Fall finally arrived in our nation's capital. Cooler temperatures and crisp air. Friends and family back from Summer vacations. A return to the regular rhythms of life, work, and activities. And it made me happy. As much as I enjoyed the past season and all the freedom and spaciousness if offered, I am always grateful to be grounded by familiar routines.
Over the weekend we were able to connect with different groups of friends and enjoy time as a family. We celebrated exciting news from a dear friend. I took a yoga class with a favorite teacher. We visited the farmers market and our beloved neighborhood coffee shop. We concluded our week energized for whatever lay ahead.
But this week didn't unfold as anticipated. Three clients had to cancel their sessions. The nagging pain in my leg was diagnosed as tendonitis. We had to make a difficult family decision. The glorious Fall weather turned grey. Then it started to rain...
My attitude plummeted. The ease and bliss of the weekend evaporated. Under doctor's orders I was prevented from seeking solace on the running trails or losing myself on the yoga mat. None of the grounding practices in my toolbox provided any lasting comfort.
"Are you okay?" my husband asked. The answer in my head was a definitive, "NO!" but when I stopped to consider the source of my malaise, I didn't have a compelling answer. I realized I had allowed a series of relatively minor setbacks to steal my joy. When I stepped away for perspective, I saw that my mood was simply a function of not choosing happiness.
When the skies turn grey or life presents us with less than desirable circumstances, we can surrender to the sea of negativity or we can rise above - the choice is ours alone. Next time you slip into an unwarranted slump, can you pause and put circumstances in perspective? Can you choose to be happy?
After last week's post about the importance of choosing carefully, a reader reached out to say that she knows she needs to slow down but is having a hard time translating that desire into action. Her work is demanding, she volunteers extensively at her church, she serves on her condo board, and she is training for a marathon. Something has to give, but she doesn't want to give anything up.
I know I have been there - and I imagine you have too. In addition to our work and family obligations we have personal goals we want to meet, activities we enjoy, and a sense of responsibility to give back to the community in some meaningful way. We try so hard to fit everything in that the act of scheduling our obligations can feel like another job in and of itself! And even when we are able to squeeze everything into our calendars, we end up too physically and emotionally drained to experience - let alone enjoy - the activities.
When trying to distinguish how best to use our limited time and energy, it can be helpful to ask ourselves a few questions to distill what is most important. I like how Renee Trudeau approaches this process in a recent blog post. When faced with competing priorities, she encourages us to ask ourselves:
Next time you find yourself overwhelmed, overworked, and/or over-committed, take a moment to consider these questions. The answers just might help you determine what matters most - and establish a more sane and sustainable rhythm.
When we last spoke to Alia Khan, she had built a successful platform to weave together her disparate passions and live a more authentic life. Over the past two years, she has made yet another change, and is now the proud owner of a thriving (and gorgeous!) yoga studio in Northeast Washington, D.C. We recently caught up with this lovely lady to hear all about how she created her dream job and what's next on the horizon...
I had a full agenda in mind for Wednesday. After dropping the babe at school, I was scheduled to teach two classes, and I hoped to run a few errands before retrieving her at the end of the morning. During her nap, I planned to transcribe a recently recorded interview soon to appear on the Trailblazers series (it's coming soon I promise!), catch up on some admin work, and get started on next month's newsletter. But at 3:30am, my daughter started screaming. Her ear hurt - and no amount of consoling, cuddling, or cajoling was improving the situation. My husband was traveling, the pediatrician's office was closed, and I didn't want to wake any of my go-to wise mamas for a brainstorming session. Then she became sick - repeatedly... So I called a cab, and we headed for the hospital.
A few hours later we were released with a diagnosed middle-ear infection, a prescription for antibiotics, and a serious lack of sleep. I was relieved to know the babe's discomfort would be relatively short-lived. But no sooner had I given thanks for the outcome than I uttered a sigh of resignation over my lost productivity. I informed the babe's teacher that she wouldn't make it to school, asked a friend to cover my teaching responsibilities, and picked up a few groceries before tucking us in for the day. Back into pajamas the babe went, and we spent our time resting, reading, and indulging in a rare movie-viewing.
As we lay on the couch together, I gave into the sweet stillness of the moment and re-framed the circumstances. I have been missing my mornings with the babe since she began preschool, and while I would never choose these conditions, it was a welcome pause in the new, faster rhythm of our lives.
We so often get so caught up in our plans that we lose perspective on what matters most. No agenda item is as important as caring for a loved one (and ourselves!). Next time your agenda is sidetracked by unforeseen circumstances, can you pause and consider what you need? What truly important thing can you accomplish?
As I shared last week, the New Beginnings household has entered a new chapter. We now have a full-fledged preschooler - with all the enthusiasm (and attitude) the change brings. The transition hasn't just affected her - it has altered the rhythm of our entire family. Our morning routines, daytime diversions, and evening rituals have shifted to accommodate the new reality.
