Archive for the ‘friends’ Tag

Salvaging the Streak

Didn’t want to bust again so soon, so here’s a quick listy post of great things in my life over the last few days:

  1. Going to visit friends is life-giving, especially when they welcome you into their home, introduce you to their friends, and treat you like you matter.
  2. Celebrating your friend’s birthday with your presence and presents and a chocolate piñata makes for a wonderful time had by all.
  3. Rest, not just sleep, is good for the spirit.
  4. Courteous and respectful security screening staff at both ends of my trip made this adventure 1000x better than the awesome it already was. Not getting groped and humiliated and triggered just to get on a plane should be the norm, not an exception to celebrate. But I do absolutely celebrate it.
  5. Good food, good movies, good games, and tons of laughs made this trip an energy-restoring, spirit-feeding, wonderful experience.
  6. And now…to get ready for the move!
  • My friends, I hope your week is full of blessings big and small.

    Some things

    I’ve said a few times over the last several weeks, both on here and in conversation with various friends, that there are some awesome cool things going on in my life lately. I’m grateful to be experiencing it all. Life isn’t perfect and there are good days and bad. But I’m thankful that I average a goodly percentage more good than bad. It’s a privilege and a blessing to experience joy in a world gone haywire. And because it’s a blessing bestowed when sharing your joy, I am gonna relate a few of the awesome things going on right now.

    1. Although I said in my post at the beginning of the year that I wasn’t keeping a report card of my progress this year, I did post a few goals that I wanted to advance this year. One of those was to pluck up the courage to ask someone I find attractive out on an IRL date before the end of the year. I am happy and proud to say that I have accomplished this goal and more. She asked me out first, but I have since asked her and we’ve actually been out several times and are looking forward to more. So, if you happen to notice a certain lightness in my step and an enigmatic grin on my face at odd times, you have your explanation. 😎

    2. Connection is an incredible, life-giving ‘magic’ that defies my ability to define. But it is undeniable, joyous and freeing when it happens. Finding common ground in habit and experience and philosophy and passions brings such a wonderful feeling of belonging and validation. Being seen and affirmed and encouraged in your identity is one of the most beautiful things one human can do for another.

    3. OMG, another one of my absolute favorite lesfic authors followed my blog!! Excuse me while I fan-girl for a hot minute.

    4. Gifts aren’t everything, not even the main thing. But when it’s something the giver heard you describe as an aspiration, not as a request for anything, just something that would be a joy in your life, and they gift you that, that’s a great thing. It means they see and hear you, not just with their eyes and ears, but with their mind, their energy. Those are moments and gifts to cherish, no matter how small they may seem.

    5. Finally getting my shot at playing D&D! And not just any old game, an online game of a bunch of cool queer people from a bunch of different places around the world. I know nothing and am pantsing it with minimal research, but the group knows I’m a noob and graciously welcomed me anyway. So excited! Been trying to get a chance to learn and play since I was 12. Can’t wait for the fun to begin!

    6. Bonus: Recently I’ve had occasion to note how good it feels to be happy for, and to rejoice with, friends for whom great things are happening. The speed at which warmth and happiness can spread when good things go right for good people is astonishing. A promising job interview here, a realized transition there, a new home for that one over there, the start of a professional practice for that friend on the other side, and the giddy elation of a new relationship for still another over yonder. What a bounty of goodness surrounds us, even when there is darkness in the world.

    My friends, I hope this new month and new season is full of joy and positivity for you all. May the fun little things and the inspiring big things lift your spirit. Enjoy the turn of the season and the colors and smells and unique hallmarks of the season in your corner of the world. Keep warm and dry and happy.

    On Choosing Me

    Today was yet another rough day in a string of hard days at work. Between the continual stress of the quarter-end rush, the ongoing unpleasant workplace politics, and some extremely unhappy executive duties involving peer investigation and delivering hard news to the big boss, it was a very Monday-ish Tuesday.

    Then, things got worse at the end of the work day when I received some really harsh criticism of myself and my team. If it had been fair, objective and constructive, I would have taken it in stride and worked hard to show swift, lasting improvement. Indeed, for that portion of the feedback that was objective, I have already begun to do exactly that. But the majority of what I received was truly a personal attack calculated to gain political points and unfairly disadvantage my organization for the commenter’s gain.

