Leaning into discomfort

For the last couple of days I had the privilege to observe a “culture transformation” facilitation 2-day session with a colleague who is a professional consultant. It was an intense but productive couple of days. In my usual fashion, I am still processing internally the lessons I observed about the group and about myself.

This was unlike other sessions I have personally conducted, but many of the issues were similar. My goal was to learn as much as possible, be of help when I could to the facilitator, and consider how I may apply these lessons to my future work.

I realized during the process that I would have to lean into my discomfort, meeting 15 leaders of R&D and business cross-functional partners gathered for this meeting. Only 1 of the leaders was a woman, along with the admin and the HR director, and the rest were men. (With the facilitator and myself, there were 5 women total, less than a third of the room).

The first day I was a bit overwhelmed by it, actually. I pick up on the emotional states of others quite easily, and it felt like my empathy channels were flooded with input. By the end of the day, though I was invited to the happy hour and dinner that followed, I was desperately in need of a break from the action to quiet my mind. Fortunately I had this, about 40 minutes between others leaving the room, and joining them for the informal portion of that day’s events.

women in boardroom
Photo credit link

It reminded me of how I typically feel after attending one of my own team meetings where I am fully engaged and “on” the whole day. But since Latin America teams rarely re-convene before 7 or 8pm to have dinner, the break in between is typically longer. Usually that has meant I sacrifice sleep, since we return to the hotel around 11 and it takes me an hour or two to calm my jangled nervous system after all the people interaction.

As a morning person, I seldom sleep past 5am, so a 3-day meeting leaves me exhausted and depleted, even if it was a productive event. So I plan for this, and I ensure that before and after these meetings, I have plenty of solitude, writing time, meditation. I go on walks, do yoga, sit with my cat on my lap when possible, and allow for the impressions to seep and filter into consciousness.

Leaning into discomfort is possible because I know myself. I realize it does not indicate anything has gone wrong. These preferences may be hard-wired or habitual, and I am aware of when I must step into it. The observations of interactions between people fascinate me, and this particular group had a few real characters. The “lab” of human interaction is at play, and while it can be challenging, my curiosity typically redeems the discomfort involved.

I typically enjoy interactions 1:1 with people and in small groups, where I feel I am able to focus my sensory “data collection” if you will. I am curious about how my comfort level may evolve over time and with practice. Right now I am allowing for the learning, as challenging as it is, and being patient with my discomfort. It is all part of the growth process, and for that I am grateful.

Happy weekend, amigos.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Wellness Wednesday – food and social pressure

This week I am introducing a topic which may be one of a series, since it is complex topic. But it arose for me as I was attending a work gathering last night and observing the way in which I and others approached the food and alcohol service on a patio restaurant for a social event.

First let me say that work social events have always made me a bit uncomfortable. Over the years I have learned ways to enjoy them (generally without alcohol) but as an introvert, they wear me out. Especially after a long day of meetings, a work event to attend can feel like a special brand of hell to those of us who just want a break from having to interact with people.

For many years, my approach was to be sure I had a glass or two of wine, or a beer, to help myself relax during these events. Many of us know alcohol to be a “social lubricant” and rely on it for loosening up our tongue and not feeling as tense or nervous about having to make small talk.

delicious food.JPG
Photo credit link

A couple of years ago I decided to stop drinking completely for a period of time. While I am not alcoholic I noticed I was relying too heavily on wine to relieve my discomfort, and I did not like the habitual nature and automatic desire every evening. It was at the same time that I realized I am in a work culture where many, many people drink at work social events. It is a norm, and I suppose among a lot of introverted engineer types, social lubricant many seem like a necessity sometimes.

When I was not drinking, I felt a lot of pressure from colleagues, and the only answer that caused people to back off from asking why I was not drinking was to tell them it interferes with my sleep. Somehow, then it is less socially acceptable to pressure someone to drink.

But the same goes for pressure around desserts: when you do not have a dessert on my team, everyone gives you crap about it! Tons of pressure.

So the point I want to make in this brief blog (since I will need to run off to meetings again today) is that we often eat, not because we are hungry, but for other reasons, like social pressure. We drink for reasons like that as well.

There is a great episode of Hidden Brain which discusses this topic, and I encourage you to listen if you are interested in the topic of food and psychology. Why we eat goes far beyond actual physical hunger. It sometimes has to do with being unable to tolerate social pressure or personal discomfort.

But we can teach ourselves how to pay attention to our own hunger signals and become comfortable with the momentary discomfort of rejecting food when we really do not want it. Learning this skill we strengthen our ability to make other challenging choices as well, and for me, that has transformed my ability to manage my weight.

Okay, time is limited and I think I will make this into a series, continuing the topic on my next Wellness Wednesday when I will be home and not at all-day work meetings. Happy hump day!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

This moment, this breath

All we have is this moment. The past exists only in our memories. And the future exists only in our imagination.

Neither the past nor the future exist, except in our minds.

All we have is this moment, right now, anchored to the body by this breath, and our awareness of being HERE.

