Mary Gregory is an American author and poet. She is the author of Travels Through Aqua, Green, and Blue and The Great LeadHERship Awakening. She has a poetry blog titled Urban Honesty, and has also created a coloring book. By day, Gregory is a senior leader in IT for a Fortune 500 company in the entertainment industry.
Gregory calls California home, where she enjoys spending time with friends and sharing cheap wine and good food.
You’re a successful author, as well as a Senior Leader in IT for a Fortune 500 company. What is the key to balancing these key aspects to your career?
I know what it takes to pursue your goals and it can be tough to find the time. What’s most important is making sure I control my calendar. I read two great books last year, The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna, and The One Thing by Gary Keller and immediately bought copies for my team.
These books teach you how to determine your musts buried in your shoulds. I was shown how to make time for my musts which make me feel fulfilled and happy, things like creativity time, connection time, and exercise. By combining this with a daily focus on the most important thing that I can do, such that by doing it, everything else is unnecessary or easier, I developed a formula to feel accomplished and less stressed.
For focus time, I leverage Microsoft’s “Focus Time” which blocks from 1-4 hours of your calendar each day and every week for you, this way I prevent myself from over-booking myself, which I tend to do. This gives me the solid blocks of time I need to get my most important work done.
When it’s time to focus on writing, I go to the small writing studio I rent near my house and clock in two hours at least four times a week. This is my quiet space with no home distractions like a spouse, or my very distracting felines. I find that the end of my day is great for the writing studio, and morning time is great for creative work at the house. Finding this balance took me a few years, but now that I know when I’m most creative and when I’m most effective at work, I make my calendar reflect those times, so I’m in the most optimal space for each.
Can you talk about your childhood and how it shaped your book, Travels Through Aqua, Green, and Blue: A Memoir?
I was born in Nashville, Tennessee but ended up in Long Beach, California by the time I was 7 years old. My mother had taken my brother, sister, and I away from our family home and our family when I was six years old, after she and my father divorced. It would be 13 years before I would see my father and family again, and in that time, we’d spent all those years below the poverty line.
My father had come out of the closet during the mid-80’s and being that he was the preacher of our church, this didn’t land very well in our community and with our families, nor with our mother. It seemed society was not prepared, nor open to supporting his lifestyle and the shock nearly broke my mother. She was already suffering from the beginnings of paranoid schizophrenia and their divorce tipped her over the edge.
My experiences after leaving Nashville are what shaped who I am today and gave me the insight and the understanding of what marginalized people go through. I was bullied for most of my childhood because I was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate and because we left Tennessee when I was so young, many surgeries had not been completed. I had a flat nose, scars on my top lip, and was missing my front teeth for most of my youth and into my early 20’s.
In my memoir, I share the impact of bullying on my confidence, and the way I developed my view of the world because of it, but also the hurdles I overcame.
There was no way to get through these experiences without having trauma. But it was when I started working on my trauma, through PTSD treatments and talk therapy, that I gained the strength and tools to write and complete my memoir.
Through the process of writing the book, I was able to truly forgive those in my life who had hurt me, to give credit to those who had loved and supported me, and to forgive my parents and society for failing me when I needed them most. I truly believe we do the best we can do with what we know and what we’re shown.
Poetry is a unique means of evoking feelings and thoughts. Can you talk to us about your poetry blog, Urban Honesty, and what it means to you?
Feeling empowered is important to me and I realize that life doesn’t always afford us this sustained emotion because at some point, you’re going to feel powerless. In 2018, I was going through a lot, a marriage that was still mending after years of being on the rocks, a new role at my company that put me out of my comfort zone and kept me feeling like I was in a perpetual learning curve, and a creative stump for writing my memoir. I’d been writing my memoir for about 3 years at this time and had gone to therapy to address my childhood trauma, but I still had the need to express my everyday life.
I turned to poetry to give me this outlet. It’s my way to express my good stuff and my struggles, it’s where I write letters of inspiration to my friends and family, how I calm my nervous system, and shake out what’s inside my head. It’s my dreamy and lofty ideals, my inner frustrated and irritated adult-child, and my place of forgiveness, insight, and new beginnings.
I still learn about who I am and my capacity to forgive, how to love and to live, through poetry.
To get to your level of success, you need a solid support system. Who would you say is your biggest supporter?
Potential eye roll, but it really takes a village! My husband and brother are constantly cheering me on and empowering me to keep fighting the good fight, which for me is continuing with my professional and personal pursuits.
It’s interesting how we can be the inspiration for someone but shrug it off because we don’t see that person in ourselves. But isn’t the act of someone telling you that you are an inspiration, make it true? So let me give those whom I truly love and who have shown me what being a powerful woman is all about, their due. My friends Marjorie, Lydia, and Laura are my professional north stars. They’re powerful leaders, moms, wives, and have given me endless advice on how to lead. As I was getting my bearings in a corporate environment and looking to move up in my career, these three women contributed to me nearly tripling my salary in the past 10 years.
In my latest book, The Great LeadHERship Awakening, which include stories from 24 female leaders who are sure to inspire anyone looking to find their superpower and grow their career. I feel so fortunate to have been part of this anthology because my fellow authors were able to expand my circle of female leaders and influencers.
What’s the best way to unwind after a long week at work when you’re not working on your next writing masterpiece?
Being able to connect with my friends and share food, and cheap wine, is one of my favorite pastimes. I love to be cooked for and to watch a cook in action. I love the conversations around the kitchen table and listening to how people’s lives are going. A perfect end to the week is a few good laughs around a good meal, a great show, and a dip in the pool. Simply nirvana.
“The Great LeadHERship Awakening” is available on Amazon by clicking here.
To learn more about bestselling author and poet Mary E. Gregory, visit her official website