The babe's school prides itself on creating community that extends beyond the classroom. In the past week alone, there have been five (!) different activities to engage parents. When I received the school calendar, I added all the events to my schedule, eager to learn as much as I can about - and contribute as much as I can to - the people and activities that will shape her in these early years.
The enthusiasm of the fellow parents was inspiring, but I quickly found myself growing anxious. I I should join these committees. I should volunteer at the upcoming events. I should lead a service project...
But as the sign-up sheets came by, I paused. In recent years I have begun to recognize the consequences of being driven by should: Too many things on the schedule. Too little time to meet my existing commitments. Too little energy for the people and things I love. Too much hurry. Too little joy.
A small voice within whispered that this is an opportunity for a fresh start - a new beginning for me, as well as my daughter. This is a chance to move past should and operate within the parameters of what is meaningful, sustainable, and authentic. Yes - I will pour my time, energy, and resources into this place that will have such a significant influence on who my baby girl is becoming, but I will choose carefully.
Whether or not your life operates according to the rhythms of the academic calendar, Fall always offers a multitude of opportunities for engagement. It is easy to overextend ourselves if we are not intentional about guarding our time and energy. Before you dive in, consider where you can add value, how you can contribute meaningfully, and what activities allow you to be your most authentic self. Choose carefully...and live more fully.
Monday was my daughter's first day of preschool. And I don't know how that happened... Obviously I remember researching schools, filling out applications, and bemoaning the absurdity of "interviews" for a three year old, but those steps all took places ages ago and seemed so theoretical. Since then, there have been no major developments: life has simply continued along in the usual fashion.
But on Monday, I walked my girl to the front door, gave her a hug, and passed her little hand to her teacher. And then I walked away...
As we experience this milestone and adjust to a new reality, I can glimpse many more to come: first days of kindergarten, elementary school, high school, and college. Increasing independence. Hurt feelings. Skinned knees. Broken hearts. It's overwhelming...but I can find solace in knowing I don't have to face them all today.
Everything is happening, but it isn't all happening right now. So for today, I will eagerly anticipate the 12:00pm dismissal bell, when I can scoop up my baby girl and savor each sweet, precious, (occasionally maddening) moment we are able to share. I will do my best to fully experience each minute when it seems nothing much is happening and move forward on this journey one step at a time.
Over the weekend, the babe, her father, and I joined dear friends for an apple picking adventure. When we planned this mid-September outing, we envisioned leaving the city early in the morning and spending a full day enjoying the countryside, connecting, and welcoming the impending change of season.
Instead, we awoke to temperatures in the 90s with triple digits expected before day's end. Rather than pulling on long pants and light sweaters, we slipped into shorts and sprayed on sunscreen. Something about this doesn't seem quite right, I thought...
The air was thick and hot when we stepped out of our car. Between the soaring temperatures and high concentration of mosquitoes, our outing didn't last long. In less than an hour we had climbed the hill to the designated trees, collected our fill of fruit, and decided to escape to a nearby - indoor - dining destination. The day was far from wasted - we enjoyed the time with friends and appreciated the break from the city and our standard Saturday routines - but the trip felt somehow incomplete.
When we arrived home, we surveyed our spoil: dozens of apples covered our countertop - overflowing the fruit bowl and filling two refrigerator drawers. While I was reluctant to turn on the oven, I couldn't resist the urge to put at least some of our haul to use. While the babe napped, I threw together a crust, and when she woke up, she eagerly "helped" transform the dough and apples into a pie. An hour later, we pulled the bubbling pastry from the heat, and she giggled as she breathed in its sweet, buttery aroma.
And just like that: Fall didn't seem so far away. The very next morning, we awoke to crisp air and cooler temperatures. I like to think we had a hand in orchestrating the welcome change...
Simple pleasures can help us connect with the seasons and rhythms of life - even when nature doesn't cooperate. Next time you feel out of sorts, find grounding in a simple, seasonal ritual, and experience a shift in your perspective...
At the end of last month, the babe, her father, and I headed off for our annual excursion to the Allegheny mountains with dear family friends. The unparalleled highlight of the week for my daughter was her time at the pool. We visited EVERY day - splashing, enjoying the water slide, and joining her friends in their best Katie Ledecky imitations.
Upon our return to DC, the daily swimming routine was extended thanks to a visit from my mother, who stayed in a nearby hotel with a lovely rooftop pool. Her departure a few days later marked the end of our ready access to water, and I found myself inordinately disappointed at the loss of this sweet rhythm with my daughter. Refusing to accept the end of summer, I packed the babe up and headed to a pool in the area that offers single-day passes. As I approached the door, I saw a notice advertising pool memberships were still available. It's almost September, I thought. Why on earth would anyone join an outdoor pool at the END of the season?
