Birthday Blog

Two days ago I turned 41 years old.

It was more a birthday to be endured than a birthday to be celebrated.

At least at first.

The night before, I had flown back to Rochester from the Fourth World Congress on Positive Psychology, which was wonderful…but I arrived quite late, which was not-so-wonderful. By the time I got home, unpacked, and got to sleep it was past 2 a.m.

My kids woke me up at 6-something on my birthday morning.

I felt like dog meat.

But I knew I had to pour some love on them and then rally and get into productivity mode—I had just been away for five days and a pile of critical tasks awaited me at my office.

Before that, though, I wanted to get to spinning class—my favorite thing to do, and my little birthday gift to myself.

Ten minutes later, the nanny called and told me she had stomach flu and wouldn’t be coming in.

Ugh.

Work. Cancelled.

Spinning. Cancelled.

I remember thinking, “Really? This is my birthday?”

And I couldn’t even enjoy my kids because I had that ragged, desperate feeling that only a double dose of sleep deprivation can create.

So I did what every ragged, desperate-feeling first-world mom does—I set my kids up to watch some TV and I crawled back into bed and slept.

I was probably only asleep for hour, but it sure did help.

It restored my brain enough that, for the rest of the day, I managed to do some pretty deep birthday thinking.

Here’s what I came up with.

Last year I turned 40.

I poured my heart into 40. Not only did I climb Half Dome for my birthday, but I also laid the preliminary groundwork for my Big Hairy Audacious Goal: Bright Line Eating™.

And it all unfolded from there.

40 may go down as my best year ever. I’m kind of bummed it’s over, to tell you the truth. 40 was awesome.

That’s okay. I’m still in my 40’s. And they’re shaping up to be my best DECADE ever.

They started out with a year of off-the-charts productivity. I can hardly believe that in one year I grew Bright Line Eating™ from an idea in my head to a flourishing community of over eleven thousand, all while teaching college full-time, running a household, and mothering three little kids.

Whew.

But if 40 was the year of productivity, 41 is going to be the year of balance.

Balance, and team building.

They go together, you see. The team enables the balance.

I’ve already started growing my Bright Line Eating™ team of rock stars.

There are eight of us now in our core little group, and I’m so in love with them I can hardly stand it.

This turns out to be the most positive, and totally unexpected, outcome of the whole Bright Line Eating™ adventure: I get to learn how to be a boss.

Whether I’m good at it or not remains to be seen, but one thing is already clear—it means something to me.

In fact, creating an environment at Bright Line Eating™ Solutions where everyone working here feels that it’s their mission in life to help create our collective vision has become just as important to me as helping individuals to get Happy, Thin, and Free™.

I want landing a job at Bright Line Eating™ Solutions to feel like landing a job at Google.

And the research is very clear on this: a great job requires a great boss.

Not long ago, I sent around a leadership survey to see how I was doing.

I sent it to all current employees, the independent contractors who had done work for me, my mentors, and a few colleagues.

It was anonymous, and quite thorough.

The results were very encouraging, and very helpful.

Long story short, I’m doing great at being a rock-star boss, but I have one flaw that could become fatal if I don’t watch out.

I work myself too hard.

Six out of ten people put some version of that warning in the “What’s her Kryptonite?” box.

It didn’t take a leadership survey to tell me that I’m working too hard.

But it helped.

Don’t get me wrong, hard work is fine.

Hard work that’s not balanced by deep restoration is not fine.

Before I can go any further in building the Bright Line Eating™ movement, I’ve got to establish solid habits of rest and restoration at the micro, meso, and macro levels.

I had habits of restoration at all three levels firmly in place before I started this Bright Line Eating™ venture, but my passion for this work has rendered them insufficient and ineffectual.

It’s suddenly a brave new world I’m living in, and I’ve got to up my restoration game.

So.

Here’s my plan.

At the micro level, I’m super clear about one thing.

It’s all about getting enough sleep.

I already eat impeccably (thank you Bright Line Eating™!), meditate for 30 minutes every day, and exercise regularly.

But none of this amounts to a hill of beans (pardon the expression) if I’m not well rested.

I don’t bounce back from sleep deprivation like I did 20 years ago.

In my twenties, that 2 a.m. return flight coupled with a 6-something a.m. awakening wouldn’t have affected me one bit. But two days ago, it nearly flattened me.

And it’s not the first time.

So. Here’s my plan for getting more sleep.

  1. I stop work each day at 5 p.m.
  2. Once home, I turn my smartphone off, put it out of sight, and focus on being with my family.
  3. Dinner’s at 6, bathtime is 7, prayers and stories start at 7:30, and the lights are out by 8.
  4. Once the kids are in bed, I take out my smartphone again, but the only work I do is plan my next day. That will take about 20-30 minutes. Then the smartphone gets shut back off and plugged in over in the guestroom.
  5. I hang out with my husband a bit and start my pre-bed routine by 8:30 or 9:00 p.m.
  6. I’m turning out the lights 30 minutes later.

