My body has been sending me a lot of messages lately about allowing for rest and play in addition to work. It is quite interesting. I sometimes find when I am planning or stressing about something, there is this uncomfortable pit in my stomach.
When I notice that slight pain, and I come back to the present and just breathe, typically it releases. I know that people talk a lot about making detailed plans for their future endeavors. And normally I subscribe to at least having a loose plan, and a vision for the future.
Something in me is telling me not to make super concrete plans just yet, and to play a little looser for now. I typically start with a “shape of the week” plan and then time block in 2-3 hour increments.
I start with a healthy dose of time for writing, reading and thinking from 6-9 a.m. That is when my mind is clearest, after I have meditated and had my coffee. Then from 9-12 I either go to a yoga class, a dance class, or sometimes a coffee meeting with a colleague.
Noon to 2 p.m. is blocked off for my lunch break and any small errands I may have to do, or sometimes just a little nap break or a podcast. Then 2-5 I work on things that do not require as much focus, sending email correspondence or doing smaller projects. I do not work in the evening, unless I am very inspired to write something in particular.
I find that keeping a very regular routine helps me sleep better and also I can produce “on demand” when the time is scheduled for me to do so. Right now I am taking it one week (and sometimes one day) at a time.
When I get very excited about an idea, I follow that path. When I feel a sense of dread, I avoid that path. Right now, that seems to be where I need to be, just letting life unfold, not getting too caught up in doing all the right things.
I recognize the privilege of allowing this time. I also remind myself that I planned for it. I trust that using this “body meter” intuition to follow what is right for me will lead me where I am called.
How is your life unfolding? Do you ever doubt the process of finding your path? What helps you nurture that trust in yourself?
The next time you see a man belittling a woman or talking down to her, ask yourself what experiences might have shaped that man as a little boy.
Ask yourself whether his scared self was seeking attention and love from a mother or father figure. Imagine whether he might still be reacting in fear and a need to belong when he engages in this habitual behavior. While it is not an excuse, it may help us exercise compassion.
Perhaps his father taught him that his worth was derived from being superior to women. Perhaps his religion taught him that women are inferior beings in need of protection and discipline. He may have learned that vulnerability was weakness so he wanted to be sure never to show that to even his partner. Perhaps the patriarchy reinforces all of these messages.
In fact, it does.
Our fundamental sense of belonging is shaped when we are young children. Around age 7 or so once we have passed through stages of attachment, exploration, identity and competence, we develop an awareness of others. We develop a need for belonging. When we experience early “wounds” at any stage of our psycho-social development, they may later manifest themselves in our relationships, until we are able to become aware and heal them.
In reading some of Harville Hendrix’s work on relationships, I have come to have greater compassion for dysfunctional behaviors I observe in myself and others. I realize that there are certain patterns we develop to self-protect, and to preserve our identities.
Men who are secure and comfortable with their masculinity have no need to put down powerful women. They celebrate strong women, and they are fine with sharing power. Indeed, they may be relieved at not having to be solely responsible for all important decisions. They can embrace more collaboration and shared leadership.
Women who are secure and comfortable with their own femininity and power can ask for what they want. They know that they are worthy of respect. They take care of themselves. They ask for help when it is needed. They receive and accept help graciously. They believe their desires can be honored rather than repressed.
I am starting to understand that my spiritual journey is a process of learning to trust in my wholeness. I also realize this runs counter to our culture, that nudges us toward buying and consuming one more thing, or many more things. We all seek a sense of belonging and fulfillment in our daily lives. And people are trying to “sell” that to us all the time.
At the root, we must accept ourselves as we are. We must embrace the light and the dark, realize they comprise beauty and complexity. We are part of a divine mystery. It is that unfolding to who we really are in our present moment that is holy. That does not mean we do not work toward improvement. It simply means our worthiness is not conditioned on being anything other than what we are now.
If that scared little boy or girl within us still seeks approval from others or feels unworthy, then we have work to do. For when we truly love ourselves and then may love others fully, we forgive ourselves and others. We accept that we are doing the best we can, and then we can begin to fulfill our true potential.
I have been posting daily since last October after launching in September. It seems fitting that I celebrate this milestone while in Scottsdale Arizona to see two of my favorite authors, Liz Gilbert and Martha Beck at a Celebrate Your Life weekend event.
Friday evening a group of maybe 600-700 women attended a conversation with both of them in which they talked about the kind of magic that springs forth when we trust our true nature rather than culture. Martha spoke about the fact that we are participating in a shift in human consciousness. But it is a transformation that will involve joy and rest, not continuous striving.
To me, there were profoundly moving stories, and so much wisdom and lightness in the way they engaged the audience and engaged each other in a playful dialogue. They spoke about topics that were collected from cards submitted by their audience. I am recording a few take-away ideas from my notes.