    As I struggled with my attitude and wrestled with my thoughts on how to respond, I texted with a friend. Their wise counsel and objective, yet unstinting, support helped put a few things into focus, letting me get past the worst of my dark thoughts and turn my brainpower onto the puzzle of what my next steps should be. Though I don’t yet have a solid answer, I have gained a few insights.

    First, I struggle with the building desire to simply walk out; it grows stronger with every blow to my sense of justice. While I’ve already been planning to take my leave, in a professional and orderly manner, stuff like this makes me just want to run. But I have an acute and visceral aversion to quitting, so I’m miserable at the thought that I’m failing in this way.

    However, my friend helped me see that there is a material difference between “leaving an impossible situation” and quitting. They pointed out that when someone abuses your loyalty by using it to hold you hostage while not showing any genuine loyalty in return, your own frame of mind becomes your jailer. Though my heart and soul rebel from any implication of capitulation, there has to come a point where enough is enough, an acceptance that you’ve done all you can. It’s difficult to pinpoint that milestone. And my insight on that turning point is blurred by my fear that my team will suffer in my absence.

    Which brings me to my second realization: I have value, too, and honoring that is neither selfish nor unfeeling as regards others that may be impacted by my choosing myself. This is a hard one for me, and requires a lot of mental and emotional energy to internalize and sustain this belief. So ingrained into my psyche are the lessons of my youth, in which selflessness was elevated to the pinnacle of nobility and worthiness, that even at my age I cringe at being thought selfish and self-serving. But there is value in preserving one’s dignity, salvaging self respect, and refusing to be trampled for the sake of those without compunction or conscience. If nothing else, removing myself from the line of fire preserves my ability to choose another battle.

    But more than this, choosing my own sanity and dignity and emotional safety sends the message to both my tormentors and my team that I know my value and worth. Drawing that line and not letting them destroy that value is as loud and important an act of political resistance as their attempted character assassination on myself and my team. Sending that message can empower my people to do the same. Still…it’s hard and I have to keep telling myself this. I keep telling myself because repetition engenders belief.

    Finally, perhaps the biggest immediate benefit from my friend’s wisdom and support is that the frank discussion drew me out of a dark spiral of negative thoughts and got me thinking strategically. Because of that diversion, I was able to enjoy a pleasant evening in conversation with another friend, being silly and talking about everything else but my dreadful day. It was a great way to end a rough day.

    I’m no closer to a decision on when to resign, and I’ve no firm strategy for responding to the unfair criticism. But with the vital support of a caring, long-term friend and the ease and relief brought by the lighthearted chat with a new friend, I’m in a much better frame of mind. Tomorrow is soon enough to begin the hard stuff. For tonight, I wish you all good rest and the blessings of good friends, old and new.

    Bliss

    It’s Saturday evening. I’ve enjoyed a quiet, laid-back day of reading, games, resting and chatting. It’s the last day of vacation and I’m as mellow and rested as I’ve been in over a year.

    This week was a critical, essential respite from a very stressful stretch of life. Although I didn’t sleep as much as I’d hoped to sleep every day, what sleep I got was restful. Even more nourishing was the stress-free, expectation-free time spent with friends in gentle activity, peaceful relaxation, and honest conversation full of truth, validation, and so much laughter and joy.

    We had amazing food experiences. Two epic taco encounters, a spectacular charcuterie adventure, and even a delicious and comforting Southern breakfast escapade. Not to mention several lovely homespun meals that really hit the spot for hunger for both food and fellowship.

    Art was enjoyed. Gorgeous mountainside vistas were viewed in awe. Bookstores and their contents were explored and revered. Souvenirs were collected. And peace was discovered in the quiet comfort of a cabin in the Blue Ridge mountains with people of like mind and open heart.

    I’m going back to the real world tomorrow. The early flight and subsequent quick-turn to get ready for a business conference next week will, no doubt, dull the sparkle of the shiny-new ease I’ve garnered from this retreat. But it’ll just be surface patina. I think this time away from the angst and pressure and the intentional focus on my own internal restfulness, has helped me reset and win back the relaxation and coping skills I had forgotten. At least that’s my sincere hope.

