Archive for the ‘work’ Tag

Lessons in Self-Talk

I’ve written a fair bit on this blog about my efforts at personal growth and self discovery. Some of what I’ve covered deals with the insecurities with which I still struggle, despite all of the hard, intentional work I’ve done to be the best version of myself. I call the source of those insecurities my internal critic, because it’s my own voice that’s raging at me.

That internal critic isn’t easy to slay. It rears its poisonous head and spews the most shocking invective into my tender, impressionable psyche when I’m at my most vulnerable. Stress, sleep deprivation, nervousness, performing in unfamiliar circumstances, exercising new skills — these are some of the things that leave me exposed to the inner jerk’s most insidious evil. And when I’m in that state, I have very little ability to overcome, silence, and escape that internal saboteur.

A perfect storm of those conditions formed this week. It was the culmination of weeks of hard, frenetic, hugely significant executive lawyering, in preparation for depositions in a litigation matter for my company, all while battling my first real experience with insomnia. I’ve been working 11-15+ hour days for weeks on end on the shaky, unsustainable foundation of an average of 5 hours or less sleep per night. And everything I’ve been doing at work has required intensely critical thinking and application of new and old legal skills to meet the challenge of this unfamiliar litigation activity. So my defenses were kind of low by the time I showed up for my 30(b)(6) deposition – where I was testifying on behalf of my company, rather than in my individual capacity – yesterday.

I expected, and had prepared for, a very challenging experience. Litigation isn’t a joke and the stakes in this matter are high for both parties. I fully expected to be pressed hard and to have to be on top of my game. But even as prepared as I was, I had underestimated how hard it would really be.  Here was my raw, unedited reaction that I posted to a different platform last night:

So here I am, just getting home after my third consecutive 15+ hour day this week (4th consecutive 11+ hour work day) more than 10 of which were spent giving sworn testimony in a deposition conducted by a class-A asshat of the most egregious kind. I’m mentally, physically, emotionally, and intellectually exhausted. I know I did an incredible job in this depo – another day of undeniable Butch Boss Badasserry. Still my traitorous brain only lets me see the one momentary slip when, after over 9 hours of grueling questioning and countless repetition of futile questions, I lost my composure and was forced to go off the record and leave the room before I dissolved into tears of angry frustration on camera and in front of that jackass. Suddenly weeks of work and two long days of testimony are reduced to: “yeah, but he made you cry” by my overly critical brain. Damn.

So, yeah. The internal critic got me hard and sharp. That whole reductive reasoning trick is dirty and underhanded and has a really devastating bite to it. All the true, positive, celebratory thoughts get rendered ineffectual in a single blow: it doesn’t matter that I knew more than anyone in the room, including the other side’s attorneys and my own counsel, about this case and had a smart, cogent, legally significant answer for every question and didn’t fall into any of the verbal traps the deposing attorney lay in front of me, it only matters that he was able to break my composure and made me cry.

But, thankfully, a wonderful friend, who also happens to be a rock star Butch lawyer, too, reminded me of something important: the nature of depositions, the rules that apply to their conduct, create an environmental pressure-cooker that often results in the witness being reduced to tears and I did well, in spite of the tears. In other words, I need to give myself a break.

Not only is that timely, supportive reminder a deeply kind gift at a critical point, it has the virtue of truth. After a few hours of sleep and a short work day this morning, I was able to put a bit of distance between my wounded pride and the critic’s barbs. That let me have room to think about the overall problem of the internal voice. Here’s what it comes down to, for me:

Self talk is a dangerous thing.  Like a blade, it can be both a tool and a weapon, and both functions can have both beneficial and damaging effects. Balancing the utility of such a volatile thing is a critical skill that requires constant attention to detail. When one aspect gets the better of the other, whether weapon or tool, damage results; too much of either yields an internal voice with a skewed world view< The imbalanced voice will be either irrationally confident and blind to flaws, or overweeningly negative, drowning out all accomplishment and confidence. Without the confident self-discipline to manage the internal critic, spiraling negativity takes over.  But falling too much in love with your own voice, logic, skill, position on any issue – self delusion of even mild degree – and you get a big head and lose sight of your biggest opportunities for growth.

