Tag Archives: Successtrogen

An Elevator Challenge

Every four months, I see the dental hygienist at 7:00 am.  Yesterday was one of those days.: in at 7:00, out by 8:00.  Late afternoon  I rode the elevator with a woman in my building who asked how my day was going.  “Great!”, I offered, “Starting with the dentist at 7:00, followed by a water workout  at 9:45, and __”, and that was all she needed to hear.

Her two hands immediately shot up, elbows pressing against her sides and fingers spread wide as though she were being arrested. She stopped me in my tracks with, “I cannot believe you were at the dentist office before I even g0t out of bed!” I mistook her words as complimentary about my unusual energy level.  I began to smile and almost made a fool of myself by thanking her, when she blasted me, “Why do you always have to be busy every moment of the day?”  OUCH!  This was no compliment!

Why do you always have to be busy every moment of the day?”

While she was not about to be nationally recognized for her interpersonal skills,  I must admit, her question was noteworthy; as a matter of fact, it haunted me. The impact of her emphasis on the word “busy”, (translation: meaningless) was like being shot with an arrow that hurt like the dickens and needed to be dislodged. The elevator door came to my rescue, she got off, and I was left to remove the arrow.

So call it justification or an over reaction on my part, call it whatever you like, but here is how I removed the sting of her arrow:

I was “born busy”. I have always been busy. Frankly I like that part about me.  I get a lot accomplished in a day. I remember writing “to do” lists (TDL) well before my 10th birthday, thriving on the awesome feeling of crossing off each accomplishment. Back then the items frequently on my TDL were organizing my school supplies, writing a story, or setting up a “store” in my basement).

As I was raising a large family and starting the first of many careers,  I relied on several different TDLs to manage my varied roles of mom, homeowner and business woman. More recently, I graduated to my Alexa version of an electronic TDL–not quite the same crossing off experience, nevertheless it keeps me technologically current.  Recently retired, my TDL seems longer than it should be, wondering how I ever managed to get 5 children off to school, tend to my own business, cook, clean, and attend the kids multi-league basketball functions  throughout the week. I would argue that it is because of my reliance on a TDL, albeit it paper or electronic, that allowed/allows me to get it all done.

So the arrow was removed and I feel better again. But as a high SUCCESSTROGEN woman like yourself, I know that I need to look a bit further into how I am spending my time.  The real issue here and therefore the challenge put forth to me in the elevator, is about purpose, not just being busy doing  things. Throughout my life, I always had a clear, driving purpose: To be a mom, to earn my PhD, to teach at a university, to help Michael manage through his Parkinson’s, and to be instrumental in building a community spirit in my condo.

But what is my purpose now? What am I doing beyond the things listed on today’s TDL to contribute to my community, to help others? High SUCCESSTROGEN women continue to use their skill sets well beyond their motherhood or professional status to help others manage their lives more easily.

Shout out to the woman on the elevator  for posing the question!  I  am reminded that I need to continue the search to be clear on “my who” and “my why.”  When clear on that, I am truly functioning at my best, I am helpful to others, and I feel good about myself.

By the way, enough about me, have  you given any thought to “your  who” and “your why” lately?

 

 

 

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Out of Control

 

 

 

Cancer is the result of cells that have gone out of control; the cells have literally run amok!  I have  breast cancer, meaning  my cells out of control.  While this diagnosis is new to me, being out of control is way too familiar.

Sometimes my eating is out of control. I know it when it happens because I have an  upset stomach, my weight is up, and there’s a gross extra layer of flab hanging over my waistline that wasn’t there the week before.   As I stare at my not -so-flattering mirror image, eating half a coconut cake comes to mind, as well as a few too many Almond Joys.  That recollection fuels my need to quickly throw out any left over junk food, start a daily/early morning abs workout, swim laps , and add steps to my usual 15K until I get control of my eating, until I look and feel good again.  I know I am out of control when I  ask the kids about their Easter plans and they remind me it is only August,  when my daughter likes a certain shampoo and I send her 6 bottles, and I recently experienced being out of control when I found a great pair of leggings for travel, and I bought 6 pair for my friends!

My kids describe me as  “over the top”, but it means the same thing…too much spontaneous action, no regard for consequences, a.k.a. “out of control.” I am the problem and the cause and frankly, I and only I, am the solution.

