Weekly Reflection 11.27: On Gratitude

Every week I will write a post to reflect on the previous week. Sometimes the post will focus on a specific topic that was of great consequence that week. Other times it’ll be a more free-form reflection on life.

Yesterday I woke up and was instantly happy. Why? Well cause it was Thanksgiving, and with one exception1, all of my favorite holidays center around a giant feast. I mean who doesn’t love an excuse to be a glutton2. But Thanksgiving is special for me. It’s not a holiday that I’ve celebrated my whole life. It doesn’t have deeply rooted traditions that evoke3 strong memories and feelings of home for me. But rather, it allows me a yearly reminder to celebrate something that has become near and dear to my heart and that is an attitude of gratitude.

I remember when I went to high school, I was often miserable. Now I know a lot of people might have felt this way in high school. I know I wasn’t alone. But my mom, the sage giver of advice that she always was, always told me that how I choose to face the day will greatly impact how my day goes. I scoffed at her and went on my days with a grumpy mask on my face.

Then, after college, when I was deep into my research of ways to find happiness in my life, I came upon several sources that pointed to gratitude as being a big component for people who consider themselves happy. For a whole year (2013), I made sure to write a note every day of something I was grateful for that happened that day. Sometimes I wrote more than one note. Those were wonderful days. I put all these notes in a jar with a great little quote on it. I don’t want to say I was happy every single day. In fact, I can guarantee right now that I wasn’t. But the act of trying to think of something, no matter how small, that I was grateful for every day, forced me to always find a source of joy.

The best part, honestly, was looking through all my notes at the end of the year. It opened my eyes to what my true sources of joy were, and they usually weren’t the things I had expected. Today, I don’t write notes every day any more4 but I am still practiced in thinking about that one thing as I lay in bed every day. It makes it easier to get through the harder days.

So I hope all of you carry your attitude of gratitude beyond this holiday. I hope you take this holiday as an opportunity to practice some daily gratitude, especially if you find your life is devoid of joy. I don’t think anyone of us ever sent or received a message of gratitude and felt bad about it!

So what am I thankful for? This year I am thankful that I was able to be home for the holidays without the stress of traveling. I am thankful that I was able to spend my holiday with a wonderful family and (for the first time) a wonderful man. I am thankful that my mother and brother are crazy enough to jump on board with the idea of deboning a turkey. I am thankful that I could spend the holiday with my youngest nephew and wonderful niece who is in my favorite language development stage of repeating everything that is said to her. I am thankful that I took a huge risk this year in my search for a more fulfilling life. And finally I am thankful for all the wonderful people who supported me in this decision. I have much more than one day’s worth to be thankful for, and I bet all of you do too!

And that, with the exception of footnotes, of course, brings an end to my cheesiest post ever. Cheers!

Footnotes:

  1. It’s St. Patty’s Day by the way!
  2. I am very proud to say that I didn’t eat to the point of bursting yesterday though!
  3. Thanks google, once again, I almost wrote invoke. Initially I had written envoke and word was like, uh uh girl that ain’t a word so then I googled both invoke and evoke. Phew! Various computing companies to the rescue once again!
  4. Though I honestly might start that again, because just remembering going through those notes puts a smile on my face.
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Speak Up!

Yesterday I called my mom from work to tell her excitedly that my boss mentioned the book I emailed the team about at our stand up meeting. I then texted my boyfriend to tell him that I was super happy with work and to not let me tell him that I had a meh day again. Let’s flash back a few days to…

Last Thursday…

We have a fifteen minute stand-up meeting twice a week to ensure that everyone in the group is aligned on what they’re working on, due dates, and upcoming projects. We conduct these meetings around a team board where company-standard metrics are posted. My team is in the process of revamping our board. On Thursday, we started discussing ideas of working our weekly or bi-weekly or monthly workflow onto our board. I was immediately reminded of a book my dad recommended1 I read last year. Around the dinner table that evening, I asked my dad2 if it would be appropriate to recommend this book to my team. He said of course. So…

On Friday

I came in and wrote a quick e-mail about the book, including a link, and a prompt to a specific section where they talk about team boards. And then I stared at it. And then I saved it as a draft and didn’t send it.

