Archive for the ‘personal growth’ Tag

Listy Post

So I’m averaging once every other week instead of weekly posts since I set my goal. Bleh. I despise not living up to the standard I set for myself. It seriously irritates me.

But instead of dwelling on what I haven’t achieved, I’m choosing to reframe it as a step in the right direction: at least I’m posting semi-regularly. Yay for positivity!

To keep the momentum going, here’s a short list of the recent positives in my life:

  • I survived my conference and on-the-spot feedback was unanimously positive. I’m now working on putting everything into practice, both personally and within my team. That’s always the challenge: turn the mountain-top experience into daily practice. So far (a week out), so good. 
  • One motivational exercise we did during the conference was to identify a list of people we personally admire and the qualities they typify that we admire and wish to emulate. This list of qualities defines our personal standards of integrity. I have posted my list in my office as a daily reminder to live up to my personal standards. These are my personal standards of integrity and I will strive, today and every day, to be: authentic, honest, faithful, intelligent, a leader, kind, loving, selfless, generous, hospitable, compassionate, determined, hard-working, brave, courageous, teachable, resilient, friendly, open, and welcoming. 
  • It was a beautiful long holiday weekend here. I spent some quality time with my immediate family, rested a lot, and watched some odd movies. It was a nice break from a very stressful stretch of work. 
  • Had The oddly satisfying experience of having my windshield replaced by a mobile service in the parking lot of my work. I’m always fascinated by machines and technology. It was cool to see the lift the tech used to place the new windshield in the right spot. And, yes, I’m aware of how geeky that statement is. It’s just cool to see the right tools used in the right way to get a job done efficiently and well. 

So what are some positive things in your recent life?  I hope you’re able to focus on those and let the irritants pass you by. 

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Maturity?

I just had a mini epiphany looking in the bathroom mirror as I washed my hands. See, I’ve let my hair grow too long without a cut and it’s been really humid with all the rain, so my hair has more volume than normal. So, between the extra curly, swirly, voluminosity and the weird side-part, flat-over style necessary due to its length, my hair looks like an ’80’s televangelist’s do, a-la Pat Robertson. Catching sight of this, and noticing how grey it’s getting, made me think of the IRL evangelist (not tele-) that led my church growing up. He had hair like this, too. And I’m sort of the same shape now as he was the last time I saw him. And, like him, I’m not likely to be welcomed back to that church…unless I hide or renounce who I am. 

All these thoughts flashed quickly through my brain and I had a realization that shouldn’t surprise me, but does: youth and immaturity aren’t the same thing, just as age and maturity aren’t the same thing; the one doesn’t guarantee the other in either instance. But it’s only maturity that reveals how greatly lacking in compassion, empathy and insight the judgements of our youth sometimes were. 
In this case, thinking of my old minister, I now realize I made some very harsh, inflexible and compassionless judgements in my mind when he fell from grace. In my 20-year-old mind, convinced that I understood adult responsibility and even what love requires, his choice to divorce his wife, leave his sons, and move away with his younger, more svelt secretary, was inexcusable. In my moral certainty, nothing could justify his radical departure from everything I had learned, chiefly from him in his church, was the way Christians behaved. I was certain that there could be no circumstances that would adequately explain what appeared to be a betrayal of trust on every level. 
The truth of their marriage and his departure will never be fully known to anyone but them, and it really is irrelevant to the point I’m trying to get to. 
The lesson that slapped me in the face after I saw his face in my reflection is that (1) we don’t and can’t know the burden that any other person carries at any given moment; and (2) sometimes even that person doesn’t understand everything about themselves; so (3) don’t presume to know what someone ‘deserves’ for a decision or action taken in private. 
The classic lesson: judge not, lest ye be judged. 
But the reason it was an epiphany, despite that exact proverb being ingrained into my upbringing, is simple…and a bit sad. I’m now the one whose circumstances set me apart from what I previously believed was the only right way. I’m the one, now, who is seemingly rejecting all the wisdom of my faith and family for a personal truth none of them can fully understand. And I feel the gulf that so-called choice (living my truth) puts between us very sharply. 
Look, I get that there’s a meaningful distinction between acknowledging one’s true nature and choosing to live authentically in the world, and the choices a couple make when a relationship ends. Living the truth of your nature, and thereby confusing and offending some, is as far removed from the acknowledgment of the end of a relationship and its attendant hurts and sadness, as the night is from day. Adjacent, yet irrevocably separate. Similar, yet worlds apart. 
Nevertheless, the lesson holds. 
Even though that preacher, whom I was raised to revere and obey, acted in every way against what he himself taught me and our congregation is right and good, I didn’t then, nor do I now know all of the burden he and his family bore together. Yet, wrongdoing is such, irrespective of the subjective conditions of a given situation or the judgement of outsiders. 
In the same way, the justice and righteousness of living your truth, regardless of opposition from those you respect and admire, is just as much a moral absolute. The confusion, dismay, disbelief and derision of those who cannot understand the burden of living a falsehood does not change the truth of who you are. 
So what I learned in that flash of insight is that judgement is not something to take lightly, nor an office one should presume to hold over others. The moral judgement of so-called sin is for the creator or the universe in their or its time. The judgement of crime is for those who govern and those appointed to adjudicate. But the judgement of life and it’s authentic truth is for those who live it. And those that see and practice this discretion are happier and make the world better for those who live in it. 
A little personal growth spree while washing my hands. Who knew that could happen!?

Happy Monday!

I know: ugh.  But bear with me a second.  I know you probably just read that title with a snarky ring in your internal voice—nobody likes a Monday, right? Truthfully, I don’t usually like or dislike any given Monday, just the events that happen during their 24-hour borders.  But I just had a train of thought that took me down the Happy Monday path, an epiphany of sorts. It fits right in with my renewed commitment to positivity, too. And despite any mawkishness or tendency to sentiment this post may contain, I think the fundamental point is applicable to just about anyone.  I hope that you’ll stick with me through this chain of thoughts and apply it to your life and find something to be happy about on this Monday, too.

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Long periods of waiting and hoping…that’s what my life has consisted of for as long as I have been aware enough to examine my life.  Waiting to know. Waiting to feel. Waiting to see a beginning or an end.  Hoping for completion. Hoping and longing for success. Hoping and dreaming of happiness, of contented, replete, satisfied arrival.

I suppose that’s what everyone wants, on some level and in some context or other.

For me, my ideas of what would meet the demands of these dreams started off quite simple, nothing unachievably grandiose. And though the context has shifted a bit over time, my dreams and deepest desires have remained simple.  Ultimately, as trite and corny as it may seem to say so, everything I’ve ever waited, hoped, dreamed, longed for boils down to this one base human need: love.

As a child and youth, I longed to be a joy and source of pride for my parents and family, to be well-thought-of by teachers, to be popular among my peers.  I wanted to succeed at school and in activities, to look well turned-out, to sound smart and confident, all so that I could gain the approval, acceptance, validation of those whom I esteemed.  But really, isn’t that the same as wanting to be loved by everyone in my life?

In later years, as an adult new to the adult world, my focus shifted much more to achievement and professional success.  Yet even here, I wanted professors, employers and peers to admire and approve of me, as much as my work product.  I wanted to be loved as a person, as well as admired as a professional.

When, after years of hard work and achieving some success and independence my focus turned inward, I longed for clarity, transparency, authenticity of self. And I hoped and dreamed of love from without, as well as from within. I wanted to love myself–my true self–and I wanted to be loved for my true self by someone who could see that me.

Love.  That’s my deepest need and the consistent goal of my life. What’s more, I have it.

I am blessed to have the love of a wonderful woman who does see me. She looks at me with love and admiration, despite my many flaws, and sees me on a level wholly separate from my physical appearance.  This gift is indescribably precious.  ‘Thankful’ hardly captures the up-welling gratitude that fills me when I think of how blessed I am in having her as my life’s partner.

It’s Monday.  Always a challenge to shift gears from weekend fun back to work-day mind-set. Also, with news of business challenges on the horizon and the clamor of the quarter-end push beginning to rise, today has already hit a peak of stress and ‘ugh-it’s-Monday’-ishness. But as I sit for a quiet moment taking a bite to eat at my desk, my gaze turns to the bright blue sky full of fluffy white clouds outside my office window and I smile, thinking how wonderful it would be to share this simple meal and lovely view with my lovely Lulu.  Then it hit me—what a miracle it is that she is “my” Lulu and that she loves me and sees me and accepts me.  I am one very lucky butch. And that makes this Monday very happy indeed.

I hope you see the simple lesson here:  see the miracles that make the mundane bearable and, most of all, be thankful for what’s truly valuable. You are loved.  Love yourself and be joyful .

Enjoy your Monday!

Talking Tough

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  Much of my introspection and, honestly, dissatisfaction with my personal growth of late, comes down to some notion of strength or toughness…and my perceived lack thereof.

Focusing on self-selected attributes that butches and other masculine-identified people use to help define their identity, “strong” and “tough” occur most often in these conversations.  I even did a mini-survey of my butch and masculine-identified Tweeps and IRL friends recently to see if “strength” played a role in their personal identity. Though not a scientific poll, I was not surprised to see that all respondents agreed that it did play a role in their identity.  And setting aside gender and gender stereotypes for a moment, I have noticed that nearly all people I know on a level close enough to make the inquiry, regardless of gender or other demographic differentiators, have said that strength plays a role in their notion of themselves.

I wonder why that is? Is it the stigma of ‘weakness’ or privilege of ‘strength’? Or does the ideal of strength, in itself, have appeal and value beyond the normative social biases?

What is “strength”, anyway? We’ve romanticized, idealized, and genderized this concept in our society to the point that I’m not sure there is a viable definition today. Of course, the definition depends on the particular quality of strength we’re talking about: physical, emotional, mental, political, ideological, etc. They each have unique characteristics that differentiate them.  But at some point, all the primary attributes converge and form the essential nature of “strength”, regardless of type.

For me, strength embodies three main characteristics: (i) the ability to bear a load; (ii) resilience to recover from that burden; and (iii) resignation to the call for strength, or a will to be that load-bearing, resilient force.

For all my life, I’ve had the latter, a will to be strong.  In part, it’s because it is valued by my family and by society. But also it’s because I have an independent desire to be needed, essential to certain people in my life.  I do fairly well at the first aspect, as well:  bearing load.  For me, these two go hand-in-hand.  The will to be strong and the ability to take up the burden feed one another.  Physically, my frame and musculature are made for load-bearing.  Mentally, I’ve been trained to think and reason and lead and solve problems. Emotionally, I’ve been conditioned to empathy and faith, which practically beg for burdens to bear.  And ideologically, I tend to a certain degree of conviction, perseverance and stubbornness, which breed a tenacity that I associate with moral and mental strength.

But resiliency is my challenge.  Although my body heals itself fairly well and a good night’s sleep can work wonders on my mind and mood, I still struggle with the tension between empathy, conviction and internal sense of obligation or ownership of a burden on the one hand, and the price or toll of bearing it, on the other.  You see, while I feel the call and know my ability to be strong for myself and others, I have not mastered the ability to separate the burden from myself.  This leads to an unfortunately high frequency of tension headaches, nightmares, gut trouble and tears.  All are signs, in my skewed world view, of a flaw in my strength, of a terrible lack of resilience.  And in my Southern/Puerto Rican/Christian/Military/Midwestern inculcated psyche, that flaw equates to failure.

So back to the initial question: why do we value strength so much that it is one of the most frequently cited attributes used to define our ideal selves?

While every person is different and must answer for themselves, for me it comes down to a feeling of success when I’m strong and failure when I’m weak.  Right, wrong or indifferent, this is the fundamental answer for me.  It’s the reason I’ve been thinking so much about it lately, too.

As you have seen in so many of my past posts, I’ve embarked on a journey of self-discovery, enlightenment and improvement.  Positivity is a big part of this effort, as well as authenticity. I’ve discovered and accepted and begun to refine my true self and best nature.  I’ve found a partner to share the journey. And I’ve begun the life-long work of living openly, fully and authentically.  These are huge strides and I’m proud of myself and my progress so far.

Yet…I still feel the cloud of disappointment wash over me every time the tears flow after a hard, stressful day, or in the midst of a heavy, meaningful discussion with Lulu, or at an unexpected sign of love and support from someone I’m close to.  These tears and the emotional fragility that spawns them scream “weakness” at me, resonating with a certainty of my inadequate resilience, insufficient elasticity and brittle emotion.  Too, when faced with a lack of ready resources to undertake a burden for a friend or loved one (whether it’s a lack of time or money or ability), my mind rings with accusations of unpreparedness, which equals lack of resilience and failure.  On an intellectual level, I realize that this is, to a degree, irrational.  Not every problem is mine to bear and not every instance of weariness is failure.  But on a psychological and emotional level, it stings sharply to feel that I’ve let down myself and others in any matter simply because I was tired (physically, or otherwise) or at my limit in some way.

Because, in my head, bearing the burden and being resilient are equally critical components inside of and that maintain the bubble of will to be strong, so that “strong” is a function of all three in balance.  When one is out of balance, the bubble bursts and all the strength drains away.

Never mind the melodrama in that analogy. It is nevertheless a fairly accurate picture of how “strong” works in my life.  And when it is at its lowest ebb, my hold on everything that makes me who I am is at its weakest, too.  That’s why I value strength as a defining characteristic of my identity: it unites the traits I find closest to my heart and allows them to function in practical ways; when I am strong, I can be the best possible me.

So, keep this in mind when someone close to you gifts you with the opportunity for you to rely on their strength—don’t dismiss it. You may be helping someone hold onto what makes them the most perfect them they can be.

No Longer Waiting

“I wait no more.”

I said this to Special Femme some weeks ago in another format and for another purpose. But re-reading that message again today stirred some thoughts along these lines that I’d like to explore.

Let me preface this with a reminder that this blog (and this post) is personal to me and my life. I make no commentary for anyone else or on anyone else’s life or choices.

The crux of the thought is that I’ve mistakenly equated “being patient” and “paying my dues” with “no choice” and “don’t deserve”, with the result that I’ve wasted decades waiting for something to happen to me or be given to me.

Let me try to explain…

On some level, I have felt my whole life that I was waiting for something yet undefined. As a child , I thought I waited to be big, ’til that magic moment of autonomy when the course of my daily life would be mine to choose. As a teen, I thought I waited to leave home, when I’d suddenly know everything and I’d be whatever it is that I would become in my life (as if it was a one-time-only, light switch event).

Time passes, as it does, and I gained a little more understanding of life. Yet, I know I was waiting still.

At college, I thought I waited to graduate and shine in my career. I thought I waited to land the perfect job and then I would have “everything”. And as a young adult, I thought I waited for success, for the mythical day when my work paid off and my “dues” were addressed. Even as a new attorney , I thought I waited for arrival, that magic moment when it all gelled and my seeking, waiting could cease.

But only after each stage and each event occurred did I realize I still waited, still yearned, still dreamed of something not yet in my grasp. I waited to know myself. I waited to choose happiness. I waited to understand love and life and belonging.

That’s what my journey of self discovery, growth and positivity is all about. That’s what this blog is all about. That ah-ha moment of realization that I wasn’t really living at all. I was waiting. It’s impossible now for me to pinpoint a date tied to that realization, but it was recent — within the last three or four years.

The date is unimportant. What is important is that I awoke from a numbness of thought and emotion, from a lethargy of volition. That tag line at the top of my blog is absolute truth. In that moment I awoke to find myself living someone else’s life. More accurately, I found myself existing someone else’s reality.

But I am unwilling to wait any longer.

I have realized that, as it was true in my academic and professional life, it is also true in my personal relationships and maturity: nothing worth having is free and it’s my own hard work that makes things happen.

Over the last several years I have been renovating myself, like a home improvement project. In the process, I’ve come to realize some things about myself and about life, some amazing, some appalling. I’ve written a lot of them down in this blog. Some of it I’ve only shared with a couple of exceptional friends. But, this blog is a splinter of my mind and growth process. It’s a tool I use to work out nagging worries and express feelings I feel precluded from expressing in my in-person relationships.

The work on myself continues and will until I breathe my last. But the epiphany, that waiting for arrival was holding me back from getting anywhere, was the turning point.

Now, with joy, I stride forward with my dreams in my own hands, determined to live, not just exist. I’m determined to be the builder and the architect of my future, the pilot of my own direction.

I wait no more for planning, or out of fear. I refuse to wait anymore for anything. The waiting is over. The living has begun.

Learning…even when I’m cranky

So, as I mentioned in my last post, I’m having a love-hate relationship with communication technology right now. It’s mostly hate and very little love at the moment. And Skype is at the top of my “no-good-very-bad” list.

For all that it’s a no-cost, easy to use communication tool, it has provided shockingly bad service and signal quality lately. I did an informal survey of my call/chat records over the last couple of weeks, and my rough calculation is that better than sixty percent (60%) of calls are dropped and at least ten percent (10%) of the other calls end as unanswered because they aren’t ringing through at the other end.

That means that just thirty percent (30)% of calls, at most, actually connect!! That’s atrocious! And of those, many last only seconds or a few minutes before abruptly ending due to the Skype app’s randomly switching the caller’s profile to “Offline”, despite strong signal strength. Infuriating!!

This poor quality, and the resultant thwarted communication, is taking a heavy toll on my good humor. The frustration factor is high and it’s compressing my patience to a very low tolerance threshold.

But I’ve learned a few things out of this trial, despite my crankiness. I call that a personal growth win, despite snapping at an unsuspecting sales guy the other morning (which is almost a sport, isn’t it?).

Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned out of all the aggravation:

– Talk quickly and get to the point, because important things have to be said, even when the line crackles and pops and the picture is fuzzy

– Laugh. A lot. Because laughing dissipates the frustration quicker than a temper tantrum and laughing with someone else feels fantastic

– Appreciate any connection you can make work

– Don’t squander any opportunity to say “I love you”

– When all else fails, a snarky tweet and a smile can tame the uncertainties spawned by the silence for the person you’re trying to reach

– Sometimes it’s more important to actually talk to someone, even if it means paying for international long distance

That’s it for today, folks. Gotta go start the fire for smoke signals…about as efficient as anything else lately! 😉

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