Mes Amies! Jennifer Gulbrandsen reporting to you live from my formica death cube known as my Chicago office, anxiously waiting to finish this blog, eat a Healthy Choice lunch, and finish this break in the glorious sunshine of this first day of August. All of your memes on the media socials are telling me August is the Sunday of summer, but if you’re a parent, that is a lie because August is the busiest and most expensive month of the year where you end up in the fetal position in the middle of Staples shrieking to the gods as to why a three ring binder costs $8 and why does your fifth grader need five of them.
Historically speaking, August is a good month for me. I had a pretty awesome July, so I’m jazzed to see what kind of great things will continue to unfold for me this month. I have an awesome weekend planned to kick off the month, my youngest turns ten, and I get to see my girls off onto two major milestones in life: the start of Jr. High, and the start of High School. I feel too young to have children this old, but my mom was like, 35 when I started High School, so maybe I should stop being so dramatic.
While June was a very, ‘Just Do It’ month of risk and reward, July was about settling into a routine, and establishing that new normal. July was about looking at things differently, and behaving accordingly. What do I believe? What makes me happy? What really works for me and what doesn’t? What do I want the end of 2019 to look like?
I became more focused on what I do have and what I can do to nourish myself in mind, body, and spirit by living with purpose rather than simply busying myself to get the days to pass on the road to one goal or another. For me, it’s been much more peaceful and productive to be focused on everything having meaning rather than the intensity of living from one outcome to the next.
I know I sound very new agey and woo. Trust me, I’m cringing at myself because I know I sound insufferable, but this didn’t happen in a vacuum or in a day. I have been very content and secure for the last two years. I wasn’t miserable, but I wasn’t living with purpose, either. I was living from objective to objective. Things changed around Mother’s Day when I hit my limit of what others were going to impose upon me and decided to take my life back. It wasn’t even that dramatic. I simply said June would be a lot better than May. I made big moves. I took big chances. I even changed the way I journaled to focus solely on gratitude and listing the things I wanted to accomplish as if I had already done them instead of talking about my feelings.
Within a month, I accomplished what I thought would take at least two. Today, I’m even further ahead. I’m not working or dealing with any less, it’s just a different mindset. The little things matter because they add up. What you think and feel matters. By simply changing how I spend my downtime from cruising websites full of negativity and gossip to reading, writing, meditation, and yoga… it all mattered. Garbage in, garbage out is so cliche, but it’s also true.
For example, I had a hugely stressful day yesterday. I was exhausted after working a double on Tuesday, there was an urgent thing that had to get done in Atlanta, and I was swamped in Chicago. I gave my two cents on all problems, outlined what I would do or not do, and went to lunch. I’m not a wizard. Everyone is an adult and a professional. Me hitting refresh on an email for an hour instead of going to lunch changes nothing. But an hour eating a burger outside changes everything. A balanced blood sugar level is important.
Later that night, I had to deal with a very difficult person being their usual charming self. I tend to have this thing where I HAVE to have the last word. Control freaks gonna control freak, but I was just like, “I’m not sure why you are acting like a lunatic, but here’s a list of choices for you. Pick one.”
They picked one. Sure they ran their mouth a bit more, but I’m not responsible for their feelings, and I was getting what I want, so why keep it going? Let’s be clear, I’m no saint. I had typed a scathing rebuttal that would have gutted them like a fish. But then I was like, why? That’s like dunking on a kid in a wheelchair during a basketball game. They’re miserable enough to be lit and lashing out on a Wednesday night. Let them be great. You already won.
I guess it’s just pivoting into being unbothered. I’m already a tough broad who gets what I want most of the time and doesn’t really do anything I don’t want to do. That hasn’t changed. It’s just more of owning my shit in my kingdom, and focusing on that. If I want short hair? I’m going to have short hair. I’m going to take each and every opportunity that comes my way, because ‘fuck you’ money is the most empowering thing in my situation right now. I don’t care what anyone thinks, it’s working for me, and that’s all that matters.
It also helps clear out the clutter to focus on the future in a more meaningful way. Sometimes when you’re too goal oriented, it makes you short sighted. All you have in front of you is achieving the objective. Letting that go widens your view of the landscape in front of you.
Wow, I have my whole second half of my life ahead of me. What do I want to do with it?
Since this move, I have noticed a whole different set of skills I naturally have that I’ve never acknowledged before, because they simply come second nature to me. It helps me shine in my field, but let’s be very honest… my day job is a field for the younger set. I am going to age out at some point. That’s just a fact of life. So what resources do I have to pivot into the next phase of my career?
A bomb ass education benefit and freedom. It would be foolish of me to not take advantage of it now with my eye on the future. So I signed up for school in a field that uses all of my experience. Just two classes a semester. I’m not trying to be a hero, there’s plenty on my plate, but in a couple of years I’ll have even more options when someone younger and smarter is needed.
What about personally? What’s something that I want to do that brings together all of my skills outside of work that I’ve always wanted to do? So I made plans for that, too. It’ll be a nice outlet for me and something new to share and talk about.
There aren’t any concrete goals attached to anything. It’s a new place of, “Let’s see how far I can go with this.” It’s weird to have a new outlook like this when you’ve measured yourself against the pass/fail ruler of people around you instead of what you feel within yourself. It actually gives you space to experience more joy.
Or I’m in the throes of a huge midlife crisis. I mean, I did buy adult coloring books today after mocking them relentlessly for years. I didn’t even color when I was a kid. But I saw them at the store this morning and I was like, “maybe doing something simple for no reason is what I need.”
So here’s to a great August for all of us. Let’s soak up the warm sunshine before Pumpkin Spice invades our life and see where the rest of this year takes us.