Half Measures

posted in: Life 49 comments

There is an episode of Breaking Bad that I can’t stop thinking about. It’s when one of the characters, Mike, tells Walter White, the story of half measures. In a nutshell, a woman died when she didn’t have to, because Mike only took half measures, instead of going all out to protect her. His decision had fatal consequences. 

The concept of half measures has seeped itself into my brain. I can’t stop thinking about it, and how it applies to my life thus far. I’m not saying that any decisions I’ve made so far have had a disastrous, fatal impact on me, or people around me. I’ve been thinking of half measures defined as making a weak, or half-assed attempt to do something important

I feel like I’ve been living most of my life in half measures. Another thing that I remember about Breaking Bad is Walter’s favorite advice – apply yourself. I haven’t. 

In my previous life in marketing, I was fierce (and very likely, a bitch). I went all out to do a good job, and may I say, I did do a damn fine job. I have a legacy of good work I can be proud of. I applied myself, in full measure. 

The 10 years of my career is a mere blip in my nearly four decades of living. What have I been doing for the other (almost) three? 

I am a starter but not a finisher. I think more than I do. I give up too easily. 

I believe we hold some kind of dubious record for taking the longest time to potty train a child. Regression happened, things got incredibly hard, I was exhausted, and gave up. This exercise was conducted in starts and stops, in spurts that didn’t last, because I didn’t apply myself.

The same goes for making my own baby food. My second child ate off my plate, and I survived 6 months on scraps and backwash beverages.

Over the years, I must have dreamed up half a dozen ideas to start my own business – wedding planning, party planning, a florist, a dress store, baby items, subscription boxes of locally sourced skincare products. None have come to fruition. The one business I did start has taken many turns to get where I truly want to be, and many times, I wanted to give up and hang up my gloves. In this one case, I applied myself like the old me, but the current me has tried to thwart all the progress made.

If I had applied myself to the practice of yoga, I would be able to do a freaking head stand. I did one before, easily, because I believed I could. I put aside my irrational fear of breaking my neck, and just did it. I was never able to do it again. My start and stop in yoga, annoys me tremendously because it is actually something I love to do. I make excuses as to why I don’t do it as much as I like. No time, no space, no anything. 

The same goes for running, though I actually don’t like running much. Marathon when I turn 40, I told myself. That was when I was 30 and still in full measure. 

I don’t know if my living in half measures stem from an innate laziness, or a blase attitude, or both, but it’s pissing me off. I have no idea how to turn things around and say “Fuck you, half measures! I’m going to live differently, in full measures, apply myself, and be the best me!”

I may need to watch Breaking Bad again.

Ernest Hemingway quote

Alison Lee is a former PR and marketing professional turned work-at-home mother. After a 10-year career in various PR agencies, and of the worldโ€™s biggest sports brands, Alison traded in product launches and world travel, for sippy cups, diapers, and breastfeeding. Alison's writing has been featured on Mamalode, On Parenting at The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Everyday Family, Scary Mommy, and DrGreene.com. She is one of 35 essayists in the anthology, My Other Ex: Womenโ€™s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends. In 2012, she founded Little Love Media, a social media consultancy specializing in blog book tours, and because she doesnโ€™t sleep, is an editor at BonBon Break, an online magazine. Alison lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with her husband and four children (two boys and boy/ girl twins).

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  • January 5, 2015 Elaine A.

    Man, I loved Mike.

    I think you are in a certain time in your life when half measures or even quarter measures are okay. Your raising little people and I think you’re doing a damn fine job of that. Now me, with the 5-year old who will be in full-time school next year, I should probably start thinking about FULL measaures again… ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Elaine A. recently wrote…January always comes after DecemberMy Profile

    • January 9, 2015 Alison

      I think you’re still in transition, because you’ve had so many years of having children at home all day, and suddenly, not. Take it easy with the full measures! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • January 5, 2015 Allie

    All I know is I love Breaking Bad…and you. I also think anyone who has lived in full measures will be as pissed off as you about not doing that now. I also know this – you are a full measure mom and your glass is overflowing. I’m certain that with defined goals, that you really want to achieve, nothing will stop you.
    Allie recently wrote…F*ck You Cancer, You Killed My FriendMy Profile

    • January 9, 2015 Alison

      Aw, thank you, Allie, I love you too!
      The problem is, I am not sure if I AM a full measure Mom, because some days, it’s all I can do to just breathe. Overflowing is right.

