I woke up to the familiar sounds of an IV and vitals machine, but the walls were different. It was my fourth time in the hospital. The infection came out of nowhere-once again.
I could tell I was on the ground floor because of the trees outside my window. I didn’t know it at the time, but those trees would be burned into my memory so clearly. On days when it snows here in Colorado, I often have flashbacks of the snow falling on those trees.
They told me the hospital was full on the regular floors. I was the sickest outside of ICU, so they had moved me to the cancer ward.
The room was bigger than I was used to with tasteful wallpaper and paint. It had a serene feel. Serene for a hospital cancer ward, anyway.
The nurses were different there. They were less scurried and more present. Present enough for one of them to hold my hand when I fell apart and cried. It felt like the illness was a constant roadblock that kept me from moving forward with my life.
I was wrong. The illness would be THE thing that would give me an actual life.
The first night fell and I was alone. It was 11:20 pm when I heard it for the first time. It started as a muffled cry, then suddenly a shout. Then a wave of uncontrollable sobbing. It was from a woman down the ward.
2020 has been a year of exhaustion, refocus, more exhaustion, more refocus. Pivoting. Being paralyzed. Stressing. Relaxing. Sleeping more. Stressing more. And frankly wondering what in the heck I’m doing.
In quarantine I’ve been like hamster on a wheel. 1,000% in a cage. Going a hundred miles an hour with nowhere to go. The industry I work in vanished overnight. I found the need to create a new “income stream”. Hence the pivoting, refocus, paralysis….At the end, I’ve accomplished very little.
I “should” have handled it better. After all, I know how to do this. Embrace change. Deal with elements I’m not in control of. Live with the fear of losing a lot. I got this down.
And I do “handle it” considering I’ve been down this road before. With all my lack of grace and competency in 2020, I have remembered and held on to something very important.
The greatest lesson I learned in my past trek of getting sick, almost dying, living in financial straits, having PTSD and struggling with depression (how’s that for a positive sentence) is this:
In the abundance of fear, illness, lack of control, and stress, many of us have had to face scarcity for the first time in our lives. Scarcity of toilet paper beginning in March, scarcity of space in our homes, scarcity of jobs, scarcity of time, scarcity of support and scarcity of security/stability.
The tendency to hoard, to hold on, to hide out when things are scarce is a natural reaction. Recognizing the abundance you still have is a way to release some of the fear. Release some of the stress.
Abundance helps you release that tight grasp. Abundance helps you move towards a more open heart. A more open hand to give.
In the old days (pre-2020) we didn’t recognize all that we had. It was almost grotesque how much we took for granted. We walked into grocery store and got whatever we wanted, paid our bills, sent our kids to school while we worked, met with friends, watched sports, ate out on Tuesday…Wednesday…pretty much any day so we didn’t have to cook.
Yet we complained because, with all we had, we were still discontent.
Then came 2020. With it came scarcity. We crammed into our houses and had to look at the people we lived with in the eye. Some for the first time in a long time. We looked at the décor on our walls and the items shoved in the back of our closets. We looked at our emails and the news wondering if our jobs were next. We looked at the food we ate, the shows we watched, and the photos of the people we missed. We took a long hard look at our life.
With the lack of space, time, friendships and freedom we began to learn a very important lesson. A lesson contrary to every success book, every entrepreneur “secrets to being amazing”, every advertisement trying to entice us to buy more. A lesson I learned in a hospital bed.
-Homeschooling your kids while you worked and finding that little bit of heaven when nobody bothered you in the bathroom for 10 whole minutes. A small thing that meant so much.
-When loneliness crept in and your dog or cat hopped on your lap and looked you in the eye telling you there’s not just you. With him or her there’s always two.
-When taking a walk in the fresh air and open spaces lifted our butts off the bed and our mood in ways we never noticed before. A small thing that changed our whole day.
-When your paycheck came it held more significance. That job you hated was a lifeline you didn’t know you had.
-The phone or zoom call from family or friends – now took top priority.
-When the holidays came and you remembered eating your Grandma’s meal as a child. A small moment in the grand scheme of your life. But now the memories and the meaning hold such sweet abundance.
-Your health meant more. Having 8 rolls of toilet paper meant more. Watching your kids actually grow in front of your literal eyes. It all means more.
-There’s been abundance in our scarcity. Because we are forced to notice all the things we took for granted and missed.
When you think of the happiest moments of your life-most are in the small. Playing outside with your friends until dark. Driving in the front seat of your dad’s pick-up truck. The first time he or she caught your eye. Playing in the snow. Watching the waves. Getting your first small promotion. Laughing uncontrollably with someone you loved. This is where life happened. In the small.
In 2020 we’ve been faced with scarcity which has caused us to live in the small. This is where the abundance of real life-the good, the bad, and meaningful- all happens.
My hope is as life moves forward into 2021 and we find ourselves in something new, yet all too familiar, that we each remember the lessons we’ve learned. For so long we blindly believed the lie that more is always better. Bigger house, better job, more money, better body. Push harder. Be more. Do more.
May we remember what it meant to be squashed in a house full of people we loved and hated and loved some more. May we remember the value of having a small bowl of soup with someone special that far outweighs a fancy meal in a room full of people we don’t know. May we remember the value of a paycheck our hard work brings. May we remember the feeling of gratitude of having good health. May we remember all the small moments, all the small gifts, that made our life abundant in all the scarcity.
1. You Always Make Me Feel Guilty. Other people seem to really like you a lot better than me. You’re all they ever talk about. You’re what they leap out of bed for in the morning and the last thing they think of before they fall asleep. I don’t leap out of bed for any reason and you are THE reason I can’t sleep. People seem to love you, but, truthfully, sometimes I can’t stand the thought of you. That makes me feel like a really bad person and, thus, I feel guilty.
