Ever since writing my initial thoughts about owning my own power, my brain has not stopped coming up with side roads and facets to this idea.  It’s as if something switched on in my head and the clouds have parted and the sun is shining down.  So, I am going to keep going on this theme for a bit.

This first big realization I had:

Embracing my power has come from loosening my control on life.

Yup, you heard me.  I’ve realized the more I stop trying to control every little thing and just go with the flow, I have actually increased my self-confidence and power.  By giving up some of my self-imposed rules, I have given myself permission to have the space and time to go after what I really want in life.  And that’s powerful.

This did not happen overnight.  And I’m probably still in the toddler stages, working my way up to proficiency at this concept.  But here is how my evolution started:

1.  I stopped going to the dry cleaner every Saturday.
I would go to the dry cleaner every Saturday, even if I only had one thing to drop off, and I would pick up the laundry from last week.  I liked the routine.  Drop off this week’s dirty clothes, pick up last week’s that were now clean.

I did not have some epiphany that it was most likely pretty ridiculous to keep up this routine when I was dropping off three things and picking up two.  It just sort of naturally happened that I wasn’t stopping every Saturday because I was busy making the most of the weekends with my family, going to the zoo, the park, the pool, and so on (another new concept- family fun before ‘duties’).  So, I went every other week for a few weeks.  I felt like I had to explain myself to the dry cleaner lady, but other than that, it felt pretty good.

Then I waited two Saturdays in between trips.

Then I waited I waited three Saturdays.

Now I figure I’ll get there when I get there, and that feels pretty good.

2.  I left dirty dishes on my kitchen sink overnight.
I actually did this as an experiment.  I wanted to see if I could do it.  After dinner a couple of weeks ago, I cleared the dinner table, put away the leftovers and took out the trash.  But I left the dishes, silverware, pots and pans sitting on the kitchen counter next to the sink.  Did my palms itch to pick up a sponge the rest of the night every time I walked through the kitchen?  Of course.  Did I follow through on my little exercise in willpower?  Yes, I did.  And it had an interesting result.

I got up the next morning and headed straight to the kitchen to wash everything because I made it through my little experiment and my willpower was exhausted.  You’ll never guess what I found at the kitchen sink.  Big Dude was standing there scrubbing the last pot.  He had done all of the dishes.  I must have had the weirdest look on my face, because I think I might have had some sort of out-of-body experience for a few seconds.  Big Dude just looked at me and said, “These were here when I went to make coffee this morning.  They were gross, so I washed ‘em.”

Funny he thought it was gross in the morning even though they had been there since dinner the night before and he never noticed.  He watched TV from the couch, which is maybe six feet from the kitchen counter.  I’m sure he also got up to raid the fridge for a snack at some point, and he never noticed.  But he saw them in the morning, and he washed them.  He had no snarky comment, no condemnation for me about not doing the dishes (which is what I imagined.  Somehow it would be my fault for not doing ‘my job.’)  When he did notice, he simply did it.

Interesting, indeed.

3.  I waited a week to empty our suitcase from our recent trip to San Francisco.
I am the kind of person (as I am sure you can imagine) who empties a suitcase as soon as setting foot in the door upon returning home.  Even if it’s 11:00 pm.  I imagine all of the clothes and books and toiletries squished into the suitcase, just holding their breaths until I let them out.  And the co-mingling of clean and dirty clothes… I just have to rescue them.

We came home on a Thursday night from San Francisco.  After feeding Little Dude dinner and putting him to bed, I was tired.  I also had to be at work the next day.  So, I decided the suitcases could wait until Saturday.

The weekend brought the southern California portion of the wedding festivities (our trip up north was for the ceremony).  I never got to the unpacking.

A whole week went by before I realized a suitcase was still sitting in the corner of my room.

When I finally got around to emptying it, I realized it was just a suitcase.  Nothing had happened.  No hole had opened up and swallowed the suitcase contents, the clothes inside did not revolt and try to attack me.  It was just a suitcase full of dirty underwear and pjs that I needed to wash.  Ok, I can handle that.

