Archive for September, 2018|Monthly archive page

Q3 Check-up

It’s that time again, the end of the third quarter, and time to check on my progress against goals for personal growth that I set for myself at the beginning of the year. You can see my first and second quarter report cards here and here.

Quick reminder: these goals and my efforts to achieve them are for me, and this report card is an accountability device that helps keep me motivated. I try to be fair and gentle with myself when rating my performance.

Last quarter I passed, but slipped off the honor roll and re-committed to my original and stretch goals for Q3. So let’s see how I did in Q3. I’ll be grading on three main topics (Weekly Posting, Creativity/Nurturing My Spirit, and Work-Life Balance) plus the stretch goals (More Substantive Blog Posts, Practice New Sand Casting Skill, and More IRL Socializing) on an A through F scale.

Q3 2018 Report Card:

Weekly Posting: A

Substantive Posts: A

I’m calling this an A. Even though I just missed the 7-day deadline twice, once by mere minutes, I still posted every week. They were mostly substantive and, though some weren’t the resoundingly positive missives I strive for, they had meaning and message for me. Also, an online friend and follower of my blog paid me the huge compliment of telling me that my consistent posting has inspired her to return to more regular posting herself. Huge ego boost to know that something I do is inspiration for someone else. So this is a solid A on both counts.

Creativity/Nurturing My Spirit: A

Practice Sand Casting: F, but started new writing project, so A because creativity

Ok, this is a bit of a cheat. I’m giving myself an A on the goal because I’ve been doing a lot of sky-gazing and quiet contemplation as self care, which absolutely nourishes my spirit. But I’m also giving myself an A on the stretch goal, because I’m changing the stretch goal to something less specific. Cheating, I know, but also preserving my motivation to try.

Truth is, I have had no time to get into the sand casting. I want to do it, but the significant investment of time required to set up and prep for a pour is just beyond me right now. And my SIL doesn’t have any more time for it than I do right now.

However, I am acutely aware of a deep need to creatively express myself. So I have broken through an inhibition I’ve harbored against creative writing and begun a project just for myself. I’m doing it entirely by hand with pen and paper. I don’t have any present plans to publish or even let anyone read it. But I have this story in my head and a need to get it onto paper. That’s creativity and spirit-nurturing action. So it counts and I’m giving myself an A for it.

Work/Life Balance: A

IRL Socializing: A

I’m grading easy on this one. Since I have consistently participated and have not consciously avoided socializing this quarter, I’m giving myself an A. Work has been crazy, but I’ve been intentional about setting boundaries and choosing to prioritize myself over the urgencies that result from others’ failure to plan.

Also, I again went on a trip for the sole purpose of visiting a friend, even taking the initiative in asking to meet up. The epic adventure did a lot to lift my spirit and deepen our friendship. So, even though I still haven’t made any new friends and have no prospects of doing so in the near future, I’ll give myself an A on both because I have made real effort despite the lack of results.

So, overall, I’d say I’m back on the Honor Roll with straight A’s, but there’s definite room for improvement. I won’t change the goals or stretch goals for Q4 – there’s just too much going on in the run to the end of year to make it worth changing things up. Let’s see if I can just maintain the momentum. I’ll count it a win if I am not completely consumed by deals and litigation deadlines and holiday prep to the point of becoming catatonic. If I can stay on top of the work load, keep up with the few friends I have, and keep writing, all without imploding or exploding, I’ll happily end the year with another set of A’s.

I hope the turn of the seasons is treating you well and that you have satisfying challenges to take you through the rest of the year. Be well, my friends.

Deep Breaths and Silver Linings

Everything in the media and in our national consciousness is awful and horribly triggering this week. And this last business day of the quarter is packed with high stress and stupidity. To preserve my sanity, I have to cling to the belief that it gets better and focusing on the positive is part of making it better. Even when the margin of “better” is so thin you can see daylight through it and the only measure of improvement is “less awful”, not good, I have to hang on that hope, because reality pretty much blows at the moment.

