Friday, November 2, 2018

Suffering, but not Struggling

I went to bed last night thinking, “Everyone in my life is struggling right now.”

Marriage issues, career setbacks, rapid and disorienting change, natural disasters and natural transitions. They’re struggling. But are they suffering?

This week I met a woman who told me, “How can you expect to achieve your wildest dreams if you aren’t willing to suffer for them?”

She said, when you eat a good meal or drink a fine wine or see a great show, you pay for it. Ticket costs, right? Entry fees. Tabs and bills and checks and cash.

Why would achievement be any different?
Photo by KW 2008

I have always been an achiever. I am willing to be first and willing to work hard. I’m willing to get up early and stay up late. The norm for the last ten weeks has been 18-hour days. My latest complaint is scheduling down to the minute, even scheduling family time and trashy romance reading time.

It’s football season, so it hasn’t been all work and no play. There’s just more work to make room for the play hours that football and family time claim.

I’m doing some things I love: meeting new people, building new programs, testing new ideas, transferring knowledge, and making connections. I truly feel like I’m IN the game. 

I’m doing some things I hate: sticking to a schedule, administrative attention to detail, skipping fitness, cutting back on wine, focusing on the and theninstead of the what if?

And while I’m suffering, I don’t feel defeated.

I woke up at 3:30 this morning thinking, 1) it’s too early to get up and start working, and 2) that’s too bad.

Yes, I’m busy. Yes, I’m running on little-to-no-sleep. Yes, I’m straining some of my most valuable relationships – I’m aware, friends, I promise!


When I thought last night of how everyone around me is struggling, I realized I’m not.

Suffering and struggling are not the same thing.

By suffering I mean I’m having to make hard choices, prioritize some things over others, let some things I loved go, disappoint some people while forging new relationships with others. Change is hard. New ventures are hard. Disappointment and failure and overcoming resistance are hard. That’s what I mean by suffering. It means what I’m doing is hard.

But I’m not struggling. Struggling is being indecisive, feeling alone, feeling disoriented or without purpose or direction. Struggling is questioning motivations of others and myself. Struggling is losing trust and losing faith.

I have faith.

The things that need to happen will happen. The places I need to be, I’ll get there. The influential persons and events that will shape my life are part of my life because I invited them in. I threw open the doors. I expected their participation.

I was willing to be changed.

This morning I am invigorated. I cannot wait to suffer for my achievements. I can see the horizon and it is a glorious place of fulfillment and peace. And this place I’m in now, it’s the bedrock of that one. It’s the journey. The path. The program. The system. The story I’ll tell.

And I love being in it.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

You Are What You Wear

I paired the butterfly skirt with a t-shirt that reads “Take what you need and burn the rest.” In all the years I’ve owned that butterfly skirt, I’ve never had a perfectly-matching top for it. The material is flowy and satiny with a slender lining underneath. It’s a “work skirt” I’ve had since we lived up in the Upstate and it’s hung, unworn, for years.

This summer my style became work skirts and t-shirts. I wore the Miyagi-Do Karate t-shirt with a dark blue miniskirt. The Save Ferris t-shirt with a black skirt that has grey flowers on it. My Maine t-shirt with the green Tommy Hilfiger skirt. My First Amendment shirt with the white Tommy skirt.

I wrap both wrists in bracelets. I wear earrings in all five holes. Sometimes they match, sometimes they don’t. I let the Jeep dry my hair and push styling paste through it whenever I arrive where I’m meant to be.

I’m 41 years old and my style has emerged as authentic, a little eccentric, and vintage.

I’ve been telling Hollie for years that if what she chooses to wear is weather appropriate and makes her feel confident, then it’s fine. She pairs red shirts with pink skirts and blue socks with purple leggings. She works in color families, more than in matching sets. Once, when she was wearing all read (shirt, skirt, pants, socks), my friend Jodie said she hadn’t realized Hollie was monochromatic. She’s always had a color palette style, things that don’t clash really, they just aren’t a perfect match. It’s that slightly off-match that defines her style.

Yesterday I wore my Goonies t-shirt with suit pants. It was the first time I had the guts to do it, but I thought it looked really cool. Celebrities do it. Why not me?

In Iron Man, Robert Downey, Jr.’s character pairs a kitten t-shirt with a blazer. It’s an eccentric millionaire look. The kind of My Give a Damn’s Broken look that exudes confidence. I just had to own it.

After about an hour, I’d forgotten I was wearing it and just owned it. The t-shirt with trousers look may take a little longer to gain confidence, but I’m going to work on it because it’s unique. Weather appropriate and makes me feel confident, that’s what matters.

In many circumstances, I’m expected to don the business woman uniform: trousers and a blouse. When I worked 8-to-5 for a big company, I wore skirts every day. High heeled shoes and Kay Jewelers jewelry. While my make-up has always been sparse, I worked my hair between coloring appointments. Painstakingly blow-drying every strand.

Maybe I’m just older. Maybe society has changed. Maybe being a mom had made me less patient with things like hair dryers and jewelry clasps.