  • January 5, 2015 Kim

    This is true for me too. I think I start strong and then run out of steam. It’s like when I start to clean my house, I get distracted by what’s going on over here, and I’ll just stop and fix that while I’m here and oh, the laundry’s done and needs putting in the dryer. Then I am 2 hours in and miles away from where I began. So I quickly try to throw everything back together and there we are: half measures.
    Kim recently wrote…Not One More MinuteMy Profile

    • January 9, 2015 Alison

      Hah! That’s me, sort of. I HATE being interrupted when I’m in the middle of something, but with 4 small kids, interruptions abound. I do a lot of things halfway. Which disconcerts me a lot.

  • January 5, 2015 Laura

    I like to think about a woman’s life like an ocean. (Bear with me here). So much of our life goes on waves and cycles. We have menstrual cycles, waves of contractions, etc. We are used to things coming and going, coming and going. And you know what? I think we thrive like that.

    I don’t let myself feel guilty for when things wane in my life. I know I can come around to it later. A woman, even more so than a man, has very unique stages in her life that requires different focuses. Pregnancy. Breastfeeding. Early motherhood. Stay at home parenting. Working outside the house. Etc. etc. everything requires a new shift in priorities. The focus change takes time and isn’t easy. But that’s what women do. We flow through these different stages of life, going back and forth between them, trying to figure out what we need to give to thrive.

    If I can encourage you at all, let me encourage you to focus on the things that are important to do fully now and let go of the things that might be perfect for a different stage of your life. You’ll get there again. Embrace the different seasons and waves of life. Xo

    • January 9, 2015 Alison

      After reading your Contractions post, I do understand where you’re coming from!
      And not to disagree with you (because I agree), but my feeling of being half-measured has been around for a long time. Even while I was in full measure mode, pre-kids. I always felt like I was falling short of achieving something.

  • January 5, 2015 AwesomelyOZ

    Yep I feel like that very much so lately.. It’s a heavy feeling.. I’m also very easily distracted and give up easy. I’d like to think those are things I wasn’t meant to do anyway – It’s a new year and things will happen and things will get done. So on towards the future with no half-measures! Happy Monday Alison -Iva
    AwesomelyOZ recently wrote…On New Years Resolution and 9 Tips for SuccessMy Profile

    • January 9, 2015 Alison

      I do hope that things WILL get done, because I’m sick of feeling at half measures all the time!

  • January 5, 2015 Shannon

    I so completely understand this. When I apply myself to a task, I do it well, but the problem is in the applying myself. Sometimes I need to channel my inner Walter White – I AM THE DANGER (but in a completely innocuous, non-dangerous way).
    You are raising four children five and under. That’s incredible. Don’t fret.
    Shannon recently wrote…Christmas Past, Christmas Present, Christmas FutureMy Profile

    • January 9, 2015 Alison

      YES, I loved that episode!
      Four children 5 and under – now that you’ve put it that way . . .

  • January 5, 2015 Tamara

    Wow. That is a major struggle for me. And Cassidy. And for some reason, us together. Separately, we both work full-assed at our jobs, but all the dreams we have together are only halfway.
    And me trying to exercise, drink more water and eat healthily is the same!
    Tamara recently wrote…I Actually Picked a Word of the Year!My Profile

    • January 9, 2015 Alison

      Halfway dreams – we have plenty of those around here too. When are we going to make them happen, Tamara? WHEN? ๐Ÿ™‚

  • January 6, 2015 Jennie Goutet

    I think you’re living in half-measure because you have four kids under the age of five.

