When Having It All Means It’s All Falling Apart | Kanebridge News
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When Having It All Means It’s All Falling Apart

How to get through those days when your professional and personal lives won’t quit

Tue, Jan 10, 2023 9:31amGrey Clock 4 min

The first message, received while I was at the office one day last month, drowning in work, informed me that my daughter had lice. The second confirmed my son had it, too.

The third, which came as my deadline was approaching and I was feeling phantom itchiness on my scalp, announced that my son’s wonderful kindergarten teacher had quit the week before and was never coming back.

I felt like I’d been cast in an adult version of “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” Everything—work, life, parasites—had collided. In addition to having no idea which crisis to tackle first, I questioned how I’d gotten there in the first place.

Sometimes there is a fine line between having it all and it’s all falling apart. After a stretch when many of us laboured to be Santa at home and year-end heroes at work, all while facing a tripledemic, we could stand to take a deep breath, shift our perspective and, when all else fails, laugh at the absurdity of it all.

“On your bad days, when nothing is going right, you go, ‘Oh, my God, I’m a horrible parent. I’m a horrible employee. I’m a horrible wife. I’m a horrible everything,’” says Lilian Tsi Stielstra, a mother of two grown children in Vancouver, Wash. The 58-year-old says she still remembers the morning years ago when she confidently marched into her office in her brand-new black power suit only to realise it was adorned with a blob of her one-year-old’s snot.

One lawyer and mother of four in Pennsylvania told me she’d once dropped her child off at soccer practice, then figured out, in the blur of juggling back-to-back calls, she’d dropped the wrong child. A nonprofit executive mistakenly threw the plastic bag containing his homemade lunch in the trash and commuted to the office cluelessly clutching a bag filled with cat poop. One tech leader recounted to me the time she received a text message while stationed in a glass conference room in her bustling office. It was her fiancé, breaking up with her.

Some tales of work-life clash are grisly, like presenting to a client in Chicago still bloodied from fresh dental work. Some are eventually funny, like when your child bursts into a research meeting of scientists to announce his pet lizards are having sex.

Navigating our different responsibilities and identities has never been easy. These days, it’s compounded by our current stew of illnesses, corporate chaos and the pressure on parents to make up for everything kids lost during the pandemic.

“It’s all colliding,” says Lisa Duerre, who spent a day last August dealing with an ailing sibling, an anxious child, a crucial client pitch and a dog who decided right then was a good time to get sick all over the carpet.

The chief executive of RLD Group, which advises tech companies on culture, Ms. Duerre recently had a coaching client kick off a session by placing her forehead down on the desk, overwhelmed by caring for a parent with dementia while dealing with a corporate reorganisation.

For those in the throes of acute work-life tensions, Ms. Duerre recommends first pausing. Take three deep breaths. Notice how you’re feeling—are you screaming “Just cancel everything!” in your head? Are your shoulders scrunched up near your ears? Tell yourself you’re just going to choose the next right action, and the next, one at a time. Ask yourself what’s most important to do right now, and then ask for help where you need it.

Go to a peer first if you can, she says, so you’re not constantly sounding alarms to your boss. When you do approach your manager with a problem, bring some possible solutions rather than plaintive queries. The paediatrician only has an appointment during the client meeting; would you prefer I call in from the parking lot there or send someone else to the meeting in my place?

Messy days, and tragic and scary moments too, are part of having a full life. Shouldering many roles, from dad to dog owner to team leader, makes us happier, says Yael Schonbrun, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Brown University, though it can also make some situations harder.

“When we have a life that has a lot of meaning and purpose, it’s often quite uncomfortable,” she says.

See if you can find the silver linings in your busy, complicated days. For example, limited time can force us to be more focused and present, says Dr. Schonbrun, the author of a book about how working parents can manage feeling overwhelmed. Stepping away from work to see our kids or tend to another responsibility can breed bursts of creativity.

When our lives are bigger, a loss or challenge in one area often doesn’t hit as hard.

“Even though I might run at a higher anxiety and higher stress, I don’t run lonely,” reasons Shelley Nelson, who juggles two kids and a job at a financial-technology company. She hit a run of bad luck starting in late 2021, breaking her hand right as she was starting a new job, leaving her with one for typing. Then came pinkeye, a flat tire that made her late for a meeting where she was to meet her new executives, Covid-19 infections for nearly the whole family and the death of her husband’s grandmother.

“I was, like, this is not who I am,” she says of all the accommodations she had to request from her new manager, from extra work-from-home days to time off.

She laughed to keep from crying. She wished she could do better, at everything. But she told herself she was managing as well as she could, and found the bad days built resilience.

I did, too. When the woman at the lice-treatment centre examined my hair and assured me that good moms get lice, I took the diagnosis as proof of my hands-on parenting. When my son came down with a mystery fever the following week, I cherished the extra cuddles on the couch. By the time my daughter was hit with a stomach bug on Christmas Eve, just as my editor was texting me about a column, I was less fazed by it all.

Nothing seemed to be going as planned, but it still felt like a privilege to have so many things I loved, constantly colliding with each other.


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Sun, Oct 1, 2023 < 1 min

A water lily painting by Claude Monet of his Giverny gardens is expected to achieve at least US$65 million at Christie’s November sale of 20th-century art in New York

Le bassin aux nymphéas, or water lily pond, painted around 1917 to 1919, is a monumental canvas extending more than six-and-a-half feet wide and more than three-feet tall, that has been in the same anonymous private collection since 1972. According to Christie’s, the painting has never been seen publicly.

The artwork is “that rarest thing: a masterpiece rediscovered,” Max Carter, Christie’s vice chairman of 20th and 21st century art said in a news release Thursday.

A first look at this thickly painted example of Monet’s famed and influential water lily series will be on Oct. 4, when it is revealed in Hong Kong.

The price record for a Nymphéas painting by Monet was set in May 2018 for Nymphéas en fleur, another large-scale work that had been in the collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller. That painting sold for nearly US$85 million.

The current work for sale is guaranteed, Christie’s confirmed. The auction house did not provide further details on the seller.


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