Sing’n the Blahs

I seem to be suffering from something, emotionally speaking. It’s not quite depression, though my motivation is extremely low. I sometimes feel a little bit sad for no reason, but other times I am content. I am a bit weepy (I got choked up listening to edited bits of the Royal Wedding on NPR), but just as quick to laugh. Insecurity is high in some areas, and at the same time, I don’t care about much. These are the kind of days when I would go to the grocery story in my grubbiest versions of my Saturday morning uniform of yoga pants and tank top, and not care one bit how I look. Nothing is wrong, I just don’t want to do anything. This Saturday is distinct from the last (formula for Saturday success), where I took on my to-do list with realistic rigor. I am wondering if perhaps the overwhelm from my to-do lists has actually finally pushed me over the edge into this slump. I have even had my coffee today, but it hasn’t really “helped”. I still want to sit here. Doing. Nothing. I am deeming my affliction the good old-fashioned blahs.

My kids asked to watch TV this morning – a common request. Today I said yes, and I’ve been enjoying a lazy morning of Saturday morning cartoons. We are even watching – those who know me will know how out of character this is – Cinderella. I am NOT a Disney person or fan (ok, technically, since the Pixar acquisition, I guess I am), but any mother knows the Disney distinction and let’s suffice it to say, I am not a Disney mom. Princesses? No thank you. I would like my daughter to learn self-sufficiency instead of being rescued by a man (and I know – because I feel this way, it’s only a matter of time before my daughter is all princess all of the time). Interestingly, the DVD that we have here because my husband found it in one of his employee’s lap-tops last night, is Cinderella II.  It’s strange in this children’s movie world, all movies have sequels that none of us non-kid or non-Disney people know about because they don’t bother with theaters – they are quickly made for a DVD audience of under 5. Surprisingly, the first 30 minutes were about Cinderella finding herself as a Princess, not being able to conform. She decides to love who she is and be herself. Hmmmm. Disney – have you gone enlightened on me?? There was plenty I could find fault with too, but really, who has the energy?

The blahs are distinct from the blues because I am not sad. I have nothing to be sad about. Things are “fine”. Normally a word I don’t care for, it sort of fits right now. Things are not going particularly smashingly right now (work, writing, life), but they are not going badly either. Parenting is actually going along pretty smoothly, which is actually a huge thing, but I’m just not that excited about it. This is a classic sign of the blahs – no strong reactions one way or another. Good? Bad? Whatever. (This is actually helpful in parenting, btw, though I’m not sure of long-term effects of my blahs on the children.)

I’ve been feeling this way most of the week, sort of in and out. My husband hasn’t mentioned anything, but he gave me a sweet card this week AND flowers. Either he senses that something is up with me or he’s having an affair. Either way, the card and flowers were really sweet. He’s the best. Perhaps I should be sharing him anyway.

My mother noticed it when I spoke with her the other day. Eleven hundred miles away, she has learned to be in tune with my phone-voice inflections for gauges on how I’m really doing. Not that I am ever one to hide it, but her momar is highly sensitive – ready to help me through any bad time. She’s the best too. I have great family.

I think there are treatments for the blahs. I could start checking boxes (the importance of checking boxes). Working out might be one. Coffee usually does something, but not today. I could step up the drugs….I’m sure there is something in our medicine cabinet? But nah – that’s the thing with the blahs – not a big desire to fix it – to fix anything. It’s not bad, it’s just blah.

Waiting for Change, I mean Godot, No, I mean Change!

I have been working on this post for a couple weeks…it’s so complex and so wrought with emotion for me, I’ve had a hard time getting this into any kind of thoughtfully articulated observation. So, bear with me as I just rant….

My husband handed me an insert, a special report section out of his WSJ over the weekend. It’s title? Women In The Economy. The Journal report headline is this:

A Blueprint for Change: At a Wall Street Journal conference, business and government leaders examined what’s holding women back in the workplace – and set out an action plan for creating new opportunities.

