My mornings used to be a bit of a blur - I was on autopilot...hitting the snooze button way too many times after yet another sleepless night, before dragging myself out of bed, throwing on some clothes and heading up to the barn to feed the horses, and turn them out into the pasture (horse kisses first thing in the morning were wonderful, and the best part of my day at that time). Then it was back to the house to shower, straighten my naturally crazy, wavy hair and dress smartly - the proverbial little black dress and sneakers (I carried heels in my bag for quickie changes when needed for more "appropriate" office attire 😊)... and finally, an attempt to rouse my sleeping teenager (always fun...not), grab a coffee, my laptop, phones and off I would go to do battle with the school run on my way to work.
I'd stress how long I was stuck in the school drop-off line, what the traffic into Durham would be like? I absolutely hated to be late - I actually had no set start time, but I liked to be in before most people started for the day. So after I had safely deposited Lloyd at school, it was off to Starbucks!
I'll digress a little here, if I may...
I used to be the kind of woman that needed to know where the Starbucks was in any town I was travelling to, just so I could satisfy my craving for my "venti, double shot, non-fat, no foam latte with 2 Splenda", breaking out in a cold sweat if I couldn't locate one. I was known to drive miles out of my way just to get my Starbucks fix and was certainly never short of reward points! Fortunately, there was a drive thru Starbucks on my route to work, as there was no way I was facing a day in the office without my caffeine to help me deal with the inevitable "crisis de jour"...and believe me there was always one. I'd drink my first cup in the car, taking another into the office, along with one for my friend (this made me feel better about having 2!!).
My head buzzed; I would stress most of the day...but all the time I appeared calm, confident, collected and in control...that was just me. I would compulsively check my phone - well actually 2 phones, one for work and one for my personal calls. I could have ported one into the other, but this was my way of separating my work life from my home-life.... did it work - No, I just ended up checking 2 phones all the time, it was like they were surgically attached to my hands, always there...ever-present and always turned on! I was in complete autopilot and had been for so many years, but hey… I had a successful career – and wasn't that what it was all about???
What I didn't understand was that, the more I worked, the more I wanted to work, the more I needed to work, the more I was expected to work, the more demanding people became - because you're always there, ready to take on the next pile of crap that was thrown at you - as I always wanted to be the one that "fixed" whatever problem it was, regardless of the cost to me, and my personal life...3 marriages (fortunately third time's a charm), so many house moves, I’ve lost count…. and what feels like a lifetime later - I finally get it.
The more I worked, the more committed to my work I became, the higher I climbed, the more money I would make (although academia didn't pay as well as my industry positions had, but for a long time I loved my role there, and the incredible people I worked with every day).
But the more money I would make, the more I seemed to spend, the more I would need, the more I would make - and so it goes....the vicious circle - like you're on some crazy, beautiful, but hypnotic carnival ride that you can't get off, no matter how hard you try. You just don't know how, and to be honest, you're too damned tired all the time to even contemplate how you would break free. So, you continue until you either can't hold on tight enough anymore, fall off and break.... or you make a change!
Many days I chose to embrace my hectic, crazy, long days, indeed, I positively thrived on them, and was successful in my leadership positions.... but at what cost?
On the outside looking in, I had an idyllic life - senior leadership position, working at Duke, living in a lovely 4000 sqft home on a 40-acre horse farm with my husband JB and son Lloyd, driving a flashy fast jaguar (Mick Jaguar😁), and owning 4 amazing horses (well 3 amazing horses and 1 little, rather chubby rescue pony) - but were we happy?
Sometimes...on the rare occasions we managed to schedule some family time, or enjoyed an evening together, sitting on the deck with a lovely meal and glass of wine, or when I would find the time to ride my beautiful horses, or just walk down to our little lake and spend time watching the ripples on the water, but these were getting fewer and further apart, we were always working so hard to maintain our lifestyle and our property (40 acres is a lot!!!), that often we wouldn't see each other for days due to hectic work travel commitments, were tired and frustrated when we did have time together, always multi-tasking or thinking about the other things that we should be doing - always just too tired to fully enjoy the life we had worked so hard to build.
Friends would think we lived this awesome life, with great jobs and a wonderful farm...but the stark reality was, we never had enough time, or money to truly enjoy what we had. I suddenly became acutely aware that beautiful, hypnotic merry-go-round that I had enjoyed so much, for such a long time, was going nowhere, just around and around in circles....and I was just getting older and didn't want to hang on anymore.... until finally one day, I fell off and broke.
For me, this needed to happen, before I would break free...I had been lost on this ride for so long, I had forgotten about the incredible world that was all around me, and how to simply enjoy every day of my life.
If only I had taken the time to know and understand "Me" a little better back then , I could have planned how, and when, I needed to escape from my merry-go-round, and perhaps my fall would have been prevented...Lessons Learned 😊
Were there some dark days during this time when I was "broken"? Absolutely, but I learned so much more about myself - what was important to me, how to become "present" with my surroundings, family and friends, what my true passions were, what really made me happy...
These days things are vastly different - I wake in the morning, rested and ready for my day...I throw on a some shorts and a T-shirt (or sweats depending on the weather), run a comb through my crazy hair...(I decided to embrace my unruly, wavy hair...and I love it now),
have my first delicious mug of coffee, and no it's not Starbucks...the closest store to me is about an hour and a half away. It's just a drip coffee, no milk, just a teaspoon of Splenda and that's it - but, it tastes so much better than my prior life's super expensive lattes 😊. I drink my coffee in the tiny apartment of the Inn (we may have 7500 sq ft in the Inn, but our private apartment is the smallest home I've lived in since college....and I absolutely love it!!), with JB and the dogs, chatting about our plans for the day. Then fill up a mug with fresh coffee, throw on my old Uggs, walk the 5 minutes to the beach, then step onto the sand...I feel the salty breeze on my face and catch my first glimpse of the ocean before sunrise.
Although I get on the beach at the same time and same place every day, the scene changes constantly. I walk along the water's edge, and as my foggy head clears with every wave that washes onto the shore, my day is filled with hope.
So, my second coffee is sipped sitting on the beach, watching the sunrise (regardless of the weather!), and writing in my journal...and sometimes I'm lucky enough to see the dolphins.
Now, this doesn't mean I don't have any stress anymore, on the contrary, my life is rather stressful at the moment - I've gone from having a good salaried job with regular monthly deposits into my bank account, benefits including great healthcare coverage and retirement package - to taking a huge chance (I prefer to call it my huge adventure 😊). JB and I have left clinical research altogether and invested our future in a 100-year-old inn on the Outer banks - no salaries, no benefits or retirement package, not knowing a single soul here when we moved, risking our 401ks on a dream. An Inn that has needed considerable (I feel like I should capitalize the letters, so they jump out the page - CONSIDERABLE, EXPENSIVE!!!) renovations, in a place where sometimes the ocean waves crash over the only main road we have, to the other side, to meet the water in the Sound! I worry that we won't have enough guests throughout the year to make our lives sustainable here from a financial perspective.... I worry whether guests will like what we've done with the Inn? If the locals like what we're doing? What damage the next storm may do to our beloved Inn, What will be the next inevitable, expensive repair? Will women want to attend the retreats I intend to hold at the Inn? Will I still be able to attract coaching clients? Will we be any good as Innkeepers?...
I could list ad finitum the potential stressors we have here.... BUT - and it's a big BUT - I choose instead to accept, embrace and deal with them, as they are part of making our dream lives come true. Knowing that with the right mindset, passion, determination, thirst for adventure, and belief in my dreams....and more importantly belief in Myself....I can do anything I want to, if I just put my mind, heart and soul into it - And that's exactly what I have Chosen to do 😊
Is it time you planned to break free....?
Until next time, please take care of yourself,
and...take time to be Happy!