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How My Crime Became a Wake-up Call

BY ELIZABETH BORELLI

I count myself among the overcommitted, a condition I’ve learned to accept as a fact of life with kids, work and the rest of life’s demands. So I often flit along in a state of distracted urgency, or that is I did, yesterday when until I ended up in the police station with my 2 kids, no ID, no money, nothing but the clothes on my back (and my cell phone, whew!).

It started with a trip to San Francisco to stay with my husband on the first night of his 3-day conference. The plan was to enjoy the rest of Father’s Day and spend some time in the City. It all sounded great until the day before we were leaving, when I learned the hotel wasn’t actually in SF, but at the airport in Burlingame, 10 miles south of the City. This was much less compelling.

To top it off, I had just been informed that a show I had agreed to appear on the day after our SF return required much more preparation than I had understood, and I was feeling anxious about the prospect.

I began to compare the cost against the benefit of this little foray to Burlingame, and was rethinking my decision. But then the kids chimed in – hotel, pool, captive attention from parents; they wanted to go. And given it was a Sunday and Father’s Day, I suppose I should have wanted to go too. So go we did.

We left our lovely little house in the redwoods and drove an hour to stay in a hotel in full view of the jet tarmac. With few options in walking distance, we took a stroll along the seaside walkway, which framed a body of water so murky pea-green-gray that my 10 year old Talia to compared it to an elephant’s butt. Her 12 year old sister corrected her; “No…an elephant’s butt is nicer”.

That evening the 4 of us squeezed into 2 double beds, the girls bickering while hubby stormed, and when I woke up at 5 the next morning, followed shortly by the rest of the family, I was more than ready to go home. Eager to start on my project, I hustled the kids out of the room and we were on the road by 6 am, the 5 lane freeway already in full swing. I was sleep deprived, cranky and just plain mad, at myself mostly, but that didn’t help the kids much that day.

Needing to let off some steam by the time we drove into my hometown an hour later, I pulled over and parked along the sidewalk near a popular trail-head to squeeze in a morning walk. We piled out and, still on anxiety speed; I announced to my less than delighted children that we were hiking the trail. Complaints and convincing aside off we went, and the walk did me wonders. I had been listening to Mike Hyatt’s Platform audio book, and remembered a key recommendation is to write down your goals, and say no to any obligation not on your list. I hadn’t been doing that and in reflecting on my harried state, suspected I probably should.

So when we got back to town, my girls stopped to use the restroom while I went to unlock the car. It took me a moment of confusion followed by headshaking disbelief before I realized the car was gone. I was in shock, until I began walking over to the place I was sure it had been. Before I even got there a heard a group of men laughing as they walked in front of me “I guess they finally solved the blocked driveway crisis!” one joked. My stomach sank, and sure enough there it was, the empty space where my car had been, right at the end of a clearly marked driveway. By then the girls were standing across the street and I called over to them in distress “our car has been towed”. I had no idea what to do.

A man standing in a nearby doorway sweeping the step looked up and laughed, “we thought whoever did that must have been drunk!” Duly horrified, I snapped “not drunk, exhausted, I just drove back from the City”, then immediately grew more horrified by my jerky response. Seeing my distress he mumbled something unintelligible, clearly sorry he chimed in at all. I asked him if he knew how to find my car. He motioned to the police station across the street and so in a haze of what seemed to be approaching derangement I hurried over, kids in tow.

Two gruesome hours at the police station and $500 later, I had my car back. I drove home in a complete state of emotional turmoil. I was horribly embarrassed by the whole event, now I had to look long and hard at how I could have allowed myself to become so distracted that I would have made such a careless mistake in the first place. And I can tell you it hurt.

It took me a long time to calm down, I meditated and did my best to decompress, then finally needing to find a healthier outlet than blaming myself, I turned back to 2 recent lessons. The first is that every painful event is an opportunity for growth; some would even call it a gift, especially when no one is seriously injured. Yes, this was humiliating and frightening, especially for the kids during the hours we were unable to reach my husband to confirm the car was ours and we were stranded at the police station indefinitely.

At the end of the day though, the important lesson was the importance of slowing down and staying present to make good decisions, no matter what life throws my way. In my haste to hurry home to get to work on my project, I had entirely skipped my 15 minute meditation that morning. My daily intention to stay grounded never happened.

The second lesson is to follow Mike Hyatt’s advice, write down your goals. I had been saying yes to requests that ate up hours and didn’t contribute to anything on my list of priorities, which I finally took the time to sit down and write after I returned from my bout at the police station. I completed the film project by the writing of this paragraph. It was fun and it motivated me to create a new recipe, so it was by no means a waste of my time. In general though, it didn’t move me closer to completing one of my goals, and as hard as decisions like these are to make, this was a huge wake-up call as to how important they are.

But enough about me; let’s talk about how this can apply to you, to helping you to stop the chaos and streamline your own life. Yes life is busier than ever, but we don’t need to get so swept up in the overwhelm that we lose sight of our goals. So I challenge you to take some time to grab a piece of paper, or open up a Word doc., or even find a napkin and a pen and write down your goals. Big or small, short or long-term, what are your most important dreams, plans and ambitions?

Here are a few of mine:

  • Improve my public speaking skills
  • Get my kids acclimated into their new environment before school starts (we just moved)
  • Make new friends in the community
  • Book more speaking engagements
  • Grow my new business
  • Help overly busy people to become less stressed and live a healthier, happier life

As you can see none of these are quick fixes, but I now know I need to confirm that anything I say yes to plugs into one of my overall goals. Place this list where you can see it, add and cross off as often as you need to. This is your roadmap.

And meditate! If you haven’t started a meditation practice yet, what are you waiting for? I only really began making this a daily practice about 6 months ago. I had been dabbling, not really giving it, or myself, a chance to experience all of the benefits I’d heard about. Meditation is scientifically proven to grow the prefrontal cortex, the “willpower” section of the brain. The PFC controls intense emotions and impulses, it is sometimes referred to as the seat of good judgment. I don’t need to refer you to New Age sources for more information here, since Scientific American has all the facts covered if you need more evidence of the power of this simple practice.

Finally I signed up for an online meditation course, which I paid for, but it was worth every cent. I sat through 10 minutes of guided meditation 2 times a day for 3 months, and by the time it ended I was comfortable enough to continue on my own. It’s made a world of difference in my life on every level, and now I only wish I had started sooner. There are plenty of free resources out there too, including one on my YouTube Channel which I highly recommend.

We’re all works in progress, but by progressing mindfully, we can move towards the life we dream of rather than remaining stuck in a status quo that’s too fast-paced to be healthy or enjoyable. My wake-up call was my reminder, and I’ve passed in on to you in the hopes that you won’t need your own to get started today!

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