I gave up my to-do lists three months ago. I wrote about that decision here. Paralyzed by my perfectionist approach with BookHive, workaholic tendencies, and staggered by my third failed IVF attempt — I was in a desirous state to let go.

I discovered pretty instant results. Maybe I had a sense of the treacherous process in front of me. While I was grateful to not be depressed all the time, it was my frequent companion for about two months after I found out I wasn’t pregnant again. By abandoning my typical ruthless list of expectations, I allowed myself, at times, to do the bare minimum. And for anyone who has dealt with depression and working at the same time, then you know that even doing the bare minimum can be an hour by hour slog. I moved into a more accepting place that I was doing the best I could when it came to accomplishing things.

A major positive from this time period, I “un-clocked” in a few areas of my life. Personally, I embraced a more organic, easy approach to my time off. An idea might strike me, and then I’d change my mind at the last minute and embark in a new direction (today is the perfect example — I was all set to go grocery shopping and prep a boat load of food, instead I roasted a few sweet potatoes and then headed to a cafe to sip some decaf and write this.)

Jennifer Bowen BookHive

Jennifer Bowen, QueenBee, of BookHive Corp.

I also found my joy again in building my company. The number of clients haven’t decreased with this new approach. If anything, I’m getting more bites from the spontaneous avenues I’ve explored when trying to drum up business. My old approach was to have a massive to-do list, detailed by day, matched by yearly meta goals (and I still like having the over arching goals.) The problem is I have a warped sense of time and expectation and habitually gave myself too much to-do. I never felt proud of the three hundred things I accomplished. I’d focus on the fifty things I didn’t tackle, and end my week defeated. Now I do the inverse of a to-do list. In the mornings, I try to carve out time to work on BookHive. A lot of people need structure and daily goals, but I need validation, reward. After I work (and I’m not stringent with the time spent), I write in a journal the date, time worked, and what I accomplished. Often I find myself revisiting the entries. Instead of a prescribed list, I’m now embarking on more creative way of building my business and am proud of that.

In the afternoons I step into my p/t job of helping to manage people’s lives in NYC. I’ve done everything from project managing website development, orchestrating a multi-state new condo move, to research the best Naturopath in the city. This part of my life is a slave to lists (hello wunderlist.com!) and that’s fine. I need that constant tracking and prioritizing in order to work efficiently for my multiple clients.

My other impetus to wanting to give up my to-do lists was my writers block, particularly around my YA book, which I haven’t touched since last April. After working on it diligently for over two years, progress came to an unplanned halt, right around when I was going through my second round of IVF. I still haven’t touched it, but it’s starting to rustle. It sometimes reminds me of the Dormouse in Alice in Wonderland, half asleep, half awake, head bobbing, mumbling a call to open my word document and just start already. But I’m not in a place to prescribe a plan. I did research some ways to identify and combat writers block, which I will blog about next week. My favorite tidbits were to stop reading blogs about writers block to avoid writing and eventually set a date that you must sit down and write.

Clock BookHive Blog

“Un-clocking” – my term for not over-scheduling the day.

Perhaps I’m thinking about these things because I’m on the brink of another life change. We’ve transferred the single last embryo we have and are anywhere from a few hours to a day or two to finding out the results. Even as you read this, I may have already found out, and my life will have inevitably shifted in one way or the other. Not getting what I wanted, how and when I wanted it, has made me percolate on a few things.

My husband and I on a daily basis say out loud what we are grateful for. It never escapes me that we have health insurance that is accepted at the fertility clinic I attend (although IVF & medications are not covered, so that we pay for out of pocket.) I’m struck by all the abundance in our lives (our great relationship, a job my husband loves, BookHive which fulfills my deepest desires of creativity and helping others, our health, the health of our family, etc.) I’m also struck with how much life doesn’t owe you, and how precious and fragile things really are.

I happen to be a person who believes in a power greater than myself. But I also believe that there’s a part of life that is chaos and certain events are hard to categorize as “just happening for a reason.” This straddling of both beliefs is a direct result from my experience the last few years. Wherever one falls, total belief that everything does happen for a reason, Dawkins ‘flying spaghetti monster’ ideology, or somewhere in-between like myself, to tell you the truth, where I stand can be tricky.

There is a lot of suffering out there. From people not having clean water, to kids dying of cancer, to people working their whole lives and not having enough money for retirement (this list can clearly go on and on…) Some of this suffering, there are systematic changes that can alleviate the problems. Other things, though, are the whims of life itself, the fact that no one is issued the get-out-of-jail-free card all the time.

This in-between, gray way of approaching life, instead of black and white thinking, is where I live. I’m naturally an optimist. But it can be hard to reconcile the joy amidst the suffering and understand how this all works.

Then, I let go again. I accept both parts, and release the desire to fully understand how this dichotomy can exist. What springs up for me, what I’m left with, is the joy. I have a lot of it. From the big basics (roof over my head, food, running water, not living in a city plagued by constant violence), to the small things (ordering personalized stickers for a new baking hobby), to the view of trees from three quarters of my windows, to my cat nuzzling me early morning, her little spine flush against my belly, to having the money to visit my supportive parents in California, to my health, to my husband who never fails to amaze me, and always allows me to be the fullest, truest version of myself. I also know I always have choices, from how I handle grief, to trying IVF again, to adoption, etc.

My pregnancy results are eminent, yes, but in this very moment I am awash with the gray. It’s vibrant, imperfect, and I embrace it.


Written by Jennifer Bowen

Jennifer Bowen hails from a family business of research and has always considered it valuable. After working on her first YA book, she yearned for feedback from teenage readers, and the idea for BookHive and an organized beta reader process was born. As QueenBee of BookHive (more fun than CEO) she has attended the San Francisco Writers Conference, the Boston Book Fair, and The New York Self-Publishing Conference. BookHive was also selected to attend Startup Alley at the Book Expo of America in 2015, as "One of Twenty Startups to Watch."

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