My friend Lauren came by the store not long ago. We used to be neighbors, as well as competitors of sort.
My little neighborhood is sandwiched in between one of the highest income per capita areas in the country, which is it’s own township, & an upscale, pretty part of Dallas called Turtle Creek. My little hamlet is quiet, with towering trees & a small community feel.
Lauren & her brother grew up in the same house that her mother did, then when each of them married, bought a house in the neighborhood, too.
Together, Lauren & her husband owned retail furniture stores, so we were kindred spirits in that respect, as well as friendly competition. When they decided they were in a burn-out phase that was permanent (this business can exact a toll, for sure), they closed their stores. Her husband went into commercial real estate while Lauren joined her mom on the residential side. They already owned a couple of duplexes on their street as rental property, & tore one down to start on a new construction project that would be for sale.
Along the way, he was diagnosed with cancer.
He was always the neighbor who stopped & rolled his window down to say hi when he passed you, asked about your dog or store stuff, or told you how good his sales were ( & they were ALWAYS good – eventually I mentally shaved about 25% off the number every time). He was a big personality. And he was 42 when he died.
A few years into my design career, I dated the guy I worked for. I was his right hand person in operation & creative in an intense, rapidly growing number of stores. It was fun & crazy busy & my first taste of success on an independent scale.
Lauren now owns a business in another industry, & we were visiting about the challenges of business, & now for her, the management of the growing process – having employees, varying aspects of negotiation, decision making. And then she said something that startled me, because I recognized it as a truth that was deeply hard-wired.
She said that she enjoyed having the stores with her husband because he had the hard conversations, he owned the difficult decisions, he fought the fights so she didn’t have to. But now, those roles are hers alone, along with being the mediator, the problem solver, the encourager, the money manager.
And I found myself nodding, because while I am much happier & healthier on the other side of my long relationship, I see now that the mantle I wear of flying solo is not what I was designed to do. I’m not created to be hard or tough or skeptical or suspicious – it is a role I took on. It’s not how we as women are made, but it is sometimes what we are handed in a broken world.
As a whole, women are gifted with the DNA to nurture, create, safeguard, support, promote. When I’m doing those things – in my job, in my family, with my friends, only then do I really feel at peace.
If you’re thinking about it, please don’t e-mail me with smack-downs & examples of strong women, or tell me to read Lean In. This is the beauty of living in America – we get to pick. But with that, sometimes we don’t. Environment & circumstance sometimes force us into roles we weren’t created for, even on a scale like mine that’s minor in the relative sense.
That realization has been immensely freeing for me. I am tamping down on that tape in my head that replays when I’m doing a task which overwhelms or frustrates me, that tells me I’m not smart enough or not competent or can’t succeed.
Instead, I’m practicing a narrative that tells me what I AM good at. I remember what the Lord says about me, that before He created me in the womb He knew me, and that I am His workmanship. I remind myself of His finished work on the cross – He took my poverty that I might be rich in all things; that is grace. 1 John 4:17 says that as Jesus is in Heaven so am I here on earth – whole, loving, serving, encouraging, healing, truthful, spreading beauty. Those thoughts are not natural for us humans. But He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4)
So I work toward creating an atmosphere at work that people who work with me enjoy, & are rewarded for doing what they are created to do – which are mostly the things I’m not. And in turn we show up to help those we see during the day create their own beautiful & nurturing environments.
I need to call Lauren & tell her I owe her a lunch.
What about you? How do you handle things that aren’t in your divine design?
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. Proverbs 30: 30-31