you and me

What’s Your 2019 Definition of Success?

Do you ever get to the end of a year and feel relieved it was over? Does your mind focus on all the shitty things, all the self-defined failures, and all the cruel twists of fate?

Mine does, and I hear it from a lot of my friends too, so I’m betting you’ve had more than one year that’s ended with those thoughts.

But who wants to hear about all that, eh? Which is why I’m so pleased to bring you my year of being a super success.

I got a new job, a promotion, and a raise. I ran a small floristry biz on the side — supplying weekly bouquets to a couple of organic grocers, did some weddings and ran a couple of workshops. I taught a weekly voluntary yoga class. I facilitated a monthly gathering to swap homegrown and homemade produce.

I moved house, refinanced my home loan, bought a new couch, got the veggie garden going again. And I mothered two beautiful boys and everything that comes along with that — trips to school, soccer practice, Saturday games, barristering at their home games, learning to play Magic: The Gathering, drawing their latest fave superheroes for their birthday cards.

You might say I felt pretty fucking chuffed with myself in short.

Look at me succeeding. Look at me achieving. Look at me doing, and doing and doing.

Yeah, sure I did feel pretty tired, but that’s okay, isn’t it? I was ticking all my boxes, and society’s boxes for that matter — so far as I imagined them.

Isn’t this what success looks like?

Then I had a phone call with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. I relayed all of the above to her, anticipating her oohs and aahs of approval.

But I got none of that.

Instead she was quiet at the end of the line.

She didn’t congratulate me for being an awesome human being, she cautioned me.

She said when she was my age, she’d done the same — worked full-time, volunteered, raised children, spread herself thin.

Then she said she wishes she’d made more time to meditate, relax and go slow.

My immediate thought was, Where is my acknowledgement, damn it?

I hung up from that conversation feeling disgruntled and annoyed.

I mean, look at me doing life like a star.

But I couldn’t get that conversation out of my head. I had to accept that she had a very valid point.

The truth was, yes, I’d had a busy year. Yes, I had money in the bank. Yes, I’d done the things I’d wanted to do. Yes, I’d done some good stuff too.

But I was tired, exhausted even. I’d often bulldozed my way through each day on six hours sleep if I was lucky.

The year had taken its toll. Even though I was eating right, and living clean, every morning I’d look in the mirror and see dark circles under my eyes, and feel like I’d run a marathon in my sleep.

Was this success?

Yes, I’d started working full-time again, after 10+ years of freelancing, raising kids, working part-time hours at most. Yes, I had time for the new job. And yes, I was loving it and doing well at it.

But I’d tried to sandwich too much into the gaps. And the truth is, I hadn’t done any of that well.

My floristry business, which is my passion, became a cross to bear. Each week I’d choose and order flowers late at night, then swoop by the wholesaler on my way home from dropping the kids off at school, before starting work.

Then I’d madly pump out a few bouquets in my lunch hour. I’d get them done, but there was no space to enjoy the process. In short, the entire reason for doing it was lost.

When I honestly thought about it, all the stuff that I wanted to be doing was rushed, rammed into spare moments, done slap-dash, multi-tasked, delegated, relegated, or procrastinated.

Yes, I got up early and meditated most days. But sometimes I could spare only 10 minutes, and even those brief few moments were rushed and full of thoughts of the coming day.

And perhaps the hardest-hit casualty by my apparent year of success was time with the special people in my life. Time with my kids and my man occurred in rushed moments here and there. I gave over more than one weekend to other things I wanted to be doing, and felt angry when my husband seemed cold, distant and unsupportive.

I half-listened when my kids told me things, whilst cooking dinner, tidying or something else. I very rarely actually stopped, and truly listened to them.

And aside from the writing for work, and sporadically scrawling in my diary, I didn’t write at all last year.

Fuck, where does this definition of success come from — this prioritization of money, achievement and accumulation?

Time for a new definition, wouldn’t you agree?

Here’s my 2019 definition of success:

Time to go slow, rest and relax. Space to listen and be present with my special people. A realistic expectation of what I can do in a day… and do well. More time doing things for fun, not money — like drawing, writing, playing guitar and walking in the forest. And if I absolutely must miss out on some sleep, let it be for chatting late into the night with friends over dinner, instead of staring at a computer screen.

So what’s yours?

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Leonie Orton is a blogger who writes intimate stories about life. She is also a freelance copywriter and editor working with people and businesses that make the world a better place. She’s also a mother, flower-loving, get-her-hands-dirty-veggie-gardening, coffee-drinking, Yoga-teaching, sometimes swearing, adventurous and passionate woman of too many words. You can get in touch with her via her website and Facebook, or sign up at her weekly(ish) blog.

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