–Transformation: this happens throughout our lives, not just once or twice.
–Trust: you must trust in the face of fear, and as you do this you become stronger and more resilient.
–Gratitude: There is no happiness without gratitude. But feel for this gratitude in your body, rather than “force-feeding it” to yourself.
–Soul-mates: you can have many soulmates throughout your life that are not necessarily lovers.
–Love: it is the relationship between yourself and the universal love around and within you that is most important.
–Motivation: Martha said to ask yourself “not just want to you want, but what do you yearn for?” Then make a pledge to keep working for what we year for, without letting the cultural models blind us to these yearnings.
–Purpose: this one struck me profoundly. Liz Gilbert said that the purpose of our lives is to know that we are loved. That’s all. Just to know we are loved, exactly the way we are. It is so profound, and it hit me as truth, in my body. Wow.
–Diversity: the final question was on this and Liz wanted to pass the mike because realizing the privilege of being part of a pair of white women made her want to give voice to another. The African American woman who came forward was Felicia and she said “diversity is being willing to open your heart with everyone, no matter their color, station in life or area of difference.” Beautiful.
On Saturday we are supposed to bring notebooks, sit next to people we do not know (easy, since I did not travel here in a group) and leave our phones behind. I’m really looking forward to the day! Morning workshop with Liz; afternoon workshop with Martha.
What a great privilege to hear from two wonderful authors that I “know” and love from reading so many of their books! Tremendous gratitude for this experience. Hope y’all have a wonderful weekend.
Yesterday I arrived in Buenos Aires and attended meetings in the afternoon with a relatively new contractor who started with us in January to cover for the maternity leave of another employee. We started things off with a meeting at one of our clinical research sites, a well-known cardiovascular specialty center that is also a teaching hospital. Two prominent physicians met with us, along with their medical fellow (who does most of the actual work of entering patient data).
When I make an appearance now and then and travel here from far away, these physicians like to “talk research” with me and present ideas they have about new therapies and studies in which they enroll patients. It is an engaging and interesting discussion and I really enjoy the enthusiasm of these fellow researchers. They ask hard questions! Fortunately I was on my game, even after only 4 hours of sleep on the plane the previous night.
After the site visit, my contractor and I sat to have a late lunch, since I had skipped that in favor of getting to the site visit on time. We had time to visit and get to know each other in a casual environment. I learned more about her career path in this field. We have both been in clinical research for 11 years, and we both entered though a “side door” not knowing the field existed prior to entering.
I work with an international team, with all of my direct reports living in other countries. We spend a lot of time on conference calls, corresponding via email and doing a lot of what I think of as virtual, rather than real-time communication. It is nice that electronic tools give us the flexibility to work remotely when necessary, and to come together as a team for our monthly operations meetings, for example.
I believe there is NO substitute for some old-fashioned, face-to-face, trust-building time with your coworkers. None at all. Video-conferencing can be helpful, and I am glad it exists. Looking people in the eye, and getting to absorb their gestures and body language is simply irreplaceable, especially when there may be language barriers.
My Spanish has improved greatly in the 11 years I have worked in a Latin American division, without question. But it still is my second language, not my first. Being able to know with real-time feedback whether communication is understood, or whether there is a gap, is SO much easier in person. It is also more relaxing, and you may not feel like you are “on stage” the way I sometimes do when I’m on video-conference.
For this reason, as well as many other cultural factors that are probably relevant to trust-building in Latino cultures, it is very important for me to have in person meetings to set the foundation for trust. There is something irreplaceable about real human contact, and there are certain messages that are easier to deliver in person. For this reason, even though travel makes me a bit weary, it is always worthwhile to make the journey.
This morning I woke up very early again (3:30) on the heels of a dream, but at least it was after 7 hours of sleep rather than just 4 the night before. I tried counting breaths, I tried a little meditating, praying and attempting to let go of my thoughts. The dream faded quickly and I did not write it down. But there were work people in it, and it did not feel like a happy dream.
I tried paying attention to my thoughts (one meditation technique). Counting breaths got me up to 70, then 20, then I could not make it to 10 without my thoughts distracting me. One of the thoughts I kept having was that I no longer believe in what I do at work. I am supporting a system which is very dysfunctional. I feel like I am rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic sometimes, juggling unreasonable demands.
What also occurred to me is that I no longer trust my director. This does not feel good. But it is what emerges for me, a feeling of betrayal. He broke our group’s trust by taking on two more projects when he told us last November: no more new projects without new resources. I realize he defined this differently from me. I think of people (“headcounts” in corporate speak) as my resources. Yes, there is budget money. But when it comes to human resources, actual people to do the work that’s been committed, we are far below critical mass.