However,  my out of conrol cells present a different problem.  I cannot fix my cancer. I cannot calm down the out of control cells, or make the malignant ones disappear.   I cannot fix this by being less impulsive.   I need to rely on someone else, apparently a team of someone elses, to get things back under control.

As high successtrogen women, women who have clearly defined success for themselves,  we know when somethng  is out of control  and whenever we can, we face it and fix it.  When something needs to be fixed by someone else, someone more skilled, with an expertise that we don’t have, we go to them quickly and we  put our problem in their hands.  We don’t hesitate.

This week I am putting my life in the hands of others to get my cells back in control once and for all.  And while they are busy tending to the task, it would be wise for me  to get the eating and shopping in control once again as well as once and for all.

Airport Friend

 

On a four hour layover in Charlotte Airport, I determined I was going to need something other than the usual faux-leather chair stuck to eight identical others.  I was going to need a rocking chair so I could read my new book. Unfortunately,  all the rockers were occupied except one, but even that one wasn’t exactly available. A guy was getting up from that rocker slowly, gathering his stuff which was strewn about the floor.

“You off your rocker?” I asked, admiring  my clever approach. He responded quickly.

“That’s what she said last week… said I was nuts, right before she dumped me.”

“Is she right?…Are you nuts?”  I asked moving cautiously in the direction of the rocking chair while keeping both eyes on him, after all, maybe he was nuts!

” Not sure.   I mean it’ true,  I can’t  seem to pull the trigger, you know, commit.” He indicated quotes with his fingers held alongside each ear. (I do that too sometimes and I made a mental note to stop doing it, it looks so lame.)  He was still talking.

” I don’t know, maybe I am off my rocker.”

“HMM”, I made that sound I often make when I don’t know what to say next, it sort of buys me time.  “Maybe we are all a little nuts”,  I added, “Sorry about your girlfriend, though.”

“You married?” he asked.

‘No”. I responded simply. While he was willing to putting it all out there, I wasn’t.

“Divorced?”

“Well, I’m not sure how to answer that.  I was divorced and then my former husband passed away. I’m Catholic so according to The Church (I wanted to do the quote sign thing but held myself back)  I am a widow because the church never recognized my divorce. I am not really sure what I am. It doesn’t much matter any more.” (I guess I was going to put it out there after all.)

I realized we were  both standing alongside the rocker, which oddly enough was rocking every so slightly. He caught me looking at it.

“Please”, he said, “Sit down.  I am off this rocker for sure.”

” Sorry about your girlfriend”, I added.” It’s sad to lose someone you love.”

‘Whoa… who said anything about love?  I never said I loved her.  Who really knows what love is anyway…do you?

“I think so, at least  when I was in love, it was just as I envisioned it to be.  I felt happy deep down to my soul.  He saw more in me than I did in myself, he was kind and fun. He respected me,allowed me to speak my  mind and flourish according to my own plan. People who are in love, love all about the other, even the differences, even the quirks.  I think that’s love.

“Are you in love now?”

“No, I don’t seem to be able to find what I once had. Sometimes I think that 25 years of being in love is more than most people get and so I am grateful for that.”  He sat down on the floor alongside me. Didn’t look like I was going to get to read my book any time soon.

“Steve” he said, extending his hand.

“Mary Ann.”

“So what’s does Mary Ann do?” he inquired.

I’m an adjunct , USF Tampa.  And I am retired so I spend time with my grandchildren, and travel a lot. Life is good for me.

“Cool”, he said.

“What do you do, Steve?”

‘Me? I dabble.”

“You dabble,” I repeated it as though I was questioning the legitimacy of his answer.

“Yeah you know, a little this and a little that. I invest in property,  I own a bar in Jacksonville.  My parents died early and for better or worse left enough money for me to just ..well…dabble.”

“Ah”…most people would envy  you, being able to dabble.”

“Yeah…I guess. It probably wasn’t the best thing for me. He went on to talk about some poor business and life decisions. No, he wasn’t nuts, just hadn’t found his ground yet. I talked about dabbling with my writing, about my need to create stories and share them, and my search for what’s next in my life.   We chatted easily as though we had been friends far longer than this short encounter.