4.  (the BIG one)  I did not go to the grocery store last Sunday.
Sunday morning in our household is spoken for.  While many other families are washing their faces and combing their hair to spend the morning at church, I have my own routine that plays out with religious fanaticism.  It’s grocery shopping.

I am fanatically obsessive about cleaning out the fridge on Sunday morning, making a shopping list for the coming week, going to the grocery store, then coming home and putting everything away.

This week, though, since Big Dude was leaving for a business trip at the beginning of the week, I wanted to make sure we made the most of our Sunday together as a family.  We spent some time in our veggie garden in the backyard, then went to Disneyland in the afternoon.

When I announced this idea that morning, I think I took Big Dude by surprise.  He looked at me, stunned, and stammered, “But, but- what about the grocery store?”

“I’ll figure it out later,” I shrugged.  I left him standing in the kitchen, staring after me, wondering what I had done with his wife.

I waited until to Tuesday to go to the store.  I picked Little Dude up from school in the afternoon and stopped for groceries on the way home.  We were in and out in a half an hour.

And you know what?  The world did not come to an end.

Do I feel guilty about letting things go?  I feel pretty darn proud, actually.  I feel empowered.  Yes, there are little pangs of guilt here and there that start with ‘I should,’ but I quickly push them into a closet and shut the door.  Because with this new-found freedom, I have been at my most creative.  And I have been happier than I have been in a long time.  So, by letting go, I have found power.  The power to go after what I really want instead of what I think I should do.

Guilt Goddess says: Way to go, honey!  Looks like all I have to do is sand on the sidelines and cheer for this one.

Read Power Trip, Interrupted here.

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This post has been syndicated by Blogher.

Reading through the blog posts recapping the Blogher ’10 conference, I came across a post by Denise Tanton about how we, as women, need to embrace our power and strength.

“You. Are. Powerful,” she wrote. “But many of you don’t know it — or don’t recognize it — or don’t own your power.”

It's ok to stand out and bask in the sunlight.

Wow. As I sat on my couch to compose my very first comment on a Blogher post, tears in my eyes, I wondered why I had such an emotional response to this article. It was as if Denise had written her article just for me, hitting me at a time when I am gathering up my courage and self-confidence. Finally, I commented that it is so easy to deflect and act shy because of our own insecurities or for fear of being labeled something nasty. Denise responded, “What could we possibly be called, for owning our strengths and acknowledging our talents and using our power? And why should we be afraid of that?”

Well, that got me thinking. I’m a white woman in my early 30s in a metropolitan area running two successful businesses. I have never been denied an opportunity based on my gender, I have never had to lobby for equality, nor have I ever burned my bra (although I do contemplate that semi-regularly.) Yet, somehow, I discount my own worth as a woman. I can’t tell you if this is cultural, learned, inbred, just in me, a product of my own background or psyche, or what. But I know it to be true.

I am hesitant to accept compliments and embrace my own power for fear of being labeled something nasty. You know the words — selfish, stuck up, conceited, bitch. Since when is self-confidence equal to bitch? But it’s there, that nagging little thought. I run my businesses well, I write a funny blog, I’m raising a preschooler, I make a home-cooked meal every night. And on top of that, I’m finding time to be creative and pursue my passions. I should be able to stand up and say, ‘Look at me, look at what I’m able to do,’ without fear that I will be judged or ridiculed. But you know what? I am fearful. I’m worried that other people are going to judge me and knock me down. Even with my original comment and this post, part of my brain tried to convince me to leave well enough alone, saying ‘You’re brand new to the Blogher community, who wants to listen to you?’

Lately, when I have anxiety and a complete lack of self-confidence, I end up giving myself Stuart Smalley-type pep talks (because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, doggonit, people like me). I have to physically take a breath and remind myself I have what it takes to see me through anything.

