Stop defining yourself by your career

Most of my adult life, I have spent seeking definition through a career. My parents pushed for an outstanding work ethic. My interpretation of that lesson was believing a job was the basis of our existence. Careers provide financial stability, security, and take up a vast amount of our time. In my mind, it was so important that I always made it a conversation topic. I introduced friends as “this is Lisa. She is a nurse” or “that is my friend, Kristie. She is a teacher.” My husband is Shaun, a police officer. My mother works at a college. My father fixes lab equipment at major hospitals like NIH and Johns Hopkins. That is how I defined them.

I was once “Lauren. I screen deceased donors for tissue donation.” Then, I became “Lauren, a Medical Biller and Coder.” Now, I am Lauren, “just a stay-at-home mom, taking more classes in computer programming and stressed the fuck out.” Before my third child,  I was working towards my sought-after success in medical coding. Then, daycare costs equaled my income and my children needed me home more. I have been a stay-at-home mom for over two years. What I believed defined and increased my worth has been on hold. Six months into leaving my job, I realized I would have to completely start over from the bottom when I returned. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. For over a year, I have felt as if my identity had diminished. I have racked my brain on a different career that would provide immediate value.

Last week, during my daily inventory all my failures, I felt a familiar anxious chest pain. My worth was depleted. I was nothing. I would have to start back at the bottom and, at almost 37, I felt like a joke. But then, a little voice in my head screamed above all the noise: “Stop defining yourself by your career. Your definition reaches far beyond a job.“

Well, shit. There was a time in my life that I frequently told this voice to shut up. But this voice did always know her shit. I decided to throw this idea around for a few minutes.

What else could possibly define me?

After years of focusing on my faults, I still felt a little lost. Instead of looking at my strengths, I thought about how I had always defined other people.

1. Lisa, the nurse, was a hard-working, kick ass, compassionate person who sacrificed her time to save and help others. She was not just a nurse. She was an amazing person with a huge heart who worked long, hard hours, and knew her stuff. This is every nurse I have ever met and talked to.

2. Kristie, the teacher, was an amazingly patient and caring woman who spent many, many hours being a role model for her students. She puts in well over 40 hours and is tested daily by kids that aren’t hers. She influences the lives of so many. She believes in what she does. Almost every teacher I have met possesses extreme compassion and love for what they do.

3. My mother is a huge influence on college students and helps shape them into young adults before they enter the working world. She is a guide and there to offer insight into life that they have yet to experience. My mother works so hard and was recently awarded Employee of the Year at the university she works at.

4. My father works so many hours and has spent most of his life building relationships and knowledge on equipment that helps develop cures for major diseases. He is there when those lab techs need him, because they may just be on the verge of a cure for Ebola or cancer.

5. My husband is so much more than a police officer. The lives he tries to change and the security he provides is more than I can comprehend. He sees and hears things that change people. Every shift he risks his life for strangers in his community. He does not have hatred or disgust for the people he has to take to jail. Rather he still sees them as people who are going through a rough time. He sacrifices his physical and mental health because he believes in what he started doing over 13 years ago.

                It became easier to see that the worth of these people are not based on the careers or job titles. It takes an amazing person to go into certain fields, even a receptionist or cashier. Their worth is in who they are and their jobs benefit from that. Their work ethic and character has defined their success in their jobs. They are hard-working, compassionate, caring people that made a difference in the lives of so many, regardless of what their title is. They have my respect because they rock at being people and how they treat other people, even those they are less than fond of.

                So, what defines us?

1. How we treat other people.

                It is simple, really. Either you are a dick, or you are not. If you are dick, then you are defined as a dick. If you treat others with compassion and empathy, then you are a good person.

                An example is taking our heads out of our asses long enough to see other people, be there for someone else, and really give a crap about someone besides ourselves when it is needed. Hold the door for someone. Look someone in the eye when you say “thank you” and “have a good day.” Really give a shit when you ask someone “how are you?” Shut up and listen instead of only thinking about what you can reply with. Really give a shit.

