Five Things I Learned from My Five Week Hiatus

I am about a quarter of the age and weight of many people that require intensive back surgery. But here I am.

hospital stay.png

It started in 2008 when I had a bad fall down a set of stairs (it was actually a set of stairs, not a “set of stairs.”) I broke my tail bone and apparently set everything else in motion as well. Nine years, six epidural shots, five physical therapy sessions, three times a week pilates and swimming sessions, one outpatient surgery, and countless cortisone shots and Ibuprofen medications, it was finally time for the last resort. I had a fusion at L5-S1, spent five days in the hospital, and five weeks at home. I am coming up on week six, and I’m finally back at work. 

Obviously I needed the surgery, but I do not think I realized quite how much I needed the downtime. When you are forced to be alone with your thoughts, a lot comes up (especially on pain medication)! Here’s what I learned. 

Health should be your #1 priority, no excuses.

For those of you that have battled with health complications, you know what I mean. So how is it that we regularly put our health on hold? We grab a quick bite because we are in a time crunch at work, usually grabbing something that satisfies our stress craving rather than filling us with the vitamins we need. We stay up late checking email, or worrying about tomorrow's meetings. We catch the red-eye so that we can be there first, earlier, and more prepared than everyone else. We chug coffee like it's going out of style. We swerve in traffic, cursing red lights and trying to outsmart the yellow ones. And for what? Did all of those cut corners actually get us to our goals and desires quicker than if we would have relaxed? Are we better in the end, or are we more tired, crabby, burnt out, and sick than if we would have been more deliberate, more mindful, and more thankful along the way? If there is one thing being forced to sit still for five weeks taught me, it's that I will never again compromise my health and wellness for the sake of success. I will instead be successful because I have cared for myself, inside and out, the same way I care for my work. 

Related: have you ever read an article discussing the "millennial problem" of travel v. saving money? Choose travel. I'll bet you can figure out how to make more money. You cannot bet on the longevity of your health. 

People love you. Let them. 

This was a tough one. I grew up as the oldest of four kids, So I am used to taking care of and being responsible for others. So hopefully you can imagine how humbling it was to ask for help, rely on others, and allow myself to be vulnerable. However, amazing things happened when I finally arrived at this point of surrender. My relationships strengthened. I felt more at ease. I loved watching friends and family receive love and gratitude as they gave their time and energy to me. I was often overwhelmed by the people in my life that would go out of their way to help me, even when I did not ask. Allowing the love to come in is something I hope I remember long into the future. People care about you. They love you. We are all longing for connection. But we must be open to receiving it when it comes.

Bitterness is a disease.

This one took nearly the full five-week hiatus to figure out. We all have that acquaintance or co-worker (or a handful in my case) that rattles you from the inside out. The one that you practice telling off in the shower, or the one you avoid in the break room. I never thought of this activity to be dangerous, but I realized that I was only hurting myself. Staying mad and holding onto resentment will only continue the cycle of “feeling wronged.” You cannot allow yourself to become a victim. You cannot withhold forgiveness, even when you were right, or do not feel it is warranted. Bitterness will spread like a disease, and will frame your entire perspective on work, relationships, and life. Repeat after me: Let👏 it👏 go👏. 

drake

Rest and "me time" is not selfish.

For anyone who knows me, I've always been a busy-body. I'm someone who watches TV shows while also doing food prep, tidying up, doing laundry, playing with my dog, texting friends back, managing my business, etc. If I found myself on the couch for more than 20 minutes, I immediately felt guilty about all the things I could or should be doing. Don't get me wrong, I still believe productivity is a virtue.  However, being intentional about rest, therapy, and self-discovery is not inefficient, or a waste of time. It should actually be the first step before any accomplishment. As one of my favorites Brene Brown said, you don’t need to “earn” rest or play. Is your body telling you it’s exhausted? Sit down, slow down.

Plus, the combo of podcasts and coloring books can unlock a potential you have never known, people! 

Clothes set the tone, not the experience.

If you were playing the game, "which one is unlike the other," I suppose this bullet point would be it. It sounds silly, perhaps vain, but I stress about my clothes. I have read so many blogs and articles about how you present yourself defines other's perceptions. I am nearly 30, and want to be taken seriously in the professional world. But I also want to look approachable. Not too girly, but not boring either. Also, comfort! It's a real predicament in my life — just ask my husband! Let me tell you about a few epiphanies I had in the fashion department: No one is worrying about your clothes, because they are worried about theirs. Additionally, maybe it's true your clothes are the first impression. But your attitude is the last — and last-ing — impression. Do you want to project worry and insecurity about what you look like, or do you want to project the confidence and ease that comes from someone who has their priorities straight? Side note: I’m going to re-read this blog the next time I'm ripping my closet apart at 7:51 a.m.

