It’s a little embarrassing how many times I’ve written this to you, how many ways I’ve slid references to my giant failure complex into blog posts without really addressing it. I’ve made bold claims that I’m going to stop thinking of myself as a failure and start loving the life I’m currently living in a dozen half-hearted ways, but so far I’m still just rocking back and forth on life’s teeter totter: At the top, I am so ridiculously relieved that I am working (because others I love aren’t) and that I have a healthy work-life balance and that my job is mostly fun and engaging, but when the see-saw rocks downward I remember that I thought I would be doing something different.
The “L” word still makes me feel like a loser.
I know in my heart that I am where I need to be, but I have to remind myself all the time that this life I’m living is something to celebrate, not something to mourn. Sometimes I have to say it to friends and have them say it back to me, to tell me it’s okay. I know that I’m not the only one, but I often feel alone with this. I fold this idea into so much of my blogging because, while this blog is many things to me and hopefully a few things to you, its chief purpose right now is to remind me that life is beautiful and fun and it’s okay to just be who
you are I am right now.
I loved law school. I’m not one to say “Oh, it was so hard and I’m so glad it is over,” and I’ve never regretted attending. It was one of the best things I’ve ever committed to doing. It made me smarter and more attentive and a better person. Even now, while I’m not practicing, I still did all of the things to be a licensed attorney and I can go back to being a “real” lawyer whenever I want to, if I ever really want to.
I’m getting tired of trying so hard to convince myself that I am awesome and that I am making a real difference by working hard for my country. I am already doing these things and it’s become a bit of a broken record for me (and I’m sure not all that interesting for you, my friends). I’d like for this to become a non-issue for me, but it may be a few more months or years before I can really settle into owning my own life and living it for myself. I struggle to surpass expectations that don’t actually exist.
But I think for recovering people-pleasers and perfectionists like me, we often feel like posers in our late twenties. We’re wearing the hats and carrying big titles on freshly minted business cards but are we really good enough to hold this much responsibility? Friends from school are carrying the lives and hopes and dreams of two, or three, or four children already and I can’t imagine ever being qualified for such a hard and important job. Do you ever really feel like you know how to be a mother, a manager, a professor or scholar, or do you just jump in, throwing ideas at the wall, hoping something sticks? I’m always afraid that someone will look over and see that I’m really not as awesome as everyone thinks. I wonder, if they knew how much television I watched in the evenings, and how rarely I finish the books I’m always buying, if they would still want me to mentor their students, or file their taxes, or write their reports.
I paid real cash monies to register for a faith and writing conference in Grand Rapids in April. And I’ve decided that I don’t want to go to this conference feeling that I’m not qualified to be there. I don’t want to awkwardly shift on my feet or avoid meeting interesting people because when they say “Oh, I write a blog about faith and life and my book is being published in October,” and then ask about me, I don’t have a good enough answer. I want to do whatever it takes before I pick up my rental car and drive two hours and forty-seven minutes around the bottom of Lake Michigan so that, when I step out of my car and into the conference, I believe I am a “real” writer and I believe that I am qualified to engage, network, discuss, and struggle with them to create beautiful sentences.
Tomorrow, Thursday, February 20, is the first of fifty days before my conference begins. This may be a rough-and-tumble sort of commitment, but I’ll be doing “the things that writers do” for each of these fifty days so that I can step into the Grand Rapids community with a few pages I can be proud of, with a project I can discuss, or at the very least with the confidence that I certainly belong at the table. I’m not sure exactly what this will look like, but I’m starting this effort off with a Story Sessions writing boot camp and I’ve been thinking a bit about what I want this to journey to include. I have a working list, but before I put it out into the internet world I wanted to hear from you: what do you recommend? What makes you feel like a “real” writer, or a “real” professional, or a “real” mom, instead of just a poser? What gives you confidence in your calling?
1. Alison Green from Ask A Manager’s post for U.S. News and World Report, 7 New Year’s Resolutions for a Stronger Career in 2014. I’ve just recently started following AAM (Ask A Manager) and the advice and compassion from the community in the comments is enough to make you believe in the internet again.