2. How we treat ourselves.

                If you spend most of your time beating yourself up, like I do, then you suck at being good to yourself. You can be caring to others, but if you are nasty to yourself, then you are still a dick. Start focusing on your strengths and build yourself up on those. Make a strong foundation with inventorying your amazing talents and characteristics. Everything else is built up around that.

3. Do we take time to really live.

                Work takes up so much of our lives. Don’t live to work. I know, I know. There is that whole “save for retirement” thing that is embedded at an early age. But truth be told, I have met some amazing folks who worked their whole lives, only to be physically miserable when retirement came knocking. Retirement becomes doctor appointments and hospital stays. Then there are the late 30 something folks who dropped dead during a jog and never made it to retirement. There are people who die from cancer or in car accidents. Work what you need to and spend the rest of your time really living.

                We get one shot at this. We get one life. We are defined by so much more than our careers.

I am Lauren, a super kick-ass stay-at-home mom who loves making a positive difference in the lives of others. I will one day go back to work and be successful, no matter what my job title is. I know this because I fucking rock.

Be amazing at being you. After all, there is only one of you… in this galaxy anyway.

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I Am Depression

I have a family.

I have friends.

I have a home.

I have love.

I have support.

I have an education.

I have goals.

I have success.

I have opportunity.

I have good health.

I have life.

I do not want for anything.

I do not suffer from a traumatic past.

I do not have any additional severe mental disorders.

I do not come from a severely broken home and childhood.

My life is amazing. I have everything and then some. I know this. I tell myself this daily. I am smart, strong, capable, and loving.

But some days, in my head, I am so much less than deserving of any of it.  

I am weak.

I am worthless.

I am broken.

I am a failure.

I am a burden.

I am irritating.

I am weird.

I am not enough.

I am alone.

I have spent hours crying, then spent days crying because I cannot stop crying. I have questioned how anyone could love me. I will fall into a deep, dark pit and struggle to pull myself out. I have come to recognize when it is time to call for help. I fear the day I cannot pull myself out or find the strength to ask for help. My medical records document “severe depression with generalized anxiety disorder.”

I am embarrassed.

I am angry at myself.

I am scared.

I am confused.

I am exhausted.

But, today I will not give up.

I will not stop fighting.

I will win.

I will help others who fall into a pit.

I will never give up.


The Carb Hangover

We cheated. Yes, that is right. We cheated. It was not supposed to happen and wasn’t even on a regularly scheduled day. Well, it kind of was. We cheated last Friday, too. I mean that we had not planned last night. It had not been a conversation topic this week. One minute we were talking about the kids and the cancelled Boston and Rays game (so disappointing!). The next minute he is laying there, confessing he needed to cheat. He said it was a mental thing and he felt an overload of mental fog. Cheating does not help that, just so you know. But he insisted. He told me he couldn’t cheat unless I did too. He needed a partner in crime. I gave in to support my husband.

 Spontaneous cheating is the worst. I feel like my cheat was wasted on tacos, ice cream, and peanut butter M&Ms. Not that those aren’t awesome when you have been eating Caesar salads all week with salmon and bacon. No croutons. It is just nice to plan for what you will stuff your face with on the planned cheat day.

I have a cheesy gordita crunch headache, a milk and sugar stomach ache, and my joints all are suffering from candy inflammation. My gums are inflamed. I just want to go back to bed even through I slept seven hours. I feel completely hungover. My lower back aches again, my hips are sore, my neck is stiff, and my head is pounding.

The scale had hit a 10 year low for me. I was wearing a pair of pants that I bought eight years ago with the intention of wearing them one day. They are a size 6, but American Eagle brand, so really like a 4 or 5 with no backside allowed. Considering I have a back side, I was feeling pretty good about it all. There may or may not have been a wear in one small area of the backside seams from stretching, but I still got them on and could move in them. SCORE!

It has not just been about the number on the scale. I have always had a small frame. This lifestyle change was about feeling better. It is about not taking a pill everyday for aches, pains, cholesterol, and depression. I do not want to be a diabetic. I am 36 years old and started realizing what my diet was doing to me.

