Holidays can be strange. The way you feel about them can be strange. And sometimes the feelings you have about them hit you in different ways at different times. The loneliness of being single on a holiday isn’t a big issue, but sometimes it hits you in ways you didn’t see coming. And when it does – it’s can be heart wrenching. When you attend parties and you have all sorts of fun and then you realize you’re the only one going home alone. When they’re so excited to get back to their families and you go home to an empty apartment. I love leaving my Christmas tree on so I have some kind of Christmas cheer to come home to.
And then – you go out on the town with your friends who are in the same spot you are and you realize how lucky you really are. That you are in the world enjoying life and are more than okay. Drinking holiday beverages at a pop up bar in a cheerily decorated (and most definitely, cheesy) back room with other people feeling festive. Eating oysters. Taking an Uber Black downtown. Going home and hanging out with family, friends and old coworkers and realizing that they’re still around for you. Celebrating New Year’s Eve at a club downtown and having a blast with your friends – old and new.
Being single during the holidays has its ups and downs, but it sure can be fun!
While doing chores the other night, I was watching You’ve Got Mail for about the twentieth time. There’s just something classy about that movie. And a lot of it is based around the holidays, so it’s sort of a Christmas movie. (For the record, Die Hard is most definitely a Christmas movie. In case you were wondering.)
There’s a part in You’ve Got Mail where Meg Ryan admits to her friends that she’s closing the store. The older lady, who had been a friend to her mother, said something I’ve heard before but it affected me differently this time. She said, “Closing the store is the brave thing to do.” When Meg Ryan protested, Birdie said “You’re daring to imagine that you could have a different life. Although it feels like you are a failure, you’re not. Marching into the unknown – armed with ….nothing. Have a sandwich.”
The sandwich part always cracks me up. But this time, what she said resonated with me for some reason. This past year didn’t turn out the way I hoped on a professional level and it’s really easy to view that as failure. It wasn’t anything horrible – I just expected to finish the year on a much better note. But you know what? It wasn’t really failure at all. I tried all sorts of different things this year: from adding new positions to my department to restructuring current jobs to revamping procedures. Some worked well and some failed miserably. After beating myself up a bit, I started to look at it from a different perspective. What really happened is that I tried new things. Pass or fail, I tried them. What would’ve happened if I left things as they were? We would have still grown (but probably not as much) and more than likely did okay. But a lot of the risks we took this year have already paid off. In dividends. And the best part? I don’t have to wonder what would happen if I did try something new – because I already took those risks and experienced the outcomes. Now, we can go forward and make new adjustments and take new risks – all because we’ve tried the alternatives already.
The one thing that was constant about this past year was change. At one point, I practically made a plea for no one to change or leave their job for at least six months – because it was so hard to keep up with the changes and we needed to recover. One other quote from the movie is “People say change is good thing. What they’re really saying is that something you didn’t want to happen, has happened.” For the most part, I can agree with this. However – change is also something that you can control. Especially if you don’t like your current situation or think/believe you can change it for the better. There may be risk involved, but there can be a reward at the end of it as well.
Last year there was so much change that we wanted to just survive it. This year was a year of experience- we learned so much through all the changes, that we’re looking forward to making next year brilliant. The way I look at it, this next year wouldn’t be as successful if we hadn’t gone through the past two years of change and growth.
So, if you have something in front of you that requires bravery – along with change you may or may not want to happen – just imagine you could have a different life. I have no clue what that looks like for you, but the fun part is when you dare to make the dream a reality.
You just have to go into the unknown. Hopefully armed with a sandwich.
I’m pretty sure I never put gratitude and vulnerability in the same sentence before, but it’s been popping up over the last few weeks so I’m thinking they just may be related. Or I need to learn something about it. Maybe. Probably.
A month or so ago, I had a blog draft I was working on called Vulnerability. I didn’t get very far on it because I wasn’t sure where I was going with it. It was also coming across…..well, vulnerable. And as expressive as I am at times, putting full blown vulnerability out there was not something I was willing to do. So, I scrapped that idea and threw it in the trash. There. No more vulnerability.
Except….yep. It came up again. A few times. So I guessed there was something going on. And then on Sunday, it all kinda clicked. In church, the pastor gave the obligatory message about gratitude right before Thanksgiving. But he promised it was going to be a bit different. And it was. At least for me.
He spoke a lot about gratitude and how it changes our lives when we express it. And how our relationships with others change based on the amount of gratitude we give. Or receive. And honestly, I didn’t really think about that part before because I usually try and make a point to thank people for what they do. Especially at work. But here’s the thing I didn’t realize before – I do get irritated at people when they don’t say thank you to me. Really. I often say “you’re welcome” just to make a point. I think it’s the Philly in me, so I guess I’m making the hometown proud. But while I’m trying to “raise awareness”, I’m essentially being just as rude as they are.
