In part four of Stellar Women’s crossover with EDRM, Blair Heidenreich and I continued our conversation with Mary Mack and Kaylee Walstad on mental health.
This time, we checked in with one another on how we’ve been faring since our last conversation, what boundaries we’ve set, and ways we’ve had to navigate adhering to those boundaries as the world starts to open up.
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Mary Rechtoris: Hey Stellar Women fans. I’m your host, Mary Rechtoris.
Blair Heidenreich: I'm your co-host and Stellar Women writer, Blair Heidenreich. Stellar Women shines a light on female leaders making their mark in tech.
MR: This is part four, I believe, of our Stellar Women-EDRM crossover with Mary Mack and Kaylee Walstad. We talk about mental health and how we really want to emerge coming out of this pandemic. So first and foremost, Mary and Kaylee, thank you for jumping on. I always love chatting with you.
Mary Mack: And we love chatting with you as well, don't we?
Kaylee Walstad: Absolutely. I have just been enjoying these crossover podcasts with you both.
BH: I know we've really found our groove together, so shall we just dive into our highlights of the week? I can go first. This weekend I was able to do a Chicago River boat cruise with some gal pals. It was so cool to see the city from a different side, on the river. It was amazing to see Chicago coming back to life again. There were people on the Riverwalk.
MR: My highlight may not seem exciting, but it is exciting for me. Relativity had a summer break not last week, but the week before that. And I feel like I was groggy last week. I didn't really find my rhythm. And I know it's only Tuesday, but over the last day and a half, I've been getting stuff done and feel productive. I'm making some traction, so that's been a good feeling for me.
KW: I can only imagine coming off a full week. Mary, you showed up on our Clubhouse, which was awesome, during your vacation. [It must be hard] coming off that full week where you get to disengage and maybe chill out a little bit. Then, boom, it's back to work. Reentry sometimes is not very friendly.
MR: Exactly. And I think I was talking to Blair, or I don't know if it was you…
BH: I'm sure it was me.
MR: For us, US offices were shut down. Everybody's on the same break. Sometimes when you're on PTO, you're checking emails or are a little bit more tuned in. At least in our US offices, people aren't working that week so you really feel like you can recharge and everyone's in the same boat when you get back. That was a nice feeling.
KW: We saw that from Amanda Fennell. She posted on LinkedIn, and I'm a huge fan of hers, that it was a beautiful thing that Relativity did—give everybody that option. She thanked the skeleton crew who kept things going so she didn't have to.
MR: Kaylee, what about you? What's been exciting in your life the last week or so?
KW: I have something similar to Blair and I find the timing fascinating. Our little town that I live in is maybe 20 minutes west of Minneapolis. It's a suburb that I grew up in. I went to grade school, junior high, and high school here. They just had their 87th annual raspberry festival. My little town is the raspberry capital of the world.
BH: Oh my gosh.
KW: We didn't have it last year. And this year … Our main street is like a classic old-fashioned Main Street. Mary, you've been on it. I live in Hopkins. It was packed with people, flags, fireworks, cheese curd trucks, mini donut trucks, and live music outside. People were outside and happy. Planes were divebombing into the parade. There's a long, old-fashioned parade. I felt the same and similar to Blair in that I felt like my little town was alive. And I'm telling you what, it was so noisy. I feel like coming out of the pandemic, I must get used to loud people and noises.
BH: Kaylee, we are two birds of a feather. I feel like we have similar highlights each week.
KW: When you say yours, I’m always thinking, “This is hilarious.” Ms. Mack?
MM: My highlight is that my about-to-be 15-year-old grandson came back from a trip to go out to Wisconsin to see his mom. He accomplished that swimmingly so that was one piece. He came back with a full head of steam that now he wants to know everything about e-discovery. He’s just absolutely adorable. There is nothing like seeing the youngsters grow into their own.
BH: That’s so sweet. Last time we talked, we discussed how we’re different people post-pandemic. Kaylee, you mentioned that you're making a concerted effort to slow down or do less, as you were a self-proclaimed busy bee. Is that still the case? How has the last month been for you?
KW: Mary and I were just talking about the themes that we're seeing as we're doing these conversations as we emerge from the pandemic. We felt like the theme on the last one was, oh, my gosh, we're so excited to emerge but not feeling the same. A lot of people have said, “I'm doing stuff, but I feel weird or whatever.” As you emerge, how are you going to do things or how are you doing things differently? I am still extremely mindful. In fact, during the week, Mary and I work long days. Wouldn’t you say so, Mary?
MM: I would say so.
KW: On the weekends, I spend time with my family. They want to go out for brunch, go out for dinner, play games, and do this and do that. What I'm finding is now, a month after our last conversation, is that I need to set some boundaries. I need to carve out time that’s just my time where I don't feel like I have to say yes to everything that my family wants to do. When I emerged from the pandemic, especially after all that time, I would not say no to anything. I was getting tired because I don't feel like I have the same energy that I used to. A new me is emerging if that makes sense. I don't know if anybody feels like that.
