**Article originally published by WNC Women February 2018**
I hesitate to say I’ve learned anything completely as mastery is elusive. Time shifts understanding and advances possibility. And thus, what I can say is I am on the path to learn a better way. A better way to make an impact, live fully, care for myself, and love unabashedly.
In my life, I have overemphasized the importance of work. I’m quite skilled at this imbalance and have prescribed to the “first in, last out” attendance policy, gone the extra mile(s) always, and sacrificed health and personal relationships as the price of progress.
It sounds horrid, I know. However, it looks quite lovely. I am happily married with two beautiful teenagers I adore and who for the most part, adore me. I own two businesses currently of wildly different missions; a building materials manufacturing company and Pure Yoga in downtown Asheville. In my career, I have worked in corporate consulting, sold and bought businesses, turned personal passions into entrepreneurial enterprises, and logged a lot of frequent flyer miles and hours.
I say all of this from a place of humility as the way in which I have blazed this path is pocked with scars from using more force than grace. While I’ve studiously managed my calendar to ensure presence with my family, this lifestyle has cooled friendships, waylaid adventure, and demised wellness.
Is a better way possible? Must it mean giving up something in order to create a new? How differently might the world look standing on top of the wheel versus running at full sprint on the wheel? We each have these questions to answer. For me, I am learning to soften, to lean into experience as a sister companion to achievement.
11 years ago, I had a significant health crisis. The year was 2006. I was in the middle of an acquisition, my children were 2 and 4, and I was slowly, blindly running out of fuel. I was strategically limiting my sleep so as to advance my work and be present for my kids, and eventually, my body began to fail. It’s sneaky way of calling a time-out, no doubt as my hair began to fall out, my speech shattered, and my muscles atrophied. I ached from head to toe, and I would drive places not knowing how I got there.
How can this even be? I’m a long distance runner, avid hiker, golfer, lover of life. I’m optimistic, genuinely happy, and surrounded by love. I eat well, moderated everything that should be moderated, and yet, there I was in a slow fade.
My doctor’s comment to me? “Your lifestyle looks great on paper. And yet, if you don’t make a change, I’ll meet you in the hospital within 6 weeks.” For someone who had always been in control of self and result, this was a shocking prognosis. If I hadn’t been so overwhelmingly exhausted, I might have been petrified.
This type of depletion does not happen overnight. In fact, there had been signs carefully ignored for 2 years leading up to it; symptoms, test results, subtle nudges from family. All indicators that I believed mind over matter could eradicate. For goodness sake, I didn’t have time to be sick. I had two children, a husband, a dog that kept running away, and a business to lead.
And so, I finally got serious about the true roots of wellness. Here’s a secret I learned: they are deeper than our society wants us to believe. We are told to eat well and exercise (no doubt because these two factors have immediate impact on appearance). We are not taught that mindfulness is nourishment for our soul & deep sleep for our bodies. We are not taught that our breath is a gateway to radiance.
We are taught to balance the plates in the air & by all means, look good doing it. As an achievement junkie, I had mastered that skill set. I believe this is a skill set many women master. You, my dear reader friend, can most likely relate. Your story reads differently and yet it is the same with altered characters and settings.
The next several years were an exercise of healing. My eternal love affair with yoga started with a single mat practice led by an uncertified teacher in a country club dining room. I eventually made my way to a meditation cushion, and while this practice still requires strong “self-nudges,” I am grateful for the way it rehabilitates every day regardless of what’s happening in my life. I stopped distance running, slept more, and began eating to nourish and nurture versus control my weight. And yes, I took 2 weeks off from work. And while that may not sound like much, for me, it was a feat as that’s as much time as I took following the birth of both of my children. (Sigh.)
I discovered gratitude as a practice versus emotion, and I expanded my net of connection by opening my heart and investing my time with friends I cherish.
It took 3 years for my markers to return to “low normal;” a daily reminder to me that these sacred vessels we are given to explore our life are to be treated with care and intention.
Today, my life may not look that differently than it did prior to 2006. I still own and lead my manufacturing company, I have created two yoga studios; selling the first when my family moved to Asheville last year, and investing my heart and passion into the second. I have paused one of my passions turned entrepreneurial enterprises to support wholehearted living versus whole-minded working, and my children are now teenagers. They are my wisdom holders; allowing me to see every day what it looks like to play in life, to relish in being, and to come back to the middle path. They also gently remind me when work absorbs me; while simultaneously accepting me as I am.
I’m wired to work. Work has always been a strange word to me with its reference to unwanted but mandatory effort. For me, it has always felt like impact, and for that, I am happy.
In my career, I have talked to hundreds of people; mostly women, about their life’s path and struggle. I hear universal threads that link us all. A desire for connection, a deep wanting for joy and fulfillment, and a question around how we are called to live meaningfully. To live a life that lives beyond our lifetime.
My answer? Trust yourself. Slow down and listen. Move your body in ways that heal your body and spirit. Receive food as self-care. Know that you know. Confide in your sister friends. Pursue impact. Meaningful work happens because we clarify our purpose path, we courageously eliminate distractions, and then we get busy bringing it to life. That’s the better way.