Friday, September 26, 2014

Measuring Success One Poop at a Time

For the past 6 months I've been turning the area under my basement stairs into a "home office." This office is intended to function as my own little zen space - a place where I can write and think and create and snooze. My nook. My sanctuary. For those of you balanced on the edge of your seat with anticipation, don't worry, I'll absolutely be writing a"How to Make a Home Office Like a Jerk" post when the office is complete. 

I'm about 75% done and my most recent additions include my very first laptop (thank you freelancing!) and the writing desk of my dreams. I have a small fan, an essential oil USB diffuser (yea - it's a real thing - thank you old coworkers!), and a Homedics desk humidifier. The walls are a calming shade of sage and the lighting is perfect...not too white, not too bright. I've mitigated the basement/cat litter smell with a few well-placed, subtle plug ins. The feeling I get when I walk down there is relief - utter relief that I have a dedicated, quiet place to work.

I was floating a little today, buzzing with the knowledge I was going to write my first blog post from my new office. I had a little more pep in my step as I rounded the corner to the basement stairs, hopping down them like a jolly little writer elf on her way to blogging heaven. I was envisioning my favorite writing shawl, imagining the words that would flow from my peace, and I was already feeling the sensation of keyboard under my fingers when...


Huge, and I mean HUGE, giant, enormous, stink-bomb cat poop, laying like a disease right in the middle of my zen.

This wasn't your typical kitty do-do, people. This was full-on, I ate-your-Christmas-ribbon-and-half-a-loaf-of-sourdough-oops cat crap. It stunk to high heaven and sat there, mocking me, saying, "Heh heh heh! You think you get zen space with nice clean floors and pretty smells? You get POO!"

I immediately marched upstairs to look for the poo donor and sure enough, there she was, lounging preciously on my wingback, doing the half-asleep, I-don't-care Jay Cutler face. 

Here's where it gets funny. See, I went back downstairs, came face-to-face with the turd, and immediately started crying like a total wuss. How can this be, poo? This isn't the way it's supposed to go down here, I thought. This is a zen space! I earned this space! I worked my butt off for this space! This space is physical proof I am not a lazy housewife who does nothing all day! HOW CAN THERE BE POOP ON MY PROOF?

It hasn't been easy to measure success since quitting my corporate job. You don't get pay raises or recognition for doing a bang-up window-washing job. There's no fancy title that comes with cleaning butts and packing lunches. Even my freelancing world is pretty void of verbal feedback and that positive reassurance that says, "AWESOME work, Jen!" As silly as it sounds, my laptop, my desk, my office, those things sent a signal to my brain that said, "You're doing it, JenJen. You're making it happen. You are succeeding."

Everyone's different, you see. Everyone perceived success differently. 

Maya Angelou says it's all about liking yourself and what you do.

Good old Frank sticks close to the theory that you create your own success through sweat and hard work.

Mr. Chrysler says it's all about enthusiasm. 

And then Estee Lauder.....for her the key to success was action, not dreaming. 

I guess at this point in my life I've been challenged to redefine what success means to me. I don't have performance reviews, or a sparkly resume, or prospective advancements within a career anymore...and clearly measuring success by evaluating the basement office I share with Kitty PoosATon isn't working out. But how, then? How do I measure how well I'm doing at this new life?

I went to a ladies group at my church the other day (no, I am not 80 years old and no, the church didn't burst into flames - I am as shocked as you are). They had a professional organizer come in and during her intro, she asked each of us to write down our top ten priorities. Now anyone who knows me understands I agonize over lists like my life hangs in the balance and I must, absolutely must, put down well-thought, well-articulated, all-encompassing answers. But I didn't have that kind of time. So here's what I ended up with:

10. New things
9. Colors and light (Don't ask because I don't. Even. Know.)
8. Social life
7. Communication
6. Clean
5. Peace
4. Faith
3. Quality time with those I love
2. Writing
1. Health

Yeeep. There you have it. Can you tell I was trying to be as general as possible so I could sub-categorize essentially anything in my life under one of the ten headings? Family members? #3. Gardening? #5. Reading? #5. Working on myself? #1 and #7. Seriously. You name it, I can place it. Tricky tricky!

But let's look at the full picture here. I was asked to prioritize my life. My top ten priorities. So if success differs from person to person, and each person's personality and priorities contribute to how they perceive success, then wouldn't it be fair to say achieving a positive position within your top priorities would, essentially, equate to success? 

Isolate individual priorities + achieve positive place with priorities = success?

If that's the case, then heck.....not once do I list "work," or "career," or "corporate recognition" in my priority list. Nothing about climbing a ladder or becoming an executive. Not a word about performance reviews, or recognition ceremonies. Interesting. 

Let's look instead at what I did put on my list....
10. New things -  I love trying new stuff. I try a new recipe every day. I try wearing flannel 24/7. I try to meet new people (hello church ladies!)...sometimes. I try different ways of teaching my kid letters. I try not showering for a few days. I'm all about the new things.
9. Colors and light - I am painting my house and pretty much everything in it. I haven't gotten new windows yet, but they're kinda on the grand plan. I like to buy flannel in different that what I meant? Honestly, people, I don't know where I was going with this priority. 
8. Social life - I've been hangin with peeps more than I have in years. I've found I love it and it's important to me. I am tired, don't get me wrong, but it's nice, the inclusion. The time away. The chance to challenge myself and see whether or not I've still got some craziness left in these old bones.
7. Communication - I talk a lot. A TON. I love to talk. I don't get people who can't talk. I get those who choose not to, but I don't get those who seriously just cannot. One of my priorities is to learn how to communicate with those types of people - the kind who can't talk. So far I'm finding texting and instant messaging to be a godsend!
6. Clean - I have come to realize I love a clean ass house. I'm not just talking no-dishes-in-the-sink, I mean sparkling shiny sink and a tub I'd be cool licking. I think that's an ode to my Mama and Grandmama. I've got a pretty insane cleaning schedule around here but you know, the more I do it the faster it gets and the less there is to do. 
5. Peace - This traces back to my desire to be happy. I don't need to be over-the-moon all the time. I don't need there to be stars and rainbows and joy everywhere. I just need to be content. At peace. I want that. I want to find that. 
4. Faith - As some of you know, I was struggling with the decision to go back to church. Well, I went my childhood church, actually. I can't say it enough - It's. Been. Awesome. I see my kids faces light up at the same things I and my sister would smile about when we were young. I sit by the same red stained-glass window. I literally tear up in every service....and I want more. Good feelings = give Jen more.
3. Quality time with those I love - This one is "duh" and cliche to the max. My love language (if you don't know yours, Google it, lifechanging, I promise) is quality time. It means a lot to me because it is the way my mind and my soul perceive love. Spend time physically with me, or spend time reading something of mine, or spend time finding me the perfect gift - any of those, any form of spending time on me, and you've got me wrapped around your finger. I recently created this hilarious little Ludwigsen's Annual Autumn Festival thing for me and my fam. I even made a power point with an "event program" and RSVP slot for my kiddos to use. I did this in my rare free time - that's how much QT means to me.
2. Writing - I sometimes think maybe writing is the answer. I get so wrangled up in my head and my emotions...especially about serious stuff like this, my feelings of failure....and writing seems to be one of the only ways to get it all figured out. I honestly use this blog, and you, my dear readers, to figure out my problems. I wonder if truly dedicating myself to writing a book could garnish the same positive consequences. 
1. Health - I'm not going to lie, this one shocked me a little. My number one priority is health? Seriously? I guess it makes sense....kind of. I want chickens, and a super-productive garden, and emotional stability, and happy children....a healthy life. I do believe this was my very general way of saying I want it all. I'm so smart!

Now, if I look over those ten things, and I compare it to where I'm at, right now, right at this second as I'm typing this, I gotta say....

I'm not doing too bad.

I've seriously committed portions of my day to all 10 of my priorities in the past week. I'm working towards my priorities and not doing all that I guess....barring approval from my internal supervisor.......I'm pretty dang successful? Yea. Yea I think I am. And I think I need to look at my priority list the next time I feel inadequate for relating to a woman who's been staying at home with her kids for ten years....or I pass a person in the grocery store who's wearing office clothes as I toddle around in my beloved flannel......or I stutter as I try to tell someone what I do for a living.....or I come across a giant cat poop sitting in my flawed ideation of all I've accomplished this year. 

Success should reflect priorities....not the other way around.

Here's to feeling successful for having a kid who will still "snug-a-bug-a-rug" in your arms each day.

Here's to feeling successful for making a delicious dinner for your family.

Here's to feeling successful for growing actual, real-life pumpkins. 

Here's to feeling successful for making the time to walk every single day.

How about you, readers? How do you measure success? Tell me about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you very much for reading.


  1. “HUGE, giant, enormous, stink-bomb cat poop, laying like a disease right in the middle of my zen.” Ba-hahahahahahahaha! Too hilarious! All our pets, gotta love ‘em.
    Success to me is being comfortable in your own skin and finding both peace and growth in simplicity. I am sitting here in my lovely bright office, two furry companions at my feet, with a delicious cup of hot coffee, responding to yet another insightful blog written by a treasure of my heart. It just doesn’t get any better. This awareness is a success and I am tremendously grateful.

    1. I love your definition of success :) I think I may just have to mimic and follow it myself, as I've done many, many other times :) I love you!

  2. LOVE IT!! My favorite line---Success should reflect priorities....not the other way around. Yep. That times a million.-Ashley

    1. Thank you Ashley!! I need to keep repeating that to myself .... otherwise my brain gets it twisted! Thank you for stopping by!

  3. "Success should reflect priorities" Amen to that. And being a ceo/businesswoman has never been a priority of mine which is why it bothers me not at all that I've never had the kind of job that impresses people. ;) I should sit down and make a list of what are my priorities because I'm having an easier time thinking of what they're not: i.e. having awesome muscles/being good at sports is not a priority, hence I'm not a workout buff.

    1. HAHA I do that, too. I do both - I confuse my priorities and think they should be something else, and then I also take some very clear stances on what they are BMW's, for example. I never, ever need to own a luxury vehicle. I don't get why someone would need one, so I don't aim for it. At the same time, I sometimes let myself be led into believing a luxury vehicle (hello Audi commercials) would make my life easier. I need to keep my focus because I have a hefty imagination - I'm a marketing company's dream!! HAHA Thanks for stopping by Rach :)

  4. Love the quotes! Thanks for this post, I can simply adapt to my weight loss effort. Looking forward to read your next post.


    1. Thank you!! :) So glad you stopped by :) Heading over to check out your blog now!!