Don't I look innocent and sweet in that picture? Well, don't let that pic fool you. I have a nasty record of moving or vacationing somewhere just in time for some type of natural or man-made disaster. Some people wonder if I am some sort of harbinger of doom.
My earliest memory of this pattern started with the Olympics in Atlanta. I moved there for the summer to work the Olympics and was supposed to be in Centennial Park when the bombing happened (just like thousands of others). Doesn't sound like a big deal right? The next event occurred when I moved back to NYC on August 6, 2001 - a month before September 11th. The day before September 11th, my sister flew in, and I remember waking up early that next morning even though I was staying home from work, to watch on television the towers fall. This isn't the time to talk about that experience in detail, but it is part of the pattern. In 2003, the biggest power outage to hit the East Coast (aka the Northeast Blackout), caused us New Yorkers to pour out of our offices into the streets and walk over bridges out of Manhattan. Weirdly enough I found my roommate on the Williamsburg bridge among thousands, and we walked the rest of the way to our apt together. In January of 2004, said roommate and I decided to go to Costa Rica. We got caught in the worst flood they had in half a century. We found ourselves on the last van off the Caribbean side of the island with a group of German tourists driving through a banana plantation with water nearly up to the windows of the minivan. If we hadn't gotten back to San Jose that day, we would have been stuck there for 2 weeks. In 2005 I moved to Taiwan to teach English. Experienced a few minor earthquakes, and then bam - one of the biggest typhoons they had in several years swept across the country. We had a washing machine on our back patio in a high rise apt (don't ask), and I watched it slide back and forth across the patio several times. The most awesome part of that experience was walking around the city after the typhoon. The streets were quiet and the pollution was gone.
In late 2006 I moved to Minneapolis. In 2007 the I-35 bridge collapsed. I took that bridge on nights I went to kickboxing and was planning to be on the bridge around the time it collapsed, but we were all forced to work late. I remember getting several calls from family and being annoyed they wouldn't stop calling, when someone finally told us what happened. Fast forward to 2011....I won't really count the Dome collapse or this past winter in Minneapolis as this whole weather year has been berserko everywhere.
But, three weeks ago I blithely drive into PA happy to be back on the East Coast (coincidentally exactly 10 years from the last time I drove into NYC). Not even two weeks in, I'm sitting in my cube and think one of my co-workers is playing a joke on me by taking my cube walls and shaking them. But, alas, no. It's the biggest earthquake to hit the East Coast in decades.
And, now, in the past 20 minutes of writing this I've been watching the Schuylkill River spill over its banks and creep closer toward me. They think its going to rise to 15 feet, a historic level. I think I'm probably going to have to evacuate.
Dame Disaster? Maybe not, but I sure keep my family on their toes. I'm ready to launch a new career at the Weather Channel or FEMA.
Good luck to all that are weathering this storm and are being impacted. Be safe.
For about 10-12 hours a day I typically sit in an office surrounded by people where I would say one out of 25 exercise and most participate in non-stop office grazing (doughnuts, candy jars and the inevitable office birthday cake). Most of the time when I get a salad for lunch, or talk about running I get comments like “That looks too healthy” or head-shaking at the fact that I would get up early to pound the pavement as if I’m part of some crazy cult involved in satanic rituals and chanting of some obscure language.
I have to admit that since re-locating back to the East Coast I see more folks at the salad bar, and I’m fortunate to live in an area where I see lots of bikers and runners. Nonetheless, this is still not the majority. In a country where 3 out 4 people are obese, as my doc sister pointed out last week, the professionals, the poor, the middle class are all dying of the same things which can be attributed to un-healthy living.
So, to be in a room full of people who feel the same way, who don’t think I’m a freak for caring, who want to reach their readers and get excited about fruit and chia seeds is quite an awesome experience. Although we all had different routes and reasons for being at the Healthy Living Summit, we shared passion.