MR: I've always been a moderately energized person. We’ve talked about how I haven't been drinking so I have a little bit of more energy, which is interesting. I'm also being more strategic in how I use that energy. I'll do plans here and there, like maybe once or twice a week with friends. I am really dedicated to taking time for myself, whether that's reading or walking my dog. I'm more mindful in how I'm capitalizing on this newfound energy that I'm finding.
KW: That's exciting.
MR: It is exciting. The weather's nice so I can do some stuff besides just Netflix, although that's still a priority of mine, of course.
BH: I feel like you might slap me on the wrist here, but I have fallen into some old habits of just having a plan every day. It came to a head last Sunday. I was making dinner and I was in the middle of chopping onions. And I was like, “I can't do it.” My husband was like, “What about fish tacos?” I said, “We have to say goodbye to the fish tacos. Everything back in the fridge.” That was the first time in two weeks that I was like, “I have to listen to my body and my emotions and know that I could push through and do this, but I'm not going to.” I fell back into old habits, as they say.
KW: I feel like I did a little bit of that because I didn't want to say no to anything. I could go and do all these things with my family. My sister, my kids, and I had a similar experience that you did where I hit a wall and was like, “You know what? I need to carve out time for me.”
MR: Mary, what about you? Are you also jampacked with social events? Are there any boundaries that you set during the pandemic that you might still be adhering to or might be falling to the wayside? What’s been going on with you?
MM: So, yesterday, or maybe it wasn’t yesterday ... One thing that hasn't changed is my sense of time is just totally off. So Sunday, which is yesterday, we packed it in. My grandson was over early. We went out to Cascade Locks and got ice cream at the Eastwind. It’s an old-fashioned, drive-through ice cream place. We had a lovely, lovely day and dinner and ended up going to the new Space Jam movie. I'm feeling it. I told Kaylee that I am spent, S-P-E-N-T in caps. The conviviality that used to feed me as an extrovert feels different now. I'm being more mindful. I've got some events shaping up for the weekend where people are coming into town. I already have a drive downtown for lunch and then visitors coming and things. I am arranging time to have some downtime. I think I need it, or else, ah!
MR: You don't even feel it the same day. It's almost the next day or a few days later. Kaylee, going back to what you were saying earlier because I think it's easier said than done. Coming out of the pandemic and thinking about what serves us and whether we want or don’t want to attend something, how do you say no?
KW: That is a great question. I think saying no to things, especially after we were all locked down in a pandemic, makes it even harder. I have a guilty sensation prior to doing it, which is why I have pushed myself too hard. But I think the best way to say no, depends on the level of the friendship. I've had quite a few invitations to go meet up for lunch or for a happy hour. And what I say right now is that between work and my family, I'm already overcommitted. It could be saying no to friends, people that you haven't seen for a long time, or family. I just say, “I don't have the bandwidth right now.” To my kids, I said, “I just need some downtime. I've been running, running, running.” And when you talk to people like that, they understand. It’s authentic. If they try to guilt you, I think that's very uncool. I haven't experienced that.
MR: I was talking to a friend about this. He was saying that he's very strategic in how he spends his time on what's serving him energy wise. He was talking about attending a friend's housewarming. He told her that he couldn't go. There was going to be a lot of people and he didn’t want to surround himself with that many people for whatever reason. And I said,
“Well, what was your excuse?” He said, “I just told her: Thank you for the invite. I won’t be able to go.” We hear so often that no is an answer in and of itself. Obviously, you want to be polite, but I think sometimes I do this thing where I think, “Okay, how am I going to couch this or do that?” But no is an answer in and of itself. If someone is going to give you pushback or judge that decision, that's more indicative of their own character than anything you decide. If I can give any free advice that I heard from my therapist in our recent session about setting boundaries, you have a statement of empathy and then you have what you're doing. If you can’t go do something, you can say, “I look forward to seeing you soon. It’s been too long but I can’t make this one.” You validate the person. So, some free advice about how to set boundaries.
KW: That's excellent advice. The empathetic or kind statement. We like to call it a sandwich technique because I then say one more nice thing after the no.
MR: I won't be there, but you have fun.
MM: Send pictures.
MR: Right, send pics. Kaylee and Mary, thanks so much for joining Blair and me. We always love having you.
KW: We love these. Let’s keep doing it because there's such great insights as we go month to month.
MR: They are and it's personally interesting for me. We can see how we've evolved it. Blair, I really appreciate your transparency about not always living up to the boundary that you set. We're not perfect, and we're learning.
BH: It's a way to hold myself accountable with you. But, you know, listeners, you can check out our previous episodes of this EDRM-Stellar Women crossover podcast on EDRM’s website, which we will link to if you're ever looking to get a feel of where we've been versus where we are.
MR: Yes, please check those out. And with that, for Stellar Women, I’m Mary Rechtoris.
BH: And I’m Blair Heidenreich.
Both: Signing off.