2. Kate’s Favorite Simple and Quick Hair Tutorials, at The Small Things Blog. If only my hair would look as good on just one day as Kate’s hair looks every single day. . .
3. Esther Emery’s This is Where I Give Away a Free Inspirational eBook! (Unleash Your Wild). Also, it comes with a free eBook about being awesome.
4. Rosabeth Moss Kanter with Overcome the Eight Barriers to Confidence. While she does not argue that confidence alone will give you everything you hope for, she explains that confidence provides you with a belief in the success of your efforts, which will make a marked difference in the work you dedicate toward a desired outcome.
5. Austin Channing Brown’s Top 2013 Posts. I just found Austin’s blog and this wrap-up post made me want to read everything she’s ever written about racial reconciliation and the American evangelical church and all sorts of interesting, complicated, important things. I’m sure you’ll feel the same way, so head on over there and check it out.
An honorable mention to The Safest Road to Hell by Brad Littlejohn over at The Sword and the Ploughshare, for confirming in my heart that #ATTACK really is the word I want to model 2014 after.
And, finally, if you’re looking for great books to read [or gift] in 2014, be sure to check out all of the blogs participating in the Favorite Books of 2013 link-up going on at Modern Mrs. Darcy.
We started talking about how to prepare yourself for a successful workweek last Sunday. In my life, it’s so easy for things to spiral out of control during the week as you grow steadily more exhausted each day until you can collapse on Friday evening with a glass of wine or a mug of cocoa. And when things start to spiral, my preparations can maintain my dressing and eating habits for a few days, but my apartment starts to show wear almost immediately.
It’s harder than it sounds to maintain a welcoming home. And it’s hard to welcome anyone into your home while the shame and embarrassment you feel that someone can SEE your apartment like THIS echoes through your brain. To stay happy and reduce stress, I know I need to keep my apartment a little straighter than I consistently do, and I need to spend some time on the weekends to make sure it is ready for the onslaught that the work week will bring. The problem with this post is that while I know I need to do better in this area, and I really want to do better in this area, I haven’t really mastered this yet. So, I’ll mention a few things that work for me thus far, but on this issue in particular I really covet your own success stories.
Over the weekend, I know that I need to focus on:
- Actually putting my laundry away. I am TERRIBLE at putting laundry away. I don’t always take the time to put clean laundry in the proper drawers. My biggest problem, however, is multiple wear items. When I come home from work and take off my dry-clean-only pants, they should go into the closet to be worn again. But I just can’t seem to do it. Even now, as I am writing this post and as guests have just departed our apartment, my dresser is covered with half-clean, partially rumpled clothes that should be put away. On the weekends I put it all away so I can start with a clean slate.
- Putting books, mail, movies, laptop chargers, and all of those odds and ends that pile up out of sight. I just use a basket but really, anything that will keep those things from cluttering up counters and sofas will be great. When my flat surfaces are clear, I feel calm. When they are cluttered, I want to hide under the covers and never talk to anyone.
- Vacuuming, sweeping the kitchen, windexing the bathroom mirrors, all that kind of stuff. Dust accumulates even in rooms you don’t use.
The big kicker for me to make my apartment nice is doing a little something every day. I’m lucky that H and I can tag team these tasks, with one of us making dinner and another doing the dishes or taking out the trash. Each day, it is best if either H or I do the following:
- Take 20 minutes each evening to do the dishes and wipe the kitchen counters. It’s amazing how easy everything else is if you do only this.
- Keep the dirty socks out of the living room. We all do it, I think — take our socks off at weird times and just throw them down wherever. I hate the way socks end up everywhere. I try to find them and toss them into the hamper as often as I can.
- Scoop the kitty litter.
- De-clutter the coffee table and entryway table.
So, that’s where I am. Still struggling to keep messiness at bay as my weeks get busier and days fly by. Do you have any tips for maintaining a calm home in the midst of a busy life? If so, please include them in the comments.
When I hear the term “meal planning,” I think of housewives with a half-dozen children driving from soccer practice to dance classes. And that is so not my life. A lot of online resources for meal planning are keyed toward families and children, but even if you are single or childless you can save a lot of money and time by planning your meals — and your grocery shopping — in advance.
