“When is the time you felt most broken?”

“I first ran for Congress in 1999, and I got beat. I just got whooped. I had been in the state legislature for a long time, I was in the minority party, I wasn’t getting a lot done, and I was away from my family and putting a lot of strain on Michelle. Then for me to run and lose that bad, I was thinking maybe this isn’t what I was cut out to do. I was forty years old, and I’d invested a lot of time and effort into something that didn’t seem to be working. But the thing that got me through that moment, and any other time that I’ve felt stuck, is to remind myself that it’s about the work. Because if you’re worrying about yourself—if you’re thinking: ‘Am I succeeding? Am I in the right position? Am I being appreciated?’ — then you’re going to end up feeling frustrated and stuck. But if you can keep it about the work, you’ll always have a path. There’s always something to be done.”

—President Barack Obama
Courtesy Humans of New York

hard lesson #101: I can’t do it all

But goodness, did it feel like I should be able to — especially at first.

[Forgive me for this post — I’m trying to say what’s on my heart while also being vague on the details, and that makes this whole thing a delicate little balancing act.]

This week was tough. I experienced some client difficulty —  blindsided by a quite long list of perceived failures and unmet expectations. Just enough of what was said was true enough (and my fault enough) that I’m doing some thinking, but the majority was unrealistic and unreasonable and downright bewildering.

Nevertheless, it will sting for a while. I’m not real hopeful about the future in this situation and it makes me sad.

But in another way, I feel freer than I have in months. A big cause of anxiety in my life is gone. I understand these expectations much more clearly now and realize that I can’t meet them AND care for my son as I should.

And from there it all becomes quite clear:

I’m not willing to do anything that keeps me from being good at what matters most to me (and what will matter most in the long-run): loving my husband and raising a healthy, happy boy. Quality work is important to me and I will always take my professional reputation seriously, but my family is always and firmly in first place. Otherwise, what am I doing all this for?

For a long time I tried really hard to do it all because I have a quite large innate desire to please — despite my new life, despite the additional challenges we had with my son’s health, despite the extra time those doctor visits required of me, despite the fact that my brain just didn’t operate the same way it did pre-kid — I tried to meet demands that were way too big for my new life.

It’s hard not to cringe when I think about all the times I told these people yes when I should have said no because of some misplaced sense of camaraderie or friendship (I do that a lot — business boundaries are something I seem hell-bent on learning the hard way). In some ways, I think I helped create these expectations and for that I’m angry at myself. In the end, it didn’t matter. I wasn’t able to be accommodating enough.

I came downstairs after the conversation just crushed after having sobbed my way through a bunch of I’m sorrys; feeling the weight not only of this moment but of other painful moments like it from years and years ago. It’s kind of a “50 million Elvis fans can’t be wrong” thing — I heard a chorus of unkind voices all at once and felt like total garbage.

And there my boys were, waiting for me, reminding me of why I will disappoint outside people a million times over if necessary. My boys matter most. If I only get to pick one thing to come first, they are what I want to excel at. I will excel at my work too, but it just might take a little longer than it used to.

Being with my boys was exactly what I needed. The whole world keeps a record of wrongs, but my home — well, that’s a safe place for me. I’m blessed.

[All of that said, this year was admittedly difficult and I’ve made some changes that should make a huge difference work-wise in the year to come: mainly, that I have child care 3-4 days a week and am not working into the wee hours anymore. I know few people who are able to care for a baby all day long and then work all night — at the very least, I know I am not one of them. After killing myself for months and months, a family friend took care of A in November and December part time and I felt reborn. J and I both agree — I’ll never work again without child care!

Thanks for bearing with me as I thought some of this through while trying to only share what was appropriate. I’m hoping to finally get some peaceful sleep tonight.]

two least likely questions

So we’re in meetings with my biggest client yesterday, going over results for the year, and looking at new strategies for the coming one.

I am the most junior person in the room.  For the most part, I am happily taking notes and munching alternately on snickerdoodles and cheese n’ crackers.  I’ve been nervous all day leading up to the meeting, and am happy to finally put faces on some of the folks I’ve been working with for about five months.

Then, the president of the organization, a man I’ve never met before but one I like intuitively, asks this question: “What do you think of this whole Bill Gates / Bone-oh thing?  What’s happening there?”

One of the guys from my company at the table had a quick comment, but the president saw the interest sparking on my face.  He said, “I want to hear from you.  What’s this thing all about?”