Ultimately, it comes down to mental discipline, being kind, yet firm, with myself, taking care to feed my mind the right mix of messages that can build healthy confidence while starving the internal critic so that it can’t have strength enough to sabotage the positive with unwarranted negativity.  Simple enough to say, Exceedingly difficult to maintain.

It certainly would help if I could sleep more…

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Smart, Fresh & Sneaky

So here’s a quick, fun little plus after such a long stretch of gloom and rough days.

I’ve been hitting it hard, hard at work, doing some deep, substantive lawyering on a couple of litigation matters for which I’ve been managing outside counsel. For the last few weeks it’s been preparing rebuttals to expert opinions, supplementing discovery requests and preparing for depositions, including my own.

Today was in-person strategy with outside counsel, my boss and me. Lots of discussion, debate, review of documents, etc. In the middle of it all, one of the outside attorneys, trying to keep things light, characterized me and my boss as sneaky lawyers, which moniker I proudly admit. Then, when trying to convince me to agree to be the subject of a second deposition, my boss and the other outside lawyer described me as smart and fresh. Also appellations I willingly wear.

So, I’m a smart, fresh, sneaky lawyer and I’m gonna rock these depos this week.

Yay for being a bad ass Butch boss. Boo for more work. But also yay for being sneaky fresh!

Rejection Totally Blows

Jeez, this week was brutal, a mixed bag of jangling anxiety spiced with tiny moments of joy, wrapped in a sleep-deprived haze and topped with a glittering bow of flaming rejection.

It’s been a really long time since I’ve felt this disconnected from logic and rationality. I’m a logical, linear thinker and careful planning, meticulous language and precise action are my safety. When I get outside that realm, into areas where impulse and emotion appear to be the rule, I have a hard time coping. That kind of spontaneity, even chaos, stresses me more than any long work day or serious decision ever does. The disorder is unnerving and makes it hard to think and breathe.

So when I found myself in this situation, a nearly constant state of distress resulting from sleep deprivation-induced anxiety, desperation pushed me to do something entirely out of character: I asked for help.

Ignoring the cautions and warnings screaming in my head, I signed up for an online counseling service to get help with my insomnia. Normal people do this without compunction all the time. Surely, the millions of people relying on mental health professionals to assist with these challenges can’t be wrong, I reasoned. Surely, I told myself, there is nothing shameful in reaching out?

Still, I battled a heavy load of shame – you’re almost 50 years old, how can you not know the basics of how to be a person, how to get adequate sleep and deal with common work-induced stress? It can’t be that hard, what’s wrong with you? You’re so inept that you can’t sleep without instructions?

But I knew that most of that invective was simply fear. So, swallowing my pride and steeling my nerves, I looked for and found an LGBTQIA-supportive counseling service online. I did a little reading on it, and on counseling options in general, and decided to take the plunge. I knew I’d have to be a little vulnerable, letting an anonymous stranger into my head where I hardly let anyone before. But, I reasoned, if I was going to resolve whatever is plaguing my peace and preventing my sleep, I’d have be brave and face it head on.

So I filled out the forms and answered questions and logged my sleep activity and did everything I was asked to do without complaint or reservation. When my hands shook and my mind rebelled at the feeling of exposure, I forced it down and pressed on, telling myself that changing what I didn’t like required getting out of the cocoon of safety that my reserve and privacy have afforded.

Then, after nearly a week of uncomfortable logging of nearly every aspect of my daily activity, revealing an unprecedented amount of my private life, I was asked to give candid feedback on the process to date. I guess where I went wrong was in the assumption that it was safe to be frank. I guess I thought that because I had been required to be so vulnerable and open, I would not be ridiculed for being honest about my reservations about the process and method.

Not so.

It didn’t matter that my comment was politely and professionally worded, honest and offered without any hint of accusation or rancor. The counselor’s immediate response was to fire me as a client, telling me I clearly wasn’t a good fit for her service and that there was no need to even respond to her message, just to go somewhere else.

Ouch.

So, not only am I so abnormal that I can’t even take care of a basic need like sleep, but I’m so inept that I can’t even pay someone enough to help me cure that weirdness. Jeez, loser much?

