Ah, Brussels airport.
Nice quiet haven for me.
Ah, Brussels airport.
Nice quiet haven for me.
I may need to reinforce some limits around my writing time, allowing myself just an hour each day. At least while I am still working full time in clinical research. I can lose literally hours off the clock when I am researching or writing on a topic that interests me, and I get to play with words, ideas and stories.
This week I am at a regional work meeting in Belgium and I am called upon social with my colleagues. I enjoy the opportunity to meet 1:1 or in small groups and have face-to-face conversations with those I usually interact with via phone or email. However all of the initial small-talk required when meeting so many new people drains my energy.
It occurs to me that maybe my soul is asking for a more minimalist approach to work networking and people-time, and this is another reason I am bringing this current phase of work to a close by September.
I feel at my best when I am doing “deep work” which involves thinking, reading, writing and synthesizing research. I still intend to make time for teaching, offering workshops and facilitating small group meetings. But my best ideas and most productive periods seem to emerge after periods of luxurious solitude and reflection.
This summer I am planning for 4-6 weeks off starting in August/September, if I can make it work between work “ventures.” Let’s see if I can honor that and keep the personal and family budget discipline it will require to make this break happen without undue stress.
I know if I declare this intention in writing, there is a higher likelihood I can make it happen. I am not as good at having accountability to others (it can sometimes cause me to rebel), but I tend to be better at honoring my word to myself.
What makes you lose hours off the clock? Do you have a creative practice or hobby that, when you start working on it, causes you to lose all track of time?
Yesterday I made an exception to my usual no alcohol rule and had a “Pink Killer” Belgian beer which had grapefruit juice and a lovely fruity finish. It was on the lighter side in terms of alcohol content, and I enjoyed it.
This was during a walk around the historic downtown area with two colleagues, one who had arrived a few hours earlier than me on Sunday. He had headed straight out to explore, as it is his first work-paid trip to Europe, and he does not want to miss a minute of the experience.
I used to do more of that, but this time, when I arrived after no sleep on the overnight flight, I treated myself to an short nap and some quiet and solitude during the afternoon my hotel. While I felt a little guilty about not making use of the sight-seeing time, I know it is a necessary part of centering myself for a busy and people-filled week.
I realize now that my choices reflect a feeling of sufficiency instead of scarcity in my beliefs. I do not feel a desperate and grasping sensation of never having this opportunity again. Instead of telling myself that “I’m missing out” I say instead “I am taking care of myself.” That makes a huge difference in the way I show up and honor my needs without guilt or shame.
Granted this was not an automatic process, and involved a little self-coaching when I started feeling bad about not getting out. It was a conscious choice to tell myself a different story, to help take a perspective that is nourishing to me. It takes practice, and requires patience with old patterns. But the more practicing I do, the easier it gets.
Have a great week!
I write this entry after venturing down to the lobby to get coffee to bring back to my room. I really love travel, and I always enjoy visiting Mexico, but my introvert self can get a little over-stimulated with all the meetings, people, traffic, noise, etc. Part of my survival strategy involves using the hotel room as a personal sanctuary some of the time.
It was a long day, yesterday but a productive one. We held four interviews for the position we have open in the Mexico office, and all candidates had their merits. Each was quite different from the others, so my colleague and I will have to think on it, and consider which qualities are the most important for this particular role.
After returning to the hotel around 7:30 I ordered room service and did a little writing and reflecting in my journal while listening to some podcasts. For those of you who are “foodies” I give you a photo of my tacos de pollo con tocino. I have never had chicken and BACON in tacos before, and I will definitely do that again someday.
I had intended to wind down early after dinner, but for some reason while writing, something “broke open” in my brain, or perhaps my soul had some insight that had been buried under the surface. It was about a dream I am writing up for my coaching assignment, and I realized it had gotten buried under the weight of expectations for my life.
My colleague had asked me a question earlier in the day that reminded me how I’d shared that dream with others on my team, that I want to go on a honeymoon in Europe with my husband. Originally we had planned to take a month off work for our 1-year anniversary to spend at least 3 weeks traveling in the U.K. and Spain specifically, with a little connecting trip through France along the way. I have been to the Netherlands and to Switzerland on work trips, and thoroughly enjoyed each trip. But that is not the same as traveling with a loved one and having shared adventures.
I had really gotten excited about that possibility, and was dreaming up the details, and somehow that dream got sidetracked. After the wedding, when we talked about it, I felt some pressure to instead work on saving for a house. (Not really from my husband, but more from family, who want us to be responsible and not frivolous.) I realize buying a house is a dream for a lot of people but last night as I was writing, something dislodged in my brain and I realized that on a one-year time horizon, that is not my dream.
I still want to travel with my husband in Europe, and I want to have this experience together earlier rather than later in our lives. For me, since I have bought and sold homes twice, to me that is not a dream, it feels more like a societal obligation. While parts of me know that eventually it is something I may enjoy, right now it does not feel like a priority.
So while I had intended to wind down last night, my brain actually cranked up to examine: why did I let go of that dream so easily? What is stopping us from returning to it? Is it too late to re-engage in that planning? I realized the thought of it excites me and gets my pulse racing a bit.
