Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

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.

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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.

2nd Quarter Report Card

As you may recall, I have been working on a weekly posting goal all year, plus a commitment to positivity and some other personal growth goals. At the end of March, I posted my Q1 report card. As I said then, these goals and the effort to achieve them are for me, and this report card is an accountability device that helps keep me motivated. But because the objective is entirely personal, I try to be fair, yet generous, with myself when rating my performance. Last quarter I got all A’s and made the honor roll. I also set some stretch goals to keep me from resting on my laurels.

So let’s see how I did in Q2. 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.

Q2 2018 Report Card:

Weekly Posting: A

Substantive Posts: D

I’ve kept the posting streak alive and I’m proud of that. But this quarter I had a lot of fluffy, list-y, place-holder posts. And there was the unintentional teasing of a weighty, substantive post about gender issues that mostly fizzled. While I did do a fairly substantive post on the general subject, it wasn’t the post I wanted to write. I know I can do better. So A on the main goal, but a nearly fail on the stretch goal.

Creativity/Nurturing My Spirit: A

Practice Sand Casting: F

This main goal, being a compound topic, is inherently squishy when it comes to ratings. My objective was as to encourage a bit of self-focus, self-care. That’s a struggle for me in a lot of ways, but it’s an important antidote to the stress I deal with in my job. So, the way I see it, anything that makes my heart lighter counts for this goal. And although I have not practiced sand casting even once this quarter, I did a lot to make my heart happy. The big one was getting to give an epic gift to my brother and sister in law. That was a month ago and we’re all still floating in the clouds with delight over it. Several other small gestures of kindness, both given and received, add to this tally. So I’m giving my self an A for Spirit Nurturing, but a big ol’ F for actual practice on sand casting.

Work/Life Balance: B

IRL Socializing: F

Being social is just hard. For me, anyway. I find crowds exhausting and small talk insipid. My small pool of friends are all very kind to accommodate these personality flaws and don’t demand a lot from me socially. But I really have to get better at this. I’m doing fairly well with keeping up with our monthly supper club outings and joining in when unscheduled gatherings happen. I’ve been to my family’s studio a few times to hang out, and even went out with a couple of friends this past weekend. But I’m not finding new friends and I’m not initiating the outings, usually. And my most frequent interactions with people other than family or work colleagues is still via text. So, a solid B on the main goal, but an F for the stretch goal of seeking out IRL social contact.

So, overall, I’d say I’m passing, but not honor roll this quarter. I’m going to keep the same goals and stretch goals for next quarter and see if I can’t get back on the Dean’s List. 😁

I hope your summer is full of fun and satisfying personal accomplishment. Be well, my friends.

Owie

Ok, I’ll own that I’m a wuss and have a low threshold for pain. But, just as it’s completely possible for the paranoid to actually be the target of people out to get them, even wusses can feel when something really hurts. And this does.

The anesthetic hasn’t even worn off from the first of three oral surgeries in Butch’s Summer of Dental Fun, but I already feel the throbbing. In the immortal words of Han Solo: I have a bad feeling…about how much this is gonna hurt when the numb wears off!

So I’m gonna indulge in a little self care: jammies, soup, Tylenol, an early night and a 3-day weekend.

Be well, my friends.

Sartorial Positives

Today begins the penultimate work week of the second quarter, and the overbearing, unreasonable and unrealistic demands from the sales organization have already (at half past 7am) made this a long, exhausting week. So, I’m looking for fun, light, happy things to take my mind out of the negative space it’s threatening to slip into.

One thing that always makes me happy is looking sharp. I don’t always have the highest self image. But being clean, well groomed, and dressed in clothes that validate my identity always picks me up.

Last week I got new bow ties for the first time in ages. It’s so fun to get packages in the mail and even better when they feel like a surprise because they arrive more quickly than expected.

These are gonna be fun to wear! I’m wearing the fun socks today. Excited to sport the blue diamond tie tomorrow!

