[Monday Mama Muse] Stop living in perpetual preparation

Happy New Year to you!  Welcome to the first Monday Mama Muse of 2014 and the first one in a very long time.   The writing of this post is my first act of writing for 2014 and my own attempt to start doing the things I love to do on a daily basis rather than putting those things on hold while I do all the things I think I have to do.

As we face this clean canvas of a bright and shiny New Year, the one thing I want to encourage myself and other mothers to do is:

“Stop living in a state of perpetual preparation.”

Stop waiting until:

  • you’ve lost your post-baby weight/the last 10 lbs/started drinking green juices or inhaling kale on a daily basis;
  • you get the job of your dreams/you launch the business of your dreams;
  • your child starts sleeping through the night/starts school/goes to college;
  • you’ve figured out what you want to do with your life (quick spoiler alert: however long you wait, James’ Earl Jones ain’t going to appear and proclaim your life’s purpose);
  • you’ve written your book/play/blog post;
  • your life is perfect (whatever “perfect” means to you)

 

I’ve always considered myself prone to procrastination and considered it an integral part of my personality.  As I approached my 40th birthday a few years ago, I felt a surge of possibility as I started a brand new decade.  I then read a few articles about “50 being the new 40” and I started to think, maybe I can wait a little. Take the pressure off, Sal.  No need to rush things.  That was the behavior I practiced and I became a master of procrastination.

Calling yourself a procrastinator gives you permission to not do shit.  For want of an eloquent and lovely way of saying it.  In my experience, it’s the not doing of the good shit that would transform your life if you actually did it instead of consuming vast quantities of precious energy stressing about the fact that you’re not doing it.

One startling fact hit me recently.  I have NEVER procrastinated about doing laundry.  Ever.  In fact, I do laundry daily.  Each and every day.  I don’t sit around bemoaning the fact that I have laundry-doer’s block and that, much as I crave clean clothes, I just cannot bring myself to do the laundry.

And yet, I can go for weeks, months and years without writing on a regular basis. Even though there are so many things I yearn to say and explore through writing.

If I had written for just five minutes a day for the past fourteen years (the years I have been a mother), that would be a mother-load of writing.  Almost as much of a mother-load of writing as the mother-load of laundry I have done during those same years.

I absolutely LOVE Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on creative genius and her take on “writer’s block” and the fear of being a writer.

Writer’s block is simply a choice you are making to NOT write. Let me prove that to you.  Find a pen and a piece of paper and start writing.  Your hand moves from side to side right and words are appearing, right?  I recently read about a writer with cerebral palsy who types with one thumb.  Are all 8 of your fingers and both of your thumbs fully-functioning?  Good, then get writing or painting or playing the piano or whatever thing you claim to want to do and yet keep choosing to NOT do.

Click here to read a wonderful interview about writing with Natalie Goldberg, author of “Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within”.  Her advice?  “Keep your hand moving.”

Every time you catch yourself saying “I’m a procrastinator” instead say to yourself, “I’m a person who chooses NOT to do things that are truly meaningful to me and that would make my life so much richer than it is at present.”  Don’t forget to add that THAT is what you’re modeling for your children and imagine them living in that same state of perpetual preparation.

My oldest daughter will turn 15 this year which means that we have just three more years of her living at home with us.  This fact has made me so very conscious of the reason I founded Stand Up, Mama in the first place.  Motherhood made me very aware that I was modeling how to live life in front of three very precious and very impressionable young people.  Realizing how little time I have left with my oldest daughter at home has renewed my determination to live my life to the full.  To make sure that I’m being fully present and living my dreams on a daily basis so that that is what my children see.  To give them something to aspire to in their own lives.

I love the quote by stand-up comic and writer, Viv Groskop:

“I began to think.  ”You brought these children into the world.  You better show them what it’s like to live life to the full.  Otherwise what’s the point?”

So, this week, as you go about your daily life, please take a moment each day to reflect on the things you are putting on hold or planning to do at some point in the future.  As you catch yourself procrastinating on something that you truly want to do, take a small step toward that thing.  If it’s writing, make the commitment to write for 5 minutes a day.  If it’s starting a business, commit to researching and planning your business for 15 minutes a day.  Tell your children what you are doing and let them learn from you as you life fully each day rather than on automatic pilot.

If you start making excuses (again), take a moment to watch the following TED talk.  I defy your excuses to remain intact as you watch this extraordinary young woman.

Life is short, live accordingly.  Life with your children at home is even shorter so, starting today, show them what’s possible.

Wishing you a wonderful first full week of 2014!