In contrast, when I consider buying a home, my feeling is kind of a “trapped” one, which may be telling me something. While I tried to calm my thought, meditating, playing soothing music, and the like, I ended up not dropping off until 3 a.m. so I am running on less than 4 hours sleep today. Oy. Well, I have done this in plenty of times in my life. Though it is not ideal, I will be very gentle with myself and it will be okay.
Travel is a joy to me despite knowing that my introvert self needs to take restorative breaks and to have “sanctuary” in a part of each day. There is a sense of creativity, of possibility, of observation and reflection about the world that gets activated by my travels.
This morning, thankfully, I do not have meetings so I am going to the office around 11:30, after some time to gather my thoughts and plan for the rest of the week. I have appointments with colleagues over lunch and in the afternoon. Self-care in advance will ensure I can be fully present with them.
I am struck with this incredible sense of privilege and gratitude for the life I live and the opportunities I have. While my choices in life may be unconventional, I know that denying or ignoring my dreams does not serve me or anyone else. We cannot always articulate the reasons for our deep desires because they come from somewhere within our souls. When we do not honor them, or work toward them, something within us dies.
I don’t dance. I am trying to remember when I last danced. I guess it might the time I drank a couple of strong aguardientes in Colombia and danced for a few minutes at Andres Carne de Res with a couple colleagues. Now that I have given up alcohol, I can’t see myself repeating that. I needed to be a bit sauced for it. I danced a bit in high school, to those stupid pop songs where people just move around to the music. I guess that really cannot be called dancing. I certainly never thought of myself as good as it. And I was way too self-conscious about my body to do more of it.
How’s that for defying a Latina stereotype?
I have rhythm, so that’s not the problem. When I was a little girl my Dad would put earphones on my head and I would start swaying my head. He thought it was adorable. My family is very musical, as I discovered when I went back to Mexico 3.5 years ago to visit.
I played the flute in middle and high school, and the saxophone in high school. I was also in the choir for all of high school. I know music, and I certainly love music. But I don’t dance.
One of my favorite songs by Lady Gaga is the tune Just Dance. Ironic, no? I am a runner, and it is part of my running mix. When I hear it, I think of my run as a “dance” – just move, just keep going, even though things are hard (or so my interpretation goes…).
My favorite yoga teacher also teaches a Zumba dance class. She is a former professional dancer, and she is always so graceful in the way she moves. I keep wishing I were brave enough to go to her Zumba class. But I am not there yet.
My husband and I have this aspect of our lives in common. We met while we were pursuing relatively crazy running goals nearly 8 years ago. He was trying to become a “marathon maniac” and that year (2010) I became a “half fanatic.” To become a maniac, you need to run 2 marathons within 16 days or 3 marathons within 90 days. The fanatics had similar qualifiers.
I have always been more comfortable with numbers and measurable goals rather than artistic pursuits. It is why I went into the sciences rather than the humanities, perhaps.
Lately I have been noticing a desire to learn to dance. It is just the hint of a desire, not a compelling desire. My husband likes to tease me about my lack of dancing ability, my “white girl dance”, even though he is as self-conscious about dancing as I am. He took me to a U-2 concert last September and I moved to the music, but I wouldn’t call it dancing.
About 5 years ago, one of the team-building events my team did together was in Argentina. They took a tango lesson together, but I managed to get out of it. That was before I was the leader of the group, so I did not choose the activity. I was pretty determined not to humiliate myself in front of my colleagues.
I realize that my mental dialogue about dance is very much a product of my own insecurities. It is about how I silly I feel moving my hips in a way that probably is not “loose” and comfortable, like so many women. It is about how I think people expect me to be, as a Latina. Surely I cannot be a “beginner” at age 43?!?
Why is it that the beginner’s mindset in yoga or meditation is so much easier for me? I guess because others do not judge my meditation or yoga. I think my desire to dance is related to a desire for freedom. It is about not caring what other people think, and I want to get there someday. I realize I still harbor body shame, after many years of trying to lose weight, and not being okay with my body size or shape.
Dance is play. To dance is to be vulnerable. To dance is to use our bodies to express something that cannot be said in words. This is what dance represents to me. I am not sure yet when or how I will explore this desire. But in 2018, I will learn to dance.
Do you remember that episode of the Twilight Zone called “Time Enough At Last”? I own the Twilight Zone complete collection on DVD, and this is an episode worth watching if you have ever wished for “time enough” to do what you want.
Henry Bemis wants one thing in life: more time to read. I have so much empathy for Henry. There are times when I really long for more solitude and reading time. Henry works at a bank but sneaks down to the vault during his lunch hours to read.
But not only does he do that, he tries to read while he is doing his job, which means he does not do that job so well. He clearly feels “put upon” by the world, his job and his wife, since nobody seems to understand his thirst for books and reading time. But I have deep empathy for his suffering.
Prior to my appendectomy, I was really wishing for some reading time and contemplation. I wanted some time off from work when I could just read, relax and enjoy some time to myself. I looked forward to the holiday break coming up – my workplace shuts down between Christmas and the New Year. I was feeling rather “put upon” at work myself, and I just wanted an escape. I have had on my mind a sabbatical, and while I think this is not so practical in my current job, I viscerally ached for this kind of break.