    With this renewed energy and more centered outlook, I hope to have perspective enough to evaluate my job, and the sources of stress I’ve endured for so long, with fresh eyes and a calm spirit. One week’s rest is by no means a cure-all, but I do hope that the relief from the most recent stresses will be enough to make objective observations and smart, self-first decisions.

    If not, I will at least still have the experience of this blissful week as a source of joy when things get rough.

    Little Joys

    This week was marked by ups and downs both big and small, both personal to me and touching the world. When emotions are as strained as they have been this week, it’s easy to lose sight of the goal and get lost in the weeds of distraction. And when there is a huge weight of emotional burden, it is sometimes hard to see the lighter, more joyous points in life.

    But, as wise ones have pointed out throughout history, taking joy in the small things, relishing the richness found in the details as well as the big picture, makes life worth living. So, as I continue on my determined path of self discovery and improvement, I make an effort to acknowledge some of the good little things that alone carry no profound weight, but in aggregate easily out mass the creeping sludge that threatens to taint every lovely thing.

    Here are three good things that I’m clinging to this week that help keep darkness at bay and lets the light of the little joys shine the brighter:

    1. Yesterday began in the dark hours with more news of more senseless tragedy for the world to cope with. But, as is the dispassionate way of the universe, the planet continued to rotate and revolve. And by the time I reached my office building, the sun began to rise. The beautiful sight was a balm for a troubled heart. I hope you find it soothing, as well.
    2. Sometimes a kind word or a quietly supportive message from someone whose voice you respect can be better medicine than any treatment devised by science. A friend gave me the great gift of letting me “be real” with them, without judgement and without trying to fix me, in a moment when my spirit was at a low ebb. That kind of validation of one’s vulnerability is a precious commodity in my experience.
    3. Other times you just need a new pair of shoes. Or, in my case, boots. I ordered and received these weeks ago, but haven’t wanted to wear them in the snow and muck. But the snow is gone and today there is sunshine and birdsong and a chance to make this a good day. So I’m wearing new boots and my favorite bow tie and venturing out for coffee in the presence of other humans.

    Have a happy Saturday, friends. May you find small joys to make the big moments rich.

    Joyous, Vulnerable, and Deeply Thoughtful

    It’s holiday time and almost the end of the year. That often gets me into a contemplative mood, reviewing the year and thinking about people I haven’t seen in a while. So I’ve made arrangements with several of my favorite people to meet before Christmas and share some time and joy together.

    Last night I was blessed to have have dinner with one of my all-time favorite colleague-turned-friends. She’s effervescent, positive, kind, whip-smart and funny as heck. Because she’s supportive, welcoming and inclusive, she’s also one of the first people I ever came out to. In short, she’s an awesome friend and I really looked forward to seeing her and spending quality time catching up. I wasn’t disappointed.

    We went to a trendy new restaurant with a hip, foodie vibe. Sharing some incredible charcuterie and all kinds of personal news, we laughed and cheered and commiserated. She told me of her triumphant negotiation for a promotion and raise, demonstrating her badass, smarty-pants self confidence. I told boring lawyer war stories. It was an all-around wonderful evening.

    At some point over the risotto and salad, conversation somehow turned to my gender identity and presentation. She asked incisive, sensitive and smart questions and was so kind and respectful throughout. In the midst of this discussion she described a theory she has that she hopes one day to form part of her research for her PhD. I have no doubt she’ll complete that research and be a noted voice in her field. I found the premise fascinating and our discussion, far ranging and lively, was full of vulnerability and challenge and intellectual curiosity.

    My friend’s “Refrigerator Theory” posits that, like the internal compartments in a refrigerator, the boundaries, labels, categories that humans create and impose on every aspect of human experience have no purpose separate from the primary purpose of the thing on which it is imposed (i.e. cooling of food for the fridge, or defining the self for identity labels). Instead, she theorizes, these compartments or labels or boundaries exist only to soothe the human need for order – we create boundaries to provide context to avoid the disquiet of chaos or disorder, but the boundary isn’t necessary to the essential function of the object it applies to. Her devastatingly pointed example (at least if you’re an appliance manufacturer) is the infamous, useless and dysfunctional crisper drawer. It doesn’t crisp or even cool to a significant degree more or less efficiently than the main compartment, but we like that it’s a special place to put the veggies.