This may seem an oddly bitter reaction to a seemingly well intentioned conference, but bear with me for a moment. In one month’s time my husband and I are traveling to London to participate in our business school’s TEN year reunion. Why this is significant is that while I was at the school, I was the founder of a “little” club known as Women In Business. I say “little” because it’s become a big part of the school, which I am very proud of. In our first year of existence as a club, we held a Women In Business conference (now held annually) called “Breaking the Mould”, and it was all about, in so many words, and I quote from above, “what’s holding women back in the workplace.”

Arguably, 10 years in the history of our country’s economic history is nothing more than a drop in the bucket. I could even go back 9 years from that, when I began college, and this topic was covered in women’s studies and business classes alike. So, 10-20 years? Maybe it’s nothing…but it just seems like more would have changed in that time. How life-long activists do it, I am now wondering. 10-20 years in and I already don’t want to hear about this any more. Or I should say, I would at least like to hear something different. Sometimes I wonder, what does it say about things in “the workplace” when the founder of the Women In Business club dropped out of !?

OK, not entirely true, as I gently come ‘back in’ by starting a small marketing consulting firm. This fits what I’ve often read – that women are often working part-time or under the radar. I can certainly appreciate that the reasons for this are being looked at – I just feel like that this is all that must have been happening over the last 10 years – looking. Corporates (not meant to be derogatory, I was one for a long time!) want to keep studying the issue, but where is the change – the real change? There was nothing promising in this ‘report’. Mentors and company supporters…yes, yes…we’ve heard it all before. The numbers do not indicate that it’s working.

As a founder of a Women In Business club AND as a woman/mother who dropped out of corporate America, it seems kind of simple – corporate life as we know it is not particularly conducive or appealing to women who are juggling family and home responsibilities as well. Women are still paid less, on average, than men (someone else who shares my sentiment, Another Equal Pay Day? Really?), so the economics of the family unit usually lean towards men working, women staying at home or taking another career path. Given all of the demands, I think many professional women choose not to work because they CAN (like said founder of WIB club). I say all of this both a) acknowledging that I come from a privileged class of highly educated, professional women so I GET that this choice is actually a luxury, and b) greatly hesitating to project my tattered career path choices onto other women who may be perfectly happy with the choices available and the ones they have made. But from what I have seen, many if not most women I know would like to be working to some capacity, but when the choice is current corporate world plus most family responsibilities OR just family responsibilities, the stressful life of a full-time working mother often just is not a very attractive option. For the record, I have friends who are making all kinds of choices – from staying home for the first years of their child’s (childrens) lives to those to working full time. Clearly, different things make different moms happy. I don’t mean to insinuate that all full-time working mothers are miserable, but I do know that whether it’s full or part-time, what most moms are looking for is a great deal of flexibility.

Isn’t this really what it comes down to? Flexibility? And is it so much to ask? Perhaps this issue is still being addressed – that there are not a representative number of women in powerful positions – because the systems (both political and business) don’t allow for much flexibility and still attaining these powerful positions? There is a company that I have found through my own search for flexible working, called Mom Corps (www.momcorps.com). It’s gnawing at the edge of this huge mountain of hope called, “flexibility”. My experience with the site, however, is that the part-time opportunities are few and far between. There is even a video on their website that suggests that it probably is better to look for full-time work that has a lot of flexibility vs. limiting oneself with the availability of part-time positions. At the end of the day, it’s still easier for a company to hire one person to do one job. And ultimately, there are enough people available to work full time. Otherwise this would change. So, I hate to admit it, but I do not feel optimistic about things changing any time soon. I imagine this “talk”, this “analysis” to continue for my lifetime.

My one beacon of hope in all of this? We just had a woman, a mom, almost run for president…so perhaps strides have been made. I will believe this when it becomes a trend. I also can see that what is positive is that my generation has choices that other generations did not – that working or not working is a choice, even if I am not fully satisfied with the range of choices. Perhaps I am just spoiled. But it’s really not just me – because what I, or presumably the Wall street Journal folks are not satisfied with are the numbers of women running this country. Or the numbers of women not running this country. What will it take to change? I am really looking for answers here – please comment.

