doing too much

the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college, i dedicated my summer to working in West Oakland, CA in a neighborhood called “Lower Bottom” (birthplace of the Black Panthers). it was there that i had one of the first profound prophecies over my life.

not from a shaman, yogi, guru, pastor or priest.

no, these words were simple and to the point and came from the mouths of the middle school girls i was charged with mentoring.

i can’t even remember who was the first to say it, but i’m confident i heard it multiple times from multiple girls. they would look at me after I said and/or did something, raise one eyebrow (which was always a sure sign they disapproved), cock their head, smoosh up their little mouths and say:

“Christie…you’re doing too much.”

of course, it would take me the greater part of a decade to understand what they were trying to say. initially, i was defensive and denied their claims. i wasn’t doing too much, i just cared, liked to help, wanted to be active, yada yada yada.

but as the years have worn on and my body has worn out, i’ve come to understand the wisdom in such simple words.

hello, I’m Christie, and i do too much.

this past week, i decided to embark on a detox. this is nothing new to my life. multiple experts in the natural health and healing circuit recommend a regular detox. detoxes relieve the digestive system of the burden of digesting food and can better focus on removing the build-up of harmful toxins from the system. there are many detoxes out there, but i chose a hybrid of raw & Ayurvedic practices. my detox started with only consuming light, raw fruits and vegetables on Tuesday to ease my body in, moved into a soup/sauteed greens option from Ayurveda on Wed-Fri, and will finish tomorrow with more raw foods to ease my body out.

along with the nutritional detox, most experts stress a mental/emotional detox as well. mine must have been ready for it because i woke from a bad dream Tuesday night, crying into the dark, tears of release. i wanted to let the days of the detox be more intentional, focused on reading the signs of my body, honoring the need to rest and nap.

Wednesday had other plans.

i knew i would need to work at the studio for about 5 hours, then head to a friend’s to clean for 2. then i planned to go see a movie by myself. except a project was overdue and sent me running around town to the printer, then miscommunication between staff meant covering the evening shift at the studio, then the POS software was giving me fits and warranted 2 calls to the help line. i got home at 9:15p and collapsed into bed.

i do too much.

this reality has been a hard one to accept. i moved from denial to anger (why CAN’T I do whatever i want?!) to bargaining (ok, if i just nap here and here, i can still do ALL THIS STUFF!) to depression and acceptance, which i find myself toeing the line as i wrestle with feeling sad at the thought of missing out and then relieved when i just allow myself to rest.

no matter the stage, though, the truth was undeniable. i began to notice a pattern of really exerting myself–accepting every offer to hang out/do coffee/grab a drink, attending every event i thought would be interesting or was invited to, etc–then crashing. it was as if i went back to the well and found it completely dry but my body/mind/spirit completely parched. and i panicked. i retreated. sometimes involuntarily.

one such event happened several years ago. a friend who lived in Chicago agreed to let me borrow her apartment when she was out of town. i packed my backpack, hopped on the MegaBus and, several city buses later, arrived in her place. a wave of exhaustion rushed over me and i laid down for a nap, that turned into bedtime, that rolled into the next day and afternoon and night. i ventured out only once for dinner. i felt sick but something told me i just needed the rest. all my grandiose plans to explore the city and journal and have adventures went out the window. my reserves were depleted and, finally being away from the voices and temptations in my own city, i could hear my body/mind/spirit crying out for a break.

this detox period has heightened those senses. today, after working/running errands all morning, i considered squeezing in a movie with Indy Film Fest (they’ll be gone tomorrow and i haven’t watched NEARLY enough, i argued with myself), before heading back to the studio to work all evening. i kept going back and forth, should I? shouldn’t I? when i sat down to eat my lunch of soup and a banana, i realized how sleepy i was. then i recalled how i woke in the middle of night and evaluated the fact that i am not consuming as many calories, and realized i would probably need a rest more than i need to battle traffic to hurry to the movie, then battle traffic to hurry back to the studio.

so i took a rest.

i would love to say it made all the difference, but i’m not sure. it did, however, leave me refreshed for my evening shift, not depending on caffeine to keep me going. for that i am grateful.

but still, what does it mean to say no? to live in balance?

this, i am still learning. living for so long suppressing the cues of my body has left me a bit out of touch. yoga helps. detoxing helps. but mostly think i will just need time and practice. practice listening. practice weighing options and disciplining myself to choose just one. practice appreciating the details of my daily life-the sun shine in thru the doorway, the way my cat contorts his body during a nap on the couch, the smile of my honey when i come home. all those things that get lost in my “fear of missing out.”

hello, my name is Christie and i am in process.

 

a long endurance.