Deep breaths really go only so far toward less awful. So here are some salvaged silver linings that, while a might tarnished, still gleam a little through the gloom:

  1. Gallows humor is still humor and the effort required to pull a chuckle out of the middle of the thorny stress ball of a given day, by folks suffering right along with you, makes the magic of that laughter even more potent than normal.
  2. People who just get you are rare blessings. I’m so fortunate that I have both friends and colleagues who get me…and don’t flee screaming for the hills because of it. 😜
  3. A casual “you’re right and you’re awesome” from my boss after a particularly heated discussion over a quarter-end deal today was exactly what I needed to relieve the weight of always having to be the adult in the room among sales guys vying to give away the farm so they get their commissions.
  4. Someone I respect and admire told me publicly that it’s ok to prioritize my emotional and mental safety over the loud and insistent calls for bravery and social activism. I have been doing so anyway. But having someone validate your needs, tacitly refuting the implication that being fragile in the face of the uproar is inexcusable weakness, is a gift beyond measure.
  5. I’m not necessarily proud of this one, but I admit that one particularly twisted and tarnished silver lining I’ve enjoyed this week is the smug satisfaction I get when a well articulated argument, laced with snark so dry and stealthy as to be confused with courtesy, sails high over a mark’s head but is recognized by everyone else witnessing it as the devastating smack-down it was intended to be. Sometimes it’s nice having a huge vocabulary and a wickedly sharp sense of sarcastic justice.

Bite-sized Positivity

Continuing the intentional positivity:

1. I have a fresh haircut given by a lovely stylist who told me stories about cutting her 11yo daughter’s hair short (seriously, a #2 guard on the sides, down from shoulder-length!) for the first time and supporting her through all the questions, doubts and crappy comments of those less supportive in her life. What a great mom! And a comfortable hair cutting experience for me. Win!

2. I had coconut frosted cake from my favorite bakery for dessert yesterday.

3. It was cool and breezy yesterday, cooling off my house. And today I’ll have a brand new heater and A/C installed, replacing the 40+ yo model that came with the house, for which I only have to pay 20%. Yay, whole-home warranty!!!

Mini-reframe

A recent attempt to be positive that I posted on another forum:

So much has sucked the big one lately. But I don’t want to be always negative. What often makes me feel better is looking up at the ever-changing, beautiful sky. Here are a sunset, a rainbow, and a sunrise from earlier this week – bright spots of beautiful things in a very stressful week. #lookingup #sunrise #sunset

Even Less Context

  1. Physical exhaustion and emotional exhaustion are equal in severity and neither should be the source of secret pride. Corollary: long hours aren’t the badge of honor you believe them to be.
  2. Something is broken, possibly irrevocably, when the primary and immediate response to an inspirational quote and would-be heartwarming image is overwhelming sadness coupled with equal parts shame and despair.
  3. My success doesn’t diminish your achievement, so stop belittling my accomplishments.
  4. It’s hard not to feel hurt when someone forgets to acknowledge how hard you worked (without a personal motive) to help them achieve something they really wanted.
  5. Even the most conspicuous person in a given group needs to feel seen and validated. Those who seem to have it all together may suffer most from unintentional invisibility caused by presumptions of the people they’re around the most.
  6. How can a reasonably intelligent, well educated, functioning adult with over 40 years of life experience not possess the basic skill of finding and making genuine friends?

No Context

Sometimes you just have to vent, even when you’re still committed to positivity. Sometimes it’s just too hard, takes too much energy and effort to excavate the silver lining from the cruddy day. Sometimes the thing that relieves the pressure, lets off the steam, and brings even a small measure of pain relief is a good ol’ fashioned gripe…or cry.

But even then, sometimes indulging that impulse to let it all out can be alarming, even hurtful, to those around you. That’s especially true when you spend so much time being deliberately, intentionally, carefully positive, avoiding this very type of stormy, emotional release of frustration. When you are known for calm, measured, controlled, authoritative responses, blowing off steam can be doubly jarring to witnesses unaccustomed to seeing you in an unguarded state.

Sometimes that extra burden, on top of the drive to remain positive, is too much to bear. A thing I do when this happens is to vent without revealing context or rationale for the thoughts or feelings expressed. That way I can get it out of my head and heart with the best chance of sparing others’ feelings and without having to do a lot of educating others to put it all into an easy frame of reference.

This week has had its highs and lows, but I’m feeling more of the lows than highs and have a need to shake off the darkness. Even wearing my Jedi socks and a daring bow tie/shirt combination didn’t take the edge off today. So here’s my vent, without context and in no particular order. (Don’t take it personally – this post is really just about me.)

