A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

This really isn’t a tale of two cities – though the women do live in two different cities. It’s the tale of two lives – very similar in the external details – but radically different in each woman’s reaction. It is one of the best illustrations I have for demonstrating that overwhelm truly doesn’t come from “out there” but is an internal reaction to the externals. As you read this comparison, see how many beliefs and patterns of language, attention and behavior you notice that create the difference between these two busy women. Which patterns do you relate to?

Jessie is a single working mother of two girls. She is a lawyer at a global company, manages a team of lawyers, and does some of her own contract work. She often speaks at her alma mater to encourage young law students. Her kids are active in social and school activities. Jess has recently started a long-distance romance so visits have to be carefully coordinated to arrange for the travel. And she just – who knows why? – adopted two puppies. Even with that formidable list of things on her plate, Jessie oozes energy and enthusiasm. She sees her life as a game that she is uniquely qualified to play, and loves seeing how much she can pack into a day. Recognizing the need to recharge, she always takes time to exercise and get adequate sleep. She has very intentionally decided what to delegate (some of the child care) and what to keep (baking cupcakes for the teachers with her daughter).

Betsey provides a powerful contrast to Jess. Betsey is a married, working mother of two girls in their late teens. She is frustrated that her husband isn’t more supportive of her and the children. She spends a lot of mental energy wishing her husband was different. Betsey is a junior researcher at a consulting firm. Although she is very smart and capable, Betsey doubts herself. She incessantly worries that she is just one mistake away from being fired. Although her manager reassures Betsey that he is happy with her work, she can’t be convinced. She compares herself to her colleagues who have more experience, and feels she doesn’t measure up, which then reinforces the cycle of self-doubt. With the anxiety around her job, Betsey tells herself she couldn’t possibly take time out to exercise. The stress and overwhelm has begun to result in errors at work, and the cycle continues.

Jessie has a life that would overwhelm most of us, yet feels totally alive and fulfilled. Even with a dramatically simpler life, Betsey is overwhelmed and disempowered by her life – she feels that she is the victim of her life circumstances. If you relate more to Betsey than you do to Jessie, take heart! The tools and strategies in this book will help you create the shifts that you seek.

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