I have been a little obsessed…with the idea of German grocery stores ever since Edeka’s Supergeil commercial made it’s debut. (You’re welcome for that link, by the way.) Not only are German supermarkets home to Ritter Sport Butter Biscuits, they apparently also have suave old dudes, frolicking about, singing and dancing to industrial music in their aisles.
Could it get any better?
I’ve since learned that Aldi is owned by a German company and I’ve wanted to go ever since because, well… frolicking dudes and German cookies. Also it’s supposed to be hella-cheap and full of organic and non-GMO food and that’s important too, I guess.
There’s an Aldi down the street from me and every time I drive by — which has been approximately eleventy-billion times in the past three years — I think to myself, “I should really go shop there sometime.”
Yeah, you read that right. I’ve been thinking about going for three years. Clearly grocery shopping isn’t high on my priority list.
Anyhoooo… after overhearing my friend Brandi talk about a trip to Aldi a few weeks ago, I decided to finally give it a go. Except I have this whole weird social anxiety thing that’s been acting up recently as these things tend to do in times of high stress (and trust me, starting a new business is definitely a time of high stress).
In the past year I’ve managed to earn a Master’s degree, quit a job of 16 years, launch two businesses and travel to two foreign countries, but not knowing what awaits me on the other side of Aldi’s electronic doors (groceries?) is legit, straight up giving me anxiety.
[Photo credit: Flickr | Mike Mozart]
So I called Brandi.
“I’m having far more anxiety over shopping at a new store than one should, but here we are. So… which Aldi do you go to? Is it cool? Are they nice? Do I have to bring my own bags? Will they laugh at me once I step inside? And what about the frolicking dudes? Like, are they real?”
Brandi was super-cool and talked me off the ledge by answering all my questions without judgement. I decided I had enough information to finally face this silly fear and, as we talked, I steered the car towards Aldi. Just as I was pulling up to the corner to turn into the parking lot Brandi added, “Oh, and you’ll need a quarter for the shopping cart.”
My gentle snowflakes, I have never been so relieved to be sans one shiny quarter in my life. I drove my ass right past Aldi and straight to my local Kroger.
Dodged that bullet.
The cart locking system at Aldi. [Photo credit: Flickr | Matt Katzenberger]
Except I couldn’t get the “Aldi thing” out of my head.
More so, I couldn’t get the “anxiety thing” out of my head. For years I lived with anxiety and limited my life because of an overwhelming fear of the unknown. That was the old me, however. For the better part of the last decade I have reveled in a new life — one free of social anxiety and depression. I’ve been going a little backwards lately and it breaks my heart.
I don’t want to be that former version of myself again.
So, I’ve been gathering quarters in my coat pocket for a week now, preparing to face this (admittedly, laughable) fear. Sunday night another friend, Susan, who knows about my “Aldi anxiety” sent me a “What you should know about shopping at Aldi” video.
I thank the universe for my Hive who supports me in facing even the most laughable of fears. Monday morning I decided I had wasted enough time and energy on something that, in the scheme of things, really didn’t matter all that much.
Okay, not my actual Aldi. [Photo credit: Flickr | Thor1414]
I went to Aldi.
And I had to ask someone to show me how to unleash the carts with my shiny quarter. And the cashier smirked at me when I tried to bag my groceries at the conveyor belt (there’s a shelf at the front of the store you go to after you check out). And I didn’t buy enough bags the first time through to carry all my groceries, so I had to go back through the line a second time. And a very aggressive (or near-sighted — or both) woman damn near took me out trying to get to the frozen organic mango chunks.
I’m pretty sure EVERYONE knew it was my first time at Aldi. *gasp*
But just like every fear that has ever been placed in my path, I survived it. In fact, I’m kind of like an old-school Aldi pro now.
The “Aldi anxiety” was really just a displaced fear of some other stuff going on in life right now — stuff like quitting a job and leaving behind everything that has ever been familiar. Every day I’m stepping into strange new places and having to rely on the direction of complete strangers to survive. It’s unsettling to say the least.
