips Exeter academy, followed by Yale and law school.

Ten years later, she had a husband and kids. But the career she expected to have instead materialized for her husband, not her. She had become a stay-at-home-mom while her husband became a partner in his law firm. She felt like she no longer mattered.

In her book Matter: How to Find Meaningful Work That’s Right for You and Your Family (The Well-Educated Mom’s Guide Book 1) , Greene walks us through the process of how to find meaningful work while remaining present for one’s family.

First came a grieving process as she looked at where she was in all aspects of her life compared to where she thought she’d be. I can really relate to this. I’m going through a compare and contrast process for the second time in my life right now.

Greene next talks about the need to seek validation from others versus the ability to self-validate.  This one rings all too true with me too.  She started by nurturing herself in four areas: rest, nourishment, movement, and touch. She started paying attention and feeling her emotions. bad and good.

Greene’s chapter Get Connected was another that resonated with me. Going it alone means being isolated from others. Greene realized she needed three kinds of friends. What she calls mommy friends are those who are in the same stage of life as you are. Professional friends share your educational or career background. Soul friends are the people with whom you just “click.” I had never thought of friendship in these terms, but they make a lot of sense.  I might add one more category, those with whom you grew up, who share your history, or who knew you when.

Building relationships, she says, requires the ability to accept help.

Of course, obstacles arise. Two of these are guilt and shame. Greene defines guilt as feeling you did something bad while shame is feeling you are a bad person. But loving others doesn’t mean we have to put everyone’s needs ahead of our own. That’s not love; it’s martyrdom.

Only after all this introspection should you begin to list the characteristics of your ideal job. Focus on how you want to feel. Then start exploring possibilities. Be willing to make mistakes and to ask for help.

In the end, it is the work of being more of who we really are that matters.

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Having It All Is Not Out of Reach

I know how

I have had quite a number of jobs in several different fields over the years. That means I’ve participated in a lot of job interviews. At almost every one of them, the hiring person told me the company or department was busy. Very busy. Almost without exception, when I took the job I soon found that was just not true. At least for me. I was soon able to complete all the work I had to do with plenty of time left over. At one job, I surreptitiously wrote most of a romance novel. At another, I wrote a nonfiction book. At a third, I took several online classes.

Now, I am quite organized by nature, but surely I’m not the only one with that quality.  I’ve often wondered why most of the women I’ve met claim they don’t have enough time.

Laura Vanderkam’s book I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time gave me some insights. As I suspected, most people overestimate how much time they work by quite a bit.

Vanderkam collected hour-by-hour time logs from women who earned at least $100,000 a year. Presumably, these women had more flexibility in their schedules than women with a more average wage. Each of them had at least one child under 18 living at home; however, their high earnings afforded them more child care options.

The author based her conclusions on logs of one week from 143 women for a total of 1001 days. She calls the results The Mosaic Project. Each hour in a 168 hour week is a tile in that mosaic. What Vanderkam discovered is that the day to day totals don’t matter as much as the weekly totals. These women worked an average of 44 hours a week. Women at lower salaries average 35 hours a week.

That left many remaining hours where the women were able to fit in family time, leisure activities, exercise, and even quite sufficient amounts of sleep.

Vanderkam describes a number of strategies the women used and adds some advice of her own. Some delegation is helpful. Family breakfasts count just as much as family dinners. Planning ahead for contingencies is vital. Too much TV is just a waste. Sometimes good enough is good enough.

That balancing act is not as hard as people say after all.

WYCWYC book review

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When I spotted Carla Birnberg and Roni Noone’s small book on the shelf, the first thing I noticed was the endorsement on the cover by Venus Williams, ”Simple, powerful, real.” Who doesn’t want that in a book, right? What You Can, When You Can: Healthy Living on Your Terms puts forth an encouraging philosophy. Do your best but compromise if necessary.

The two women started blogging and have built up a community through social media. People can tap into this community to offer support and suggestions.

The authors start out urging readers to adopt a new mindset, that being perfect is an illusion. You start out with the best intentions; than life happens. What do you do next? You take baby steps, of course. Have persistence, but be flexible.

And, by the way, doing things for yourself is not selfish. Set boundaries and learn to say no. Reframe negatives into positives. Change “must do” to “choose to do.” If something really doesn’t work for you, quit doing it. Ask for help if you need it.

I’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating. We are the sum of the people we spend the most time with. Choose your friends wisely.

Don’t be afraid to try new things. Be more active even if it’s inconvenient. In fact, embrace inconvenience. Take the stairs; park far from the store. Play!

There are many more common sense ideas packed within the covers, but you get the idea. Life is for living, and little things add up. Venus Williams spoke the truth.

Reinvention Advice

I have been wanting to read Claire Cook‘s Never Too Late for some time. It is an extremely helpful manual for mid-life women or anyone else who wants or needs to go in a new direction. It’s also full of interesting stories of how her first novel Must Love Dogs became a movie ans what it was like to go to Hollywood.

Cook became an author at age 45 after teaching school for many years, so she knows whereof she speaks.  Her advice about completing two pages of writing each day, no matter what, really hit home. So were the stories of how she came to re-acquire rights to her backlist books. It seems the life of a bestselling author is as rosy as it looks from the outside.

The pages are full of many practical, common sense tips delivered as if by a BFF. Particularly appropriate for author wannabes, but applicable to many other life goals too.

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