Some of the verses hit me almost viscerally, they speak so powerfully to truths that have been emerging in my life recently. So I will share a couple of them. Perhaps they will resonate with you as well.
It is easier to try
to be better
than you are
than to be
who you are.
-From a chapter entitled “Beyond Perfection & Duty.” (page 67)
has slower rhythms,
moves in spirals,
turns back on herself,
finds what is meaningful to her,
-from a chapter entitled “Conscious Femininity.” (page 147)
Wow. Mind blown. I am trying not to rush through reading this book, which is designed and written as a series of daily reflections. But it hard not to continue more quickly when I find some deep resonances for me.
This is the power of beautiful writing that has deep resonance with soul. It is like an internal connection is made, a “click” into our inner wholeness that fits things into place.
Hope you have a great week, friends. May you find those words that speak the wisdom you need today.
I took the plunge yesterday and went much shorter on the hair. My stylist told me it takes a strong woman to pull off short hair effectively. I like that. I am going to rock the short hair. It is a symbolic way for me to “signal” the changes to my work colleagues, since I will be seeing several on my team next week in Belgium.
I have decided to come out of “hiding” here on the blog as well, since I aim to integrate the work and personal worlds I inhabit, gradually, at a pace that works for me.
About 8 years ago, I was going through another big life transition and was not as attentive or focused at work as I strive to be. I felt burned out and my boss was blithely dumping more work onto an already full plate. I had no sense of boundaries or how to say no. I had not yet learned how to communicate my distress effectively, to ask for help or to push back.
In addition to that, I had moved out of the home where I had been living for a few years with my partner and his children (part-time, as they also spent time with their mother). I had not yet grieved the loss of that life, even though my soul was relieved that I had left.
Perceiving my lack of commitment and energy for a few weeks during my move, my boss asked me what was wrong and suspected there was something outside of work bothering me. In fact there was, and I explained to her (in a vague way) what was going on. Instead of having empathy and giving me some understanding about my need to heal, she put me on a performance improvement plan.
For those who do not know, this is code for “you’d better shape up and get into gear or you will get fired.” The letter she gave to me outlined the ways in which I needed to improve my work within 90 days or I may be terminated. It was a shock to me. I was also bitter about the fact that she seemed to use the personal information I shared with her against me.
Looking back there are many other ways to interpret her actions. But it was the time I began walling off parts of my professional life from my personal life, as much as I could. I had been “hiding” my a.d.d. from her as well, even though I had seen it as an asset to the position, my flexibility in catching whatever was tossed my way, up to a point.
I gathered my energy, went to see an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) counselor at my workplace, and tried to figure out how I was going to make this work. He helped me see that I was suffering from a minor depression and that I needed to take more proactive steps to communicate with my boss on the work overload. He explained that managers at this workplace like it when employees come to them with potential solutions, not just problems.
He helped me figure out more effective ways to communicate, rather than the passive-aggressive (i.e. Minnesotan) tactic I had been using to push back. He also referred me to the book The Chemistry of Joy, by Dr. Henry Emmons, which helped me proactively manage my depression through both Western and Eastern wisdom. Wow, am I ever grateful for his support and help.
I worked my ass off to get out of the PIP. Even though my boss was not yet thrilled with my work, she said I had improved substantially. It was not until the year after that, when we hired a second person to help with the growing workload, that she really appreciated my skills. It was really hard to find someone who knew clinical research and who was also bilingual! We were not just a dime a dozen. She began treating me differently and better, appreciating my unique constellation of skills.
For the past three years I have held (and rocked) the manager position that she left when she opted to go to a different department. I am a better boss because of that experience, even though it was hellish at the time. I want to come “out of hiding” with my struggles because I want others to know you can get through tough times and come out on the other side. It is important to find support, and to realize you are not alone.
You will get through it, and you will develop amazing resilience in the process. Peace and love, readers.
One of my favorite meditations from Insight Timer is by Anna Guest-Jelly called “May I Know What I Know.” It involves a body scan in which we are moved through body starting with the feet, and moving to each region. After the exercise, we consider if there are any places we could not feel, that may have been “offline” from our awareness, so to speak.
The more I practice this body awareness and deliberately tune into places in the body that may be mysterious, the more I tune into emotions. Sometimes I realize why there are “frozen” parts – those emotions may be difficult ones, like grief or anger. I am still learning to feel those emotions all the way through, and sit with them. It is an exercise in compassion and patience to realize I have habitually escaped those feelings, or pushed them under with distraction, food, or other buffers (like busy-ness) rather than to be still with them.