Is talking to myself and over-analyzing everything completely healthy? Probably not. Am I working on it? Yes. Because I am slowly learning I have a lot to contribute. As I continue to mull these thoughts over, I know this:

  • My voice should and will be heard.
  • I am powerful, I am unique, and I am good at what I do.
  • And if I stumble (which I am also afraid of), so what? I will learn and add that knowledge to my power.
  • I will embrace my power graciously, without conceit, but with my conscience and a level head.
  • Because I AM good enough, I am smart enough, and, doggonit, people like me.

Read Part 2 of my Power Trip here.

With Big Dude gone for awhile, I have cunningly and secretly planned a discreet affair.  An affair with my DVR.

That little black box of deliciousness holds so much promise at the moment… Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, True Blood, Mad Men… Oh, I’m in heaven!  Laundry- what?  Blog post- huh?  I’m sorry, my attention is diverted.

Life has been so crazy lately that I conk out on the couch as soon as the house is wrapped up for the night.  I hadn’t checked the recordings in a while, so imagine my delight when I hit ‘ok’ on that magical choice ‘Browse Recordings.’

Image courtesy MyLifetime.com

How did I not know that season 8 of Project Runway had premiered?  Shows you what kind of hole I have been buried in.  Last night, after putting Little Dude to bed, I crawled between my own sheets with the remote and a bag of dried apples. (Don’t ask about the apples.  I have no explanation.  I am merely recounting the facts to set the scene for you.)  I see ‘Project Runway – And Sew it Begins’ as the first entry.  I froze, an apple poised halfway between the bag and my mouth.

Could it be?

I quickly checked the ‘aired’ date.  Yup – new episodes!  Woo hoo!  I snuggled in to watch the first round of anxiety, sleaze, elegance and tears.

Mmmmm.  This might be a good two weeks after all.

Guilt Goddess says: Life ain’t nothin’ without guilty pleasures.  Go for it, honey!

Looking back at everything I got through this week to give me more guilt-free confidence for the next.  Kind of like my own skewed version of a gratitude journal.

I was suppose to write this, wasn’t I?  The week in review would suggest — ding, ding, ding! — a weekly feature.  Now I just feel guilty that I didn’t get to it.

Since today is Tuesday of the following week, I don’t feel like looking back.  Let’s just say last week was:
– Long.
– Extremely fast.
– Kind of like a whole month squished into one week.
– Crazy, crazy busy best summed up by my latest freakout.
– Over.

I have pictures I can share, though.

This is Hawkeye and Tallulah in my car on the way home from spending the day at the vet to have their teeth cleaned.  (I managed two dogs who never leave the house plus a preschooler who thought he was a dog all in my car before 8:00 am.)

The beauty of the Getty Museum, which I was fortunate enough to visit last week.

Walking through this garden at the end of the week was like smearing a calming balm over a particularly itchy rash.  Gross visual, but it’s the thought that counts.  Well, that’s what I’m going with, at any rate.

Big Dude gets annoyed and walks away when I take too many pictures.  But it was just so beautiful, I couldn’t stop.

I will now focus on the next two weeks because Big Dude will be out of town and I will be single-parenting.  Expect numerous freakouts.

Guilt Goddess says: You do what you can do.  Remember the Agreement:  Always do your best while taking the circumstances into account.

I was doing so well this week whipping through projects and meeting deadlines.  I even had a great marketing meeting and focus group for my yogurt store.  Then the momentum came to a crashing halt, a five-car pileup crashing halt, worthy of a freeway closure at rush hour.

I do better with a plan.  I’m a planner, with schedules and lists to make me feel like I’m in control.  This works semi-well.  Because there are weeks like this week that are so busy I forget about the plans and schedule I have made, I take on way too much, and then I end up stranded inside the bottom car of that pileup.

Image courtesy Giovanni Sades.