Or maybe I’ve always been a skater. 

Thrasher Magazine pictures used to paper my walls, my favorite t-shirt was a ripped G&S black and white oversized. At Clemson, I wore a black body suit with a pair of my friend Josh’s jeans and an unbuttoned flannel shirt. I’ve always had a little rebel style, I just suppressed it.

And this summer, I finally unleashed it. It’s not like having a hysterectomy or selling the house, there’s nothing permanent about a wardrobe. But it still feels like a milestone. Like I’ve emerged from the cocoon and started to flap my wings.

And they’re gold and gossamer and pair nicely with a slim pencil skirt.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Put Another One in the Books

We’ve been married 17 years.

I wish I had a memory to share for each year but they all kind of blur into this long reality that is: I’ve been with Charlie longer than I’ve been without him.

We met when I was 19. So now, at 41, I’ve been with him longer than I was ever without him. The majority of my social circle doesn’t know me before Charlie and those who do barely remember me when he wasn’t reflecting me.

He’s like a mirror. He shows me the very best of myself and, when necessary, the rough edges and dirty parts, too. He expects more of me and because he does, I expect more of myself.

Those are some sweet $200 sunglasses, folks.
When I describe him to people who don’t know him, I say he’s the coolest guy I know. I say whenever I’m doing anything I wish he was there participating and that when he’s not, I can’t wait to tell him about it.

I remember a few things about the start: the a/c was broken in the church and it was late July in Upstate South Carolina and those out of state visitors were stunned by how crazy hot it was.

We moved to Charlotte that summer and were out of work, but we only stayed three days on our honeymoon at Myrtle Beach because we couldn’t afford to stay any longer. The hotel was beachfront, our room was oceanfront, but we had to check the remote control out at the front desk. We carried the cooler upstairs and watched the end of the NASCAR race while drinking beer. We didn’t have medical insurance. We waited tables.

I remember a few things about the middle: we moved to Easley because our best friend Michael asked us to. We loved that little starter house. We bought whatever meat was on sale and then flipped open How to Cook Everything to figure out what to do with it. 

We hit happy hour two or three times a week even after Hollie was born, carrying her with us to sports bars and pool halls and patios.
That's one SERIOUS hangover.

I remember a lot of the latest: we share pride in Hollie over some of the same things (man, that kid is cool) and some different things, those things that remind us of ourselves and each other. We enjoy Sundays, our neighbors, and the country club. We worry about politics and bills and where our careers are headed.

We spend time together on the golf course, listening to live music, and in restaurants. There have always been restaurants. And we get frustrated and we get sad and we get excited and we get hopeful. 

We’re teammates. Above all. We win together and we lose together.

We’ve been in this thing together 17 years. And there’s no one I’d rather have in this boat with me. 

I love you, Charlie. Here’s to 17 more.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Love Builds Confidence

Going into the archives for some classic blogs to get this blog resurrected. It's no longer The 41st Year and Life on Clemson Road is, as always, an incredible Journey.

From May 2016:

For Mother’s Day, Hollie gave me a picture card she’d drawn in school. It said: 

You like to read and write with me, write and read, write and read, write and read. You work every day, work, work, work, work. You watch movies and shows with me, watch, watch, watch, watch, watch, watch. You eat lunch with me on Saturday, eat, eat, eat. I love u!

Beneath it was a picture of two equally-sized people wearing orange, holding books, and standing near a restaurant booth. On the table was a hot dog (hers) and a glass of wine (mine).

My first thought was, “Way to hit that word count, girl!”

My second was, “Hollie really knows me.”

I’ve not been hiding myself from her. She knows I love to read and write. She knows I love to watch movies and Animaniacs. She knows Saturdays are our date days and that during lunch she can have sweet tea and I’ll be drinking wine.

I am who I am.

Being myself with Hollie is how I’m showing her that it’s okay for her to be herself, too.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The 42nd Year is Underway

"Easter is about hope."

That’s what the Australian-accented, boomerang-slinging bunny in Rise of the Guardians says about his holiday.

Easter is about possibility. Redemption. Renewal.

It’s rather fitting that the end of The 41st Year is Easter week. It’s fitting because when I set out to do this last year, I was really looking for renewal.

On my 40th birthday, sitting in a bar in New York City, I wrote, “This all started because Heather said, ‘Forty is a motherfucker,’ and, like most things in my life, I decided to manage my expectations.”

Forty couldn’t fuck with me if I knew what I was doing. If I had a plan. A purpose. A mission.

On the first page of the journal I bought in NYC to track The 41st Year, I wrote, “I know I’ll struggle. I know I’ll focus on the shortfalls and the challenges. I know I’ll be glaringly aware of the misses, the failures, and the face plants.”

So here they are:
I did not visit Papa 40 times. I got to Florence 11 times in the last year. It’s an hour trip and a three-hour commitment. It takes about $20 in gas round trip. I’ve been too broke and too busy. And yet each of those 11 visits filled me with a sense that my Papa appreciates me. Loves me. Is proud of me. So, I’ll try to keep my once-a-month pace and hope that will suffice.