But now that I realize these feelings are an important emotional compass for me, I have begun to “invite myself back” more often. I tune into that channel – my gut, my shoulders, my back, sometimes my lower spine, when they are trying to tell me something. Rather than get lost in thought, and spinning mental energy, I aim to come back to the body, invite my whole self back.
This tendency to abandon the body and thus abandon ourselves is well-supported by our culture. Feeling our emotions and tuning into our intuition is seen as fluffy or woo-woo in many circles. But as I do it more, and acknowledge the times when I have buried my needs and wants in favor of pleasing other people, it gives me pause.
Women are well-conditioned to attending to others’ needs and taking care of partners, children, bosses, teammates, even parents sometimes. But we do not always attend to our own bodies, our own yearnings. I inadvertently learned in my family that we could (and perhaps should) ignore these needs in favor of taking care of others. This abandonment does not serve us long-term though.
Even the airlines tell us to put on our own mask before helping others. Inviting ourselves back can feel like a radical act of rebellion against patriarchy. It asks us to make everyone else comfortable, and to remain small and and of service, never demanding anything for ourselves. And yes, I think it is patriarchy that promotes this idea of the “good daughter” and it is one we must dismantle.
When we invite ourselves back, we ground ourselves in our truth. We allow ourselves to live in greater harmony with nature, and with our bodies, part of nature. We begin to understand the connected nature of all people, of all parts of the universe. We feel compassion for ourselves and for others in their struggles. We make different choices that are more sustainable for ourselves and thus can serve others with a spirit of generosity rather than resentment.
Inviting ourselves back means we have to set appropriate boundaries and say no to things that do not align with our purpose or intention. That can be very hard for those of us who were trained to say “yes” to everything we are asked to do. We can be perceived as “uppity” or trouble-makers, or not those nice girls we used to be.
It is a daily practice, inviting ourselves back. It does not simply happen one day, and then all things change. It is a daily choice, a habit that grows easier with regular practice. If we want to make sustainable change in the world, I believe it is non-negotiable. The world needs our whole and integrated selves. Our souls call for this as well.
Consider inviting yourself back today and centering on what your body is telling you. I would love to know how this changes or decisions and your results.
Have you ever had a realization about something in your life that was so obvious that you cannot believe you did not see it before?
This happened to me as I was preparing my coaching homework for this week. We had uncovered my “martyr” tendency in my last session 2 weeks ago. I was asked to pay attention to those times when the martyr’s voice came up, and what the voice sounds like. As it turns out, it was a combination of parental voices.
You know those voices?
They are the ones that you usually realize, maybe expressions your parents used to use, or things they used to say. I think parents of young children start to realize they have internalized the parental voice in their patterns and unconscious responses to their children. Some people who are really aware (and have perhaps been to therapy) realize this and say: oh goodness! I’m turning into my Dad! (or Mom).
When I considered where my Catholic-seeming inappropriate guilt came from, considering I was not raised Catholic, I realized that my name is Cristy. That means: follower of Christ. Oh dear. I was named after the ultimate martyr of the Catholic and Christian faith. Also named after my Mom who has a variation of that name.
Oh well. I come by the martyr complex honestly. My parents named me after all. I didn’t choose the name. I only chose to retain the behavior. To protect to privacy of the innocent, I leave it at that for now.
What is in a name? Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?
For me, as a feminist woman and someone who did not change my name in my first marriage or in my second (and final) recent marriage, I never even considered changing my name. I don’t like the tradition of treating a woman as an “owned” object – first belonging to her father and then belonging to her husband, with the label stuck on for each occasion.
Pardon me while I get out this little airplane barf bag…
Hopefully most women of my generation are past that kind of thing, right?
No offense if you didn’t like your name, and your husband’s name was more unique so you changed it. If you are a Smith or a Jones, perhaps changing the name was a good idea. I won’t judge. It’s your choice these days, after all. I have fantasized about having a name that is a symbol. I love it that Prince became “the artist formerly known as…” That is true innovation.
I want a symbol! What is a symbol for mexi-minnesotana? I’m gonna copyright it… any of you graphic artist out there want to design something for me? Maybe I’ll start a contest. I have been thinking about how to brand my site, but I digress.
My Mexican last name has become more a part of my professional trademark in the past decade. I work for a division of the company that serves patients in Latin America. Even though my pale Swedish ancestor skin hides part of my heritage, when people see my last name, they become aware of the possible Latina origin. When they hear my Spanish, they are usually confused. Good accent. Questionable grammar. Where the heck are you from?