Over the weekend, H and I take a few minutes to talk through our work weeks so we know when one of us is expecting to work late, grab dinner with friends, or eat lunch out instead of packing lunch. Then, we throw out ideas for what we’d like to eat the next week. I typically like to make one nicer dinner we can look forward to, but otherwise we like to keep it simple and 30-minutes or less. Here’s what we’re eating this week:
As you can see, this is a piece of paper folded in half with the dinners written on the left and breakfasts and lunches written on the right. It’s not rocket science. We choose meals in advance but for breakfasts and lunches we keep options ready that we can grab and go if needed. I eat the exact same lunch every day: turkey or chicken soup packed with veggies, carrot sticks and hummus, and grapes; I take a LUNA bar for mid-afternoon snacks. I change soups from tomato-based to broth-based or throw in an apple and pretzels instead of grapes and carrots when I need variety. It’s a simple life.
We talk about what we want to eat, I quickly sort through the cabinets to see what we have and look in the fridge to pull out anything that’s expired, and then we write down our plans for the week. We put the items we’ll need on our grocery list, and we don’t buy a lot more than what’s one the list. Some, of course — is the beer we love on sale? Are cranberries in season? [I’ve been hoarding cranberries in my freezer like a crazy person.] Did we just discover that there are Triple Double Stuf Oreos? Then we’re totally buying that too. But overall, we stay close to the list.
Using the paper method is helpful on the front end: we spend less at the grocery store. Because we are working on managing our budget better, we’ve been trying to keep our weekly grocery bill under a set amount that is right for us. It’s easy to over-spend at the grocery store if you don’t go in with a plan, but even if we weren’t saving money with this system [we are], I would do it because it is such a stress-killer. Ever walk into your apartment/home and think “what should I make for dinner?” Ever had someone you love ask you “what should we have for dinner?” Ever think that choosing something to make for dinner is too hard and even if you could choose something that sounded good it would be too hard to make, so you should just order a pizza or grab some takeout because decisions are hard? That’s me pretty much every day.
When you have the paper on the fridge, it’s easier to stay on track. The answer to the question “what’s for dinner?” is written on the paper you taped to the refrigerator. You don’t have to decide anything — just read. It is a great plan. Not feeling what is listed for the evening? You have all of the other nightly meals you can choose from before you resort to the takeout option.
Do not think that we don’t ever resort to takeout even when we have perfectly good groceries in our kitchen. We absolutely go off the list all the time. But we do it less, saving money, time, and benefiting our health while being less wasteful overall. It works for us, and even H agrees that it is a good idea.
Do you plan your meals in advance? Do you eat the same breakfasts and lunches every day, or do you need daily variety? Any other tricks for staying on-plan during the week?
I know what I like to wear. It’s usually three, maybe four outfits that I mix and match. I have less-loved filler in my closet too, but there is one pair of jeans I always prefer, a few pairs of wool socks that are soft instead of scratchy, the perfect tank to wear under a sheer blouse. When I’m running late, I can never find the pieces that need each other. Half-dressed I’ll realize something essential is missing. That first outfit is thrown to the bed/floor and I try again. Sometimes, it takes a few re-starts to get it right.
As much fun as this whole dressing-undressing-redressing experience probably sounds, it isn’t. I end up later than planned to work, or else have to skip breakfast because my precious morning minutes have been used up frantically searching through drawers. When I’m even five minutes later to work than planned, I fret on the bus instead of enjoying catching up on blogs, and my morning work time (which is my most productive time of day, when I’m not thinking about shoes and tights and sweaters) takes a hit.
There is a simple fix for this unnecessary stress: planning ahead. A lot of people recommend choosing your clothes the night before, but I know myself well enough to know that there’s always a night or two each week that I can’t be counted on to care about morning stress. Perhaps we’re out late at a dinner or met up with friends for drinks or trivia; if I get in late, I’m pretty likely to go to sleep without choosing outfits or ironing slacks.
It may sound a little intense, but I’ve started choosing an entire week of outfits on Sunday evenings. It has completely changed my morning routines.
First, I do the regular load or two of weekend laundry. In a perfect world I actually put that laundry away, but if we’re being honest that doesn’t always get done.