“This is cool.” His fingers went back and forth pointing to him, to me and him again.  I mean, I know it is just an airport friendship, but it’s cool.”

I liked the term, airport friendship.

Steve glanced at his watch.  “Crap! I gotta get to my gate, but thanks, Mary Ann.  I don’t think I’m off my rocker, but I am glad I got off my rocker for you. Before I go, can I ask you a very personal question.”

“You already have . Why stop now?”

He smiled approvingly, “Yeah, but this one is even more personal.” I knew in an instant the question, so I answered before he even asked,

” 73″.

“No kidding!” he responded with wide eyes and a huge smile that I hadn’t seen before.  ” Wow, you look great in skinny jeans!” And off he went.

And so my airport friend put closure on our friendship, and  was on his way to  go dabble somewhere at something. He left smiling, making me  think he felt better as a result of  our conversation, and frankly I was smiling as well.

SUCCESSTROGEN is about defining your life as you wish it. And I wish my life to be like that night, meeting others and sharing  stories–nothing life changing, but powerful just the same.   I never did get into my book, as a matter of fact I left it there on the rocking chair for someone else to read in case they chose not  to share their story with an airport friend.

Lap 13

“What happened?”, that is the question that haunted me recently after my morning swim.   A more specific follow-up question is:  When did I develop a selfish side?

My awareness occurred during lap 13 which shall now forever be embedded in my mind. I swim every morning. I usually do water aerobics for about 30 minutes and then swim laps.  My mom was a championship swimmer “way back when”, but that gene is one I did not inherit.  However I am drawn to the water and perhaps that is a way of staying connected to her. I am not a good swimmer, certainly not a pretty one, but I love my 60 minute daily swim far more than any other exercise I do.

At Washington Sports Club,  there are four lanes in the pool, carefully roped off by heavy plastic ropes, suggesting that each swimmer stay in her lane.  I am a believer of the “lane” concept. Beyond swimming, it refers to one of my basic values:  “staying in my lane” if you will, where I can excel. Every now and then I step “out of my lane” and  try something new, like learning to speak a new language, but find myself happy to retreat back to my lane as mom, gram, Professor O’Neil, and Social Committee Chair. In my lane I am at my best,  confident, comfortable, and happy.

On the morning in question,  I was literally in my lane doing my laps and as I approached the wall preparing for a turn on Lap 13, I saw a man standing outside the pool looking to see where he could fit in. “Oh No!” I thought to myself. “I don’t like to share a lane.”  I pretended to not notice him. I checked the other lanes and found they were all  occupied. Surely one of the other swimmers would offer to share their lane! I,who meets and greets strangers on the street every day, deliberately never made eye contact. with this man. I did my turn, and kept on going on to Lap 13, at a faster pace than I ever remember swimming.  It was as though I was swimming far away from that guy, or perhaps more accurately said, ” far away from the right thing to do. “–not like me, not at all like me!

On my walk home, I could not get my mind off what had occurred. When did I get so selfish that I couldn’t so much as share a lane with another swimmer? I always think of myself as a generous person , but not this time. No this time I was downright selfish.

I couldn’t help but wonder:  Was this an isolated decision or were there other selfish moments lately? I couldn’t answer that question but I will continue to search hard. A high SUCCESSTROGEN woman takes care of herself (makes choices that work for her) but does so with full acknowledgement of its impact on others around her (the swimmer looking for a lane). If I find other examples, well then that is not the woman I wish to be and I will make the changes I need to make.

And so I am off to visit a friend, will share this story with her and she will “let me off the hook” by declaring that I am not selfish.  She will back her statement up by several examples of things I  did years ago when I lived here that she benefitted from directly.  But you see, my belief is that whether I am selfish or not is not determined by what I did in the past, but rather by what I do each new moment and my moment before Lap 13 I decided to be selfish.

 

The Junk Drawer

My friend just stopped by to drop off a NY Times article she thought I would enjoy. She said she didn’t have time to chat because today was the day she was going to clean out her junk drawer. The door no sooner closed behind her and I found myself standing in front of my junk drawer, aghast! It appeared that everything I ever owned had found its way to the perfect hiding place.  Surely  if I had found any one of these items on my coffee table or my precious new, navy-laminated desk, I would have tossed it out.