Sarcasm aside, I have to admit that the rejection hurts and its potential consequences scare me witless.

I had let myself hope that with a professional’s help I could be back to a regular sleep pattern quickly and that the erosion of my thinking and communication skills, that have already begun to impact my work, would be set to rights before it becomes a serious problem. I can admit that my sense of self worth is very much tied to my professional success and the respect I’ve earned among my colleagues. The prospect of losing that respect and the reputation of being the go-to leader and problem-solver makes me quake with anxiety. And I have no doubt that will be the result if I can’t get my head back in the game. To do that, I need to get over whatever this mental block is and get regular, restful sleep.

So being fired from the one thing I thought would help has me reeling. And I’m fairly pissed off that someone I had paid to provide that help fired me, not the other way around. But even worse than the anger is the humiliation of realizing that I and my problem aren’t worth the time and effort to help, even for a fee.

I’m feeling pretty low, so I’m having a really hard time finding anything positive in this experience. But at least I got to see a bunch of cute small humans in cool costumes come to my house and beg for candy on Halloween. The sparkly princesses and fierce miniature Black Panthers were a bright spot in a rough week. I may not be sleeping, but at least there’s super heroes and princesses in my neighborhood.

Lyrics of Me

I seem to be in a weird, contemplative head space lately. I see patterns and make connections between things that probably aren’t truly connected, just coincidental. And I seem to be fairly nostalgic, reminiscing more and spontaneously remembering random experiences from my past much more frequently than I recall doing previously. So, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised at the connection that struck me as I drove to work this morning.

I don’t like to listen to talking on the radio – not commercials, not DJ commentary, not even most news reports – so I change stations frequently and listen to a variety of music genres. I also usually just concentrate on the music, the melody and instrumentation and harmony, without focusing on the lyrics. But for whatever reason, today the words were at the front of everything. As I surfed the frequencies on my 20 minute drive early this morning, I heard a bit of everything, from pop to rock to country. And on each station I heard at least one section of lyrics that seemed to speak directly from my life.

Getting glimpses of my own struggles in the words of popular music can be so validating and freeing. It makes the insecurities fade a bit, makes me feel less cut-off from whatever my brain is defining as “normal” at the moment. Sometimes that spark of recognition in the lyrics of a song burrows under my skin and occupies my subconscious for days until I’m able to internalize the message it holds for me. It’s a relief and a comfort when that happens. One of those from my past, one that helped me through the tough times of coming out to myself and others, recurred today:

I’m not a woman

I’m not a man

I am something that you’ll never understand

~ “I Would Die 4 U”, Prince and The Revolution

Yet that glimpse of me in song can also feel foreign, in a way, when the words in the context of the song speak of someone so different from me. It’s hard in those moments to understand how a sentiment that exactly summarizes some aspect of me can be speaking the truth about someone who is nearly opposite of everything that I am. I’m challenged to contemplate that issues I’ve associated with the various marginalized demographics I have occupied in my life can also be challenging for those I’ve mentally categorized as mainstream, often privileged, in those very dimensions. I’m certainly not a rock star on the road, but this is one I’ve struggled with for years:

And you feel the eyes upon you as you’re shaking off the cold

You pretend it doesn’t bother you but you just want to explode

Most times you can’t hear ’em talk, other times you can

All the same old clichés: “Is that a woman or a man?”

And you always seem outnumbered, you don’t dare make a stand

~ “Turn the Page”, by Bob Seger

Then there are those surprising lyrics from songs you’ve heard but never really listened to before. Those can be fun sometimes, like when you realize for the first time that Led Zeppelin dropped Tolkien references into “Ramble On”. But those surprising lyrics can sneak up on you, hitting hard with words that seem to reveal a truth that you’ve missed or refuse to acknowledge. Those sneak attack lyrics can suck big time, especially when they’re the last song just as you pull into the parking lot and the message dawns on your way into a work day full of stress and challenge that won’t give you a moment to sit quietly and work through the shock. Words in this category today from a singer with a name that’s particularly apropos:

We’ve just been lonely too long

Nothing’s wrong that can’t be cured

With a new love

All you need is someone like me to

Be sure of, to be your love

~ “Lonely Too Long”, by Patty Loveless

Today has been a mixed bag of lyrics of me. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it all, to eke out whatever lesson is to be learned. So this post feels a bit unfinished because I have no profound conclusions to impart. But I hope that sharing this little bit of my mental landscape gives you something to ponder.