Throughout the day I had many a-ha moments (some stuck and some will take some practice). Lauren will be proud to know I started a savings account on Monday after listening to her “Budgeting for a Healthy Lifestyle” presentation. Ashley, Thoedora and Cynthia gave some great tips on utilizing social networking tools to make friends and surround yourself with people who believe as you do, something I obviously need to do as I get settled in my new area (any Philly folks, please give me a shout if you are up for a run or whatever: firstname.lastname@example.org). Dawn Blatner was awesome in describing action mantras that will motivate your readers. I think two of her more poignant concepts were R.A.W – realistic, achievable wellness and the 25-25-50 rule. I think being R.A.W in our writing and living is critical in reaching those folks out there that are thinking about making some changes in their lives. We have to be realistic and not expect the unachievable from our clients, readers or friends. They can’t go directly from daily trips to the McDonald’s drive thru to drinking Kombucha and planning healthy meals. That kind of abrupt, radical change is not sustainable. In addition Dawn talked about re-portioning your plate from the typical meat and 2 sides meal that most Americans (especially in the Midwest) eat. Instead of meat being the biggest portion, make your veggies the biggest or 50% of your plate portion and meat only 25%. Monica from http://runeatrepeat.com/ gave some great tips on blogger safety and sharing the details of your life in a smart way (NEVER tweet your location real time as one blogger learned a couple of weeks ago). And Katy Widrick rocked the house with her “Monetizing Your Blog” talk by giving tips to making money while not selling out and reaching more readers.
The Healthy Living Summit was a great opportunity to take a vacation from the Sisyphean grind and reflect on some ways for allpointswhole to sharpen our focus and reach readers.
I want to give a shout out to Erin at http://www.biggirlfeats.com/about/ and Bonnie who just finished touring with the film she and her husband worked on about young cancer survivors http://wrongwaytohope.com/ for sharing their inspiring stories with me and reminding me that one person’s story can make a difference when you share it with others and that daily we perform miraculous feats of kindness and survival.
And, finally a big hug to Caitlin (http://www.healthytippingpoint.com/), who by choosing us for the 7 links post really energized our passion for this project, and the other organizers of the Health Living summit http://healthylivingsummit.com/ for bringing us all together (and the fantastic swag bag).
What was your favorite part of the summit? Or, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, shoot me an email, and I’ll tell you all about it.
It’s Tuesday, so time to put the shoulder to the boulder. However, my goal for today is to walk the talk of healthy living at work and see if I can motivate some folks.
Here’s to passion and the power of positivity and inspirational stories
The Daily Sweat meets Freeing Sisyphus: Trying to stay balanced while logging the interstate miles, eating road food and dealing with one sore butt
(pic courtesy of internet as I passed this thing at about 12am, going 75mph)
(Originally posted 8/12/11 on wordpress)
Typically when I talk about soreness and logging miles it’s after an extremely hard or long run. Not this week….Oh no. As mentioned by my sis, Freeing Sisyphus has taken a huge step toward what I hope will be a quality of life improvement moving from the frozen tundra of Minnesota and the horrors of I-494 to the diverse and transient community of Philadelphia (much better suited for a transient like me). Although Philly has its own commuting nightmares, I chose a location such that my commute is a 20-minute trek through a tree-lined, rolling hills, horse-farm viewing route versus a 45 minute car-fume imbued crawl through strip mall hell.
But, I get ahead of myself….
As most of you know, “the man” is really never thinking about what’s best for you. As a result, my work relocation has been interesting to say the least. The up-in-the-air details finally got close to being finalized until Friday when I got a call at 2pm asking me if I could be ready to move by 8am the next day (Saturday) instead of some yet determined time late on Sunday. Suffice it to say I still had organizing to do before the packers came. But, I had to go with the flow as I needed to be out of my apt. I got up at 4am and scurried around cleaning and trying to figure out what would come with me in the car versus what would go with the packers. Have you ever worn your Garmin heart monitor while cleaning or moving for giggles? I have. Once, I burned 1300 calories in 6 hours of cleaning. Yeah, my apt was a little messy.
