Undecided

For the month of April I’m blogging alphabetically about quick, easy, and practical ways to relieve stress. To see the other posts in this series, click here.

2014-08-26 19.24.05I’m a really terrible decision maker. I’m way too analytical, I’m a perfectionist, and I don’t like to have to do things over. All this combined means that I spend way too much time pondering every possible outcome of every choice I might make. I’m not just talking about major life decisions either. Major life decisions probably should be given this kind of thought. I’m talking about decisions like what I want to order for dinner, or even where to go to dinner in the first place. I’m a weirdo.

In all seriousness, this inability to make decisions often causes me a lot of stress. Spending all that time trying to decipher the potential implications of innocuous choices is maddening.

I’ve always known I’m a really poor decision maker, but I’ve just recently realized that it causes me stress. They say that admitting you have a problem is the first step. I’m going to have to hope they’re right. And, perhaps, buy a Magic 8 Ball to help me with my decision making in the meantime.

A is for Action

For the month of April I’m blogging alphabetically about quick, easy, and practical ways to relieve stress. To see the other posts in this series, click here.

2014-09-25 11.06.30Initially, I was planning to write today’s post about art. I was going to talk about getting creative even if you’re not artsy (which I am not). I even read an article recently that talked about the stress-relieving benefits of coloring. “Coloring!” I thought, “That’s perfect! My kids love to color. I could color with them! They would be getting mommy time; I would be relieving stress. Done and done.”

I still may try that. But I decided to start with something more fundamental. If I really want to weed the stress out of my life, I need to own it. I need to decide to do something about it. I need to commit to taking action.

My one year old can’t walk, and it’s probably my fault. I’m not alarmed. She’s developmentally fine. But I carry her on demand. My 2-year-old wants to be carried more than most other two-year-olds. Even my 4-year-old asks to be picked up. I’m really bad about carrying my kids.

I think I’ve been approaching my faith life much like my little ones approach walking. I just reach up and beg God to pick me up. But the fact is, I’m perfectly capable of walking. I might need Him to hold my hand, but I need to put one foot in front of the other. I’ve been so stressed for so long, and I beg God to take it away, but the fact is, I haven’t done much other than whine about how I want to be carried.

So, today is a new day. Today, I begin taking action. Today, I am going to become an active participant in creating my life, not a whinny spectator wishing that things were unfolding differently. As the old saying goes, “Pray as if everything depends on God, work as if everything depends on you.” I’m finally going to take that later part seriously in regards to my stress levels.

The Accidental House Hunt

Josh and I had a plan. A good plan. A plan we both fell confident about. A plan that didn’t involve buying another house for 2-3 years.

And then my girlfriend emailed me this…

Oh my gosh Mary!! A house with trees on an acre in Keller for $XXX,000! That’s crazy. An acre with no house goes for $XXX,000 ($30,000 less) in Keller. AND it’s three minutes from the church- if that! You’d have some work to do to update, but you’d have immediate equity to draw on at that price.

Just sayin’

Me - taking pictures to contemplate the updating to be done in the first house.

See me in the mirror? I’m taking pictures to contemplate the updating I want to do.

I looked up the property and my girlfriend was so right. It was such a great find! It was too good to pass up. Josh and I chatted and decided to veer from the plan.

We went to see the house. It needed A LOT of love to get in ready for us to live in, including some foundation work and an addition to make it big enough to fit our growing family. We ran the numbers, and the house was such a great deal that, even with the money we would put into it, we couldn’t let it go.

We put a contract on the house!

Benjamin posing in the first house.

Benjamin posing while we looked at the house.

A short while later we heard there were multiple offers. We responded with our best offer and waited. Waited for FIVE DAYS. Five long days, praying all the while that God’s Will be done. We certainly can’t see the future, so, even though this seemed like a great opportunity for us, we begged that God take it away if it wasn’t what was best for our family.

And He did. We didn’t get the house. We were outbid.

We had mixed emotions, but there was definitely relief mixed in with all of the other emotions. We just had a massive, multi-year project taken off our plate. We decided to stick with our previous plan. The good plan. The plan that we were both comfortable with. The plan that didn’t involve buying a house for a few more years.

My Benjamin inspecting the first house.

My Benjamin inspecting the first house.

A few days later, I looked up the property again. I don’t know why. I guess for closure or something. While I was on realtor.com, I stumbled across a different property. It was listed for significantly more than the first property, but it was on 2 acres and in MUCH better condition than the first house. So I fired off this email:

SOOOO…..

I know this is waaay more than we were planning on spending. And maybe it’s way more than we could ever justify spending…

But take a look at this property. It’s got EVERYTHING: land, location, space, pond… It’s crazy!

It needs to be updated, and, obviously, we wouldn’t have the money to do it right away, but it’s just dated, so we could take our time.

What do you think??

Josh responded quickly and, next thing we knew, we had a showing lined up. While we were there, one of our realtors suggested that we check out one other property that matched what we are looking for…

SOooo, low and behold, here we are – in the middle of an accidental house hunt.

Stress Projects

KeepCalmStudio.com-[Crown]-Keep-Calm-And-Complete-A-Stress-ProjectI have been super stressed out this week. On top of some smaller stressors that I’ve been dealing with, my hubby and I are making a major decision. We’re considering an opportunity that would cause some major stress, but also (hopefully) bring great rewards. I’m terrible at making decisions of any kind, but it’s way worse when the decisions are important. As we pour over pros and cons and would-bes and could-bes and should-bes, my stress level has reached heights I haven’t seen since I quit working outside of the home.

I’m not so great at coping with stress, so, at first glance, I thought I was going to have to sit out this week over at Small Success Thursday. I realized that it’s weeks like these that particularly call for a recognition of one’s small successes, and, after some thought, I discovered the silver lining to my stress.

I don’t handle stress well. I get really irritable and short-fused. To try prevent myself from attacking my family while they sleep, (I’m exaggerating – no need to call C.P.S.) I scale back on everything that I possibly can scale back on to deal with the task at hand. School gets turned down to the bare minimum: reading, math, and catechism. I make really easy meals. I don’t do the laundry. I don’t do a lot of playing with the kids. I just go into crisis mode and deal with the task at hand.

At some point I get really frustrated because I can see all that I’m putting to the side, yet I also realize that I’m not making any visible progress on whatever is causing all the stress. Then I start doing projects. I choose things that I know I can do well and see through to completion. I do this to compensate for the inadequacies I’m feeling in regards to my daily routine and other areas of my life.

I don’t go through this process intentionally. In fact, I’ve never even thought through this process before today. But this is how I operate under stress. Always.

I know that in reality this process is just a really poor coping skill. But my poor coping skill has a silver lining: I get things crossed off my to-do list that I would never otherwise tackle. I will forevermore refer to this maladaptive coping skill as my stress projects. So what did I take on this week?

1. I cleaned the grout in the hall bathroom, foyer, and laundry room. We have light grout and a lot of people in our house. I’m embarrassed to say, it gets dirty – really, really filthy. But now, thanks to my stress projects, it’s clean in several rooms of my house!

2. I weeded a lot of the front yard. We have a tiny lot, but this year it was absolutely overtaken by roadside aster. Embarrassingly overtaken. It looked like a carpet of little white flowers. But, in one of my efforts to avoid the tasks at hand while simultaneously making myself feel accomplished, I got out in the yard and tackled the weed problem – or at least a big chunk of it. We’d tried putting some weed and feed on it last month, but it didn’t work. Thus, my efforts were needed, but not something I normally would have taken on willingly. It looks so much better now!

3. I made festive halloween treats to send to work with my hubby. Back in the day, I used to make treats for my hubby to take to work with him from time to time. Thanks to work and grad school and multiple pregnancies, I haven’t done it in years. As I was working on the treats, I actually asked Josh what made me decide to make them. (Not because I was complaining but because I really couldn’t recall what gave me the idea to do it.) I didn’t realize it at the time, but it, too, was a stress project. A super cute stress project, if I may say so myself!

I’m so grateful for Small Success Thursdays. I really was feeling like a failure this week, knowing how grumpy I’ve been and seeing all that I haven’t done. Because of SST, I actually stepped back and realized that, while I may have come up short in a lot of areas, I succeeded in some areas too!

A Reason, a Season, or a Lifetime

My mom used to have a plaque in our hall bathroom that said something along the lines of “Every experience God puts in your life is the perfect preparation for the future that only he can see.” It was a gift to her from her youth group when we moved away from Columbus. It was blue and white and kind of looked beachy to me. I always loved that plaque. I remember standing in that bathroom as a 4th grader reading it again and again, pondering what exactly that meant, wondering what this future may be that I may have already somewhat caught a glance of through my, albeit limited at the time, life experiences. That saying has always stuck with me, and I usually see it’s truth in retrospect.

Truthfully, this entry isn’t going to be nearly as insightful or nostalgic as it may appear, but the anecdote above applies nonetheless.