The Winds that Whip Us

HOW, in one day, can I feel so enchanted with my children, enamored with motherhood and happy with every aspect of my life, only to later be pulling my hair out, wanting to scream at the top of my lungs and honestly wishing I had chosen any path OTHER than motherhood??!! I could have chosen to be a nun – I would not have had to worry about children OR my hair.

And this is how bad bed-time can be.

Is the point to remember how I was feeling earlier in the day? Or is the point to stay in the moment and just appreciate it for the journey that it is? I guess it’s difficult to appreciate the storm itself, but one can always appreciate the calm that follows.

You Can Take a Giraffe Out of the Wild…

The kids and I were at the zoo the other day and I was marveling at the giraffes. I have always loved them. Growing up with long lanky limbs, giraffes were my solace in nature, proving that awkward could be beautiful. A kindred spirit, they have always been. I was near tears with how moved I was, watching these gorgeous creatures (the Dallas zoo does a particularly good job of making it so that you are very close to them and looking deep into their mystical eyes). Then the giraffe that I was watching lowered his neck and took a drink of pee from the heavy stream that was being released by his giraffe neighbor and, apparently, very good friend. The kids thought this both gross and hilarious. For me, the magic of the moment had ended, so we carried on to the lions, from whom I expected a touch more sophistication. Those giraffe’s – they look nice, but you really can’t take them out.

Formula for Saturday Success

Such a beautiful Saturday. Aside from the absolutely perfect weather, it started with all of us sleeping in. OK, a kid- sleep-in, so it was 7:45 a.m., but there were no alarms and I wasn’t awakened from REM sleep in the middle of a steamy dream about, well, sleeping). We got up leisurely, no one crying, not even me. The kids played while I readied myself – brushing and rinsing away the night’s fumes and oils. I put on my Saturday morning uniform of yoga pants and the softest tank top I can find, layered with a fleece, of course, because I am always cold. We leisurely made our way down stairs where I made pancakes and no one even fought about whose turn it was to pour in the milk or that “she got to pour in more than I did.” I had coffee. We ate together, they played. I could not have asked for anything more from a Saturday morning with the kids.

And then it happened. My coffee sparks something and I start looking around and I see projects – lots and lots of projects – all of the projects that accumulate through the week that I don’t do. All of the cleaning up that always needs to be done. Decks to be swept, art projects to sort, weeding and a Sunday New York Times from last weekend that has yet to be cracked open (in my defense on this one, we were out of town last weekend). Rather than overwhelm, however, on Saturday mornings I meet these projects with a sassy optimism. A gleam in my eye that says, aha! You thought you could overwhelm me? Well, it’s Saturday and I just had coffee. My kids are playing and I will conquer you ALL!!!! Hahahahahahahah (evil laugh, of course).

How this usually plays out, however, is a frenetic attempt at many projects, almost at once, with the usual interruptions to manage 5 and 3 year old needs, of which there are always many, and which results in almost nothing accomplished by the end of the day, and I always feel frustrated….no, defeated. I hang up my warrior dusting rag and hope for more productivity on Sunday.

But not today. I don’t know whose voice of reason showed up, as it was rather unusual for me, but I knew I needed to get real if I wanted to keep the good day roll’n. I made a list AND it was ridiculously realistic. As a mother, I find there can never be more than 3 things accomplished in a day, really. And that’s if they are of reasonable size, and barring any major kid deviations like injury or illness. So I kept it real:  Clean the bird cage, work out and post to my blog. We had a kid-school shindig in the afternoon, so I knew that was about all that would or could be done. I wanted to feel what it would feel like to cross off the whole list for a change. Now with this post, I can! Wow. My sassy optimism continues….I just eyed my kids’ art project pile with a gleam and a ‘I’ll be seeing you in the morning.’

Forgiving George Bush

In a Buddhist meditation center in the middle of London, let’s say the year 2000, a group of us meditators were being led in an exercise called Tonglen. It’s a lovely practice of sending out love and compassion to, well, everyone. The instructor had us start by first thinking about people we love and are close to and sending love and compassion their way (on the out breath), then he has us open up our circle to others we knew, but to whom we might be indifferent or have nice feelings for, but don’t know as well. The next step was go a step further and to think of those that we specifically didn’t care for. He was saying how everyone in the world needed love and compassion – even the likes of – and he used the example of, George Bush. There was a small, but collective gasp heard in the room and I was one of them gasping. It hit a cord. This Buddhist compassion stuff is certainly very inclusive stuff, isn’t it? I had to let that sink in.

