Last month, a dear friend invited me to lunch. I let her know my calendar that afternoon was completely free, and the babe was with a friend, "Tell me where to be and when," I replied.
"If you have time, we could take a midday yoga class," she offered. "Or see a movie..."
"A movie?! In the middle of a Wednesday afternoon?!." The prospect seemed utterly indulgent, but incredibly enticing. Giddy with excitement, I agreed. "Let's do it!" And we did. Our outing was a wonderful break in an otherwise mundane week, and we committed to do it again the following month.
Emboldened by our outing, I determined to find time to see another by myself in the weeks to come. I chose the movie and the theater and put a date on my calendar, but when the moment came, I was full of excuses: I had too much work to do and too many errands to run, and the appointed day came and went with no movie.
As the day of our second movie date approached, my calendar was still free, but my plate was full. The babe, her father, and I were leaving town early the following morning, and I hadn't even begun thinking about packing. I was behind on a few projects and knew very little work would be accomplished while we were away. It seemed irresponsible to take a break in the middle of a busy day, and I considered asking my friend for a rain check. But when she reached out to confirm, I found myself saying yes. I don't want to let her down, I justified to myself...
As expected, we again had a lovely afternoon, and as we stepped back into the sunlight, I knew I had made the right decision. Not only did I enjoy time spent with a dear friend, I had plenty of time to finish my work, pack our suitcases, and prepare for travel.
Sometimes it takes another person to remind us of the value of enjoying the present moment. Are you overdue for some self-care but struggling to give yourself permission? Find - or be - a partner in crime, and make it happen.
Annie Murphy Karabell is a student of life. Anything that piques her interest - whether education, children, yoga, or starting a family - becomes a subject for serious investigation. Read on to learn why she left a career in a field she loves to chart a new course...
Last weekend, my husband headed out of town on a work trip, and the babe and I enjoyed a "girls' weekend." I am grateful for these opportunities to spend solo time with our daughter outside of the weekday rhythms of planned activities, classes, and household errands. With no set agenda, the opportunities for unexpected delights are high. We ventured to a museum, dined out in favorite (and new!) restaurants, and jumped in a few puddles along the way.
But in the evenings, after I tucked her in for the night, I found myself restless. I know better than to allow my mind to roam freely when I am anxious, so I tried instead to channel my energy into reading, planning, and catching up on work projects. Regrettably, my mind would not cooperate. Over and over I found myself replaying decisions made and roads not taken and creating justifications in defense of each choice, complete with research and positive outcomes to support my case. Halfway through such an exercise it occurred to me: the only person in this argument is me...
No one is picking up the phone to accuse me of poor decision-making. No one is standing at my door in judgment of my life choices. Quite frankly, no one has the time, energy, or desire to invest half as much thought into my life choices as I am putting into these defenses.
I wish I could say this realization lifted an immense weight from my shoulders, but it would be more accurate to describe it as a work in progress. I did, however, resolve to rise above the self-doubt that drives these internal squabbles and take ownership of my role in creating - and ending - the drama.
Next time you catch yourself in the middle of an argument, consider whether your adversary is real or imagined. Stop fighting ghosts - and yourself.
When I told a good friend I was planning to unplug from technology during my recent journey to the other side of the world, she responded, "I could never do that! I would spend the whole time dreading the work it would take to plug back in!"
She had a point, of course. Freeing ourselves from the grip of the technology that so often commands our time, attention, and energy can be liberating, but when we reconnect, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the out-of-control inbox awaiting us. While I don't claim to be a technology or efficiency expert, each year since starting this venture, I have taken at least one technology free week to relax, recharge, and reconnect with people and activities that nourish me. Through trial and error, I have developed a few systems and strategies that have enabled me to ease back in without anxiety, and I am sharing them in the hope you find them useful, as well:
As we near the beginning of the Summer travel season, consider whether you can turn a vacation - or even a staycation - into an opportunity to unplug. Don't let anxiety about plugging back in keep you from scheduling - and taking - a long-overdue tech break.
It has been a soggy and dreary month in our nation's capital. This poses a particular challenge for the rain-averse mother of an active toddler. During a brief reprieve from the nearly three straight weeks of rain last weekend, my stir-crazy self eagerly began mapping out a week's worth of outdoor activities for the babe and me. Now that we've turned the corner into Spring we can finally get out! We'll visit the zoo! Hit all our favorite parks! Enjoy picnic lunches outside! Walk or bike EVERYWHERE.
But the respite proved brief, and as a new week began, the forecasters offered no hope of relief in the foreseeable future. Accordingly, I found myself grumpily greeting each grey day, inwardly bemoaning yet another search for creative indoor activities. On one particularly gloomy morning, after exhausting our usual rainy day repertoire of playing chef, performing ukelele concerts, and attending to the various needs of the babe's menagerie of stuffed and imaginary friends, I allowed my restlessness to pull me away to mundane household chores in an attempt to redeem the day.