The packers came at 8am, and although I promised my sister I would take pics for the blog, the packers blew through my apt like a typhoon (man, those guys were in shape), and I never got a chance. By the time I even thought about it they were hauling my 300lb kickboxing stand into the elevator and the doors were closing. All of my junk went onto a truck I never even saw. I finished up some cleaning, errand running, and believe it or not had to go to work for a few hrs, but finally hit the road at 7pm CT. I hadn’t really eaten all day besides an Advocare meal replacement shake blended with frozen peaches and bananas (was too nervous to eat solid food), but by the time I realized I NEEDED food my only option was McDonald’s. Ugh, had a quarterpounder with cheese and a smoothie, but have to admit their frozen strawberry smoothie wasn’t too bad. My plan was to make it past Chicago and stop for the night and get up early to log the rest of the distance to cornfield central. Something happened around 1am, and I just decided to keep going. I hit Indiana, and the corn fog started to roll in, pesticide perfuming the air. Visibility was reduced to about 10 ft, so after a few hallucinations I finally decided to stop around 5am (that’s right, I was up 26 hours straight). Slept for 3 hours and then, thanks to my daily Spark packet, made it to Karin’s house by 10:45am having logged 570 miles. The visit was short and sweet (and already chronicled in one of Karin's posts except for the cool part where I bonded with the nephew and brother-in-law over our favorite new sci-fi series Falling Skies).
I climb into my car on Sunday with only a slightly sore butt (visions of a run with a sis went out the window after waking up way too late) and my car sputters to life, trembling and shaking, the check engine light blinking at me ironically (yes, ironically, b/c I had my car tested from top to bottom only the week before trying to plan for all eventualities). I drive around the block and the sputtering continues, so decide to take it to the dealership during which time the sputtering and shaking stops. After being given wrong directions by the attendant at the dealer and finally getting the right ones, I arrive and they hook my mischievous Altima up to a machine. $100 dollars later they tell me that a coil misfired and they couldn’t say whether or not it would happen again, but if it did, I would be stranded. I said, “look, if it were your daughter driving in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere would you let her get on the road.” Unexpectedly, they said yes. I leave the dealership somewhat assured, maneuver through rush hour traffic and leave Indy around 6pm. So much for not driving late at night again.
200 miles later I realize I haven’t eaten dinner and luckily found a truck stop with a Subway - grabbed a turkey sub and an Energy Vitamin Water to get me through the next few hours. Below is my sad attempt to take a picture of the “Smile you are inPennsylvania, the state of Independence” sign at the welcome center rest stop. Spent 10 minutes trying to get that pic from different angles to compensate for the reflective writing on the sign (my sister yelling at me in my head) while suspect truckers slowly drove by.
Does this story ever end, you are asking? Fast forward: stayed in a scary Super Eight, butt really hurting, get up again, race down the PA turnpike fielding calls from work, buzz, buzz, buzz from the blackberry and make it to the leasing office of my new apt around 3pm to get my keys looking like a recent lobotomy patient. My BB dies, then comes back to life, I can’t track down my relocation agent to find out if my stuff was coming as promised the next day and my sore butt and I sleep on the floor b/c those rockstar packers packed my air mattress pump before I could grab it. Arrive at work the next morning bright and early where the person who is supposed to set me up is nowhere to be found, 2 days behind in work, no cup for my oatmeal I brought with me (thank God for Clif bars), and after 3 calls and 2 emails, get a call from the relocation company to tell me that my driver had mechanical difficulties and my stuff won’t arrive until Monday. At this point, I felt probably as unbalanced as one could possibly feel.
Sounds a little like life, right? Finally get sorted, stay at work until late catching up, take a nice walk in my pjs along the river to stare at the moon and then pass out on floor – butt a little less sore.
And, then Eureka, I get up yesterday morning, 1200 miles proudly behind me, do a quick run on my new path along the Schuylkill river, drive my serene commute and........sigh of relief......somewhat of a normal day.
Anyone out there have a “moving” horror story to share, or any other life event that sent them teetering? How did you recover?
Lesson learned for me: life will always send us teetering, but if we take it step by step, we can quickly recover and find balance again. Perfect eating, perfect exercising, perfect “being” will never occur, so Sisyphers and Sweaters, sometimes we have to cut ourselves a little slack and give an inch to take a mile.
Jo goes to New York and gets worn out….
So, last week I explained to you folks a little bit about Sisyphus (see Freeing Sisyphus tab). This week I want to tell you how I went from being Jo from Little Women as my sister described me yesterday (and whatever Braxton sister I am – don’t really watch reality TV) to Sisyphus - which then will lead us to the story about the first time I tried to free Sisyphus from the grind and drudgery of the American dream.