2. You’re Really Controlling Over My Time. Somedays I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it. You, on the other hand, expect me to be there on the times you dictate. I have to live my whole life wrapped around your time frame. THEN when you give me two weeks off, you act like I should be grateful. 2 weeks! I think our relationship should be flipped. I work the times I want to work, but then 2 weeks out of the year, I’ll work when you need me to. Deal?
3. You Don’t Respect My Boundaries. When I’m out with my friends or spending time with my family, you’re constantly e-mailing, calling, messaging, or texting me. I’ve talked to me about not letting myself fall into your trap, but I don’t listen to myself. I don’t respect my boundaries just like you don’t respect my boundaries and that’s why we both make me miserable.
If there is ever a season for zero productivity, internal rage, self doubt, lack of self control, and overall inadequacy as a Mom-preneur (work from home Mom who is an entrepreneur) -it would be summer. Summertime at my house begins with visions of my children in summer dresses frolicking freely in a flowered meadow. Me- smiling as I watch them contently while sitting on a hand knit wool blanket from Ireland with my laptop resting softly in the shade and money flowing freely into my bank account. Reality usually sets in sometime within the first week of summer. Reality includes screaming matches through closed doors at my kids….and me ingesting one….ok sometime two…entire bags of BBQ potato chips while getting some…a little…ok sometimes ZERO work done in an entire day.
I work from home…thankfully….unfortunately…(My kids would give you that exact same response.) Below is my typical summer work day I have expertly honed through the years:
-Go to Wal-Mart. Spend a fortune to have a “cheap” summer. Items include bubbles, sprinklers, plastic baseball bats, bug catchers, sidewalk chalk, kites, and any other shiny bright object that appears to have more than 10 minutes of entertainment value. All items must be foldable, collapsible, etc., as they will end up in a filthy heap in my garage that no one will touch after the first week of June.
-Create schedules, sticker charts, “mommy’s working” note for my office door
-Explain to the children the “rules” of when they can bother me and when they can’t
-Make a calendar of all the fun things we will do when Mommy’s not working
-Close my office door to work…and listen to the children start to fight
-Open the door to find out what’s going on. Get them re-situated. Close the office door and listen to them fight.
-Open the door and bring out a new shiny bright object for them to play with
-Close the door and listen to them play for 2 seconds…then fight
-Open the door, yell, slam something new down on the table for them to play with
-Close the door and listen to them complain that they’re bored
-Open the door, kick them outside
-Close the door and watch them fight outside my office window
-Open the window, scream at them to stop fighting because the neighbors can hear them. Close the window and watch them flop down like dejected sloths melting in summer heat and complain that they’re bored.
-Work for 2 seconds and hear a knock on my window. Listen to them ask me to come back inside. I shake my head no. Repeat 872 times.
-Let them back inside 10 minutes later and watch them collapse in a heap in front of electronics
-Close the door and feel guilty I’m working instead of spending time with my kids
-Open the door to see what they’re watching and make awkward conversation. Feel guilty that I’m spending time with my kids instead of working. Go back in my office and close the door.
-Listen to them fight over electronics. Open the door and scream at them they’re lucky they don’t live in a 3rd world country. Give them a lecture. Make them do a chore.
-Go back in the office. Feel guilty. Stress eat. Glance at the time. It’s 9:17 am.
-Repeat hourly…for three months.
I decided I needed some work “productivity hacks” that were better than what’s previously listed when it came to keeping my kids entertained for little or no money while I worked. I did some extensive scientific research…by posting a sign on my Facebook page…for advice. Here are a few of my favorites from friends and some from “SuperMoms” on the Internet who lie about how perfect their parenting skills/home/and children are:
Library Summer Programs
Geocaching OR painting and finding rocks. Here is an example:
Work while you vacation. I do this A LOT. We’ve spent over a month on the road so far this summer. There’s wifi pretty much everywhere if I need it. I schedule certain days to work where the kids are at the pool/beach, etc. and certain days for fun. OR work in mornings, play in the afternoons. I use this to book my travel: http://bucketlistvacations.tripspin.com/snap
Hire a “Mommy’s Helper” for a few hours each morning, Cheaper than a babysitter or nanny.
*Bonus: #36. Become independently wealthy. Hire 12 nannies. Fly them all to Paris with the kids for the Summer while I get numerous plastic surgery procedures done. Facetime them periodically…so I can listen to them fight. Then hang up and let the Nannies deal with it.
I have found these mindsets helpful:
-Remember kids don’t need to be “entertained” twenty-four seven. It’s good for them to figure out what to do on their own when they’re bored.
-I automatically know summer will not be my most productive months. I try to remember that when I’m feeling guilty about not getting tons done. My kids are only hear for so many years, and I want to spend time with them as much as I can…well-I MAY have moments where I want to spend time as little as I can…but for the most part-I want to be with them and I need to plan my work year accordingly.
-Boundaries are ok. It’s good to lead by example and show the kids the value of working hard. They learn by watching what you do, not by listening to what you say. If you want your kids to know how to work, you yourself have got to do it.
-Give yourself grace. We all have “Mommy Meltdowns” behind closed doors. There’s no such thing as a “SuperMom”. We’re human and we fail. That’s ok.
-Support one another in our Mommy endeavors. No haters needed. Mom’s hate themselves already. We don’t need other people pointing out our imperfections. Find a supportive group you can be real with, encourage each other and help each other out.
Now-if you’ll excuse me. I need to open my office door and yell.
Stacy Pederson is a Colorado based Humorist and Funny Motivational Speaker who is incessantly insecure with a chronic Thai Food / Netflix binge habit.