By 5:00 p.m. last Wednesday, I was completely drained and exhausted.
By 5:00 p.m. last Wednesday, I was completely drained and exhausted.And no wonder, it had been an incredibly productive day: I started a blog post and had a fantastic coaching session with a brand new client, I got closer to closing two new accounts and sent out my first-ever piece of email marketing. In between clients and hours on the computer, I ran all manner of suburban mother errands.
I should have mentally high-fived myself (see “If They Only Knew…”), but the voice inside my head—the one I refer to as my Inner Ice Queen—berated me instead.
“You are so pathetic. You had a normal work day, and look at you. You want a NAP? Are you nuts? You have three kids, homework, and dinner to cook next. Get your sh*t together. Keep moving. Pour a glass of wine. Have another cup of coffee. Do something. But for God’s sake, have some self-respect and don’t lie down.”
Following the Ice Queen’s advice, I poured myself a glass of wine and dove back into the final tasks of the day. But after my first sip of wine, she said,
“Enjoy that wine, but remember you need to get in a power walk around the neighborhood in 2 hours. So you better drink some water, too."
If I had reached for coffee instead of wine, she would have said,
“Now, you know you’ll be up all night and feel terrible tomorrow. Just saying…”
That Queen is impossible to please.
As I pushed joylessly through the night, I barked out orders about homework and lunchboxes and beds not having been made. It was a mess. The whole thing was a mess.
Pass the Mic
Because of my work, I’m highly attuned to changes in pitch, tone, body language, and the micro-expressions flashing across the faces of those around me. As I saw the effect my demeanor and speech had on the faces of my children, it dawned on me: It wasn’t me talking at all. It was her.
My communication pattern had shifted from my usual base note of joy and curiosity to an icy tone of efficiency and barely concealed contempt and disappointment.
I can now see that I was justifiably tired that day. I had done A LOT in 10 hours. I was tired because I’m an introvert and I'd spent 4 hours talking to people. I was in desperate need of silence to recharge my battery, but there was none to be found.
How’s Your Heart?
When we find ourselves creating chaos or generating bad feelings around us—whether we're with our coworkers, children, spouses or aging parents—it’s because somewhere inside of us a need is going unmet. I KNOW this, okay? I PREACH this.
And yet, here I was, in desperate need of a timeout and ignoring all the warning signs. Instead of listening to my Heart, I sent her to the bench and called up this mean ol’ Queen to run the final plays of the night.
I would argue that most of us have been taught to suppress any feelings of vulnerability and weakness (in my case, feeling tired and drained). We could spend a lifetime trying to figure out where, and how, and why we learned this suppression technique, but that’s a discussion for a different day. What I do know is what I’ve observed in myself (and in others): when I feel vulnerable and weak, my Inner Ice Queen takes over and runs things until Bronwyn can resurface.
And when that Ice Queen takes over, my communication style turns toxic. It’s a poison that infects everyone around me. Which, as my husband says, “is not ideal.”
I think the solution may be to become aware of the shift that takes place in me... that shift that turns my words and tone and energy toxic, and make a decision: Who gets the mic? All evidence suggests that my Ice Queen turns words into poison. What about my Heart? What would Heart have said?
That night, if I had passed the mic to Heart, she would have requested silence and a 15 minute cat nap with ear plugs, an eye mask, and quite possibly a little Enya to drown out any residual house noise. (Don’t judge.) If I had given Heart what she needed, I would have stayed Bronwyn, just maybe Napping Bronwyn. My words post-nap would have been a source of encouragement and love for those around me.
Heart’s requests weren’t complicated or difficult to execute, yet they seemed unacceptable in the face of Ice Queen’s plans. Ice Queen values productivity above all things. And while I am grateful for Ice Queen’s desire to keep me functioning at peak levels, I simply cannot allow her to run the show.
I think she’d run me into the ground if I let her.
She needs a job, methinks. A place to exert her queenliness without killing me in the process. I’ve got just the task for her, too.
It takes every ounce of will power and discipline to show up and write every day. It’s agony sometimes. And way too often, I allow myself to hop on Facebook, or get lost window-shopping on Amazon.com. If I take Ice Queen’s drive and put her to work on my writing commitment, it could be a game changer.
New Week, New Chances
If last week was about having these realizations, this week has been about testing out my theories. Since Monday, Ice Queen has been NAILING her job of parking my butt in the chair and getting me to write. Also, I found she is great at forcing me to pay my bills and balance my check book. Good job, Kween.
And Heart? I’ve been asking Heart what she needs around 5:00 p.m., because that’s when I tend to feel the lowest. So far this week I’ve indulged in a 15 minute cat nap AND intentionally taken the long way home a few times so I could revel in the audiobook version of Shonda Rhimes’ amazing memoir Year of Yes. Yesterday I even allowed myself a non-cardio walk to get a cup of coffee. I cruised. No trace of hurry anywhere in sight. The world didn’t fall apart. And guess what? I found a lucky penny on the sidewalk. I made a wish. It was epic.
I think it’s high time I redefined the word productivity, so that Ice Queen and Heart can be operating from the same play book:
Productivity, (noun): the effectiveness of effort as measured by how we’ve made people feel, and how true we’ve been to our own big, beautiful hearts.
Here’s to a VERY productive week, friends.