So while I’m working on how I really feel about that smack in the face, let me tell you about the other thing I learned over the weekend. The pastor was talking about how we sometimes have obstacles in the way of expressing gratitude. Especially in relation to God. But think about it – sometimes we do this to people around us as well. It can be pride, or a guilt complex or a comparison situation where we don’t want to look like we’re putting ourselves out there in order to admit that someone did something nice for us. This usually happens when we’re mad at that person, not very close to them or maybe, we just simply don’t like them. (Gasp! Yeah right. Like that’s never happened to you! Haha) I’ve begrudgingly expressed thanks to people I didn’t particularly care for, even worse – people who repaid my bad attitude with kindness. Nothing like self-reflection and embarrassment all rolled into one to make you learn a lesson real quick!
The one other obstacle that got me was vulnerability. It actually stemmed from the fear of joy. How does that work? Well, think about it. If we express gratitude for something that happened and we feel joy, we ultimately have this idea in the back of our minds that it’s not going to last. Joy can be fleeting. It can come out of that one thing we’ve been waiting for or working towards, only to have something ruin it at the end. At least that’s what we think. We’re afraid to feel that joy and express that gratitude because we’re so scared it’s going to be taken away from us or that it won’t last long. What we end up doing is building defenses and not letting ourselves feel that joy. Because what’s the point of feeling it only to have it go away?
That’s the point of living people! We live for the moments of joy and gratitude in our lives. (Honestly, sometimes it makes you feel more alive). I hate feeling vulnerable because it makes me feel unprotected. Unsafe. I never thought about being afraid of joy, but there was something that resonated with me on that one. Maybe I am and I’ll have to figure that one out. Not that I’m looking forward to that. Those types of lessons should really come with a warning label.
So how does this factor into gratitude and Thanksgiving? My main point to this one is that I thought I had this gratitude thing down and I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. Whether it’s with family, friends or God, practicing gratitude is something I need to do even when it makes me feel vulnerable. Or uncomfortable. Even when I would just rather not.
Our challenge is to take a look and see how much we give thanks or express gratitude to those around us. Even when it hurts. Even when we’re fighting battles. Even when it’s the first – or yet another – holiday without a beloved one. It’s not always easy and it may make you feel guilt or vulnerability or even pride, but I’m willing to bet you won’t be sorry that you did. Not only will you feel better, but your family member, friend or coworker will be glad that you did as well. I’m not pretending that your life is rosy and you’re not the best of friends with your significant other or kids or friends or your Great Aunt Sally. Not everyone’s life is easy or plainly defined. Or even happy. I get that. It can get dark sometimes. And the last thing we think of when we’re in that dark place is to be thankful.
Call me optimistic, but I believe every little thanks brings another ray of light into that place. We just have to lift our heads up and open ourselves up to the vulnerability of thanking others for something they took the time out to do for us. If theory proves correctly, it will further connect us with those we’re thanking. Especially if they’re the ones who remind us to bring stretchy pants to Thanksgiving dinner.
This one could also be called “Perspective Brings Contentment” but that just sounds boring, right?
If you read my last post, you know that last week was a “fun” week for me. Looking back, I could have handled so many things differently. (Self-reflection has been a thing for some of us at work this past year and man – is it ever a joy. Sike.) It wasn’t the worst, but I let so many things affect me in a negative way that, if viewed in a different light, really weren’t the end of the world. They were hard and there was no getting out of them, but totally deal-able. (For those of you who have been trying to tell me this for weeks/months/years, you can say it now. You told me so. And I’ll say this – you were right.) Some things I handled well and there were lots I didn’t.
It started with someone calling out for two days whom we were almost sure was going to end up quitting. This person was just plain miserable in what they were doing. While they were out, yours truly was covering for them and found a lot of incomplete items and some items simply not even started. Then, there was an incident that was not our fault, but some of our fault, that I ended up taking the fallout for. Talking to a friend that night, I asked for some advice as it seemed I needed to do something differently. “Be simple and to the point” he said. “Don’t be wordy, just state the issue, tell them to do their job and move on.” Guess what? I was given an opportunity to use that advice the next morning and it was pretty dang effective. See? I listen. Sometimes.