I would not have chosen to go to the hospital to have emergency appendectomy surgery in order to get out of work. I have been fortunate to recover very quickly, but now find myself with a head cold. Okay, my body demands more time to rest, just as I’m trying to get a few chores done before the holidays.
One day while reading down in the vault Henry Bemis is knocked unconscious by a shock wave. He awakens to discover that the world has been devastated by a nuclear war. At first he is in shock, walking through all the devastation around him, and he decides to commit suicide. But then he sees the ruins of a library, his paradise!
He gleefully piles up the books, thinking he has a supply to keep him busy for years to come, with all the time he needs. But as he settles to read his glasses slip off his nose and smash on the ground, trapping him in a blurry world forever. “That’s not fair! That’s not fair at all! There was time now. There was all the time I wanted! That’s not fair!” (I found a 3-minute video on YouTube if you want to see that scene. It still breaks my heart).
Poor Henry. Life is not fair. Bad things happen. And yet this is the way of life. We get sick, our plans go awry, and we have to adjust. We must get extra rest. We must slow down and respect our body’s limits. We must acknowledge that we do not control everything, and stop resisting and arguing with reality.
Oh boy, Henry. You and I have a long way to go.
Holidays can be stressful for people, and for some, they can be a sad time if they have had a loss or any painful memories. Family dynamics can be challenging, and many of us love our families but struggle with the amount of expectations for this season.
Facebook and the Hallmark channel give us the idea that people are living finely-polished perfect little lives. But the reality is that those experiences are carefully curated (on FB) and designed to market things to you.
I enjoy certain parts of the holiday, the food, some time to visit with family and having extra time off from work to sleep in (if that is possible, which is hard for a morning person like me). But since cutting way back on sugar and flour, realizing these tend to mess up my sleep and make me feel like crap, it can be hard to turn down treats that are offered.
To be honest, I do not really enjoy the gift-giving that comes with Christmas (in my tradition) anymore. I find it stressful and prefer the Thanksgiving holiday because it is more about gratitude than getting more stuff than you need. I’m old enough now that I typically buy things for myself that I want, so when people ask for “gift lists” I guess I am spoiled enough that I just don’t NEED things.
Here in Minnesota, a combination of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) due to dark winters, and a lack of time outside during the cold, can be especially challenging. I have coped with this difficulty in different ways and I will list 5 of my personal favorite tips here:
Here is a link to an article on Medicinet has some more facts and information about Holiday Depression, Anxiety and Stress. Psychology today also has an interesting article with more resources that I found helpful.
Realize that if someone you love is a little down that it does not really help to tell them to “cheer up” or “look on the bright side.” They are probably trying, and letting them know that the holidays can be hard for anyone, that you still want to spend time with them even if they are not full of holiday cheer.
Be kind. Be kind. Be kind. That would be my best advice for dealing with any “holiday hell” you may experience. Have compassion for yourself and others. Realize you and they are doing their best. Have gratitude for clean water, good food and maybe a cozy time to reflect on the year ahead.
If you have not seen the Ted Talk by Sarah Corbett bearing the title above, and you are interested in the topic, please watch it. Slowing down and thinking deeply is one way we make social change. I encourage you to view the video and/or view the transcript. I suspect many of you out there, as writers, reader and thinkers (that is what we bloggers do best, right?) may also be introverts.
As someone who is deeply concerned with the future of our planet, and many of the challenges facing us in the world today, I struggle sometimes with how to get involved. Back when I used to do more political activities and campaign organizing, I realized these activities had tendency to burn me out. So I have been considering other ways I can engage people in social change. Sarah Corbett’s video is a beautiful affirmation that there are ways to become involved in a quieter way, and her story is powerful.
Introverts can make great leaders, when channeling their efforts in a way that fuels them. If you see yourself as a leader, but also know that you require a certain amount of solitude and down-time to recharge your batteries, I also recommend Susan Cain’s work. Her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking was game-changing for me. I saw myself in her work and realized that I was not the only introvert trying to fulfill my potential in an extrovert world.
Solitude can be a crucial ingredient to creativity. Having time for “deep work” and reflection are critical to choosing activities that are most productive and strategic. Our workplaces, schools and world is not really set up for introverts to thrive. Group work is encouraged in schools and required in the workplace. Offices is with “open” plans are designed to spur interaction a cafe-like atmosphere.
I had to fight to defend my office cube last year to be sure I could get a quiet corner to work when the clinical research floor went to an open plan. I spend 40-60% of my time in meetings (mostly teleconferences since my team is international). But when I need to focus on a particular project, I appreciate at least having some walls to keep out noise and block out peripheral distractions. I also work at home 1-2 days a week when I am not traveling, so that helps me manage my introvert energy. Also: I do not have to wear grown-up clothes on those days! 🙂
What about you? Are there strategies you use to go out into the world and get the work done you need to accomplish, while also honoring your introvert needs? For me, I am always sure to plan a lot of down time to recharge after I have had to travel or lead meetings. I would love to hear from you on this topic if you care to comment below.