I’ve been in the process of getting rid of all my Mary Kay stuff. What I didn’t sell, I’m donating to a domestic violence shelter. Anytime I’m at the end of a road, I tend to look back and consider how I got there, evaluate the journey, and think what I might have done differently. Surprisingly, closing this chapter has been really easy for me. I guess it helps that it’s technically been closed for several months, but I’m just now getting  around to cleaning up the mess. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely sad to leave Mary Kay behind, but my life has changed dramatically, and it’s simply not one of my priorities anymore.

Anyway, as I was bagging stuff up, I found myself in disbelief about how much I was taking away from my time with Mary Kay. I am thoroughly impressed and amazed at how much I grew as a person as a result of being mentored by those women. Every week, I stand on stage and talk to 300+ kids. I regularly talk to large groups of parents. I’ve spoken in front of our entire congregation. I lead meetings with my volunteers and catechists. Before MK, I barely passed my Oral Communications class. In fact, I only passed Oral Comm because I dropped it once and retook it with some GA who didn’t care what we did as long as we made some small effort at speaking coherently in front of the class. Before MK, I’m not sure that I had the confidence to lead anyone anywhere, let alone stand up in front of a group of people who are old enough to be my parents and gain their respect as their leader. Before MK my faith was nothing more than motions that I wanted my kids to see, not a real, living, life-changing relationship that I long to share with the young people of our church. Before MK I don’t think I really even knew who I was or where I was going, and I especially didn’t know how to set goals or manage my time in such a way that I could accomplish those goals with ease.

The directors in Mary Kay say that women come into Mary Kay for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. At one point I thought I was the lifetime person, upon my departure I decided I must have just been meant for a season, now I realize that I was most definitely there for a reason. I will be forever grateful to the amazing women in Mary Kay who had such a strong impact on my life, both in helping me achieve my goals as a consultant, and helping me become the woman I am today.

Ch-ch-changes

After Ben cam home, and even in the hospital, Josh and I kept commenting about how quickly I seemed to be recovering. For the first time, I spent most of my last day in the hospital on my feet or in the rocking chair instead of in bed. We even had an out-of-town house guest before Ben was three weeks old. Of course I was exhausted, but not in pain or even in poor spirits. In fact, from the minute he arrived, after the most painful, yet quickest, delivery I’ve ever experienced, I was in a state of absolute bliss. I was happy to meet all my boys, but this was different.  I attributed all of this to my new doctor. I thought for sure she must have done something differently. It didn’t take long for me to discover that, although I love my doctor, it wasn’t anything she did; it was just God’s plan. He had a project lined up for me, and my normal, slow recovery would have prevented me from getting on board.

On August 13, I accepted a job that I interviewed for on the 9th and applied for on the 6th. From the time I first saw the posting through the conversation when I heard myself accepting the position, I was in my own personal (yet obviously less significant) Garden of Gethsemane. I didn’t want to go to work. I feel sorry for moms who think they have to work outside the home. I had my whole family-raising plan mapped out in a beautiful mural in my mind. But we all know what they say about God laughing while we make plans….

I knew from the moment I read the posting that God was calling me to apply. I kept trying to forget about it, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind. And, as Josh so astutely pointed out, I’ve seen many job postings over the years that I’m well qualified for, but none have haunted me the way this one did. I spent a lot of time in prayer, mostly telling God I didn’t want it. I spent a lot of time trying to convince myself and my husband of all the millions of reasons why we couldn’t justify my leaving the home. I didn’t know what to do, so I applied for the position. I told myself that I would interview and not get the position. Then, I would know wholeheartedly that I had misunderstood what the Lord was saying to me. I reasoned that doing so would keep me from feeling guilty, since at this point I had convinced myself that there was no way God would ask me to work outside of our home.

As I spent more time in prayer, my prayers changed from “I don’t want it. Don’t ask me to do it.” to “I don’t want it. Don’t ask me to do it. But, Lord, I want to do your Will.” Funny how God works on our hearts like that… I just kept repeating Jeremiah 29:11 to myself, trying to remind myself that God’s Will for me was best, despite what it may look like to me. Meditating on that verse, Jesus’ passion, and Mary’s “yes” to the God through the angel Gabriel were all that kept me going. I was so stressed out. I did not want to leave my boys. I did not want to leave them in the care of someone else. I did not want any more responsibilities than those I already had.

But as I’ve already given away, the position was offered to me and I said yes. I know I’m perfect for this job. I never once questioned my qualifications and abilities. My whole life, educationally, professionally and personally, has prepared me for this position. I know if I interviewed me, I would have hired me too. I don’t say this to toot my own horn, but I am truly an asset to our parish. I am so humbled by and grateful for the opportunity that lays before me. It’s a huge responsibility, but I’m happy to take it on, challenges and all.