(for Mindy, who I’m pretty sure is the only one reading these days, because she won’t join Facebook and still wants to keep up on me anonymously)

at the ripe ole age of 30, i’ve finally decided what i want to do with my life.

or, at least the path i want to be on. where it leads me exactly, i am still clueless.

but i know this: it will include natural health + yoga.

i’ve been practicing yoga for several years now, off and on. my earliest experiences were with a Y12SR group, which stand for Yoga and 12-Step-Recovery. yes, it’s a recovery group for addicts, based on the 12-step model, with yoga. although i’m not an addict, a healthcare practitioner recommended i try it and i fell in love. for the first hour, we shared our struggles with one another and no one was allowed to respond to you with “well, you should pray more” or “maybe you should try ___”, they simply listened. we breathed together. then another shared. it was through these discussions that i began to realize how i struggle with co-dependency.

then, just as everything was loosened up emotionally, we got onto our mats and this openly broken, beautifully raw group of humans practiced together. many tears were shed on that first mat of mine as years of wounds came to surface and were given space to heal.

when i began my naturopath program in the fall, i knew i would somehow incorporate these two worlds. i envisioned having a small practice and inviting a couple teachers to come in and lead classes. in my mind, natural healing and yoga are inseparable. in classes, i’ve always craved hearing how certain moves and poses would enhance the functioning of organs or help me sleep better. i knew i could never consult someone on healthy options without also suggesting a regular yoga practice.

i never thought i’d teach.

it wasn’t because i didn’t have a desire, but because i didn’t find myself worthy of that path. i have yogi friends who are stronger than me, who can do headstands and have more regular practices. my teachers all seemed so confident and proficient at yoga. i didn’t think i could ever measure up.

still, i needed to change the path i was on. so i reached out to my yoga teacher and asked if there were any studios in the city who could use my talents-PR, marketing, etc-and she directed me to the owner of the studio where i practiced. when we met, he explained i could take classes for free (BONUS!) and get a discount on teacher-training. i nodded, not wanting to betray my interest, but that hit home. i knew this was the right decision. and eventually, i gained the confidence and the affirmation i needed to pursuing teaching yoga.

but money…oh money, how that little beast gets in the way. i would only have part-time hours at the studio so i decided to sell Pampered Chef to supplement my income.

so, this is where things stand now:
money is stretched VERY thin as i work to pay off student loans, pay for my naturopath program and save up for Yoga Teacher Training.
i’m learning to budget (did you know, the key to financial well-being is to spend less than you make?!…neither did i! 😉 )
i’m finally, for the first time in my adult life, understanding the true meaning of the word “endurance”–i joke that this is my year for working and studying, as i’m doing one of the two nearly all the time

a long endurance.

that’s the phrase that keeps running thru my head when i reflect on this season. it is both exhausting/overwhelming/frustrating and relieving/exciting/hopeful. for the first time in my adult life, i know what i want to do. and i know the path i need to be on. something within me leaps for joy.

but not too many times, of course.
“endurance” takes all the strength i have to give.
but the results…the outcomes…well worth the work.

 

why teenagers should clean toilets

i recently read an article by a mom titled “Please don’t help my kids” (read here).  the frustrated mom lays down some firm ground rules about assisting her kids at the playground.  while her tone seems to be a bit harsh, i really appreciate the heart behind her words.  i appreciate her desire to race independent kids who know how to stand on their own two feet.  who can be creative, original selves in a world that screams conformity.  who understand resilience because they’ve practiced it, endurance because that is the framework for their lives.

i began “working” when i was just 12, scoring my first few babysitting gigs with the children of my parents’ coworkers.  on one particular night, as my dad was dropping me off, he encouraged me to do the dishes and help straighten the house while the parents were away.  his thinking: if you clean for them, they will be wowed and want you back.  i took his advice, cleaning the kitchen while the children played and watched movies.  the parents came home, refreshed from a night away and ecstatic that they didn’t have to deal with a mountain of dishes.  they paid me well and called me again.

that’s when i learned the importance of adding value to my job.  doing that thing that took the position just another step further in quality.

at the age of 16, i decided to spend my summer working as a young counselor-in-training at the church camp i grew up attending.  me and the few other staff members my age were all considered too young (rightly so) to handle a cabin of campers on our own, so we spent our days doing odds and ends jobs around the camp, and our evenings/nights with the campers.  i was put together with 2 other young girls to assist Marilyn, the housekeeper.  our daily job: cleaning toilets.

we arose at 6:30a each morning, moving quietly about the cabin, careful not to wake the counselors and campers who didn’t have to rise for at least another hour.  we ate breakfast together, then set off in golf carts with cleaning supplies.  we cleaned every bathroom on the campus, from the hair-spray, body-wash fruitiness of the girls’ cabins with showers full of hair, to the dingy, dirty nastiness of the boys’ wash houses that wreaked of urine.  Marilyn was a stickler about hair left in the drain so we scrubbed until the sinks shone and picked out every loose hair that lingered.  the boys had a nasty habit of clogging the conventional toilets, and then turned to pooping in the urinals.  i’d never touched poop until that summer (and never have since).

we finished mid-to late morning with the housekeeping, went to lunch with all the campers, and then i headed to the concession stand, a little trailer with a fridge full of sodas and counter full of candy, and sold sugar to children.  we stayed up too late laughing and joking about boys, and i woke up too early the next day to repeat the cycle.