So by Wednesday morning my blood pressure was up to 137/107 and I was completely done in. We have a team meeting on Wednesday mornings and, since one of my guys took ownership of that meeting, I get to take a step back. (Yay for delegation!) During the meeting, he eluded to some of the issues and asked me to elaborate. I laid out some of the issues and basically said that everyone needed to be there everyday and get their own work done and stop worrying about everyone else. (I swear I can almost relate to parents some days! lol) A few of the guys took up the mantle and started to motivate the rest of them. It was pretty entertaining actually.
Afterwards, one of my employees caught me in the shop and asked me to walk with her. She wanted to offer to take over the job of the first guy in this story as she has done the job before. Her current job was pretty streamlined and would be a better fit for the first person that was struggling. We talked about it, worked out some kinks and guys, I practically cried. For those of you who know me, I cry about four to maybe six times a year so that’s something. This was a HUGE weight off of my shoulder as she was previously going to transfer to another department but decided she couldn’t leave me. (Right??? How cool is that?)
We offered the job transfer, everyone was happy and they started cross-training. All by lunchtime. Yep. We didn’t mess around on this one. When she did go to lunch, she brought me back a little present. (I may or may not have almost cried again.) It’s little and simple, and men’s (LOL) but they brought me back socks that said “World’s Best Boss”. People apparently go to lunch at Target and it’s a beautiful thing.
Another cool part of this story is a verse my friend sent me that Monday morning. Neither she nor I had any idea of how it was going to be a part of all of this, but that is one of my favorite parts. Check out Ephesians 3:20. Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
When she gave me this verse, it was about another work/life issue entirely, but do you see how well it worked in this situation? I didn’t come up with that idea, wasn’t even in part of my strategy – at all. Something was going on behind the scenes that I had no idea about and guess what? It was more than I even asked or thought.
If that wasn’t good enough, I drug my fine self to church on Sunday (it was one of those days I wanted a date with my bed but my friends convinced me to go) and got totally God-slapped. This is where the perception leads to contentment thing comes in. The lesson was this – our perspective has a direct link to our contentment. Who we go through things with, how we react to them, what we learn from them and how we benefit from them is all related. Rewind the past week or two and, if viewed with a different perspective, my experiences would be a great deal different. More than likely in the positive light.
Here’s one of the things we say at work a lot though – “Mistakes are proof you are trying”. If I wasn’t going through some of the things I did/am still going through, there would be no lesson to learn. Nothing to fall back on to do differently or try another way. The reward, once it comes, will be that much sweeter because I had to work harder for it. And the lessons learned on the way – priceless.
It started with Halloween. I didn’t actually realize it at the time, but that is totally where it began. It’s probably my least favorite holiday to start with – mostly because I pretty much hate horror. And being scared (and for some reason, people just LOVE scaring me). Anyway, Halloween brings massive amounts of candy, decorations, costumes and the inevitable slew of fall family photo session posts. Whether just cute kids in costumes or happy family shots of smiling parents and darling children surrounded by falling autumn leaves, they’re there. Everywhere. All over social media. Showcasing how happy and together everyone’s life is.
Stick with me here. This is not a plea for attention nor a blast on those who post these photos. I personally know of a lot of people who have prayed for years for a spouse and/or children, and these pictures are a testament to their faith and joy. No issues here, people.
What I would like to bring awareness to are the ones who are hanging in there on their own, whether firmly intact or hanging by a thread. Holidays suck for single people sometimes. They just do. And you don’t even have to be one of those singles who is hardcore looking for a significant other, seriously. I personally go back and forth. Last weekend? I was totally annoyed at life, my single status and the fact that every third post on Facebook showed a happy, smiling family unit. It seemed like they were mocking me. Every single one. And the way it made me feel? And my reaction to it? Let’s just say it’s wasn’t pretty.
What manifested from that is something I am not particularly proud of. Issues in my work life crept into my personal life and I felt like a complete failure who was going to be alone for the rest of her life. (Crazy, right? But we’ve all been there a time or two.) Then I had to attend a bridal shower, where at one point, one of the ladies made all of us “single ladies in the back” stand up so everyone could see us and have our picture taken. The words in my head at that moment people! (Although let me point out here that I love this particular bride and, through the haze of my blah, I was completely happy for her) In light of all this, last Sunday ended up being a pretty rough day for me and I was pretty bitchy. A funny, snarky bitch, but one nonetheless. Thankfully, my friends put up with me and laughed me through it. Later that night, I had a long talk with one of my best friends and realized my fear and discontent was at the heart of it. We worked through some of those issues and I felt a lot better.
I knew I was gonna regret it, but I told her I was thinking of taking a break from Facebook. I’d realized I was on it more often than usual and that it wasn’t good for my mental health at the moment. Being the great friend that she is, she offered to do the same. So, for the past week I stayed off of Facebook.
