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Pandemic-Sized Gratitude

Pandemic-Sized Gratitude

I’m going to join the chorus with everyone else this year and just acknowledge that this has been a hard year. However, that is not where I want to camp out. Rather, I want to focus on what I am grateful for during this pandemic season.

First, let me give you a little background about myself. I am a high-achieving, over-achieving, first-born, {mostly} extroverted, Enneagram 3, ENFJ, people-pleasing perfectionist. That’s a mouthful. Even more than that, all of these labels produced in me a kind of drive that has motivated me to work without ceasing but has often left a play-sized void.

The fact that I love to work and find both pleasure and satisfaction in it doesn’t help my cause.

So, you might be wondering what this has looked like in my life. Well, it looks a lot saying yes to everything and everyone regardless of how exhausted, depleted, overwhelmed or overbooked I may be. It means giving 110% when I only actually have 70% left. It means ignoring my inner self to just keep going, going, going like that faithful old Energizer bunny.

I’ve gone to counseling, read all the books, received coaching, and created all kinds of “rules” for my life to help me slow down. Yet, nothing has truly stuck or helped me get out of the “can’t stop, won’t stop” mindset…until I found myself in the midst of a global pandemic.

Sometimes, the only way to truly change is to be forced into kicking and screaming. Just like everyone else, I was not at all excited about cancelling my honeymoon to Mexico and my daughter’s first birthday party (we had rented a pool – she loves swimming). I was sad to cancel all date nights with my husband for the foreseeable future and disappointed that our neighborhood parks would be closed just as my toddler was getting her bearings on navigating the world on two feet. I had big plans and a full calendar – until one day I didn’t.

However, I found that what once filled me with dread – days and days at home with “nothing special” to look forward to – started to become rather enjoyable. I created a slow morning routine with my toddler that allows me to enjoy time with her, reading together and drinking a cup of coffee (I’m still amazed we can pull this off most days). My husband and I watched all 22 Marvel movies. I chatted with my neighbors (from a distance) outside. I was able to focus on building my business to the next level because I wasn’t running in a million directions. I spent time everyday just doing nothing and letting that be okay. I breathed. I played. I enjoyed the scenery.

“Slow living is a curious mix of being prepared and being prepared to let go. Caring more and caring less. Saying yes and saying no. Being present and walking away. Doing the important things and forgetting those that aren’t. Grounded and free. Heavy and light. Organized and flexible. Complex and simple.”

-Brooke McAlary, Slow Your Home

Without having a social calendar there was little to say yes to except myself and my family. Being forced into semi-social isolation for months allowed me to break the biggest, baddest habit of my life and now I can’t imagine going back to my pre-COVID pace of life (my husband – who is the king of relaxation – couldn’t be happier about this version of me).So, on this Thanksgiving, I have some pandemic-sized gratitude for the gift that was given to me – the gift of slowness and simplicity.

I’m not sure when this pandemic will end and I don’t quite know what “normal” will look like on the other side of this. As with most things, I’m sure we’ll all forget a lot because that’s what humans do. But, this is one lesson I won’t forget.

I’m still me. I still have a crazy drive and insane ambition. I still have grand plans and big dreams. Those things aren’t going away. But, hopefully, the way I pursue them will be a little different. Whatever life looks like on the other side of COVID-19 I know that I will be living it with greater simplicity and at a pace that allows me to get off the highway from time to time and enjoy the scenic route.

I’d love to hear about your pandemic sized gratitude. Feel free to comment below.

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solopreneur

4 Steps to Creating Routines in Chaos

4 Steps to Creating Routines in Chaos

Routines have been on the forefront of my mind lately. My husband is about to have knee surgery next week. I thought it would be no big thing (denial in full force here) but after he met with the surgeon we found out that he would be in a straight-leg brace and on crutches for 2-3 weeks. So, now it’s legitimately a big thing and I’ve been just a little bit stressed about it. Much to my husband’s chagrin, I’ve been making lists daily of everything we need to do before his surgery to ensure the house is in order, the Christmas decorations are up, and the fridge is full. I make lists for him as well (he may not love this) and then he starts to become just a little stressed out.

Part of what is so stressful is that this surgery is going to shift our established routine into a new, temporary routine while he is home from work for two months recovering. You see, I’m really good at creating routines and pretty terrible at being flexible. In my mind, I live my life according to the “c’est la vie” philosophy. In reality, I love to be in control. The struggle is real.

Alas, this is the reality of a #solopreneur and #mompreneur who runs a lifestyle business. So, I’ve been evaluating our routines and embracing the fact that I won’t really know what our temporary routine is going to look like until my husband has the surgery and I can assess what kind of support he is going to need. At the bare minimum, I’ll know I’ll be taking on all of the household chores, driving, and care of our puppy and toddler for a few weeks – in addition to serving my clients and running my business.