You see, I have this kind of debilitating fear of speaking up, especially when not directly prompted to do so. This fear doesn’t stop me from getting out of bed or leaving the house every day, but it does seriously limit how much I get out of my life. It happens in both professional and social contexts. I feel it with co-workers, friends, and even family sometimes. It makes it very hard to assert myself when I am unhappy with something. Unfortunately it leads me to keep my emotions buried until I can’t stand it anymore, explode, and end up coming off as aggressive and a little irrational (read: crazy bitch). Now that I’m thinking about it, I think this fear is the reason I speak so quietly and mumble about 90% of the time (readers, my mind is actually blown right now).

The thing that’s weird though is that when I’m in an interview context, I’m the complete opposite of this person who is scared to talk. Knowing how much depends on it, I literally put on an act, play a different character (I also do this at work happy hours, first dates, or any social situations where I’m surrounded by people I don’t know).

On my third day at my new job…

my boss shared with me that the main reason I was hired was because it seemed like I could work with a wide variety of people and personalities. Ironically, he said he hoped that I help him fill the silent voids at our team meetings and get other members to speak up as well. My first immediate thought was “Hah! Fooled you!” But that quickly changed to “Shit! Fooled me!”

This conversation was at the forefront of my thoughts when I attended my first stand up meeting. I noticed my boss talked non-stop, just as he warned me he would do. I noticed that he would ask a question, pause momentarily to see if anyone would answer, and when no one would, dive right back into his soapbox, as he refers to it. At the end of that meeting, I felt that I had disappointed him. So the next time, I was determined to speak up. I answered questions when I could, gave opinions when asked, and spoke up whenever possible. Two remarkable things happened: firstly, I left that stand up  meeting feeling AWESOME, and secondly, other group members slowly started speaking up. I realized, they had all been scared to talk like me, but once they saw one person doing it and not getting her head chewed off, they were more comfortable joining in.

Back to Friday…

So an hour after I saved that sad unsent book recommendation e-mail (the one from the first paragraph in case you had a hard time following my train of thought), I thought back on these remarkable things. Mostly, because I am me, I thought about my feeling so great after making a contribution. And I opened the draft and sent the email without giving myself too much time to think. Then I quickly worried. “Was that appropriate?” I thought. “Is there some kind of corporate policy against such emails?” I think I actually tried to come up with a way to unsend the email. And the longer no one reacted to my email, the more I worried. That is until…

Tuesday3

When at our stand up meeting my boss revealed that we would be one of a few guinea pig teams to rework our team boards4 and specifically pointed to the book I recommended to the team. I was once again ecstatic! My email had not only not broken some corporate policy and gotten me fired a mere month after my first day, but also added some great value to our team conversation.

The point is, I’m sure I will still second-guess speaking up for a long time. It just isn’t in my nature. But I know that my “nature” can be rewired. I hope that if I continue to push myself to speak up consciously for a while, I will start doing it without thinking in the future. It seems true, based on my experience these last few weeks, that when I contribute, I feel infinitely more satisfied with my job. It also seems to be the case that, more often than not, my comments and questions are appreciated, and are not, as I always fear, pointless.

So speak up people! I’m sure people are interested in what you have to say. At least I know I am!

Footnotes:

  1. This was one of my 56 Books in 56 Weeks project, but I read it after I stopped my exhausting and silly weekly reviews. I will however write a review of this book because it’s awesome and everyone should read it!
  2. My dad’s been working in the corporate world forever. He was at the same company for almost 30 years. I assume he’s basically been a manager forever!
  3. Don’t worry guys, I wasn’t actually worrying that whole time. I actually kind of forgot about it as soon as I left the office. This is a skill I’m extremely proud of: leaving work at work.
  4. I am nerdily excited to have been hired onto one of these teams, it made me think that maybe my dream job is helping companies revamp themselves so they are a great/happy place to work!

Mastering the Art of Sunday Prep

Yes, that is a play on the name of Julia Child’s cookbook. My mom and I watched Julie & Julia this weekend, and I have to say Meryl Streep totally nailed Julia Child’s mannerisms, and Stanley Tucci is just my favorite person and always makes a movie even better. He’s like a younger Hector Elizondor1!

