Beta-testing Stormy 2.0

Despite the fact that I’ve never considered “Mom” to be my primary identity, I’ve been having a tough time adjusting to my empty nest. I remember back to when my mother-in-law found herself “retired.” Her husband passed away about the same time her youngest two graduated from high school. After spending 40+ years as a wife and mother, she literally didn’t know what to do with herself. She spent the next several years in a funk until a chance meeting with an old high school friend blossomed into a “golden years” romance.

Having seen her go through that, I—as a young mother—vowed to have more balance in my life so that my identity wouldn’t be defined by my relationship to my family. But as most of you probably know, raising a family while building a career doesn’t leave a lot of extra time for “self-actualization.” So despite my best intentions, now that my children are off starting their lives, I’m floundering too.

I try to get excited by the potential of what lies ahead—I’ve got time to pursue my interests now (if I could only remember what they are!), I’ve got time to volunteer for causes I’m interested in, time to reconnect with friends. I can totally reinvent myself for the next phase of my life. However, before I unleash Stormy 2.0 on the world, I need to figure out who I am today—independent of my role as wife and mother.

So, as an experiment I conducted a poll, asking my Facebook friends to describe me in three words. I thought this would be an interesting experiment because my Facebook friends are comprised of people from all walks of life: family, coworkers, former coworkers, and friends from high school, college and church. I assumed that I acted differently with these various audiences, and therefore different descriptors would emerge based on how I knew the person responding to the poll.

Here’s a Word Cloud that shows a distribution of the responses:

Screenshot 2014-03-24 21.05.25
Me in Three

First of all, keep in mind that the poll was conducted with Facebook friends. Consequently, I expected most words to skew toward a positive light. (But because just about any trait—when taken to an extreme—can be negative, I also tried to keep in mind that some of these traits might be categorized in a less positive manner by those who don’t know me as well.) Although it’s true that an assortment of terms were posted, a few themes emerged…

“Driven” took top billing – Okay, I expected that one from my coworkers, but I was surprised when a few family members chimed in with that descriptor as well. KitKat and I have observed that we both share a vague dissatisfaction with life—always wanting more despite the fact that we are both pretty blessed. So I recognized this trait as the source of my current unhappiness—because it’s a core part of my personality, yet I have nothing I’m driving toward. As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s a fine line between contentment and complacency. On the one hand, I credit my “drive” with helping me to accomplish many things in my life. On the other, I sometimes wish I could learn to be satisfied with all I’ve been given.

Another set of words centered around authenticity—being genuine. This surprised me a bit. I know I could apply a little more diplomacy at times, but I guess it’s generally considered positive that people know where they stand with me.

The most surprising responses? A current coworker who described me as “sweet” and a former employee who described me as “empowering.” Both of these responses made me smile.

Overall, the “Me in Three” exercise was insightful. While there weren’t any life-altering revelations, it was a good reminder that there is more to me than just my role as an employee, wife or mother, and I’m generally happiest when I can find a way to express all sides of myself. Now that I’ve got the time to reacquaint myself with those other aspects of my personality, I plan to do just that. At the same time, there are a few words missing from my Word Cloud that I would have liked to have seen appear among my three-word descriptions. Apparently these are traits that I haven’t quite mastered. So this exercise may also serve as my inspiration to make some new descriptors a reality. Can I do it? Of course… After all, I’m “intelligent,” “capable,” and let’s not forget: “driven”!



So, it goes without saying that a woman with advanced control issues can’t resist the clean slate that is New Year’s. I’m seduced by the potential of any sentence that begins, “I resolve to…” Heck, I even like the word “resolve.” It sounds so decisive! As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered more than 50 shades of grey (no, I haven’t read the book), and I occasionally crave simple, decisive action.

In short, I like resolutions…and while I’ve also been known to make them at the start of the school year and on Ash Wednesday for Lent, what better time than New Year’s to embrace my control-freaky-self and once again Resolve To Do Better?

Sometimes my resolutions are actions I’ve been considering for some time, but need additional motivation to tackle. Sometimes they’re just novelties that pop into my brain–things I think I should try (which explains how I ended up with a pair of snowshoes for Christmas this year). Currently, I have a long “to-do” list of things that other people might consider “resolutions” (you can see some of them on the banner graphic), but this is an on-going, lifelong list–a bucket list of sorts. I’ve been slowly tackling these one-by-one (including the one called “start a blog” wink, wink) and will continue working on them. Consequently, my resolutions this year aren’t going to consist of this type of “action item,” but rather they were inspired by a recent conversation with a friend and a couple of articles I’ve read. They would probably be more appropriately categorized as “attitude adjustments.” Here they are:

  • 1)   Assume good intentions in other people – I decided this would be a good exercise for someone who’s a bit of a cynic (e.g., me) and it has been. But interestingly, I’ve been able to take situations that would have ticked me off in the past and reframed them in my mind, giving the other person the benefit of the doubt. Often my initial negative assumptions actually were wrong (imagine that!) and in general I think this one will help me reap more positive interactions with others and develop a more positive outlook over time.
  • 2)   Do something nice each day for myself and another person – This one sounds a little pathetic—one would hope that this would come naturally and wouldn’t require a conscious effort. But if I’m honest with myself, I know there are complete days (usually workdays) where I operate on autopilot and neglect this very simple objective. I’ve been mostly succeeding at remembering this one, but I’m hoping I can just make it a habit.
  • 3)   Don’t overthink things – This is a great one for me to work on. I’m hypercritical about EVERYTHING and this results in 1) analysis paralysis, 2) dissecting every idea until I decide it’s no longer worth pursuing 3) thinking about an unpleasant task for longer than it would take to actually do it. 4) Generalized anxiety about things over which I have no control over anyway. This resolution has been the hardest one for me to keep. I’ve had some small successes–for instance, it’s been a godsend when it comes to my productivity: When a thought crosses my mind (to workout, to clean something, etc.), I say to myself, “Don’t overthink it” and then just dive in and do it rather than running through mental excuses and stalling. On the other hand, I haven’t been quite as successful at applying it when it comes to those Big Important Thoughts. I still get caught up in worrying thoughts about my aging parents, my husband’s illness, my job, etc.–sometimes looping over and over in my head like that damn Gangnam Style video. 

These obsessing-at-3 a.m.-thoughts are when I truly need to stop overthinking and just get my mind into a different mode, whether it’s getting a good night’s sleep, learning a new language or writing a blog post.

Are there any other resolution-minded, control freaks out there? What are your resolutions and why?

How this came about: Stormy’s story

For many of my adult years, I was consumed by activity. I married and started a family when I was relatively young, while simultaneously working part-time in my chosen field (marketing/communications) and earning a bachelor’s degree.

Once I had degree in hand, I redoubled my career efforts and took a challenging, full-time marketing job—where I met KitKat (more on that later). I also began a process I’d been considering forever—adopting a preschooler. This was the Holy Grail of my existence: something I had felt called to do my whole life. I have never felt so full of purpose and clarity as when I was working on my daughter’s adoption. Afterward, with my newest child settled into our home life like she was always meant to be there (because, in fact, she was), I felt a sense of fulfillment, but at the same time, a bit aimless. I felt like a bride after the big day or a kid on the 26th of December and was left wondering, “Now what?”

After crossing such big to-dos off my life’s list, being a standard-issue working mother of three didn’t seem like much of a challenge. Although my company did its best to keep me on my toes by changing its brand monthly (that’s only a slight exaggeration), I felt adrift for several years.

Whether you think nature abhors a vacuum or God has a twisted sense of humor, my world was turned upside down in 2003 when my husband was diagnosed with a serious degenerative condition. Wait a minute, God…This wasn’t what I had in mind when I said I needed a purpose! Couldn’t I just adopt another kid instead?

This kicked off what has been a decade of struggle. I knew in my heart that my new “calling” was to be a supportive wife to my husband as he battles his illness, but inwardly I rebelled against that role. (If you ask my friends, family or colleagues to describe me, I can assure you that “caregiver” will not come up anywhere in the description.) So, while I was committed to doing right by my husband, I felt that rising to this particular challenge might kill me in the process.

Denial seemed easier than acceptance, so having taken a decade to earn my BA as a part-time student, I plunged back into the familiar distraction of school. But once my MBA was complete, I finally had to face my new reality. My relationship with my husband needed to be renegotiated at the same time my kids were leaving the nest. I suddenly had more free time than I’ve ever had in my adult life–time to pursue a lifetime of interests that had always been put on hold. But now my husband’s condition complicated things, and I had a burning motivation to escape the premature “senior” lifestyle that his illness seemed to be forcing upon me.

Which brings us back to KitKat—and this blog. KitKat and I have known each other for almost 15 years. In that time, we’ve supported each other through a number of transitions: marriage, infertility, childbirth, adoption, career changes, unemployment, grad school—not to mention hairstyles and fashion trends. I’m a few years older, more established in our mutual field and have double the experience with marriage and kids. Therefore, she’s always looked to me for good advice and usually I can provide it. However, I’ve recently experienced the Peter Principle where my life’s choices are concerned—I’ve risen to the level of my own incompetence and it’s clear that I need a new approach to the rest of my life.

Although we are at different life stages, KitKat and I have similar temperaments—we challenge each other, but can always rely on the other to withhold judgment and to provide sound counsel. We’re on similar journeys with different motivations, different tactics and probably different ideas of what a “happy ending” will look like. But we’ve decided to tackle our individual challenges together and invite you, our readers, along for the ride. We believe “there is strength in numbers,” “some of us are smarter than all of us,” and “there is no I in team” (oops—that last one slipped in). We believe there are probably others out there who can relate to our thinking, who are attempting to solve problems of their own, and who might offer up a new perspective that provides insight into our own issues.

That being said, we’re looking forward to learning about ourselves as we continue to challenge each other—and to hear your thoughts and advice along the way—even if it’s all “easier said than done.”