Well, like Jo, I went to
Like Jo, my family was most important to me, and there are many stories there that will come later, but that was part of the reason I left New York the first time and ended up in a Phd program in the midwest for two years (with a fellowship) where I decided that wanting to be a good college teacher was completely counter to what was expected of me. I was expected to write boring articles that no one would read and present them to narcissists around the world who only cared about their articles that no one would read, drink a lot of wine and be depressed. I was writing scholarly articles about injustice and doing a lot of complaining, but I kept asking my colleagues what are we really doing about it. Drink more, they said.
So, I ran back to
I arrived back in
I knew it was time to leave
Stay tuned to hear about the exciting stories of Taiwan - air pollution so thick you came home dirty every day, near death experiences of being runover with scooters carrying families of six, Kung Fu and Mandarin lessons and how I started to see myself again.
Freeing Sisyphus: Are You Addicted to Self-Loathing?
Are you addicted to self-loathing?
Of course not, you might say. People are addicted to things like food, alcohol, drugs or even exercise - things that make them feel good if only momentarily. Who on earth would be addicted to self-loathing?
I’ve recently discovered that I am a recovering self-loathing addict. This was quite a shocking revelation for me. For someone who has always strived for improvement, who long ago thought she accepted herself, who didn’t believe in regrets, believed in herself and always tried to do the right thing, I had no idea how much I really disliked myself. I even thought I liked myself. Long ago I had decided that I didn’t care what others thought of me. This mental toughness came at an early age when the Piggly Wiggly checkout girl gave me the eye for buying a 2 cent piece of gum with a $1 food stamp. She knew I had been sent on a mission to get that 98 cents to go toward some other sort of purchase…I learned early on how to look that checkout girl in the eye and not care about her judgment.
Unlike many other teenagers, I didn’t have people at home yelling at me to be better, to act better, to get graduate degrees and conquer the world. My grandmother’s aspiration for me was to be a court reporter and earn a decent living. Yet, I strived and strived to be better, act better, and become overeducated to the point of silliness. I was quite proud of all that drive – to work harder than everybody else, to get better and better at something, to master a task. I may not have started out as the best at something, but I would work and work until I was really good at it. I was proud of all the work I did, and I thought I liked myself.
On the flip side of all that hard work and achievement was non-stop self-destructive behavior and sabotage in my personal life in particular. In the moments when I should have felt the happiest, I was despondent. When someone complemented me I focused on all that self-destructive behavior, all the things I hadn’t done “right”: the workout I didn’t do, the extra drink I had, the plate of nachos I inhaled. I spent years reading books trying to re-train that track in my head which I attributed to perfectionism, to tell myself how proud I was of each positive thing I had done.
But, it wasn’t that I was a perfectionist (although I am), it was that I was addicted to self-loathing. I craved beating myself up the moment or day after I had done something particularly stupid. Somewhere deep down I believed I deserved all that self-abuse. And, then one day I was sitting in John Piper’s church, and he said something that changed my life.
Whatever your religious beliefs, bear with me a moment….He said as humans we are all enslaved to sin. I shut down the side of my brain which was using Nietzsche to “deconstruct” what Piper was saying and listened. He said that although whatever destructive behavior we are doing may feel good, we are enslaved to it. I wish I was as eloquent as he was, but I’m not. I said, hell, it doesn’t even feel good. All those things that I was doing that weren’t good for me didn’t bring even momentary joy as I was usually beating myself up before I even did them. Two bites into a gigantic plate of nachos I was already feeling guilty, before I even arrived at a happy hour I was worrying about derailing my workout in the morning…..I suddenly realized I was doing things because I wanted to feel badly about myself. I wasn’t addicted to food or bad behavior, I was addicted to the self-loathing that came after the misdeed. Agnostic, atheist, believer, we all know that there are certain things that aren’t good for us. You can listen to your doctor, your pastor, or the people around you who care about you, but at the end of the day, we all know when we are derailing our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health. So, why do we do it? Why can I show grace to others, but not to myself? What feels so right about feeling so badly about myself?
That day Piper quoted John and said the “truth will set you free”….For me, in that moment, I realized that I was exhausted from all of the self-loathing. And, suddenly, I felt freer than I had ever felt before. And, it seems that almost every day I am being freed more and more from that need to beat myself up (and consequently freed from the desire to do the things that made me feel badly). Each of our journeys to wholeness, well being, joy, fulfillment and happiness are different and the paths are varied, but whatever your beliefs, the next time you are about to make that choice you know will derail your journey, do me a favor and ask yourself why? Is it because you are addicted to chocolate, or to feeling badly about yourself?