No More Apologies

Earlier this week I saw a post on Facebook that kicked me right in the feels and the thinks.  I don’t have permission to re-post the full post here, but I will give this description and small excerpt to set the context of my ravings below.  The original poster is a college professor and someone whose writing in various media and platforms has revealed to me her acute intelligence, passion, compassion and genuine concern for all humans, and LGBTQIA+ and other marginalized humans in particular. Speaking of some of her women students, she posted about the heartbreak she feels at the volume of these students who have been conditioned to constantly apologize for their thoughts…even their existence.  This bit of her post particularly resonated with me:

“…brilliant young women who have been so often told that they cannot trust their own minds, that they are poor thinkers, that they are not bright enough, that they had better keep their mouths shut and their heads down, who end up in my office apologizing profusely and repeatedly for having a thought, for having too many thoughts to organize them intuitively, for having a thought too advanced for their vocabulary but not for their conceptual capacities…”

There was at least one commentator on this post that denied having been conditioned in this way.  I’m happy for that person. But the vast majority of responses were from female-identified people for whom, like me, this impulse is so ingrained that it took conscious, intentional effort to post a comment that didn’t include an apology – whether for piling on, or having their own take on the phenomenon, or for simply having the gall to post at all. Several who responded wrote of their conditioned guilt response to their “taking up space”.

My thoughts on this whole topic exploded to such a degree inside my head that it was impossible to do them justice in a comment-sized installment. But they’ve been present all week, sometimes very quietly way back in the back of my head, sometimes very loudly in the very front of my brain, pushing aside the thoughts and words I’m supposed to be thinking and speaking about entirely different topics.

So it was, with these untamed thoughts swirling, ever present in my head and in my mood, I reached the late afternoon on Friday of an extremely trying week full of work frustration.  After an afternoon of battling dragons for budget resources to save my team from burn-out after being constantly asked to do more and more with less and less, I was already on-tilt and in a less-than-optimal frame of mind to deal with any more idiocy for this company this week.  Then I checked my email.

What I found sent me on a a down-hill slide straight into a rage that felt very much like foaming-at-the mouth lunacy.  The trigger was a snide, unprofessional, strident whinge and petulant demand from a person who holds a senior leadership position (but who has demonstrated exactly zero actual leadership in the more than five years I’ve been burdened to work with him), condemning an administrative person on my staff for erroneously messaging that this person’s deal had been de-prioritized in favor of other deals at the direction of senior leadership.

Had the email been sent to me alone, I still would have been pissed off at the language of the message and the fact that it was an email at all, instead of a phone call, but I most likely would have simply acknowledged and corrected the error and moved on.  But since this tool felt the need to direct his insulting commentary and demand to a host of individuals whose rank and influence I cannot, for the sake of my team, ignore, I was forced to respond.

Although I am intelligent and have an above-average vocabulary and a decent degree of self-possession, I was not able to control my impulses enough cool down before responding to the same broad audience and additional recipients whom I felt needed to ‘get some on ’em, too’.  Although my response was, admittedly, terse and clearly conveyed my extreme irritation, I was successful in keeping it both short and professional.

Then, as so often happens, I belatedly considered the fall-out.  By electronically snapping off the pencil-necked idiot’s bloated head, I risked the incident being flagged up the chain to our executive leaders, including my boss.  Not wishing to have him be blind-sided by questions or complaints from his fellow execs, I quickly forwarded my missive to him as a heads-up.  I then went next door to his office and inquired if he was proficient at criminal defense, in case I ended up murdering that jackass.

My boss is a smart, compassionate man who has demonstrated great respect for me and a knack for talking me down off the ledge when I go off like this.  He laughed and said he’d have a hard time keeping from strangling that jerk if he were in my shoes.  We then talked it through and, after I received his reassurance that he had my back, I started to leave, making a parting comment that included an apology  for my emotional reaction and for making my problem his issue.

