If anyone needs to meditate, it is me.

There’s a book and a TED talk by Cheryl Sandberg that encourage women in business to “lean in” to be heard – to literally lean in at a conference table.

She also suggests that women do not leave their job before they have left. Meaning, if you are planning to have a child, don’t start making plans to leave your job by turning down promotions before you actually have a child.

Her third main point to the working women of the world is to keep your hand raised until the end of a question-and-answer session because, according to Ms. Sandberg, men will keep their hands up longer and, therefore, have the last word.

Not my problem. Meaning, if I’m not leaning in, I’m probably sleeping. My challenge is to lean back, uncross my arms and take a breath. A co-worker once told me that I walked as if I were heading into a gale wind all the time. I’m the annoying person in the room who always has something to say.

When I met with my daughter’s high school history teacher for the first time, she praised her for her ability to participate in class and then finally disclosed that she sometimes has to ignore my daughter so that other students will have a chance to speak. Modeling good behavior is not a perfect science.

I come from an entire family of leaners-in – seven sets of elbows firmly planted on the table ready to make our next most-important point. It’s exhausting.

I always have something to say. Even if it’s “I have nothing to say.” Just in case my audience cannot read minds.

Today, like every day, I rolled out of bed, stumbled down the stairs, poured myself a cup of stale coffee and checked my email.

My mailbox is filled with dozens of emails that I delete every morning: select, select, select and delete-all. I could take the time to unsubscribe to most of these emails, but there is something comforting about receiving an email every day from L.L. Bean and Garnet Hill. If businesses were relatives, L.L. Bean would be my contented uncle and Garnet Hill my wealthy great-aunt who will someday leave her expensive duvets to me.

This morning’s email included one from my sister, who is also my business partner, inviting me to take part in a FREE 21-day offer to meditate with Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey.

Now, straightaway, I felt irritated. I acknowledged to myself, as I sipped my cold coffee, that, yes, I had been cranky at work and that I had snapped at my sister two or three times, but to answer my mood swings with an invitation to meditate seemed … appropriate.

Day 1: “Expanding your happiness.” Or, as Deepak whispered into my headphones, “Happiness is your true nature.” Is it? Not really. But the question is surely worth 10 minutes of my time and since there was no one at home to argue the point with, I signed up for the FREE 21-day offer.

If you have not meditated before, I can share, from my 10 minutes of experience, that it is not easy.

Picture your head inside a box full of holes. The holes are where all your thoughts leak: “Am I really that difficult to work with?” “I need to make an appointment to get my hair cut.” “Why am I the only one who picks up the living room?” And stuff like that.

“Happiness is your true nature” is a wonderful declaration, and I would love to think it’s correct. It certainly forces the question “Am I happy?” And: “If I am happy, is my happiness sustainable?”

Back in high school, I was introduced to the philosophy of existentialism. I remember understanding for the first time that there was a belief system that proposed that each individual, and not society or religion, is solely responsible for giving meaning to his or her own life. That lesson was probably about as close as I will ever get to defining happiness.

Happiness, if you look at it through the lens of existentialism, is a matter of perspective. Am I happy that I’m aging? No. Am I happy that I am of the age where I’ve stopped caring so much about aging? Yes.

This morning, in a moment of clarity, I thanked my daughter for not being me. She, like her father, wakes up every morning, happy. Not wanting to spoil their optimistic exit, I hide under the covers until they leave.

Day 2: “My desire makes me feel alive.”

Jolene McGowan lives and works in Portland with her husband, daughter and dog and has no plans to leave, ever. She can be contacted at:

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