From Type A to Type Ahh

Be the Change You Wish to See in the World – Ghandi


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Change

change

I have been working on changes, that is kind of what this blog is all about.   I have recently been focused on a specific change, a big change at work.  It has also interestingly intersected with all the internal work I have been doing.  I guess all that stuff about the universe and presenting opportunities when you are ready may be a real thing after all.

I am currently a water resource manager.  I have been working in this space since 2004 and the exact job I have right now since 2009.  Because of it and some great mentors and some very fortuitous opportunities, I have gotten to do a lot and make a big impact, on the regional, state, and national level.  I have gotten to travel and keynote professional conferences and I have gotten to make a big impact on the environment and preserving water resources.  Truth be told, a couple of things have been nagging at me lately.  One I don’t find that much challenge in the work anymore.  I still find value, but I no longer have many of those new learning opportunities. I have shifted to a mentoring phase, which I also enjoy.

The other change is that as I get quiet and clear through my attempts at minimalism, meditation, and growth; I am realizing that my priorities have shifted a little.  I have gotten to do so much and I am grateful.  I am looking to make a little more impact locally, as in my own utility.  Also I no longer really enjoy the travel.  I want to work and come home to my husband and cats.  I want time to cook, meditate, read, and help my mother.  Where has all of this led?  As fate would have it about 6 weeks ago our Customer Service Manager just up and walked out. He had been struggling and he just could not take it anymore.  Our leadership immediately came to me to see if I was interested.  It would be a big change, but I have been the interim Manager 3 times between other managers.  Every time my bosses asked won’t you apply?  Each time I said no.  This time I really felt different.  I had always looked at the position that is full of managerial, policy, and relational challenges as both too daunting and too limiting.  After working on the things I have been working on about myself I feel more ready for this challenge. I have decided to apply for the job.  It is not a guarantee for me.

I feel ready if the opportunity arises.  I have also noticed how things line up to support you.  I have been taking some courses on Insight Timer and I am currently taking one by David Gandelman on Letting Go.  Leaving my current position and clinging to that has been one of the obstacles I had to overcome.  As I needed some support, here came this class, by one of my favorite teachers.  I have also been taking the How to Communicate like a Buddhist Class through Daily OM and this is also enhancing a skill set I will need.  It will be a time of transition, but I feel excited about the possibility of being on the learning side again.  Are you considering any changes?


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Giving Single Tasking A Try

focus-22

Work has been crazy and I have felt literally underwater.  My husband and I leave on Monday for an early 20th anniversary trip to the Bahamas.  We will be at an all-inclusive resort.  I had an audacious goal.  I want to fully be on vacation, no checking into work or answering a few emails.  There seemed to be insurmountable obstacles between me and that goal: emails I had not had time to answer since December, scheduled all day outreach programs, project deadlines, and a back log of office work.  This week I employed two things that I have been actively trying to work on: saying I am sorry I can’t do that and single-tasking.  Truth be told they were hard and had the reward, an actual work and guilt free vacay with my life partner of 26 years, not been there I would have descended into old habits.  Eye on the prize…she persisted!

How did it go?  I did something I have never done.  I had nearly 1,000 email to go through so I set aside an entire morning and went through them one by one.  I have done that before, of course I have usually had on podcasts or been answering the phone or talking to someone in my office at the same time.  This time I just did my email.  More about the unexpected power of single tasking later.  Here is what I never did before.  I  deleted emails without doing what the person asked, if they just emailed out of the blue and it was not relevant.  I also responded to some and said something I never say, “I am sorry I don’t have time.”  I have to admit at first I felt guilty than I felt liberated.  It is freeing to realize you don’t have to do everything, just because someone asks.

That list of the insurmountable number of things I had to do, I decided to try single tasking.  Meaning giving each task my full attention while doing it.  Admittedly my husband has been going on and on about this for years.  How I should just focus on one thing!  Of course great for him, he is a guy. Right, ladies?  It kills me to say this, because he was right, I actually got so much done in much less time and feel like I did a better job.  Of course I hate it because he was right.  I love him of course; I just don’t necessarily love him being right instead of me.  Long story short I walked out of work on time yesterday, put my out of office to back February 26 can’t be reached and I am ready to be fully present with just my husband in the Caribbean.  See you when we return!