    I love the intellectual exercise of challenging a premise, debating points dispassionately and pushing each other to consider new and different points of view. This is especially true when the person I’m talking with is smart and as into the verbal and mental gymnastics as I am. That was definitely the case last night.

    I challenged by proposing that the need exists apart from the order, that perhaps the order rises as a consequence of fulfilling the need. My premise was that where more than one option or condition exists simultaneously, there is a natural need for boundaries or compartments or labels, else there is only ever trial and error. My example is a sink with a tap and two handles; without a n ‘H’ or ‘C’ to distinguish hot from cold, you have to try each one, possibly risking the pain of being burned or chilled if you guess wrong. In other words, it’s not a need for context to generate meaning, but an existence of multitudes of meaning and a need for order to allow each meaning to be evident.

    We didn’t get to any conclusions, of course. But it was an incredibly fun conversation, trying each theory out on various aspects of life – corporate communication, change management, gender identity and expression, to name a few. My friend’s passion for learning and unbridled joy in the process of learning and communicating her knowledge is so fun to witness. I can hardly wait to see the work she produces when she embarks on that research.

    My hope for all of you, as the year winds down and you think about that one to come, is that you will find occasion and loved ones with whom to experience the joy and challenge and vulnerability of great conversation.

    Thankful

    As I get ready for a long awaited, highly anticipated vacation, I thought I’d toss up a quick post to keep the streak alive. Also, I want to try to return to my goal of positivity and gratitude. It is Thanksgiving week in the US and I have much for which to give thanks. So, here is a list of some of the many things and people in my life that I am grateful for and that I count among the best blessings I’ve received.

    1. My loved ones, beginning with my siblings and their families. My brothers, especially, have blessed me with love and kindness and examples of how to be good a leader and a good human. My sisters in law have blessed me with all these things and with tender care and an appreciation for the love that’s uniquely expressed by the labor of loving hands, whether through cooking, cleaning, sewing, art and craftswomanship, even warm hugs when I’ve needed them most. Also my beloved friends who are as chosen family, with their acceptance and validation and solidarity and encouragement. Above all, this love of wonderful people is a treasure for which I am thankful daily.
    2. Freedom. It wasn’t and isn’t free. The physical and emotional and political and psychological labor of so many, in so many capacities and across decades and centuries and in moments as recent as today, these gifts are priceless. And I’m grateful to be the beneficiary of all this work and sacrifice.
    3. Prosperity. Though I have labored hard and long in my life and earned the fruits of that work, I know that my work in isolation is meaningless. For all the work of all whose efforts have contributed, both the seen and unseen, I am thankful.
    4. Challenge. If everything was easy, I could not know the depth of satisfaction of my accomplishments nor the true cost of any achievement. To be challenged intellectually, professionally, politically, socially, even emotionally is a blessing whose worth is viewed in hindsight and measured from the steppes of maturity. I’m grateful to have overcome challenge and learned to welcome new ones.
    5. Leisure. It is a privilege and a great gift to have freedom and means to enjoy free time and the varied and wonderful opportunities for fun and relaxation. I’m grateful for a chance this week to step away from the cares and demands of my work, travel to a beautiful place, spend time with family, and enjoy time doing only things that bring us joy.

    I hope there is much you can be thankful for this week and always. Enjoy your abundance, my friends and I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving holiday.

    Conference Goodness

    I’ve been in Washington DC all week for the 2018 Women, Influence and Power in Law conference. It’s been an amazing experience. Not only have I been privileged to hear women speakers from the top of their respective professions speak on risk taking, leading with authenticity, and choosing integrity over expediency, I’ve had the pleasure of being surrounded by intelligent, engaged and passionate professional women from all over the nation. And getting to spend time in substantive conversation with a few of these incredible women has definitely been a highlight to a truly great professional experience.

    Topping these huge bonuses is the friend time I’ve been lucky to have this week as well. A good friend has recently moved to this area and we were able to get together for dinner and a visit to the FDR Monument in the middle of the week. Enhancing the goodness was the pleasure of meeting my friend’s lovely partner for the first time. She is a kind and beautiful person whose love for my friend glows in every interaction. I can’t be any more deliriously happy for them. I’m looking forward to a great Saturday outing with them as well.