14 years later, i find myself in a fun, rewarding position at a yoga studio, where i get to interact with people and help build the business.  i have a marketing and promotional background, i’ve written freelance articles and pieces for many folks over the years, i’ve managed departments and had significant positions in companies.  and still, i clean toilets.

why?  because it’s so necessary, so basic.  toilets need cleaned (and floors swept and the counter wiped off) everyday.  because they get used everyday.  if they told me in high school i would eventually use my degree to work a front desk and clean the bathroom.  I would have laughed.  but my dad’s words still linger in my head.  go above and beyond.  work hard to wow your boss, and you will be asked to stay.

what i appreciate about the article, mentioned above, is that this is a similar type lesson the mom is trying to teach her young babes.  when we teach our children anything less than the importance of cleaning toilets, or the value of climbing the slide ladder by themselves, we make them believe the impossible lie that life can be lived without hard work and basic effort aimed at tedious tasks.  we instill the idea that life is not worth the toil necessary at times to move forward with dreams and goals.  that life is somehow easily gotten and that there is no beauty in the simplicity of serving others.

that’s why babes need to learn to pick themselves up when they fall from the monkey bars, and teenagers need to clean toilets, and adults need to rejoice in their challenging work.  because life, rich and full and beautiful life, will be the prize for those willing to work for it.

the evolution of a resume.

if there’s one thing that job-hopping over a period of years affords, it’s a highly evolved resume.

when i created my first post-graduation resume, nearly 8 years ago, i had the great help of friend and communications major.  i was a fairly unorganized college graduate, choosing to pursue a more bohemian existence, whereas she was completely opposite.  she prepped her resume our senior year and took it out, securing a job before we even graduated.

her biggest tips stay with me to this day and have greatly helped in my process.  first and foremost, it’s important to focus on the wording that’s used, which includes nearly all of the following–strived, maintained, created, served, communicated.  and so many more of those qualities that employers want to see, that show how you have been a self-initiator, how you’ve grown in your position, and what you intend to do in the future.  every employer wants an employ that seems easy to manage.

clearness and conciseness go a log way in communicating that message, which is where i feel thankful that English-major brain goes into overdrive.  “articulate” is definitely a gift plays out well in a resume.

highlighting the most important positions/experiences first is key.  you want the first thing a potential employer sees to be that job that gave you the experience for the one you want.  this led to an interesting discovery on my part: resumes don’t need to be in chronological order.  now, don’t get me wrong, they need to be relevant.  it doesn’t help to be applying for a customer service job and include your summer high school job as a Denny’s waittress from 10 years ago as an example.  but including a significant position in your career development that may have taken place prior to your current (or even former) job as a primary example on your resume is more than fine.  just be prepared to explain why you’re not there any more if it was such a pivotal position for you.

and last, but certainly NOT last, is to be honest.  it’s important to explain your positions and responsibilities in professional resume jargon, but never embellish on what you’re really capable of.  you may initially get the position you want, but this can lead to a lot of disappointment and heartache on both sides of the fence down the road.

these tips come back to me as i edit and modify for a promotion i’m interested in.  it feels strange to review my jobs of past, and be reminded of the impact they had on me, to see how they directly contributed to the skills i’m able to offer today.  editing a resume is a bit like a trip down memory lane, some good and some…not so good.  which leads to the last, and final, tip.  celebrate when you finally find you have enough experience to delete that one position you were just using as filler and happily move into the future.

 

good-bye too soon.

i remember that day.  my first “real” job in awhile.  i walked into the training room and a sea of new faces, smiling nervously as i sat down.  we played a “get-t0-know-ya” game, where we shared a few facts about ourselves, and i shared some easy to digest vittles, such as “i started an art gallery” and “i live downtown.”

but she, well, i’ll never forget what Tiffany shared.  she was the number 3 dart-thrower in the state and had “cadaver dogs,” dogs that were used by the police to find dead bodies.  in a room full of typical answers–i just graduated college and i’ve worked at this call-center or that customer-service job, Tiffany immediately stood out to me.

for 4 1/2 long weeks, we reported back to that training room each day, learning the ins and outs of timeshare ownership and vacation-booking.  Tiffany was a natural, and i envied her ability to pick things up so quickly.  but her personality was never one that fostered envy.  in fact, she was always ready with a smile, and a “hello,” and a “how are you?”