    I’m just saying. Even half-measure is praiseworthy. Most would be living quarter-measure. ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Jennie Goutet recently wrote…Jesus, the Idiot, and Samuel PickwickMy Profile

    • January 9, 2015 Alison

      My worry is that if I think being half measured now because of the kids, I will never, ever aspire to be full measure again. ๐Ÿ™

  • January 6, 2015 Jennifer

    But two+ of those decades were educating yourself for the remaining decades. The most recent decade has been about raising human beings. That is a pretty powerful accomplishment. Just because you feel like you haven’t done something *grand* by some set of arbitrary standards does not mean that you actually haven’t done something grand. Some results just take longer to come to fruition.
    Jennifer recently wrote…Christmas Movies to Stream on NetflixMy Profile

    • January 9, 2015 Alison

      Wise words as always, Jennifer. Thank you for your perspective and the reminder.

  • January 6, 2015 Greta

    I’m the exact same way. Really. And when I do give it my all, I get so burned out that I quit for a while (at least). I get it, sister.
    Greta recently wrote…Project 365: Week 52 (and a 1/2)My Profile

    • January 9, 2015 Alison

      Yes, exactly. It’s like two extremes on the same spectrum. What’s up with us?

  • January 6, 2015 Dana

    I love the honesty (and humor! as well as pathos) of this post. I love Breaking Bad and I remember that episode very well. Half measures is what I sometimes feel like my life has been like too. I am definitely a starter, but not a finisher, and I may actually use “Finish” as my word of the year…
    Dana recently wrote…EndingsMy Profile

    • January 9, 2015 Alison

      If you do use Finish as your word, I’d love to check back on well well you did at the end of 2015!

  • January 6, 2015 John (Daddy Runs a Lot)

    You know, for me, there is absolutely *nothing* like the feeling of a job well done. That said, I actually complete jobs so very rarely. I get excited for the start — I’m a GREAT starter. And, if I can stay motivated through to the end, I’m a great finisher. What gets me? I jump in too quickly before planning how to get to the end.
    John (Daddy Runs a Lot) recently wrote…Where I ruminate on resolutionsMy Profile

    • January 9, 2015 Alison

      That’s a good point, John. Perhaps the trick is to plan properly before jumping in. I am guilty of the same lack of planning.

  • January 6, 2015 Lisa

    I’ve felt this same way some lately, although i haven’t been able to give it words like you have. I feel as if I doing everything half-assed and nothing completely or well. Guessing we are around the same age (I;m 37 – almost 38), maybe it’s just a phase of life??? Maybe we just need a good kick in the pants to get ourselves back on track. I don’t know.
    Lisa recently wrote…2014 Year in ReviewMy Profile

    • January 9, 2015 Alison

      Like a pre-midlife-crisis crisis? ๐Ÿ™‚

  • January 6, 2015 Christine

    Yes. I think that you and I are similar in some respects. I struggle with this. I was also a doer and a go getter and did well in my career. But now, I do feel like I live in half measures. I think that for me, a big part of it has to do with confidence – that I’m not good enough or able enough to live up to the dreams that I have or to succeed in the way that I would like, especially if it involves something like going out on my own and being entrepreneurial, which is ironic since that’s the route that I’ve chosen for myself. But I’d also have to agree with what others have said – you are most definitely a full measure mom raising so many little people! PS So I should watch Breaking Bad?
    Christine recently wrote…New Year. New Word of the Year.My Profile

    • January 9, 2015 Alison

      Striking out on your own is a BIG DEAL. It takes courage and the commitment to show up every. single. day. Which lord knows is hard. And yes, you should definitely watch Breaking Bad. SO GOOD.

  • January 6, 2015 tracy

    We are so much alike, it’s truly just scary. Love you. You can do anything. Anything. xo
    tracy recently wrote…New Year New HouseMy Profile

    • January 9, 2015 Alison

      Oh Tracy, I can’t imagine YOU half-assing anything. I mean, look at your running! (love you too)

  • January 6, 2015 Rorybore

    You know, I think about this often too. I sure wasn’t this way 20, or even 15 years ago. So what changed? Quite simply: everything. Because I became a Mom. Which is not to say that I blame my children for this less than get up and go: but I do believe it is certainly a factor. Because we give SO SO much to motherhood – most of us – and I think this is one of those times we have to go a bit easy on ourselves, forgive our lack of energy and follow through, because really: we are expending so much energy in another direction. An important direction!
    But you know, don’t stop the dreaming and planning and wanting more: not all harvests have a quick turn around. The time will come again. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Rorybore recently wrote…Welcome Back to Coffee Chat: 2015My Profile

