image via My Domaine

What Success Looks Like

TRUTH: Sometimes the clean laundry pile at the foot of the bed towers bigger than the bed itself. Sometimes the dishes pile up twice the height of the sink and the dirty pots and pans spill over onto the grimy stovetop. Sometimes the boys’ toilet, if I even bother to look at it, looks like a gas station toilet that hasn’t been cleaned for days.

And sometimes, I have one of those weeks, a week that hasn’t even really started, where I start to see it all and feel the oppression of it all and I can’t help but say to myself, “What do I have to show for myself? This life? This laundry mountain, this dish disaster, this biohazard toilet? Where has all the time gone?”

Then I think: I can’t be the only one.

I can’t be the only one who looks at Instagram and gets a pit in my stomach every time I see pictures of dreamy whitescapes mysteriously lacking sneaker scuffs and chocolate-milk-mustache smudges everywhere. Devoid of man-pants hanging off the couch, tiny piles of peed-in underpants in the hallway, smelly teenage cats and a fraternity house recycling bin.

I can’t be the only one who rarely, if ever, hosts play dates or ladies’ nights in my home because I’m not feeling “all caught up” and instead, I’m busy fearing the judgment and the fumbling excuses that would fall out of my mouth about the sticky floors, the cloudy windows, the dingy baseboards. No matter how low I turn the lights.

And, surely, I can’t be the only one who looks at décor catalogs before bed because their neutral palettes and lack of clutter helps me to relax. To decompress. To feel a sense of order. You totally do that too, right?

Underneath it all, I am an extremely orderly person. I’m a Virgo. Enough said.

For years, I could not go to sleep unless the house was picked up. When I worked full-time, we luxuriated in a cleaning service so all I had to do was tidy up at the end of the day and call it a day. These days, it’s up to me and elbow grease. These days, more often than not, we have a gas station toilet.

Sometimes I forget that even though I don’t go to an office, I am still working. And sometimes I forget that the word “work” has a lot of different meanings when you uncouple it from your day-job. Adrian is always reminding me that while I like to waste conversations focusing on what I’ve have not achieved, I rarely, if ever focus on what I have managed to get done.

I’ve always struggled with that. You know what I did the day I handed in my perfectly good thesis in college? When everyone else stormed the quad with 12-packs of Beast Lite to revel in their success? I booked it back to my apartment and cried. And then I took a nap. God forbid, I get caught reveling in my own success.

And nearly twenty years later, when I was in charge of event production for thousands of attendees, and there would be standing room only, I would sit in the back feeling small. There is everyone sitting there, totally digging the show. There is me, totally deflated and defeated, just wanting it to be over so I could get on to worrying about the next thing. Somehow success takes the wind out of my sails.

Not that long ago, I gleaned my sense of worth and achievement from that little thing called a “performance review.” Old habits die hard, but these days I have to wonder how much would change if we measured our contributions to this world by anything but the money or praise they yield.

So, as this year is winding down, I’m going to (at the risk of a vulnerability hangover) force myself to take note of five 2015 highly personal accomplishments.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Purged. There is a gray area between choosing to tidy up and hitting the life-changing-magic zen spot where you have to actually do the work. And it’s annoying, arduous work. And we are nowhere near finished. We have had to reimagine everything about our daily lives, shuffle some furniture and buy even more. We still need to hang some stuff on the walls but it’s so much better than before.
  2. Noticed. I have to give myself credit for noticing it was time to pull my three-year old from daycare when he really needed the change. A few years ago, I would have either ignored or convinced myself it wasn’t possible to make the change from a facility that was so convenient to my work. We spent six amazing months together at home and eventually I got him into his brother’s school program, which is a perfect fit.
  3. Wrote. I officially started calling myself a writer and I started writing. Some of which you see here. Much of which you don’t. This is a work in progress. But, hell, it’s progress.
  4. Coached. I have always thought coaching was cool, long before everyone was an online coach. I even got a coaching certificate a few years ago. So any time an opportunity arose this year to coach someone, I took it. I don’t mean for money, just in conversation. Sometimes I did it without even telling the other person that is what I was doing! Nothing is more fulfilling than helping other people help themselves by tapping into intuition. What’s most amazing about this is that once I shifted my mindset toward having coaching conversations, I kept getting contacted by or connected to people seeking coaching.
  5. Recorded. Yep. You are reading that right. I am going to be putting out a podcast in the new year with a dear friend of mine and I’m super nervous/excited about it. It’s a podcast about creating an authentic and meaningful life. If you had told me a year ago that we would be about to launch this baby, I would have wrinkled my nose and shook my head like I didn’t understand what you just said. But it’s here. And it’s happening. Vulnerabilty hangover, or not.

So, listen up, all you residential gas station toilets: Our time is not for naught. Sometimes it’s the endeavors that don’t earn us good grades or a paychecks that smack of true success. It’s the little victories and the triumphs of the heart.

Sometimes elbow grease is better spent on writing love letters, making perfect paper airplanes or sitting down to call a long-lost best friend. Because, it is in these smaller acts of doing, working, contributing that we actually find, and feel, the substance of life. This is where goodness and graciousness come from.

Cleaning up is not the same as showing up. The toilet can wait.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Clara December 18, 2015 at 8:15 am

    Yes to ALL of this. Proud of you! xx

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