Essentialism

Hello!

It’s been awhile! I hope all is wonderful in your world.

I’ve been quiet lately and it’s actually felt wonderful. Not that I don’t love writing you, but there’s a reason behind my silence. In August, a dear friend recommended I read the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown. I bought it, tucked it in my handbag, and ignored it. But as I watched my friend’s life change in enormous ways by committing to one thing and getting rid of things that stood in the way of that commitment (the book’s central message), my interest piqued. I began reading, one chapter per night.
I won’t give away all of McKeown’s secrets, but the book’s premise is that you can become a more powerful force for good (and experience a new level of calm and joy) if you get rid of those things (activities, commitments, people, items, beliefs, etc.) that don’t serve you. Even if those things are things you feel an obligation around or (perversely) things you enjoy.

Each night I fell asleep with “aha’s” swimming in my thoughts. At one point in the book, McKeown asks you to commit to a single priority and get rid of anything that gets in the way of that commitment (again, even if it is something you enjoy; if it clashes with your commitment, it goes—at least temporarily).

I committed to my kids.

As many of you know, I am the mom of three boys, now 15, 13 and 9. Each is facing interesting (and kind of boring) challenges. Each is being given huge opportunities to grow, face fears, do the right thing, and to course-correct after doing the wrong thing.

There is a belief that as children grow into their tween and teen years, they need adults less. What I was finding, however, was the opposite: My kids needed me more. My job as a parent is to help createkind, proactive, thinking adults who spend their time on this planet making a positive difference. That will not happen if I steal away my sons’ ability to navigate the NYC subway or if I email their teachers for them or rescue them from a series of uncomfy interpersonal exchanges at school. While I was in no danger of intruding upon my son’s learning opportunities, it became clear that I had gone too far in the other direction.

In other words, I was the furthest thing possible from those helicopter parents so many people mock: I was forcing my kids to tackle so much on their own that they were getting scared or, (depending upon the kid), surly. My constant busyness was keeping me from being with them after school and in the evenings—the very times when each of them was showing their vulnerability and taking a chance on telling me the scary things they were facing in their lives.

Up until I read Essentialism, I worked every waking moment. I saw clients during in the morning and early afternoon, and I wrote at night, often letting the two boys I have at home (my 13-year-old is at a boarding school for choir boys, so currently I just have my 9-year-old and 15-year old at home) alone to eat the meal I made for them, do their homework, practice their voicework and instruments and get their stuff ready for the next day. When they would wander into my home office, I would listen to them distractedly or (I am so ashamed!) even ask if we could table the conversation for later because I had to get something to my editor. Usually they would mumble an okay, but hover behind me (for an uncomfortably long time!), as if they were hoping I’d change my mind, turn off my computer and chat, with them. Alas, I rarely did this. And while I didn’t miss many writing deadlines, I did miss many opportunities to support boys who were emotionally struggling—even hurting—with confusing activities or relationships or exchanges happening in their daily lives.

After committing to make my boys my priority, I realized something had to go. I am an almost-single mom (more on what that means in another email), so I am in charge of every kid-related activity and responsibility you can think of—plus running the household, walking the dog, paying for the math tutor, feeding everyone, managing schedules and, I am in a position (alas, again) where I must earn the money we need to pay for everything from groceries to new socks to tuition. Which is fine: I enjoy working immensely. I repeat: I enjoy working immensely. But I realized I had to do less of it if I wanted to focus more on my kids.

Lucky me! Around this time, I was hired to write two books for a well-known publisher. Suddenly, I knew exactly what to do to make my commitment work: Give up seeing clients and use my mornings and early afternoons for writing. My nights and weekends—suddenly freed up from work—would be spent “being there” for the kids.

You read the above correctly: I gave up seeing clients. Quietly I stopped marketing my nutrition sessions, my detox groups, my Wellness Circle, and more. I stopped going to BNI meetings and other network meetups meant to find referral partners and ultimately, new clients. I went weeks without jumping on my business social media accounts. I declined “get to know you” coffee dates with other professionals who wanted to learn about my nutritional counseling.

I can’t tell you that letting go of nutritional counseling has been easy. I am great at coaching people. I am a deep listener. I know nutrition inside and out and find it fun and easy to pinpoint just the thing that can help you lose weight or heal a health condition. But, like McKeown says, just because you’re good at something, and just because you enjoy something, doesn’t mean it is going to help you stick to your priorities.

Have I seen differences in the boys since making them my priority? Yes! One’s constant anxiety has eased up as I share my struggle with childhood anxiety and give him the strategies I used as a young adult to face fears.Another one has suddenly begun doing his homework on his own! Another’s rebellious attitude toward teachers has changed to a curiosity about them, once I shared with him how my knee-jerk youthful rebelliousness led to very specific not-fabulous outcomes. Plus, I have learned Common Core math, one of the things I was insisting my math-challenged youngest child tackle on his own because I didn’t have time at night to support him.

So why I am sharing all this? Because you’ve been with me, as a subscriber, perhaps a client, and as a friend, for awhile now and you are going to be seeing a change in what I send to you, what I talk about, and what I share on my social media accounts.

And you—if you’d like to let me know what you’ve been up to, I’d love to hear from you! You can email me and share!

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