In Middle Age, I’ve grown tired. Not so much in a physical sense; although, I don’t really get the best sleep at night. Naps with the Hallmark Channel humming as background noise carry me through this middle-aged, single parent stage of my life. But actual sleep aside, the type of tired I’m talking about here is much different.
I’m tired of chaos.
On a recent morning car ride to high school, my freshman daughter experienced multiple crises. First, it was her zits. Next, it was her makeup covering her zits. Then, it was her outfit: “I don’t want this to sound conceited, but my outfit determines how I feel on any given day. If I don’t like my outfit, I don’t feel as good,” she explained.
(Yes, I do get this. Don’t you?)
Then, it was her water bottle spilling all over the floorboard and onto her shoes and her backpack. This entire time I am offering up solutions, suggestions, and advice about how to handle each source of stress:
“But I can’t even see your zits.”
“Here, try using some of my makeup”
“Oh, it’s just water. It’ll dry.”
And lastly, as we approached the drop off point at high school, I exclaimed, “Just be confident!”
What? Why would I offer that as a solution? Obviously, my wisdom fell completely flat.
“But I’m not. I am NOT confident!” she responded with exasperation
Then I screwed up, even more royally by sharing with her a phrase I share commonly with others, mostly adults, “Then fake it ’till you make it!”
“What?!? No way. I’m not going to be fake.”
But that’s not what I meant by that… and it was too late. The lesson abruptly ended as she exited the car, without any more time for me to make my brilliant point.
And my point was this: “Fake it ’till you make it” is a mantra that has always meant something significant and helpful to me. It does not mean to pretend like you are a different sort of person nor should you manufacture any traits nor show insincerity of any type. What it really means in my own unique context is to fake yourself out; to force yourself to dig deep and find that scrap of confidence buried inside you and to wear it proudly, like a teen wears her favorite pair of ripped jeans.
I guess I will have to wait for another car ride to share this lesson in full.
Yes, mornings like this one in my example are typically chaos in my household. Pure, undiluted, sheer nuttiness. When you take five females (three human + two canine) and combine that with the daily rituals of grooming, fashion, and breakfast, a whole heckuva’ lot is going on.
The getting up part is always the worst of our struggle, especially when each of us is not designed for mornings. We are natural night owls. We become our best selves in the dark of night, like the little raccoons that dumpster-dive into my trash cans in the alley behind my house.
But back to that lesson in the car where I started…what on Earth was I thinking by offering confidence as a concept to a 15-year-old? Because I’m 30 years older and I still haven’t mastered it. I’m still practicing it and getting better at it every day. I am still seeking that sense of calm that true confidence brings. It takes a lifetime. And I will never stop in my quest to feel it, completely and consistently.
What I have only recently uncovered is one of the secrets to getting there. I’ve got to stop trying so hard. When I stop desperately seeking it, calm comes to me in nice doses and sometimes even in waves.
As an example, on a recent typically chaotic morning, I headed straight to a meeting in a neighboring suburb. The location was the office of my executive coach, JoDee Curtis at Purple Ink, someone who is assigned to help me identify workplace challenges and ways to improve my overall professional presence. Since May when I first met her, I have grown fond of her and her sense of style, and her genuine warmth, friendliness, and wisdom.
At this particular meeting, I shared with her some recent stories about how I had handled myself at work, either falling short of what I should have done or, on the flipside, succeeding. I spoke with her honestly about some recent wins and just as many losses I had experienced. And toward the end of the conversation, she stated how much she was noticing a new sense of calm and confidence within me. Wow, I thought to myself, I wasn’t even trying to project that. It just came through me, even after the daily morning chaos I had just endured.
This moment taught me a valuable lesson. Stop trying so hard. Let things happen. Listen. Think. Breathe. And when you blow up, be done with it. Don’t carry chaos buried in your belly. Feel it, acknowledge it, then release it. That will leave room for the calm to settle in and with that will come the confidence you’ve been searching for since you were a young teenager.
Something I’ve been desperately seeking for so many years cannot be faked or won or achieved. Calmness can only be absorbed when you release the things in its way.
So, what am I going to do about these mornings and their multiple challenges? I’m going to stop trying so hard to make them less stressful. I’m going to go with the flow. I’m going to hope for the best. Some days will end up better than others, that’s for certain. But my gut knows I can’t control which of these days will be better or worse. The forces that control that are far beyond me. The forces that control ANYTHING are beyond me and you and ANYONE. Why do we fight against the grain of these forces? It’s a waste of energy; it burns our candle down to the bottom of the 3-wick jar; it knocks us down on our tailbones (ouch).
Save yourself the exhaustion of desperately seeking calm in 2020. Let the lightness of life in on its own. You and I are sure to have a good year if we can learn this. My tactics will include more yoga and treadmill; frequent coffee breaks with friends; and a lot more intentional reading and writing to replace purposeless iPhone time.
What will be your plan to let calm shine into your New Year?