Archive for the ‘work’ Tag

Even Introverts Need Connection

I spoke with my boss today. That’s not unusual; since the work from home started in early March, we check in with each other once or twice a week, usually. He’s been busy the last few weeks and our contact has been very minimal. That, plus my innate anxiety and a mounting sense of isolation all combined into a very rough and anxious last three weeks.

Something I’ve discovered about myself in the last decade, as my rank and responsibilities increased and my day-to-day tasks have changed to more strategic and less tactical, is that I am smartest, happiest and most productive when I have plenty of intellectual and professional challenges. I don’t do well with boredom or lulls in the workflow.

That’s not a humblebrag or self-congratulatory boast. It’s plain fact.

When I don’t have enough substantive, challenging, engaging work to do, my brain starts playing Stupid Brain Tricks (Copyright 2020 Dr. Hanne Blank), including filling in the silence with all kinds of harsh, unkind, angst-driven words and images about how they don’t really need me, I’m not really suited for this job, I’m useless, they’d save money and aggravation if they got rid of me, etc. Keeping busy with substantive contribution is much better for me, mentally, physically, and professionally.

So when I spoke to my boss, I took my courage in my hands and told him that I was anxious at the lack of communication, the lull of projects and the prolonged distance from my team. He was very supportive and reassuring. He explained the communication dip and asked me to do a few things for him, confirming what I already knew intellectually: stupid brain tricks are stupid.

It’s a good result and I feel better for airing my concerns. But it’s also symptomatic of a more pervasive and surprising situation: despite being a confirmed introvert and established curmudgeon, I seem to be suffering from a lack of social interaction. Yep, that thing I’ve dreaded and avoided with energy for nearly all my adult life, turns out to be something I need regardless of my aversion. Deprived all but a couple of hours a day, morning and evening when my brother and his wife are home, of in-person human contact, I’m astonished to find myself craving interpersonal connection.

A work friend and fellow introvert had a theory: The sparse, safe, surface-level interactions that we get incidentally during formerly-normal workday contacts around the office are enough to fill up the average introvert’s contact meter and drain the socializing batteries, so that going home each evening is the respite we usually need to recharge those socialization batteries. But this work from home would-be nirvana isn’t the introvert’s paradise we expected to be because even introverts need human interaction to slake the primal pack-animal within’s need for human contact.

That’s a lot of mixed metaphors to say that even introverts will suffer withdrawals from prolonged isolation.

I think that’s where I’m at.

No, I don’t advocate ending the lockdown just to soothe socialization withdrawals. There’s too much good science showing that continued distancing is our surest way to halting community spread and for protecting the vulnerable and at-risk populations. But I can’t ignore the effect it’s having on my spirit.

Virtual meetings and text conversations are not filling that socialization void for me. Spending time with my brother and his wife helps some, but they have a small business that they work very hard to maintain through all of this, so their time for socializing is sparse.

There likely isn’t a solution right now. It’s just another facet of life as we know it that has to adapt to changed circumstances. I just find it fascinating that a situation that seems tailor-made for introverts is turning out to be proof of the old adage: sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.

Random Bits

Catching up after a trip abroad is busy work! Cleaning out the in-box, unpacking the suitcase, laundry, dry cleaning, home chores, fighting off the head cold/lurgy that you picked up on the plane home…you know, the usual. As a consequence, I have not devised a thoughtful, well-ordered, substantive post in a while. And this one is not an exception to that. But I wanted to post. So here are some random bits:

