Cost vs. Benefit

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.

Lao Tzu

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

There are times that we find ourselves backed into a corner, where we are FORCED to act (or react) to stop something from acting upon us against our will.  In these times, we NEED to react, and we need to do so quickly and with clear intentions.  But, sometimes we feel like we are backed into a corner, and it seems like imminent danger is looming, but really, the threat is undefined and not actionable.  These are the times when we need to take a step back and sort out the truth of what is going on. 

It is possible that you are working in a very “good” job, with acceptable pay, good co-workers, and decent enough benefits, but something just doesn’t feel quite right. Your fight or flight responses are being activated on a daily basis.  You can’t really tell why you are not at ease. The monster has no shape or size, but you can tell it is looming just out of sight.  This is when practicing patience is paramount. 

If you are raising kids on your own, maybe the monster isn’t really even at your workplace.  It may be that you don’t quite like how your supervisor spoke to you about the presentation you handed in, but it is actually the feeling of dread that NOT having this job has created at that moment when you feel inadequate.  Maybe raising your kids alone makes you feel trapped at this job, and you feel like you have lost the ability to be your own advocate for fear of losing this “good” job.  Work is not the monster, and the supervisor is not the monster, but it is in your own mind, maybe as your ego or your fears of not being good enough.

It is in these cases, when you cannot clearly define the monster that is plaguing you, but it still keeps plaguing you day after day, that it is best to pause.  Use a sick day or vacation day (or maybe even two) and remove yourself from that work environment.  See if the monster is still just out of view even when you are not at work.  The source of the stress needs to unfold itself and you need to face it so the fear of the unknown doesn’t keep growing. 

If the issue does not dissipate when you are taking your days off, you need to start examining the life you have built to see if it is being stunted from growing.  Nature has a beautiful way of unfolding and opening up, and nature flexes its force on everything, even you!  Just before a flower bud starts to unfurl, there is a lot of tension holding it all together.  But the flower does not have conscious thought and is not scared of what is about to happen or whether it will be beautiful. It just…. Opens… and then IS a flower.  We build our lives in a way that we are never allowed to really open up and become what we could be… to fulfill our potential… because often times we find something that is “good enough” and we are too afraid to relax into the next obvious steps.

Have you been working your way to the top of your department? Have you learned how to navigate the waters at your work place and can bob and weave when obstacles pop up? Do they need you more than you need them? Maybe your creeping monster is your subconscious telling you that it is time to move on to something bigger and better. Maybe it is telling you that you are standing on a launch pad and all you have to do is hit the red button and really take off.  If you have outgrown your location, it is time to start looking around for what else you are ready to try. Bigger and better things surely await, and even being transferred to a more challenging department may be all you need to feel comfortable again. 

Maybe your work environment has become so stressful that you need an escape plan or an exit strategy.  If this is the case, run the numbers and see where you need to be to satisfy your expense obligations.  Certainly, you should not take a step backwards in your earning career, but it is possible that you are outweighing things in your cost/benefit analysis.  For example, if you are paying $300 for child care each month, perhaps there is a job that pays you $300 less per month, but doesn’t require the long hours demanded by your current employer.  If you could avoid the childcare bill, then this change would be a wash, with the added benefit of more quality time with your child.

There are so many different things that fall onto this cost/benefit scale, it would be beneficial to really take a step back and look at each one.  Quality time vs. daycare time; long commute vs. saving time/money working remotely; socking away extra savings vs. missing your son’s baseball games; hiring a tutor or private instructor vs. having time to teach your own children….  These are just some ideas, though others may apply to you and your circumstance better. Maybe earning less money with a part time gig actually turns out to be a wash overall! Taking the time to do this analysis may just allow you to unfurl into the blossoming family life that you always imagined for yourself and your children.

Are there any other cost/benefit items that we all deal with but maybe don’t often think of?