But, just like Aldi, I’ll survive this unknown territory too. II’ll do it because I have a pocketful of tools (quarters and otherwise) to lean on — tools that many wonderful women helped me to develop. I’ll do it because I have a Brandi and a Susan that will show me love without judgement. And I’ll do it because I believe that I don’t have to define myself by who I used to be. I went back there for a time, but I didn’t stay too long.
Change works like that, after all — back and forth, zigs and zags. It’s not a linear process as much as we would like it to be.
So, what’s the “silliest” fear you ever faced down?
I was turned down for a job I didn’t even apply for this week from a company that has already turned me down twice for jobs I did apply for. It was like they were saying, just in case the first two weren’t clear, let this third - unsolicited - rejection letter serve as notice that we really, really, REALLY don’t fucking want you. And even though it’s an ego blow to receive a third (totally harsh and unwarranted) rejection letter, I wasn’t being the least bit facetious when my response, upon reading said (really fucking harsh and really fucking uncalled for) rejection letter was, “I didn’t want to to work for you anyway!”
In fact, there aren’t many entities that I do want to work for any more. Quite a few I want to work with, but for? There’s about three and one of them is whomever is going to pay me copious amounts of money to do yoga on the beach every morning as a precursor to sunning on the beach all afternoon as a precursor to shopping at fabulous stores and eating at fabulous restaurants all night (also known as vacation).
Which begs the question, if I don’t want to work for much of the anyones out there, just why the hell do I keep applying for jobs?
The truth is, I have been searching for jobs because I am seeking external validation. Even though I have been successfully leading people and organizations through change for the better part of the last two decades, it’s scary as hell to officially call myself a change leader. (In fact, it took three days of this blog post sitting open on my desktop for me to type the words “change leader.”) It would be so much easier / way WAY less scary if some big official entity first anointed me as such, right?
The fallacy here is that there are a few big official entities that have already anointed me as such. There’s a mighty official looking diploma hanging on my wall right now, in fact, and a mighty official resume that details many other mighty official entities that paid me mad cash (okay, not so mad - I worked in nonprofit for a long, long time) to be a change leader. There are also a gaggle of mighty official direct reports, peers, mentees and current clients out there that can attest to the same.
So, just who the hell else needs to give me permission before I actually believe my own value?
Okay, okay… it’s me. We all know it’s me. The mighty, official… me.
Which is exactly why I’ve spent quite a bit of time this week doing research on overcoming Impostor Syndrome. My favorite piece is this one which starts out, “I’m a fraud and everyone is about to find out. I feel that every time I am about to share something. I feel that right now writing this: I don’t even have impostor syndrome. That’s how bad my impostor syndrome is.”
There are all sorts of practical tips out there on how to keep the Impostor Syndrome at bay. Lots of good stuff, in fact. But these two spoke to me in a BIG way…
Realize that nobody belongs here more than you and realize that when you hold back you’re robbing the world.
In my heart of hearts I know I am a good coach. I am a good coach because I can not only talk the talk, I have walked the walk. I have an academic understanding of how change happens but, more importantly, I have an intimate knowledge of what it feels like because I have done it. Save my hair color, there isn’t much that I haven’t changed in the past decade. (It’s a really spectacular hair color.)
I have earned the right to be here.
Also, helping others find their way to a more desired life brings me joy. It doesn’t feel like work - it feels like purpose. Why would I deny the world that? Why would I deny ME that? Because some mighty official big company won’t hire me? That’s not a sign that I shouldn’t be doing this work - it’s merely the universe moving me along to another place where the work is needed most.
But here’s the thing… I already knew all this - I just forgot it for a hot minute. Figuring out why, so I can recognize it quicker in the future (because it will happen again) is the work now. Because that’s how change works… back and forth, back and forth.
Us humans weren’t designed as the most linear of beings, but sure as hell the most interesting.
Last week I attended the first of a year-long management training series. This particular session was focused on personality profiles - strengths, weaknesses, ways to compensate, etc. Typical “know thyself” stuff. Which is not to minimize its importance, only to say that this type of work is increasingly familiar to me.
In fact, I was really digging the subject matter and completely invested in the class when the trainer flashed a quote up on the overhead…
“We cannot change the direction of the wind, but we can adjust our sails.”