  • I have recently watched more “tv” via streaming service than I have in years. I’m late to the party on Sherlock, but am *loving* it! Can’t wait for Season 2 of The Mandalorian. So, so, so loving the new Star Trek: Picard series! Catching up on Star Trek: Discovery and enjoying it, though the mushy annunciation of the Klingon portrayals is challenging. All in all, a good bit of entertainment!
  • My company announced the appointment of a new CEO today. Only time will tell if the newcomer will improve the culture and quality of life around here. I dearly hope so.
  • I was interviewed for a feature in Hispanic Executive magazine that’s coming out later this year. That was an ego boost, I can tell you!
  • The dressing room I’ve gushed over so much in recent posts is coming together. I am now in the slow-putter phase of calibration of its optimal layout. I love having this ongoing project to mess around with.
  • Sometimes I struggle with being patient with some of my younger attorneys. They’re doing well, on the whole, and I appreciate their energy and attitudes. But often they move so quickly and pay too little attention to detail. That’s a natural part of maturation, I know. But the energy *I* must expend cleaning up the messes they create in their haste is taxing on my nerves.
  • I posted a bit ago about an experiment I was going to do to try to break the writer’s block I’ve been suffering. I committed to writing by hand for 30 days. No word count or subject matter requirements would apply. Just write every day, whatever comes out of my brain. I started February 10th. I wanted a date that was not the first of a month and I wanted to do 30 days, not just a calendar month. I’m using a brand new, beautiful leather-bound journal that was gifted me by a very dear friend, and a nice, new, heavy brass pen I received for Christmas. It has been a good experience so far, enjoyable. I’m not certain if my creativity has yet been re-energized, but the habit of writing every day has been. That can only be a good thing.
  • My friends and I are in the midst of plotting a return trip to Asheville this Spring. Last year’s holiday was such a huge success and an epic relief of stress that we’re doing it again. Can’t wait!!
  • Choosing a new route out of my neighborhood this morning gave me a great view of some naked trees against the sunrise. I so love the pattern of the branches against the sky.

Friends, I hope you have sunshine and joy in abundance and find things in your life that spark the fire of your imagination. Be excellent to one another.

I’m Back

I returned from Spain late on Friday night. It was a *marathon* travel day that was not easy. The security ordeal (yes, that word is accurate, if mild to describe the misery I endured) in Madrid for the privilege of exiting the country was horrific. Not an understatement. But then an extra long (10.5 hours) flight back to Atlanta, courtesy of ice storms in our path forcing us North to Greenland before dropping down to the ATL, a seven hour layover there, and another two plus hours, and I was finally home, once I collected my bag and drove another 40 minutes to the West side of town. All told, nearly 24 hours on the go.

But so far (::knocks on wood::), no ConCrud!

And the trip was, overall, good. I got to see a bunch of colleagues I only see once a year. I got to participate in important leadership meetings and listen to senior leaders speak on key topics of focus for this year. I also got to experience a small part of an incredible city.

Some of my team and I went into Madrid’s city center and explored a few of the sights. Mercado de San Miguel was amazing! Such beautiful and delicious food! El Palacio Real was impressive. The Goya exhibit at the Prado was breathtaking. We went to a genuine neighborhood tapas bar and ate local food with the locals; my little group of four were the only non-locals there during our (typical) late evening repast. And the company event at the Platea, where we reserved the entire facility, was spectacular as a celebration of the last year’s achievements.

I enjoyed the event and the food. I’m paying the price still for the bazillion miles I walked. And I have a lot of great new memories to cherish. I’m counting it a win!

Here I Go Again

It’s that time of year again. Time to go to the company sales rally to kickoff the year. Last year, I had to skip it to prep for court. That was an excessively stressful time and, yet, it was better than being in a hotel with hundreds of sales people attending a bunch of ra-ra meetings with little real substance or lasting benefits.

I have a big problem with the amount that is spent on this event every year, especially when we’ve laid people off and tightened already lean budgets to the bone. It seems so wasteful. This year, especially; it’s being held in a city and country where we have no offices or facilities, so *everyone* is traveling, increasing expenses drastically.

But, in an effort not to be Debbie Downer all the time, I’m going to put effort into being positive and keeping an open mind. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to go to a world class art museum, perhaps a renowned botanic garden, and maybe eat some authentic food that I can’t get in Flyover Country USA.

We’ll see how it goes. But first, I must pack today, fly away tomorrow afternoon, and arrive in Madrid Sunday morning. If I survive all that, I may be in for a cool international experience. And…fingers crossed that I come back conference-crud-free!

Be excellent to yourselves and others while I’m away.

Last one…

It’s the last day of the year. Last chance to post a blog in the twenty-teens. Here it is, for what it’s worth.

I’m at my office engaged in my least favorite activity – waiting for contracts to come in and counting down to the last one that can be reasonably expected to close. Always a mystery until it happens.

