Friday, January 2, 2015

Be a tree.

It was December 26, 2013 when I got some news that made me realize I had to grow. Really fast. My well-loved, amazing boss let me know she was leaving for a new opportunity and was putting me in a position to own the bulk of the marketing department. Not only was I taking on new responsibility for things I had never done before, I was the face of the department to our CEO and executive team, and I had to navigate the emotional aftermath of the team who’s respected leader was gone. I was scared and that is an understatement.

2 days later, on a Saturday, I had lunch with my new boss, the CEO, and the full weight of what I had on my plate hit the hardest. He has high expectations, rightly so, and it was clear he had full faith in me to rise to the occasion. So, what did I do? I faked it. Faked calm, faked grace, faked confidence. But I was none of those things.

On January 1, 2014, I went to a yoga class. Yes, we did yoga, but it was also an intention setting workshop. During the class, the instructors passed out paper and pens and led us through a series of questions. I kept my notes from that day and I reread them yesterday. What was I most proud of in 2013? Movement and growth. What did I want to let go of? Franticness and emotional ups and downs. What make me feel the most happy? Stability, learning, physical movement. What were my goals for 2014? Harmony and stability.

I left that class with a clear vision of how I would approach 2014: Be a tree.

To me that meant being grounded, rooted, strong, standing tall. It meant being flexible with wind and storms and seasons. It meant being connected and part of the earth, water, air, and everything around me. It meant protecting and comforting those around me. It meant growth. My body and demeanor physically change when I talk about what this means to me. Just using the phrase has become a way for me to calm and settle myself. I bought a necklace, wrote the phrase in places I would see it often, not a day went by in 2014 when I didn’t think, “Be a tree”.

What I found all of a sudden was that I wasn’t faking it. I really was calm and graceful and confident. I wasn’t scared to not know something because other people did and they helped when I asked. I wasn’t stressed by change because that is the only constant. I wasn’t overwhelmed by my circumstance because it is how I have and show stability, it is how I learn, and it was certainly a year of movement.

I came up with this phrase in connection with my job. But because everything is connected and one thing influences another, I found that ALL parts of my life improved in 2014.

- Yes, I have a job and career that I love. I know what I do well and I know what I must rely on others for. I know where I need to learn and where I need to let go and let others step up. I have a team that inspires me and amazes me every day. They make me want to put them on a stage, shout out their successes, reward and encourage, open doors, and move mountains for these people. I have a boss and peers that are genius in their positions and it’s like earth, water, and air to my tree - we all work together to make things happen. I am blown away by the minds and skills of those I work with every day.

- Through my quest of learning and asking for help, I have found a mentor that challenges and encourages me. I left lunch with her a few weeks ago and sat in my car with tears in my eyes because I felt so confident, supported, and heard. She says the right thing to show me that I’m on the right track and have the right ideas, but gives me that little extra thought or nudge or idea that makes it better. And she has introduced me to other mentors and contacts that are expanding my knowledge and confidence. This does not diminish the day to day friends and mentors that have given me confidence and help over the year. From conversations with my mom on the way in to work to deep discussions with Bob to guiding wisdom from my female peers at work, I am surrounded by knowledge!

- My friendships are deeper. The exchange of ideas and advice and understanding are more enriching. I have found myself leaving lunch or dinner with a girlfriend in large, deep emotional states. I have been comforted, laughed so hard it hurt, had my perspective changed, felt braver, celebrated, and cried. The give and take this year was so natural and authentic.

- I completely changed my diet and fitness. Do not take this lightly – I could never have achieved all I have this year without taking care of myself first. It changed the way my body felt. I have more energy, feel better, and look better than I ever have in my life. I need less sleep (6-7 hours), my skin is clear (no hives), my hair is healthy (it was falling out in 2013), my blood pressure is low (it was 180/100 in June 2013), my cholesterol is under 200 for the first time in my adult life, I am at my college weight. And I look amazing (and totally okay saying that)! At 37 years old I stepped on a stage in a bikini competition and placed. It is no longer a short term diet or fitness fad, it is just how I live my life.

- I taught a cooking class. For real! I recently realized my love of cooking. I love my kitchen toys and find my time in the kitchen to be immensely satisfying. I took the Paleo diet and made it something that worked for my husband and me. I plan my meals a week in advance, prep as much as I can on Sundays, cook a meal almost every night, and try to do something special on Sundays. Then someone asked me to teach a class. If you are interested I made avocado spinach dip with veggies, Korean street tacos with Asian slaw, and pumpkin cheesecake – all gluten and dairy free. Yeah, it was good J

- My house runs like a machine. I am lucky to have a very organized and amazing husband who steps up in all kinds of ways. From paying bills to cleaning to dog care to car maintenance, we have our system down pat. We manage to have relaxing downtime and fulfilling connections because we are consistent in the basics. Ever heard of Maslow? This is the bottom of our pyramid.

- Which brings me to my marriage. We have been together for a long time. Our first date was December 31, 1999. We married January 10, 2007. By far, this year has been the strongest, best, most fun year ever. He is my best friend. He has supported my career, my crazy schedule, my lifestyle changes, and my whims completely. We have high expectations and standards and have learned how to support and compromise so both of us have our needs met. We are STEADY. What an unromantic term to use for a relationship, but man, it’s the best! It allows for room to grow in other ways, which just feeds more awesomeness back into our relationship. In May we went to Mexico for a week and both call it the best week of the year. I cannot WAIT to do it again with this man.

What an amazing year. All of it, even the hard parts. And there have been some really hard things this year – being asked to do things I’ve never done before, expectations I didn’t know if I could live up to, messing up, change, and loss. But, I have felt confident in rolling up my sleeves and digging in to whatever comes my way. And these challenges made the good things even better.

I am blessed and thankful. I am a tree.

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