My road to recovery is not over yet, and will not be for some time. Earlier this year, five weeks of down time sounded like an eternity. Now I am just grateful for the time I have had to rest, both physically and mentally. This post will definitely keep my accountable for my thoughts and actions in the months to come.

Everything they said was true! Clarity comes when things are finally quiet. 

8 Qualities Of A Truly Great Boss

 

"There’s nothing worse than working for a bad boss." 

The opening sentence of this paragraph alone is immediately relatable. Who hasn't had their run-in with a boss that was difficult to work for? Managing a team was a big adjustment for me, and it has definitely made me acutely aware of my leadership flaws. I'm sure my team can attest that I am still a work in progress! Here are a few take-aways from this morning's read on The Zoe Report.

Here's to getting better every day!

 
o-LIZ-LEMON-facebook.jpg
 

They Recognize Their Employees' Achievements

This one is obvious, but there are caveats—recognition is best when it happens right away. The longer a manager waits to applaud his or her employees for an accomplishment, the less it matters. Additionally, it's important that employees be recognized in an authentic way. Rather than a monthly award, for example, a good manager recognizes achievements in a specific way that feels genuine.

They're Sensitive

Sensitivity may have gotten a bad rap in the workplace, but a manager who treats you like a machine as opposed to a human is just plain awful. Well-liked managers understand their employees have complicated lives. In turn, they are attuned to their employees' moods, so they can sense when there's a dip in morale or when someone is unhappy with a particular scenario in which they've been placed.

They Shield Their Employees

At one point or another, we all have bosses who throw us under the bus when things go wrong. Good managers don't do this—instead, they assume the blame and then work with those who report to them to correct the issue.

They Don't Micromanage

We can all agree being micromanaged is the worst. A good boss trusts his or her team to do their work without needing to be privy to every step in the process or weigh in on minutiae.

by Erin Nicole on The Zoe Report. Read the full article here.

 

Femaleness

 
I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femaleness and my femininity. And I want to be respected in all of my femaleness because I deserve to be.
— Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: We should all be feminists TED Talk
 
 

10 years ago this summer, I had the privilege of meeting Chimamanda Adichie while she was on the book tour for "Purple Hibiscus." Her work has continued to have a profound impact, but even more so lately. If you haven't listened to her TED Talk on feminism, it is life *clap* changing *clap.* 

While the implications of the gender gap can be broad, more often than not, they are subtle. One day, the inequality will have evolved so that no one will need to worry about it at all, but for now it unfortunately but certainly exists. I love the way Ms. Adichie explains women's roles over time when she says:

 
...A thousand years ago because human beings lived then in a world in which physical strength was the most important attribute for survival. The physically stronger person was more likely to lead, and men, in general, are physically stronger. Of course there are many exceptions.

But today we live in a vastly different world. The person more likely to lead is not the physically stronger person; it is the more creative person, the more intelligent person, the more innovative person, and there are no hormones for those attributes. A man is as likely as a woman to be intelligent, to be creative, to be innovative. We have evolved; but it seems to me that our ideas of gender had not evolved.
— Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: We should all be feminists TED Talk
 

There are so many stereotypes around this word that I really haven't considered myself a part of "the feminist group" in the past. However, I have never broken down these concepts; I've never thought about it the way she describes. The term "feminist" seemed so abrasive and argumentative, and for those who know me, I do not fit into the category of either of those adjectives. Now I'm thinking this word fits me more than ever. Chimamanda has inspired me to look beyond my "I'm sorry's" and "it was just luck" excuses, and to begin owning what makes me unique -- one of those things is that I am female, and will not apologize for my femaleness.

 

 

Lost and Found Cat

 

I wanted to take a moment to communicate my gratitude for the kind words, support, and encouragement I've received from so many people in regards to my side-hustle. I'm on month three of this little business, and it has been overwhelming to have so many people reach out, or even recommend me to their friends. Each of the projects I have been a part of this year have been so special, and I have been so proud to work on them!