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Control Confession

embarrassed

Fair warning this is embarrassing and sorry if you may see yourself in this too.  Believe me I did not want to see myself.  So first things first.  I am writing this blog on a Wednesday morning exactly 48 minutes into what would be by normal work day.  This is causing me only mild heart palpitations.  How did I get here and what did I find out.

This is one of those weeks and I have to admit even the more Zen version of myself has been staring it down on my calendar.  I have to work late nearly everyday this week.  In the past this is how this would have played out.  I would show up at work at my normal time, meaning at least 10 minutes before my scheduled start time 7 AM. I would work through lunch and then continue on with my evening obligations of speaking, teaching, etc.  I would bolt some innocuous meal between driving from event to event and then get home exhausted and take it out on my husband while running around the house like a lunatic, maniacaly setting up to do it all over tomorrow.  Instead I am writing my blog at 7:53.

What changed?  This is where the big, embarrassing realization happened.  In preparation for this week I asked myself why was I doing this.  If I knew I had to work long hours, why was I still coming in at 7 AM and pushing through meals, etc.  Wouldn’t it be great if my answer was because I am driven by a purpose greater than myself and the work I do is a calling I follow without regard to additional hours.  Caveat, I am passionate about what I do.  I mean really who does not need clean drinking water?  However, I am not singularly passionate.  It does not eclipse my family, my husband, my friends, and my cats.  Why was I always making this choice?  I am after all a big fan of control.  Imagine my surprise when I got quiet during meditation and the answer seemed clear.  If I did not do this what would everyone think of me?  What?  I am an independent, strong woman.  I am a control freak.  Was the truth that I had always been turning over my control to popular opinion? That I had made this decision over and over to project and protect this image of a hyper-focused professional?  An opinion might I add, I had no evidence even existed.

Turns out the answer was yes.  Face Palm!  So here I am.  I got to write my blog, I enjoyed my run, meditation, yoga, and I calmly prepped for tomorrow this morning.  So tonight after my event, instead of the inevitable “I am tired and I am stressed let’s fight to the death” evening with my husband.  We are planning a relaxing dinner out.  I will leave you with this popular, though often disregarded thought.  “We would not spend time worrying about what others thought of us; if we realized how rarely they do.”


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I am Back…Learning to Let Go

Balance Rocks

We all have ideals.  As you may remember my goal was to write one post once a week.  Well, I failed to achieve that goal.  September and the beginning of October was unbelievably busy at work and with personal obligations.  At first I thought, “I have to find a way to also get my posts done.”  At that moment my blog was no longer an opportunity to write, an activity I love.  It became a burden and a source of guilt.  “I am not getting this done, I am failing.”  This lasted until mid-September.

Then all of a sudden I thought, “why am I guilty? ” The blog was supposed to be for me. It was supposed a vehicle to explore one of my priorities writing.  Now it was full of pressure to perform, come up with original content, and meet arbitrary expectations (held by no one but me).  So I stopped feeling guilty.  I let go of that expectation.  Now I am still a struggling perfectionist, who loves nothing more than a fully checked off list of goals and objectives.  So do not think for a minute I just threw off all expectation and jumped into the ‘hippy dippy, go with the flow’ culture.  By let go, think of it more like fingers gripping and slowly slipping from a ledge.  At first it felt frightening.  “I see the rocks of mediocrity and defeat below.”  Then a strange thing happened I gave in to the free fall.  You know what?  Today I am writing a blog about it.  I am excited to do so.  I could not wait.

How did the metaphorical slipping into the canyon of failure below become a free fall before a soft well guided landing?  For me I asked myself some questions.  How much can I realistically accomplish during this crunch time?  What can I do well? I realized the answer was not everything.  After I stopped crying about that reality; I set about a rigorous evaluation of my big goals for the year and my life.  Right now and for a short period of time work demanded more of me.  It was going to cut into chunks of my free time.  So what other priorities do I have and which did I want to go forward.

  1. Meditation
  2. Healthy Exercise
  3. Healthy Eating
  4. Volunteering
  5. Reading
  6. Helping my family
  7. Writing

I was not going to fit all of those in and not all of them at the idealized level.  Meditation is the practice that allowed me to get through this time and made me more focused and productive so it stayed.  Also it helps that it and exercise are linked in my pre-dawn 4 AM rituals.  Those were easy to keep and as of today I have 327 consecutive days of mediation.  I also have my regular running and my morning Savasana  yoga practice. I was not successful yet at adding regular strength training and biking took a back seat.  Healthy eating was up and down.  On the days I was in the office or teaching I brought my lunch but I had to travel and work late; so I did not always get to cook at home.  Overall I did not abandon that completely.

