Beliefnet
The Queen of My Self


JANUARY

January is all about new beginnings and fresh starts. Time to think about what we want and what we need in the New Year. Time to set our intentions and goals, make plans and lists. Take on projects to further our dreams and enhance our power.


By: Andee Harris

I looked in the mirror this week and realized I’m officially in the sandwich.

I’m turning 44 in a week, and all I can think of is, how did I get here? It’s not so much that I have amnesia about the last 43 years—it’s just that between raising children, investing in a career and caring for an ailing parent, I have approximately two and a half minutes a day to reflect. When I subtract the minute and a half I squander enjoying a fine glass of whiskey (because survival), it’s easy to see how I could lose track of time.

Yet for the first time in my life, my perception of time is all-consuming. Days run into weeks, weeks blur into months and, just like that, I’m another year in. Plus, it’s mind-blowing how much can happen in just one week.

This week brought one of the biggest professional accomplishments of my life. After spending the majority of my career advocating for women to take a seat at the table, I actually became the CEO of Chicago software company HighGround. It’s a random Tuesday—I’m indescribably energized.

This week also brought one of the toughest decisions my family has ever made. After suffering for years with Lewy body dementia, a cruel form of Parkinson’s, we made the painful choice to admit my 73-year-old father to an assisted living facility. It’s a random Wednesday—I’m inconsolably sad.

This week (and every week), my sixth-grader and high-schooler bring an unending list of needs that must (and should) be met. It’s a random Thursday—I’m feigning organization and praising my mom friend who picked up my kids. Again.

At 44, my time in the proverbial sandwich is real. It feels like some inevitable midlife crisis that doesn’t actually require an actual crisis—it just requires the passage of time and my desire to achieve (or simply not give up).

As one of the first generations to see our mothers work, my female peers have grown up expecting to have—and earn—it all. But with our high expectations come constant reminders that we are amid the best years of our lives.

All of sudden everything has an expiration date.

“Capitalize on your earning potential now, Andee, because 44 in tech is already GERIATRIC.”

“Spend as much time with your dad as you can, Andee. He is fading fast; every time you see him could be the last time he recognizes you.”

“Plan more quality time with your son, Andee. There’s only three years left until he’s off to college.”

This constant pressure to make the most of my time terrifies me. I’m a control freak, and it feels like the passage of time is mocking me. It’s frustrating, and I’m left with no choice but to find survival techniques. Since an aggressive face-lift, fleeing to the Caribbean, or buying a convertible seem cliched, I’ve turned to something much simpler.

I am choosing to stay present.

Sounds easy. It’s not. It’s a technique I have not mastered, but the mere fact that it takes practice and a conscious effort is what makes it perfect. Every day, I log into the Five Minute Journal app and take a minute to focus on the present. I do that by writing down what and who I am grateful for:

I am grateful that my dad is still here and we can laugh.

I am grateful for my husband, who has my back like no one else.

I am grateful for my kids, who know they can count on me.

I write down three amazing things that happened each day, too—even if one of them is that I skipped the drive thru.

I conducted my first meeting with the board.

I did not forget it’s Hanukkah.

I cooked dinner—with fire and unfrozen vegetables.

As I hit my stride, I’m going to keep tallying the small wins. I’ll remind myself that this is my sandwich, and I get to choose what kind it will be.

I’ll pass on the forgettable bologna: looks weird, tastes meh. Instead, I’ll enjoy the savory avocado toast: still looks like a mess, but it’s incredibly rich, healthy and satisfying.

Andee Harris is CEO of Chicago software company HighGround.

 

***
Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to thequeenofmyself@aol.com.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus