Archive for the ‘one good thing’ Tag

On the lighter side

I’ve been venting a lot lately. It has been necessary and life-preserving. But I don’t want to always be negative; positivity and self improvement remain my goals.

So, in the spirit of reframing the negative and finding silver linings, here’s a short list of the glimmerings out of the muck from this week.

  1. Starting with the least-shiny of the linings…maybe pewter instead of silver: The workplace politics has found an uneasy level for a while, and I and my team aren’t in the crosshairs for now. Hopefully the worst is over. There will be more upheaval in a couple weeks, but at least it will likely be short-lived and mostly in someone else’s organization. That’s not the brightest or happiest outlook, but it’s not entirely dark and depressing, either. Taking what little good I can from all of the bad.
  2. In that same spirit – of finding something good in the barrel of muck – I was glad to get to contribute to a project today that has the potential to bring about good change. My boss asked me to collaborate with him on a strategy and innovation project. It was one of those think-tank type of logic problems. The board and CEO chose a current-fad business method/pop-sci kind of book and gave the executive leadership the assignment to devise an actionable, yet big-bet/blue-sky idea to spark growth or market transformation. Using the concepts in the book that combine freeing the mind from current paradigm restrictions with the facets of current-form success (i.e. the things we do best today), we were supposed to strategize a way for our established company to provide new solutions to solve customer pain points. Essentially, we needed to suggest ways to reinvent or transform our current strengths to adapt to novel problems or to provide new approaches to existing problems. It was all logic, thinking, head-work with cooperative discussion and brainstorming with my boss. It felt really good to use my brain in a non-emotional, non-political, non-reactionary problem-solving effort. And I came up with some really good observations, insights and ideas. I’m proud of myself and of my work today.
  3. Finally, I is (apparently) International Selfie Day and several of the groups and lists I belong to on Facebook were full of fun, interesting, cute and clever pictures of an amazing variety of queer people celebrating their uniqueness and individual beauty. I was so uplifted to see so many folks overcome their shyness and insecurities to post pictures of themselves in clothing and settings and situations that made them feel good and confident and accepted. Not everyone is a glamorous beauty queen or a handsome star or a gorgeous specimen of humanity. But each picture I saw showed courage and confidence and a love of self that makes me glad to be a part of this community.

Happy Summer Solstice and a good Friday night to all. I hope your weekend is full of sunshine and ease and time enough to enjoy the little things that make life worthwhile.

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Flotsam

It’s been a busy week. When I returned from vacation a week ago, I had a short few hours to empty my suitcase and refill it, ready for a week in conference with my global team. I host this summit every two years and it’s always a wonderful experience. This time was no exception. It was made even better by my not having to plan, organize and execute the agenda. I had delegated that task to my senior leaders and they didn’t disappoint. The agenda was full of engaging activities, intriguing speakers, and plentiful opportunities for getting to know one another. My brain is full of bits and pieces, flotsam, of the week. Here are a few highlights:

  • I experienced my first escape room. I was very uncertain about doing that, as I am very claustrophobic and our team, even broken down into four groups, is large. I didn’t want to get into some confined space and panic and be the reason we failed. But it was fun. I surprised myself by staying calm enough to think through clues and solve nearly half of the puzzles myself. My group worked well together and had a great time, escaping with 12:09 to spare!
  • It was surprisingly nice to be more of a spectator than the driver at this event. I let my leaders be responsible for the agenda and running the meetings, and didn’t even feel the need to jump in and help. They each did a great job with their part of the agenda and were incisive and thoughtful in their remarks and questions. It’s good to see your people blossom.
  • We did a group Emergenetics assessment, evaluating how each person thinks and approaches working with others. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well balanced the team is overall. Normally, any given group or individual has one or two strong thinking preferences, with the other two being minor tendencies. But this team is fairly evenly split among the four styles: Analytical, Structural, Conceptual, and Social. Surprisingly, especially for a group of legal professionals, Social (which should really be called Relational) was slightly bigger than the Conceptual category, though Analytical and Structural were still the highest scoring styles. Our overall balance is reflected in the tight integration and high engagement and productivity of this team. I’m very proud of them and all they’ve accomplished. It’s nice to have data that validates their good working dynamic.
  • Being a participant, rather than the driver, this week left me with more opportunities to get to know more of my team, especially the newer folk from my international groups. We had lots of playful banter and some fun conversations about personal interests. I was surprised to find so many Harry Potter fans among them, along with plenty of car enthusiasts and Marvel lovers. But I was also gratified to find them all to be thoughtful and sensitive in their discussions of more weighty topics. At one point, a conversation that started off playfully debating the comparative qualities of Snape, Umbridge and Dumbledore, led to a respectful, yet lively, discussion of the merits of JK Rowling’s choice to out Dumbledore as gay. One young member of my team in Asia said that they didn’t see how that detail was necessary to expose, how it could possibly advance the story. When I explained that seeing someone, even a fictional character, in the media that we consume who reflects back to you the qualities that make you feel different can make those markers of difference less sharp, less othering, I saw the lightbulb go on in their head. It was fascinating to see them realize that knowing something about a character that makes them relatable on a personal level is as essential to enjoyment for minority/marginalized groups as it is for the privileged/mainstream groups. It felt good to be able to help them make that connection and, hopefully, help shape their thinking a little bit.
  • We had some amazing food experiences this week, too. But out of all of them, I think I enjoyed the relaxed pizza party we had after the escape room the most. Removing all the trappings of elegant dining and just sitting around in a sports bar and talking about everything and nothing, we became even more of a team. No rank, no titles, just a bunch of people getting to be friends. I really enjoyed that.

I hope your week ahead is full of good conversation and plenty of opportunity to get to know folks in your life that bit better. Have a great week, friends.

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.

Let the Wild Rumpus Start!

Well, at least let the vacation begin!

This Butch is on holiday and I’m sharing it with two great friends. We’re getting a lovely cabin in a beautiful mountain location, complete with hot tub and fire pit, and spending time doing nothing. I’m soooooo ready for this break! Gonna dedicate myself to relaxation.

I’m writing this brief update from my seat on the first plane of my trip, which is currently stuck 50 feet from the gate while the ramp is closed due to lightning. My hope is this will be a short and singular delay to the glorious week of low-key revelry my friends and I are looking forward to.

Also, lest I be remiss and have my Butch Geek card revoked: May The Fourth Be With You. I’m wearing my R2D2 bow tie and Jedi socks and have my R2D2 suitcase in tow for the occasion. I hope you find some enjoyment from this goofy day of word-play.

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.

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.
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