In any case, it was a big light bulb going on to realize I don’t need “crucify myself” or taken on a savior/rescuer role my whole life. I may need to adopt a different name or at least a different voice from Mary the Martyr. She has good intentions, but I need to evolve her behavior for a bit.
The cosmic joke has not been lost on me. Now that I am aware of it, at least I can reign the martyr complex in a little more deliberately.
Happy Friday, peeps! Hope my U.S. friends have adjusted to the time change by now, and all of you, have a fabulous weekend!
Yesterday afternoon I wrote a post in advance, then “scheduled” it so I could read it in the morning, edit and publish. Apparently WordPress ate the 700 word post. Oops. I have no idea how that happened. But spending a lot of time trying to recover a lost document is a waste. It’s best just to get started on the next one without a lot of drama or delay.
This morning I will meet with a VP for our Corporate Science and Technology division at work, my director’s boss. He has been a career mentor for me, and my director has encouraged me to meet with him once a quarter as I figure out my next move.
I am typically anxious about what to wear to such meetings.
My work “costume” has been evolving a lot in the past year or two. I already wrote about “grown up clothes” in a previous post. I had always read that you should dress for the position to which you aspire, or at least a level up, not necessarily the position you have. In corporate leadership functions at my company, that typically means for women dresses and heels.
As someone more comfortable in jeans and t-shirt, that was a transition for me. But I embraced my feminine side and realized that dresses are actually more comfortable than pants most of the time. A friend of mine likes to say they as comfy as pajamas but people actually think you look nice! She’s right about that, except during Minnesota winter, when they just seem stupid when your legs and feet are cold for the sake of fashion.
Work clothing can be a kind of “armor” we put on in the morning, to convey a sense of authority or power. As long as we feel comfortable with what we wear, and it does not “clash” with our sense of ourselves, I think it can enhance our confidence. Fake it until you become it, as Amy Cuddy says in her Ted Talk. A few wonder woman poses before a big event will not hurt either. Your body language may speak even more highly than your clothing, so it is worth being mindful of how comfortable you feel and what you project.
I realize that what I project at work does not really capture authentically who I am, and I am trying to figure out if I can bridge that gap. My husband bought me riding chaps last year before our summer motorcycle trip around Lake Superior. A friend teased me about it because he thought of chaps as a sex fetish thing. But hubby likes to say “dress for the slide, not the ride.” I know that my work colleagues would probably be shocked to see me dressed in jeans, chaps, and a black motorcycle jacket. It definitely does not alight with my work costume or the image I have sought to project at work.
At the same time, the motorcycle gear “costume” expresses my desire for freedom and for being engaged with the world in a different way. In a very practical sense, it is safety gear. And it is also represents a different part of my identity that is not something I feel comfortable bringing to work.
As I write this, I also know that the mask I wear as part of my work costume is getting a little old and tired as well. Having to feign enthusiasm for a job that is “over and done” for me in a fundamental way takes a lot of energy. It is not something I can do for much longer.
I believe that when we bring our whole, authentic selves to work we excel and produce our best work. Maybe there is room for that in my corporation, and maybe not. It is worth speaking up about my real feelings and thoughts to see if this is met with acceptance or with rejection. Either way, I will know whether I might find some other place in the organization or whether I need to move on.
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.
You can look it up on You-Tube if you have not heard it in a while. I looked it up recently because I could not remember all the lyrics.
I don’t like the line about “sleepy señorita” with eyes on fire. That feeds into a cultural stereotype that rings dissonant and untrue to all the non-sleepy Mexicanas I know, that work harder than 99% of the Americanos I know. But other than that, Taylor’s song is a dreamy fantasy on his idea of what Mexico must be like:
Woh, down in Mexico, I’ve never really been so I don’t really know.
Woh, Mexico, I guess I’ll have to go.
Next week I will travel to Mexico to interview some clinical research specialist candidates for an open position on my team. I always enjoy visiting, even though I prefer the country-side and the beach to the big city. I feel at home in Mexico in a way, even though my skin is lighter than most people (thanks to my Swedish grandmother) and I am also taller than most people there, at nearly 5’8″.
I guess you could say I have a romance with Mexico. It makes sense. Half of my blood ancestry is from there, and when I speak Spanish, it is with the same accent as my Dad, from whence my language skills arose as a young child. When I speak with my colleagues in Latin America, sometimes they ask me where I am from. I am sure they are thinking: “Her accent sounds authentic, but her grammar sucks! Where the heck did she learn her Spanish?”
