crash and burn

computer crashI’ve been burning the candle at both ends for a while now. Not much margin. Not much sleep. Running late. Not remembering all I have to do. Just barely keeping my head above water… sometimes going under.

Last night I sank.

I have spent many, many hours during the last few months transitioning to a new computer. I have a definite love-hate relationship with that process. Its is nice to have more speed, more space, and new apps, but I dread the work it takes to set the new computer up with my programs, information, and personal settings. This new computer seemed more difficult than others before. More frustrations, more questions, more things I didn’t like… but I almost had it working the way I like…

and then it crashed last night! Dead. Black screen. No coming back.

We called technical support, and they hinted that it was probably my fault somehow – that didn’t help my frustration level (just saying). I have to ship it away, and it will be two weeks before I get it back.

Guess what? I haven’t left myself enough margin in my life for a two-week detour! I don’t have enough “free” time to do that transition work all over again. But it doesn’t really matter. I will have to find time to repeat the process.

I have been wrestling with my bad attitudes, panic, and discouragement all day. I am also feeling guilty for having my life wound up so tightly that this kind of bump in the road has me so flustered.

I mentioned my crisis in a Facebook status and received lots of empathy and encouragement – that has helped. I had my data backed up. I actually have an old computer I can use, so I remember to be grateful and not complain too strongly when others around the world have none. And I am wondering what other lessons I might need to learn…

Do I need to make some schedule changes? Am I reverting to old habits of few healthy boundaries? Is this just an inevitable season of life or a result of bad choices? What can I change to handle situations like this better in the future?

Have you been through a crash and burn experience? How do you handle it?

pushing through the mountain

mountainsexhausted.

stressed.

anxious.

overwhelmed.

can’t breathe.

no end in sight.

Ever felt that way?

That is how I have felt the last two weeks. The last two weeks were an accumulation of the start of this year… normal work and immediate family responsibilities, but add to that, a serious family illness with death as the final outcome requiring out-of-state travel to the memorial service and the search, purchase, move-in, and furnishing of a new home… and assignments for two MA classes to top it off!

My professors basically gave me these last two weeks to catch up on the semester’s work because I had fallen so far behind. Otherwise, we were looking at dropping the classes or taking an extension into the summer… neither of those sounded like a good option to me!

As a StrengthsFinder identified “Achiever”, I did not want to settle for less than pushing through the mountain and getting to the other side… where rest and tranquility awaited me (I can dream, can’t I?).

However, as I pushed hard – hours with my nose in the books, more hours on the computer, turning down invitations to fun events, ignoring the piles all around my new house, sleeping 4-5 hours a night, getting impatient with my husband… I began to resent the effort.

I began to question why I really cared. I began to doubt my ability to get through the mountain.

Have you ever been there? Have you wanted to give up?

Tonight I am celebrating… and reappearing here 🙂 because I have read the three books and 15 scholarly articles and written the three papers that put me… officially caught up with my MA work! The piles are still on the floor. My husband has been gracious and forgiving. I feel tired still. But for now, we will celebrate a few moments of freedom! And I will surely sleep well tonight – maybe for even a few extra hours.

Sometimes the mountains do seem insurmountable. Sometimes they stand in front of us for many more than two weeks. Sometimes it is appropriate to give up the climb, or go around, or find a different path. This time I just pushed hard, and I got through. I am grateful.

What mountains are you facing? How do you take on the mountains in your life?

not all about me

nerve-racking.

nail-biting.

pacing.

praying.

eating-too-much.

eating-too-little.  

head-ache.

sore neck.

work hard.

can’t sleep.

stress

My stressor this week was an on-line music competition for our son, Matt. He needed views, votes, “likes”, tweets, etc in order to move through the brackets and win his dream-of-a-lifetime to be the opening act for a more famous YouTube star, Tyler Ward, who is doing a U.S. concert tour.

We – the committed, slightly crazy parents – did all we could to rally support for Matt. We facebooked and tweeted; we emailed; we cajoled our co-workers to get on-line; we shamelessly begged our friends to vote each day. We investigated winning strategies and stayed up too late at night watching the results roll in.

We believe in our son and want to support his dreams in any way we can.

We also have our own lives and work and responsibilities and have to put limits on what we can do for him. There were times when I had to shut down the computer and stay away from the “competition world” for a while. Other times when I had to “let go” emotionally of my desires for his success and remember…

This is not all about me.

It doesn’t all depend on me; I am not indispensable.

I’ve had to remember that lesson at work as well as with my family. I can get over stressed about a project, a goal, a desired culture change, a responsibility and forget… I am not the only one active here. Just as Matt has other friends and fans that support his music, I have other teammates, mentors, and resources that I can – and should – involve in my projects.

When I trust only in myself and forget to partner well, I miss out on the strengths, talents, encouragement, wisdom, support, ideas, energy, finances, prayers, materials, etc. that others bring to the table.

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
African proverb

I firmly believe that together is better than solo. Friends, co-workers, fans, family, partners, and mentors are crucial in my world… because this is not all about me!

How do you handle your stress?  How do you battle the “all about me” attitude?

****PS He did win the competition! 🙂

out of control

Have you ever had one of those days-weeks-years when everything feels out of control? Too many people with needs? Too much to think about? Too much to do?

I’ve been there. No, actually I am there now. Sometimes I feel like I can’t breathe, like I have a huge boulder pressing against my chest. Other times I feel all jittery and accelerated as if I drank too many energy drinks or too many cups of coffee. I talk too fast, but struggle to connect coherent thoughts. A friend described it like a snow globe… ideas swirling everywhere in her head, even after she sits or lies down to rest. Some people dream that they are in a car, squealing around the corners out of control or flying over the guard rails.

Stop the car! I want to get out!

The problem is… I am not in a car. I am living life, and I can’t just get out. I can, however, learn to control the speed and handle the curves better. To manage my stress level, I’ve practiced a few tips over the years (that I am re-applying this week!). These are a few of them…

Talk to someone: It helps to get another perspective, receive objective advice, hear experience and tips, or just laugh with a friend or mentor about the chaos. It doesn’t require a lot of time; a chat in the hallway, an honest conversation over lunch, a phone call or coffee date can make a big difference in my attitude.

Toss the artificial deadlines: I put unnecessary pressure on myself because I want something done NOW that doesn’t really need to happen immediately. Many appointments can be rescheduled, due dates adjusted, bills paid in installments, dream projects postponed to a better time. If it is causing stress, but isn’t truly urgent, I am learning to let it go until later.

Test it visually: I quickly overload my calendar when I generalize tasks and time availability. To counter that, when life feels out of control, I write down every major to-do item or category that I have and then schedule specific time for it so that the calendar helps me see reality. “I’ll do that tomorrow” requires that I actually confirm that I have some free time tomorrow. “I can get to that next week” means that an empty day or part day is really available for the new idea. If I don’t have extra time, I need to understand – and see – that I will squeeze out a prior commitment when I add a new one.

Think rhythm: Life is a journey; it ebbs and flows. There are deadlines…and boredom. School semesters… and vacations. Friends… and loneliness. New babies… and graduates. Weddings… and funerals. Health… and crisis. Promotion… and retirement. Much we cannot control; some we can. I don’t want to add additional stress by stressing out over the stress. When I accept and appreciate where I am, and practice these tips when possible, I breathe a little easier, think more clearly and keep my car on the road.

How about you… Is your day-week-year out of control? How do you handle the stress?