Archive for April, 2019|Monthly archive page

More Small Things

I’ve about decided that celebrating the small, even tiny, good things is the best way to get back into active positivity. It’s kinda meta: baby steps into baby steps. Or, said another (weird and tortured metaphoric) way: one bite of the elephant in the room at a time.

Since I’m not finding a lot of success in big, ground-eating leaps and bounds, I’ll take the small wins and be happy with them. Here are a few:

  • Tulips galore! I love the color and cheerfulness of spring flowers, especially tulips.
  • Caramel in my coffee…mmm.
  • A friend sent me a care package with some stuff to help me sleep, including chocolate melatonin bits. Didn’t know there was such a thing. But I tried them last night and got nearly 7 hours of sleep! WOOT!
  • I have the office to myself this week, with the boss out of town. I’m enjoying the quiet and looking forward to my own week out of the office next week. By the time I’m back, we’ll have had over two full weeks apart. That’s a welcome breather and a good reset. I hope the reduced stress and increased perspective gives us both what we need to make a lasting change.
  • I saw Avengers: End Game on Friday, playing hooky on a bright spring day to meet a friend. It was a fun time, but I haven’t fully integrated the movie yet. I think I need to see it again to decide how I feel about it.

I hope there are plenty of little things for you to count as blessings this week, friends.

Nice Things

It’s Spring, that fleeting period of bliss when the temps are balmy, the Earth is being renewed in green and bright blossoms, and allergens (at least most of the ones I suffer from) and pests are not yet at their most annoying. There’s more light in each day and hope on the horizon in the form of pending vacation plans and the summer schedule for fun movies.

Someone I shared an elevator with yesterday commented, when asked how he was doing, that he’d be glad when it was Fall. I figured it was allergy-related, but no, he said he just didn’t like Spring. Seeing me flabbergasted by that, he asked what I liked about it.

“Hope”, I said. “Spring has always represented hopefulness and renewal for me. The greening of the Earth, the birth of new creatures and plants, the prelude and build-up to long, warm days and vacation season and visits to old friends and new places. What’s not to love about Spring?”

He didn’t have an answer, just wished me a good day and went on his way.

I still can’t fathom what there is to dislike about Spring. But…to each their own, I guess. For me, I intend to enjoy these few days of temperate bliss, including the heavenly scent of the blossoms in my pear trees, the cheerful songs of the birds returning to the treetops, and the bright colors of tulips and other spring blooms. Yesterday after work, I sat in the (somewhat rusty) glider on my front patio and ate my dinner under a thick bower of fresh pear blossoms and the vault of blue skies before twilight. The robins and wrens and pigeons and cardinals serenaded me and the slight breeze set the spring leaves a flutter. It was a perfect few minutes of peace.

These are all nice things for which I’m thankful and from which I derive great joy. I hope you find plenty, in this season and always, to enjoy and be thankful for.

Conundrum

I’m really freaking tired of the up/down, positive/negative emotional treadmill that’s taken up residence in my brain and psyche lately. It hasn’t even been a full week since the victorious settlement of one of the biggest litigation matters in my professional career and I haven’t even had a chance to celebrate or even fully grasp that it’s no longer a problem I have to deal with. Yet I’m already embroiled in the next (few) crises, battling the next source of negativity.

But I don’t want to fall into the trap of repetitive, unrelenting negativity. So I’m trying to come at this one from an attitude of learning: what can I learn from this, how can I reframe this into some positive, practical good?

Here’s the puzzle:

How do you separate your emotional investment in something from the intellectual and logical, even logistical, considerations of any given issue, especially when faced with the projected emotional experience of the people around you?

Here’s today’s experience that triggered this query:

In the midst of a vent about the way a few people at my company have handled certain issues lately, a person I respect and admire and whose judgment I have always trusted described their decision to change careers and come work at my company in a field and position similar to my own as “abject failure”, going on to express how their parents had lamented their decision to change fields, go to law school, and take a leadership position at a company rather than continue their promising career in an entirely different professional field with the opportunity to “do real work with value for the world “.