A junk drawer? In my very neat and well-organized apartment?  Heavens! Years ago I always had a junk drawer but back then there were way too many kids, a husband, a business to run, and a tennis competition to get to. Back then there was no time to clean out a junk drawer, as a matter of fact, I think I had several!

But today, I am retired, by myself, and I have all the time in the world to make sure a junk drawer never occurds. My OCD about keeping order just doesn’t allow for a junk drawer! Right now, it you were to open my refrigerator you would see all my water bottles, neatly in rows like soldiers, one behind another, labels to the front. The same is true of my yogurt containers, all in neat rows, like flavors with like flavors, allowing one to easily select the flavor of the moment.  Further, my socks are all paired and neatly arranged in my sock drawer, my shoes are organized by type (heels, clogs, sneakers, Jack Rogers, and the like. So how is it that a pizza cutter, an old sales receipt, post it pads, two screws,  pens, an outdated coupon, a UND laminated name card, scissors, a paper clip, and broken rosary beads  all gravitated together in one drawer.

And so the project of organizing the junk drawer began.  The first few items were easy throw away decisions: an outdated coupon,  a used theater ticket, an old sales receipt from Pottery Barn for furniture I purchased when I moved here to Bethesda. But then I came upon the broken Rosary beads from my visit to Philadelphia with Helen and Leah to see the Pope. With tears in my eyes I recalled a very meaningful and faith-driven weekend. I miss Helen and Leah and thought about planning some sort of weekend reunion with those women who were once part of my daily life.  My Notre Dame lanyard reminded me of a workshop I delivered there for Catholic school coaches, as well as the football games we enjoyed while Michael Jr, was a UND student. Again, more tears. A theater ticket from Thurgood, an incredible look into the mind of Thurgood Marshall, a ribbon left behind by my granddaughter, and a photo of Michael, my former spouse had also made their way to the drawer.  How did these very special things end up here in a so-called junk drawer?

I couldn’t throw out the photo, the Rosary beads, the lanyard, or the theater ticket…they weren’t junk, they were…um, uh,…they were part of my story. So what am I to do with them? I looked around my small apartment and could not find a suitable place for any one of them. And then the only logical thing came to my mind: rename my junk drawer.  I went to the trash and retrieved the furniture sales receipt, the theater ticket that led me to better understand a very conservative mind.  I left the  old screws right there in the trash because I could not remember their significance.  My new “Special Things” drawer looks the same as its predecessor, but now the things that are in there belong there and nowhere else. As I closed the drawer, I realized how much pleasure opening the Special Things drawer brought me, I will have to do so more often.

Women with High SUCCESSTROGEN are organized because they need to be in order to do all that they do.  But they, too, allow themselves the luxury of a Special Things Drawer where stuff just lands, not junk , but really good stuff that is part of their story. The stuff in this draw  cannot be organized or labeled, nor can it be discarded. But it can bring them back in time occasionally, to recall parts of their story that reminds them of how they got to today.

Have you thought about taking a trip down memory lane lately and reviewed the contents of your junk drawer?

Slow Your Roll

 

Over Easter break, my daughter-in-law, Lisa, and I took her youngest daughter, Eliza, to American Girl in NYC. To any of you who have never experienced it, the store is a little girl’s dream.  Thousands of dolls dressed in haute couture are carefully arranged as though they were real children in the park, at a birthday party, or on a camping trip.  One wouldn’t dare bring a little girl here just to “window shop”.   Once a visit to this store is on your calendar, you have committed to purchasing an over-priced, yet impeccably dressed  doll.  While Eliza already had many American Girl dolls at home, she was excited to be getting a new one. Together, we spent an unusual amount of time reviewing all the new dolls and their personal stories, and selecting just the right one.

As if picking out a new doll weren’t enough of a treat,  we had reservations for brunch at the American Girl cafe.  While the decor is as you would expect, girly, very pink and sweet, the food is clearly an opportunity for improvement. What was spent on brunch could have fed many families in a struggling community.  I am not sure why this organization known for its exquisite life-like dolls cannot make a decent pancake1 But they cannot, they just can not.

