Re-entry. That’s what I’m doing now, as I type this.
I’ve been away – physically I was away (out of town) last week. But in my mind, I’ve been away for about a month, involved in an all-consuming project that commanded nearly every thought molecule and good idea I had. The holiday shopping commercials blared, the tree sparkled downstairs, the kids brought home holiday art projects. And I worked. Santa came. And I worked. The New Year came. And I worked. I paused to celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my family. But other than that, it was full-on work mode. It was a lot. But honestly, when you work for yourself, that’s the reality sometimes. And it’s okay.
But re-entering the atmosphere of my everyday life now that the project is over? (It wrapped Saturday night.) It’s unsettling. It always is. It feels like the sound of unpeeling Velcro. Loud and harsh. And very ungraceful.
From Vertical to Horizontal
This particular all-consuming project was a big corporate scriptwriting event. Basically, the sales field comes to hear the latest, and I work with the company executives to write the few dozen or so different segments and the transitions between. (The event went fantastic, in case you’re asking!)
In the weeks before the event, boundaries disappear. It becomes normal to have a call with the client at 11:00 at night, and to be texting about work with 10 people at once on Sunday at 4:00. I’ve done a bunch of these shows now, and it’s an all-out effort each time. If I didn’t know how to sit and do the work before, I surely do now.
And then there is the week of the show itself (this particular one was in Nashville). Show week is a force outside of time and normal ways of life. Sleep is rare. Last minute changes aren’t. We’re just this team of people, fueled by adrenaline, the word “yes,” and a singular focus to put on a great show. I never thought I was a team person until I stumbled into Iacono Productions, and learned the value of an incredible team. (Kayla, Allison, Steve, Duncan, Jason, Rose, Russ, and Rob: we are absolutely the A team!)
In those days before the show, everything has a level of urgency and importance. If this doesn’t happen, 4,000 people in the audience will be disappointed. If the words aren’t right, someone will be embarrassed. If we miss the cues, it will all feel lackluster.
A lot of people are counting on you, and the priorities of the moment are crystal clear. Sit, do the work, don’t look up, and don’t think about anything else.
You can imagine the juxtaposition of moments that occurs upon re-entry. For example, at approximately 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, I was huddled in the corner with an executive, doing last minute fine-tuning of her speech – fueled by that sense of singular importance. That urgency that nothing else mattered in those moments except helping her get it right.
Sixteen hours later, I woke up to my 4-year-old calling me from the bathroom asking me to come wipe her butt.
Everyone writes about work-life balance and moms who multitask. This isn’t really about that. We love our kids and try our best with the balance thing. Let’s not even bother unpacking all of that right this second.
This is about the dramatic re-shifting of priorities that happens when you step from one situation to another.A vertical to a horizontal. A world with one clear priority and singular focus where all you can do is look straight down . . . to a world that spreads across wide and everything is there at once again.
This re-entry problem also happens when you go to a conference. Perhaps slightly less dramatic. But still a thing to contend with. (It’s probably happening for the 4,000 or so people who were at the event I just talked about, where they learned about everything new and exciting they could be doing.) At these conferences, events, conventions, and symposiums, everything seems possible. You’ve been there, right? There are SO many good ideas. You have interesting conversations. You get to step outside your job or business to see the picture of it and all of the fantastic, inspiring, amazing things you can do, the minute you get back.
And then you get back. And the world is horizontal again.
The Velcro unzips. The copy machine is out of paper. The Monday morning meeting happens. A deadline distracts you. Sally in Operations doesn’t like your new idea. Jim in Marketing isn’t on board with that strategy. Your clients need things. The baby needs a diaper change. Your father-in-law needs a ride. Your dog threw up all over the couch.
The priorities you temporarily un-prioritized now come rushing back. But for me, that mix is like cold air and hot air, or baking soda and vinegar: it’s bound to lead to some kind of explosion (which usually manifests as a fight with my husband or some kind of major drama with a client).
I’d like it to be different. I’d like re-entry to feel like the sound of waves crashing in the night or a love poem recited in French.
I’m quite certain the problem is me. And the solution probably involves understanding how to assign equal value to the vertical and horizontal, and just simply let go. Let go.
I can tell you, I’m not there yet. My equilibrium just can’t turn on a dime.
I’m working on it though.
So, here it is January 14th. Apparently, the clock turned and it’s a new year (I sort of missed that). I definitely have thoughts about 2015. But I haven’t even had a chance to put them together yet. Look for that soon. I think.
For now, I’m unzipping. Finding the horizontal again. And sometimes, wiping butts.