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Work-Life

This week was rough physically, mentally, financially, and emotionally. It was full of obstacles, temptations, stress, productivity, high points, low points and everything in between. I suppose it’s called my LIFE.

On Tuesday, I was running late for a meeting offsite and had a bad fall in the parking garage that resulted in huge knots on my foot and elbow. It was an interesting fall because I missed the final step going down the stairs. The way I landed…almost in a yoga, cross legged pose, made it difficult for me to get up and caused me to twist my foot. Everything is still sore including my hips and knees. I had a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon, but it was with my oncologist. He doesn’t treat falls, but did tell me I’m healthy. And you know what…they didn’t even ask me to speak at that meeting. Really?

I’ve been attempting to embark on a weight loss journey (10 pounds), but there were food temptations this week such as the ice cream social we held on Wednesday in honor of our administrative professional staff. I did partake of ice cream because I don’t believe in being overly restrictive, but me and sugar have a love thing going on. I do want to limit my sugar intake, particularly as part of my cancer recovery. We have a lot of ice cream remaining, so…well, I also partook on Thursday and Friday. I didn’t know Blue Bell has a “banana pudding” flavor. Additionally, my general work stress and busyness from a week jam packed with meetings and interviews didn’t allow me time to log my food at all and I had been doing so well with this new habit. I did bring my healthy breakfast and lunch daily. A few of us also signed up for our agency’s weight loss challenge, which starts on May 4.

I wore my social work advocacy hat to address some issues I observed with my husband’s clinical team. I politely gave them a piece of my mind. They were very responsive and addressed my concerns. I also participated in my husband’s intake for his neuropsyche exam. It was emotional for him. Unlike other weeks, dealing with his medical stuff was interwoven in my schedule daily. It did add a bit of extra stress.

We’re on one income (mine), for the time being, and I get paid once a month. Despite my good salary, money is tight, but all bills are paid. For the first time in my life, I actually bought generic maxi pads because, you know, I need them. And you know what…I didn’t have an accident. The world didn’t end. I don’t know why I even made a big deal about it. The decision was actually easy when I considered my funds.

My son was sick a couple of days. There’s pressure because he’s behind on a couple of classes. We need him to pass his classes for obvious reasons. It’s a chore getting that boy to see the benefit of education. Perhaps the mission trip we’re planning to Haiti will open his eyes.

All in all, it was another productive week for the history books. I’m glad to be in recovery mode. I will spend the weekend resting and recharging, which is what I encourage my team to do. I’m also about to get my exercise on. Work-life balance. You’ve got to work on it.

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Sleepy head

I’ve had a couple of people say to me lately, “You must be up all night with all of your responsibilities”. I’ve paused for a moment to ponder the question, then respond with a confident, “No, I sleep like a brick”. There’s more to this story that isn’t pretty. For the hours I do get to sleep, I sleep soundly and deeply. That wasn’t always the case. I would be up in the middle of the night ruminating over the days events or worrying about various things. I think it’s a small victory that I’m able to sleep. However, I acknowledge that I need more of it. I often say that I’m chronically sleep deprived. My Fitbit goal is 7 hours of sleep per night, but I’m averaging about 6 hours…not ideal. Thursday night, I only got 4 hours and 58 minutes. I paid the price.

Yesterday, (Friday), I planned a pancake breakfast for my team. I also had back to back meetings all day. We had our team meeting with breakfast (I made the pancakes) and it was a long, but productive meeting. By 10:15am , I was beginning to feel the exhaustion. At 11am, I had a meeting with other managers and we participated in an ice breaking activity. We actually talked about what we did for self-care. Sleep wasn’t on my list at the time, but it needs to be. For the rest of the day, I literally had meetings every hour except noon and 4pm. By the afternoon, I found myself dozing off at my computer. Dare I say, at one point, I dozed off while looking up something for a staff member and SHE WAS IN MY OFFICE. It was a quick doze and sleep deprived people may know what this is like. I just had too much going on yesterday with very little sleep.

I’ve noticed that even while driving, I become very sleepy. Needless to say this is dangerous. I’ve also expressed my concern about possibly being anemic to my husband. I have a doctor’s appointment with my oncologist this month and I will share my concerns.

I love that my Fitbit shows me how much sleep I’m getting and also tracks the amounts of REM, Light, and deep sleep. Each stage is so important and impacts memory, rejuvenation, and healing the body. My husband bought the Fitbit for me for the purpose of tracking my sleep. It’s been over a year since I’ve had it and I still need to work on a good sleep plan so that I can feel refreshed.