  • Gender policing, particularly around use of public bathrooms, is exhausting B.S. Yes, I know how to read. Yes, I know it’s the “ladies room”. No, I’m not in the wrong place. No, it doesn’t hurt you for me to pee in my own stall in the same bathroom as you and your precious little girl. And no, I’m not a predator for needing to pee in peace. Get over yourself!
  • My level of tolerance for just about everything decreases in proportion to your level of ignorance and entitlement. Don’t expect me to indulge your stupidity at the expense of my personal integrity or mental and emotional security.
  • Pain sucks. It drains all my energy and makes me an emotional wreck and intellectually deficient. I’m so over it!
  • Feeling pathetic and without value, especially when I can’t identify what’s causing that irrational emotion to surge and persist, is debilitatingly irritating. Sometimes I wish I had an emotion chip like Commander Data that I could turn off and never turn back on.
  • Despite the evidence of a rough week, I am not broken and I don’t need to be pitied. Just because I am injured and moving more slowly and gingerly doesn’t give you license to touch my body without my consent. Stop with all the hands on my already aching back and limbs. Thanks, but I can walk and stand without you yanking on me! And, yes, if that sounds gruff and ungracious, then I’ll own that. But you need to own the irrationality and privilege of being offended at someone defending their agency and body sovereignty.

Okay, that’s enough venting for a good long while. Thanks for the indulgence, friends. I hope you’re having a pain- and frustration-free week and look forward to a weekend of positivity and relaxation.

Professional Positive

I try very hard to get my work done during the week so I’ll be free to spend my weekends as I choose. Even if I do nothing but veg out in my pajamas, it’s my time, not my company’s time. That separation is important to me. I have a slight tendency toward being a workaholic and and keeping a clear wall between personal and work time helps me curb that urge to overdo.

Yet there are times, like today, when deadlines can’t be moved and work needs to get done. So I do it. Even on a Sunday. I don’t have to like it, but I do have to get it done.

Fortunately for me, this time, I didn’t have to do it alone. My boss was right there beside me, helping share the burden. That’s a plus and a positive all on it’s own. But what’s really a boost is that he did and said everything necessary to demonstrate that he not only appreciated my efforts, but also respects my opinions and professional insight.

What we had to do today involved outside counsel as well as internal company personnel, preparing submissions to the court in a litigation matter that has taken far too much time and energy already. Everyone is fatigued with the constant stress this thing is inducing and weary of having to answer what seems like an endless, repetitive stream of irrelevant questions from the opposing party. But we have a duty and we’re doing it.

So, when the latest issue was presented while I was out of the office on Friday, my boss had everyone hold off from responding, saying to outside counsel and all of our internal folks that “we need [Sudden Awareness]’s brain on this to get it right”. Then, during the meeting today, he made a point to draw me out on each of the topics of discussion, encouraging me to voice what were obviously contradictory opinions at some points, and calling on outside counsel to address every concern I raised.

In short, my views on substance, strategy, offense and defense were all included in the decision-making process for a critical procedural step in a multi-million dollar litigation matter that has the potential for impacting my company’s plans for years to come. While this is far from the first time I’ve had this experience, the obvious respect for my skill and insight from my boss in front of some really smart, talented and expensive legal practitioners means a lot to me on a personal level.

Few outside of the legal community fully appreciate how big a gulf there is between in-house counsel and law firm attorneys, particularly litigators. In-house attorneys are routinely discounted as lesser professionals, practically as not attorneys at all. Respect automatically advanced from one litigator or firm attorney to another is often missing when it comes to in-house counsel. Working inside a corporation, having only one client and enjoying the benefits of corporate culture that include regular business hours, holidays and reduced pressure to “make it rain”, often is assumed by those in the outside to mean that the work is easy, stress-free and much lower on the scale of what is intellectually and professionally challenging. In other words, the thought goes, in-house lawyers don’t have to be real lawyers, they’re just business people who happen to have law degrees.

So outside counsel often appear to feel superior to in-house attorneys in terms of professional ability and legitimacy, which sometimes manifests in dismissive condescension. Although I am never afraid to challenge this attitude among firms and attorneys that do work for me – after all, I’m the client – I admit that this pervasive belief wears on my psyche on occasion. That’s why it feels good to have an overt, public display of confidence and professional respect from the big boss once in a while.