Confessions of a Know-It-All Do-It-All

I wrote the following piece as part of an online blog writing class I took with the fabulous Laurie Foley at the end of 2011.  I’d completely forgotten it and just discovered it as I sat down to write some material for the one-woman show I’m working on.  I’m glad to say that the treatment for the nerve disorder I refer to in the post did work and I’ve been symptom-free for the past three months.    Here is the post I wrote:

Oprah often quotes Maya Angelou who once told her that “When you know better, you do better”.

With all due respect to the icon of living your best life and her wise mentor, Maya, I beg to disagree.  I think there are millions of us who know way better and yet continue not to do better.  We do worse with the added layer of anxst and guilt caused by the fact that we do know better.

If there were a Phd in “Knowing Better”, I would have it.  I know so-better and yet continue to not DO better.

As a  mother, I KNOW that I need to put my “oxygen mask” on first, where “oxygen mask” is shorthand for take care of my needs first, refuel my emotional and physical tank first, make sure that I’m taking of myself first BEFORE taking care of the needs of my children.  And yet, even knowing that, I continue to take care of my children’s needs and others’ needs first.

Earlier this month, I went for my annual examination with my obgyn.  There was a slightly awkward moment when the receptionist had problems finding my records.  She then quietly informed me that I was last there in 2006 when I had the post-labor check-up after my now 5 year old son was born.  Apparently “annual” when it comes to my needs means once every five years.  When it comes to my children’s health, however, I have conformed to that old once a year definition of annual.

I found this to be revealing about the standards of care I apply to my own life and those I apply to my children.  It was one of those moments that brings you figuratively to your knees.

It made me realize that although I “know it all”, that knowing has not stopped me from “doing it all”.

Doing it all takes its toll.  As Oprah rightly says, when something is wrong with your life, your life will first try to tell you in a whisper.

Most of us ignore the whisper.  We ignore that inner voice and we ignore our body’s physical messages because we’re way too busy taking care of others to pay attention to ourselves.

In my own case, you would think that – knowing better – I might have taken some steps to address a decade of insomnia.  But, no.  Taking time to do that would take time away from all the other things that I think I should be doing first.  I figured that on some day, at some time in the future, I would take care of the elephant in the room.  Until then, I would just keep on keeping on.

Finally, my body has said “screw you.”  Last week, I was diagnosed with a rare nerve disorder.  It’s nickname is “the suicide disease” because the pain can become so intense that, well, you get my drift.

My “do it all” body has finally had enough.  It’s challenging me to put what I know into practice.  Knowing – without more – is not enough.

So I’ve been forced to question why it is that someone who has spent the last decade studying behavior and how to live one’s best life has been so damn stubborn in applying that knowledge to her own life.

My conclusion is that I’ve mastered a way of living that doesn’t serve me but at which I’ve become incredibly accomplished.  I’ve become the Yo-Yo Ma of living in a self-sacrificing way.  In the book, “The Outliers”, Malcom Gladwell wrote that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill.

As a 43 year old, if I look back at the last 20 years, that would equate to 87,600 hours (based upon 12 hours a day for 365 days a year for 20 years).  For those 87,600 hours, I have practised living in a certain way.  I’ve practised not delegating for many of those 87,600 hours.  When I was in my twenties, that didn’t matter quite so much as the only things I juggled were my day-job as an attorney and the hangover from the night before.  However, the impact of the practice of not delegating and not taking care of myself became increasingly significant as I added three children into the mix and building my own business.  The deep practice of doing everything myself (either because I thought I could do it better myself or for the somewhat ironic reason of feeling that I couldn’t possibly ask anyone else to do such a mindless, demeaning chore) started to take its toll physically and emotionally when there simply weren’t enough hours in the day or days in the week for me to cram two or three lives into my one life.

And yet I had become a maestro at living this way.  If there were a Carnegie Hall or Sydney Opera House for multitaskers, I would be knee-deep in roses on the stage while the audience clambered to its feet to give me a standing ovation.

Finally, my body has given up on me.  I wish that this were the Will Ferrell/Christopher Walken Saturday Night Live skit, where I have a fever and the only prescription is more cowbells.  But alas it’s going to take more than cowbells to get this body well again.  It is going to take deliberate practice of new life skills.  Of delegating tasks that can be done as well as I can do them or, as I’ve recently concluded, well enough.

At that same Doctor’s visit, as I sat in the waiting room I took the opportunity to read some essays from the “End Malaria” book that I had just bought.  There is a wonderful essay called “What You Don’t Have To Do” by Kevin Kelly who founded Wired Magazine.  He’s talking about work but I think the essay could equally be talking about life in general.  He says: “Work at its smartest means doing that work that no one else can do.”

That is what I’m going to start deliberately practicing in my life.  Doing only those things that no one else can do.