Since that kind of comment is not uncommon from me, he was not surprised by it, but he refused to accept it.  He looked me directly in the eye, called me by name, and said something so true that it stunned me.  He said: “I think your feelings when you do that [apologize for my reaction] are actually regret at having always to be the adult in the room.”

That really is it.  While I get angry at the mistreatment of my team and that anger does fuel my responses a lot of the time, the rage that gives birth to the types of outbursts that cause me to warn my boss about potential blow-back comes from always being held to a higher standard while others seemingly  breeze-by on the barest minimum of effort.  I and my team are content to be held to fiduciary standards applicable to legal professionals in matters of of our legal practice – when giving legal advice and opinions or representing our clients.  But when we’re expected to be perfect, provide instantaneous and error-free business services, to do the thinking for everyone else, and do it all with a smile while being met with everything from disinterest to sneering contempt from those making these demands, even the best-tempered among us grow weary and can snap.

My boss went on to say: “You are [the adult in the room] and you do a great job at it, and are always professional. Don’t apologize for being right or for being frustrated.  You’re right and your feelings are valid.”

And that’s where my thoughts from earlier in the week collide with my work-induced frustration.  His words of kindness and validation had their desired effect, calming me and making me feel better about a crappy situation.  But they also triggered a dissonance that still niggles in my head, prompting this post.

Here’s my struggle:  I feel damned if I do and damned if I don’t in terms of my reactions.

On the one hand, I felt compelled to apologize for having a reaction and for taking up time and space in my boss’ head because of my emotional response.  It didn’t matter that my response was proportionate, professionally worded, and appropriate to the stimulus.  It was emotion-based (anger, frustration, disappointment) and that automatically translated, in my culturally-conditioned brain, to “woman’s reaction” and “not worth his time”.

But on the other hand, when he validated my reaction and praised me for my handling of the matter, I immediately felt guilty for feeling reassured by it, and frustrated for needing his validation. Again, my impulse, instinct is to reject my reaction as unworthy.  This time the reaction comes from a forward-thinking, feminist mind-set that tells me I should be, and feel that I am, enough without the validation of a man or any other person in a position of authority.  I do believe that.  But there’s still the guilt and discontent.  That, too, is a culturally-conditioned response based on “female” emotion which I am conditioned to believe is worth less than “male” emotion and “male” logic.

Can’t win for losing.

As so often happens with my deeper thinking lately, I don’t have answers, only more questions.  I can’t end this post with it all tied up in a neat bow (or dapper bow tie). I’ll struggle with this for a long time, I’m sure.

But I know this:  No More Apologies.

From now on when I flame some unthinking, slug-brained Neanderthal of a supposed leader, I’m not going to apologize for it or for warning my boss that I’ve done it.  I’m just going to flame on and move on.

That’s my new mantra:

FLAME ON AND MOVE ON

Another Professional Positive

I seem to write about my job a lot lately and it’s probably boring and borderline boasting. I don’t wish to bore you, nor to be boorish in my recounting of things in which I take pride. Yet, to be true to my positivity goal, I like to share these little good things from the part of my life that occupies the bulk of my waking hours. So I’ll keep this one short.

This week, after traveling all last week, has been rather high-stress. Lots of demands for my time and pressure being put on my team, plus seemingly endless conference calls, all make for a brutally exhausting week that isn’t even over yet. My brain today is particularly tested after back-to-back calls that started at 6am and lasted through noon, only to pick up again an hour later. But I’ve somehow remained present, engaged and professional, even avoiding being rude and dismissive when confronted with truly inane questions from folks who should know better.

But the shining star of positivity for me today came from a series of conversations with my boss. We’ve been working through a bunch of thorny issues in various litigation matters for months now. Today we spoke several times, strategizing approaches to address each issue and brainstorming resources and reference materials to include in those solutions. It’s substantive lawyering and executive decision-making rolled into one. I’m proud that in every conversation I was clear and confident in making my points, debating with insight and professional skill without resorting to emotion or logical fallacies to emphasize my concerns. And, without prompting, my boss complimented my precision and insight, making it clear he appreciates my contribution to the process.

Being the boss rocks, but being a trusted advisor and confidant to my boss is even better. One very good thing on this long, tiring day.