So, today I will suffer through my carb hangover. I will take the next two to three days to start to feel better, just in time for next Friday’s “mental health cheat day.”

Alright, Pot.

borrowed from https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=I4iLbjsI&id=56F6F3F516B7621D957B3BBC0E36FA0C8CAF40EC&thid=OIP.I4iLbjsIYzv2sHB7xveI9gHaGV&mediaurl=http%3a%2f%2fimg0102o.psstatic.com%2f156927410_vintage-cast-iron-tea-kettle-with-lid-mark-number-7.jpg&exph=1026&expw=1200&q=picture+of+antique++black+kettle&simid=607989912732959093&selectedIndex=23

Today, a man at the local gas station informed me that a chemical in the diet Dr. Pepper in my hand was proven to be harmful. He sternly added that studies show it causes cancer. He also advised that I should stick to “real sugar” because it is better for us.

I do not argue against his statements. Yes, sugar substitutes are not healthy. But when I mentioned that my doctor may argue with his logic, he cast me a sideways glance, and I laughed.  He asked, “why do you need diet anyway?” There I stood, a measly 127 lbs, 5’1” to his 6 feet, approaching 300 lbs. Again, I mentioned the sugar. After another sideways glance he reiterated that the chemicals are bad in diet sodas. He told me I would be better off sticking to the regular soda with real sugar.

He turned back to the cashier, collected his two packs of Winston-Salem cigarettes, and left me standing there with a smirk.

Shift Lanes

One of the greatest quotes I have ever heard came from a 90-something year old woman. I was working in a doctor’s office and she was at the check-out window talking with my co-worker about her age and life experience. My co-worker loved chatting with patients, especially the older ones. Older folks have so much more life experience and knowledge that we tend to take for granted. Next time you have a chance, spend time talking with someone over the age of 60. The life advice they have is remarkable and usually comical the older they get.

My co-worker asked the woman “do you have any regrets in life?” With a quick response, and little hesitation, she replied “I wish I would have had more sex.” My jaw dropped. My co-worker let out the loudest laugh. A nurse behind the woman stopped prepping IV bags and smirked. The doctor, had he overheard, would have turned ten shades of red.

Out of everything this woman could possibly wish to do differently in her life, she looked back and wished she would have had more sex. A 90-something year old woman, moving around with her walker, and knowing the Death was merely a block away, shocked everyone in ear shot that day. She left us that day with the advice of more sex. I never saw her again after that. She passed away before her next appointment. But I will never forget her and the importance of that one 2-minute moment.

When we are simply going from one doctor’s appointment to another, just waiting for the end, life appears very different. It will not be about money or career successes. It may not even be about making amends with people we lost touch with, family members included. It will not be about our boat, huge home, fancy car in the driveway, or how big our TV is. There is so much more to life than working towards something else.

I have talked to folks who were raising their grandchildren because their children had become drug addicts and unsuitable parents. They had worked their entire lives to retire, and then ended up being parents all over again. I have asked a very sick man how he was always in such a great mood every single time I saw him. With failing lungs and a dying liver, his winded reply was “why not?” as he gave me a smile.  I was told that we spend half of our lives working towards money and credit and success to obtain things we think we need in life. Then we reach a point that we can purchase all the things we thought we needed. But by then, these things are not so important. Sure, a Cadillac is nice to ride around in, but a little Honda will work just as well. A big and fancy home is nice to look at, but then you find you must fill it up with stuff and maintain all of that stuff.

At a young age, we are expected to seriously consider careers. We attend college, spend money and years on an education, that eventually we could end up despising or not finding success in. We may spend many years working at a job we may not feel was our calling, but the pay is good to support our family with the things we need. Some of us spend so much time and effort going above and beyond to get raises and climb ladders, which makes us feel important. But when we fail, we feel like a failure. After all, we must be successful.