Bonus: They’re from the Jesse Tyler Ferguson Tie The Knot program at the Tie Bar. Affordable and a fun, easy way to contribute to the fight for equality.

I hope you all have a great week and find comfort and positivity in your wardrobes.

Inglorious Leadership

I’ve written in the past about the hard part of being the boss, the dark side of being ‘in charge’. Making hard decisions for your team, even sacrificing some personal dignity for the greater good of the organization can feel pretty bad and take a toll on your spirit. But there’s another dimension of the dark side of leadership that has been mercifully rare in my career: helping to make hard choices for someone else’s team.

My role often includes unenviable tasks, such as delivering bad news to executives, and bringing a tempering influence to ill-considered proposals. But I do not normally have to be involved in the emotionally-charged decisions other leaders have to make with regard to their employees. I’m thankful that most of those get dealt with by HR, not by me or my Legal team.

But given my tenure of 18+ years, the odds were against my lucky streak lasting and today the streak broke. And because the universe does nothing in my life by half-measures, it broke twice in the same day. First, I got stuck in the middle of a disagreement between two leaders of separate functional organizations over appropriate crisis management communication and had to play peacemaker in order to break the stalemate. Then, one of our senior executives asked me to participate in the process of disciplining a colleague, another senior leader in a different department who is my peer and someone with whom I frequently collaborate.

Neither occurrence was particularly traumatic. Both were handled respectfully and with tact. Still, the tension and angst produced by unexpectedly having to participate in adversarial process within my own organization was intense. In a way, it speaks pretty highly of my colleagues and our company that this was the first occasion when circumstances required this type of intervention by me. Even discounting the first ten years of my career with this company in which I was an individual contributor staff attorney, it is remarkable that in the last eight years in my various leadership roles I have never been called on to address similar tensions.

Yet, despite that positive spin on this rarity, I can’t help acknowledging that the experience was unpleasant and unsettling.

Mediating disagreement is familiar. It’s part and parcel of negotiation and deal-making. But the nuance that makes this different in my mind is that the stand-off occurred between people who are supposed to be on the same side, people with whom I’ve stood shoulder-to-shoulder battling back the forces set against our company’s interests. Witnessing these same professionals square off with one another struck a clanging, discordant note in my otherwise harmonious working environment. Finding myself in the middle between them, having to work hard to persuade them back to cooperating for the good of the company, forcing me to be a decision-maker where I normally only advise, was wrong on every level. It tested parts of my leadership skill set in ways I never expected.

Then I was called upon to not merely provide constructive feedback about a fellow leader, but to essentially provide testimony that would be used in a decision making process that could potentially end in my colleague’s dismissal. That was a singularly uncomfortable conversation. I found that it tested my ability to balance candor with tact and honesty with empathy. Ultimately, it pitted my commitment to corporate interests against my instinct of loyalty to a friend.

And that’s the dark side of being a leader, of being in a position to counsel and influence. Maintaining your personal integrity – not taking an “easy” way out to avoid discomfort and conflict, not compromising truth for the sake of placidity even if it means someone you like suffers the consequences of their actions – that’s the gritty, indecorous, inglorious aspect of leadership.

I’ve faced it plenty of times with respect to my own employees and my own department. It wasn’t fun, but I understood it to be a necessary part of leading my organization. And in those instances I could bear the discomfort because it was, at its core, constructive and finite. It felt ten times worse today because the issues weren’t with my people and my lack of control over the tension made it hard to feel confident that it was constructive or finite. Instead, it felt like being an accidental witness to a private argument or a tender moment between strangers – wrong and icky.

Thankfully, the warring colleagues called a truce and returned to being collaborators, working the problem instead of pointing fingers. Also on the plus side, the executive evaluating my colleague for discipline committed to giving them an opportunity to improve before termination. It’ll be a lot of work in a short time frame, but it’s a genuine chance to save their job.