I wonder if Sisyphus keeps rolling the boulder up that hill because somehow he believes he deserves the punishment for attempting to emulate the gods and their wanton ways? I wonder what would happen if he suddenly realized he’d made up the gods in the first place and that he “acted out” to displease them merely as a way to punish himself?
As always, we want to hear about your journey to wellness, happiness, fulfillment, wholeness…comments and thoughts welcome, or please email at email@example.com
I started my day at 4:30am this morning so I could write this post, get in a run, survive the morning commute, stop by my favorite coffee shop and make it to the office by 8am.
Yes, 4:30am is ridiculous. However - I don’t know about you, but if I don’t accomplish something in the morning during the work week there is ABSOLUTELY no assurance that it will occur after work. Most days I start to feel like a zombie an hour before I leave the office. I work in Finance in a job where the earliest I’ll get off is your typical time-punching 5pm, but it could vary to 6, 7, 8 or even later. Suffice it to say the best of intentions always get derailed somewhere around the 4th fire drill call of the day. By that point I can only imagine curling up on my couch in a fetal position with a blankie over my head.
Sitting at a dead stop yesterday at 7am in morning traffic, I started to think about this eventuality, the master planning it takes to get in my workouts, pack a decent lunch (see Daily Sweat: Snooze, Lose or Compromise), and it made me think about the most frustrating part of my day and wonder about all you folks out there (especially you folks with kids who have to balance everything) and what the most frustrating part of your day is.
For me, I can quite simply say it is NOT the slow death march to work. I can usually survive the unnecessary lane changers, bottleneck traffic and people who have no clue how to merge without much rise in my blood pressure. I just try to focus on the tunes and start to prioritize work tasks for the day, or talk to one of my adult sisters (this week one is in Hawaii and the other is laid up on pain meds –she’s either loopy and happy or a crab monster, so I tend to wait to dial until later in the day).
Really the most frustrating 15 minutes of my day starts as I see my building one exit away, and my blackberry starts to buzz and buzz. My heart rate starts to accelerate, but nothing will keep me from stopping for my morning ice tea (one raw sugar) at a local chain, Caribou. It takes me about 4 minutes to get to Caribou from the time that I see my building rising in the distance. There is this horrible traffic maneuver needed where I have to exit freeway and merge across two lanes of people getting on the freeway with others in an adjacent lane racing up behind you as they are not getting on the highway (hard to explain), but I usually make that part ok. I make the quick turn onto my road and pull up to the Caribou, hop out and make my order with the friendliest of friendly Caribou employers, BUT nothing can help the people who take FOREVER to order the most complicated drinks seemingly every morning for the first time. How can that be? How can I always get behind one of those. I always know what I want, am prepared with credit card and caribou punch card in my hand before I even get to the register. Why can’t others act with such economy? The blackberry starts to buzz at a faster pace, and precious minutes start to evaporate. The roaring coffee machines, the buzz of my blackberry and the people staring blankly up at the menu really start to frustrate me. I try to breathe and begin counting in my head. Finally they call my name, I grab my drink, hop in my car and drive the 2 minutes to my parking garage where my frustration peaks. Inevitably, again, I get behind someone who has NEVER parked in my building’s parking deck before – how is that possible? We are not adjacent to a dr. office or some other place where you could be going for the first time. I go to level C which takes about three loops around the deck behind someone who cannot decide when and where they are going to park. They crawl through the parking deck, slowing down as if they are going to park and then speeding up. At this point I want to scream, as buzz, buzz, buzz tells me I NEED to get to my desk. Finally I make it to my parking area, pull in and jump out of that car like someone racing to their first job interview and are late due to some unforeseen event like getting pulled over for speeding. At this point I usually drop something, or my backpack gets caught on the gear shift as I hurriedly try to grab it out of the car (Haste makes waste - I hear my grandmother's voice in my head say).
Most of you folks are probably saying – bring ice tea from home. This will solve all your problems and take your 15 frustrating minutes down to 5 – nothing is going to help that parking deck situation. But, somehow, the thing that causes me the most frustration brings me the most comfort for the first couple of hours of my day. I love my Caribou ice tea and like having my Caribou tea in my Caribou cup to carry with me into mind-numbing meetings. I don’t even want to think about the psychology of that this early in the morning. Maybe I will just get up five minutes earlier on Monday.