I hope you’re finding inspiration from your own successes and enjoying the beginning of Autumn (in the Northern, Spring in the Southern hemisphere). Be well my friends!

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!

Q3 Check-up

It’s that time again, the end of the third quarter, and time to check on my progress against goals for personal growth that I set for myself at the beginning of the year. You can see my first and second quarter report cards here and here.

Quick reminder: these goals and my efforts to achieve them are for me, and this report card is an accountability device that helps keep me motivated. I try to be fair and gentle with myself when rating my performance.

Last quarter I passed, but slipped off the honor roll and re-committed to my original and stretch goals for Q3. So let’s see how I did in Q3. I’ll be grading on three main topics (Weekly Posting, Creativity/Nurturing My Spirit, and Work-Life Balance) plus the stretch goals (More Substantive Blog Posts, Practice New Sand Casting Skill, and More IRL Socializing) on an A through F scale.

Q3 2018 Report Card:

Weekly Posting: A

Substantive Posts: A

I’m calling this an A. Even though I just missed the 7-day deadline twice, once by mere minutes, I still posted every week. They were mostly substantive and, though some weren’t the resoundingly positive missives I strive for, they had meaning and message for me. Also, an online friend and follower of my blog paid me the huge compliment of telling me that my consistent posting has inspired her to return to more regular posting herself. Huge ego boost to know that something I do is inspiration for someone else. So this is a solid A on both counts.

Creativity/Nurturing My Spirit: A

Practice Sand Casting: F, but started new writing project, so A because creativity

Ok, this is a bit of a cheat. I’m giving myself an A on the goal because I’ve been doing a lot of sky-gazing and quiet contemplation as self care, which absolutely nourishes my spirit. But I’m also giving myself an A on the stretch goal, because I’m changing the stretch goal to something less specific. Cheating, I know, but also preserving my motivation to try.

Truth is, I have had no time to get into the sand casting. I want to do it, but the significant investment of time required to set up and prep for a pour is just beyond me right now. And my SIL doesn’t have any more time for it than I do right now.

However, I am acutely aware of a deep need to creatively express myself. So I have broken through an inhibition I’ve harbored against creative writing and begun a project just for myself. I’m doing it entirely by hand with pen and paper. I don’t have any present plans to publish or even let anyone read it. But I have this story in my head and a need to get it onto paper. That’s creativity and spirit-nurturing action. So it counts and I’m giving myself an A for it.

Work/Life Balance: A

IRL Socializing: A

I’m grading easy on this one. Since I have consistently participated and have not consciously avoided socializing this quarter, I’m giving myself an A. Work has been crazy, but I’ve been intentional about setting boundaries and choosing to prioritize myself over the urgencies that result from others’ failure to plan.

Also, I again went on a trip for the sole purpose of visiting a friend, even taking the initiative in asking to meet up. The epic adventure did a lot to lift my spirit and deepen our friendship. So, even though I still haven’t made any new friends and have no prospects of doing so in the near future, I’ll give myself an A on both because I have made real effort despite the lack of results.

So, overall, I’d say I’m back on the Honor Roll with straight A’s, but there’s definite room for improvement. I won’t change the goals or stretch goals for Q4 – there’s just too much going on in the run to the end of year to make it worth changing things up. Let’s see if I can just maintain the momentum. I’ll count it a win if I am not completely consumed by deals and litigation deadlines and holiday prep to the point of becoming catatonic. If I can stay on top of the work load, keep up with the few friends I have, and keep writing, all without imploding or exploding, I’ll happily end the year with another set of A’s.

I hope the turn of the seasons is treating you well and that you have satisfying challenges to take you through the rest of the year. Be well, my friends.

Deep Breaths and Silver Linings

Everything in the media and in our national consciousness is awful and horribly triggering this week. And this last business day of the quarter is packed with high stress and stupidity. To preserve my sanity, I have to cling to the belief that it gets better and focusing on the positive is part of making it better. Even when the margin of “better” is so thin you can see daylight through it and the only measure of improvement is “less awful”, not good, I have to hang on that hope, because reality pretty much blows at the moment.

