And now for the choice

This is the final post in the Career Cornerstones for a Lit-Up Life series ūüôā If you didn’t catch the other three, here they are: Values, Tools and Purpose.

It’s summer 2001. Cell phones flip open and don’t have cameras. AOL is the most popular website. Social and media are just two words. Britney and JT are an item.

It’s a while ago.

I’m living out of two Rubbermaid bins, moving between tiny plywood structures with no electricity on a weekly basis. I’m showering irregularly but swimming often. I’m singing my heart out every night at campfire.

I’m a camp counselor in a place where I was an overnight camper for a decade prior. Meaning all my dreams have come true. I’m a role model for kids, I’m responsible for their wellbeing (including supervising dangerous activities like water trampolining, ziplining, developing grit and independence from their families). It’s silly, it’s creative, it’s demanding.

I’m trusted. I’m growing into it.

I’m the most alive I’ve ever been.

More than once, on “night out” from my cabin (note to self: immediately implement regular night out policy in parenting life), I experienced a lapse of consciousness. I felt as if I was completely alone at camp. For just a few moments, I would see myself standing there under the huge sky, surrounded by trees and nature and all the camp buildings, but with no other soul for miles.

Like it was all there just for me.

Perhaps it was the silence, the expansiveness of the brightly lit sky. Perhaps it was an invitation to come into oneness with the higher power that brought me there, that united that community. To let all the distractions fall away.

I mean, it was eerie.

But it was thrilling too.

Have you ever felt that?

A while ago I took an inventory of all the jobs I’ve had, and it’s a lot. Retail, food service, garden centre, telemarketing, customer service, tutor, church musician, yoga teacher. And those are BEFORE I started my HR career as a consultant, manager, director of programs, educator and coach.

But that camp job. Until now it was THE ONE that led me closest to a lit-up life. All the cornerstones were there – it aligned with my values, it made use of the tools I had to offer, it gave voice to my purpose and – it had me walking down a path that felt right.

The fourth career cornerstone is the path you choose to walk. Your values are well established, even your tools are largely your natural gifts. Your purpose is your unique contribution to the world.

Your path is different because it’s a choice. It’s the context. It’s the wrapper. It’s the industry and workplace and job that usher your offering into the world. It’s the scenery around you while you’re making your magic.

So what’s been the job that gets you closest to a lit-up life, and how do you know? Was there a sign? Like the vast wilderness holding its breath just for a moment, just for you?

And now for the choice: what path do you belong on now?

Me, I’ll take what I’m doing right this minute.

…with a few more starry nights and campfires thrown in. ‚ô•

 

 

That thing that drives us

This is the third post in the Career Cornerstones for a Lit-Up Life series. In case you missed them, here’s the first (VALUES), and here’s the second (TOOLS).

I have this friend. She’s a total connector. She loves showing up for her people, helping them out by connecting them with each other, supporting their growth, sticking up for them, finding a doctor when one of them has an intoxicated fall and requires forehead stitches in the middle of the night in a foreign country.

I have another friend. He is hilarious. All he wants to do is create and perform funny, quirky, nerdy content. He did this for years for mostly no money – all through high school, then for the first fifteen years of adulthood – creating. making people laugh. creating. making people laugh. Until one day, he got a big break. And now he’s still doing it, only he’s got a company behind him that’s funding it – allowing him to spread his content far and wide.

These friends, they’ve got PURPOSE. Hers is connecting and lifting people up. His is making the world laugh.

Your purpose is what drives you to action. It’s the impact you want to have when you’re feeling your most confident. It’s the dream you have for your career when you’re totally in the flow. It’s the third career cornerstone for a lit-up life and the best news of all is…

YOU DEFINITELY HAVE ONE.

Or maybe you have a few.

Here are three easy things you can do to tap into your purpose:

Think beyond the confines of your current job. You might find ways to exercise your purpose there (in fact I guarantee that you do), but it’s not where your purpose lives. And chances are it’s not allowing you to fully live your purpose.

Ask someone who knows you. Choose a perceptive friend or family member who’s seen you work and live your life and ask them for the themes they’ve noticed.

Pay more attention to your thoughts. There is an incredible amount of information available to all of us that we cannot see and generally cannot explain. You can call it your intuition, your higher self, universal intelligence, spirit, source, guides, gods, whatever. Maybe this resonates with you and, and maybe you’re like “that’s weird”. Both reactions are fine.

But if you’re still reading, let me tell you this: our culture doesn’t really talk about this, and that’s a shame, because the simple act of paying attention to your thoughts is the fastest route to more authenticity, abundance and joy.

