Archive for July, 2018|Monthly archive page

Mundane Things Still Count

It has oft been said, including by me on this blog, that “it’s the little things in life” that make all the difference. I believe this aphorism is true, and I also think that there are variations in what counts as meaningful ‘little things ‘ for each of us. But even if you and I disagree that any given detail does or doesn’t fall into the bucket of what matters to quality of life, I think we can agree that some things are so run-of-the-mill that the presence or absence on any given day won’t make or break anyone’s positivity permanently.

I think that’s ok. Some stuff is just the background filler of life. It’s there, it’s necessary in a way, but it is unlikely to ever become critical or noteworthy unless something extreme happens.

Yet there is value in the ordinary things. Sometimes it’s a relief to have a so-so day, a merely adequate experience because you’ve had to deal with intensity of one kind or another for a prolonged time. Or, after a particularly bad experience with something, especially a food experience, it can be soothing to have something relatively bland or plain. You know what I mean?

That’s what I focused on today: the unexpected happiness I’ve derived from some mild, ordinary, mundane details.

First, I was dreading the first half of my day today because my schedule had me in back-to-back conference calls from 6-10:30am. And all of them were on topics that were either extremely tedious or unpleasant. But it didn’t go as badly as expected. The 6am call got canceled at the last minute, so I had time to drive into the office for the 7-9am call, instead of having to take it from the car. Then the next call went more smoothly than it ever has before and provided meaningful information and actions, rather than mindless droning. The last call, while frustrating, actually ended in a positive with people other than me having take-away actions. All told, it was more ‘meh’ than ‘aaaarrrrrrgggggghhh’ and I didn’t strangle anyone, so I’m putting it in the win column.

Next, my boss gave me a compliment today that probably won’t mean much to anyone but me, and probably wasn’t intended to have the depth of meaning that it immediately assumed in my mind. But the meaning is there for me, anyway. All he said was: “you’re the king on this; you make the call and I’ll support whatever ever decision you make”. It’s an everyday management issue and nothing someone of my rank and position doesn’t do routinely. Indeed, I’ve made similar calls at least a dozen times since taking on executive-level responsibility. That’s not what put the spring in my step. What he said, and what I choose to regard as both recognition and validation of my identity, is “king”. He could so easily have said “queen” or something equally feminine. He didn’t and it was deliberate. I’m a woman, yes, but I’m Butch and proud and much more “king” than anything. He chose to see me and that matters.

Lastly, I had my 2-week post-op check after my last oral surgery. Since this one was so much more painful, and because I’ve been very gingerly with my mouth since then, I fully expected to get a poor evaluation and a bit of a lecture. Instead, my surgeon complimented me on the very good care I’ve taken of all the work she did, praised me for being smart about self-care, and was all-around pleased with my progress. The “good job!” pat on the head was more of an ego boost than I even knew I needed. Plus, she released me to chew again and drink from a straw again! I don’t have the vocabulary to describe precisely how big a deal that last bit is after a month’s worth of slurping and gumming and chipmunk-chewing with my front teeth.

Freedom to chew and drink from a straw on the same day as being called “the king” and avoiding murdalizing any sales guys!?! That’s a good day, people! *jazz hands*

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Random and also late

So why not compound a weekly goal miss with another plus a list-y cop-out post? I’m going to get this posting goal back on track if it kills me. But for now, here are some random things from my week that I thought you should know:

  1. it is 173 steps from my desk to the bathroom at my work. That’s a long way when you’re having to do the pee-pee dance!
  2. Watching Ewoks drop rocks on Storm Troopers’ heads from hang gliders never gets old.
  3. Converging court filing deadlines in three litigation matters in a single week totally blows. But getting to be the hero by re-writing outside counsel’s interrogatory response at the last minute in one case while also managing a settlement offer in another is totally awesome. Especially so when your boss publicly thanks you for making his job easy.
  4. Getting a head and neck massage with a haircut makes me happy.
  5. Chewing anything with only your front four teeth is really weird and makes having dinner an extremely long and tedious experience. But on the plus side, chewing anything at all after a month’s worth of mushy glop feels great despite the weird chipmunk-chewing.

