Wednesday, March 27, 2013

NaPoWriMo--I'm in!

NaPoWriMo equals National Poetry Writing Month!

I'm easily led. My interwebs friend Lydia Swartz turned me onto this through the all mighty FaceBook. The mission is simple. A poem a day for 30 days starting on April Fools Day (so poetic)--you can post them on line or not...entirely up to you. This is about as non competitive as they come.

I tried to do NaNoWriMo one year and realized I'm such a slow, terse writer that I was killing myself to do the daily requirement. I think I can commit to a poem.

Join me...or don't! I'll be posting my offerings here daily starting next Monday.

Friday, March 22, 2013

needing vs. not sparing

Many years ago, I worked with a teacher who would admonish my use of the word "need". Her point was that "need" as such implied a lack of choice in action, thinking etc. That thought bent my mind--I still struggle with the concept of "needing" to do things. When that comes up and I don't want to do the thing that I supposedly "need" to do I am stumped for motivation.

Needing to do things, the invisible and imaginary force that externally drives action, is powerful. Turning "need" into a paper tiger didn't necessarily make my life more pleasant but it made it more interesting.

I'm writing this blog post from the floor of a conference room. I cannot stand sitting in the rolling chairs they have in here especially for these 6+ hour meetings. The world appears to be turning just the same.

Its simpler to be obedient. Not better...just simpler.

Still, without the invisible iron hand of "need", how to get myself to do things that difficult in the moment? In the context of "need" I can bully myself into doing many things but after a while my inner anarchist gives "need" the finger--especially since I know need is a false driver.

I started playing around with the word need and its antonyms. Words I came up with are surplus, luxury, comfort, fortune, plenty, have and spare. Interesting that "need" and "have" are opposites but mean the same thing in certain contexts; I need to do something or I have to do something. But, a sentence such as I need money is FAR different from I have money.

The word that jumped out as the perfect antonym  was spare--to "not spare" actually.

"Not sparing" makes activities sound like not sparing the garlic in the pasta sauce, not sparing the Valrhona chocolate or not sparing the Blue Label Scotch. These all sound pretty good to me! 

I've been on the edge of giving the need monster the finger lately so I am definitely going to be trying this out (I will will NOT spare the pushups! I will NOT spare the foam roller! I will NOT spare doing a longer plank session!). 

Ok, now I will NOT spare attention to this slide. After that I will NOT spare finishing up my tasks before going home where I will NOT spare a rendezvous with the beer I brewed before Staycation. 


Wednesday, March 20, 2013


I started writing this several days ago in my head about enjoying finally being able to take walks. I was wondering when walking wouldn't be enough and I'd get the urge to run. It hasn't happened yet. This is what I've observed--when I see others run I'm jealous of them running. When I am by myself I don't feel like breaking into a run.

Having said that I have experienced pleasure running--free, loose and swift. That experience feels so distant to me now. I find myself having conversations about running vs. walking. Why I would do one or the other and especially what I think it says about me that I don't have the urge to run right now. Not that I'm supposed to run (not cleared for that yet) but that I don't have the urge. Seems like a failure of spirit somehow.

Happily, I don't spend a great deal of time dwelling on these mean thoughts. I walk daily around my neighborhood or near work and listen to books or podcasts. Its very relaxing and I enjoy the time outside (so grateful for spring time). Enjoying the enthusiasm of the moment is a wonderful thing indeed. Its hard to feel the pleasure of the moment when you have the nag of a goal waiting for you to get back in the game.

I was doing a similar thing with my work life.

I was spending a lot of time trying to find ways to really "care" about what I was doing. Everyone around me seems engaged and passionate about the work we're doing. I wanted to feel that too and felt there was something lacking in me that I wasn't playing the game with the same intensity.

I wanted to do work that was seen to be important. I worried about the impression I was making with my work, about showing my managers and peers that my work/thoughts were valuable. I was working very hard to be noticed and appreciated. I'd come home all ramped up and almost believing that I was finally on to something with my career. But there was always a little bit of me left behind that was waiting to also get swept up in my professional zeitgeist. That part of me wasn't catching up.

I do have islands of enjoyment at work--mostly when I connect with other people and help them through their issues. Usually, this is not connected to the body of activities that count as my job. However, it is what gives me a warm feeling. I tell myself this is the intangible I bring to the table--the reason to show up, to be present, to engage.

I just spent the last two days in and out of the hospital. My partner started having chest pains so we rushed to the emergency room to find out what was going on. It took several hours before the doctors could determine it was NOT a heart attack (we still don't know what is causing her pain).

Our friends and coworkers all expressed real concern for our well being, telling us to take the time we need, to relax.

Neither of us could relax. I won't speak for my partner but even in the emergency room I was taking furtive glances at my work email. I saw people looking for my attention RIGHT NOW (even from people who knew where I was and what I was doing).

What I tell others I find I must tell myself--people will treat you the way you allow them to.

As my partner rests from the day's trails, all the little email voices in the background seem to be a thousand miles away. From my living room window I can count the blossoms on my little peach tree. The clouds are gathering for rain. My dog is asleep at my feet.