Well, perhaps they judge me less harshly than I judge myself. But since it takes me about 48 hours down there to “flip on” the Spanish module in my brain, my grammar usually takes a little while to catch up with my communication intentions. My “lengua materna” – my “mother tongue” is English. Typically for children our mother tongue is our primary language, our base from which other languages can grow, if we speak more than one.
Early in my childhood, I visited Mexico. When I was 1, 3 and 7 we visited during the summers (my parents were teachers). I was “mariposa” and “reinecita” to my grandparents there, butterfly and little queen. Early photographs of me with them show their pride in me. They loved how I looked at my wrist as though there was a watch when people asked me “qué hora son?” (what’s the time?) even before I could really speak. They knew I understood.
When I was 7 years old, my Dad his lost his Mom to cancer (the same year my Mom lost her Father to cancer) and after that, he did not have the heart to visit his home town of Saltillo again for decades. Dad is not fond of airplanes, and he prefers to drive down. I flew down in 2014 to meet him there, while he drove the long journey after a stop in Texas to visit with his sister and her family.
I spent about a week there, and I was fascinated to discover how musically talented my family is, and how beautifully they sing and play the guitar together. My Dad has been a musician for much of his life, playing on weekends and during the summer as a “side gig” even though his main profession was as a bilingual teacher. I wrote before about how my Mom first met him when she studied in Mexico after graduating from college in less than 4 years to teach Spanish.
I called Mom from Mexico during that trip, while I was staying in the duplex where my four of my aunties live. Two of my aunties are nuns, one of them is a widow and one is married with two beautiful children. Mom asked me if now I knew why she fell in love with Dad and his whole family. Indeed I did. They are lovely people, and their hospitality was amazing. I connected with aunts, uncles and cousins I had not known before. Some of us also connected on social media and still stay in touch that way.
Returning to my roots and knowing them better helped me know myself better. I have always been more connected to Minnesota and my Mom’s family. As I keep returning to Mexico periodically for work or vacations, I continue to experience a sense of re-connection within myself. I was born in Wisconsin, and identify myself now as a Minnesotan, having lived more than half my life here if you count summers in my youth.
Yet Mexico continues to call to me, a siren song that enters my consciousness when I consider leaving my current job. I try to imagine what other kind of work would allow me to keep visiting there regularly. This is a kernel I need to keep in mind as I consider my alternatives.
I love exploring many countries, cultures and places. This is one aspect that keeps me in my current position, these precious international travel benefits. But I am especially interested in cultures that speak Spanish, since this is a part of my origin and ancestry as well. My husband and I have plans someday to honeymoon in Europe, but we are saving up for this. I do not like to go into debt now that I am in my 40’s. My husband has always wanted to visit the U.K., as have I (my grandfather on my mother’s side is from Cornwall). I also want to explore the Spanish countryside. Someday perhaps I will get to Sweden to see where my great-grandmother was born.
But a big part of my heart is in Mexico, and will never leave there. My feminist grounding tells me my role in empowering women (and men) I work with currently is a an important investment of my time. Then I consider other ways I can contribute to the country of my ancestors, while bridging the gap in understanding among the people I know here in Minnesota.
I am still figuring out what the next step on the path will look like for me. And some part of me tells me it will not be a well-worn path, but rather one in which I will need to bring a hatchet or some clearing tools to get through dense vegetation. It may need creativity and a clearer vision of what is possible.
I have been consulting mentors, teachers, peers and wise leaders on advice and thoughts about how to think about my future vocation. But ultimately, I will need to enter into the quiet wilderness of my soul to discover what she means to me, this Mexico that calls to me both in sleeping and waking hours.
This is a question my mother-in-law asked me once, thinking perhaps that I would answer “Bemidji” where my grandparents had lived, where I spent my summers growing up, where my parents had retired.
But I did not answer, and had to think about that question.
I moved once a year from 2010 to 2014, pulling up my lightly rooted self, trying yet another location to see what might feel more like where I belonged.
I have lived in Neillsville, Wisconsin, Delavan (WI), Swarthmore (PA), Bemidji (MN), Mountain View (CA), San Francisco, Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Roseville (MN), New Brighton (MN), Eden Prairie (MN). Now I live in White Bear Lake, where we moved three years ago when my now-husband was leaving Mankato, to join me in the Twin Cities. I lived in St. Paul at the time and we wanted to compromise on living in the city, or a more “small town” type of environment.