    • January 9, 2015 Alison

      I’ve had this half measure feeling for YEARS. Long before I had kids, I questioned my achievements thus far. Motherhood interrupted what could have been more full measures for me in other areas, and now I’ll never know if I would actually have made it so. I know that sounds regretful, but I don’t regret. I just wish I could pick myself up and make another goal of trying to be more full measured. If that makes sense.

  • January 6, 2015 Susi

    My husband’s grandpa had a saying: ” you do the best you can with what you have!” I think, you need to cut yourself some slack, you are raising 4 beautiful human beings and that is a full measure job. I think, it’s understandable that there are things that will get dropped or only done in half-measure… I so often sit and contemplate my own half-measures but in the end, I look at my kids and no matter what, they are my full measures!!!
    Susi recently wrote…5/365My Profile

    • January 9, 2015 Alison

      That is good advice, Susi!

  • January 6, 2015 Alexandra Rosas

    I love this show because it makes me think, stops me in my tracks and makes me THINK about my life. Goosebumps that it does the same for you, friend. xo (i’m sick of the half assed in my life, too)
    Alexandra Rosas recently wrote…Solution versus ResolutionMy Profile

    • January 9, 2015 Alison

      Isn’t it an amazing show? I can’t imagine YOU half-assing ANYTHING. (Except maybe for snacks)

  • January 7, 2015 Natalie

    You totally speak to my soul on this one. I feel like I’m not stellar at anything ARGH!

    • January 9, 2015 Alison

      Natalie, how could you say that? You successfully started and are now awesome at maintaining KMB!

  • Sometimes we must go by half in order to live life to the full and survive.
    Don’t be too hard on yourself. You are wonderful and an inspiration.
    Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes recently wrote…My childrenโ€™s favourite gamesMy Profile

    • January 9, 2015 Alison

      You’re always too kind to me, Tinne!

  • January 8, 2015 My Inner Chick

    –I remember that scene very well.
    He should have shot the F*cker.

    Luv U. x
    My Inner Chick recently wrote…All Roads Out Of Hell Lead HomeMy Profile

    • January 9, 2015 Alison

      My thoughts EXACTLY. XOXO

  • January 12, 2015 kimberly

    Ah, I do love me some Breaking Bad.
    I see this with myself too. I take half measures for so many things. I think it’s hard though. We’re in a place now where our lives revolve around these tiny (demanding) people, and we’re on survival mode. I think (and desperately hope) that as they get a bit older it will become easier to put out full measures.
    kimberly recently wrote…Fall Family Fun | NJ PhotographerMy Profile

    • January 15, 2015 Alison

      I really hope so, because living life like this? Not great.

  • January 14, 2015 Monica

    OMG Alison, this is me…absolutely.
    Have been a long long time reader of your blog, since mumma want this days!
    Have felt it many times reading your earlier blogs, each and every word seems so much true to me and my life so far.
    Let us hope 2015 brings some positive changes and we can actually start and finish few of our many dreams ๐Ÿ™‚
    And btw, congrats on your adorable twins ๐Ÿ™‚

    • January 15, 2015 Alison

      Monica, my faithful reader. I’m glad you’re finally commenting! ๐Ÿ™‚
      May your year be fabulous, and thank you!

  • January 20, 2015 Rebecca

    Oh geez…Half measures…I’m guilty of half-assing my way through important things. Breaking Bad may have gotten into your head and made you evaluate your post-marketing boss bit** operations (which I love btw), but your post is now doing that to me. I’m okay with it though- because if I want to do anything better then uncovering the dirty truth of half-assing is just what I gotta do. Thanks for this, I may be late reading it but for me, it’s perfect timing.
    Rebecca recently wrote…The Baby Who Named HimselfMy Profile

    • January 20, 2015 Alison

      Oh Rebecca, you are young, you have plenty of time to be full measured! Trust me on this. xo

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