Moments later I was stopped by a small voice, "Mama, will you read this book to me and Matt the lion?" "Of course," I responded, and we settled into the coziest corner of the couch. One book turned into two, two turned into four, and before I realized it, we had been reading, talking, and creating our own stories for well over an hour.
As I marveled at how quickly the time had passed, I recognized we had stumbled upon the seemingly elusive beauty in the day. Yes - a fun and active outing in the fresh air would have been lovely. And I will always choose to be out and about rather than cooped up inside, but a morning spent sharing my favorite activity with my sweet girl is a treasure I was able to relish. I am well aware that such moments are fleeting, and I am determined to soak up as much of their sweetness as I can...
Are you allowing yourself to be dragged down by the weather or other trivial circumstance? Can you instead open yourself up to finding beauty in unexpected places? What joy can you find in an otherwise soggy and dreary day?
Last week a student from a previous fertility yoga workshop reached out to announce she and her husband had welcomed a beautiful baby girl into their family. Each time I learn of another miracle baby fulfilling the hopes and dreams of someone who struggled to become a parent I am filled with joy and reminded of what a privilege it is to walk alongside these women and provide encouragement during their journey.
Whether through birth or adoption, dozens of women I have met through my workshops have become parents. While each individual and each story is unique, they have all found comfort in connecting with community during the otherwise isolating infertility journey. Doctors, therapists, yoga teachers, and others can play an important role in facilitating healing, but something important happens when women are able to connect with others who are facing the same struggles. That is why I am thrilled to again partner with the D.C. Jewish Community Center and the Red Stone organization for their Pathways to Parenthood event, which takes place tomorrow, May 18 at 6:30pm.
This community-wide event will bring together experts in fertility, adoption, mental health, and more for a discussion of the different pathways to becoming a parent. It will also provide an opportunity to connect with others who are in similar circumstances. If you or someone you know is seeking guidance or encouragement related to building a family, I encourage you to check out this important event.
This week the New Beginnings blog is taking a break while I pursue an epic adventure far from home. I am unplugging for the next week and hope to return with a fresh perspective and new experiences to share. If you are reading this message, consider this an invitation to do the same. Set your timer for the three minutes you would have spent on this page, close your eyes, and breathe deeply. Pause.
When this newsletter reaches your inbox, I will be halfway around the world. Literally. I am holding out hope that at the moment you are reading this I will be having a wonderful time connecting with a dear friend, exploring a new (to me) part of the world, and gratefully soaking up a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But today, on the eve of departure, I am terrified...
Shortly after the birth of my daughter, a dear friend from high school shared she had been offered a job in South Africa. For many of us, the distant location would be a deal-breaker, but for this intrepid soul and world traveler, it was a selling point. I knew immediately I wanted to visit. After all, what better opportunity to cross a South African adventure off my bucket list than with a good friend playing tour guide?! But my brand-new-mama brain couldn't process the logistics involved - let alone imagine leaving the babe and her father to fend for themselves for such a long trip - so I filed it away to revisit at some undetermined point in the future.
In the interim, every time my friend would post another amazing photo captured on safari or write another restaurant review for her travel blog, the thought would resurface: It would be wonderful to visit... And last fall, when she was in town for a friend's wedding, we had the opportunity to catch up in person. As she recounted her latest travel adventure over a glass of wine, I knew the time had come. I told her I was in!
At first I was positively giddy: Travel! Adventure! Safari! Bucket list! I picked up a floppy hat and the requisite khaki and olive wardrobe items. I downloaded enough books to get me through the nearly 40 hours of flight. I dusted off my "good" camera. I was - and am - all set, but at this moment, I'm a wreck.
Rationally, I recognize there is not one legitimate reason for anxiety. I know enough about the professionalism and safety of the reserve to know I will not be eaten by a lion or caught in an elephant stampede. I am well aware that my husband and daughter will get along just fine without me - and create some special memories together during my absence. I know my dear friend (and fellow introvert) well enough to be confident we will have plenty to discuss during our time together and be equally comfortable in moments of silent companionship.
But I remain inexplicably uneasy. Maybe I am hesitant to experience a once-in-a-lifetime adventure without my spouse. Perhaps I have some lingering insecurity about the people in my life realizing they can survive perfectly well without me. It's possible some small part of me actually fears an elephant stampede.
At the end of the day it doesn't matter. We have all found ourselves shying away from opportunities because of an irrational anxiety. Have you ever hesitated to extend - or accept - an invitation to get to know a charming stranger better? Have you skipped your regular yoga class when a sub was teaching because you didn't know what to expect? Have you opted not to join friends at a new restaurant because the cuisine was unfamiliar?
Just because an anxiety is irrational doesn't mean we don't feel it acutely, but we do ourselves a disservice if we allow it to curtail opportunities to learn and grow. We owe it to ourselves to face such fears head on. So I am. And I encourage you to do the same.
What bold action can you take to overcome an irrational fear? Don't just think about it - do it! Ready or not, South Africa, here I come...