Deep breaths really go only so far toward less awful. So here are some salvaged silver linings that, while a might tarnished, still gleam a little through the gloom:

  1. Gallows humor is still humor and the effort required to pull a chuckle out of the middle of the thorny stress ball of a given day, by folks suffering right along with you, makes the magic of that laughter even more potent than normal.
  2. People who just get you are rare blessings. I’m so fortunate that I have both friends and colleagues who get me…and don’t flee screaming for the hills because of it. 😜
  3. A casual “you’re right and you’re awesome” from my boss after a particularly heated discussion over a quarter-end deal today was exactly what I needed to relieve the weight of always having to be the adult in the room among sales guys vying to give away the farm so they get their commissions.
  4. Someone I respect and admire told me publicly that it’s ok to prioritize my emotional and mental safety over the loud and insistent calls for bravery and social activism. I have been doing so anyway. But having someone validate your needs, tacitly refuting the implication that being fragile in the face of the uproar is inexcusable weakness, is a gift beyond measure.
  5. I’m not necessarily proud of this one, but I admit that one particularly twisted and tarnished silver lining I’ve enjoyed this week is the smug satisfaction I get when a well articulated argument, laced with snark so dry and stealthy as to be confused with courtesy, sails high over a mark’s head but is recognized by everyone else witnessing it as the devastating smack-down it was intended to be. Sometimes it’s nice having a huge vocabulary and a wickedly sharp sense of sarcastic justice.

No Context

Sometimes you just have to vent, even when you’re still committed to positivity. Sometimes it’s just too hard, takes too much energy and effort to excavate the silver lining from the cruddy day. Sometimes the thing that relieves the pressure, lets off the steam, and brings even a small measure of pain relief is a good ol’ fashioned gripe…or cry.

But even then, sometimes indulging that impulse to let it all out can be alarming, even hurtful, to those around you. That’s especially true when you spend so much time being deliberately, intentionally, carefully positive, avoiding this very type of stormy, emotional release of frustration. When you are known for calm, measured, controlled, authoritative responses, blowing off steam can be doubly jarring to witnesses unaccustomed to seeing you in an unguarded state.

Sometimes that extra burden, on top of the drive to remain positive, is too much to bear. A thing I do when this happens is to vent without revealing context or rationale for the thoughts or feelings expressed. That way I can get it out of my head and heart with the best chance of sparing others’ feelings and without having to do a lot of educating others to put it all into an easy frame of reference.

This week has had its highs and lows, but I’m feeling more of the lows than highs and have a need to shake off the darkness. Even wearing my Jedi socks and a daring bow tie/shirt combination didn’t take the edge off today. So here’s my vent, without context and in no particular order. (Don’t take it personally – this post is really just about me.)

  • Gender policing, particularly around use of public bathrooms, is exhausting B.S. Yes, I know how to read. Yes, I know it’s the “ladies room”. No, I’m not in the wrong place. No, it doesn’t hurt you for me to pee in my own stall in the same bathroom as you and your precious little girl. And no, I’m not a predator for needing to pee in peace. Get over yourself!
  • My level of tolerance for just about everything decreases in proportion to your level of ignorance and entitlement. Don’t expect me to indulge your stupidity at the expense of my personal integrity or mental and emotional security.
  • Pain sucks. It drains all my energy and makes me an emotional wreck and intellectually deficient. I’m so over it!
  • Feeling pathetic and without value, especially when I can’t identify what’s causing that irrational emotion to surge and persist, is debilitatingly irritating. Sometimes I wish I had an emotion chip like Commander Data that I could turn off and never turn back on.
  • Despite the evidence of a rough week, I am not broken and I don’t need to be pitied. Just because I am injured and moving more slowly and gingerly doesn’t give you license to touch my body without my consent. Stop with all the hands on my already aching back and limbs. Thanks, but I can walk and stand without you yanking on me! And, yes, if that sounds gruff and ungracious, then I’ll own that. But you need to own the irrationality and privilege of being offended at someone defending their agency and body sovereignty.

Okay, that’s enough venting for a good long while. Thanks for the indulgence, friends. I hope you’re having a pain- and frustration-free week and look forward to a weekend of positivity and relaxation.

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