Photo by Lakeisha Bennett on Unsplash
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Accepting your Harshest Critiques

“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”

-Elbert Hubbard
Photo by Anna Dziubinska on Unsplash

      Everyone that you encounter in everyday life has their own story that you don’t know.  Some are on a downward slope; some are trekking up a difficult mountain.  Some may be in the midst of a life disaster; others are proud of themselves for having just dug out of a deep hole.  In your daily interactions, this is really important to keep in mind.  Even those on the “lows” will try their best to present themselves well to strangers, but they can be very fragile.  So, when dealing with the cashier at the store who made a mistake, or with the girl at the office that seems to be forgetting everything today, you don’t know the full story.  They may not have slept at all last night due to a newborn with a cold, or because of a teenager who is going through some difficulties at school.  Maybe they just visited their mother with dementia, or their best friend after a difficult cancer surgery.  Just like you have faced difficulties and have wanted and hoped for empathy, you should be ready to offer it at every interaction. 

      Many of us are still working on rebuilding our worlds after disaster, others are trying to become the best they can be; but, ALL of us are a work in progress. It takes time and a tremendous amount of effort to get where you are going in life.  Regardless of how hard you try and how far you have grown, those that are watching your progress from the outside will always have some opinion of your choices and evolution.  Sometimes they are supportive; many times, they are not.  You may find that they are harsh and critical.  Finding others on the same journey as you will provide some sounding boards for feedback, but be careful to be conscious of the opinions from those that may not actually be moving forward. They can drag you down. 

      Unfortunately, a lot of the time you will find your harshest critics will be the elder members of your own family, which can be frustrating and difficult to tune out.  Even worse, though, is when it is your own children… Little kids that don’t understand why you are spending time building yourself up, instead of time with them; older teens or young adult children, who resent you for changing their surroundings, even when it was not your choice to do so.  They know you well enough to know which jabs and digs will hurt the most, but they are young enough to not realize how painful these jabs can be when the world is already beating you down.  When the very people you are trying to make abetter life FOR are the ones who seem the least appreciative, the worst feeling of wanting to give up can start to take hold in your very soul.

      You want to be attentive to your kids in every way, but you can’t be if you are not first attentive to your own needs.  Like the airplane pre-flight safety demonstration tells us, we must first put on our own mask before helping others secure theirs.  What use will you be to your kids if you are not working on being the best you possible?  How will you lead by example if you are a crippled mess yourself?  It is your job to drag your family through this rough patch, even if they are kicking and screaming, into the best life you can offer them. 

      Your older children are starting to see how the world works outside of your household, and sometimes they feel enlightened beyond their years when they see what seems to be a “better way” happening at someone else’s house.  Remember thinking how great some other family was compared to your own as a teen?  You know, that one family whose kids were allowed to do whatever they wanted?  They didn’t have to do homework or even go to school… maybe even drank and smoked without reprimand. Were you incredibly jealous of that lifestyle as a teen?  Looking at it now, as an adult, it is absolutely horrific how little those children were cared for and looked after, and many of those children had a difficult time entering adulthood. 

     Your kids may critique your choices, but hold in the front of your mind that you are making these choices for yourself and your family with THEIR best interest at heart, and that YOU have more perspective than they have. They are not aware of the nuances of the full situation… there may be things they have been completely shielded from for their own well being (like when lawyers start getting involved…).  Their opinions have worth and weight, so listen to them and hear their concerns.  If they are valid, be sure to let them know you have considered them in your choices.  Try your best to explain to them your reason for your choices, though they still won’t likely understand, and then do what you have judged to be best and accept your choice. 

     It hurts, very deeply, to have this criticism, especially from those you want to give the best life too.  Hold on to hope that in the future, when these children have grown and seen first-hand some of the difficulties this world can throw at them, they will have some more perspective and appreciate those hard choices you made “back in the day”.  For today, just hold your chin up and take a few deep breaths.  Protect them from danger, provide them a good life, teach by example, and give them tools they need to enter adulthood with the necessary skills.  Check off that box and consider it a job well done.