I know logically and intellectually that these comments were borne of their frustration and stress, that they were venting and speaking about themself and their experience, relating memories from their past. I also am perfectly clear that their comments were not directed at me, only to me, and that the judgment held in those words was directed at their life, not at mine.

I know all of this.

Yet, at the same time, it’s hard not to apply that same judgment (that being an attorney, especially an in-house lawyer for a company not “doing anything important” for society is failure) to my own career. That judgment stings sharply, especially because I don’t have that second career, that other skill set to return to.

It seems to me a reasonable conclusion that if being an attorney and business executive is a failure for someone with such considerable accomplishments and valuable alternative skills, then it surely is more so for anyone else in the same company in a similar position who is less accomplished and has fewer alternative skills. How could it not be? Only if the less accomplished yet similarly situated person has exhausted their potential – if they were always going to be less, couldn’t expect to achieve anything more or better.

But that’s as big a smack in the face as the assertion that a chosen career and its associated achievements is necessarily a consolation prize, unworthy of pride and celebration.

So, what’s the lesson to be learned, how can this be turned into something positive ?

I don’t have these answers yet. I’m still struggling not to internalize the notion that everything I’ve worked for, all my professional achievements, and me into the bargain, aren’t some pathetic joke, undeserving of the esteem I’ve ascribed to them for nearly two decades. But I have to believe that there is something positive to salvage from the junk heap of professional ego.

Maybe it is this: even if the career I’ve built and the contributions I’ve made to my company’s success are less glamorous or valuable than some other esteemed career by someone else’s measure, I at least can be proud of what I’ve accomplished because I’ve done it honestly, with integrity and by the work of my own mind and skill; I have exploited no one, mistreated no one, cheated no one, and taken nothing that I did not earn by honest means. If that’s pathetic, abject failure for some, I’m unsure what could possibly measure up to success.

Still, it doesn’t sting any less knowing that my measure of personal success seems weak and valueless to someone who I have respected and admired and whose esteem I have labored to attract. I wonder now if they regard me with as much contempt as they apparently regard my career?

That’s not a super-shiny positive on which to end this post. But at least I’m thinking about it and making an effort to divine a positive meaning from a hurtful encounter. That’s supposedly a “learner’s” mentality and the first step to positivity. So there’s that.

Victory

My last post conveyed my nervousness about the trial my company was preparing for on Tuesday of this week. Although we had done a vast amount of work to prepare our case, martial our evidence, and prepare witnesses, I had a healthy level of concern for our prospects – there are a lot of variables and things outside our control that could cause a loss for even the best prepared case.

Also, as is my way, I was also nervous about my own personal performance and participation in the trial. I was designated to be the corporate representative necessary to the presentation of the case, so I was going to be sitting at counsel’s table in the courtroom. But I was also going to be called as a witness. So, in addition to the hundreds of hours of work I had put into the case, including nearly 20 hours of combined deposition testimony, I was going to have to relive it all and synthesize our data under the scrutiny and pressure of direct and cross examination.

So, I was nervous.

Tuesday dawned and I found my way downtown and, eventually, to the correct federal courtroom without incident. All of our witnesses and both outside counsel and my boss, the General Counsel of my company, showed up on time and fully prepared. After the pre-trial conference, we took our places and proceeded with opening statements and direct examination of our first witness. Keeping our team informed of our progress (since they weren’t permitted to be in the courtroom) during breaks, we ended the day with some work to do based on the rulings and questions that were raised during the day. So, after a 8+ hour day in court, we spent several more hours at the office digging up data to address issues we’d face in court the next day. We also were fielding questions and overtures from the other side toward settlement.