I looked around and saw many of my classmates nodding in agreement, excitedly writing the quote in notebooks or on handouts.
“We cannot change the direction of the wind…”
“The fuck I can’t!” I thought to myself.
And I wanted to say so out loud, but stopped myself. It didn’t feel pertinent to the conversation though, in all honesty, I believe it to be one of the more important conversations we could be having…
Why do we insist on defining such small worlds for ourselves?
I’m not a scientist. I know shit about the physics of aerodynamics - or whatever the hell you call “wind science” - but I do believe this, the mere act of adjusting my sails is changing the direction of the wind. And I’m done minimalizing the effort it takes to adjust my sails.
It might seem like semantics, but language matters. When you expend your precious energy making an effort to change the direction of your proverbial sails, which is the story you would rather have define you? “I couldn’t change the direction of the wind, so I adjusted my sails.” or “I changed the direction of the wind by adjusting my sails.”
Even if you didn’t mean to… even if you adjusted those damn sails by sheer happenstance… and even if you didn’t get it right the first or fourth or four hundredth time, my gentle snowflakes, claim that ish! You ARE changing the direction of the wind.
And just as much as we need to claim what we are doing – or have done – we need to claim what it is we have the possibility to do. With all due respect to Saint Francis and his “God grant me the serenity” mumbo jumbo (sorry, not sorry), I reject the idea that there is anything we cannot change. There are a million different ways to change the direction of the wind, all of which we could discover if it mattered to us enough to do so.
Deciding which changes are worthy of our time is the question that matters.
I had really intended to start this year off telling you all about a new project I am starting next week to undertake 12 awesome adventures this year. I’ve been crafting the blog post for the past three days and was all set to hit publish today. But all that is going to have to wait one more day because, my gentle snowflakes, I am mad tonight. Mad as hell! And I have a bunch of thoughts that I really need to get off my chest.
No pun intended....
Last night at the bar a drunk guy hit on my - repeatedly. I am so out-of-practice with such things that I didn’t even realize it at first. When he came up and whispered to me that I “had to dance on the bar before the end of the night,” I laughed. I assumed he was admiring my mad dancing skills (because, obviously…) and was only encouraging me to have more fun. I figured out he was a lecherous douche bag, however, when he came up to me half an hour later and proclaimed that I had nice breasts.
I was so taken aback I didn’t know how to respond. I was all like, “Uhm, thank you? And you know that tall, shaved head, goateed, full-sleeved tattooed dude up there singing karaoke right now that could put you to sleep with one punch is my husband, right? Oh, and also… NOT appropriate.”
His response? “I just thought you should know.”
Motherfucker, I know I have an impressive rack. We are intimately acquainted as a matter of fact. And, truth be told, I had even started to leave the house in something that showed it off earlier that night. However, I decided to opt for comfort (and warmth) instead and threw on long-sleeved t-shirt before walking out the door because my husband - the ONLY person other than the masochist at the mammography center who should be concerned with my boobs - already knows what’s under the t-shirt. Hence, I decided there was no real need to put them on display. I wasn’t going out to put on a show - I was going out to have some fun.
And I was having fun… so much fun. Good company, good drinks, good karaoke (the Mr. - not me), lots of laughs, a little (obviously awesome) dancing. It was all good. Until you had to come along and reduce me down to a few body parts that you somehow decided to lay enough claim to that you could, publicly and without shame, comment upon them.
Now I know we all do stupid things when we are drunk. You know, like that time I didn’t punch the asshole at the bar that thought it was okay to comment on the current state of my breasts. But how fucking dare you?
I spent a lifetime hiding my body from the world behind a large layer of fat. I did so because I was bound and determined that anyone who loved me was going to have to prove that they loved me for more than just my physical appearance. (Seriously, just go with the theory - I don’t have the wherewithal to explain it all tonight.)
Through five years of hard - really, fucking, hard - work, I have finally reclaimed my body. So much so that I let a surgeon slice me open in an effort to keep it around just a little while longer. In doing so I am fully aware that I am opening myself up to some unwanted attention. Trust me… my body has been the centerpiece of any conversation I have had for the past nine months. Eventually, however, I always steer the conversation to what really matters - how I feel as opposed to how I look.