That, my friends, is the recipe for this little bunny getting 8 hours of sleep.

You know what’s funny? Earlier in my life I would have recoiled, horrified, by the thought of adhering to such a schedule.

Today, adopting it feels like curling up with a soft blanket in front of a roaring fire.

Amazing how our standards of self-love change.

At the meso-level, I need to find a way to add some deep restoration into my weekly schedule.

Last summer I climbed Half Dome in August. Other than that, to my knowledge, I took only one full day off from work from last birthday to this.

That’s got to change.

And now I’m going to say something that only parents of three little kids will understand.

Weekends are not days off from work.

Nope.

(Not to mention the fact that I also do work-work on the weekends.)

So, in order to recharge my batteries, I need to be creative.

My creative solution is called FRIDAY.

Starting now, I will take Fridays off from work.

From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each Friday, I will engage in my absolute favorite restorative activities, including exercising, getting a massage, having lunch with a friend, going to a matinee movie, going to 12-step meetings, reading a novel, and sitting in the hot tub at the Y.

This coming Friday I’ll be at the Spa at the Del Monte, using the super generous gift card that my team got me for my birthday. I can’t wait.

In fact, I think I’ll dub this Friday as my surrogate birthday.

So.

Micro-level recovery, check.

Meso-level recovery, check.

But now, what am I going to do about Macro-level recovery?

I’ve got to take some serious time off at some point here. A week. Ten days. I’ve got to FILL UP from the deepest inner springs.

People have been telling me this, but I have been so focused on Bright Line Eating™ that I’ve kept shrugging them off.

That is, until last Sunday.

Last Sunday, the final day of the Positive Psychology conference and the day before my 41st birthday, I found myself feeling really low. Sad. Lethargic.

Dare I say it?

I felt burned out.

It wasn’t a transient feeling. It lasted for hours.

I cradled myself in the tender lowness of that feeling, and in that safe, hollow spot I realized something really important.

I don’t want to grow a ginormous business.

I want to grow a just-right-sized business, and have a life too.

If I can have a life then, maybe it’s okay if I have a life now.

Maybe it is okay if I take some time off.

Maybe.

I’m going to try.

It’s scary to me, because I have a Boot Camp running, and tons of work projects in the hopper that are churning along, clawing for my attention.

But maybe, just maybe, my team can handle things for me for a stretch of time while I recharge.

I already know what the dates will be.

My dad is coming to visit this month. My dad and step-mom will be staying with us for nine days, from July 16th through July 24th.

So, here’s my plan: During that time I’m not going to work.

I almost never see my dad, and I love him with all my heart. He lives in Montana now, and is 75 years old. I could plow through this visit, glancing at my smartphone and excusing myself to go check email (for four hours).

Or I could unplug and really savor my time with him.

I know what my choice is going to be.

And you know what else?

I’m going to take July off from blogging.

Yup.

Just like my #1 blogging hero, James Clear does.

He takes two months off per year, one during the peak of summer and one during the holiday season. The rest of the year he writes an article every Monday and Thursday.

When I first saw him sign off for a month of travel and rejuvenation I said to myself, “Hey! He can’t do that!”

But he did.

And he does.

And he must.

As must I.

You see, we are all really just human beings.

James Clear.

Susan Peirce Thompson.

You.

Human beings, bounded by limitations and riddled with needs.

And when I ignore my humanness, eventually I will wind up face down in a bowl of cookie dough.

It hasn’t happened yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t. I am highly susceptible.

Lately, I’ve been wanting to eat my meals early. Really early. Today I ate my lunch two hours early. Then, at lunchtime, I sat in my car, wanting to eat dinner. I sat with that urge for a long time.

While it’s neat that today my food-related urges are not for sugar and flour, but rather for my big Bright Line Eating™ salads and baggies of roasted chick peas, it’s still noteworthy to me when I have them at all. They make me ask myself what’s going on.

And I’m sure that what’s going on is that I need to rest.

Rest and play.

That’s what I’m going to do while my dad is here, and for as much of the month of July as I can.

So, no more blogging for me.

Another blog will come out on August 5th.

And perhaps this blog will serve as an invitation for you to consider how you’re going to rest and recharge this summer.

That would make me really happy.

With love,

Susan

P.S. – To my beloved Boot Campers, don’t worry. I’m not going to leave you stranded in mid-July. I’ve got a great plan up my sleeve. I’ll be in touch about it soon, so stay tuned.

Comments

  1. Fran

    Susan, I was introduced to you by my dear friend, Milan, and I am loving your blogs! I am so inspired by how you approach life, and this particular blog because you spoke about balance. I wish you a lovely birthday and a lovely month off to be with your dad. *Hugs!

    Reply ·
    1. Pat

      Congrats,
      Happy belated B-day, I was in Atlanta for the 80 anniversary of AA! Be well take care.
      Love Pat

      Reply ·
  2. Barbara Mantell

    I love this post! Balance is everything! And listening to your gut feelings and thoughts is so key to accomplishing it:) Enjoy your Dad and step mom. Be in the present. It’s really all we have. Sending love your way.