Then, I check the weather. I grab a post-it or an index card or my planner or whatever else is handy, and jot down the ballpark temperatures [lately, just “cold” or “really cold”] and take note of any days where it might be rainy.
Finally, I stand in the closet and pair tops, skirts/pants, and sweaters together and hang them in a group in the front of the closet. I go to my drawers and choose the tights/socks/underneath layers necessary for each outfit. I also think of what shoes will be necessary and make sure I gather up all of those shoes from where ever I might have stashed them and place them in my closet.
Over the last few months when I’ve been using this system, I’ve learned a couple of things:
- Always choose an extra outfit. This is great for two reasons. One, you can wear any outfit during the week that you’ve chosen, and if you decide you hate something at the last minute you have a back-up. Two, if you fail to be responsible on the following weekend, you have an outfit nicely waiting for Monday morning and you can catch up on Monday evening. I’m taking advantage of my extra outfit right now, wearing black tights, a black dress, and whatever cardigan is the least-wrinkled in my closet.
- Pull that blouse you never wear out of the back of the closet and try putting it back in rotation. You bought it for a reason, try to remember what it was.
- Develop a balance between dry-clean-only and regular-wash items, so that from one week to the next you still have clothes to wear. When I finally get to the dry cleaners, I have a slew of items I love that I haven’t worn in a while (because who goes to the dry cleaners regularly? Not me…), and I want to wear them all at once. Doing so will only result in them being back in the “please take me to the cleaners” pile right away. Space those beloved items out so you have at least one thing each week you love.
Do you have any tricks for dressing well without stressing out? If so, please share in the comments.
When I announced my decision to join NaBloPoMo this month, I mentioned that using Sunday afternoons to prep a few advance posts for the week makes a huge difference in my ability to post daily. The first week of November, I did this well and had a pretty great week, on the blog and otherwise. Last week, I didn’t make my time count over the weekend and spent the entire week paying the price. It is only half-way through the month and already I am frustrated with having to blog each day; the timing of my postings is getting a little later each night of the week. So today, while the rain and wind and thunder and hail bounce against our windows, I’m putting in the time it takes to get things back on track.
While planning for the blog is a big part of what I do on the weekend to prepare for the workweek, it isn’t the only thing I need to prioritize if I want to be successful. When I’m being responsible, I take a few minutes on the weekend to make some decisions in advance so that I can head to work each morning with minimal stress and spend my weekday evenings doing things I enjoy instead of constantly playing catch-up.
I know that doing these small tasks on the weekend makes me happier and more successful, but I don’t always do them. I sometimes struggle to follow through on things I want to do, especially if they are good for me. As we enter the busy holiday season, I must remind myself how important these small things are for my own satisfaction and save time on the busy weekends to take care of myself. H and I have two special guests arriving mid-week and staying with us until we all leave for Thanksgiving in Tennessee, so I need to fit in all of my usual tasks along with the extra baking, cleaning, cooking, and shopping I want to do so we all have a wonderful, stress-free weekend and holiday with our families.
Since it’s timely and a needed reminder for myself, I’ll be posting a bit this week about how planning ahead helps me stay on-track in the following areas:
- Arriving at Work Professionally Dressed
- Healthy and Budget-Friendly Meal Planning
- Keeping your Apartment Comfortable and Welcoming
As we go through the week, please be sure to share your own weekly and/or nightly rituals that keep you on top of your game.
Today I am a big ball of anxiety about filling out forms and getting approved for things. I completely hate putting my information, documents, and personal needs into the hands of others — I don’t know when it happened, but I have this insane fear that somehow everything will go wrong and something terrible will happen.
Today, the problem is my background check for my upcoming job — some sort of miscommunication so they did not get my fingerprints into the system or something — but instead of it being a “whoops, guess I’ll go down there again,” I totally freaked and for like 20 minutes was like “oh, I’ll never get a job” or whatever. I am completely insane.
In other news, my new passport WILL BE HERE before our trip to Aruba, so we are totally covered there! This makes me very happy and almost makes up for the fact that I have no idea what is going on with my identity as it may be lost somewhere in the federal government’s security check system, and I just gave my credit card information out over the phone to someone who purportedly works for the Department of State (but who really knows??).