All of a sudden, I have something to say.  I sound off about the One campaign, about its objectives, about the G8 summit last year, about how much of my generation genuinely cares about global poverty and disease, dashing many of the predictions that we’d be narcissistic and apathetic about world issues.  That I think the response goes deeper than it being the currently-en-vogue thing to do because Bono’s speaking up and Brad Pitt went to Africa.  The world is connected in a way it never was before.  We have access to information in ways we never did before… we see suffering with our own eyes.

I talk about how much of the word for One spread through email, through friends telling friends, and how some of it was as simple as wearing a bracelet.  How people really will give to something they believe in, but only if they hear about it, only if you find a way to reach them on their turf.  For folks around my age, the web is most often our medium, and if a group can figure out a way to tap that, they’re golden.

I spoke clearly, but could feel myself turning beet red at suddenly having to throw my own two cents out there.  There is something about a board room full of people older than you and much smarter than you that is quite intimidating.  All of a sudden the room felt like the temp was around 88 degrees.

His next question, I’m not kidding: “Do you blog?”  This discussion lasted about a half hour.

I never ever thought that my admiration/slight obsession with Bono and his work (in addition to his music) and my passion for blogging, of all things, would make me an expert voice in the room, even for a few minutes.

It was wicked fun.

On a wholly other note, I am really excited.  There is a potential opportunity for me to be able to travel with a group my client is sending down to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, one of the hardest-hit areas in the wake of Katrina (CityTeam has been serving there since right after the storm, and has remained there and in another hard-hit location this entire time, staying long after the Red Cross pulled up stakes and moved on.  Check out their site, the pics from down there are amazing).  Things are still awful down there, and there is still a huge need for relief work.  I’d go in April.  They’ll take me, I’d just have to figure out the whole time-off-work thing.  It just might happen, and the thought of being able to actually see these faces and the devastation around them, and actually being able to tangibly serve these people and minister to them… man.  It gets my heart beating pretty quick.  (You want to talk about bloggable experiences…)  Please pray with me that God will open this door.

Okay, off to another day of meetings.  It stormed here all night long and the wind blowing through the huge trees around my place kept me awake… hopefully I’ll be able to mask the yawns without being too terribly obvious.

PS!  I probably won’t have to work til 9 pm tonight!  Score!

Enjoy the day.


hi friends —

My mom is going in for surgery early in the morning for a hysterectomy, etc.  I’d really appreciate your prayers for her as she undergoes the surgery and for a quick recovery (estimated time: six weeks).

Mom was in the hospital three times last year and to be quite honest, it scared the crap out of me.  Although I’ve made a decision to really attempt not to worry, this has been a real challenge for me.  I’ve laid awake several nights, when the practicalities of “of course she’ll be fine” seem much more than a dawn away.  A week and a half ago I was sitting in my cubicle quickly wiping tears away because the words to Death Cab’s “What Sarah Said” hit me really hard.  It’s just been a long month and I will be so glad when the surgery’s done and she’s back home being grouchy at us because she’s restricted and bored.  I can’t wait, because at least then it’s all over.  I am more nervous right now than when I went in at 19 to have a tumor removed.  It’s so much more difficult to watch someone you love get wheeled by a stranger through those double doors, away and out of sight.  I would much rather go through those doors, and it’s not because I’m braver or any such nonsense: I would rather go because in many ways, it hurts less.

On a much much much smaller note, I’d appreciate your prayers for me as well.  It’s nothing major, I am just plain worn out.  Someone dropped some major balls at work and I had some real frustrating messes to deal with (translation: I had to get feisty to get things moving, which I hate); all’s fine now and we’re finally moving forward, but it sapped me of a lot of time and energy that really needed to be devoted elsewhere, such as to the actual daily responsibilities of my job.  I have major in-house meetings at work this week, I have clients flying in from San Jose early next week, and not enough time to prepare for it all.  I’ve been putting in long hours, only to come in the next morning and be fairly overwhelmed all over again.  And uh, yeah… we’re going to need you to come in Saturday

It’ll all be over in a week or so and I’ll be able to rest — this job just has seasons like that, and most times it’s kind of a crazy sort of fun — but right now, there’s a double load on my plate and I need a lot more energy than I have.  I’m just beat. 

Coffee.  Loads and loads of coffee.  Starbucks, tomorrow you will be my best friend.  None of that hospital-crappy-excuse-for-a-mocha coffee.  The real stuff.

Mom goes in at 7 am, and the surgery is expected to last about 2 1/2 hours.  Dad and I will be at the hospital most of the day, except when I’ll leave to be with Grandma.  Again, I really ask for and appreciate your prayers.  Thanks, dear ones.