The work it takes to be balanced ain’t no joke, and the things we do to cope can sometimes be things that are making us wobbly. WHAT are the most frustrating few minutes of your day? Please, please share (will make me feel a little less crazy). If you are not TOO exhausted, would love to hear from you folks out there juggling all sorts of things while trying to stay healthy and sane.
So, please leave a comment, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy trails and happy Friday – good luck out there today!
So, a couple of weeks ago I began telling you about the first time I realized my Sisyphean existence and tried to do something about it by quitting my life in New York City and moving to Taiwan to teach English - at which point my life took a radical detour from that of Jo in Little Women. I needed to slow down, get healthy and figure out what I was going to do with my life if it wasn’t going to be teaching literature or working as a bonded slave to insanely wealthy people in New York City.
I wanted to relax. For future reference, Taiwan isn’t the best place to relax. If there is anywhere in the world where you can feel the influence of Sisyphus it is in Taiwan. The people work very hard while seriously polluting their country and exploiting every inch of land in order that their children can someday be successful and take care of them. The children go to regular school, then after school to bushibans (English schools like the one where I taught) and then go to other classes to learn other things such as music. The only morning that the streets in Taiwan are not menacingly busy are Sunday which is the only day the Taiwanese take a break.
Oddly enough, although I wasn’t able to relax in Taiwan, I was able to really begin my journey to get re-centered and physically healthy. Before I moved to Taiwan I was overweight, eating all the wrong foods and just plain not taking care of myself. Before leaving for Taiwan I had bought a book called Body Sculpting Bible for Women after watching the first few seasons of Alias. As noted before, I wanted to be an Action Hero Babe, and I was tired of being flabby. So, My British roommate and I began working the program, and we walked EVERYWHERE. This was unheard of in Taiwan. Everyone in Taiwan had scooters. Instead of walking a block to the post office, they would seriously get on their scooters and drive a block. Had a little something to do with status I guess. The other 12 Westerners in the town where we lived also thought we were insane (luckily my roommate was a health nut). But, we had seen enough evidence to know scooters were not for us as we lived with another roommate who could barely walk after a serious motorcycle accident that required many surgeries, and the first time I got on the thing I nearly broke my arm. Yeah - pass. So, every day we risked our lives and walked. I can’t tell you how many horrendous scooter accidents I witnessed. I was hit by a cab twice. One time, it just kept nudging me to move out of the way as the cab tried to maneuver through a crowded street and wanted to use part of the sidewalk to do so. And, in Taiwan, obeying traffic signals is optional and rarely done.
For the first time since I was 12 I was working less than 20 hours a week teaching. Yes, I said 12. I started washing dishes in a restaurant when I was 12 and have never stopped working since. Those social security letters you get in the mail every year depress me to no end – not only because I doubt I will see a penny of social security, but because I see that although I’m only 38 I have been working for 26 years. Like I said, like most folks I had bought into the American dream that if you worked hard enough you would be rewarded.
So, with all that free time, I cooked my own food bought fresh from the food stands, worked out every day, learned Kung-Fu, tried to learn Mandarin (took me two months to really be able to ask where the bathroom was), watched a lot of Alias and lost a lot of weight. For six months I just focused on my health. Although in those six months I tore my hamstring (I can still hear that snap), I kept doing upper body and eating healthy while I healed. As I lay in bed at night I promised and promised that when I went back to the States I was going to stay healthy.
Me and Health Nut Roomate try to find calm in Taiwan
I only stayed in Taiwan for six months, and the story of my departure is pretty funny – involves the owners of my school accusing my roommates father, a fairly well-off English gentleman, of stealing a cell phone after an argument over whether his daughter was teaching on the sly at another school (we weren’t), sitting at a Taiwanese jail while they questioned him, and then deciding it was time to get the hell out of Taiwan. When that lady in bright red lipstick stamped my passport letting me out of that country, I have never been so relieved. After six interesting months, I had truly made some progress and was ready to make some changes – a new career and a new way of living.
