• Maggie Wheeler

On the Wagon

The Red Radio Flyer...

Didn’t we all have that classic little red wagon, the Red Radio Flyer?

Probably for all us 50-somethings, it actually belonged to an older sibling who didn’t want to be caught dead on it, but also didn’t want us to take it for a ride. But on that wagon we got anyway.

As of this past weekend, I am officially on the wagon for the next few months. The adult one.

This has nothing to do with alcohol. Something much more insidious. Production.

For the past 25 years, wearing many different hats, I have been in Project Management. My career in public relations, communications and marketing has taken me from support for small business to the executive level of a large corporation. And management of projects often not my department but residing in my area of responsibility due to outcome has been a significant thread through those years.

I’m good at it. I was born a big-picture thinker with an eye for details. And that’s what you need. Someone who can ride both horses at once, in the same direction. Planning. Production. Accomplishment.

Heady stuff. Especially when you apply it to your personal life (just ask my children…they are still recovering!).

I was at it again this winter. This year, 2019, is the timeframe for three major projects in my life and I was working to get all three started at once. They are all of equal value and necessity, all worthy endeavors, all exciting changes for me. All to be embraced.

But last week, I knew something was wrong. So did my friends and family when I talked about what was happening. Like so many others before me, including those dealing with bigger monsters than Production, I thought I had everything under control.

After three months of working on the #majorwinterproject that I am posting about on my social media, combined with a wall of sticky notes about the other two projects, I knew I had reached what I have come to call The Zone. It’s a place in project management when you reach critical mass. As manager, you have all of the work and timing in your head and start to live the project without even trying. It’s a sign of success and progress that you want to reach, but you have to be very careful. It can take you over, mind, life and limb. You are at a point of super achievement, but it is a drug as well as a state of mind and if you let it, it will take those two horses (and you) right over a cliff.

Loss of perspective.

Burnout. The ugly reality we try to say is not the crisis it is. Exhaustion, bad sleep, headaches, crying jags, burning eyes. And depression. The whole enchilada.

There is a great saying that you can have everything you want in life, just not all at the same time. My friends gently reminded me of this saying and that it was one of my favourites. So why do we end up in burnout when we begin with the best of intentions?

We forget to keep the main thing the main thing.

As human beings, we need things. We need food, shelter, warmth. Too often in our world these morph into the main thing, that these pursuits of living are actually us—who we are. But these are only supports of the main thing: we as people.

That is what it is all about, every project, every endeavor. That frail human creature standing just behind us, the half animal/half god creation that allows us a brief chance to be part of the human race. And it is really brief.

I used to have a sign that was part of my bathroom gallery. It said “Mom is a verb.” Well, love is a verb, too. So make sure that as you gather your food and shelter that you remember the point. Love yourself. Treat yourself. Keep the perspective. Enjoy the process because that is what we get in this life. If it isn’t good for that frail human, let it go.

And remember to take the ride in the wagon.

The #majorwinterproject has morphed into my #majorspringproject.

I may be on the wagon for some time to come…

Talk next week,


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