I distinctly remember a phone call years ago with a friend. As fellow Moms of three, we were lucky to get thirty seconds to talk, let alone three minutes. She asked how I was and a hurricane of words and emotions welled up inside me in response to her question. It had a been a rough couple of weeks, really rough.
My three kids (8-year old twins and a 4-year old at the time) had taken turns being home from school sick. I’d been to their doctor 5 times in as many days. Meanwhile I was trying to manage those who were healthy – their schedules, homework and after school activities, not to mention my job and my husband. Forget being there for my friends! You get the point. I know you get it. I have these conversations with friends and clients all day long.
Being a working mom, I know too well how challenging it is to manage the chaos of life. And, as a coach and consultant to other parents I understand the overwhelm we all face.
I can hear myself ask my friend, “When are things going to get back to normal?” This question that had frequently been asked of me as a consultant; and then it hit me.
This was normal. This was my new normal. This was my life. It wasn’t going to go back to anything. It was just going to keep moving forward, evolving and changing.
After this realization, logically it should have been stressful, but it wasn’t. I actually felt relieved. Once I acknowledged and ‘named’ this reality, it was profoundly freeing. Accepting that this was my life made the difference. Right then I stopped wasting precious time and energy wanting and wishing and wondering when it was going to be back to the way it was.
In “Designing Your Life,” a book by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, they call this a ‘gravity problem.’ What is that? It’s a problem that is like gravity – you can’t solve it, fix it or change it. It may be a circumstance, a situation or a fact of life. In any case, the sooner you can identify things that are gravity problems, accept them, embrace them and be willing to move forward, the sooner you can find answers for problems that have solutions.
If we spend our time on uncontrollable problems that we think we can control, we are just wasting our time. Complaining about my life (one that I loved, even if I was overwhelmed) and wishing it would change, would be like living in Seattle and complaining about the rain!! Instead, I could focus on solving the problems that were real and that I could influence. How could I manage my time better? Where could I get more help or support? What did I need to say “no” to?
I’ve consulted so many friends and clients who feel this way. This is a ‘normal’ conversation that we have as parents, employees, leaders when we find ourselves waiting or wondering when things will get back to normal, or back to the way they were.
Life is crazy and busy and beautiful. Just when you think you’ve got it all handled, figured out how to fit it all in and things are back to normal; here comes another hurdle to leap – one of the kids is sick or hurt, something happens with the house, your partner has to leave town or there’s a last-minute work meeting you need attend. It’s always something, right?
Welcome to the geography of life. In order to navigate successfully, you need to stop waiting for things to be something they are not. The sooner we accept our gravity problems, the sooner we can focus on what we can do to move forward and stay sane and healthy amidst the chaos. The sooner we stop waiting for things to go ‘back to the way they were’ the sooner we can address the way they are and create strategies that work. Prioritize, set boundaries, breathe, give yourself a break.
Life is anything but normal. Each obstacle, challenge, success and stressor is just another opportunity for learning, growth and love.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and how you stay sane and healthy when life throws you curve-balls!