If it can and should be delegated, it will be delegated.  If only I can do it – and it’s something I love to do – then that is something that is worthy of my time.

Will I master this skill immediately?  No.  If it’s anything like my daughter learning to play saxophone, it may sound like a goose is being strangled in the early days.  But gradually my brain will become wired differently as I deliberately practice this new way of living and the goose will turn into a swan elegantly navigating its way through life (even though there may remain some frantic paddling beneath the surface).

Monday Mama Muse: The Two Most Important Questions in the Universe

I’ve mentioned Chris Guillebeau, founder of the Art of Nonconformity before in relation to his advice on writing

I just signed up for his Travel Hacking Cartel program as part of my mission for my husband, kids and I to travel more this year and beyond.

I also signed up again for his newsletter at the Art of NonConformity website and received the following newsletter from him. 

The Two Most Important Questions in the Universe

Hi Sally,

I hope you’re enjoying the introduction to AONC. In this episode: the two most important questions in the universe, and where we’re going next.

***

I wrote a short report in the summer of 2008 that was downloaded by more than 100,000 people in 60+ countries. The report has a  basic-but-important message: live your life the way you want and help other people at the same time.

It’s called A Brief Guide to World Domination, and if you haven’t read it, you can get your own free copy here:

http://chrisguillebeau.com/manifesto

Among other things, the report includes what I like to call the two most important questions in the universe:


1) What do you really want to get out of life?

2) What can you offer the world that no one else can?These questions are deceptively simple. It takes some people 10 minutes to get their own answers, and other people take years to figure it out.

Regardless of how long it takes you, getting your own answers is critically important. Once you know what you really want to get out of life, it’s not usually that hard to get it — as long as you’re willing to work hard and make some sacrifices. This is why you need to make sure it’s what you really want, more than anything else.

Similarly, many people like the idea of helping others, but they don’t really know how to go about it. They write a check at the end of the year, they buy cookies from the kids who knock on their door, but they can’t get rid of the persistent feeling that they could probably do more.

As I said, finding your own answers takes a while, but it’s worth it. If you’ve read the report and spent some time creating your two answers, you’re welcome to share them with other readers at the bottom of the download page:

http://chrisguillebeau.com/manifesto

You can also send in a postcard with your answers and we’ll post it online for others to see. But you don’t have to do either of those things. It’s more important to make sure that you know the answers. If you know what you want and know how you can help the world, nothing can stop you.

Over the next few updates, I’ll show you how to get what you really want (the answer to the first question) and how to make the world a better place for the rest of us (the second question). Until then, make sure you have your own two answers!

Keep rocking the universe,

I highly recommend Chris’ newsletters so please do take a moment and go to the Art of NonConformity website and sign up for his email series “6 Ways to Change the World”  if this resonates with you.

I’m going to post my answers to these two questions as my Monday Mama Muse post next Monday so look out for them then.  If you care to share your answers, that would be fabulous!

For entrepreneurial mamas – Growing with your business

I have the utmost respect for Pam Slim, founder of Escape from Cubicle Nation, especially for the way in which she combines being an extraordinary entrepreneur with being an amazing mother.

I love her blog post today where she talks about the stages of business growth from the heart and soul perspective of motherhood.

In Pam’s words, “While I do not believe in the myth of work-life balance, I do believe it is possible to design a business to meet life and family goals.”

Click here to read Pam’s post and enjoy!

Monday Mama Muse: Would you belittle your child’s dreams?

I coached two wonderful women this weekend.  Smart, articulate, accomplished, funny, creative women.  Who happen also to be mothers. 

During the time we spent together, they belittled their dreams.  They made comments like “it makes no sense whatsoever.  Except that I really want to do it.”  Or they laughed dismissively as they articulated something that is incredibly meaningful to them.

When I recited some of the language they had used to undermine or belittle themselves, they were quick to recognize it.  They both agreed that it’s something that women do constantly. 

Yet we would NEVER do it to our children.   We would never treat their dreams and goals and passions with the disdain that we do our own.  We would champion them, encourage them, support them and constantly reassure them that they can do the things they set their mind to do.

So why do we treat our children’s mothers so shabbily?  If you are a mother, don’t you think that YOUR child’s mother deserves to be treated with the same unconditional love, respect and support that you instinctively give to your child.

It’s time to listen closely to our language.  To catch ourselves when we belittle ourselves and our dreams and goals.  To recognize our way out of the pattern of dismissive behavior rather than repeating it.

If you are the mother of a daughter, this is especially vital.  Your daughter will listen to the way you talk about yourself and will internalize it.  It will become a part of her inner dialogue.  It will shape the woman she grows up to be.

