Personal Project: Navigate

Captain’s log: day one…or so!
Year in and year out, for the last many years, I have vowed to do better. Be more purposeful, simplified, and organized – inside and out. I am visual – visual disorganization creates internal stress and chaos. The last several years I have been pregnant or nursing, juggling a full time job and taking on more and more. In some odd way, the more I felt I was failing, the more I took on. Filling myself with things that mattered to me and believing that if I could do good I would feel good. Seems natural right? But the reality was I was becoming more and more overwhelmed – often leaning on John’s shoulder and sobbing as I muttered “I am such a failure!” He would argue with me – which normally didn’t end well – because I just wanted to be heard.
Trying to be all things to all people at the level I expected of myself – and accomplishing none. Those moments of overwhelming despair were usually those days I hit rock bottom and could no longer compartmentalize. I could not see what I had accomplished through all I felt I could, should, would do if I was just “better”. Mad chaotic to-do lists with every conceivable project possible so that I would forget nothing. Then guilt – not feeling like anyone that mattered to me was getting the best of me. And for those of you that seek to reassure me it wasn’t as bad as I am thinking… missed my umpteenth time of screaming at Alexandra to get in the car (again!), yelling at kids for not making life easier by at least cleaning up after themselves – grilling them on what was going to happen when their clean-up fairy aka maid aka mother had a heart attack from stress. Reading them the riot act while describing life under a bridge if I lost my job because I was going to be late to work yet again while driving like a bat-out-of-hell to get them to school on time. Yep – my brilliant parenting moments – followed by guilt on the drive into work and reminder that I must not die before the kids come home or that less-than-stellar parenting moment be their last memory of me.
I like to presume that I haven’t always been like this…..but I haven’t always had 6 kids, a home, a husband, a full time job, child medical challenges and everything that comes with that – mess, activities, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, laundry, socks, papers, projects, school work, sports, more socks, appointments, more socks and more appointments, travel, lots of work, lots more laundry and many, many, many socks! But, I have in the past felt better – more focused, more fulfilled. Maybe I had more time and actually got through my endless lists and still got up early to start my day with prayer and meditation. Maybe I just didn’t expect as much of myself. Maybe I just didn’t have as much to do. In reality it was all of the above.
Many days I just plod through with a smile until I realized the mountain is getting bigger and bigger – then I have an “I-so-suck day”. Recently I was selected for a mentoring program at work. With mixed emotions I jumped into it – fearful of taking on one more thing I would fail at, but excited to have someone on the outside looking in help me achieve my goals. We talked on the phone one day – a get to know you chat. Then we met in person but he had to leave early, so disillusioned I really thought I should have not agreed to it. I worked on a mission statement and goals – which I then sent to him. Following the guidelines of the program, for our first meeting I sent him a structured agenda. Phew….one thing done right…..NOT!
Anxiously waiting for his call, we finally connected. In my best professional manner I jumped right into things. He stopped me in mid-air, told me to throw caution and structure to the wind because marking off check boxes and following someone else’s plan for mentoring would not give me what I needed. Clearly he tossed my agenda aside and we started talking. It was in that conversation that he said to me “don’t be a victim – navigate Catherine!” That spoke to me at so many levels as I have shared in other posts. The whiteboard hanging on the wall across from my desk has two things written on…and one of them is NAVIGATE!

inspiration board: Navigate! ….the greatest danger is in letting the urgent crowd out the important…..

Then next time we met I asked him if that word was intentional to which he said yes. He told me in life there are complainers (whiners!), survivors (just try to keep their head above water but take no risks), and navigators willing to take risks to purposefully and rewardingly experience life. I acknowledged being all three. Actually, all three in any single day. He chuckled, complimented my honesty and told me that now I would work on it. We discussed what works for him and I implemented even small organizational changes right away. Immediately I felt the fruit of the small changes and was thankful!
Ultimately he was challenging me to navigate life one day at a time (I still need to learn how he handles the big stuff) – purpose, organization, simplicity, joy. Before I add you can buy all of this for just 3 easy payments of $99.99, let me point out I don’t believe in easy fixes. It took me discipline and focus to get there before, and then a lot of kids to let me slip…..what is the rule for how long I can blame maternity leaves for the extra pounds, mess, and chaos? I envy those who make the first year look so darn easy – it wasn’t for me as much as I enjoyed it and miss it.
My challenge. I compartmentalize beyond the keeping healthy separation between work and family. I have two computers with two different operating systems, two inboxes, two calendars, two very demanding aspects of my life which translated to two very long to-do lists and one very stressed out Catherine. I craved order, simplicity, organization, clarity  but instead I fell into the abyss of too much to do and too little time. When people asked me how I was doing my standard responses were:
a. Hanging in there! …..failing to add on “and just barely as the dental floss gives way through my sweaty fingers!”
b. Living the dream! …..which never really stated a wonderful dream or a nightmare or something in between where I could never get where I was trying to go because people keep getting in my way and trying to get me to do something else
c. Taking it one day at a time! ……silently muttering “because thinking beyond today makes me cry myself to sleep at night!”
d. Feeling very blessed!…….while thinking “because so far no one has died today and I celebrate all the little things…..but things might change when I get lost in the laundry room”
You get the drift!
So in the last month I have started my personal project….my quest… goal………..Extreme Personal Improvement – Catherine Edition! Homes have Ty Pennington – I am armed with a great mentor, some old tricks I need to dust off and use again, and some new ideas for long term gains. And I may just call it Catherine Edition but it is actually the Krause Bears edition – and my cubs seem to be game!
My friends – my virtual therapists – I invite you along for the ride now as my virtual accountability partners. Just typing things and posting them into cyberspace often clears up mental clutter. So you are another tool in my toolbox 🙂 For those of you thinking UGH – just give me Peter updates – I will be sure to be very clear in my blog title (maybe even venture to use pages?) so that you can come and go as you wish. But know that you are welcome along the journey any time you wish – and invite your friends to join – and I am always up for good tips!

One thought on “Personal Project: Navigate

  1. Catherine, every emotion you so honestly expressed I can absolutely relate to. The perpetual quest to be better – better organized, a better Mother, a better “worker” better – better – better is a constant mantra to me. I am failing because I should be doing better. Others do it better …blah blah blah! And here is what I have figured out. No one is doing it better. I am thrilled that you have decided to blog on this “more organized” journey. I would like to see if it is really possible and if there are tips I can pick up on. But again, what I realize over and over again is that there are only so many hours in the day. Those of us that are “driven” personalities always think we should be able to do more but in fact we do, do, more. You have six children and with what you have been through with Peter, I am amazed you are still standing let alone working full time. Your comment about “having a heart attack from the stress” is probably the most important comment you made. I have come to the realization that no matter what I do to be healthy, it is futile unless I have the capacity to unwind and de-stress. You know the saying – “no one is happy if Momma ain’t happy” so my new mission is to figure out what I really want, if what I really want is going to make me happy, and how to get my self personally balanced so I can be the Mother I want to be for the few short years I have my children at home.

    All of that to really say, I would love to take this journey with you.


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