So, while I wait, I do little things here and there that are not terribly vexing when interrupted for things like absurd emergency approvals and grumbling visits from my irascible boss. One of those things is personal writing – just random jottings of thoughts and recountings of daily occurrences that are mostly mundane but have meaning for me in some way.

One of the several running entries in this log I keep now hosts a bit of writing of which I am particularly proud. It has the makings of a good story, of sorts. I imagine it as one of those gritty, atmospheric type tellings, a glimpse into the narrator’s world, full of their emotion and internal dialogue. We’ll see how it works out. It might never see the light of day, but it might become something. Who’s to say?

Also in between last-day crises, I have been chatting with friends via text. I like that medium of communication. It makes up for a lot of the faults I suffer from in face-to-face conversation, like nervousness, brain freeze and stammering. But what it doesn’t do well is convey expression of tone. I’m constantly worried that my comms will be misinterpreted as curt or snarky or disrespectful because of my word choices or sentence structure. But by and large, it’s nice to have free, instantaneous communication with fun conversationalists right in the palm of my hand.

Friends, my hope for you and for me is that the new year is gentle on your heart, mind and body, that it’s myriad opportunities also come with the courage for you to seize them, and that your peace is full, abundant, packed down and overflowing.

Happy New Year, all!

Random Thoughts

It’s been a while since my last post and I want to keep the streak going. Maybe only through the end of the year, but still going – that was my commitment at the first of the year. So here’s another list. This time it’s just some odd, unrelated observations that came to me randomly. Like shower thoughts, only without the falling water.

⁃ I think there’s something about this time of year, the ending of the calendar year and the changing of seasons, that makes me feel nearly everything more intensely than at any other time of year. Especially anything melancholy or morose. It makes me mindful and wary. I find myself curating my words, self-censoring much more actively. That’s good for not hurting people’s feelings, but not so great for clear, direct, transparent communication. I find that quandary a little frustrating.

⁃ Something I said to a friend just today: “This probably speaks too loudly of my insecurities, but I gotta say it feels really good when I’m working with more experienced outside counsel and they call out things I’ve contributed as either something they didn’t think of or as a better approach than they’d suggested. It’s just always been my experience and my fear that in-house counsel are frequently dismissed as not “real” attorneys and not nearly as skilled as real, outside counsel.” The validation of peers, especially of more experienced practitioners, is a huge motivator. But it’s also a little cringingly embarrassing to know that, even after 20+ years on the job, I still crave that validation.

⁃ I keep kicking around a topic, start drafting a post, even try talking about it in IRL conversations, but get stuck on finding the right words to articulate what I need to say. Without previewing what that topic is, my observation is just this, perhaps obvious, thought: conventional community wisdom, as expressed in pithy adages and online memes, is inherently incomplete, carefully arranged from a particular agenda, and nearly always over-simplified. So having a serious, detailed conversation (or blog post) is difficult and seems to come across as a petulant rant at an embarrassingly surface level. It frustrates me to be unable to communicate a concept free from an emotional tone overlaying my words that undermines the impact of my observations.

⁃ As my family and I prepare to move into the new house I’m buying, a lot of our effort and conversations are focusing on decluttering, so that the fresh start this home represents isn’t dimmed by a load of unneeded stuff. That’s a big ambition and I worry that we’re putting too much pressure on ourselves and that the joy of the new place will be overshadowed by this goal and our relative success or failure achieving it.

⁃ I’m both fascinated by and frustrated with the way municipal planning and execution plays out in my city. Specifically, I know there is a planning phase for development and maintenance construction in all parts of the city. But, experientially, it feels like any planning that happens gets jettisoned the moment the first shovelful of dirt gets turned over and the people living in this city are left to deal with the chaos. I’m so frustrated with the conflicting concurrent construction projects that have every major through-street and intersection in turmoil. Sometimes I wonder if the planners are a bunch of sadists who secretly thrill at the general populace having continual road rage.

More Great Than Awful

So much of life is a mixed bag of great and awful. If we’re lucky, they balance, break-even. If we’re really lucky, the great outweighs the awful, at least at a micro, day-to-day level. I am fortunate that there is a lot more great than awful in my life and the magnitude of awful has been fairly muted of late.

I try consciously to remind myself of that and to celebrate the great, however small they appear, so as to temper the impact of the awful. I’m not always successful. Sometimes the collective weight of the tiny awfuls adds up and weighs down my spirit. But counting the great, saying them out loud even, can sometimes lighten the load.

For instance, I’m suffering the first head cold of the season and had to stay home from the office yesterday because I was running a fever and didn’t want to spread anything to my coworkers. It’s a particularly inconvenient time for this awful, mucous-y disruption to my work flow. But there are some great things happening too.

  • I’m in the process of buying a new house. It’s a gorgeous, move in-ready upgrade to the house I’ve had for 16 years. I got a great deal – used my negotiating skills and have a great realtor. We’re in the last stages before closing and I’m really excited about the prospect of this new phase of life.
  • There’s a new project at work that has me feeling re-engaged and excited to use my lawyer muscles. Doing deeply substantive lawyering, rather than business management, makes me happy.
  • I’m enjoying the cooler fall weather and looking forward to the freeze that will relieve the burning and itching in my eyes.
  • My SIL brought me my favorite soup for dinner last night to make my cold feel better.
  • Soon the holiday movie season will start and there will be good things to watch again.

So, all in all, a fairly good tilt toward the great and away from the awful. For that I’m grateful.

Lost and Stuck

A friend on Facebook posts daily Reasons Not To Quit under Miss Hanne’s Academy For Wayward Girls. These little nuggets of wisdom and inspiration have been a steady source of courage and comfort for me for some time. Today’s post “Reasons Not to Quit #1070: What one specific thing are you going to do today to make it a little easier for you not to quit? #reasonsnottoquit” incited a lot of thoughts and feelings that I’ve been wrestling with for weeks.

Boiled down to it’s constituent elements, the particular sludge stew that’s been plaguing my peace lately seems to be equal parts professional burn-out, imposter syndrome, workplace political BS, and lack of inspiration. Stirred together with chronic anxiety and social isolation, and that thick, bubbling, acrid paste of unrelenting discontent begins to set into a cognitive and emotional concrete that is extremely difficult to remove.

So, being prompted by both my own cussed stubbornness not to be a quitter and today’s Reason Not To Quit, I decided to examine the situation. And, because I’m a literal, linear thinker, I resorted to using lists to help with the analysis. I started by listing why I’m struggling, then listed what I’m good at, what I need, and what’s in my way. The final list is supposed to be what would make it better, but so far I have nothing jotted there.

Themes I’ve uncovered in the various lists reduce to: lost and stuck.

Reasons I’m struggling include the feeling that I’m bereft of professional creativity and that I’ve lost the plot and the purpose I’m supposed to fulfill. Yet the top three things I know I need to be happy in my work are intellectual challenge, to contribute meaningfully to something valuable, and clarity of purpose. And things I know I’m really good at include issue spotting, problem solving, and diplomacy. And what’s in my way are things that obscure those levers: fear and insecurity, workplace politics, personal and systemic inertia, lack of imagination/creativity/inspiration.

I don’t think the obvious intersections among these things are accidental. When I am challenged and contributing to a well-defined goal that I believe in, I excel at identifying and strategizing solutions to obstacles and at leading and persuading others to achieve those solutions and the ultimate goal. But when there is no clear goal or its shape and boundaries are obscured by a fog of emotional, organizational and political flack, productivity and engagement tend to grind to a halt and ingenuity fades. When those tools are blunted and the stress is high, the doubts begin to flood in and I get swept into a current of fear, uncertainty, doubt and dread (FUDD) that blinds and hobbles an otherwise sharp and incisive brain.

It’s all well and good to know this, to recognize a cause for this rut. It’s a whole ‘nuther thing to know what to do about it. Hence the empty list of “what would make it better”.

I don’t have answers, only more questions. And I’m tired enough that my ability to bootstrap my own path out of the morass is pretty low. I’m feeling very lost and discouraged, uncharacteristically lacking in tools to fix my own problems.

And that admission in print has my heart pounding and my brain screaming for me to delete it, not let anyone see how useless I’ve become. But I’m going to leave it there and risk the derision and embarrassment that will likely result, because it may be the one thing I can do today to break the cycle of anxiety and let me see a crack in the solidified sludge coating my brain.

Random Bits

Been a week or so since I checked in. Thought I’d give a little update on some random things to keep the posting streak alive.