Ask a 90-year old man or woman what their regrets in life may be. They won’t tell you it was getting an education as a doctor because of the money. They will not say that they wished they had bought a Lamborghini or lived in a huge house. Next time you feel lost and confused about the path you are taking in life, ask yourself if it will matter at 90 years old, if you make it that long. If you do not feel like the lane you are traveling in is right for you, get out of it. Too hard? Start making decisions and moves so that it is possible to switch lanes. What if you do not find something more in a different lane? O’well. Trying and not succeeding is better than never trying at all. Have dreams. Have hopes. Have faith that there is more to you and your life. If you are not enjoying the moments in your life, the people around you, and you are simply going through the motions to get to the next motions, shift lanes. We have one shot at this.

Life is about so much more than moving through it from one goal to the next. It is about savoring the moments we have been given and making the most of those moments.

And more sex. Life is about having more sex.    

Enjoy the Breeze

image borrowed from https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=ahghdvpV&id=39F06DB1E78B21FD8FD71C9BF85F90EBBA822546&thid=OIP.ahghdvpVwYyFzIF-qGJaUgHaE7&mediaurl=http%3a%2f%2f1000awesomethings.com%2fwp-content%2fuploads%2f2008%2f10%2fworks-well-in-all-seasons.jpg&exph=333&expw=500&q=arm+out+window&simid=608024461457492347&selectedIndex=17&ajaxhist=0

It is Sunday. That means a 52 minute drive up, followed by a 52 minute drive back down. Approximately 10 hours will pass before the actions are repeated. It feels a lot like a “rinse and repeat.” Variations occur. Usually a child has to suddenly pee, usually when a minimum of ten miles exists between exits. Other times, someone talks me into donuts. This morning, I heard “Dunkin will make me feel better.” She was right. After all, what else makes us feel better when we have a runny nose, cough, and low grade fever?

Rinse.

On our way up, everyone was quiet. By quiet I mean one was in the back seat singing, one in the front seat was putting a car together because his medication kicked in, and the sick one was in the back seat stoned off Tylenol and natural honey cough syrup. The drive up was rather uneventful.

On the way back, it was just the stoned one and I. She was quiet. I had a chance to get lost in my many thoughts. Usually I get lost and interrupted, then feel out of sorts because I could not sort them all out.

In the middle of analyzing 100 things, I noticed an adult and overweight arm out the window of an old, faded, green minivan in front of us. It struck me as odd. Not that an arm was out the window, wind surfing, but rather it was strange as that it was clearly an adult male. My kids do it all the time, because they love fighting against the rushing wind. They love feeling the pressure against their hand and arm movements. I must admit, it is a cool feeling.

I started wondering if this grown man was high or had already been drinking. I mean, what causes an adult male to act like a kid with his hand flying and fighting through 70 plus mph winds? Not too mention, it was hot out and they were letting out the air conditioning. I did not find this to be an adult action.

But it was a cool feeling. It was nice to feel that freedom and force against your hand and arm. It was even cooler to feel like that part of you is flying through the air, away from the world, while the other parts are safe and secure in the car.

Seeing this man hang his arm out the window and soar his hand through the rough cuts and bursts of highway driving force winds made me crave the same feeling. I reached up to lower my window, then I remembered I did not have a hair tie. Once again, childlike behaviors killed by my low desire to have my face whipped by my thin, stringy hair.

Therefore, on the next part of this journey, I will remember a hair tie and set an example for some other adult, in their thoughts, and allow my hand to wind surf during our 52 minute drive up, then back.

Repeat.

Retirement Day #I Lost Count

Wiley’s Log:

Another AWESOME DAY!!! This ROCKS!

Mom’s Log:

Day seven through whatever today is has been great. The things I notice most is that he loves being out of his kennel and lives for it now. He enjoys walks, and is most happy when the kids are home.

Yesterday I was gone all day, but when I came home, he was in the window, ears perked up and standing as tall as he could, staring at me. He was excited.

I think he has found his new purpose and enjoys it. His new purpose is retirement and being a house dog.