how ironic that just 6 mos later, the handful of us still left with the company would return to that training room to process the loss of one of our own.  earlier in the morning, work had come to a grinding halt as our management stood in the midst of us to deliver the horrible news: Tiffany had been killed in a car accident.

i felt like a board had hit me across the face, and i felt tears come to my eyes involuntarily.  i have to get out of here, i thought, and made my way to the door.  i bummed a smoke from a friend, and sat in the chilly sunshine of the morning, trying to wrap my mind around what i’d just heard.  our trainer made contact with me later, and asked if i would be interested in visiting with the grief counselor with the rest of my class.  i said yeah, if other people wanted to, i would join.

we walked into the training room, a strange feeling of formality choking out the desire i felt to let my grief hang out.  in the corner, near the front, sat a lady surrounded a haphazard group of chairs.  we took our seats, just as silent as that first day.  just as awkward in how to proceed.

but proceed we finally did.  we spent nearly an hour processing our responses, wondering how a person could go so quickly from existing to not existing, realizing how destroyed we would be if our sister/mother/father/boyfriend were the one who had died, talking about Tiffany and the kind of person she was.  we shared stories about conversations we’d just had with her, about how she was looking forward to the holidays and vacation with family, how she had recently just assumed guardianship of her niece.  we even talked through what little we knew about the accident, all of us hungry to know the details, hoping, i think, to figure out just what went wrong.  we lamented that we, and all those that knew and loved her, were having to say good-bye too soon.

most importantly, we agreed that Tiffany was a beautiful soul, who brought so much to those around her.  so here’s to you, Tiffany Carol Shull; this world is certainly a better place because you were in it; and a lonelier place because you’re gone.  may you rest in peace.

everything i need to know….

. . .i’m learning in customer service.

  when i was a kid, my mom would swear by the book, “All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten” by Mr. Robert Fulghum.  the book, as i understand it, stresses a return to the simplicity of the lessons we learned as little people, lessons on sharing, good manners, and otherwise golden-rule type living.

after nearly 2 full months of full-time work in a customer service position, i have learned one thing: all those things we learned as little children go out the window as we become adults.  we don’t expect to wait in line, we don’t need to treat others as we might like to be treated, we are entitled to always be right, to have others clean up our messes, to live, in general, with as little consequence as possible.  we want what we want, when we want it, while shushing the voices of little children as they throw temper tantrums over toys they want but can’t have.

it’s no wonder children have such a hard time learning these lessons…there are very few examples of what those things tangibly look like.

but that’s a discussion for another time.

despite the extreme potential for me to be jaded about all of humanity based on my time on the phones, i have come to glean some very important lessons:

1. just keep apologizing.
i have long struggled with apologizing for things that were not my fault, as tho i were somehow responsible for however and whatever the other person was feeling about a situation.  even if i did not cause it.  it has taken me a great while to realize that i did not have to absorb everyone around me’s emotions and frustrations about things, and i did not have to do anything to try and fix the situation.

apologies, however, are key to connecting with my customers on the phone, for helping them to know and understand i’m on their side and want to help.  even if i can’t do anything to change their situation.  apologizing smooths the path, calms highly-stressed nerves, helps them feel heard and understood.

even more than that, apologizing keeps me humble.  it reminds me that i don’t need to always be right, that it’s ok to admit that things have gone wrong and that i can’t fix them.  it keeps me at an equal level to the people i am working with.

2. stay present.

i have a tendency, when i’m on the phone to lean back in my chair, portraying a lazy, couldn’t-care-less attitude.  this is when i tend to get the worst calls.  when i’m focused on the caller, tho, listening intently to them, my eyes not traveling the room, i have a lot more success.

3. when in doubt, keep your mouth shut.

i had a really rough call a couple weeks ago, from a caller who was extremely irritated and yelling at me.  when he made a comment about “you people” having so much money, i made the biggest mistake known to customer service: i took it personally.  and then i made an off-the-cuff comment to the effect of “who do you think i am?”  fortunately i immediately realized my mistake and was able to round it off a little more by explaining that i’m in the same boat (of working hard for my income) and understand his frustration. still, i sat there shaking my head, unable to believe that had come out of my mouth.

i mentioned this to a coworker and he gave me the best idea yet: when you find they are really flaring up, just sit quietly.  eventually they will come down, their voices will lower, they will mimic your silence.  when they ask if you’re there, you simply answer, “i was just listening.”  this is disarming for them and they feel suddenly worn out from their fighting.  or that’s the goal anyway.  it works tho, i’ve already tried it.  some people not only calm themselves, they thank me for my patience.

i know i have lots more to learn when it comes to customer service, but i do agree with Mr. Fulghum.  we desperately need, if we are ever to live at peace with one another, to return to the values we were taught in Kindergarten.  alas, i can only expect change if it starts with me.