In the selfie attached to this post, I think I look refreshed, but the truth is that I was likely sleepy. In fact, I wake up sleepy. My remedy last night after I got home was to go to bed early. I tend to awaken early every day despite the time I go to bed. Today, I can tell that I slept well, but there seems to always be a slight deficit. I’ll continue to work on my goal of getting more sleep despite all of the responsibilities in my life. In fact, I need sleep to deal with my responsibilities. I may even go back to sleep after writing this blog post. Sadly, it’ll mean I’ll miss my Saturday morning Zumba class, but sleep is a priority too.

I encourage everyone to take sleep seriously. Gone are the days of sacrificing sleep to get more done. There’s plenty of research demonstrating the benefits of sleep and the consequences of sleep deprivation. I want to function at optimal levels and getting enough, quality sleep will help me achieve this.

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The boss

There’s a phenomenon I’ve been experiencing at work since becoming the boss to people who were once my peers. It’s been awkward for a few, but most have embraced it. One person on my team told me she was “relieved”. That made me smile. I don’t want to narrow it down solely to haters being haters. I’m constantly self-evaluating and self-regulating to ensure I’m communicating clearly, articulating my expectations constantly, and setting people up to succeed. Despite my best efforts, some people just don’t want to get on board. I can’t please everyone and that’s not my goal.

As I’ve been evaluating what changed for a few people since I’ve become the boss when we were fine as peers, it occurred to me that it is more so the other person’s issue, but I’m fascinated by the reactions. I do empathize because I’ve experienced being passed over for a position and it hurt my ego tremendously. Notice I typed that it hurt my ego, and by that, I mean my work persona. I used that energy to clarify my career goals and make myself better. The next time an opportunity for advancement presented itself, I was not passed over. The situation may not involve competing for the same position and not being selected, but my point is that some people allow change in others to affect them in a negative way. Some become bitter and callous when a better strategy is to focus energy on determining why the other person’s change is causing them to feel insecure and then actually do something positive to repair the insecurity.

Additionally, I think when people elevate or advance, whether that be at work or in life, some people can’t take it because it causes them to question themselves and what they’re doing. It is good to question or self-evaluate, but there really is danger in comparing yourself to others. The danger is to your own self-esteem. I know most people do it, but we need to work towards breaking the habit of comparison. I go farther when I focus on competing with myself rather than others. We can’t see all the mitigating factors that put a person where they are, so we’re at a disadvantage already.

Be happy for other people when they succeed. Your time will come. Don’t be bitter. Don’t be passive aggressive. Don’t be callous. I’m not just saying that because I want people to be happy for me. I believe we all have our own paths to greatness and there’s plenty to go around. Sometimes the negative feelings/behaviors/energy occur because people feel left out or that there aren’t opportunities for them. Turn negative energy into positive energy and take advantage of opportunities to self-evaluate and change. Even if you determine that you’re ok, you may need to change your environment so that it’s a better fit for you.

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Next level thinking

When you desire to go to the next level in life (work, relationship, growth), you don’t play around. You do what you need to do to make yourself better. That’s where I’m at now.  I put my pride in a timeout. I put my shortcomings in a timeout.  I’m doing things I’ve never done before or thought were options for me.   

I was in a sticky situation at work this week. Navigating relationships with professionals on different levels within an agency can be tricky sometimes.  I recognized that I needed ideas beyond my own to help me through the situation. I quickly enlisted the help of my mentor.  In the past, I’ve rationalized that I have a master’s degree, so if I have a problem with an agency, I can find another job. In graduate school, one of my professors actually told me when a job stops being fun, then it’s time to move on. At the time, her advise saved me because I was absolutely miserable at my current job. After about 7 years of employment, it hadn’t occurred to me to search for a new job. That evening, I applied for a couple of jobs, and by the next month, I was employed at a different agency.

I went through a honeymoon phase of about a year with the new agency until I noticed some problems unfolding.  After a few years, I sought employment elsewhere.  I was out of that new agency in 6 months.  My professor was right, when it’s no longer fun, look for another job. However, it may not be solving the problem.  There may be evidence that supports the days of employees working at jobs for 20-40 years are gone. In American society today, depending on the occupation and geographic location, it’s normal to switch jobs every few years, especially in the social work field. I believed this to be my destiny.

What I’ve learned is that every agency has its own unique culture, politics, and you’re thinking it…PROBLEMS.  However, another common denominator, if I’m moving through these different agencies every few years, is me. It just so happens the same theme does emerge.  I get frustrated with people who have strong personalities and/or exhibit unchecked, bad behavior.  I eventually give up.  I believe I’ve lost some opportunities because of quitting too soon. Some people won’t blame me for quitting.  I listened to an audio book this spring by John Acuff called Quitter. (When I figure out how to do it from my phone, I’ll paste the hyperlink to the book.)  I was attracted to this book because I was convinced my destiny was to become self-employed because I was no longer feeling the fire at work. At some point, I may become self-employed, but the point I want to make here is the author gave me a different perspective on how I view my job.  I gained a whole new appreciation for the opportunities that I could create for myself.  I was promoted a few months later. 