I had planned all week to take Friday off of work to spend with Big Dude for our anniversary.  (The anniversary is actually next week, but BD will be out of town.  It’s a long story that would just make me angry to recount. Trying to just let that one be.  Regardless, we had both agreed to set aside this Friday as our day to celebrate.)  Thursday was suppose to be for wrapping up the week — submit payroll for three companies, bill paying for those same companies, banking — crossing all the financial Ts before my weekend started.  On Wednesday, I got an opportunity for my yogurt store to participate in a community-wide concert event Friday evening.  We were the only local business invited to give out samples and market our product, so we could not pass up this publicity opportunity.  But, this meant I only had Thursday — one day, 24 hours — to put together some sort of booth, signage, publicity materials and coupons, plus the samples we would serve and the containers, utensils and everything we would serve with/give out with the samples.  I had to fit all this in with the full day of payroll and finances I already had planned and still be able to pick up Little Dude at school by four, go home, make dinner and be a mom.

Faced with all this Thursday morning while getting my son ready for school, I had a monumental breakdown.  The tasks in front of me seemed overwhelming and insurmountable.  Why couldn’t I just have some confidence, realize I could delegate and use my resources and get done what I get done?  Nope, not me.  I needed to fit in a week’s worth of work into the eight hours I would have at work, and I would need everything to be perfect.  Just so.  Exactly like the picture I imagined in my brain.  So, it’s no wonder I ended up in my metaphorical car overturned on the 405.

How did it end up, you ask?  I delegated what I could to my awesome staff, prioritized the rest and did what I could.  At the very least, everyone got a paycheck Friday morning, I still had my date with Big Dude on Friday and a successful event for the store Friday night.  Was it perfect?  No.  (By the time of the event Friday night, I didn’t care if we were scooping yogurt directly into people’s hands for them to slurp up as they walked away.)  Did I get everything done that I should have?  No.  Am I currently staring at a pile of checkbooks and an even bigger pile of unpaid bills on my dining room table?  Yes.  But, I can say that even though I had a big ol’ freakout, I picked myself up, dusted myself off and did the best that I could.

Guilt Goddess says: And it sounds like it turned out well.  You know you can’t do everything all at once.  You have to pick and choose and prioritize, honey — some things just have to wait.  Remember, tomorrow is another day.

This toy is my nemesis.  The little smiley face mocks me as it shakes those jingle bells for all it’s worth.  At six in the morning.  While singing.

I get up at 5:30 every morning primarily because I like to enjoy a little quiet time before the whole house wakes up.  I can have tea, do some exercise or just stand in the kichen staring off into space.  Whatever strikes my fancy.  It’s my time.

But not this morning.  This morning, the evil toy pierced my quiet solitude, jingle-jangling incessantly as I tried to make tea and start my day.

I know, my frustration should really be directed at Little Dude who got up within ten minutes of me walking into the kitchen.  Little Dude, who woke up as if he’d been fed a constant caffeine IV drip all night, dancing around with the Evil Jingle Bell Toy, making up songs about everything I was doing.

Normally, the first sleepy hug of the day is my favorite time with him, a time that reminds me he is still my little boy even though he’s growing up so fast.  But on this noisy, ear-splitting morning, with demands for milk and waffles coming at me amidst a crashing staccato mix of bangs, jingles and clangs, I just can’t take it.

So, I am choosing to direct my frustration at Evil Jingle Bell Toy because I feel guilty aiming my grumpiness at Little Dude who is just playing and feeling exuberant with life.

Guilt Goddess says: Don’t feel guilty.  No sane person should be expected to deal with that kind of racket before caffeine.  Wait until you’re feeling more human, then take care of the toy.  No one will ever know.

With Big Dude working all weekend and the weather outside so iffy, I asked Little Dude if he would like to go see Toy Story 3.  (What’s better on a hot summer afternoon than sitting in an air-conditioned movie theater devouring a tub of buttered popcorn?)  When I made this suggestion, it was like I handed over a Wonka Golden Ticket.  To say Little Dude was excited does not even begin to describe his elation.

Getting ready for the movie, it wasn’t enough for Little Dude to wear his Buzz Lightyear t-shirt.  We had to have Buzz undies, Buzz socks, and he added the bright purple polyester/spandex hood from his Buzz Lightyear costume.