    Reply ·
  3. Diane Sontag

    Susan, love your introspection, observations, analysis and action plan. I have no doubt that you are a rockstar boss. The idea of a company that is just the right size makes so much sense.

    Now here’s an FYI about blogging lingo, if you don’t mind. What you have written is a post. A blog is a collection of posts. So you would be writing your next post in August.

    Happy Birthday!

    Reply ·
  4. Mimi Hanzel

    Have a great time with your Dad and congratulations for listening and taking care of yourself. Enjoy.

    Reply ·
  5. Emily

    It takes a wise and strong woman to follow her own heart. xo, Emily (the step-mom)

    Reply ·
  6. Dalia

    Susan, This is an inspiring blog. Happy Birthday !! While I am out ob BLE BC temporarily this bug with ( now longer days in between ) stomach upset has carried off & on for 2 wks! Yet it has cause such suffering & puts me near goal weight. Often I dream of ways to have adventure minus the stomach upset. Perhaps that will have to go on the back burner. Seeking balance in the midst of ‘running’ to pale or an occupied bathroom. But did try Sugar-Free baby food & it worked!
    What awaits for me to embrace from here? : embrace Deeper Peace, & creative outlets !

    Reply ·
  7. Susan

    yep I do that too. I get my sleep and don’t do anything so I get a good night sleep. I go to bed at 9 and get up at 5:30 and then I have a lot to do in the morning before going to work and work hard with Disabled Adults. I love my job, but some days it rough. I am too old to take care of kids. But you do a great job at the age of 41. Be proud of what you are doing

    Reply ·
  8. Brenda

    Amazing commitment and results. Just wondering about the husband who gets “a bit” and doesn’t seem to fit into the Fri. day off either.

    Reply ·
  9. Emily B

    Happy happy happy 41!!!! Older AND wiser! Love your plans— and you!

    Reply ·
  10. Liliane Thompson

    Dearest sweet Susan, my prayers are with for your belated birthday wish of balance. Balance is so crucial to keeping you from tipping over, both figuratively and literally.
    Have a wonderful visit with Joseph and Emily, fill up with restorative love. And remember Oma and Opa are praying for you and your family. With much love, Lil

    Reply ·
  11. Barb Conte

    Susan,

    We continue to learn so much from you. Whether it’s about Bright Line Eating, routines and rituals, loving ourselves, and taking care of ourselves. Replenish, refresh, relax, and return to us when you feel full!

    With much love back atcha!
    Barb

    Reply ·
  12. Francine Posa

    See ya on the web soon….love, hugs and a glorious vacation. We alllll yes all deserve to recharge get in ‘touch’ play and be present.
    We aren’t going anywhere….onward and forward!
    Hugs clapping thumbs up

    Reply ·
  13. laura

    Dear Susan Happy b day, such wisdom that i connect with-your words ..yes enjoy family balance and self love, thank you for sharing your wisdom it is an affirmation of the feelings that i am not sure if ok or not, should i or shouldnt i, keep going or just breathe……

    Reply ·
  14. Cynthia Ferguson

    Yes, Susan, we all are human beings which is just the point. We run around doing so many things we forget to just take time to be. So remember we are not human doings, but human beings. Enjoy your month off and take every advantage of your time with your father – be in the moment so you can continue to be the wonderful human we all love.

    Reply ·
  15. Lori Wilson

    what a wonderful blog entry. and when i read your entries, i sometimes hear your dear mother’s expressions coming out in you and i love it.
    my 30s and 40s were the best years of my life! when i turned 40 i reflected on that old expression “over the hill” and thought “that is crazy. i am feeling GREAT”. when i turned 49 i looked back on the decade and realized it was a marked change. at the top of my game mentally and developmentally, but finding the wearing down process beginning. not complaining at all – i embrace and marvel at the entire life process.
    your 40s will be amazing, as are you!

    happy birthday dear Susan.

    Reply ·
  16. Luci

    Susan,
    Thank you for sharing that you still struggle with the food (“wanting to eat meals really early. . .”), as many of us do. You are a great inspiration, and I hope that your plan to balance your life works well for you. Happy (belated) Birthday!

    Reply ·
  17. Sheilla Torkelson

    Tell Joseph a special hello for us. I love being 71 and love that our two girls are closer than NY and Montana. We will celebrate the double birthdays of momma Michelle 25 and Addison 1 on August 1st. I am now under 150 and medium and size 8 are the only clothes that fit. I do get 8 hours of sleep and love waking at 5:30. Thank you for your inspiration. I loved all of my 40’s, 50’s were great, 60’s awesome, and now 70’s happy to still have creativity, hard work, and good energy! Have you seen Betsy’s photos of the painting of her? Sending love, love, love

    Reply ·
  18. Pamela

    Susan,

    Good for you. I try to remember the past is to be remembered, (not agonized over), the future is unknown, but the present is called that because it’s a gift, and to be savored in the moment. Enjoy!

    Pamela

    Reply ·
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