I wrote a long email to my boss and the other manager on our team about this last Friday. I scheduled a meeting for this past Monday to discuss. Since I was asked to work on a project for funding model innovation with a Senior Director of another division, I had to gather the data and face the reality. It is not good. We have 15 active projects and there are only 5 people in the “field clinical research” role in Latin America to execute, spread among 4 countries. True, about half of those projects are in maintenance mode, and are not very work-intensive. But we are fooling ourselves if we think we can continue like this much longer.
A history of over-committing our resources means we are far behind many of the targets that were originally set when the work was committed. And yes, having to lose 3 real headcounts over the past 2 years has had a devastating effect that I could not really manage (from 8 down to 5). We were poised on the razor’s edge even before that in terms of work load. When upper leadership decided to dis-invest, it kind of broke something in me.
Last year at this time I hinted strongly to 2 direct reports that would no longer have positions on the team and needed to find other jobs. HR did not encourage this, but I am loyal to people, not a corporation. One of them found a better job, was relocated to the U.S. from Brazil. The other one found another job in her country’s office as well, so I just had to do one layoff, and it was a temporary one before she began her new position.
Now is not the time to be taking on more projects. That was what we promised the team back in June (and again in November) when we met to survey the damage. No more projects without more resources. My director broke that promise. I no longer believe in what I’m selling. And now I am fairly certain that staying much longer in my current role will actually hurt my career long-term. Aligning with a boss that cannot keep his promises and has lost the trust of his team feels pretty wretched right now.
I have not yet figured out the next move for me. But no wonder I am losing sleep over this. It’s time I was honest with myself about this whole mess. I have been defending a losing proposition for a couple of years now. My team trusts me as well, and they will have to trust that when I leave, I still care about them as people.
A couple weeks ago I scheduled a trip to Argentina and to Brazil. It feels like a farewell tour for me. I know I will leave, and there is one particular colleague in Buenos Aires that I want to talk with 1:1. She has a lot of difficulty saying no to her boss when she is over-committed. He is a world-renowned electro-physiologist. I get it, but she will have to learn this skill. She returns from maternity leave next week. In my own heart and soul, I could not leave this role before her return. I feel a need to say goodbye, and to wish her well, to let her know I still care, which is why I need to leave.
I need to surrender to the fact that people with higher “grade levels” than I in this division have made decisions that I believe are not good for the health of the organization long-term. Which means their decisions conflict with my values. Physically, my body refuses to cooperate with the smoke and mirrors act that we are forced to enact to survive here.
What a relief it is to imagine putting down my sword and no longer fighting this battle. I don’t even CARE what I do next. That’s how good it feels to be honest about where we are now. I need to stop fantasizing about an “exit package” and start plotting my exit immediately.
I am late to get this blog post started this morning because I had a wild dream last night and I was capturing it before it was lost into my handwritten journal.
The night before last I had insomnia and only slept ~90 minutes. Last night I had a most juicy night of sleep, 10.5 hours. Of course, nights when I sleep deeply and well I tend to dream. Since dreams are a way that our subconscious works and processes what we are struggling with in our waking lives, sometimes they hold interesting keys when we remember them and interpret them.
Or at least that’s what I am telling myself. I had a therapist once who wanted me to write down my dreams and tell her about them. She was a little “kooky” – there is no other way to describe her. But I think I got something from our 6 months of work together. The dream work kind of creeped me out though, and I never agreed with her interpretations, which were probably more about her than about me.
This particular dream had to do with a friend who entrusted me to give away some money to a list of people, mutual friends. At one point I questioned him (he was somehow there, and yet gone in the dream, perhaps deceased, but appearing to me in spirit…?) about why he had chosen ME for this particular task. It was hard, I told him. Some of these people I am no longer in contact with; why did he ask ME to do this thing?
Of all the people he knew, I was the only one he trusted to do the right thing with the money. If somehow a friend could not be located there was a charitable organization he had listed that would get the remainder of the money. (Let’s set aside the weird portion that I cannot understand at this point – the money was all in Russian currency).
This is really interesting and ironic to me, because I’ve been working on my “money dream” as part of my coaching work. One thing I have struggled with is my own self-trust when it comes to money. I want to take care of it well, and do things for my long-term well-being (and my husband’s) when it comes to money. And yet I do not entirely trust myself, since I have made some big mistakes in the past.
What this dream seemed to offer me was an affirmation. “You’re the only one I trust to do the right thing,” this friend said to me. When I consider that, in light of the doubts I have had about money, I am choosing to interpret this to mean I can trust myself when it comes to these decisions. Even though I have made some mistakes, I am learning from them. I am being much more open with my husband about my worries, fears and doubts, and we are working our way through these big decisions together.
I feel oddly comforted by this interpretation, and by its effect on my body in releasing stress. I can trust myself. I have learned from the past. I will do the right thing. Ahhh.
Does interpreting dreams ever do this for you? Does it bring you some comfort with an issue that’s been plaguing you?