Walking through the shopping center to the movie theater, he got more than a few looks wearing a purple head covering that velcroed under his chin.  He even informed the concession guy that he, Little Dude, WAS Buzz Lightyear.  Concession Man asked, “How can you be Buzz out here buying popcorn but also in the movie?”

Never one to succumb to such logic, Little Dude replied, “But I have the hat AND the shirt.  I AM Buzz Lightyear.”

Off we went down the hall to the theater where Little Dude sat the whole time wearing the puprle hat velcroed under his chin, eyes rivetted to the big screen, his little boy world full of his friends and heroes.

Watching him, I couldn’t help but share in his imagination and wonderment.  At what point do we ‘grow up’ and start to feel self conscious about wearing silly things on our heads?  This outing made me realize that I spend too much time in the land of Adulthood & Priorities and not enough in the World of Wonderment and Imagination.

Guilt Goddess says: See what happens when you trade in some of that guilt and the ‘I shoulds’ for a carefree afternoon?  Way to relax, girlfriend.

Looking back at everything I got through this week to give me more guilt-free confidence for the next.  Kind of like my own skewed version of a gratitude journal.

This week I survived:

A wedding on a Wednesday in San Francisco.
A beautiful wedding on a beautiful, sunny afternoon in one of the best cities in the world.  The happy couple exchanged their vows in Shakespeare Garden within Golden Gate Park.  Romantic and lovely, paper butterflies danced from the trees as the guests enjoyed an outdoor picnic in the gentle breeze.  And I managed to look good, even though I showered, dressed and did my hair and makeup in less than twenty minutes.

Freakout & mom guilt surrounding the above.
All the details are here.  Yes, I have issues.

No exercise + gluttony.
As I have mentioned before, I love my exercise.  It’s time to myself and makes me feel good.  This week, all exercise was superseded by Burger Bar, a 7-course traditional Chinese meal at the Four Seas restaurant and multiple cappuccinos and chocolates.  But I did make up for it by dancing my butt off at the reception.  (Of course, that was after stuffing my face with fresh donuts covered in powdered sugar being made by The Donut Lady in the corner of the room.)

Blueberry Tart and Cake Batter yogurt layers

Business on the road & making a yogurt cake for my 1st real customer.
Even though I was only in my office Monday and Friday of this week, everything ran smoothly with my businesses thanks to an awesome staff.  I also made a frozen yogurt cake for my first “official” customer (vs. just making them for family and friends)… all with Big Dude working crazy hours and needing me to be flexible with my schedule to take on the bulk of the parenting duties.  Whew!

Guilt Goddess says:  It was a full week, but you handled it with grace.  Remember that.

This whole whirlwind trip to San Francisco in the middle of the week to participate in someone else’s wedding and events really forced me to go with the flow, especially with Little Dude in tow.

In his wedding finest.

After putting Little Dude to bed about 10:00 pm the first night after a rehearsal dinner in Chinatown (a good 2 hours after a normal bedtime), Big Dude had to go to the wedding site early the next day to set up all of the audio equipment. This took A LOT longer than expected. It took so long, in fact, that by the time he was done, we ended up with about an hour in which to take a twenty minute cab ride back to the hotel, shower, change and become decently gorgeous for the wedding, and a twenty minute cab ride back to the park. Not a small feat. Consequently, Little Dude had to hang out at the wedding venue with us all morning, have a slice of pizza in the cab on the way back to the wedding site as his lunch, and hold it together during a 2:00 pm wedding which meant sitting still and being quiet during what is normally nap time. That’s asking a lot from a three-and-half year old.

None of this set in for me until later that evening when we had some friends up to our room (which had a gorgeous — and fortuitous — rooftop patio) to enjoy a few cocktails and appetizers as we watched the sun set. I started to have all kinds of anxiety about not providing enough structure during this trip for Little Dude, not being able to stick to his regular schedule, dragging him around and expecting him to hold it together wherever we ended up. And now, we were having an adult get-together in our room and he had to once again go with the flow, playing with his toys and competing for attention.

Putting on a show.