I’d like to tell you I didn’t miss it at all, but you know the truth. I was seriously addicted. Had no idea how many times a day I stopped to see what the world was doing. By Wednesday I was pretty disgusted with myself and found that life indeed went on without Facebook. It was oddly freeing.
But back to the main point – holidays get interesting for single people. Here’s the thing, Thanksgiving and Christmas are my two favorite holidays and I will celebrate them in whatever way possible. I love going to parties and even hosting them. But what sucks for single people is celebrating them in a way where you end up making concessions for everyone else.
Not sure what I’m talking about? Let’s put it this way – think about the last few years and maybe even the upcoming holidays – who have you have invited to your events? Where do you put them? Some of my single friends are still stuck at the kids table – while younger people sit at the main table simply because they’re a couple. Some are invited as afterthoughts because the family members they normally celebrate with were invited elsewhere. Some have to change their plans last minute to accommodate siblings or other family members simply because “well, you’re only one person”. All while expected to bring food contributions, gifts and to show up looking classy and put together because “there’s no one else to take care of” and you can look good cause “you have all the time in the world” and “you need to attract men!”. Yet they’re the ones paying for all of that stuff by themselves. Because they are one person.
See what I mean? Most people don’t even notice. Hell, half the time us single people don’t even care. Because we’re with the people we love and we get to celebrate the holidays. (And honestly, we can go home by ourselves and go right to sleep if we want. Pros/cons) But then there’s the inevitable years where it feels off. Where you wish you had someone to attend all the events and parties with. Where you get tired of answering the same three or four questions that apparently are the go-to “ask the single person” ones.
So, in order to escape the weird questions or feelings or even loneliness, we end up on Facebook checking to see what’s new only to be bombarded again with the happy families, new engagements and overall good stuff that people post. All to have the stark reality thrown right back in your face. It’s real out in the field, people.
We are not alone in this either – any single parent, couple longing for children or people simply unhappy in their marriage more than likely go through the same thing.
My plea in this post is to think about these people during this holiday season. Don’t stuff the singles wherever you may have room cause you had to invite them. Remember for all intents and purposes they are a “family unit” as well. I’ve personally experienced the things I’ve pointed out and most times you just roll with it. Because that’s life and where I am in it for the time being. But it’s when people tell you that you should be more flexible (in whatever situation) because “it’s just you”, is when I usually lose it. You’re already trying to manage all this stuff on your own and then someone says something like that and it just make you feel like a friggin winner.
So here are some pointers. Instead of the obligatory questions about work, “where are you traveling to next” and, my personal favorite, “have you thought about online dating”, ask us what our favorite thing was this year. What was the best thing we learned? How are we making out with life? Do we need any help, advice or someone to talk to? (In my case it will probably be “do you need therapy? Lol)
This rant is how I feel now and it doesn’t usually last long. I’ll probably be just fine and dandy in a few weeks and be out celebrating somewhere. I’ll be fine – but please just think about those celebrating alone this season and make them feel just as special and loved as the others. Because they usually are.
The other day we were in a financial review meeting for my departments and the owner of my company was in the room. This man is one of the funniest and smartest men I know and he’s practically a pillar in the forklift industry. He’s also on the other side of 70 and you know what that means – his filter is practically nonexistent. We were discussing an opportunity to save some money in our Albuquerque branch when he pipes up “$1,000??? It used to only cost $300 to paint a forklift!!” I was feeling particularly snarky so I replied with “Well, a loaf of bread used to only cost 25 cents too, right?” He looked up, barely missed a beat and says “Yeah, and women didn’t used to work either!” The entire room was rolling.
See? I told you he was funny. He’s always coming out with something that has us cracking up. Like the time he said someone was so sneaky they could hide behind a corkscrew.
Let’s think about this – when it wasn’t normal for women to work. Especially in positions of leadership. As many industries have grown, their workforce has evolved to include women in all different sorts of roles. We have women in tech, politics, government, healthcare, education, hospitality, you name and we’re there. Even space. It’s sometimes hard to remember what women went through to earn their spot in their chosen field. Sometimes we even forget what we went through earlier in our careers and what it took for us to be where we are now.
I had a reminder the other day when I received a message on LinkedIn from a young woman at another dealer asking me for some assistance. She was new to a sales role where she was interacting with customers both over the phone and in person in efforts to sell them lift trucks. She experienced customers (who were men) asking to speak to another man, pretending they never spoke to her and basically not taking her seriously no matter how hard she tried. She brought these experiences up in one of her meetings with her director and he suggested she contact me to see how I handled it because he thought I did very well for myself.