I did not donate 40 articles of clothing or put 40 pages into Hollie’s scrapbook. I didn’t do even one for either of those. I did accept some pieces from my dear friend, Teresa, who has lost weight and gave me the six pairs of pants and four tops that have made my working full time doable these last three months. As for the scrap book, someday I’m sure I’ll wish I had captured every minute with Hollie. For now, though, I’m waiting until she’s interested in helping with the project to really take it on.

I did not submit 40 times. I submitted 27 times but now I have a weekly habit, so that’s a good thing. I feel good about the submissions. I feel like I’m getting used to rejection and that’s part of being a writer.

I did not do 40 runs, in fact I haven’t run at all. Something I regret and something I plan to remedy. Immediately. Let’s roll that goal into next year.

I didn’t get to 40 new places but I did get to 15 including two new cities: Kansas City, Missouri and Toledo, Ohio. It’s hard to travel when you don’t have any money. Some “places” that mattered this year included the Office of Business Opportunity’s Small Business Conference last May at which I was a speaker and the Winter Wheat Literary Festival where I was on faculty. The SCWA’s writers conference in the fall to which I won a scholarship and the Girls Rock! showcase where I saw my daughter play guitar on stage for the first time. I’ll take quality over quantity on that one all day long. We even got to Five Points on St. Patty’s Day which was a big achievement for Hollie and me.

I also wrote in that journal that The 41st Year was meant to provide wins. Easy ways to show progress and success.

“Say you will and then do it. No fear. No excuses. No boundaries.” Reasonable, achievable things on the list.

Categories where I killed it: Blog posts and books by female authors. I read 73 books last year and have read 28 this year so far. Nearly all of them are by women writers. My blog posts were mostly on the SCWA blog, but I also generated content for Clemson Road Consulting, Unapologetically X, and two clients. This blog, The 41st Year, has been neglected. But that’s mostly as a reflection of my glaring awareness of misses, failures, and face plants.

So, it’s Easter and this is about hope. Renewal. It’s about opportunity.

There has been so much opportunity in the last few months, really since I started The 41st Year and started being intentional about pretty much everything. Opportunities are not hiding under bushes waiting to be found like colored eggs. They’re flying past us like dandelion seeds on the wind. I’ve tried to gather them all. Chased them all. Watched them float by and wished they were mine.

Now I’m going to bloom where I’m planted.

This was an important year. A year in which I decided I am the grown-up in the room and it’s up to me to make decisions and take action. A year in which I stopped waiting for others to offer, comply, and play along.

I was so afraid that 40 would be a motherfucker. So, I geared up and took a few practice swings. When they landed, and the resistance gave way, I decided to kick its ass. And what it feels like right now is that I’m just getting started.

It feels like Game On. Bring it, 42nd Year. Show me what you’ve got.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Selling Myself in Bits & Pieces

I’d like to say I haven’t blogged here since November because I’ve been crushing it in the 41st year.

In some ways, I have. Since January, I’ve added three titles to my resume:
  • Project Manager at the McNair Center for Entrepreneurship,
  • Adjunct Instructor in Entrepreneurship at the Darla Moore School of Business, and
  • Co-Host of the radio program Start Something, Columbia.
We’re waiting to hear this month about funding for a new women’s business center in Columbia for which I would be Co-Director.

I’m still Managing Partner of Clemson Road Consulting (formerly known as President of Clemson Road Creative) and I’ve been the Lead Organizer for 1 Million Cups Columbia for about six months.

What do all these titles do for my 41st year goals?

Well, I’ve been adding up live events with conferences, summits, and meetings in support of my new titles. I’ve also been writing dozens of blogs for various outlets. Today I’m sitting down to write out two-dozen thank-you notes to all of those people who wrote us letters of support for our women’s business center grant application.

Where I’m killing it: 40 books by female authors.

In 2017 I read 73 books and so far this year I’ve read 25 books; the majority of these books have been women authors. In fact, I might want to try reading some men in 2018. I definitely need to add more non-fiction to the list but that’s the case every year.

Visiting new places and visiting my Papa are goals that have both suffered from my lack of funds. I’ve been so low on cash that a lot of things (pedicures, wine) have fallen off my regular expenses. I know Papa doesn’t begrudge me the visits but I have always equated driving with freedom and to not be able to travel has been a soul-crushing reality.

The purpose of the 41st year was always to find some measurable things I could do, some ways to spend my time that would equate to impact. I have to say that the work I’m doing these days seems more impactful than anything I was doing before.

I feel like I’m turning a corner. Cresting a wave. Climbing the S curve.

Since last March, I’ve given more workshops, submitted more writing, and applied for more opportunities than I have in the past. I’ve been working my sales plan with three principles: 1) people need to know me, 2) people need to know what I do, and 3) people need to trust I can do it. When we get all three, we earn business.

The business is coming. The future is bright. The 41st year feels like just the beginning.

Angel Kisses and Overwhelming Gratitude

What I usually tell people about Carol Staubach is that she failed statistics in college and she was the smartest woman I’ve ever known. Wh...