Midlife Intermission - Stuffing of Life

Lessons from the Nest – The Stuffing of Life

“After years of professional accomplishments, I have realized my health has suffered. This year on my development plan I included ‘take care of me’ as one of my three objectives. I am hoping my boss holds me to it.” Next to the chair sits a beautiful Louis Vuitton bag.

These were not my words, but they could have been. This was not my bag, but I am sure someday, it too could have been.

It’s the spring of last year and I was participating in a week-long leadership training. This particular week was a major catalyst in my decision to walk away from the familiar and take a break. In attendance are three executive sponsors that sit at the highest level of our leadership teams – people that are carrying the weight of running a $20+ billion business. The bag belongs to one of the female leaders there to help us continue our climb up the ladder to reach her office.

The image of that bag, sitting next to her, while hearing her words, has stuck with me like something sticky on my sneaker I can’t scrape off.

If I were to play narrator down the path to purchasing this bag, I imagine it would sound something like this…

“I earned this bag. I work hard, and I deserve this bag. When you see me with this bag, you’ll feel my worth.”

As I came closer and closer to the unmistakable realization that I was not leading the life I had envisioned, I bought many of my own versions of that bag. Sometimes it was a new pair of running shoes (meant to bring back exercise into my packed schedule) or maybe a new fire pit for the backyard (meant to increase the family time I desired) or maybe it was a reservation at a fancy restaurant (so my husband and I could ‘connect’). I always had a new purchase in mind that would bring my life back into alignment, so I’d stop feeling so out of whack.

But Louis V isn’t just selling a bag, they are selling a feeling – a solution. ‘Do you have a hole in your life? Here’s the perfect thing to fill it and lucky for you it comes in multiple sizes, so you can always come back for another if this one doesn’t do the trick’.

And of course, we keep going back for more because we’ve earned it. Look at how hard we are working after all… we deserve it.

This one life? I didn’t earn it. It was just given to me. I’m not sure how to justify the investment in stopping to just live it for a bit.

After years of doing the same thing though, I figured what was the worst thing that could happen if I did it differently. What if I stopped going to that store for more? What if I invested in me? The amazing thing about that plan is that it’s fairly inexpensive – the biggest cost is time. Time away from so much hustle and consumption. Time away from obligations that don’t serve you. Time for a walk or a cup of tea with a friend or an actual phone conversation with someone that really matters to you. It’s a rejection of people pleasing and ‘no’ has to be a word you hear yourself saying when things don’t align with your life’s investment.

For me, it’s also about attending to the values I hold dear but somehow put on the back burner for too long. I want to actually live my 7 core values, not just keep them tucked away in my journal…

  1. A family that sits around the dinner table together and laughs and breaks bread.
  2. A focus on nurturing creativity in myself and our children.
  3. Leaving a legacy of service in my community, even if the impact is small.
  4. A mind that is always learning and a body that is always growing stronger. A faith that is always walking with love and compassion.
  5. Female friendships that are rock solid – I want to spend the next 60 years laughing and crying with women that inspire me.
  6. I want my mother to impart every story and bit of wisdom she’s soaked up before we have to say goodbye to each other someday.
  7. More time with my husband – we really like each other – we should keep that going.

“Take care of me”. Those words weren’t mine, but I knew that feeling.

At that point last year, I knew how to invest in the stuff of living, but I wasn’t sure how to invest in the stuffing of life. I’m working on that.

 

2 Comments
  • Doug MacCallum
    Posted at 22:18h, 28 February Reply

    Love you, Jess.

  • Amy Wedemeyer
    Posted at 06:01h, 01 March Reply

    Love this one!!!

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