Our rented townhome adjoins a lovely wooded park area where we often see deer, turkeys, and some type of pre-historic sounding large bird which we have not yet conclusively identified.
It has been home to us for over 3 years now, and we comfortable here, but someday we would like to buy our own home, so that we do not have to answer to a homeowners association, and to have a bigger garage that my husband can use for a workshop.
Delavan felt like home to me from age 2 to age 18 when I lived there. My parents and sister and I lived in a two bedroom townhome apartment in this small town, in a safe neighborhood. But during the summers (my parents were teachers) we would go north to Bemidji, where my grandparents lived, and we spent time on the lake. So during my childhood, we was fortunate to have an escape from being close to our neighbors.
When I left for college, I wanted to spread my wings and get outside the Midwest, even though I almost chose Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. I’m a Wellstonian politically, and I had an affinity for Carleton after spending a summer there at a Writing Camp.
Fortunately I had enough financial aid to be able to go to Swarthmore College, and I loved the four years I was there. The final one I struggled with some depression, and I understand this is not so uncommon for college seniors about to embark on the “real world” and trying to figure out their true identity outside of being students. I had the help of a wonderful counselor in the student health center, who got me through changing my major, and some fairly big struggles with eating issues and identity questions.
When I left college I moved to the Bay Area of California for a while. I had read Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, and I had also spent a summer doing research at Stanford in Palo Alto, and I’d fallen in love with California. I truly enjoyed the two years I lived there, riding my bike everywhere, taking public transportation every where else and embarking on “grown up” work and life. I rented my first apartment (since I had lived in dorms in college) and met a man who would become my husband (for about 8 years, the remainder of my 20’s).
I had many friends who lived in the area as well, most of them who I knew from college, and we had many good times. I had worked in a lab at Stanford on the good graces of my research professor for a while, but without a graduate degree, work in the sciences did not seem like the most interesting option at the time. I had no trouble finding temp offices jobs (it was the 90’s). They were plentiful but not lucrative, so I found myself going into debt while trying to live well and keep up with the lifestyles of my friends, who were mostly techies, so had disposable income.
When my grandma got sick and had heart surgery in 1998 I decided that I had spent enough time away from the Midwest of my youth, so my husband and I opted to move to the Twin Cities. It is a 4-hour drive to Bemidji, close enough to family, but with a buffer of privacy which I always seem to crave.
After only two years of saving aggressively and living in a cheap, garden-level apartment we were able to wipe out our debt and buy our first home in Saint Paul. I fell in love with Saint Paul and got very involved with political campaigns there, where I met neighbors and made a lot of friends. I started graduate school because work bored me. Working toward a Master of Liberal Studies degree part-time while working full-time was a way to keep learning while paying the mortgage.
When my marriage broke up in 2005, I bought myself my own town home in Saint Paul, a cute little Spanish-style end unit in a 4-plex in Highland Park. I probably ought to have rented for a while instead of buying on the high side of the real estate boom. But I loved the place while I was there, and I relished being happily single again.
So back to the question (asked in 2016): Where is home for you?
I had only one answer. Home is where my fiance (at the time) and kitties are. I have lived so many places and had the luxury of traveling and visiting many countries in my life. I will say that I feel at home in some ways when I am in Mexico, but it is not MY home. The photo at the beginning of this post is the beautiful courtyard of family in Mexico, and I certainly felt at home when I visited in July of 2014.
Minnesota is my home now, and where I see myself living for the foreseeable future. I have lived here more permanently since 1998 and that is nearly 20 years now. I made some bold pronouncements during the Trump campaign when I declared that, if he builds a wall, I will go live SOUTH of it.
As a daughter of an immigrant parent and a parent who lived in Minnesota and Wisconsin in her life, I feel freedom and privilege to declare my home as anywhere I feel loved and safe. The world is my home. It is our home. I have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink.
Home right now is Minnesota. Even though I am not the biggest fan of winter, I love the change of seasons. Summers are lovely and Spring and Fall make my heart sing. I often dream of retiring to Mexico, or perhaps living half the year there, and living on the North Shore of Lake Superior in the Spring/Summer/Fall. I am trying to convince my husband this would be a good idea; he does not argue too much, though he would like to find an expat community in Mexico, since he is not fluent in Spanish as I am.
I realize this reflects the privilege I enjoy as an American, and as a person with enough means to be able to live where I choose. And I am deeply grateful for this. I am always home. I will always be loved. I am grateful to be safe in this place.