Imagine this: Today, I’m confronted with the same situation as I’ve had several times in years past. God is and has been telling me to deal with this issue. This is David and Goliath. This is a matter of me standing up for myself as the dynamic professional that I am.  This is a matter of me not walking away from what God has in store for me. This is a matter of me making a change, so that I can be the change.  And I will do it in a smart and strategic way, but not alone.

When you see a problem, enlist the help of people you trust to help you through it. Especially seek out people who know more than you and who have been there. Common themes in my posts are that it takes vulnerability and courage, but how badly do you want a different result? This is next level thinking.

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Weekend Warrior

There used to be a show on cable called Weekend Warriors where people would spend their whole weekend on an adventure to complete a major renovation project. The work was labor intensive (i.e., installing new landscaping, kitchen renovation, replacing floors), but the result was worth the blood, sweat and tears (often literally).  As I juggle being a wife, mom, employee, manager, sister, friend, etc., I realize that unlike Weekend Warriors, I spend my weekends trying to cram a MULTITUDE of projects into two days. Something has got to give, even though I get satisfaction from crossing projects off of my mental list.

There is a part of me that is deeply satisfied with a clean and organized home.  A couple of weekends ago, I had my husband take the big dining room light down, which he hates doing because it’s not easy to maneuver. I’ve been asking him for over a year. He doesn’t think it’s been that long. I think it’s more than likely been two years.  After he finally took it down, in about 10 minutes, I had that sucker sparkling like new.  One weekend, I completely organized the garage. Another, I cleaned all of my spice jars. Another weekend, I reorganized the freezers. This weekend, I dusted the walls in my bedroom (unbelievable how the dust piles up), did some major vacuuming, and folded all clothes that came out of the dryer (mostly my kids).

I see no problem with this if I didn’t have other things on my activity list such as exercising, hanging out with my friends, cooking, meal prepping, going to church, doing work from the office, and catching up on phone calls with family and friends. Sometimes, I am filled with anxiety due to my extensive Weekend Warrior “to do” list. It’s like I’m running a marathon to do all of my favorite self-care activities (work from the office is not one of my self-care activities).

I think deep down (probably not so deep) lies a woman within me that is holding her household together by shouldering most of the work, partly out of control, partly out of perceived necessity, and partly for my sanity.  I’ve worked the whole time I’ve had kids, but there is a part of me that regrets going back to work after I had my daughter.  My husband and I talked about how much we struggled with paying child care and all of our other bills, but we were both scared of the unknown – living off one paycheck. Looking back, we both agree that we should have taken the chance. However, had I stayed home for let’s say, some years, I would have delayed getting my master’s degree, being able to contribute significantly to our finances, and meeting colleagues I’ve grown fond of over the years.  Had I stayed home, my house would probably be as sanitary as a hospital room and I’m sure there would have been other pluses like more involvement in my kids’ schools and lives. Either way, I’m not mourning my decision. I believe I would’ve have gotten to where I am now eventually.

There’s a lot at play here.  I told my husband on more than one occasion that I am not a housewife. I’m literally a boss in the working world. I complained about coming home to shoulder most of the housework, yet a part of me enjoys it. Like most marriages, we tend to re-evaluate our roles every so often and the conclusion is that this isn’t the 1950’s. Still it can be difficult to totally relinquish those cultural expectations.

Here’s the thing. The ritual of cleaning is soothing to me.  I get great satisfaction out of living in a clean space. And I have relaxed my standards a great deal since having kids. They do have their assigned chores also. My husband does load the dishwasher, takes out the trash, mows the lawn, among other things.  We all contribute, but I have the gift of identifying the odd projects that no one else thinks about. After all, my husband could care less about the dust on the ceiling fan…until I show him how caked up it is.  I am a Weekend Warrior, but when I end the weekend exhausted from my escapades, then that’s a problem.

This weekend, I got to soak in the tub two days in a row, I gave myself a mani-pedi, and did my hair. It wasn’t all Weekend Warrior, but I’m so happy I dusted my walls.  I suppose that’s my balance.

Surely, someone else knows my struggle. If you do, I would love to hear how you handle it. Please share.

 

 

 

 

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Who’s your mentor?

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post simply because a lot has been going on in my life lately. As my primary care doctor said Friday while wrapping up my appointment, “You’ve experienced a lot this past year.” There was a pronounced pause, and as I contemplated what she said, my eyes welled up and I felt my lips curve sideways slightly…Yup, I sure have. That conversation is material for a different blog post, but for this one, I want to write about mentorship as I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while.  I’m at a point in my career where I have mentors and the experience has proven to be invaluable.