I challenge you to start looking at the thoughts and ideas that pop into your head as having meaning. As in, think of your thoughts as a conversation between your conscious mind (which is receiving these thoughts) and the source, AKA wherever they came from. Research suggests we have 50,000+ thoughts PER DAY. That is a lot of opportunity for profound messages and insights. Like, for example, learning to recognize your purpose.

Oh, and chew on this: It’s highly likely that your real purpose is smack-dab in the centre of your biggest fear. Living a lit-up life is not for weenies, you guys.

Stay tuned for the final career cornerstone next week. If you’re enjoying this series, I would love to know! Get in touch directly or leave a comment here or over on IG (link below). X

What 2-year-olds teach us about tools

This is the second post in the series Career Cornerstones for a Lit-Up Life. If you missed the first cornerstone (VALUES), read it here. 

Lately my two-year-old has been acquiring new skills with alarming speed. This week alone she mastered such critical life skills as climbing in and out of the tub, putting on pants, plugging in a nightlight, dragging a toy shopping cart up and down stairs (v. dangerous, not a life skill), climbing every public play structure within 1km of our home and putting a full garbage bag in the giant bin outside (not asking questions, going with it).

But more amazing than any of the skills she’s developing is the attitude a person needs to learn that much that quickly. It’s an attitude of being in the moment, embracing the process, unencumbered by expectations and unconcerned with what others might think. It’s the ultimate winning belief system and we’re all born with it.

So where does it go?

Over in the corporate world we looove talking about our toolkits – what’s in there and what we want to put in there next. The general practice is to equate “tools” with “skills”. We identify skills gaps and then gather said skills – think courses like coding-for-beginners and speaking-with-confidence. But often after we’ve checked off the skill we needed, we’re still experiencing our work – satisfaction, motivation, all of it – in exactly the same way as before.

This is because skills only comprise some of our work tools. If our values are the “WHY” of what we do, our tools are the “HOW”. And that includes the skills, traits, habits and beliefs that we work with every single day.

The toolkit analogy reminds me of those plastic toy sets where it’s the whole construction site – workers, truck, road signs, crane, and tool boxes complete with tiny colourful tools. Everything in its little place.

Skills alone are basically inanimate objects like the tiny colourful plastic tools. It’s our mindset and beliefs that bring them to life, cause them to¬†play, and allow them to shine.

The “it factor” behind my toddler’s outrageous development is not her gross motor skills or her cognition or even her inquisitiveness, it’s her sheer tenacity. This little creature believes in herself 100% and that enables her success.

We could learn a thing or two from that.

Next time someone asks you about your toolkit or career development goals, think beyond new skills and take stock of your beliefs. What new ways of thinking could bring your existing skills to life?

 

 

 

This is my why

I want to say hi, if you’re new here. If you’re wondering “what is this all about?” I’m going to explain.

I am an extrovert – an intuitive and empathic one (qualities often associated with introverts), but still an extrovert. Which means I get energy from extroverting: externalizing my thoughts and ideas.

Even after “testing” as an extrovert multiple times, I’ve only started to identify as one more recently. I was raised in a family of intense introverts. Lovely, quiet, complex, low profile, introverts. I have memories of being a small child and being told it was quiet time (legit request by the way, children don’t really read the room well). But all I wanted was to share my thoughts – desperately! – and all my mother wanted was to clean the house in silence.

Silence?? Noooo!!

I’ve made total peace with silence now, by the way ūüôā

From an early age I was really creative. Music, visual arts, fashion, design. I loved all of it. In high school I picked up a guitar, taught myself how to play it, and started writing music. I remember making a myspace page one day (remember myspace?) and putting up four or five original songs I had recorded. I didn’t tell anyone, didn’t connect with anyone, just went there sometimes to listen, for myself.

I thought “these songs are great “. But I didn’t dare go further.

On a volunteer trip in Spain shortly after graduating from my first stint at business school, there was a music night and I played one of my songs. They were blown away and loved it, and some people came up to me after and wanted to know whose song it was so they could find out more about the band. I did not say “thanks, it’s my song”. I told them the name I had given my myspace page… and then wondered nervously if they would check it out.

This is what not working with the universe looks like, by the way.

What was happening was that I didn’t have the awareness yet to know that I’d been imprinted at a young age with values – stay under the radar, other people aren’t safe – that didn’t really work for who I am.

I am an extrovert. I’m wired for sharing. Under the radar is not my optimal position.

Fast forward a few more years – I’m deep into my corporate career and craving some form of creativity so much that I decide to start writing a blog. But once again, I don’t tell anyone, don’t connect, because that doesn’t feel safe. I love creating, and the pure creation is a huge charge for me, but then tiny lights of feedback would happen –

One reader who also happens to be an accomplished writer herself commented: “You write so beautifully. Loved this.” when I wrote about loss. And when I wrote my it-still-makes-my-cry-when-I-read-it account of FL’s birth, a reader commented that she “found it incredibly real and inspiring and teared up the 3 times I‚Äôve read it this morning. Thank you so much for sharing ūüôā”.

Seeing that what I had to share had an impact gave me so much joy. This is the currency of an extrovert – giving something imperfect to the world and in return knowing that it meant something to someone.

So I feel called to be in the world at a higher volume. And quite frankly, I’m just going to do it. For many people, finding their voice isn’t a struggle. They’re like, “hi internet, hi social media, this is cool” or whatever, and keep moving forward.

For me, it was scary, unsafe, insane to even consider putting something so personal, so authentic, so flawed and true, into the world. And then claim it as mine.

And yet it feels so right.

Over the next few weeks I’m sharing a series on Career Cornerstones for a Lit-Up Life. Number one is simple but if you don’t don’t nail it, things just won’t feel right. Examine, unpack, challenge and define what matters most to you. In other words, get to know your values.

This is me doing that. What about you?

How to recognize your child’s strengths… and position them for success in life

First, I listened to this. From Good Life Project, the podcast that turned me on to podcasts.

It’s a discussion with psychologist Lea Waters about her work in positive psychology and her new book The Strength Switch: How The New Science of Strength-Based Parenting Can Help Your Child and Your Teen to Flourish.

I feel so empowered as a parent, to give an(other) amazing gift to my children: helping them to know their strengths.

As parents we have an incredible opportunity to be a mirror for our children. Before they are conscious of the world around them, before they are influenced by social phenomena, before they are exposed to¬†irritating cultural lies like “artists don’t make money” or “athletes get girls” or “kindness is weakness”, etc…

Meeting their incessant needs as tiny people means that we are uniquely positioned to identify their strengths for them. We are literally¬†right there¬†when they are¬†plainly becoming who they are. In Lea Waters’ strength research speak, we see what they:

(1) exhibit above-average performance at,

(2) are energized by, and

(3) really LIKE doing.

And that true-strengths test defines the talents and character traits that are the secret sauce for their individual success.

 

For my part, I see that FL has a good memory and makes connections easily. She is determined and strong-willed. She is conscientious, taking pleasure in putting things in order. She is empathetic, friendly, sensitive, and funny. And she likes to sing in the morning when she wakes up.

If you are a parent, be on the lookout for your child’s strengths. And share your findings with your child as they grow!

Doing this simple thing can help them avoid beginning a process of self inquiry when they’re in midlife and unsatisfied with their careers, and instead give them a shot at a much happier, more fulfilled life.

 

 

 

 

What a moment to myself looks like

Baby F is sleeping and I have a moment to myself. I finish folding laundry. I think about cleaning the kitchen counters but instead I brush off the bits of dirt that came loose when I unwrapped the potted tulip that’s sitting there. All red with yellow insides, opening coquettishly.

Last weekend a friend told me about how tiny dogs are being bred to fit into purses but are developing terrible health problems in the process. I already knew this but she seemed pretty rocked so I went along.

“That’s terrible”.

It is though, actually. These dogs are just not meant to be that small.

Did you know that human newborns are the most vulnerable, under-developed mammal at birth? Our little brains are only 25% developed when we come out of incubation. It’s because of the mother’s physiology – as upright walkers, we can only grow the baby so much and still be able to safely birth it.

No other animal needs to care for their young in the way that humans do.

I want to love my red and yellow tulip, but I have this ominous feeling it will die in here. My Valentine’s day roses fell and wilted in a matter of days. This¬†can’t be good.

I’ve become comfortable with the untidy mess of my house. On account of I’m caring for a human infant twenty-four hours a day. And I’m used to disappointing my partner who will come home and see the counter I brushed off but didn’t clean and he will just see a slightly dirty counter. I imagine that he imagines this is some negative reflection on me, but to be honest I don’t know if that’s true.

Another¬†friend recently told me about her experience getting on anti-anxiety medication. She’s been on it for about eight months. Is that past the honeymoon stage? I thought so, but I don’t know. She¬†says the meds have profoundly increased her enjoyment of life.

She’s a mother, by the way. ¬†I wonder how I would do¬†with a little medication…

I wonder how it went as we evolved to upright walkers – as our physical bodies put limits on the development of our babies, did our emotional intuitiveness expand so that we could care properly for our newborns? Or is it possible that we gradually developed this immense capacity for caregiving, and that meant we could start to stand on two feet?

I googled “are tulips naturally two-toned?”. Nothing but ads for tulips.

You know what? I will keep this tulip alive because it might be a genetically modified mutant. And that seems unfair. I’m going to water it for all those poor tiny dogs.

I can do this because I’m the master nurturer of the animal kingdom.

Even when unmedicated.

And for this, I don’t know whether to say thank you or you’re welcome. I think both.

Young hearts run free

 

Teaching mama and baby yoga has had me questing to discover the best yoga postures for energy. Because sleep is hard to come by when mothering a baby. I’ve learned that¬†back bends, twists and deep breathing can help.

Inhale. Exhale.

And time apart.¬†Which is why I’m camped out at my local independent coffee shop. Alone with my americano and my words. Blending in with the regular crowd, I think.¬†And all of a sudden a swarm of moms and babies are entering. Unkempt, earthy, tired. Noisy. I feel like I’m undercover¬†– I’m one of you but you can’t tell. My baby is at home with her granny. I miss her. But I love being here on my own.

Inhale. Exhale.

I’m so excited to talk about things outside of baby. To scale my life in a bigger ecosystem. To say we’re ordering in and not feel like I somehow failed to fulfill the duties of Home Life President. As defined in a different time, for a different woman. A job I’ve learned is not for me.

These Mondays though, they come with pangs. A pang of future Mondays. What will it feel like? To get dressed and leave the house without her? To leave her in the care of another? Another who doesn’t love her like I do. Who won’t sing her our songs. ¬†My eyes sting.

Inhale. Exhale.

I have often remarked, if it was the 1950s we mothers wouldn’t sit around planning our childcare, agonizing over daycare wait lists and nanny shares and transitioning back to work. I have said this out loud to rooms of new mothers, in these safe sisterly communities we are always trying to create, for me in vain. No one¬†has picked up the conversation. Is it too painful? Confusing? Overwhelming? A foregone conclusion? A stupid comment?

I don’t wish myself back in time. Not for a second. The fight for gender equality has barely started in my view, and I won’t give one inch back. But sometimes these choices don’t feel like choices. To spend the bulk of the week working outside of the home, or, caring for my young child. Now my job is to make an impossible choice I can live with.

Inhale. Exhale.

Podcasts, walks, fatigue, anxiety, cuddles and overwhelming love. These are the ways I will remember maternity leave. A warping, tinting, melting, of the glass walls through which I see this world. They say the years are short but the days are long. At ten months Baby F astounds me. She knows her home, her toys, the best vents to bang on, where the baby monitor is kept (favourite thing to throw across the floor). I let her because I secretly want it to break, its random beeping for no apparent reason one of the most elusive and frustrating mysteries of these past ten months.

The greatest mystery of these past ten months though, remains: what does the future hold for me? Unsolved.

Seeking strength and wisdom now and always. To lead a life I can look back on with pride and joy. And that I can embrace and exalt in along the way.

Inhale. Young hearts. Exhale. Run free.

 

What my parents taught me about money

Chokers are back in style.

The jewelry, not the fetishists. Although I wouldn’t know which fetishes are hot right now. I googled “fetish trends” and it’s just too much. Something about laying alien eggs inside yourself.

I went to the bank and opened an investment account to save for baby F’s education. Banks are so invasive with their questions. There’s no good reason for them to ask for an estimate of my liquid and illiquid assets. They just ask because they can.

The estimate of my illiquid assets is zero dollars.

For someone so apparently ungrounded, I sure don’t feel that way. Taking care of an infant seven days a week. Monitoring her favourite game: Find a Strangulation Device. Shoelace, computer cord, baby monitor cord, ribbon, drawstring.

In my financial life though, I have all the freedom.

The bank asked for my salary. Which I told them, even though every day I’m not sure if I’m going back to my Old Job, Old Life. It was fun, pretending to be that person for a moment. Casually providing my employer information, basking in the powerful social currency that is having a paid job.

Feeling so tangible, so relevant, perched so tidily in the webbing of a company with a title and a paycheck. I glimpsed myself wearing clothing that wasn’t doubling as a baby’s kleenex.

Maybe a tasteful choker.

I googled “fetish define“. Noun. a course of action to which one has an excessive and irrational commitment.

I think about the money fetish. I know a lot of people with it. They are easy to judge Рtheir excessive and irrational commitment to  making it, spending it, looking and acting like they have it.

Materialism is so boring.

But I’m not above all that, as much as I’d like to be. I’m just more turned on by the security it brings. Stock piling it in a prudent fashion.