I don't like to pick favorites, but I do want to highlight one project that is pretty close. I had the pleasure of working with Amy Shrodes for the book she co-authored: Lost and Found Cat. Amy was someone I met while I volunteered with the Central Humane Society in Oklahoma City. Her passion for animals was apparent in my first conversation with her. I also admired how driven and motivated she was, given what a big job she was juggling as the Director of Marketing & Development. I kept in touch with her through Facebook mostly, and saw through social media that she had decided to leave the Humane Society and travel to Greece. The next thing I knew, this picture came across my newsfeed:

This photo was the headliner on one of the refugee crisis stories from The Guardian. Needless to say, I was shocked, but I actually wasn't surprised. Amy is not a person to stand idly by others do the work. No, she is someone who not only rolls up their sleeves, but also dives in head-first (pun intended). 

The story doesn't end there. Being the animal lover she is, Amy came across a the cat that one of the refugee families had lost. Along with her friend and humanitarian response professional Ashley Anderson, as well as photographer Doug Kuntz, Amy made sure the cat was safely reunited with his family. Grab the tissue box, folks, the video below is a tear-jerker. 

Amy Shrodes is a rock star with a compass for what is good and kind. And guess what -- goodness spreads more goodness. Amy and Doug were approached from Random House Publishing to write a book based on this experience, and on what it means to be a refugee. The book, not surprisingly, has been a smash hit. ReadBrightly.com says:

This moving true story will inspire discussions with young readers about what it means to be a refugee, the unexpected consequences of being displaced, and the importance of kindness.

I hope you are as moved and humbled by this story as I was. All it takes is one person, friends! One person, one small act, one gesture of kindness. We are all given tools to live out a purpose, and that purpose starts where we are currently planted. Can you imagine growing up in an area of war, being displaced from your home, on the run, and thinking no one cares in the whole world. One person actually did care.Amy did what she thought was right, and that will not soon be forgotten by Kunkush the cat's family. If that doesn't motivate you, I don't know what will!

Now go out, be kind, and order a copy of Lost and Found Cat today!

 

Little Green Monster

 

5:00 a.m. It's Monday. A normal Monday. I know I'm in the minority when I say, I actually operate pretty well on Mondays (Tuesdays are the bad days). I wake up, immediately start brainstorming about what I'm going to get done this week, and feel energized by the thought of a fresh start. I grab a Kize Bar and am off to the gym, glowing over productive thoughts and a can-do attitude.

6:30 a.m. Gym, check. Shower, check. Coffee, check check. Today is going great. 

8:00 a.m. Good morning office with a sunrise view! Snap a story for Instagram, feeling #blessed.

9:45 a.m. Emails, done. Most pressing projects, done. Now what...

10:15 a.m. FULL ON PANIC ATTACK. Sweating, blurry vision, heart racing, jitters, extreme nausea, suffocating, heavy, small... I can't think of other words to describe what it feels like.

What changed in just 30 minutes that put me so off balance? What provoked a panic attack? Looking back, I couldn't actually tell you what exactly triggered the incident. I just remember the crippling feeling that I would always be in this moment. After what seemed like eternity, I was able to calm myself down, I didn't want to think about it — the incident  again. I tried successfully to completely erase it from my memory. That is until my sweet husband later asked me a question that forced me to remember. A question that forced me to talk about it. Which led to panic all over again. Which led to journaling. A LOT of journaling. Furiously writing incoherent thoughts and fragmented sentences. And feeling like crap.

I read once that giving feelings a name makes them seem less intimidating. I now know from experience and a great support system that this is the truth. I'm trying to remember that the monster of anxiety has more power in the dark than in the light. Identifying the moment, the feeling, and the scenario puts a spotlight on the situation. While this is painful, scary, and seems insurmountable, it actually helps. I suppose that's what I'm attempting to do right now. It sort of feels like this:

Maybe it's because I'm actually making progress with my anxiety (or maybe it's because I've got a happy hour date tonight). Whatever the motivation, I can't believe this blog post came together. I've been horrified by the idea of making these thoughts public. But in the end, I know we all have issues we are struggling though. We are not alone. We are not in the dark. This quote from Brené Brown sums it up pretty well (below), as does the perspective from Levo Community (also below), both of which just so happened to land in my in-box this afternoon. I would say that is a coincidence... if I believed in them. To me this feels like something more. So I'm a work in progress. Who isn't?

Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.
— Brené Brown
I drew a little green monster on my shoulder that speaks to me in my ear and tells me all these things that aren’t true. And every time I listen to it, it grows bigger. If I listen to it enough, it crushes me.
— Emma Stone