She swept into the waiting area with an air of disdain and disgust. I immediately detected an incongruity in the behavior and appearance. Middle aged, modest, and unassuming in appearance, the attitude displayed seemed not to fit the person I observed. She was on the phone talking as if she had been waiting for her vehicle to be completed way longer than the rest of us. Upon surveying the others, it appeared they all were thinking the same thing I was… “Where did she come from?” We had all been waiting for any length of time when this woman arrived.
That is the nature of the beast in a no-appointment-necessary type of situation.
The “diva” would have gone unnoticed except for her constant pacing, sighing, and frequent phone updates on her status. Every time someone paid and left, she would rise out of her chair, walk over to see if they were fetching her car and then sigh heavily and slouch back into her seat. I have no idea what her circumstances were, and right as I was about to pass judgment, I heard a woman chuckling very near me. I turned in my seat to see who it was, but there was no one there. I heard it again and realized it was the “old me” laughing at this poor woman’s situation. “You should have planned for delays. That’s what efficient people do.” I was horrified with myself, but a year ago this statement would have been made and I wouldn’t have thought twice about the “diva’s” circumstances or empathized with her at all.
In the past six months I have undergone a radical transformation in how I approach my life. Actually, a catalytic event forced me out of my old unhealthy routine. Last fall I was summarily dismissed from a career position that I had spent 20 years building. While I struggled coming to terms with the whole idea and trying to formulate a new plan, I realized I had no idea where to go next. If this had been a new job opportunity, I would have never searched deep enough to find that I really didn’t like who I had become.
From right out of school I told myself that I was going to climb that corporate ladder, do what it took to get to a place where I could make the decisions and get rave reviews for doing so. Come on, you career-oriented ladies know what I’m talking about. That ambition takes over and pretty soon your life is completely out of balance while you run from one commitment to the next, trying not to drop the family/wife/mother ball in the process. Actually, a lot of mom’s that work inside the home find themselves in very similar situations.
So as I was sitting there observing this “diva,” I felt ashamed of my snap judgment. I put my ego in check and I stepped into her shoes (my old shoes) for a moment. I felt the stress of not wanting to let anyone down, the physical strain on my body, the constant mind-numbing list of ‘to-dos’ that never got any shorter, and I felt myself get ill. Then I took a deep cleansing breath, smiled, and thanked God that He had given me the opportunity to step outside that life. While it wasn’t easy and I still struggle with “old me” almost daily, I have learned a lot about who I really am and what I truly want out of this one short life I’ve been given. There are an abundance of things that can help you discover if you’re on the right path or not, but here are a few simple things to start the process.
1. First and foremost – STOP! Be still for a while and learn to listen to your own breathing. I know how impossible this sounds. It took me forever to quit running through the list of things that needed to be done while I was sitting there. It gets easier and you’ll start to feel your body uncoil and the peace seep in. You’ll find you can think more clearly and you are more able to cope with the task list for the day.
2. Take an honest inventory of your daily activity. From wake-up to pillow-time, journal a week in your life so you can objectively see what you spend your time and energy on. This gives you an opportunity to fine tune where you can remove certain commitments or activities in order to allow more time to do the things that bring you joy.
3. Ask yourself if there is an underlying reason for why you are so ‘busy.’ Sometimes hard questions have to be considered. Are you on autopilot? Are you running from something you may be scared to confront? Sometimes this is a process you may need to seek professional help with.
4. Map out a way to make even the smallest change in order to allow for personal joy to be present in your day. With career, kids, spouse, community, etc. all vying for your time, it’s easy to put yourself at the bottom of the list. Invest a little time in discovery, re-introducing the things that make you smile and pay attention to what happens in your body when you are doing these things or even thinking about these things.
In order to say good-bye to the “diva” that takes over when we get too busy to protect our true selves from her, you MUST put yourself at the top of the list. I know we’ve all heard, “You can’t love others if you can’t love yourself” or “You can’t fill others tanks if yours is empty.” While they are VERY cliché and kind of negative (in my mind) their intent is pure. You need to fight against that little martyr’s voice in your head that tells you “You’re okay. Buck up. Things aren’t going to get themselves done.” Tell her to “shut-up.” Sometimes, by putting yourself at the top of the list, you’ll find that what you really want is real and sincere time with family, friends, cooking, hobbies, etc. It doesn’t mean you’re being selfish. That is something our egos want us to believe. It’s actually the exact opposite.
Trust me. I have always been known to be the get-her-done-girl. If there was a hole that needed filling, call Robin. I was the tell-it-like-it-is friend/mother/spouse/worker that didn’t take any crap and still had some compassion and tenderness, when needed. Is that enough? I found that I started to resent that kind of impression. I became harder, sarcastic, cynical. I lost the soft, sweet, sincere, honest, loving, and joyful person that I knew myself to be. When I took a good long look, I didn’t like what I saw.
I’m naturally an early riser so now I start my days with my favorite cup of tea and a time to walk, work out, meditate, pray, read through a list of personal dreams and goals that I have realized are true to the real me. I have no idea what tomorrow will bring and sometimes the old ego-driven me has a real problem with that, but as I grow to recognize her when she pops up, I ask her to join the real me for a cup of tea. You know, she’s not comin’ around so much these days.
Robin Bishop is the owner of Dragonfly Concepts – Business Counseling & Design. Robin specializes in helping start-ups or businesses that are struggling evaluate their business practices, messages, and culture from the core to the curb. She can be reached at (509) 475-5366 or firstname.lastname@example.org.