Power means taking control of your life

Wednesday, October 28, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

As a working mom, Jill Z. McBride puts in a long, long day. She works hard as a free-lance marketing consultant and goes non-stop with her family.

Her schedule leaves little time for relaxing. So she uses her daily lunch hour to unwind, take deep breaths and slow down. She invited me along for this week's "Lunch With Cliff," my weekly lunch break to hear what's on people's minds.

Jill gets up before the crack of dawn. She sees her husband off to work and their two sons on the way to school. With the house to herself, she grabs a bowl of cereal and walks 10 steps from her kitchen to the office in her Anderson Township home.

Eating breakfast over the computer and trying not to anoint the keyboard with milk and Cheerios, she spends mornings cooking up marketing plans for dog food makers and bakers of crusty bread. At noon, she closes up shop and goes out for her midday meal. I caught up with Jill two miles from her home at Silverglade & Sons. CP:Jill Z. McBride

"This is where I try to relax," Jill told me. She emphasized the word "try" with a forceful poke of her fork into a baked potato. The table wobbled with the impact.

"Lunch is my concession to take a break, to get away from the phone, to answer the need all of us have to chill, focus and get centered," she said.

"I tend to be a hyper, type-A go-getter. I get up in the morning like I was shot out of a cannon. The rest of the day and night I just go, go, go. So, relaxing is real hard. You have to work at it."

Jill laughed at how silly that sounded. Work at relaxing. But, she knows it's true. And she has plenty of co-workers.

We live in a go-go, 24-7, we-never-close world. Everyone needs time to relax. But finding the time is becoming increasingly difficult. On those rare occasions when you do find yourself in the state of relaxation, the body senses the difference. There's no knot in your stomach. Pulse rate's down. Headache's gone.

"Watch out!" the brain shouts. "You are in foreign territory." Two years ago, Jill heeded different warning signs. She had just spent a decade "crawling up the corporate ladder in the advertising business."

She was working non-stop.

"I'd take calls all day and night. At home and at the office. Even when I wasn't working, I was thinking about work.

"There was never enough time for my husband or my children. There was no time for myself."

Jill gave up the corporate life to work at home. She wanted to greet her husband in person when he walked through the door, not talk with him by phone from a hotel room while she was traveling on business. She wanted to see her sons after school, watch them grow up.

"I came from a dual-career home," Jill said. "I was a latch-key kid. I didn't want that for my boys."

Leaving the corporate world for an office in the home meant Jill had to give up power lunches. Her only regret is that she didn't do it sooner.

"My stomach was always in a knot during those lunches," she said. "No wonder I had an ulcer and migraines."

Now, the stress-related aliments are gone. The power in her lunches has been replaced by an increased appreciation of simple pleasures.

From her window seat at Silverglade & Sons, Jill gazed across the street at a hillside dressed for autumn. Leaves of green, orange, brown, red, yellow and mahogany reached for a blue sky laced with tissue-paper thin clouds.

The fall colors reminded her of "those little things in life that make you feel grateful."

She thought of a recent Sunday-night marshmallow roast in her backyard. As the perfume of marshmallows over an open fire floated through the cool night air, Jill's husband softly told her: "Life is good."

Repeating his words put a lump in Jill's throat. "Life can change in a second," she noted. "When you have a moment like that, hold onto it."

And stepping off the treadmill, Jill said, was the first step toward enjoying life more. A true power lunch.

Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.