How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pandemic

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I love nothing more than to see a woman on top. Wait, that sounds…exactly the way I want it to.  On top of her finances, her heart and her health. I know a few ladies who have mastered this and they all have one thing in common.  They do more for themselves than they do for others.

I personally have a savage work ethic, I always have. To the detriment of my  physical and mental health. What I lacked in knowledge I would make up for with effort and loyalty.  My need to please was fed regularly. In my 35+ years in the workforce,  I thought I had seen and heard it all. (Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me. You know who you are). Then, enter Coronavirus. It took Covid to show me that no job is secure, no business is indestructible, no savings account is safe.

I have been out of work since last March, just like countless other humans.  I have never been more broke nor more happy. For the first time in almost 40 years I was able to stop “doing” and  just “be”. I honestly feel like I have been preparing for this my whole life. Isolation and social distancing are my jam.

As my career advanced, it seemed like every level up was more male dominated.  The higher I went, the more mansplaining I heard.  Being able to shut it down was sort of a perk for me. It reminded me of being home with my seven brothers. My dad said I had a gift for telling people to go screw themselves with a smile and they would somehow end up thanking me.

The lady climbers were going up the corporate ladder in heels and skirts with a baby in one hand and a frying pan in the other. Can we talk about this more? They are the real MVP’s.

I was a  Freshman in high school when I was hired for my first job.

Then, skipped college and counted on my life experiences and common sense to guide me.  I remember being harassed by a coworker for not having a degree. Once. That passing conversation stuck with me for years.  It kept me from enjoying my accomplishments and affected my confidence.  That bitch. (I hope she is reading this). To avoid feeling that shame, I started my own company.  Then another, and another. It’s a lot of work.  Like 24/7 kind of married to it work. Then I was out of work, for the first time in 38 years. It took me 6 months to stop squeezing the last drop out of every minute. I had no idea how to relax. It was 8 months before my shoulders came down. Compounding stress accumulates and it will kill you.

The fact is I over-do. I can be selfless, guarded and sometimes too tired to ask for change, I would catch myself muttering
“Ugh, it’s just easier if I do it myself.”

Is it?

Really?

Sometimes, but ONLY in the immediate while putting out other fires and only if you just want to be doing time at the office. The truth is that explaining, guiding, teaching, demonstrating how it’s done are all too consuming of time and energy.

Do it anyway. That’s leadership. And that’s why leadership can be so challenging and fulfilling simultaneously. It’s not realistic to wait for the perfect scenario or environment to teach or to learn.  I have done both under less than stellar circumstances. Look, I AM FINE.

I loved my work. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t stressful and stress fueled.

Here’s something else I’ve learned, people that are underpaid and undervalued eventually underperform.

I have seen underlying resentments take down entire companies.  Team building is an art. When it all comes together, it is a thing of beauty. It is big work. I love big work!  It can mean big money, I love big money!  The truth is that I had to start my own business just to get a fair shot at equal pay. I know, this isn’t news, but it is the reason that I have been dehydrated and fatigued since 1997.

I would go overboard. I was too generous with my money, energy and time. I wasn’t keeping reserves for myself. I wasn’t taking care of myself.  I am sure there is some deep seeded reason from my past for this behavior, but I’ll leave that to a therapist to unravel. It might have something to do with being the youngest of 14 children. 7 girls. 7 boys. 2 tired parents.

I mistook achievement for worthiness, searched externally for happiness and fulfillment. Martyred myself for working all day, cooking dinner, cleaning the bathroom AND walking the dog in an hour.  If the byproduct from these acts is anger, drop it from your routine. I can guarantee you that no one else cares about it getting done as much as you do. If someone can bitch about something not getting it done, I am going to guess that they are old enough to do it themselves. Let them, teach them. But why was I putting myself second or third?  Why was I letting others treat me that way? I was surviving on the bare minimum of self care. It’s like I needed permission from I don’t know who to succeed and do what I wanted and find my purpose. My brain was short circuiting. Cue the self medicating!

Then Covid gave me the gift of time and space. Time for quiet. Space to create.

My ROI was way off.  I was giving and giving and somehow was flanked by takers. It’s what I was attracting.  I thought a lot  about where my career had taken me.  Then I got real clear on where I was going to take my career. I was able to find my own path and am in the midst of launching another business.  It’s so good, but more importantly I’m doing it messy.  By the time you’re done with your perfection fetish, there will only be crumbs left at the table. Life and everyone in it will and always has moved on.

We aren’t here to just get crumbs.  We are all worthy and deserving of happiness and ease of life.  It is here for the taking and the asking! “Why the hell not me?” became my motto. Do you think that your higher power, Buddha, source, whatever you have — you think it enjoys seeing you get less, feel less than, and not getting what you desire for yourself? Well guess what? When the universe catches you doing that often enough, it will think that a life of lack is what you enjoy and it’s going to keep serving it up, nice and hot. You will always get less. If you keep saying that you want something, you will always be left wanting it. Make your desire clear and act like it’s already here.

I learned the hard way that common sense isn’t so common.

It is only common to you.  Rarely do people see things or perceive them as you do.  Scratch that-I am going to say they never do.  Never. Only you think like you. Only you can do what you do the way that you do it. You are a commodity. Remember that.

When things went wrong or outcomes fell short, I would take responsibility because when you claim it, you can change it. I would use the opportunity to enlighten myself and others. Figure out the work around. Reevaluate. Dissect and rebuild.

I had to check my ego.

You don’t have to do everything and everything doesn’t have to be done. Especially if it is done with anger.

Don’t wait until you despise something before you make your move. This goes for your job, your squad and your relationships, both professional and personal. Learn how to cut your losses.

Some relationships are like lightning storms. Exciting, dangerous, beautiful, and always with some charred earth behind it. If you are burning the ones you “love”, stop. If you love them, love them more, if you don’t, let them go. Don’t let the toxic behaviors continue.  You aren’t here to live someone else’s life.  You have your own purpose to serve.  Get aligned.

There’s so much more of everything when you take the steps towards what’s right for you.

You don’t have to worry about a month from now, just focus on your next right move. Make the move.

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Mary C. Smith

Mary C. Smith is a touch of Miami goddess and a heaping dose of New Jersey charm. She is a staple of the South Florida comedy scene.