  1. I went to a charity event Friday night with some friends. The luxury cars and planes on display were cool. The food…not so much. But the hip taco place my friends and I hit up after was well worth it. I got to wear my suit and feel awesome in it, have a great time with cool people, and eat amazing guacamole and street tacos. That’s a Friday night that did not suck! 😎
  2. I’ve been having some deeply satisfying philosophical discussions with a variety of good friends lately. As is the way with philosophy, no hard answers have been achieved. It’s in the journey of the discussion where the value lies. What I appreciate most is the quality of the time and emotional labor my friends are investing in me and our relationships.
  3. Some of that deep thought has been spent on my job search. Still plotting my escape. It’s just going more slowly than I’d like. Certainly slower than the resurgence of the stress load. But, as I posted on my FB the other day, I’ve learned my lesson on speaking freely when invited: they don’t really mean that. So, heads down, coping smile in place, soldiering on. Anyone know where a hard working, smart and experienced commercial transactions attorney can find work where she’s appreciated?
  4. I live in a pretty comfortable small city, fairly clean and accommodating. But even here there seems to be a faction of people who can’t mind their own business and who feel a compulsion to police the use of public restroom facilities. I’m growing weary of having to clear the hurdle of old biddies who want to challenge my right to pee in the women’s room, especially when it’s a pressing need. Geez, yes! I know my bow tie is an unusual accessory choice for a woman, but it’s not a reason to make me nearly wet myself preventing me from getting to a toilet!
  5. Because I wanna be positive and end this list on a good note: I am riding the wave of good vibes picked up when spending the long Labor Day weekend with good friends. They hosted me in their home, nourished my body and spirit with tasty food and fellowship, laughing freely and connecting deeply. I’m so blessed to have such good people in my life!

Friends, I hope the balance of good and annoying experiences in your life are tipping decidedly towards the good, positive side and that you find at least one good thing to celebrate today.

Thinking All the Thoughts

I’m in the DC area enjoying the long holiday weekend with some dear friends. They’ve been kind enough to put me up in their guest room and introduce me to their friends. We’ve had a great time relaxing, eating great food, having epic, soul-nourishing conversations, dissecting motivations and non-verbal signals in life events, and campaigning for the liberation of Princess Zelda. It’s a chill, wonderful reprise of our cabin time in the Blue Ridge Mountains this past spring. For me, it’s more practice at treating myself well and refusing to let my job consume my existence.

Speaking of my job, I’m still working on an exit strategy. While I’ve had some success at maintaining a more liberated, hands-off, own-your-own-problems attitude since returning from my amazing Alaska Cruise Adventure, there is still a great deal of stress, strain, and workplace political drama that is tarnishing the gloss of this job’s appeal. Honestly, I’m over it and want to be free of the burden if has become. But the reality is that my personal integrity, sense of professionalism, and plain human decency won’t let me just walk out. Also, like most of us, I need an income.

All of this, relaxing, being free and fed-up at the same time, is coalescing into a need for action. It’s still dim, shadowy, inchoate at the moment. But the urge to act is there and growing more intense day by day.

Add to that the radical, un-examined and wild thoughts brought about by being completely free of responsibility (for the holiday weekend) and reading fiction designed to inspire spontaneity, even reckless abandon, and you have a powerful recipe for over-thinking. Book themes like “I survived a major disaster and now want to “truly” live my life to the fullest, so I quit my high-paying job in the city and moved back to my rural home town to run an eco-friendly small business”, and “I have worked too long on the corporate treadmill and yearn to quit and explore my creativity in my own studio” now have a curiously strong pull and seem eminently rational.

I am not a rash risk-taker, not in my professional life and not in my personal life. And when something, an event or decision, involves both job and home life, I tend to be doubly cautious. Yet I acknowledge that such caution can hinder growth and be an obstacle to joy and accomplishment.

So the question becomes how do I decide when is the right time to make a move, and which move do I make?

Yeah, I’m thinking all the thoughts. Don’t know where they’ll lead, especially after I’m once again back in the real world away from the lure of vacation-induced inhibition. But I feel certain that change is coming. What change and how quickly, is still unknown. For now, I’m gonna stay open and positive.

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