I'm so grateful.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Introversion, leadership, work...

I'm always surprised when people say they think I'm extroverted. I'm not--I cultivated the ability to speak up in a group because its impossible to get anything done otherwise. I test Introvert 100% of the time on Myers Briggs and every other personality indicator I've ever used. This doesn't mean I dislike people or socializing--I just find groups larger than 3-5 to be extremely taxing (and depending on the group 3 can be a bit much).

I'm energized by long periods of solitude, working alone or with one or two others to bounce ideas off. Let someone else be in the spotlight...that's not for me.

Over the last few years I've taken on a number of roles that have required more extroversion than I care for. I thought it was time for me to be more serious about my career which in my industry usually means learning "leadership" skills. There is no way to sugar coat this--leadership favors extroversion. For every Warren Buffet there are 1000 wannabees trying to imitate Larry Ellison.

Its frustrating to me because the best things I have to offer come from being alone to consider and gestate. When a peer has an off the cuff idea that seems to come from some fit of ADHD and the group RUNS with it I want to scream. It's simply too fast and so much energy goes into following a path that may or may not have merits.

The continuous focus on presenting, defending, promoting...what work are we actually doing?

I would like to make something and just have it be used and perhaps even appreciated (loved?). I would like to dispense with the requirement for a PowerPoint deck. I would like to have a conversation over lunch about something that isn't work. When I leave at the end of the day I would like to not have flickers of anxiety because I know some of my peers work past midnight. I would like a work experience where my job isn't based on pulling things from other people. I would like to dispense with the artificial requirement for "goals" and annual reviews that are dreadful for both me and my manager.

Oh, and I'd like to not have a manager. What I'd like is a supporter--someone who helps when I'm stuck. I don't need to be "managed".

I once had a job where I made something. I made happy customers by solving their problems. I'm too disconnected from the pleasure of seeing the direct effect of my efforts. I think that's part of my frustration.

I guess I'm admitting I don't want to be a leader. I don't think I'm using my life wisely by trying to fit the leadership mold as promoted in my corporate life. I'm not willing.

Now that I have that off my chest I can figure out what it is I DO want to do. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bird Brain

I met with Coach Max yesterday. She gave me a lot to chew over. Sometimes conversations don't reveal the answer but are just part of the process of getting to the answer.

The session was hard for me. Max kept throwing pillows at me--Play! Sit in Cafes!

I was trying to get to the very very very very serious point of my meeting with her--my utter misery in one area of my life. After an hour I was feeling pretty crunchy and wanted to escape but at the last possible minute Max got me to notice something. I kept saying "it feels like I'm carrying the heaviest rock you can imagine".

Max: What does the rock look like...describe it to me.

Me: Its impossibly big...grey, the size of a sheep.

Max: Can you put it down.

Me: I've put it down. It rolled on its side.

Max: How do you feel now?

Me: Like picking it up again. My arms are itching to pick it up. I can feel them contracting.

Max: Well, pick it up.

Me: Ok.

Max: How does that feel?

Me:  Like I have my rock back. It fits perfectly against me.

I spent the afternoon pondering my rock. I wrote in my journal the phrase "I'm holding a big rock" over and over again. I noticed I wrote the words smaller and smaller. In my mind the rock was about the size of a potato. Actually it had turned into a potato. A raw, lumpy potato. But, much smaller than the original rock. I felt a little better.


Several years ago I started the habit of making daily pacts with myself--a way of looking for sign posts to show me my heart was on the right frequency.

One pact I would make frequently was to see a beautiful bird. For a time I was making daily requests to see wild turkeys. As I drove to my job I would see wild turkeys clustering by the side of the road. On the way home those same days I would see terns flying over the highway. High in the air with the fading daylight around them they looked angels.

I met a friend over the weekend for a walk at Rancho San Antonio. We saw the most beautiful flock of turkeys. They were only a few yards from us--one puffed his feathers out and spread his tail. I felt so incredibly lucky in that moment.  It reminded me of all I had to be grateful for. For a friend reaching out to me, for my recovered strength, for the beautiful day.

Its my anniversary today. Miss Keri and I have been together 14 years and have been friends since childhood. We exchanged cards under the covers before getting up for work and spent a few extra moments just being before rushing off to start our days.

Its easy to lose perspective when one area of life isn't working out or seems hard.

As I stood in the shower this morning my rock had turned into a Laura Ashley pillow--the kind filled with high loft down. It then became cloud like and drifted to the sky.

I knew in my heart what I needed to do. It wasn't much. I just forgot how to look at the world. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Notes from Staycation: Trade confirmed!

The trade for my jewelry tools and supplies has been confirmed. A young artist proposed trading two of her pieces for the set! Delightful! Once we make the exchange I will show off her work.

It's time for me to start reforming myself back into a member of the workforce. Laundry to be folded etc.

This headspace clearing time left me with more questions than answers. At least my morning meeting has been deferred because of a different meeting. Wish me clear eyes and a clear mind.

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Drawing

This is my hand--a drawing of my literal hand. This is figurative me--not an actual physical representation but an image representing my flailing about. The point? To try out these blue pencils from Tim Ferris. The rest is obvious.