The internet thinks Forever21 went too far with their latest neckwear. I say most things at Forever21 go too far: example. Where is the subtlety?

Growing up I felt we never had enough. Not going on school trips because of the cost, shopping exclusively at thrift stores, only buying no name foods, reusing milk bags for sandwiches instead of buying zip locks. Never seduced by shiny new things, unnecessary decoration or trends.

Now that I’m an adult those choices feel reasonable, practical and wise. But that lens of Lack they left me with – it lingers.

So I take all the right steps. With the education savings and the hand me downs for baby F. I choose to build financial security to avoid choking myself with fear and anxiety. This is the mark my upbringing left on me.

It could be worse. Maybe this phone I’m writing on is the most expensive thing I own. Maybe I am overly wrapped up in ¬†the comfort and identity of my work, my living. But all that creates space for other things. Better risks. More interesting fetishes. Personal style. Radical evolution. Space to breathe.

Don’t panic¬†

It’s evening in paradise. Today I stood by the ocean, reading the “beware of the rip tides” signs and observing the plentiful red warning flags,  and thought: so stunning and so dangerous. Nature’s paradox.

There were instructions posted on what to do if you were swept out to sea.

1. Don’t panic! 

Followed by a swim guide  for a safe return to shore.

After months of hearing that traveling with a baby is “so easy” and “the best”, I’m calling it. Guys, this is not easy. 

Baby F is a full time job and that job continues here, just with better scenery. She is with us everywhere we go, as she should be. That includes the beach which is hot and terrifyingly loud for her, the pool which is a touch too cool, the shuttle bus which is surprisingly comfortable but also totally unsafe.

Everywhere, she’s nursing or crying or cooing or just being a baby. Cooped up in our arms or her stroller, she gets restless and wants to explore. In public parks, in fine dining establishments, the hotel lobby. I’m looking around constantly  to see if we’re making anyone annoyed, uncomfortable or both.  

I’m deprived of sleep. I’m not at my best, uncharacteristically irritable. Craving time alone. 

I see other mothers. For the first time, I really see them. I see them rubbing sunscreen on their kids. Watching their toddlers go down the water slide again and again. And again. Patiently folding the towels, packing up the beach things to head back to the hotel. Making sure everyone is safe and fed and having a good time. Doing their best.

I see other couples. The ones without kids, the young ones. They are rested, they are getting tipsy. They are fresh as they recharge -from their work, with their partner. Well fed and probably well sexed. Remember? 

The sweet slow drip of time is changing all of us. Into the next incarnation of ourselves. So gradual you can barely feel it.

Until you land in paradise. 

And manage to feel more anxious because you couldn’t very well bring the jumperoo. But oh how you wish you could have!  

Now all you want is a glass of wine and a good night’s sleep. A short break from all this responsibility that came along as a package deal… with the  ocean of pure love you jumped headfirst into – arresting beauty and  breathtaking power – the day your kid was born.  

Welcome to the new normal. 

Dangerous. And yet. 

Through the fog of too little sleep and the inconvenience of being in  a foreign  place with a tiny human, you are grateful every day. Achingly so. For that spectacular ocean of love. 

So long sweet summer

And just like that, the summer comes to an end. Those who will get tanned have done so. Those who will have barbecues, go waterskiing, see outdoor concerts, go to the zoo and have picnics have done so.

There’s a nip in the morning air, like clockwork. I like to think I was the first to know about the first cool morning since I poked my head out at 4:30am and felt it. What mother is sleeping at that time, really?¬†Not this one.

The end of summer in this town is bittersweet. We’re season people so we like the change. We cheer: cozy sweaters! pumpkin spice lattes! Plus this summer was especially hot, especially humid, especially heat warning and UV index “Very High” and all that dangerous stuff. Hard to enjoy your spiked lemonade when you’re busy trying to shade yourself so you don’t get a third degree burn. Ah, my pale English roots.

But summer is the universally fun season and everyone knows it. It’s loud and extroverted, untamed. The childhood thrill of no school leaves a hangover for life.¬†Only now as adults we mix in finding entertainment for our kids (computer camp – woo!) and battling weekend traffic to cottage country. But a cold beer by the lake? Just beautiful.

Summer 2016 was the second season of transformation in motherhood Рcoming out of the haze of birthing, awestruck in the presence of newborn life, and settling into the new normal. A twosome come threesome. A mother first. A wife and daughter, distant second. Somewhere a friend. Somewhere, way down there, everything else.

So long sweet summer. Wow, that song is from 2000. A sobering reminder of the speed of life. The speed of light.

Breathe and savour this¬†moment. It’s unlike any other in your¬†past or future. Happy Fall.