Josh and I are doing our best to adjust at home. Luckily, my hours are flexible, and we belong to a church that values life, so the kids aren’t so much of a problem. They’ve been up at my office many times when I’m supposed to be working. Right now, we don’t have a weekend, or even a single day off, together. If I’m at work, Josh is at home and vice versa. The exception is Wednesdays when we both go to work. We just hired an amazing babysitter and the boys love her. Leaving them with her was a little tough for me, but knowing how happy they were about playing with her made it so much easier.

I have no idea where this path will lead. And it’s definitely put a big hole in my mural. But as God keeps reminding me, He’s in charge. Not such an easy lesson for this control freak to swallow.

What’s Really Holding Me Back?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what direction I want to go with my business. Since the beginning of this pregnancy was a little rough, I took some time off. I’ve still been servicing all of my existing customers but I haven’t done much to generate new business or even grow my current business. As I was cleaning out the garage today in preparation for our big move, I found myself staring at my Mary Kay nook. Since our apartment is small, I keep a lot of my stuff (not product. I’m talking about booth display stuff and shopping bags and peanuts and whatnot.) in the garage. I realized as I looked at all my stuff that I needed to make a decision. If I’m going to make this “break” a permanent one, I need to do it. Otherwise, I need to get moving again.

I just don’t even know how to make this decision. I adore both my sales director and my adopted sales director so I’m sure I’ll be spending some time on the phone with them soon, but ultimately I need to figure out what I want and what is best for my family. And really, that’s just an excuse. Working my business in no way negatively impacts my family. The boys don’t mind at all when I’m gone. They love having Josh all to themselves. And what family would complain about additional income? Especially the significant amount that comes in for the small amount of time I actually spend out of the house. So, I guess what it really boils down to is do I want to do the work?

That question really bothers me. I’m not at all a lazy person. I’m organized and get a lot done on a daily basis. But, for some reason, when it comes to getting my business moving again, it seems like laziness is exactly what my problem is. But even that doesn’t make sense. The work it takes to get moving isn’t hard at all, it’s a lot fun. I love holding parties and skin care classes. I love getting to know new women and helping them feel beautiful. I love watching other women fall in love with both Mary Kay products and the company. I love the products and the company and its so much fun to share that.

This is why I can’t make a decision. I keep going around and around with myself and I can’t even pinpoint what the problem is. So, I told myself I was going to get rid of it all. I was going to have a big going out of business sale and give away all of my supplies, training materials and other goodies. That very literally made me want to cry. I don’t want to get rid of my Mary Kay stuff. I’m a really good consultant, and, more importantly, I really enjoy it. I achieved a lot of success very quickly and then dropped the ball.

Why? The truth is, I know the answer, but I don’t like it. And I definitely don’t want to admit it. But I’ll lay it out here. Maybe if I just admit what the real problem is, I can finally make a decision and get moving.

I’m not satisfied with mediocre. I never have been. Not personally and not with my business. But in my business, I reached a point where I was going to have to stretch myself, step out of my comfort zone and overcome some personal belief barriers to keep moving. So what did I do? I froze. The truth is I froze before I even moved to Texas. Based on what I learned about my business doing my taxes, it appears I froze right before seminar last year. Then, the move and the rough start to my pregnancy were perfect excuses to watch my momentum slip away. Sad isn’t it? I was faced with an opportunity to grow, something I claim I want to continuously do, and I didn’t. I told myself I couldn’t. I just shut down.

But knowing is half the battle, right? I don’t know if that’s true or not. I know very well what the problem is, but I still haven’t faced it. I keep trying to call it another problem: a family conflict, a time conflict, and energy conflict. Deep down I know, as I’ve already mentioned, that none of those are really the problem. I guess step one is to refuse to make excuses for what the problem really is. From now on, when thinking about or talking about my business, I will be honest about the real reason I’m not working right now. Step two is to decide whether I’m going to put on my big girl panties and grow or if I’m going to stay in my comfort zone and look back fondly at the time I spend in Mary Kay.

To further complicate the problem, either choice comes with its own brand of fear. If I move forward with my business, I’m going to have to face the fears that shut me down before. Walking away from my business comes with the fear of regret for what might have been. I’ve spent far too long trying to make this decision based on which fear would be easier to deal with. (I’ll go ahead and tell you. For me, it’s the later.)

As I said, the thought of walking away from my business honestly brings tears to my eyes. I love Mary Kay, the woman, the product, the company, the women, the mission, the charity, everything. I suppose I’ve come to that crucial point that all relationships eventually reach. The point where love the feeling isn’t enough. It’s time for love to be a verb. I just have to decide if I’m going to take action.