While waiting on-line  for brunch outside the Cafe, I noticed a little girl clinging to her new American Girl doll, Gabrielle, one of my personal favorites.  The child begged her mom for a second doll.  Her mother explained that the child should be grateful for the one she was holding.  But as children often do, the child opted to push her luck and hopefully wear her mother down. “Pleeeeze, pleeeeze mommy.  Gabriella needs a friend to go home with!  Who is Gabrielle going to play with? Why can’t I have two dolls? Pleeeeze, mommy!”  While I was getting irritated by the whining, the mom was not at all rattled or influenced.  Instead she offered in a very quiet voice,

“Slow your roll. Slow your roll.”

I had not heard that phrase before but it stuck with me.  “Slow your roll.”  In just three little softly spoken words, the mom said:  “Stop your whining, it’s getting annoying”, “Stop carrying on and on”,  “Enjoy your new Gabrielle doll”, “I said no and I meant no”.  I liked what I heard…“Slow your roll.”

The phrase applies to me as well.  I need to slow my roll sometimes. as my behavior  can be out of control.  For example,  while shopping  online I might stumble upon a new style of Tom’s, and begin ordering the same shoe in navy, white, and black.  I need to slow my roll, order one pair, and  test them out before ordering them in every possible color.   When I am at the airport, once I locate my gate, I immediate go to Hudson News and get not one snack for the flight but two or sometimes three!

Still other times I worry about something, and I continue to go over and over it creating a much bigger scenario than actually exists…again, I need to slow my roll. Women with high SUCCESSTROGEN are not out of control with their shopping habits, behaviors, or their worries.  While the American Girl organization should improve the quality of their brunch, more important,  I need to slow my roll, be less reactive and less impulsive.

Just as I was about to tell the mom how much I liked the phrase, “slow your roll”, we were told that brunch was ready.  While Eliza was excited  I knew we were about to experience  the worst and most unappealing pancakes on the face of the earth because I had gone with her older sisters years ago.  But before I get carried away about just how awful and overpriced the brunch is, I think I will slow my roll and stop here.

Where are the opportunities for you to “slow your roll” in your life, so that you are less impulsive, make better and more informed, well thought out decisions ????

 

A Three Minute Boundary

 

In September we celebrated the life of Michael O’Neil, Sr, my former spouse of 32 years, and best friend of 49 years.  It was fitting for me to give the eulogy. My dear Catholic Church that doesn’t really know me at all,  permitted  me a whopping three minutes to wrap up what Michael meant to me!   The Church no longer allows a lay person to give a eulogy during the Mass, so prior to the Mass I had  three minutes to tell the world that Michael swept me off my feet many years ago and saved me from what could have been a most ordinary life, and that he knew I was smart, although my college grades did not indicate that.  He knew I was creative although  I rarely engaged in creative activities. He taught me how to parent, how to be a good friend, how to start a business of my own, and most important, how to give because others needed.

Being a rule follower, I of course kept within the three-minute time frame. I had rehearsed the eulogy a number of times (and moaned about being limited to only 3 minutes) to ensure I stayed within the rules. Funny, as I looked over the congregation, not a person moved, all eyes were on me, and when I completed the eulogy, the crowd applauded.  I took that to mean they got the message, only three minutes yet they got it.  There has to be something said for the three-minute talk, rather than a rambling 40 minute attempt at capturing the deceased person’s life. When pushed to a 3 minute time frame, I had to choose just the right words, there was no room for extra adjectives, ramblings or repetition.

Surely there are other times when I take far more time than necessary to make a point, to complete a task, or to teach a concept.  (You might want to interject here  that sometimes my blogs go on too long!).  Women with high SUCCESSTROGEN are succinct, taking just the right amount of time needed for things. They do not stretch things out, or beat around the bush until they bring home a point. They know what the point is and they make it. I have room for growth here and will continue to work on being  to the point, capturing my listener and holding her attention, then giving her time to draw her own application.

Thank you Catholic Church for the boundaries you provided that enabled me to deliver a message about Mike that truly captured his time on earth. The time boundary forced me to be precise and to the point. When the parishioners left the church  that morning, they knew the essence of Mike, that he gave not out of convenience but because another was in need. And when I left the church that morning, I had more respect for the three-minute boundary.