That’s a long-winded explanation of a simple truth: I’m a really good commercial attorney and my boss respects my professional skill. That’s one very good thing.

Long Weekend Spectacular

Oh, my! I just had the best holiday weekend I’ve had in recent memory. And though I’m facing a particularly stressful few weeks at work, beginning tomorrow, I’m happy, replete with relaxation and fun memories.

Here are some highlights, all of which count high on the “good thing” index:

1. Hours of meaningful conversation with a good friend. We’ve known each other for several years and share similar identities and some life experiences and I never cease to be amazed by her positivity and friendly kindness. This weekend allowed us to catch up on some big life events happening for her and share some moments of real connection that I’ve desperately needed of late.

2. New acquaintances. New friends include a delightful family and the most adorable couple, all friends of my friend. We had lovely meals and incredible conversations with each of them, covering a spectrum of topics that included faith, acceptance, identity, gender, and everything in between. Laughing with these new friends was pure joy and I’m so glad I had that opportunity.

3. Food adventures galore! My friend has a lot of experience living outside of the US, so has an appreciation for a broad array of cuisines. Mediterranean and Persian top the list and I’ve enjoyed trying shawarma, falafel, kubideh, knafeh (a creamy confection topped with something like crispy shredded wheat), and something I believe is called shouiebieh (a sweet, filled pancake-like pastry). We also had amazing, authentic Italian food, and a superb charcuterie board at an amazing art museum. But perhaps the most out-there food experience and the one I enjoyed the most for the fun, relaxed atmosphere, was at the most amazing coffee shop I’ve ever visited. Not only did I get a huge caffeine buzz from something called pembertino, a drink consisting of a Mexican Coke mixed with cold espresso and vanilla – sublime – but I also had gourmet toast with amazing hand-crafted cream cheese with a Hungarian red pepper spread, and another with pimento cheese spread unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. All of that amazing goodness was served with the warmest smiles from some of the friendliest baristas I’ve ever encountered.

4. Life-affirming and identity-validating attention from a community of people that welcomed me immediately and treated me so well it was hard to leave. The experience was beyond my vocabulary to describe, but warm, caring, fun, frivolous, deep, meaningful, compassionate, and flattering to the point of embarrassment at times, feature prominently among the words I’d use if I tried to recreate what I felt. And despite my deep and immediate embarrassment, I cannot deny that the singular and most flattering experience of being called a silver fox by a beautiful femme who was, innocently, trying (successfully) to make me blush, was an instant ego-boost.

5. A reconnection with faith. Although I was skeptical, I agreed to be open-minded and went with my friend to church on Sunday. It was a non-sectarian denomination I’d never heard of before, but was assured was bible-based and inclusive. Their message and mission, as stated on their website, was encouraging and I’ve been wanting to get back to faith for a long time. The sermon, together with the warm welcome and the obvious love that the preacher and congregation had for God and for each other, went a long way toward helping me find the courage to explore that part of my heart again. I’m not going to put any pressure or expectations on myself about this. But I’m going to think about what I heard this Sunday and keep an open mind about doing more work in this area.

6. Bonus: Table top games & Chewbacca and the Droids I Was Looking For! I love games so much and we played a couple that I’d never tried before. And, wonder of wonders, I actually won a couple!! Woot! And, also, plus! We went to this amazing exhibit of Star Wars costumes at the Detroit Institute of the Arts. Incredible experience! Costumes from most of the movies and many of the most interesting characters, including R2D2, C3PO, BB-8 and Chewbacca, my faves!

It’s back to work tomorrow and I’ll no-doubt be under the gun almost immediately. But this last few days was a bucket-load of blessing that has recharged my spirit so much that I’m confident I can float through the rest of the week on the emotional energy…and caffeine…that this holiday weekend provided.

Ultra Short Good Thing

Just wanted to keep the streak going, so am dropping this note as a placeholder for a more fulsome report later.

Spending time with life- and identity-affirming friends who see you, accept you, and want you to be happy is one of the greatest gifts of positivity available in this life. I’m blessed to be experiencing that this weekend. Food adventures, good talks, geeky museum excursions, movie magic and new acquaintances are the highlights so far. And it ain’t over yet!

Have a great holiday weekend, friends, and seek out your happiness!

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