Have a great week, my friends!

Dang it!

Well, crap! Missed my posting goal by one day. Ugh.

I’ve had a busy 8 days since my last post. Work and house-cleaning ahead of a post-holiday visit from family took up a chunk of energy. Then a great few days spent with my family, resting and visiting and swimming and dining and watching movies. It was a blast.

Then, on Monday afternoon, I had my second oral surgery. OMG that was painful! Way worse than the first. And sooooo much drool! Yuck!

I spent Tuesday resting and taking medicine. Went back to work on Wednesday, only to find that I’m not invincible. Even though all I do is read and think and type and talk to people, it was more than I could manage. I went home and slept for 5 straight hours.

Now, I’ve worked two full days and am still farther behind in my work than if I’d been out of the office for two weeks. I haven’t been this far behind in years. I hate it! So I’ll be spending time on my laptop this weekend trying to catch up.

Well, maybe after a good night’s rest and a little quiet work tomorrow, I’ll feel caught up enough to enjoy Sunday off. And maybe the recovery will advance enough that I won’t forget to post on time next week. 🙄

I hope you have a restful weekend, friends.

On Strategic Retreat

I was reared on the belief that quitting is a grievous sin. It compounds selfishness with laziness and imposes your burden, your duty, on someone else. Quitting is the easy way out and earns you nothing.

This absolutist view had a very powerful affect on my formative mind. It embedded itself in my personality and formed a part of my core ethos. In many tangible ways, I have benefited from this belief becoming a trait. Without this conviction, coupled with some courage and a goodly amount of sheer stubbornness, I would not have achieved the level of advancement and respect that I currently enjoy in my career. Nor would I have had the will to undertake this years-long campaign of self discovery and personal growth. Not quitting and consciously, intentionally, habitually opposing any urge to quit, has served me very well.

But even good habits can be injurious when taken too far.

A lesson that has taken far too long to sink into my brain is that there is a time for everything, including a time to quit. When a habit or practice or project or activity… or even a relationship…becomes unhealthy or harmful or unproductive or counter-productive, logic and reason would say it’s time to end that thing. Putting energy and resources toward such a failing endeavor is wasteful and causes more harm than good.

Yet quitting still seems wrong.

Continuing to the end, finishing the course, making sure the job is done, staying true to your word…these are the things I was taught to tell myself to avoid quitting. They’re noble sentiments that reveal a character to be admired. They also have the effect of making failure easier to accept than quitting. Because if you stick it out to the end, give it all you’ve got and still fail, you have preserved your honor and can hold your head up in spite of the outcome. But there’s no honor in quitting, no valor in retreat.

That’s what I was taught and what I’ve always believed.

Yet I was also taught to think and use good sense. And what kind of sense does it make to continue an endeavor that you know will fall or that is harmful to you in some way? What real valor is there in blind, unyielding labor, what honor in futility? Doesn’t even military theory teach the value of tactical retreat, of picking your battles, of living to fight another day?

Perhaps the change in nomenclature will help. A trusted teacher once told me that reframing a problem with language that is palatable to both mind and spirit can overcome obstacles that logic and brute strength cannot. So…retreat, not quitting.

If I retreat from whatever is in front of me and take an alternate path, I do not necessarily have to go backwards. I can go in any other direction and still advance. It might take longer and the original destination may be out of sight for a time, or the destination may change altogether, but there is still movement toward the goal.

That is palatable and I can accept the logic as not merely palliative nonsense. It is not comfortable and not as ingrained as the drive to never quit, but I can appreciate it’s worth.

This has been a long time coming. I’ve had to intentionally cultivate this skill while suppressing my natural tendency toward stubborn determination. It started small, delegating tasks at work to junior attorneys to free time for more advanced projects suited to my more mature skills.

What made that hard was that the tasks I needed to delegate were things I enjoyed and was really good at doing. Handing them off felt like quitting my job to do something I barely understood how to do. That seemed foolish and unworthy. But it was necessary. It was retreat from the familiar in order to take on the unknown and gain immeasurable ground in the process.

It has been the same every time I’ve done it since. Whether it’s taking on a new challenge at work, letting go of unproductive personal habits, finding new paths to self improvement, acknowledging failure to learn and achieve success, or simply letting go of uncertainty and embracing the risk of loss while reaching for the gain, it all requires the same thing: strategic retreat. I know in my heart that term is a euphemism for quitting. But because the layer of meaning on top of it has the virtue of truth, it’s a type of quitting that my spirit is willing to accept.

So, what have I quit recently? A few things, but I didn’t quit any of them without having a clear alternate path each time:

  • I gave bullet journaling a full 90 day shot, daily recording the significant occurrences in my day and often adding a fun anecdote or inspirational quote. But I just don’t see the value in it. It feels forced and takes time away from actually doing those significant occurrences. And I haven’t felt the need to review my entries even once. Instead, I’m doubling down on my commitment to this blog. We’re safely over the halfway mark of the year and I’ve been true to my weekly posting goal. I find value and meaning in this and knowing that I have readers who still read keeps me going. So I quit bullet journaling and will instead work harder here.
  • Keeping with the theme of giving up useless things, I quit three separate standing meetings at work and have no regrets. That’s 90 minutes per week that I have back to do things that actually matter. Since none of them were my meetings, organized by me, I feel no compulsion to replace them with anything specific. I’m just using my time more effectively and that’s good for both me and my company. How freeing it is to simply not attend!
  • Although I’ve been dressing in “masculine” clothing for many years and haven’t worn a skirt or dress in nearly two decades, I still tried to maintain some semblance of female normativity in my appearance. Whether it’s wearing pastel colors to soften the cut of my shirt and bow tie, or adding rings and bracelets or even earrings to signal “yes I’m a girl” to the anxious public confused by my style, I made an effort because I have always feared ridicule and derision. It’s incredibly exhausting always worrying about whether other people will “get” you or if they’ll laugh you out of town. So, gradually and with a lot of effort and the support of family and friends, I have begun to let go of the need for public approval of my appearance and identity. I’m learning to redirect the energy I put into worry and fear into confidence and self-worth. I’m letting myself like who I am and how I look, and learning to not feel guilty for it.

These may not seem like strategic retreats or even real accomplishments to anyone but me. That’s alright. I know the value these changes have to my spirit and the labor that has gone into achieving them. That’s all that really matters – that I know.

So my hope for you, friends, is that you give yourselves permission to strategically retreat from things that aren’t working, free from guilt and self loathing, so that your new direction can bring you to your goal.

Beginning Again

Well, I made it through the second quarter and didn’t strangle any sales guys, so that counts as a big positive. Also, I have started July off on a good foot by doing chores with a good attitude and without grumbling (though no one but me would have heard). Finally, I’m up and going at normal time for a work day, even though my boss bid me to take today and tomorrow ahead of the holiday break easy and work from home, doing only essential tasks because I deserve a break. I will do so, but sticking to routine helps me avoid temptation to turn “work from home” into an unrecorded day off.

All of this and the train of thought that leads me to record it all form another start on my goals of positivity and personal growth. I’ve learned that progress in such things, for me, is actually a series of efforts rather than one long pull to the goal line. I’m not sure why that is. But I’m not unhappy about it. Growth still happens and it’s mostly conscious and intentional. That I seem to need to start out toward the same goal a lot doesn’t diminish the progress I make each time. And because I do start again, rather than give it up, is a meta-win. Not quitting is as important to me as starting in the first place.

So, I’m beginning again. Focusing on the good things, consciously avoiding negativity, and trying to bring substance into my writing. This quarter, when I take stock at the end, I want to have the ability to judge myself as having accomplished all of my primary goals and improved performance on the stretch goals I set for myself last week. But more importantly, I want to be able to say that I’ve stayed the course from this new beginning and head into the next beginning with momentum.

Have a great week, my friends, and may you have many successes on your own new beginnings.

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