It’s late.

That’s really unusual for me. My body has a cycle that operates like one of those annoyingly persistent grandfather clocks that chimes incessantly exactly on time.

But this time it’s late.

My heart pounds in my chest.

While I wait for the test to tell me whether or not my body is cooperating, I try to take some deep, calming breaths. Try to stem the tide of overwhelming giddiness and hopefulness that maybe, just maybe, this time the story will be different.

It’s really difficult to stop my mind from going into overdrive thinking and planning the "what ifs". Counting the months until a due date, thinking about my calendar of activities, when I’ll tell people, what color I’ll want to paint the spare bedroom that might now, finally, not be a spare anymore.

And then the test comes back positive, and I feel like I’m going to throw up.

Not from a twinge of morning sickness, but from fear and giddiness and anxiety and hope all rolled into one. This was it. It was finally happening!

Three days later it wasn’t happening anymore.

It ended so early, so quickly, that doctors don’t even call it a miscarriage. They call it a “chemical pregnancy” - a pregnancy that gives you a positive test, but passes in due course after a couple of days. Most women wouldn’t even know they were pregnant, and would instead perhaps notice a period that was just a few days late.

There are a million reasons for it to go wrong. I don’t know what happened or why. I just knew that the knowledge that I had been pregnant, and then wasn’t anymore, was crushing agony. My hopes had evaporated after three fleeting days.

I was gutted. Then I felt guilty and silly for feeling gutted. Like my loss was somehow not a “real loss” because I’d only known for three days. It was nothing more than a tiny clump of cells, nothing to get worked up over. So many women have had REAL miscarriages, REAL loss. How could I deign to call my late period a miscarriage?

Sidenote: my brain can be a REAL JERK sometimes….

But because it was only three days, life went on as normal. Which for me, meant I had a series of three long presentations to give in a 24 hour period that week, along with several hours of driving ahead of me.

I’d made a commitment, so I had to be there, right?

So, a day after I couldn’t get out of bed from the grief of this loss, I forced myself to drive several hours away, give two back-to-back talks, sleep for a few hours, give a morning keynote, and drive home.

I tell you this NOT because I am proud of this decision. In fact, it was the wrong call. My body, my heart, and my soul were screaming “we can’t do this!” but I didn’t listen. Instead, I “pushed through” because that’s what you do when you’re a hard worker. You push through. Anything. Everything.

Now, was it good to be forced to re-engage with the world a bit and not hide away in my grief for a week? Yes.

Was it wise to be pushing myself to drive for hours and give three talks in 24 hours? Um. NO.

The lesson I take away here - and the one I encourage you to hear too - is that sometimes “pushing through” is not the right call. Sometimes, pushing pause is what you need.


Pushing pause on your work for the sake of what’s happening in your life can feel REALLY complicated. Yes, sometimes it is just simpler to push through. In my case, the thought of calling these organizations I’d committed to and saying: “I can’t do this presentation because of a health/family thing” and then trying to figure out the headache of potentially rescheduling, or canceling altogether, and losing out on the money was too much to contemplate.

Intermixed with all of that was the overwhelming feeling that if I couldn’t just push through and do it anyway, despite the emotional state I was in, that it somehow made me not good enough to call myself a successful, professional woman. (Which, WOW that’s a thing we need to talk about ya’ll...but that’s for another time.)

So I pushed through.

But what I’ve learned from this is that sometimes you DO have to push pause, even when it’s uncomfortable. I’m lucky nothing terrible happened on that trip. I probably should NOT have been driving. And though the talks I gave went pretty well, the rest of that week I was completely exhausted because of the sheer energy and willpower it had taken to make it all happen.

So after that trip, I recommitted myself to being more honest, and to build in ways to pull back and push pause on my work when I need to. This is hard to do as a self-employed person, but the challenges of pushing pause on your work life are not unique to working for yourself either.

So what does pushing pause on your work look like?

  1. Being honest and clear about what obligations you can fulfill, and what you can’t. Then holding to that as much as you can, but when you can’t, communicate that clearly.

  2. Getting realistic about your timeline. Things WILL take you longer when you’re wading through the muck. That’s okay, but give yourself more time than you think you might need.

  3. Planning for sh*t to hit the fan. Because it will. So what are some systems you can put in place to help catch you if and when you fall?

  4. Asking for support. When you’re drowning in a sea of work - ask for help. Hire out, ask a friend, get some assistance.

Real talk: This is not always easy or straightforward. There are societal, cultural, and workplace pressures to put our careers before our lives, always. And it sure doesn’t feel good to admit you can’t do something you said you’d do. It can feel a lot like failure; like you’re letting other people down.

It can feel like pushing pause on your work is akin to the nuclear option that will destroy everything, when in reality, having to push pause is just a part of life sometimes. Things happen in our lives that understandably throw us off our game - and that means our work game too. And practicing how to push pause in our work from time to time better prepares us for when life demands we push pause. Because it will.

So here’s to more permission to push pause when you need to. It’s not always easy, but I never said this living honestly thing was gonna be simple, even if I believe in the end it is totally worth it.

But I want to hear from you: How do YOU push pause on your work when you need to?

I love hearing from you, so keep sharing your thoughts, questions, things you’re wrestling with in your life. I’m also curious: what other questions do these reflections bring up for you? 

More on Honestly series
I'll be honest that I haven't been especially prolific on the Honestly Series front as of late, mostly because I've been finishing up a big client project that required a LOT of my creative focus lately. 

But I HAVE made a few videos for the project, and this one might be of interest to all you parents out there. It's all about what research tells us about parenting practices (e.g. breastfeeding, screen time, child care) and how they affect our relationships with our kiddos. 

Check out that video, and others over on my YouTube channel

Books and media I’m loving now

ZigZag podcast

Hosts: Manoush Zomorodi & Jen Poyant

The ZigZag podcast takes an honest look at the culture of business - and what needs to change. I've really enjoyed this podcast from the beginning and through all of it's zigs and zags (yes, it IS aptly named...) These two brilliant women have documented their journey of starting a media company together through many of the ups and downs along the way. This recent episode about when your gut tells you to quit your business spoke to me on so many levels (no, I'm not quitting my business, don't worry.) You can give it a listen here

And for more on ZigZag Podcast, click here!

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