Let’s break this cycle.  Once and for all. 

Speak about yourself the way you speak about those you most love in the world.   You deserve it and so do they.

Great question: If your legacy was based only on today, what would you do?

I loved the question Jonathan Fields posted on Facebook today:

“If your legacy was based only on today, what would you do?”

This past year, I thought a lot about legacy.   How do I want to be remembered?  Equally important, how do I not want to be remembered?  Sometimes this version of the same question was more compelling for me.  I don’t want to be remembered as the mother who was always too tired or too busy to read a bedtime story, for example.

What do you want to leave behind?  How do you want the world to be different because you were here? 

Are you living an irresistible obituary?

It is the moment by moment decisions you make and the day to day actions you take that will create your legacy.

Did you do something today that would support the legacy you want to leave behind?

Monday Mama Muse: J.K. Rowling on Failure and Imagination

I loved Jonathan Field’s blog post today highlighting J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard commencement address where she talks about Failure and Imagination. 

I was so happy to open the email from Jonathan today and see this.  I saw the interview J.K. Rowling did with Oprah and in the interview she mentioned this commencement address.  I had kept meaning to find it on YouTube and never got round to it.  Thanks to Jonathan for bringing it to me.  What a great way to start the first Monday of the New Year.  A perfect Monday Mama Muse, methinks.

Click here to read Jonathan’s post.

As you watch her speak, keep in mind all the excuses she could have made to NOT write.   She was a divorced mother raising her child by herself.  She was on the verge of poverty.  She didn’t have the perfect writing space.  I was in Edinburgh last August and walked past the cafe where she used to write.   Lack of time.  Lack of money.  Lack of space.   So many reasons to NOT write.  And yet she did.

What do you think when your head hits the pillow at night?

  Click here to read a beautiful and brilliant blog post by the wonderful Pam Slim.

  Pam is a fellow Martha Beck Master Coach, the founder of Escape from Cubicle Nation and author of the award-winning book of the same name.

 More than that, she is a woman, mother, daughter and friend whom I admire enormously.

 I think that this is a beautiful post for those of us who have crafted lives that are multi-layered and that defy work-life balance in it’s traditional sense.

I love how Pam concludes her post:

“When I lay my head on my pillow tonight, I will not reflect on all the things I am not, and all the things that I did not do.

I enjoyed living my life today while I lived it.

That is enough.”

I highly recommend Pam’s blog (at www.EscapeFromCubicleNation.com) even if you’re not looking to escape from a cubicle.   She is a wise old soul in a beautiful 40-something body.   Her blog posts are wise, funny and inspirational.   A perfect cocktail for the mind.

So who and what is Stand Up, Mama!?

on stage

Thank you for stopping by.  I’m Sally Robertson, the founder of Stand Up, Mama! and I’m thrilled that you’ve found my virtual home.

I’m a mother of three amazing children.  At least, that’s how they describe themselves.  I have two daughters, Eva 14 and Francesca 12, and a son, Leo 7, or as my Spanish mother-in-law likes to call him “our only child”.

Once upon a time, I was a lawyer.  Which was the closest I came to a passion in my life as I hated it with a passion.

I’m a stand up comedy writer and performer.  I’m currently working on a one-woman show, “My British Fanny”, which makes me very happy and a much better mother!

My mission with Stand Up, Mama! is to help mothers become more of who they really are so that they can be amazing role models for their children.

As a mother, you have two choices:

  1. you can tell your children how to live their best life, or
  2. you can show them.

Here at Stand Up, Mama!, we’re all about “show AND tell”.  If you want your children to live exciting, satisfying, fun-filled lives then show them how to by example!

I look forward to getting to know you!

Take care,

Sally

Click here to read “is this you?”

See Stand Up Mama at Caroline’s Comedy Club

Having spent the past month or so writing a lot of new material, I’m very excited to have two shows coming up at Caroline’s Comedy Club.  I’d absolutely love to see you if you can make it to either show.

Here are the details for reservations for each show:

Monday October 18th at 7.00pm at Caroline’s Comedy Club, 1626 Broadway – call 212.757.4100 and mention that you’re coming to see Sally Robertson to get a discounted $5/person cover charge plus 2 drink minimum.  Please e-mail me at Sally@StandUpMama.com to let me know if you’re coming to see this show.

Monday November 1st at 7pm at Caroline’s Comedy Club, 1626 Broadway – Caroline’s Best of New Talent Show to kick off the New York Comedy Festival.  I am so excited to have been asked to take part in this show.   Please call 212.757.4100 to make reservations for this show and mention that you’re coming to see Sally Robertson to get a discounted cover charge. 

I so appreciate your support!

Take care,

Sally