In my most recent blog post, I shared with all of you my morning routine and how transformational that has been in my life. As promised, I’m following up that post with a few more insights about creating routines that work for you, your life and your business. Even in the midst of changing and unknown circumstances routines can continue to be created.

“Routines allow for a sense of structure and predictability that everyone can lean into and depend on – no matter what is happening around us.

Sometimes, these routines may need to be adjusted to accommodate for life but, in the end, having a plan will help you to feel better about the day and

week ahead and leads to a greater sense of optimism.”

-Vanessa Anne

So, then, the real question becomes – How do I create a routine in the midst of chaos?

I should probably also give a little more insight into how I define chaos. For me, chaos is anything that is random, unexpected or deviates from the norm. Change and transitions are a form of chaos.

Step #1: Write down your current routine (even if you’ve never intentionally set a routine, just write down what you do in a typical day). Even though I have this written as a schedule, I don’t aim to have routines dictated by time as much as by flow.On a typical weekday, this is what our daily flow looks like…

5:45 AM – Wake-Up + Feed Dog + Grace & Joy Routine

6:00 – 7:00 AM Client Work

7:00 – 7:15 AM – Little L Wakes Up + Get Dressed

7:15 – 7:45ish – Read Books on Couch + Drink Milk (Little L) & Coffee (ME!)

7:45ish – Start Making Breakfast + Quiet Play Time (Puzzles or Blocks)

8:00 AM – 8:30 AM – Eat Breakfast

8:30 – 9:00 AM – Clean-Up Breakfast + Morning Chores

9:00 – 10:00 AM – Focused Play + Learning Time with Little L

10:00 AM – 11:30 AM – Open Block

(If I need to work during this space, Lyla watches a show. If I don’t need to work, we play some more, take a walk, go outside, run errands, etc.)

11:30ish – Lunch + Clean-Up + Read Books

12:30 ish – 3:00 ish – Lyla Naps + I Work

My husband is home from work most days by 3:15. I usually keep working until about 4. Then, we move into our nightly routine of dinner, playtime, and bedtime.

Other than a punctuation for gymnastics once a week and the occasional playdate. This is pretty standard for us. We keep our lives simple and slow but this gives Little L needs the space she needs to grow and play and the space I need to serve my clients and manage my business.  

Step #2: Determine what parts of your routine can stay the same in the midst of your chaos. For me, this means that my morning routine can stay as is. This isn’t going to be impacted by our current circumstances. If you need a refresher on my morning routine or what to implement a similar one, check it out here. Little L’s nap time will also remain the same. However, what I do during her nap time may have to shift. Pretty much everything else will be up for grabs right now until after surgery.

Step #3: Focus on your mindset. For me, this looks like setting a relevant, weekly affirmation during my morning routine that I write on a white board in my kitchen that I say out loud multiple times throughout the day and anytime I’m feeling anxious or stressed.

Step #4: As you begin each day, follow your “normal” routine as much as possible, accommodating where you need to and as you need to. Each time you deviate, keep coming back to your routine and pick-up where you left off and assess what the ONE thing is you MUST DO and then let the other things go for now. During times of chaos, we focus on the MUSTS (I must make sure my husband takes his pain meds on time.)

During chaos, our bodies need extra time to rest. So, once all of the MUST DO’s are taken care of, take a moment to sit, breathe and do ONE THING that is restorative to you and possible in your current circumstance. For me, that might look like taking a bath after Little L goes to bed or having a glass of wine with dinner. It might even help if you write down a list of self-care ideas that you can stick on the fridge or mirror so that you don’t even have to think about it, you just pick the one on the list that sounds good and is possible.

The chaos won’t last forever. The change will take place. The transition will become complete. My husband will return to work following his surgery.

Throughout this season (however long or short it may be) continually ask yourself what you need and find ways to have those needs met as much as possible. If you have someone else going through this season with you, check-in with them to ask them how they are doing and what they need. Offer what you can and feel free to say no to the things you can’t do.

As a BONUS STEP, be sure to ASK FOR HELP! Be vulnerable and let others know what you need. For me, that looked like asking for meals so I could cut-down on cooking. I love to cook but I’ve found that to be one of the more difficult tasks to do with a toddler running around the house. I also asked my parents to keep Little L and our puppy the day before, day of and day after my husband’s surgery to help us prepare and for me to gain an idea of what he was going to need without having to attend to their needs as well.

How do you handle chaos in your life? I’d love to hear from you what your best piece of advice is for staying calm and carrying on?

C’est la vie. 

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