By awakening to this moment, developing the awareness to keep coming back here again and again, we develop gratitude and wonder for the abundance all around us.

People and companies from all channels, teevee, and internet, try to sell us happiness, in a can of Coke, the latest shoes, car or whatever accessory they urge us to buy and consume.

In the meantime, when we are aware that nothing outside of us can bring us true joy, and that we can tap an inner well of joy at any time, we are truly free.

We give thanks for our existence, for that miracle of being born in a time when we can create, as a species, more than we will ever need to survive.

We become conscious of over-using resources of the earth without regard for consequences. By not cultivating ecological harmony for future generations, we short-change the gift we simply received with no work on our part. It was granted just by being born of this earth.

As we sit in stillness and awareness of this moment, let us realize this great gift. Let us restore and heal our mother earth  and honor her for how she has fed us and sheltered us. We thank her for granting all the raw materials we need to apply our human ingenuity to transform into tools for better living.

She has not failed us and continues to give generously. Let us pledge never to fail her.

divine feminine
Photo credit link – The Divine Feminine and Return of the Sacred Wisdom of Creation

Amen.

(a prayer/meditation to honor the divine feminine, handwritten by mexi minnesotana on March 1, 2018, transcribed March 2, 2018.)

Getting ugly

Yesterday I read a piece in the Guardian by Barbara Kingsolver entitled “#MeToo isn’t enough. Now women need to get ugly

It was a thought-provoking piece and I am still mulling it over today, in light of world news, and in light of experiences I have had in my life and career.

“Patriarchy persists because power does not willingly cede its clout; and also, frankly, because women are widely complicit in the assumption that we’re separate and not quite equal.”

She explains how we are so embedded within the patriarchy that sometimes it is difficult to perceive it. I have heard patriarchy likened to being a fish in water, but not knowing what “water” is – it is the stuff we swim around in every day. We do not know what it is because we have never been without it for any length of time. Patriarchy is like water: it envelopes our lives in such a way that it becomes our reality.

But fortunately humans are not fish. And our breathing is not dependent on the existence of the patriarchy, though it may seem like our livelihoods indeed depend on it for many.

I realize part of my aversion to corporate life these days reflects partly an exhaustion with a patriarchal system that does not value work based on merit. It privileges the contributions of one gender over another. It does not value people and their multiplicity of contributions, the range of what they could bring to the table when given an opportunity.

I am fortunate to work in a company that places a high value on employees as people, and usually lives up to that tenet of our mission. But looking at a wall of inductees to its highest scientific honor society, counting the ~70 people’s faces and realizing that just 10% of them our women, I sigh and wonder.

There are so many barriers to women attempting to enter realms of work like science, engineering, politics, higher management. Some of these barriers are internal: we lack  confidence or we are not sure we have the competence to enter. We erect higher standards for ourselves than men have to try these positions, and worry more about making mistakes.

The socialization of women and girls has evolved a bit in the 4+ decades since I was born. The availability of sports teams and competitive opportunities has allowed more of us to challenge ourselves and take leadership in new areas. And yet when we lack critical mass, we must work much harder to build professional alliances and networks.

getting ugly

The “old boys club” is very much a reality in many of the corporate environments where we work. My own experience has shown me that men who mentor and sponsor us at work can be professional and appropriate in their behavior. But patriarchy functions subtly here as well.

My boss treats me a bit like a daughter figure – I can tell he is proud of me and my achievements. He wants me to “brag” more and to make sure others know about my accomplishments.  He allows me to make my own mistakes and learn from my experiences. But he has also been protective of me in a way that may be different from how he has treated his male proteges. Whether that is an aspect of personality or of systemic bias, it is impossible to really separate out. We swim in patriarchy so clear vision is obscured.

This morning I will return to a project group of mostly men (25% women) to work on a design project for technology that needs an upgrade. I found myself wanting to share more of my creativity yesterday during the “ideation” phase of our human-centered design process. But I found myself holding back. I was not sure why. The group is unfamiliar to me, and that is a barrier sometimes.

It does no good to blame the patriarchy when we struggle to get our ideas out, when there are also internal barriers as well. But it does help to understand the context of why women are less confident putting themselves out there. Kingsolver notes: “It’s really not possible to overreact to uncountable, consecutive days of being humiliated by men who say our experience isn’t real…” 

Exactly. This type of rape culture makes working “outside our comfort zone” a regular and daily occurrence. Is it any wonder that taking risks in business or engineering feels so dangerous? While many of us learn to live and even thrive in these environments, we also realize women are disproportionately attacked and thus we remain on guard for more of waking hours.

I am contemplating the the notion of getting ugly as Kingsolver recommends. I definitely think we need to dispense with making ourselves pretty and “acceptable” and comfortable for men. It simply does not serve anyone, ourselves or the wider world, to neglect the gifts and talents of half the world’s population.

Men have been ugly to women privately in ways that are now becoming public. And it has caused some seismic shifts in the way women realize how non-personal and cultural all of that behavior has been. I agree that we must never tolerate this behavior, and if that makes me ugly, I am fine with that.