Let’s stop right there for a sec – talk about a compliment! This is a man I’ve met on a few occasions and I don’t really remember having that many meaningful conversations with him. Obviously he noticed something and saw that I knew my stuff. Lesson here ladies – don’t be afraid to speak up in rooms full of men and say your part. You’ve been there. You experienced many of the same things they have. You know your stuff and you’re smart – don’t hide from it.
Now, let’s get back to the young lady. She and I scheduled a call a few days later and I asked her to tell me her background and what she was experiencing. She laid it out for me and I was able to give her some advice. Oh, did I mention she’s at the Canadian dealer? Chick used to play Co-Ed hockey. So naturally, I advised her to cross-check the next dude that discredited her. Lol! Actually, we talked about her hockey experience and we were able to come up with a few good ideas using hockey terms and concepts. Pretty cool, huh?
All in all, I had a blast talking to her and hearing about what she was dealing with. We talked about some things she could do to increase her forklift education and some tips on speaking to customers. It’s unfortunately going to take some time and experience, but she’ll get there.
The best part of this experience is that she taught me a few things. Reminded me that people see what they want to see sometimes. That we need to rise above and show what we know. That it’s all in the delivery and having the wherewithal to speak confidently about our products and their applications. It’s hard to remember where you came from and what the early lessons were when you’re going through a different level of experiences. But you know what? I think it’s important to take the time to reflect on them at times. To remember what it was like in our early years. To remember how far we’ve come and what we learned. And how it’s shaped us into the women we are today.
No matter what industry or profession you represent, there were a lot of roads on your journey to becoming who you are now. My sister had a heck of journey from tech school to fax machine support to ID card management to where she currently is on a team buying billion dollar companies. Some of my friends are social workers who fight hard for the rights of kids and families. Other friends have advanced in the realms of education and healthcare. Others find ways to juggle family life and work. Some have been down roads that led them to the mission field. Some are redefining their careers and going after more education. One lady in the industry just left a cushy job to start her own business that she’s been dreaming about for years. And it’s still in the industry so we can stay relevant.
I’m so proud to know so many awesome women who are kicking it everyday and doing a damn fine job of it. So if you’re juggling family with work or rocking it solo, keep growing, learning and being amazed at your accomplishments. I know I sure am!
Ever go through something because of a bad decision/situation and promise yourself you’ll never do it again? Only to realize mere weeks later you’re doing the same thing all over again? After some self-reflection, I found that I do it more than I’d like to admit.
Perfect scenario? Remember how I scratched my right eye a few weeks ago by not taking my contacts out? And I said I was going to take care of myself better? Well, guess what? I did it again – this time to the left eye. On the weekend before I had to fly to Kentucky for a customer meeting. Let me tell you – being in a room full of suits and trying to look professional, pay attention, and keep your eye from freaking out is not easy. Not sure how well I sold it, but I sure tried. My eye was red, angry and it hurt. Nothing like looking you shot up in one eye while trying to present corporate strategy, but hey. We got through it.
Today my poor eye is far less red, but it is still slightly blurry. I may need that eye patch after all 😉
Most of these lessons we go through are not just physical. For me, it’s usually a mental or emotional road I find myself going back down when prior experiences had already proven it was a bad idea. And what do I do? Do it all over again – but it looks or acts “different” so that makes it okay. Right? Yeah, nope. Not usually.
Buy why do we do these things over and over again? (Honestly, I’m hoping it’s not just me over here screwing up repeatedly). For me, it’s because maybe it feels good. Or sometimes it seems like the right thing and that makes it okay. Other times, we totally know it’s a bad idea and we do it anyway. Because it strokes our ego or makes us feel okay – or whatever.
For me, I usually have to go through things at least three times before I somewhat learn the lesson. (Sincerely hope I get my act together on this eye situation btw. Not going through this one a third friggin’ time). Most of the time it’s because I can’t see for looking. Or what’s right in front of my face. But honestly? Sometimes I don’t want to see it. Because I want whatever it is to go down. Then – you guessed it – it doesn’t always end well.
Most of the time it comes down to doing the right thing. Even though it hurts. And it’s hard. And it doesn’t feel good. But I’ll tell you this – it’s a hell of a lot better than doing something wrong willingly and then suffering the consequences. I’ve been there. And it sucks. Especially when that lesson took a long time to learn.
But where would we be without a little self-reflection? (Not self-degradation- please don’t do that.) Learn what you can from your situations and move on. That’s why we go through stuff – to learn from it. How you apply that lesson is what ends up shaping your character- and how you’ll respond the next time. Is it easy? Nope. Does it feel good? Hell no. But if you are honest with yourself, it will end up making you stronger and you may just make a better decision the next time.