Despite my skepticism, I found myself asking the desk attendant about the sign and what options might still exist. Much to my surprise (and the babe's delight), we learned the pool remains open through the end of October - giving us two full months of extended swim season - and the promise of respite from the all-too-common Indian summers in DC. Without stopping to consider whether we would really be able to take full advantage, I heard myself say, "Why not?!"
We swam to our hearts' content that day - and the next - and the next. Already we have run into multiple friends who are also members and forged connections with new acquaintances. And more importantly, we have extended the ease and delight of summer and created more special memories.
When presented with major life decisions, it is wise to consider all options, weigh important factors, and choose carefully. In matters of simple joys, however, we can all benefit from letting down our guard and asking, "Why not?" As we head into the Fall season with all the structure and busyness it brings, can you find opportunities for spontaneity? Can you squeeze a little more summer into your year?
Long-time readers of this blog know of my affection for New York City. My husband I and I are intentional about visiting multiple times each year and have already begun to instill an enthusiasm for the city and all its wonders in our daughter. I am constantly on the lookout for any possible excuse to add another Big Apple excursion to the calendar, so when two dear friends invited me to join them for the recent holiday weekend, I eagerly accepted.
Over the years, I have established a carefully cultivated collection of favored daytime diversions, evening excursions, and decadent dining destination. With every visit, I find myself energized by the rhythm of "my" New York experience and all it entails.
My recent travel companions share a similar affection for New York (qnd one is a local!), which yields their own way of experiencing the city. As the day of departure approached, I was curious how the weekend would unfold. Would we agree on where to go and when? Would there be moments of tension or awkward negotiations? Would we do everything as a group or explore independently? The uncertainty of it all generated anxiety for my inner introvert and creature of habit: maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all...
As the train pulled away from Union Station, I recalled a phrase often repeated by my pastor: "A change of place plus a change of pace equals a change of perspective." Of course I thought. These are my good friends, whose company I enjoy, and whose interests I share. What a great opportunity to see a place I love through new eyes!
Thanks to their initiative, I attended my first U.S. Open tennis match. As a benefit of their prior experiences, I discovered a fun dessert spot. Because of their research, I attended services at a church I had long been curious to visit. And over the course of the weekend, I was able to return the favor by sharing some of my New York favorites.
It is so easy to become set in our ways and assume we have a monopoly on the "best" way to do things. But when we let go of our desire for control we often discover new treasures. Next time you are inclined to insist on doing something a certain way, can you instead step aside and let someone else take the lead? You just might discover a new appreciation for an old favorite...
Imperfection is a familiar theme on these pages. We spent a year reflecting on the concept and learning how to embrace - or at least accept - it. I have been intentional about acknowledging its ubiquity in my own life. But in recent weeks it feels like I have been taking one step forward and two steps back...
For the past month I have been on a blogging sabbatical. I chose this timing intentionally to coincide with the leisurely last gasp of summer that is August in our nation's capital. I set aside time to evaluate whether the website and blog were meeting the needs of readers and staying true to the original vision. I had grand visions of investing hours, days, even weeks to make it all perfect. I wanted it to be beautiful! More user-friendly! More interactive! And I was excited about the prospect of unveiling the final product in all its glory on September 1.
As with any Angelyn venture, I laid out a carefully considered plan. I solicited feedback, investigated best practices, and reflected on what I find most valuable in the sites and offerings I enjoy. Then I sat down with my piles of information to get down to work. But I froze. Because the more excited I became about sharing the "perfect" product, the more daunting the idea became. What made me think I could do this on my own? I'm not remotely technical. I'm not even artistic. I have no idea what I'm doing. What if others don't like it? Or worse - what if they don't even care?
So I surrendered to the many opportunities for distraction that summer provides. I read books that had nothing to do with web design or consumer data. I watched movies with loved ones. I introduced the babe to the grand spectacle that is the Olympic games. I retreated with friends. I took up a new hobby (more on this to come!). And I soaked up as many precious moments as I could before my sweet girl begins her preschool program later this month (Aaack!).
As the date for the "unveiling" approached, I found myself paralyzed. I convinced myself that I just needed more time. If I held off one more month I could really focus. I could consult with a professional. I could hire a team to make it perfect.
But I could not ignore the small voice in the back of my mind who whispered it would never be perfect - and putting imperfections on display is an important part of the journey. My heart's desire in this endeavor is to provide resources, encouragement, and a connection point for real people - all of us living in our respective versions of imperfection. Pursuing our dreams. And sharing what we learn along the way.
So I am moving forward with the current version of my imperfect offering. I hope you like it. But more than that, I hope it offers encouragement, valuable tools, and an occasional smile. Where you see room for improvement, let me know! We're on this road together. Let's keep going...