My ten-year old daughter Sophie paid homage to my recent birthday with the best-worst birthday toast I could imagine: “Happy Birthday to the world’s greatest mom – and to the world’s best grandma one day!”
Grandma? Was she kidding me? I may now be in my upper upper 30’s but, here’s hoping that grandparenthood was decades away. I’m certainly not ready for that. Heck, I don’t even know if I’m ready for the big 4-0 next year, I mused, knowing that I had a whole year to get ready – and that I’d better get back to birthday business, since my Carvel ice cream cake wasn’t going to eat itself.
I had less than a day to contemplate my readiness for birthday milestones near and far when my phone rang with my one of my closest friends, Wendy, on the line. “Deb? I had the baby today,” she announced in a voice thick with joy and trepidation. While I’m no math whiz, I can count pretty quickly. The baby was due in May – and this was February. Her tiny 2 lb. 2 oz little girl was now in the NICU – looking strong and feisty and, blessedly, breathing on her own – but not really ready to have been born for another three months.
And then I realized: sometimes you choose readiness and sometimes, readiness chooses you by circumstance. In an ideal world (know anyone living there? Yeah, neither do I!) we would have the all the time and resources we need to prepare ourselves for what’s ahead. I admit, I do have glimpses of what it’s like to abide in this special world: when I prepare for a presentation; when I make a Shabbat dinner for company, when I take my kids on an special outing. In these cases, I have enough time to prepare, I know what needs doing, I have the tools I need, I rarely have surprises – and when I do, I have a Plan B. I am ready by choice. The Boy Scouts certainly got one thing right in that readiness has a practical component: “be prepared.” The second part of readiness is the emotional element: “feel prepared.” It doesn’t matter how many ducks you have in a row if you don’t believe that your ducks will stay afloat.
The power of choice in getting yourself ready is invaluable. I know that getting emotionally ready for a big birthday to come is about choosing my perspective, taking pride in my personal and professional accomplishments, and creating new goals. Getting practically ready includes planning an amazing family trip (your suggestions welcome), a party with dueling pianos, fantastic food, and a Carvel ice cream cake (if it ain’t broke…). I have the time, the tools, and the team. I am at choice.
In contrast, when circumstance forces you into readiness before you’re really ready, you may find yourself reverse-engineering the people, the plan and the process. If the circumstances has been that this was the year I turned 40 instead of 39, I would have chosen to been ready for it. If the circumstances were such that my children were physiologically, emotionally and financially ready to have children of their own, my husband Michael and I would choose to be ready as grandparents. (Seriously – from everything we hear from our parents, the job is filled with giggles, hugs, cookies, nachas and an awesome return policy that even Zappos can’t beat.) Even though my friend Wendy had three more months in theory to get ready for parenthood, in actuality, she became ready by circumstance the moment her daughter was born – and is choosing to see her daughter’s arrival as an early and incredible gift.
Her baby daughter has a readiness job, too. Getting ready for a long, healthy life after a birth day that came too soon is a big job — it requires ongoing physical, emotional, financial, familial and spiritual support. Luckily, she’s got a readiness team in place. There’s the practical component, as in getting this baby what she needs to grow up strong. And there’s the emotional component, where her mom’s dramatic launch into parenthood is both on an accelerated track (“Heeeeeeeeere’s Mommy!”) – and needs time to settle into this life-altering, life-affirming and life-giving new role.
I’m sure if this little baby had a choice, I’d bet she’d still be safe inside her mama until she was really ready for the world. But she’s here by circumstance. And under the care of the best doctors, nurses, grandparents, extended family, friends, and her mom, she will become readier and readier every day. And from the looks of things, this days-old baby is choosing to fight with all her tiny might to grow and thrive.
As Rabbi Nachman of Breslov said, “All beginnings require that you unlock new doors.” Whether the new beginning is one you have chosen for yourself, or is a new beginning by circumstance, you unlock the door to success and happiness by getting ready the way you do best, rather than by letting readiness get the best of you.
What do you need to be prepared? What do you need to feel prepared? Those answers are as personal as asking a lady her age (39!) and it can help to write those down or talk then through with a friend or a colleague as you get yourself ready for your mission: possible.
Deborah Grayson Riegel is a certified coach, speaker and trainer who helps individuals, teams and organizations achieve personal and professional success through her high-energy workshops, presentations and one-on-one coaching. Visit her online at www.myjewishcoach.com or www.elevatedtraining.com. Read previous ‘Success’ columns here.