Interestingly, when I couldn’t take my own anxiety and guilt anymore and unloaded it all on Big Dude, his take was the complete opposite. He said this unstructured time was good for our Little Dude. He got to use his imagination during the whole wedding day setup, playing with the decorations and helping Big Dude with all the speakers and microphones. (LD actually took a microphone and started to entertain the setup crew with his favorite hits- We Will Rock You, Octopus’s Garden and Hey Jude. Priceless.) The little man had to think about his own needs and communicate when he needed to use the bathroom and when he was hungry, and he had to flex his socialization muscles talking to and interacting with adults.

Well, darn. That made me pause. Here I am at the impromptu cocktail party imagining this scene being reenacted in a Movie of the Week to illustrate Little Dude’s neglectful childhood and here comes Big Dude saying the kid was not only happy but probably learning from his environment, too.

So why am I so uptight? The rational part of my brain realized it’s probably pretty hard to scar and/or screw up a kid in three days. And everything would return to normal when we get home. But the irrational part of my brain worried that I wasn’t providing a good enough environment for Little Dude, yielding too much to circumstance and/or my own wants and needs instead of putting his first. But I always put his needs first, so what’s a couple of unstructured days of adult-focused time where he still got to have fun, too?

At the end of it, all this ping-ponging back and forth just wore me out. One side of my brain having a total freakout, berating myself for not doing more, planning better, etc., etc., while the other side of my brain kept saying relax, it will be fine, you’ll be home in twenty-four hours. By the time we were on the plane home, I just wanted to close my eyes and let my brain switch off.

Guilt Goddess says: Honey, give both those voices some Advil and just relax. Did Little Dude eat three meals a day? Did he sleep 8-9 hours each night? Did he come home with all his fingers and toes? Then he’s fine. A happy, healthy toddler. You work on switching off that brain of yours and being a happy, healthy mother.

I’m still downloading pictures and organizing my thoughts from Ya-Ya Wedding Week, so I thought I would post this ‘ya-ya introduction’ as a prelude.

Ya-Yas. I’m so blessed to be part of this special group of women. They love and accept unconditionally- something so refreshing. But I have to admit my own social anxiety and awkwardness stand as a barrier between me and my ability to just receive the friendship offered. I over-analyze and judge myself, with my own lack of self confidence leading me into dark, guilty pockets of my own mind instead of allowing me to fully enjoy the light these ya-yas bring.

The beautiful Z loving life on a San Francisco rooftop.

But I’m working on it. (That’s a recurring theme here, isn’t it?).  The beautiful Z, whom I like to think of as the Head Ya-ya, read my Total Mom Freakout post and said to me, ‘Embrace the tribe, girl.’ As in, we’re here for you. Why didn’t you ask for help?  Of course, me being me, I never considered that because (wait for it, we all know what’s coming) I didn’t want to be a burden. Burden, burden, burden, guilt, guilt, guilt. This prompted Z to list every social date on the calendar for the next two months and pin me down on whether I would need childcare for each occasion.

Sigh. Where would I be without the ya-ya tribe pushing me to stretch beyond my comfortable little bubble of Burdenville? (Which, coincidentally, is on the map right next to Anxiety City and Awkwardopolis.). I’m starting to realize life is better — more meaningful — with a tribe. With friends who support and love you, no matter what. Maybe someday I will stop commuting from Burdenville and move to Ya-Ya County permanently.

Guilt Goddess says: Z said it best. Embrace the tribe, girl.
Me: I know it. I’m packing my bags.

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The Guilt Goddess

Giving guilt a voice one post at a time.

I am your average guilt-ridden mother of one (or 2, if I'm being honest and including my husband), trying to balance running my own business, running my household and now writing a blog. Someday I hope to have vanquished all of my myriad pangs of guilt and be living blissfully free from moment-to-moment. But, until that time, my guilt will live here.

CONTACT
Email: guiltgoddess@gmail.com
Twitter: @guiltgoddess

© Copyright 2010, LCE, Inc. | The Guilt Goddess. All Rights Reserved.

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