And last night I felt good… so good. I was celebrating! In 2015 I have worked my ass off (literally) crafting a good marriage, a happy kid, a fruitful career, a healthy body, a clean and organized sanctuary (minus the basement - I can’t be held accountable for the basement) and eleventy-billion thoughtful and smart papers and presentations for my Masters program.
I had earned that night of carefree fun so many times over this last year.
And here’s the thing… you didn’t notice me because of my boobs. There were lots of women at the bar with beautiful bodies last night. (Trust me, I peeked.) You noticed me because I am a confident woman who is (finally) comfortable in my own skin. A woman who is free and unafraid. A woman who laughs and celebrates and revels in life. A woman who also happens to have a biological advantage (or disadvantage in some instances) on top.
That’s what you noticed, you fucking moron. You are just too ignorant to actually name it.
It is no wonder to me tonight how women get so screwed up in this society. We are such complex creatures - full of hopes, dreams, goals, hard work, love and beautiful souls. Yet, in a moment’s notice, all of it can be erased by one drunk douche bag in a dingy bar on the eastside of Detroit with a simple proclamation that reminds you that, to a large part of the population, your primary function remains being a set of eye-pleasing body parts.
I call bullshit. And the next asshole that tries to belittle this amazingly complex woman gets punched… or a thirty minute dissertation on the patriarchy.
Probably the dissertation.
I came home from work on Monday night with a fever, stuffy head and thigh muscles that felt like they were in a vice grip. Taking care of the pain is tricky and, honestly, scary. Because I don’t have much of a stomach left, I have to protect the lining which means that the list of medications I am no longer allowed to take is about a mile long.
In short, I can take Tylenol. Period. And guess what we had none of? Tylenol. Period. And guess who hauled their sick ass to the drug store because they wouldn’t ask their husband to do so? Me. Period. And guess who has been pissed as hell for the past 24 hours at her husband for not knowing I needed his help?
Well, I’m probably not the only wife that lay claim to that.
To be fair, until this year, I have never really asked Mr. Adams to take care of me in our fifteen year relationship. There’s never really been a need. More than that, it has rarely been a requirement of mine that the people with whom I have relationships actually nurture them - including my husband. Including myself.
Surgery - and everything that has followed it - was a promise to myself that I would take care of me. I get it. The rest of the world, however, has yet to understand that I expect them to take care of me too.
Sometimes - say, when I have a stuffy head, fever and sore muscles - it is easy to forget that the rest of the world hasn’t been on this multi-year journey with me. They don’t know that I have different expectations now. So, yesterday I had to actually had to say to my husband, “I expect you to take care of me when I am sick. You are it for me - my person. When I need help, I expect to be able to lean on you for help and get it.”
Amazing that we are about to celebrate our thirteenth wedding anniversary in less than a month and I have never before laid out that expectation. And, to be clear, the declaration was as much for me as it was for him. I have never allowed myself to really lean on him - or anyone, really, save a few members of my family.
I have, for all intents and purposes, trained my husband to expect that I am 100% self-sufficient. Turns out I’m not - or at least I choose not to be - and I had to bring him up to speed on that memo.
I am a member of a few different Facebook groups for women who have had bariatric surgery. At least once a week someone posts a question about whether anyone else has experienced “losing friends” (or spouses) as a side effect of surgery. Some attribute it to “jealousy” or friends not being able to “handle” our new-found confidence. And, I’m sure, there are instances where that may be true.
However, I believe the real issue is that you don’t get to the point of weight loss surgery without having different expectations - of yourself and of the world surrounding you. At least not successful weight loss surgery, anyway. You’ve changed the rules of the game and people around you are simply confused - and why shouldn’t they be? Nothing has changed for them. You have to clue them in on the new rules…
I value me. I value my health. I value my life. And I expect you to as well. This means… fill in the blank. Fill in the blank will be constantly evolving as I evolve, but I commit to sharing with those that matter what it means today.