But it didn’t settle before the report time the next day, so we showed up for court again Wednesday morning, ready to go hard. We did go hard and gained back some of the ground we’d seen slip in bench rulings on the prior day. That helped us tip the momentum in our favor. So, just before the end of the lunch break, and – more critical to me personally – just before I was to be called to the witness stand, the other side agreed to settle on my company’s terms.

It was a good result for both me and my company. I’m very pleased with the result and hugely proud of all the work I and my team put in on this case. I’m proud to be able to report a victory.

Nerves

After months of grueling work, high stress and anxiety, sleepless nights and even a few ridiculous panic attacks, tomorrow begins the trial. This case should have been so straight forward and resolved in a matter of days after the circuit court ruling nearly two years ago narrowed the issues to essentially one. It was a contract claim, for frick sake! It shouldn’t have taken this much time, effort, energy and head space. But old, greedy, white dudes with nothing better to do than to make trouble, and here we are.

I’m going to be at the counsel table with our outside counsel. I’m supposed to be observing and an available resource to counsel for contract-specific details. In other words, I’m the living database for our case.

No pressure.

Actually, I’m ok with it. I’ve devoted so much of my time and endured so much stress in this thing that I’d feel cheated not to be on hand to watch it play out. But that doesn’t stop the nerves. I’m sure I’ll be fine as soon as it starts. As with so many things in life, it’s the anticipation that’s the killer.

And on the plus side – I will probably wear one or both of my custom suits during this circus.

Probably won’t hear from me again before it’s all over. All the good vibes, good wishes, crossed fingers, and positive energy you can spare for me is much appreciated.

Everyday Positives

Trying to get back to being more positive. With the pressure of quarter end and prepping for trial and sleep deprivation, I’ve had less luck with that over the last several weeks than I’d like. So, to help myself get back into that habitual mindset, I was thinking of some everyday things that make me happy. Here’s an incomplete list, in random order, of some good things that have made this latest stretch of stressful, anxiety-filled days bearable:

  • The surprise of seeing new leaves on trees that were barren just the night before.
  • Good coffee.
  • The return of birdsong as my morning soundtrack.
  • New stories by authors I admire.
  • Crisp, freshly pressed dress shirts and stylish bow ties.
  • The satisfaction of finishing a short story and submitting it to a call for submissions to a real publisher.
  • The sincere respect and appreciation of professional colleagues whom you also respect and admire.

I hope you find plenty of good things to count as blessings in your own life. And may you have plentiful green growth, sunshine and birdsong to brighten your week. Be well, friends!

Signs of Maturity, or at Least Personal Growth

I don’t know why I should feel any surprise at all, given the years’ worth of effort to achieve exactly this, but I am pleasantly surprised to recognize new signs of growth and maturity in myself. It’s gratifying to see positive results from concerted effort. Clearly, I’m not perfect and this whole improving myself gig is never ending. Nevertheless, I’m happy to see results and pleased with how far I’ve come.

Here are a few things that, in my mind, mark progress in areas of myself that I’ve been working on:

  1. Confidence and “owning my awesome“, as I’ve previously called it on this blog. This is absolutely NOT arrogance or false courage that is often mistaken for being justifiably confident. What I’m proud of is both recognizing and then acknowledging without demurrer my achievements and their relative significance. For example, just today, we finished a huge, complex, extremely detailed, data-intensive project for one of the litigation matters I’ve been co-managing with my boss. It involved coordinating inputs from half a dozen people, data from dozens of sources over a period spanning nearly two decades, and creating multiple tools and interim iterations just to arrive at a single, comprehensive analysis that will inform – under-pin, even – the entirety of our case and have a direct impact on the ultimate outcome. Whatever that outcome, I found myself saying to my boss today, I’m proud of our collective work and of my own considerable contribution. I think what I’m most proud of is that we have done absolutely everything that could be done to secure our desired outcome; we did nothing half-assed and left no detail unexplored or unresolved. Having the clarity and courage to acknowledge that, both to him and to myself, is just as big of an achievement for me as the work itself.
  2. Honesty and Personal Integrity. All my life I’ve worked hard to maintain a high standard of personal integrity and to always be truthful with myself and others. As is the way of all noble pursuits, this takes continuous effort and it is not until you are confronted with challenge or temptation that you know whether that effort has paid off. During the course of preparing for the trial of that same litigation matter over the last several months, I have been both confronted and tempted, having to account for actions and decisions, as well as resist the opportunity to cut corners, even cheat, in my work. Most challenging have been the times when people have given me the answers they thought I wanted to hear, rather than the actual facts or truth. Recognizing that condition, carefully and tactfully correcting it, and getting the work done accurately and well while maintaining the integrity of the work and of my word, was a true test of the value of my life’s work on these personal values. It came home to me when I found myself counseling a coworker to “give me uncomfortable truths over comfortable untruths any day”. Because the temporary and relatively minor discomfort I experience now while I’m adjusting toward acceptance of that truth is an order of magnitude less painful than the trauma and devastation that I’ll have to overcome when unpicking the comfortable untruths that have become enmeshed in the fabric of my life (or of this case) when the truth inevitably comes to light. Choosing to endure the present pain of the truth over enjoying the temporary and false comfort of a lie is maturity.
  3. Prioritizing Myself. Lastly, I’m proud of successfully prioritizing my own needs without guilt or shame. I told my boss today (I didn’t ask or request, but informed) that when this trial is concluded I’m taking at least a week and am doing something just for myself, and will not even think about my job or permit anyone, including him, to bring my job into my time off for the entire time I’m away. I have endured extraordinary levels of stress over the last year for this company, putting myself last in all things, and it’s taken a huge toll on my body and mind. I’m no longer willing to sacrifice my peace of mind and all of my personal time for a job and a company that takes my sacrifice for granted. It’s a tiny step, declaring my intention and brooking no argument about it from myself or anyone else. But it’s a vital step to fostering my wellbeing and choosing myself. And doing it without a self-imposed guilt trip is a huge accomplishment.

There you go. Three good things, positive progress in my journey to being my best self. I hope you all are succeeding with n your own journeys, too.

Discoveries

I’m going with another list this time, as my creativity and patience to think and research in order to write something more substantive is at a low ebb right now. Perhaps after the trial I’m prepping for in two weeks I’ll have more time and energy. For now, these random thoughts, some things I’ve uncovered inside my head and life – hence discoveries – will have to do.

  • While working on a site leadership list the other day, it dawned on me that I am the most senior female executive at my office location, the one that also happens to be the most populous among our many global locations. There are more senior women in the company, but they all work in other states. Odd that I never realized that before.
  • I ran across this quote in a novel I was reading a couple of weeks ago: “Live your life. Existence simply is not an adequate substitute.” I have been doing a lot of reading during the long stretches of sleeplessness. As is often the case when my mental defenses are low, inputs – what I read, watch, listen to, even conversations both participated in and overheard – seem to spark patterns…or at least my brain seems to make patterns out of what I’m seeing and hearing. This theme, about prioritizing “living” over “existing” or “merely being”, seems particularly pervasive of late. The implication is that living, the preferred and more valued state, transcends some indefinable barrier that requires a quality of personhood beyond basic or adequate; living calls for a special kind of energy, determination, fortitude that average, ordinary, quietly desperate people cannot achieve. But, just sometimes, I feel like existing has to be enough, that the courage, energy and fortitude required just to remain is all that should be expected and is enough.
  • Finally, a thing I’ve discovered and which I probably should have realized a long time ago is that daylight savings time tricks your brain into being ok with working longer hours. Tonight for instance, I kept going for two and a half hours longer than I intended, in part because the glare of the setting sun through my office window made my brain think it was earlier than the real hour. It’s a frustrating side effect – linger days should give more time to enjoy the warming weather, but that very thing is also the reason my brain thinks it can keep on working. Oh well, I’ll just have to pay more attention to my watch than the light in my window.
%d bloggers like this: