On New Year’s Day this past week I attended a 2-hour yoga workshop in which I had the opportunity to reflect a bit on the past year. After some journal writing and reflection, we did a yoga practice and then finished with a meditation practice.
I enjoyed the opportunity to “digest” a bit of the past year, to celebrate it and to consider my strengths, or any limiting beliefs. In the final meditation the word/concept “integrate/integration” kept emerging for me, and variations on that word: integrity, integral, etc. I started thinking about the root of that word (think of integer) which is to make whole.
That seems appropriate, since this past year felt in many ways like a dismantling and releasing of what was no longer serving me. Then on Sunday I had another impulse to de-clutter, and to organize in my office (not something that comes naturally to me) so I followed it.
I allowed myself some time and space to consider the objects and books I have collected. What is that path of curiosity telling me? Which things can I can release? I have tried following the Kon Mari approach to do this all in one big project (which can take up to 6 months, she writes). But I have found I follow more of a spiral or cyclical path when it comes to releasing things. And that is just fine.
Releasing is necessary because we hold onto so much that we no longer need. This can be physical stuff, but more often it is out-dated stories we tell ourselves. I find that is the more “sticky” of our stuff. It is easy to give bags of unused and unneeded things to Goodwill. But how often do we enter into our deep consciousness to see what is floating around in there, and question if we want to keep it there?
When I did a coaching series with Elizabeth Dickinson this past fall, she was able to identify a few of the beliefs (or stories) I had carried about money that did not match my current reality. What an amazing gift, to release an old story that was holding me back. At one point, that story may have had a purpose. But it was at least a decade out-of-date. So I started trying on a different story, reinforcing a new belief that serves me better.
What is it you may need to release in order to thrive in your life?
It is my Dad’s birthday today and so in his honor, I am posting an edited version of last year’s tribute to him.
My Dad’s choice of vocation as a bilingual teacher fundamentally shaped the way I look at the world. His countless presentations to school boards on language learning and the value of bilingual versus ESL-type programs shaped my thinking about social justice and education. He and Mom did highly influential work together to defend and protect educational opportunities for children of (originally) migrant workers in our small town.
Dad was called to serve these children and their parents, who needed a strong advocate for their education. He worked with them to help ensure they could get the best education possible. He believed in their potential and was ready to nurture it every step of the way, building a strong base of skills and also self-confidence. His work as an elementary level teacher touched so many young children’s lives in a powerful and profound way.
We used to go to the classroom late at night, my Mom and Dad and my sister, to put up bulletin boards at the beginning of each new month. My sister also remembers how “cool” it was for Dad to have a key to the school, and he and Mom could work there after hours, when it was easier to get work done uninterrupted. Having special access to the school meant that we could run down the hallways while nobody was there! So much fun. We could never get away with that during a school day.
I remember Dad teaching me to read by the time I was 4 years old. That made my kindergarten experience boring, since I was amazed we had to go back through all the letter books. Really?!? Can nobody else read yet? I got to skip my reading classes in favor of going to the bilingual classroom several hours a day. This saved me from the torture of repeating what I had already mastered.
Dad nurtured that spark of learning within me, and that has been a constant throughout my life. I learn quickly, and greedily, reading books as fast as I can. Of course, having a bit of challenge with attention, I sometimes read a book twice in order to fully absorb it.
Both Mom and Dad believed in reading to us when we were young, and this may be one reason I still love to read. I also enjoy audio books because it is a sweet memory to have someone read to me. For sure, my Grandmother had great influence as well. She was an avid reader and consummate learner.
Dad was amazingly patient with classrooms full of children. They behaved well for him. He almost never sick days but when he did, the substitutes were always amazed by his class. He created partnerships with parents and got to know them well throughout the year.
Hispanic parents typically do not tolerate misbehavior by their children in school. One call from “el Maestro” was enough to get a student to realize they could not misbehave in his classroom without having consequences happen at home. Their culture still has high respect for teachers. Sometimes Dad brought in psychologists as guest speakers to talk with the parents about how to help their kids at home, and was devoted to helping those young minds open and bloom.
Dad faced racism in his experience as an educated Mexican living in a small town, a very “white” town. The parents of his students respected him a great deal, but some of the teachers he worked with did not. Indeed some of the administrators did not, but he did have good principals. One particular school superintendent took special interest in his classes. This leader, noticing how respectful and well-behaved my Dad’s classes were, made sure that the direction from the top was to expand the bilingual program, not to cut back, as some school boards had tried to do.
One of the greatest lessons I learned from my Dad (and Mom taught me this as well) was that you should treat everyone with respect. A person’s “station” in life does not matter. Whether they are a teacher, a principal, a janitor or a cook, you must treat each person with dignity and respect. This is fundamental to the way I interact with the world, and is something I strive to emulate as well.
I am truly grateful to my Dad, and for all the lessons I learned through the way he and my mother live their lives. Teaching is a vocation, not just a job. I like to say I come from a family of teachers, and it is true, multiple generations. I am immensely proud of that.
I interviewed on Wednesday for another freelance project job that sounded interesting when I read it, but I have some doubts now.
My impression is that the amount of work it would take to complete the project is far more than the client has budgeted or was clear in the posting. While I really like the concept for the book, and I thought the research could be interesting, I have some intuition that this may be more than I bargained for in my proposal.
I explained in my call that my proposal was based on the notion that there would be a draft manuscript produced by the client in a few weeks, as indicated in the description, and that I would work with that material. While he seemed excited about my background and skills, and thought I might be a good fit for the research aspect of the project, my internal doubt-meter started sending me a subtle flare of warning.
Then a little while after the call, he messaged to ask for my information outside the platform where we connected, and requested some free work (a small task but we have not yet agreed on contract terms, so it is against policy). Another warning flare.
The people-pleasing part of me hates to say no to people, especially when they seem excited to work with me. But something about this project seems as though, while an interesting topic, could become a burden. The client has some unrealistic ideas about what “ghost writing” entails. After I did some research on the market for this, I believe I under-valued the time this will take.
As I always do when making important decisions, I will sleep on it and allow my subconscious to reveal any insights that will help me make a final decision. But right now I am mentally crafting a professional and respectful “no” because I truly believe we must pay attention to our intuition on these matters.
Saying “no” to some good things allows room for greater things. It may not be fun, and it is uncomfortable. But I am willing to feel the discomfort and do the right thing. Indeed, living in my integrity requires it.
This week’s Throwback Thursday is an edited piece from November 2017. It sent a chill down my spine thinking about how far I have come in that time, in writing through these changes in my life. So grateful that this blog has allowed an exploration toward the next part of my path.
As I was sitting in savasana today at my morning yoga class, a concept kept arising into consciousness. It was Integration.
I wonder if my search for balance and equilibrium is actually a search for integration. Bringing together my personal and professional lives, uniting my body, mind and spirit, accepting the positives and the negatives. It is all part of one rich and fulfilling life, after all.
Why do I find it challenging? Perhaps my scientific training works against me here. I strive to isolate variables, to design proper controls, to decrease “confounding factors.” It is a noble pursuit, when we want to understand a mechanism for a system.
I then consider another concept from a similar root: Integrity. These concepts both relate to a state of being whole. Stemming from a similar Latin root, these words express what I seek.
It is not so much about work/life balance, which always reminds me of a seesaw. It is more about bringing it all together, not having to isolate parts of myself in certain contexts, but rather bringing my whole self to every situation. I like the yin/yang concept, and the idea that we have complementary parts within us. I have written about this before. Perhaps that is what this blog is about, to integrate the “mexi” and the “minnesotana” parts more meaningfully, in every part of my life.
What if we viewed the entire natural sphere as an integrated whole, all part of some vast and intricate web? Everything, everyone and all of the in between is connected. We are not binary – one against another, us against them. We are all part of this vast universal story, ever changing, ever growing, ever recycling the parts that need to evolve to something new.
This brings so much peace to me, embracing both my darkness and my light. It means acceptance of what I am, where I am today in my journey, not chiding myself that I am not further along. Change unfolds gradually and when I “push” instead of allowing, it often sets me back. I am eager to know what is next, to see around the next corner. But I need not worry.
My soul works and plays at integrating. It seems to do this better without the fretting of my ego or mind. When I pay attention to the ease and the grace that comes from sitting still or small movements, I can feel integration physically. At the same time, I notice myself acting with greater integrity in the world. This feels like a true definition of success for me.
Yesterday I had a fairly vulnerable conversation with my boss about some ways in which I have not been fully “showing up” at work.
This was after my coach helped me draft out a conversation in which I wanted to have about my intentions to leave the team this fall. The night before the conversation I had woken up at 2 in the morning, unable to get back to sleep for a couple of hours.
Last night I slept very deeply and without disruption. Though I was not able to share ALL of the things I wanted, I definitely opened up in a few places where I’d been “hiding”. I was able to have a more authentic communication, and I will continue that process when my boss comes to town in a couple of weeks and we can talk face to face rather than by phone.
It was interesting to observe how telling the truth (even though I had massive fears about opening that conversation) released my energy and allowed me to relax. Aligning myself with truth, no matter the consequences, kept me in my integrity and my body seems to reward me for that.
I recognized a pattern in myself recently, and I shared it with my husband last night. I am not so proud of this pattern, but it seems like something I should try to understand.
When things are going fairly well in my life, either in my relationships or in my work life, I tend to stir things up. I tend to make trouble in some area, like I cannot be still with the sensation of peace and calm.
I guess in my work life, that process begins once I feel that I have “mastered” the work at some level. I have learned the procedures, practiced them, and they are no longer difficult. The work starts to bore me a bit when it hits a certain mastery stage, and I start looking around for what is next.
Relationships have been a little bit less like this, but I managed to defeat a “rescue” habit I used to have, thankfully. However, I realize that when things are going too well, too smoothly, I have a tendency to throw a wrench in the works, and test things.
Why is it that I cannot rest with a life that is too peaceful, that is too calm? I wish I knew. I blame it on my a.d.d., and probably that has something to do with it. The a.d.d. brain craves novelty and stimulation, more than the average brain. It is one reason I am a voracious learner and reader. Sometimes it feels like I cannot get enough of ideas, of stories, of vivid imagination.
It could also be something like what Brene Brown calls “foreboding joy.” There is this sense that when everything is going really well, we are waiting for the other shoe to drop, some even around the corner that will mess things up. But then maybe I want to be “in control” of that phenomenon, so I do the messing up myself…?
I don’t know about this one. I do know that yesterday I yelled at my boss during a meeting (actually a conference call). I was upset with myself for behaving that way, and I apologized for letting my emotions overcome a calmer head, but I also felt relieved that I had spoken up in defense of my team. Fortunately my boss told me no apology was needed. He feels similar frustrations, and says we have to try not to be discouraged.
Here is where I disagree with that notion. Sometimes active resistance is not possible, that is true. But sometimes walking away is an option. Once we have done everything we can think to do in order to reform a system which is not working, we need to reserve the option of disengaging.
I am done making trouble here. Time to find another place to stir things up. The new opportunity I am pursuing has “drive disruptive change” in the job description. That is what excites me most, the idea that someone might actually pay me to be a trouble-maker… is that really possible? I hope to find out.