I see it everywhere. We are posting, writing and reading about controlling time. Prioritising. Checking off to-do lists (yes, guilty).
Two weeks ago I was in Milan having an aperitivo with a friend, one of those amazing women I have known almost all my life, one of my Girlfriends. Over the years we have laughed together, cried together, once new mums wondered how we were going to pull this all together, once mums of two we laughed some more. She kindly but firmly pointed out that I have lost a little weight. I said yes, I don`t have time to get on the scale really but I guess I have. Five minutes later I said without realizing that yes we have a canteen in the office but some days I just get a sandwich as I don`t have time. She raised her eyebrow. Thirty minutes later we were talking about an evening class I would like to attend too but have no time. She put down her glass, straightened her back, looked at me straight in the eye like Italian women do with their girlfriends and said: “Hey, this is not working is it. You don`t have time for food, for yourself, do you have time to think??!”
Do I have time to think?? Actually, sadly enough, some days I don`t.
Because I am so wrapped up in my days, my deadlines, my daily schedule of work, meetings, household, kids pick up, dinner, work, family business, admin, that I have not for a long time stepped out of my life to look at it with a straight back and fierce eyes and admitted that a bit too often these days I don`t have time to think, to enjoy fully, to smile enough. I just go, go, go.
I don`t know what is in the fridge for dinner some days. I don`t know where stuff is in my own house because lately I have not really lived in it, I have rushed through it. I don`t know where the lady who has helped us with household chores this last month, while our wonderful housekeeper was away, has put some of our clothes. And I don`t have time to whatsapp her to ask.
This is not good. I am not in it, I am rushing through it. This is not life as I want to live it.
So today I stepped off the wheel, the treadmill, my life, at least for a few hours and realized that a few things lately had got out of hand. They do every few months and normally something happens so that I get back on track, back to owning the way I live.
There is magic in life and I don`t want to be too tired or too busy to miss it or not enjoy it fully.
A few weeks ago I was having a chat with another friend, we were exchanging stories about being working parents. Kids` schedules, days off school, unexpected things (flat tyres, bugs from nursery school, life happens), family plans, while simultaneously doing “our job."
Sometimes everything is great and we are firing on all cylinders, while other times we are barely keeping our heads above the water. My friend indicated that she struggles with all this and was surprised that I did too. Who doesn`t? And why don`t we freely share our experiences?
Our lives and careers are a marathon, not a sprint. Burning out early does not help. Why are we running? What are we running towards? Are we trying to get promoted, a better title, more money, an early retirement? All good reasons, as long as we are conscious of them. And as long as we keep in mind the bigger picture.
Why have we let our jobs define our lives and define who we are? I remember a refreshingly healthy conversation I had last year with the US Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Suzi LeVine. She had held different roles in different positions before becoming a mother and after becoming a mother. Then for a while she left the workforce to look after her children and she felt as if she did not know anymore who she was. The question “What do you do” became difficult, so she started to prefer, “what do you enjoy doing?”.
Yesterday I had lunch with a friend who works in HR in an international corporation. We were discussing how difficult it is to come back for some women, typically mothers, who have been out of the workforce for a few years. One story hit a nerve. One woman who had been “out” (what is out anyway, a few years on Mars?) for six years to raise her children. Before leaving she was a senior manager. Six years, two children, and a heck of MAAM experience later (Maternity as a Master), she could come back in a barely junior position, in the same department.
So who is she now, a senior manager, a mother, a junior new joiner with a lot of experience and a line manager whom she could probably mentor?
Jobs do not define who we are, our actions and what we leave behind do.