By Laura Lifshitz
Ever since I was little, I have always had a strong personality and Type A ways. Not extremely Type A, like ironing my curtains or heading up every PTO class, but Type A as in as a child, I secretly (and quietly in my head) hated when people put my toys back in the wrong spot and as an adult, I am very organized and rely on to-do lists, reminders and documents to keep me on track and progressing.
In my life, this has benefited me in many ways. I managed my life as a comedian and actress for a long time because of this. I excelled in college due to my personality traits. And as a single mom, I have picked myself up and dusted myself off with my guts, determination, organizational skills, and direction. This has helped me infinitely in terms of adjusting to life with just me and my little one.
But there have been times when it has hurt me.
Like in college, I wish at times I had had more fun and tried new things out, rather than keeping my nose to the grindstone.
Like now as a single mom, there are times I wish I would stop stressing, stop pushing so hard and just let stuff go more.
For as many times as I’ve wished I could transfer my guts, determination and organizational skills to my friends and loved ones, I’ve also wished I could just sit back, chill and relax more.
I’ve tried to make adjustments to my life in order to relax more but still stay on the ball, and I’ve seen positive results. These are the following things I’ve tried to learn from my Type B friends:
1. You Don’t Have to Be Amazing and #1 at Everything You Do or Try
I can’t help it. My competitive, Type A nature just naturally wants to win or be the best at everything I do and care about.
But by focusing on wins and being the best, so many people end up losing the joy of the experience and/or they compete too often with others, rather than themselves.
So, when I signed up for a tap class back in December, I told myself to focus on the following things:
Have fun! If I freak out over every step that takes me more than a minute to learn, I won’t enjoy myself and I’m doing it to learn and have fun!
Compete against myself. Am I better than I was last week? Am I progressing through more difficult steps as time goes on?
By doing this, I have enjoyed the class immensely and also, gotten better with almost every class!
I think back to all the times I didn’t want to try things out of fear of “not being great at it.” I wish I had tried things that scared me because ultimately, I could have found something else I loved to do.
And in all fairness, I assumed I would do pretty well with tap since I love dance and have done other forms of dance like ballet and jazz, but tap is a whole other form. But choosing tap was a natural selection for me unlike selecting say, a women’s basketball league.
I still watch others and try to be as good as them or to stand out. I do practice quite a bit.
But I truly enjoy it and at this stage of my life. I won’t be a Rockette or professional and that’s fine. I can, however, dance each week and do local shows. I can be “good at it,” too. Just can’t break a shoe over it, or stomp my feet over it, unless a stomp is required in the sequence. Wink.
2. You Can’t Worry Over Everything—You’ll Just Get Sick
Stressing over stuff has made me literally sick, quite a few times.
So, when I hit a very rough and stressful patch last summer I was afraid I’d be looking at another bout with an inflamed stomach. If you’ve never dealt with that, here’s a summary: it’s awful: throwing up, gas, pain, nausea, and weight loss.
But last summer, I didn’t get sick to my stomach. I had sleepless nights. I stressed and felt sad, but I coped better than I would have in the past.
I took time to myself. I got in the car and drove. I sat on the beach for hours in silence.
I took a page from my Type B friends’ playbooks, and I decided to relax, retreat and take time for myself.
I reminded myself I had only so much control over stuff and to just keep forging ahead even if I wasn’t seeing any results yet.
3. You Don’t Have to Have a Plan, Always
Plans are really a necessity for me if I want to get anything done as a working single mom.
However, some weekends come and there isn’t anything on the calendar. This is ok.
Too much of this would drive me naturally mad, but I’ve learned that it’s ok to do nothing and also on occasion, I’ve had some fun last-minute plans, although with my friends’ and family’s busy lives, that’s not an easy thing to pull off.
I’ve had quite a few quiet weekends over the winter and some of them ended up being very enjoyable despite the “dull blank spots” on the calendar.
4. You Can’t Always Be in Charge—Assist Instead
Personally, as much as I love to lead, I’ve also found it great when I’ve simply done the assisting.
I don’t rush to take on too much as a class parent because I know I have enough going on as a single parent. If someone at work is pushing to have something, I sometimes let it go and just assist. I can be just as productive and helpful from the sidelines as I can from the front lines. And sometimes, even more productive.
As soon as I got pregnant, I made a pact to myself to stick to things I knew I had to follow through because those things just meant so much to me. For the rest? I let it go. For example, for me, breastfeeding meant a lot, so I vowed to stick it out and I did. As much as I would have liked to go the cloth diaper route, I didn’t have the energy—so I delegated my energy to what meant the most to me.
This winter, I wanted to do choir and dance but I only have so much time and money. I chose to do dance.
I shelved choir for now.
That’s been my goal since becoming a mom: pick my priorities, and focus on them.
What it all comes down to is, we can always learn from people who are different than us, and vice versa. There is no one way to do things but in fact, many million ways to do a million things. If we never push ourselves to try something different, we will never grow. By choosing to go outside of our comfort zones, we allow ourselves to evolve into a stronger, better version of ourselves.
About the Author
Laura Lifshitz is a pint-sized, battery-operated writer, comedienne, single mother and chocolate fanatic. A former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate, you can find her work in many places, like the New York Times, DivorceForce, Mom.Me, Women’s Health, Worthy, Working Mother and numerous other sites. Follow her on Facebook and her own website, frommtvtomommy.com.