A few months back, I wrote that I received a promotion which was a big deal. With that promotion, I was assigned a mentor, who was on the interview panel.  Before I knew that he would be my mentor, we chatted briefly prior to the interview and I got a good vibe from him instantly.  Since then, we’ve been meeting for lunch and phone and connect through email.  I’ve been determined to absorb as much as I can, which is why I think I’ve been open to the mentoring experience.

I also have mentors outside of my agency and of different disciplines, backgrounds, ages, sex and race. I think it’s important to get different perspectives.  However, I will write a different blog post on how to handle it if one of your mentors provides advice you perceive to be off base (stay tuned) . As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more comfortable with being vulnerable and there are few things more vulnerable than admitting that you don’t know something. I’ve learned the temporary discomfort of vulnerability leads to growth. Therefore, I’m more willing to reach out for help and use my resources.  I’m willing to hear constructive feedback and use it to make myself better.

From my experience, there are many benefits to working with a mentor such as knowing that someone supports me, having someone to listen to my concerns and answers my questions without judgement, and having someone to provide guidance.

Support

Knowing that I have another person in my corner is a great feeling.   I’ve always had people who have supported me, but this is different. A mentor is devoting their time because they want me to succeed. Depending on the work climate, people may support you until it conflicts with their own interests. Because my mentor does not work in my area, I don’t think he has anything to lose by supporting me.  I also have a mentor who is retired and I regard one of my dear friends as a mentor.  Again, neither have any dealings with my agency, so their support is unconditional.

I make it a point to keep in communication with my mentors as often as I can, especially when I’m not feeling confident.  When you have support resources available to you, use them.

Listen to Concerns and Answer Questions

It’s important for me to be able to share my concerns with someone who will not judge me.  I already have issues with trust in the workplace based on plenty of hard lessons learned.  Trusting my mentors will not judge me is an act of vulnerability.  I focus on the benefit of me sharing the information and I trust my judgement that they are trustworthy. 

If trust is an issue for you, it is a good idea to assess if the person you want to mentor you is a good fit for you. Do you trust their judgment? Will they support you? Are they interested in your success? How are they perceived by others (i.e., what is their reputation)? 

I’ve gotten some valuable feedback and ideas that I haven’t thought of myself by sharing my concerns with mentors I trust.  It has also been game changing for me to be able to ask specific questions without worrying I’ll be judged for not knowing something.

Guidance

In order to accept guidance, you need to be willing to hear constructive feedback and be open to incorporate different perspectives into your life.  I have to leave my ego at the door for this.  Since I’m focused on advancing in my career, I am open to following the guidance offered by my mentors.  For complex situations, which I have a few, I listen to the different perspectives of my mentors and then make a decision. This has not always been easy, however, they’ve provided me with great guidance.

I can’t write enough about how life changing it has been to work with mentors. For career growth (or any other areas of growth), it is definitely worth it to reach out to people who are where you want to be. It doesn’t have to be a formal arrangement, although some agencies do have these. It starts with developing relationships and expressing interest in others.  Striking conversations about non-work related activities, inviting them out to lunch or coffee/tea, asking questions about their area of expertise…these are a few ways to start building relationships to get you closer to your mentor.

 

 

 

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I need a change

Do you ever feel like something needs to change in your life, but you don’t know what? I’m at that place. I’m not sure if it’s my job or my perspective, neither or both, but I’ve been searching for something lately. One minute, I think, “Just ride this wave…things are good and smooth!” Then another minute, I think, “I need something new in my life. I need to SHAKE things up!” I’ve been praying about it too. Whatever the case, I made a move today that may set the wheels in motion to shake things up. The truth is that it’s not like me to remain still.

I’ve been thinking about giving back to my social work community and becoming a field instructor after all these years (really only 5 since I got my license). That means that I would supervise a student (preferably graduate level) at my agency for the duration of their internship. I work at the macro level, meaning I work with organizations and systems rather than with individuals and families. When I worked in direct practice (micro level) in the mental health field, there was never a dull moment because clients kept it interesting. By working in program development/implementation and public policy, things can get boring and monotonous. However, I do not miss the thought of having a caseload. My ideal mix would be to work in administration, yet be close enough to clients to see progress. I get a little bit of that in my current role.

I read some information and sent a few emails, which perked me up (not that I was down). I also ended up committing myself to some extra work to the tune of developing a curriculum. We’ll see how that goes…if it goes at all…I have some questions out.

I’m curious to know how you manage those moments of wanting a change, but not being sure of what that entails? Feel free to drop a line. I’ll keep posted on my endeavors.