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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Get Off The Path Of Self-Sabotage

I have a story to share with all of you this week. Hopefully, it will show you—if nothing else—how we women have a tendency to sabotage ourselves personally and as writers simply by the way we see (or don’t see) things.

I had the worst week this past week. One of those weeks where tiny things—that wouldn’t normally phase me—pecked away at my patience until I was ready to hit the roof if I dropped a pen on the floor! It happens to the best of us. Unfortunately, such times also tend to put us in a funk where the good things in life are clouded over. But a conversation I had with a phenomenal woman changed my perspective.

On Thursday, we were almost an hour late for Preschool. Xander was screaming and tired and so was Jaimie. We were up all night the night before. I finally got them there and Jaimie clung to me, begging for me not to go. Her symptoms were through the roof and I seriously thought I'd have to remove her. But I guided her over to the book section, set up a chair so she'd have her back to the class, and asked her if she'd be okay reading until she calmed down (That’s how her teachers and I agreed Jaimie could still participate in classroom activities when her symptoms are too high to cope with the social aspect.) She gave a weak, "Yeah" and I left.

I stood outside the room and watched Jaimie through the window. She never participated—she didn’t even turn around. She read books until snack time then sat at the outer edge of the mats for song time (at the end). As tears welled up in my eyes I thought how unfair it was for a child to have to deal with what Jaimie has to every day on top normal kid stuff. Then I felt a strong, reassuring hand on my shoulder: Judith, the head of the Preschool programs (and the woman who helped me figure out ways Jaimie could participate with her peers.)

After asking how Jaimie was doing—and listening to me ramble on about our week and morning—she asked how I was doing. I was taken aback because I'm not asked that question often. I told her I was tired and how overwhelmingly sad it made me sometimes to watch Jaimie struggle. Judith kept her hand on my shoulder and told me how she thinks Moms are so unappreciated.

She says in Kenya—where she's from—mothers are viewed as Godesses. She said you can treat whomever else like crap but Mothers are respected and greatly loved. There's no Mother's Day in Kenya so children show their appreciation for their mothers in other special ways. Judith is the 10th of 11 kids and her mom was a stay-at-home mom for all of them. She said she and her siblings sang a special song to their mother whenever she felt overwhelmed or frustrated. Then she says to me, "I don't know how you do it with your three kids—especially with one special needs child. To me, that's truly amazing." I'm amazing? Her mother is amazing!!

She then told me that she and her husband have been trying for four years to have children. She wanted to have a big family--like the one she grew up in--but thinks she's getting too old to have a one (she's almost 40). But she told me—with a bright smile—she’d be patient.

"One day," She said. "I'll be blessed with a child. And, if it's not my fate to be a mother, I'll simply enjoy the children I help every day."

She gave me another squeeze, tickled Xander’s tummy then walked back down to check on another class she oversees. As I sat and reflected on Judith’s words, I realized how disillusioned I’d been. It was as though someone took my glasses off, cleaned them with a slap-of-reality solution then put them back over my eyes.

Yes, I had a bad week but good things happened too: I managed to conduct four interviews for article ideas and actually had a very successful writing week; I finished an assignment for school; was told I now have a 3.6 GPA; and Xander started walking. How did I overlook all of those wonderful things? One word: sabotage.

Why do we do that to ourselves? We do it in our lives and in our writing. We focus on those tiny irritating things that we allow to build up and block our view from the good things that are going on around us. Then it takes a beautiful angel on earth, like Judith, to rip down that blocker and swing our eyes back to what’s really important. She grew up with very little but with tons of love and a strong mother who taught her to see life for what it is: tough but with sprinkles of happiness to remind her not to give up. Ever.

So, how do you counteract sabotage? What ways do you help yourself to stay focused and motivated? Judith uses her love for children and her passion to assure equality and inclusion for all children. I have Jaimie to remind me that little successes are so important. We’d love to hear how you do it.

Keep your head up, wear a smile and keep writing!


  1. Oh, Chynna, you have no idea how timely this post is for so many women I know, both in cyberspace and in my "real" life, person-to-person. Maybe it's the holiday season that's amplifying this issue, too.

    You're right, we do sabotage ourselves, and we do it by always taking on more and more and more. I have done it in many ways. The more efficient I become, the more I "squeeze" in. But the best way I've found to avoid reaching that point is through exercise. "Venting" stress through physical exercise, either biking or walking or some other way, allows me to get that needed break from daily tasks and other duties I pile on my already-full list.

    I think as women, even more so as divas of multi-tasking, we don't always realize our breaking point, until we snap. Once we get there, the funk begins, and it's hard to undo all those internal knots.

    Thanks for this insightful post! Keep up the good work!

  2. Chynna,

    What a beautiful post, as always, and I felt I was there with you. You have a true gift for sharing your experiences. And, you've always amazed me. Ever since I met you, and I know I can speak for others on our team, you've captured my heart with everything you do. From your wonderful writing, to your amazing strength, and unbelievable energy! Sue and I talk about this often, but we don't know how you do it. It's not surprising you're tired! Most women would be laid out on the floor with everything you deal with daily. I know I would!

    And the thing is, you give 110% always. I've often gotten overwhelmed from many of the things I have to do on a daily basis, to the point of breaking down and hiding from the world. It's an awful feeling having such weight on your shoulders all the time. But it's also the thing that keeps me striving for the best.

    When things get too tough, you need to ask for help. This is something I'm just now realizing. And believe me, it's not easy. I think as women we have a tendency to think we can handle everything and cushion things for others by concealing our feelings or stress. But that's not good for anyone. It's not good for the people around you, your coworkers, family, and friends. Just knowing that you have support to lean on means a lot. I want you to know that we are your support team, and although we can't be there to physically lay our hands on your shoulder, or give you a big hug, we want to. Believe me, when I first meet you, you are going to get the biggest hug on the planet!! Same with the whole team.

    Whenever I get bummed and start self-sabotaging, I take a step back and think of the positive things in my life. Overall, and I can guarantee this is the same for you, the positive outweighs the negative. Every time. And that means you are doing something right, and should celebrate that fact. Do something nice for yourself, take some time for only you, even if you have to ask someone to fill in. Remember: you can't succeed and achieve your dreams if you aren't happy. I think we all want the same things and are willing to help each other out. Lean on me if you need help. Talk to Judith, go to lunch, take a break. You deserve it and more! Spend time with people that make you feel good, like Judith. It doesn't matter if they're a writer, or have similar goals, in fact, it's good to get out of the box sometimes and share with others who are completely out of your loop. Just don't be afraid to ever ask for help. That's one of the biggest lessons I've recently learned.




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