Moving on…pretty much every Sunday that I have been employed in the last three years, I have participated in the age old, healthy life-style tradition of Sunday Prep Day. I can’t say how many times I’ve heard successfully healthy people sing the praises of Sunday Prep Day. I’m not going to go through them. You can search for them yourselves. All I can say is, when three years ago, I was juggling a full time job and classes, Sunday Prep Day probably helped me stave off a healthy amount of weight. 

Much has changed over the years — the amount of time I spend prepping, the number of meals I prep, the style of the food I make — but the tradition has held strong, and it is one I was excited to pick up again my first week of work about a month ago now2!

This week’s Sunday Prep Day is not an ordinary one. You see, about a year ago, in the continuation of a binge-eating frenzy that started that summer when I found a lump in my breast (don’t worry, there was no cancer), I discovered these fabulous Thanksgiving sides at Trader Joe’s. 

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Let me tell you, as a woman that hadn’t had stuffing until two years ago at a fabulous Friendsgivukkah gathering, this stuff hit the spot. OK. I feel like that makes it sound like it’s not that good. But let me explain. When I had said fabulous stuffing two years ago, I caught the stuffing bug. It was similar to when I had bacon for the first time almost three years ago now3. I couldn’t get enough of it. I wanted more stuffing. And as happened with the bacon, I didn’t actually know how to cook the fabulousness that was this food. But thanks to Trader Joe’s, I never felt a need to find a recipe. Which is rare for me. I LOVE finding, trying, and perfecting recipes. Ask my friends. Just ask them!

Anyway, so this stuff was delicious, and in the depths of my binge-eating, I think I had one of each every other day, for the entire period they were available in Trader Joe’s4. So I am very thankful that they are a seasonal item!

Since ’tis the season once again for this to be available, I was struck by an urge to buy one pack of each and consume them in one sitting. Two things got in the way: firstly, I knew my parents would judge the living hell out of me5, and secondly, and slightly more importantly, I knew I would feel like crap and likely ruin my whole restful weekend by doing this. But knowing myself, there was no way I could buy these and eat a normal portion that a totally sane person would eat! But like the child that I sometimes am, I wanted them so baaaaaaaad (imagine the voice of a three year old throwing a tantrum). And then I realized, there are three servings in each of these boxes and exactly three lunches that I need to prepare for this week6.

So I’m happy to say that these side dishes, along with chicken thighs that I roasted in the oven for thirty minutes, will be comprising my lunches for this week. I’m really excited to be able to indulge without over-indulging. And glad that I found a way to do this and not just deprive myself of something I love.

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In addition, I will be having my egg muffins. This week’s version is filled with mushrooms and seasoned with garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper (I always love a kick). Also baked in the same 400 degree oven as my chicken but only for fifteen minutes.

ukzta

I’ll also take some fruit, an apple or persimmon, with me to work because a piece of fruit never made anyone fat! And they are sweet and delicious.

After years of Sunday Prep Day, I kind of have a routine down. I usually go to my favorite cookbooks or cooking blogs to find a recipe that I can make for lunch for the whole week, then add egg-muffins for breakfast, and some kind of a snack for the afternoon. I’ve really simplified the recipes I make and usually only take two hours of my day for this activity. I also use mostly hands-off recipes, like roasting, so that I can finish other Sunday chores, like laundry, in the same period of time.

Here’s to Sundays and easing our ways back into the week! Do you meal prep? Share some of your favorite recipes in the comments below!

Footnotes:

  1. A name I just learned, but a face that makes me happy whenever it appears in a film.
  2. Wow! How time flies!
  3. We never kept kosher, but for some reason, we also never just had strips of bacon with breakfast. I don’t think we ever had bacon in the house. Ham, yes, bacon, no. Go figure!
  4. Ok, if I’m being honest, I had one of each every day. I was kind of gross. But working through some things!
  5. Yes, I’m still living with them and yes, I do care.
  6. Thanks to the first two paid holidays at my new job!!!