So the peacemaking and critiquing has a valuable purpose. My uncomfortable lesson in painful workplace growth was worth it.

Let’s hear it for the list!

I’m determined to keep my posting streak alive. I’m also battling a bout of writers block and fatigue. So, I’ll rely on a list to keep it going. Here are some good little things I’ll share this week:

  1. Ocean’s 8 opened this week. Awesome heist flick and it’s all women power all the time. Fun and exactly what I wanted in a summer pic. Cate Blanchett is everything.
  2. 3 cheers for air conditioning! Got ours fixed this week after over two weeks without it. Can’t overstate how pleased I am to have it back.
  3. I’m obsessed with Battle Bots. It’s such geeky, aggressive, tech gore-filled fun. It’s a bucket list wish to see it in person one day. I’m thankful for my DVR, so I can binge-watch a bunch of battles at the weekend.
  4. The motor home is still a huge hit. All their friends have oohed and ahhhed over it. I’m enjoying every story about their plans and preparation for the upcoming road trip to the grandkids. This has turned out to be the funnest gift I’ve ever given because it’s been as much fun to watch my brother and sister-in-law discover the joys of it as they have had in finding them.
  5. I’m preparing for some oral surgery this summer. I’ve been really nervous about it. But the surgeon I’ve got is a great person. She took the time listen to my concerns, as well as to explain the treatment plan to help calm those fears. I’m glad I found someone who makes me feel confident about something as scary as this.

Short list of some positive little things in my life this week. I hope you’re finding lots of good things in your summer.

On Exhaustion

From the random thoughts pile: If energy is neither created nor lost, but simply transformed from one state to another, what does it take to transform enough energy from the nebulous ‘other states’ to fuel a person through a full work week such that the entirety of the weekend isn’t lost to ‘battery recharging’?

Friends, I’m tired. Seems like I get enough sleep – about 6.5 to 7 hours each night. I certainly get enough to eat and it’s mostly good, nourishing, and prepared by the hands of others. I even get leisure time to read or watch tv from time to time. But at the end of every 55-60 (average) hour work week, all I seem to be able to do is sleep in and be lazy.

Of course, the knee-jerk response I get when musing on this aloud among friends or family, is: you’re getting old, just accept it.

I reject that premise. Age doesn’t scare me and I’m not ashamed of my age. I don’t feel old or world-weary. I feel tired, not old or past usefulness. Tired, as in if I sit still for too long I fall asleep, kind of tired. As in, I seem to yawn my head off constantly, kind of tired.

But I don’t have a physically demanding job to explain the exhaustion. I use my brain, not my back, as my grandmother used to exhort me to do. I just don’t understand how thinking and reasoning and arguing positions and negotiating outcomes, all in the comfort of a climate-controlled, well appointed office can induce such deep and lasting exhaustion.

Feels bad to be this tired and not be able to explain it. Especially when others close to me do work physically and for similarly long hours. I know, intellectually, that comparison of such disparate jobs is invalid. But I can’t help thinking that exhaustion from physical work is earned, whereas intellectual labor should be invigorating rather than draining.

I still love my job, though. It’s gratifying to achieve goals and help a good company grow. It’s a blessing for which I’m thankful. I just wish I understood why it makes me so tired.

Little Things

Fast list-y post to keep the streak going. Here are a few little good things that have made me smile this week:

  1. It’s a short work week. It’s already Wednesday, y’all!
  2. My SIL’s peonies are in bloom. Cut and standing tall in a glass cylinder in my living room, their fragrance makes my house feel like a Spring garden.
  3. Light, cozy mystery stories with silly premises, but great prose, make a few stolen moments of quiet feel like a vacation.
  4. Friends, old and new, who share their joys and sorrows and join in yours – they are priceless treasures.
  5. Shade trees full of emerald green leaves standing tall over lawns of lush grass and beds of colorful blooms.

I hope your week is full of little delights that make it easier to shrug off the daily annoyances.

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