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In the pause: An unlikely life

Yesterday I spent some time talking to a friend of mine who’s a real estate agent. She’s helping me get on a path to homeownership here in New York, which is not a task for the faint-hearted. After talking about my financial picture, we talked about the idea of willing dreams into existence. This last set of years have at times been extraordinarily difficult for me and greatly blessed. All in, they have led me to the place I am now: in my favorite neighborhood in my favorite city, starting what I have high hopes will be a dream job, and a book 8 years in the making about to be published in just over a month. A year ago, this scenario was unlikely. Hell, it felt flat-out impossible. Today, it’s my everyday life, and I don’t take a single moment of it for granted. It’s not perfect, but I’m extraordinarily grateful for it, even in the moments when I’m most challenged. With effort and a belief in the wisdom of what we don’t yet know or understand, life becomes exactly what we imagine it can be. Every difficulty and blessing I’ve had was needed; each one played a role in making my life today possible. Perspective is a beautiful thing.

In the pause: Authors, the marketing of your book is on you

Publishers tell authors they need a platform. Here’s what they really mean: the marketing and promotion of your book rests with you. That care and concern can’t be farmed out. No matter who you hire or who publishes the book, you must be your own advocate, cheerleader, and agent. Being an author is a business; thank goodness I have an MBA.

I let myself feel disappointed by this fact for about 5 minutes. It was a rough 5 minutes. And then I picked myself up and went to work executing against the plan I had laid out months ago. It’s a grind and I have to give it everything I have in this last stretch before the November 1st release. I wrote and sent 43 pitches in 36 hours, most of them in the very weeeee hours of the morning.

I also had to come to the frustrating conclusion that the act of writing the second book has to take a backseat while I promote the first book that comes out in November, especially in these last few months before it’s released.

And with every query I just couldn’t get this quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald out of my mind: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Today, what we can dream about for the future rests firmly in our ability to manage what’s already been done.

 

In the pause: How to reorder life’s messy moments

“It’s all messy: The hair. The bed. The words. The heart. Life…” ~William Leal

Sometimes this is how life feels—messy. We want everything in order, in place, fixed, neat, perfect. I get this in moments, but overall life seems to trend much more toward messy. It’s nature. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that there is a natural tendency of any isolated system to degenerate into a more disordered state. In other words, entropy naturally increases unless there are outside influences that restore or re-balance the system.

If we apply thermodynamics to our very illogical, emotional human lives, those outside influences are critical to prevent the systems of our lives from disintegrating. Friends, family members, passion projects, exercise, eating well, hobbies, art, books, spending time outside. All of these forces help to re-balance our messy lives. They help us restore some sense of order, peace, and equilibrium. Life will always tend to entropy. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help to put it back together. We can only fight entropy together.

In the pause: How to make today count

“Each morning, we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” ~Buddha

I’ve been a little wrapped up in the activity of the weekend, some of it good and some of it not-so-good. I had a bit of day, as they say, whoever they are and they would be right. The thing is, we’ve got to do our best to let it go. I am the queen of hanging on so I understand that this is a tall order. Let it go. Exhale it. Stop worrying, thinking, churning, and obsessing over what doesn’t serve you. I get it. Yes, we’ve got to let it go, and it’s very difficult to do that.

So what if we did this, instead? What if we just promised ourselves to learn from it? What if we paid forward the experience to our future selves? What if we could accept the idea that “tomorrow I’ll do better” is enough? I think it’s worth a shot.

In the pause: The narratives we tell ourselves

“You have gorgeous skin.”

That’s what a woman at a networking event said to me last night. I would have dismissed the comment except for the fact that she followed up that statement with her business card. She’s the Secretary General for the International Federation of Societies of Cosmetic Chemists. She knows skin.

I’ve always been very self-conscious about my skin. When I was in my early 20s, I developed horrible acne due to extreme chronic stress and it left some scarring on one side of my face. I still think of myself that way even though that time is nearly 20 years in my review mirror. I am constantly examining my face for flaws out of habit.

This woman’s comment reminded me that we often tell ourselves outdated narratives about who we are based upon our past experiences and circumstances that no longer apply. I carry around a number of these stigmas, none of which are true anymore but they’ve created such a deep groove in my brain that it’s hard to let go of them. Like a car that’s stuck in the mud, I keep spinning those same wheels to no avail when what I really to do is get out of the damn car and leave the mud behind once and for all.

Recently, I’ve been telling myself new narratives about strength, resilience, and courage to replace the ones about weakness, inadequacy, and fear. It’s going to take some time to erase the old patterns but with a little TLC and a hefty dose of patience I think I can turn it around. If you’re battling these same types of demons now, let’s build each other up. Face it—this world needs all of us at our best and the only way we’re going to get there is by raising up one another. With me?

In the pause: When stress arrives, take the long view

“Three months ago, things seemed a little bleak. But to be honest, everything worked out in the best way possible.”

I said this to my friend, Ria, this weekend. She stopped me and said, “Christa, that’s what always happens to you. And I’m saying this to you, making sure you know and understand that whenever you hit tough times, it does work out. So don’t freak out. It is always going to be okay. Okay?”

A couple of days ago, I mentioned that I was stressed about my move. How was I going to see all my friends before I go? How was I going to get this place packed up? Which movers could meet my timeline for a good price? (To be fair, a few were a little annoyed with me that my timeline is rather tight, but hey, that’s finding an apartment in New York City. It’s a just-in-time market!)

Today, I got a quote for half of what I thought it would be. I am able to rent a small SUV to drive some things up to DC myself for nearly the same price as a compact car. My building in D.C. can accommodate my move date and my building in New York is very relaxed about move-ins (and doesn’t charge a fee either!) It really is all going to be okay. Really.

Yes, I have work to do. A lot of sorting, packing, and cleaning. I’m going to get to spend time with friends here in D.C. before I go. Dinners, happy hours, coffees, and walks. And then I’ll drive up to New York with little Phin. We’ll move into our new place and it will all be fine. Everything will be better than fine.

In the moment, it can be difficult to remember to keep a longer perspective. What’s right in front of it feel so urgent and pressing. And it is, but we’ll get through it the way we always get through it: one step, one moment at a time.

In the pause: Write your stories now

I like stories where women save themselves.” ~Neil Gaiman

Screw patience. Do what makes you happy now. If someone asked me how I got to the point I am in my life now, as a person and as a writer, my answer would be “I’ve always been my own savior.” I’ve never expected anyone to fix anything or do anything for me. I don’t want or wait well. All I really know how to do is roll up my sleeves and get to work. Sometimes that work is with other people like my experience in theater, and sometimes that work is on my own like sitting down to write my book. Some call it feisty, others call it fiery, and I call it building a life I love.

Our time is so precious and so short. It flies by despite our efforts to slow it down. Every day matters. Don’t bottle yourself up or tell yourself , “Someday, I’ll do what I love.” Do it now. Some day is today, every day. I promised myself a long time ago that I wasn’t going to die with the music, or the books, still in me. I was going to live and write out loud. However improbable my book seemed, I was going to find a way to get it done. And I did. You will, too. Keep writing.

In the pause: My 10-year MBA reunion at Darden

I spent the weekend happily disconnected from devices and reunited with my Darden MBA class to celebrate our 10-year graduation milestone. I went to reunion to be with friends far and near, and to revisit a place where I learned that anything is possible when we combine passion, purpose, and persistence. At Darden, I learned how to stand strong in my beliefs while balancing conviction and openness to new ideas and perspectives. It remains the greatest investment of my life, not only for the skills I gained and the knowledge I attained from my brilliant classmates and professors, but even more so for the deep friendships I found there. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, and only grows more valuable with time. I loved seeing and hugging all of you, and am already looking forward to the next time we’re all together again. Until then, know that I’m rooting for all of you to live your happiest, most beautiful lives. The best is yet to come.

 

In the pause: My 10-year business school reunion

A week from now, I’ll be in Charlottesville at my 10th reunion with my dear Darden MBA friends. Those two years were joyful and difficult. They were filled with learning and challenges and triumphs. I was sometimes disappointed and sometimes elated. I failed and succeeded in equal amounts. I worked my tail off every single day. And the greatest thing I received there was not a degree but the amazing relationships I formed. We started that journey as classmates, students, professors, and staff members. Two years later, we were friends. And that is priceless. Can’t wait to give all of you a hug in a week!

In the pause: Let it all go. See what stays.

“Let it all go. See what stays.” ~Unknown

Sometimes we spend so much time and energy hanging on to thing, to dreams, to ideas, and to people that we forget why we’re doing it. We can lose ourselves in that process. I think it’s a good practice to take stock of the different areas of our lives. What do we value? What adds meaning to our lives? What weighs us down? What’s missing? The big questions aren’t easy to ask, or answer, but they’re always worth it.

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