Around a conversation about George W. Bush, perhaps I should start out by saying that I am not even a little bit “into” politics. I am hopeless at keeping up with current events, let alone the intricacies of all of the political players. But with as much as I do pay attention (I did notice some things, like, the WAR in Iraq), I had developed a very very strong dislike for G.W. Bush. I don’t like to use the word, but my feeling towards him tends to flow dangerously close to that cesspool called hatred. Even before the war, I despised him and I was absolutely appalled by the American public for choosing AGAIN, for it’s leader, someone who appears not to be much brighter than say, me (I personally don’t want a president that I feel like I could hang out and have a beer with – wine is preferred AND I want a president that I would actually feel intimidated by AND if I go all the way, I would want her to be a woman). Since his departure from office, I’ve done a good job avoiding hearing about him because it makes me a little ‘off’ inside my gut to hear his name or God forbid, see his picture. While I have been very comfortable hating him – it’s very popular in my circles to do so, even in Texas – I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with how much I do. I’m a nice person. I’m a Buddhist, for crying out loud, I have practiced sending him love and compassion!

So I found it interesting, my reaction to an interview in the New York Times magazine with his wife, Laura. I have never had an opinion of her other than a close association with the dark feelings I feel for the guy she chose to spend her life with. I’m not sure what possessed me to read it, other than it was light and I was on a plane without children so I was thoroughly enjoying all of my frivolous reading. It was an interview on how “normalish” her life is now and the conversation brought up G.W. twice – once to say that they do almost everything together. I had to take pause and admit that that was very sweet. It’s what we all hope for in our retirement, right? A companion in which to enjoy all of the leisure? The sign-off of the interview ends with him texting her on her blackberry wondering where she is. Again, I leapt to all of the texts and e-mails I get from my own husband when he’s not sure where I am – a very sweet connected – “coupl-y” thing to do.

Somehow, I am uncomfortable with the humanizing of this man that, honestly and clearly, I love to hate. His time as a leader, as having my and the American population’s future in his hands is over. I feel like maybe I should be moving beyond my hatred at this point too. It’s just not good energy to have that inside, let alone for someone who isn’t affecting my life anymore. At the end of the day, he’s a human. He wants to be loved. He is loved – by his wife, his family and friends. There are probably even some people in the U.S population who liked him as a President (sorry, I still shuddered when I wrote this).  It’s been fun and rewarding, in it’s own way, to hate him, but I realize it’s time to let that go too. Go, George Bush, run and be human. Be loved. Find love. And if you run out, you might find some being sent from a meditation cushion here in Austin TX.

Scary day

I saw a billboard the other day that said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I thought the every day part was a bit much (really, EVERY day? I like stretching myself, but that just seems stressful), but I took that bull on today and did 4 in ONE day. I’m crazy like that…..

Changed my profile picture on Facebook to be the real me instead of the Wonder Woman me. I am just not sure people will like me as much now.

Uploaded a profile picture to Linked-In. Now people can make fun of my career AND my nose. Whoopee.

Posted my first Tweet! I have no idea why, but I have been terrified of twitter for quite some time. OK, I lie. I do know why I was terrified – 1) really afraid it’s going to take over my life – it’s constant chatter just seems to have that possibility written all over it, and 2) I don’t know if I can be witty as frequently as one is supposed to tweet. The pressure! Anyway, I added an Icon if you are one of these tweeters (and you all swear it might take over my life, but in a good way). I am not promising every-day wit, but maybe this will continue to qualify for this notion of taking on something every day that scares me…..at least for a while. When this scare wears off I can always remind myself that I am responsible for the two lovely beings that I call my children. Scary. Always scary.

Posting to Facebook & Twitter that I have a new post. I think I am going to get a circular reference’ error message on this one(thank you, my fellow excel geeks).

whew… all the scare has me overloaded. shutting down.