    Opportunity to travel for professional development, experiencing world-class speakers, keeping company with hundreds of amazing women, and time with a great friend…what more could I ask for in a business trip? Nothing. It’s been perfect. Heaps of very good things!

    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.

    First Quarter Check-Up

    At the end of last year, I set a goal to post something to this blog at least once a week. At the same time, I’ve been working on a couple other personal goals that I haven’t published yet. Working on myself is something that doesn’t come naturally and I sometimes need to set milestones to keep up the motivation. So I’m borrowing a device I’ve seen it n a couple of other blogs: a self report card. 

    Since I set these goals for myself, and the self-improvement I hope to achieve is for myself, I intend to rate myself fairly, but allow myself leeway or the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the close calls. You see, publishing a report card and posting about my human failings is all a means to an end: spurring myself to be a better version of myself each day. And the way I figure it, if the world witnesses my less than optimal performance as a person, I should at least get the benefit of the world as witness to my improvement. Of course, the risk is that they’ll, instead, see me fail at improving. In any event, the value is in the attempt. 
    For this report card I’m rating achievement against three goals:

    1. Post something at least once a week 
    2. Do something creative, or at least something that nurtures my spirit 
    3. Strike a better balance between work and my private life 

    Although I actually started working on all these things last year, I’m only rating myself from the beginning of the year. Conventional wisdom has it that the most effective goals are bound in time and objectively measurable. By measuring from the beginning of the year, I stop myself from dwelling on things too far in the past, essentially starting from a clean slate. And by focusing on specific actions (even if there isn’t an obvious numeric dimension to be counted), I give myself the best chance of making incremental progress. That should help keep me motivated. 

    So here’s my report card for the first quarter of 2018:

    Weekly Posting: A

    There are one or two close calls, but I’ve essentially posted at least one article a week since the beginning of the year. While there is at least one that’s little more than a place holder to avoid a miss, I’ve been intentional and thoughtful about writing, which are habits I really want to cultivate in myself. This is a win. 

    Being Creative/Nurturing the Spirit: A

    This one is a double win. I’ve been looking up at the sky and intentionally taking advantage of any sunshine that happens in my vicinity. For example, when I was in San Diego in January, I took at least 10 minutes to sit in the sun every day. It was heaven. And every day that the sky is clear, wherever I am, spending a few minutes to watch the sky, whether to see birds soaring or contemplate interesting cloud formations, I physically feel my spirit lift. 

    On top of that, I have completed a short, three-week course in silver sand casting through the local community college. My sister-in-law and I took it together. We had a good time doing something fun together. And we’ve learned the basic techniques that we can use to try it at home. But, honestly, the class wasn’t very successful. The instructor was unprepared and disorganized and there were way too many people in the class. But I did it and have a determination to practice it until I get at least one successful casting. This sparks my creativity and I’m excited to feel that again. 

    Work/Life Balance: A

    I work hard. My job is often challenging and sometimes requires long hours. And, truth be told, I enjoy the challenge and the recognition when I succeed. But I also know that my job isn’t everything. I’ve felt rather isolated for quite a while, because most of my non-work interactions have been remote, through social media and texts. But I’m working on it. 
    Since January I’ve had more in-person social interactions than nearly all of last year. Between separate visits with three friends I first met online, monthly supper club dinners with some art friends, and a few game nights with a couple of friends I met through a continuing legal education seminar a couple years ago, I feel I’ve done pretty well with in-person socializing. And I’ve even had some really pleasant conversations with some new acquaintances entirely unrelated to any of my other social circles. All without puking or becoming completely withdrawn for days on end. I count this as a big success. 

    So I’ve got straight A’s for the first quarter. Look at me, hitting the honor roll 30+ years after graduating from high school. That’s awesome.  

    I can do better. Actually going out with someone for a purely social occasion, for instance. I can also try to deepen the substance and thoughtfulness of my blog posts. And following up with practice on the silver casting class is a must. We’ll see how I do next quarter. 

    I hope you all are finding satisfaction in your own personal growth. Keep at it, my friends. 

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