Note to Self: Slow Down
I think I need a permanent post-it reminder on my forehead to remind myself to slow down. I have mentioned it multiple times in my posts before but patience is a virtue I do not possess. At all. I am always “on” – likely a byproduct of my profession as a business consultant and the fact in 2015 people are always accessible … regardless of whether or not you want to be. In my first post of the new year about “Guiding Principles for 2015” two of my key focus areas were on Being Present and Letting go of what’s outside your control. I wrote these in replacement of my traditional “more of this” and “less of that” resolutions. I wrote that post on Saturday January 3rd. I lived those principals until about 9am Monday January 5th about 10,000 feet over the Philadelphia airport. On first biz flight of the year, my (should only be an hour but is always 90 minute) flight in 40+mph winds over Philly basically removed all the namaste straight out of my body and shot me up with my normal (or even higher) levels of stressed out adrenaline. Since then the 60+ inches of snow in Boston, 4 cancelled work flights, and 12+ hours on the phone trying to reschedule travel plans have me in a constant state of thinking days and weeks out, and certainly doing everything except living in the present. But yesterday was a good reminder of why it’s important to slow down.
Disclaimer: This is a non cookie post. So I recommend opening up a tube of cookie dough and sticking it in the oven before you read this, otherwise you’re going to be disappointed at the end when there is no recipe. Though there is a happy surprise about something in the oven at the end of the post … so keep reading. (No I’m not pregnant, calm down, keep reading).
So the past few weeks have involved many rescheduled trains, planes, and probably 1000 hits myself alone on weather.com and Boston.com trying to stay ahead of the latest forecasts. 12 hours of travel to get to Denver on Wednesday for about 36 hours of a business trip before turning around to go back to snowy Boston, and meanwhile from the airport pleading with my doctor’s office to send an Rx to my pharmacy for the sinus infection that was murdering my head at 36,000 feet. We’ve had this family vacation planned for this week for a few months – a short cruise out of Miami to get in some much needed Vitamin D this February, with my parents and sister. So of course this weekend when the forecast changed to almost double the Boston forecast for snow upwards of a foot and a half, the chance that I’d make it out of Boston to Miami on Tuesday to meet my family for the trip was feeling too risky. So in an attempt to reduce stress, I switched my flight to fly out of NYC with the rest of my family, and booked a train to CT early Sunday afternoon – way ahead of the winter weather. I had my US Weekly Magazine, a window-seat on the train and a cold Diet Coke in hand. I even got in my “bye bye” winter snapchat as the train peaced out of snowy Boston. And then about 15 minutes into my train ride, my dad sent me a text “Just checking. Passport?”
Well, I think I lost about 15 years off my life in that moment. I remembered my luggage tags and cruise docs for the cruise ship (which I forgot two years ago), medicine, sunscreen, and everything else. I travel every single week, sometimes multiple cities a week, so I am a professional packer. But my passport was sitting pretty back in my bedroom in Boston. This is the PG version of my reaction back to his text.
After 20 minutes of trying to figure out what to do and frantic texting and phone calls, I got off the train in Providence. Booked a commuter rail ticket back to Boston. Simultaneously tried to get a seat on one of the few remaining non-sold out trains left leaving Boston later that day. And tried to coordinate someone getting into my condo to retrieve my passport and get it to me at the train station so that I could catch a train quickly back to CT. Mission Impossible: Retrieve Passport and Maintain Sanity. I had so many friends offering to help – even my friend Jacqui offering to drive all the way to Providence if I needed. Even my cleaning guy who has a spare key was willing to help. My upstairs neighbors who have one of my two spare keys, helped with step 1 of the operation to retrieve the passport from my place and put it in my mailbox. My friend Amanda then picked up the goods from my mailbox and met me at South Station where I have never been happier to see her smiling face and my passport. You know I’m not a hugger, but I laid a big fat hug on Amanda as soon as I saw her. Even managed to get on the earlier train back to CT and was back home by 9pm and hit the couch with a HUGE sigh of relief.
As a sidebar, I first met Amanda back in 2008 when I made a last minute plan to join my parents, sister and Amanda (who roomed with my sister at BC) on a 7-day spring break Disney Cruise in March 2008. Serendipitous that Amanda is the one who came to my rescue to help get me on this week’s cruise. #dutyfreefrenchfries
Okay, so this blog post is not just about how I’m losing my mind. There is a point to it all. Aside from experiencing first hand the amazingness of my friends who were willing to go really out of their way to help me out yesterday, I had a really interesting experience on my ride from Providence back to Boston. I was sitting on the commuter rail on the phone with my parents teary-eyed and stressed out trying to coordinate the passport retrieval operation and getting on a train home, and sitting across from me was this lady in her late 50s/early 60s. When I hung up the phone she commented that it sounds like I’ve had “quite a day.” Oh you don’t even know the half of it lady. Now, work travel has made me pretty unfriendly on public transportation. I’ve got my headphones in on the plane before I even sit down. Don’t usually engage in conversation. Because I’m usually not in a great mood when I’m flying or training it somewhere.
I wish I had gotten this lady’s name, but anyways, we got to talking. There I am all stressed about a passport for vacation, and losing a few hours of my day and about $200 in additional train tickets. And you know where this lady was headed? To Dana Farber for her cancer treatments. She told me how a year ago almost to the day she got the life-changing diagnosis that she had stage 3 breast cancer. After weeks of not feeling right, and having doctors tell her it wasn’t anything, it was this week that she got the news that it was cancer, and it wasn’t good. She used to eat organic, workout all the time – overall had a healthy lifestyle. She told me how hard it was to initially pump her body with the chemo chemicals when she was used to eating so healthy. How it sucks your energy out of you. How she lost her hair and now has this thick bright curly hair that’s grown back. But she also told me that this has taught her the need to slow down.
We talked about our jobs (she’s in real estate) and how she was always living days and weeks in the future (like me) and not really living in the present day. She told me about her kids who have had some challenging relationships but are really working hard to do well in life. She even showed me a picture of her (very attractive) 33-year old son (not single, dang). And we talked about one of my amazingly young strong friends who is currently going through the beginnings of her chemo treatment for breast cancer, and how even the most relaxed, healthy, low-stress people can have this happen to them. I mentioned I was turning 30 at the end of next month, and not excited about it since I was going to be 30 and single. And even after only 20 minutes of conversation she looked at me and said, but look how much you’ve done already? She’s right. I’m not good at taking the time to appreciate what I’ve accomplished so far in life – I’m always working towards the next goal. I graduated from a great college. Started at one of the best consulting firms right out of college. Have made a great network of new friends in the past 12 years of living in Boston. Travel all of the time – even my work travels have given me the opportunity to see new places. I bought my first house at 27 years old. Had my heart badly broken, only to become a stronger, better person because of it. So what if I’m not engaged, married, or popping out a kid by 30. But this isn’t meant to be a giant pat on the back for me, so don’t take it like that. It just is meant to remind me that I really need to live in the present. I can’t control the weather. I can’t schedule meeting a great guy into my Outlook calendar, with key milestones for marriage and babies on some life project plan in Excel.
This lady was going through something really tough, that I can’t even imagine. Her journey isn’t over. She told me she’s on this trial drug, that doesn’t make her feel great a lot of the time, and sometimes she doesn’t want to take it anymore, but she keeps doing it. She told me about these workout classes she takes with other cancer patients in Boston, which is her way of still trying to keep her old habits of working out even though her body has changed so much with the cancer. When we talked about her being a Realtor and how she helps people through the journey of finding their new home, we got to talking about how everything happens for a reason. Even if you can’t understand it at the time – like bidding on and losing houses trying to find your perfect house – at the end of the day, you end up where you’re supposed to. I believe that.
Maybe I wasn’t originally scheduled to be on that train from Providence yesterday, but much to my surprise, I was really glad I was. The unexpected conversation was inspiring and impactful. And all on a train ride I wasn’t “supposed to” be on anyway. I even struck up a good conversation on the Amtrak to CT with my seatmate, and got his business card. You never know who you’re going to meet. (Like the time my dad sat next to Don Mattingly on a plane and started a baseball bat company with him … but that’s a story for another day).
My friend Liza has this daily mantra on the bottom of her emails and her yoga blog – “live light, because everything is already okay.” I love it because it’s so simple and true. And easy to remember. It’s something I am going to work on trying to remind myself on a regular basis and try to live by. Especially when things don’t go as planned.
And so with that, I’d like to end this post with some very happy, long-awaited exciting news for my family. And for someone who is not patient, this was a tough secret to keep for a few weeks. But with that … I give you the VERY joyful news that in August I’ll have a new title of “Aunt” – as my brother and sister-in-law announced today that they are expecting their first baby later this Summer. As expected, our family has been quick to get our spreadsheets out to plan for the arrival of the little one, but I think for today we should all take a moment to appreciate the present, and the very exciting news that Baby Shaw is finally on it’s way as the first grandbaby of the family.
So that’s it. I’ll pick up with my regular cookie posts in a week or so when I’m back from vacation. In the meantime I’m going to try to remember to live in the moment and try to just go with the flow a bit more. Everything happens for a reason. Like the giant margarita I’m going to dive into on Wednesday. That’s meant to be.