As with all lessons in life, they have to be learned several times – especially with someone as stubborn as me. Part three of this story involves moving to the frozen tundra of Minnesota, building a career in Finance which was as surprising to me as anyone else and forgetting many of the promises I made in Taiwan (more about that later). But, luckily I believe that chapter is about to end and something else is beginning, thus this blog with my sister.
Okay Sisyphers – have you ever had a real moment in your life when you were able to re-center, focus on yourself and make lots and lots of promises to stay balanced? Have you ever had that tipping point in your life when you knew if you didn’t change you may just drive yourself into the ground or the mental ward whichever came first? Would love to hear stories about your tipping points. As always, please comment or email me at freeingsisyphus/
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How many of you expectantly count down the days until your next paycheck, like the 13 days of Christmas (yes, I know it’s 12 days of Christmas, but we get paid bi-weekly, and I’m usually starting to count the days until the next paycheck the day after I receive one)? I do.
Today is payday (and casual Friday), and I woke up (as usual) excited and manic like a child on Christmas, hyper and eager to get to work -unlike the other 9 days between paychecks - to open up my simple excel file that lists what I’m going to pay and to whom. Yes, I’m in Finance, but when it comes to my own finances, I’m pretty simple. No fancy programs, just an Excel list. I enthusiastically go to each bill site, opening those webpages like Christmas presents, feeling an inordinate amount of satisfaction and security as I type in each amount, confirm payment and submit. I walk to the office kitchen to fill my water bottle like I’m on cloud nine smiling like a Dr. Seuss character, saying hello and Happy Friday to every co-worker I see. I remember when I first started working I used to get so annoyed with people that said “Thank God It’s Friday or TGIF” every week. What a mundane existence they must live I said in my know-it-all 20s. Now, I say it and mean it. Oh, how we learn and are humbled.
Many people that I work with don’t even know its payday, and when I exclaim, “It’s payday” they look at me a little confused and say “really?”. Unlike me, they grew up in Finance and had parents that taught them to manage money, so they of course have automatic bill pay set up. I’m not quite there yet, untrusting I will be able to pay on the same day every month. The money management style I learned was a little different from the save x, put y in 401K, net present value bladeblah of my Finance counterparts. My mother taught me at an early age that back in the day if you wrote a check in red ink it took them longer to process it. Under her tutelage I learned to be a master of sending a bill right in the time frame where it was late, but not too late, the art of post-dating or which bills to pay late without getting into trouble. To be fair I knew what the word principal meant at the age of 12….but that was only because I knew we were hardly paying on it.
So for the first few hours of payday I bounce around the office, pogo style, smiling like a fool (kinda like my sister in those Percocet pictures). And, then, inevitably, the crash. The paycheck has been distributed, my account balance has dwindled back to its regular size. What’s amazing is how fast it takes over, the realization that there are many, many, many more Fridays (until I’m about 60) before I can give Sallie Mae the big kiss-off. At this point, I tend to dive into a black, masochistic depression where I go back into those same webpages, torturing myself by looking at the end dates far into the future of when I will be done with certain payments, feeling hopeless. I then start to play with my Excel file with an obsessional fervor– can I pay a little more here, a little less there, and thinking I HAVE to cancel cable (but I LOVE the weather channel - yes, I'm a freak), fantasizing about some miracle that will make those bills go away.
And, that pretty much continues until the next payday…although I tend to get over the major depression by desperately seeking exercise endorphins, enjoying the simple pleasures of life and thanking God each day that I have a job in this economy (while constantly contemplating how I would handle a lay-off – PTO saved up, severance, cash out the 401K I finally started, credit card capacity, etc., etc.).
Yesterday, though, I stopped by a homeless shelter to drop off some unused personal items as I prepare for my big move (more later on that), and I was humbled and ashamed. Most of those folks don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Did that experience stop the rollercoaster – ummm, no. But, maybe I saw/felt something there that can help me slowly but surely change the rollercoaster to that ride at the Fair that goes round and round up and down small inclines and plays 80s tunes. Who knows?
So, Sisyphers, are there any nuts like me out there who anticipate payday like a kid waiting for Christmas, only to crash minutes after those bills are paid? How do you manage? As always, please comment or email at email@example.com.
Freeing Sisyphus (aka Melody)
Putting the shoulder to the boulder and taking small steps each day to achieve freedom from the mundane.