Volunteering is very important to me.  I will be doing a post about that later.  Suffice to say I found a way to continue that: my work with the no-kill cat shelter, coaching a youth run club with my husband, and volunteering for my profession through the Georgia Association of Water Professionals.  I get far more out of volunteering than I give.  Helping my family.  That has remained a challenge but I did find time to work on a project to get my mother and aunt access to some discounted transportation and I checked in at least twice a week.

So reading and writing really suffered.  I realized that I was not going to have the time or provide very valuable content on the blog since I was so wrapped up in the other things going on in my life.  I just said, “you know what, you will write when things settle down.” As hard as it is for me.  I let myself off the hook. A hook of my own making that is.  Being much more tired at night I spent less time reading.  I still did read in the morning, on flights, and a little at night. I definitely did not get as much read as usual.  I did find a way to incorporate more “reading” through audio books.  It was a good way to learn and use my time in the car between work and other obligations.

So there it is the long involved process of letting go for a recovering perfectionist and Type A personality.  How do you let go?


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“No” Thy Self

robert frost

Do you ever have those moments where you realize how wrong you were to agree to something only when you try to do it?  If so, you too may be someone who has difficulty saying no.  This Labor Day weekend provided a very real example.

In Atlanta Labor Day weekend is marked by Dragoncon.  If you have never been to Dragoncon just let me say it attracts 80,000 people and most of them are in various states of costume or total undress.  It is a sensory overload that is almost impossible to explain.  It was the height of Dragoncon where I found myself on Friday.  Me, a daily meditator and introvert, was going to be speaking on a panel about water.  I started realizing early on, almost right after I said yes that I don’t belong at Dragoncon.  Friday night as my husband and I squeezed through crowds and chaos toward the booth our water industry group had put up, I was as close as I have ever been to a panic attack.  I really just felt like I wanted out.

I did not run out of Dragoncon.  In fact that would be impossible given the crowds and constant pop up activities.  I spoke on the panel.  I know it was not my best effort.  I speak at a lot of events so I am aware when I am on and when I am not.  To be fair when all you can think is get me out of here, it is hard to be a stirring speaker.  As it turns out all of that stress was for nothing.  I did not even really add anything to the work of my colleagues or the listeners.

Once safely back in the car with my husband, I immediately vowed to never participate in this again.  I found myself asking out loud “why did I ever agree to this?”  I am still not sure.  I am not  people pleaser, I am fairly comfortable with who I am.  So I don’t think it was any of that.  I do take a lot of pride in my career and particularly my ability to give voice to a profession that is often overlooked and often silent.  If I am being perfectly and embarrassingly honest, it was probably to feed my ego.  Ironic that it turned out making me feel anything but accomplished.  I have to start asking myself more questions before saying yes.

The rest of my weekend was much more true to who I am.  We went to the Decatur Book Festival, exercised, spent quiet time with our cats, and time reading.  I am getting better at recognizing what is really important and valuable.  I just wish I could do it before I say yes.  Oh well I hope you had a good weekend.


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Observations from the Last Two Weeks

 

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Dung in the Rose Garden at Balboa Park

 

I have not written in a little while because we have had a lot going on, most recently a 4 day trip to San Diego to visit my husband’s mom and brother.  We rarely get to see just them.  Usually when we go to California we try to see as much of the whole family as possible and that is well over 45 people all together.  Quiet moments with Dung’s mom are few and far between when we have everyone together.  It was lovely a low key visit.  We spent a little time sightseeing on our own and most of our time just hanging out with his mom, meeting her friends, and eating more food than I typically consume in a month.  For his family “eat” roughly translated means “I love you.”  So we ate.  I am not going to recap everything from the last 2 weeks but now that I am more mindful I did notice a few things I thought I would mention.

  1. I was able to meditate and do my daily Vinyasa Flow even on vacation.  I meditated shorter but still found time.  In fact, it is now just what I do so it was not even really about finding time.
  2. I was more relaxed and peaceful while we were in California than I have been in the past.  I credit meditation and my attempts to stay present and in the moment.
  3. I had a cool moment with a friend and colleague this week.  She wanted to meet for lunch and talk about life, her career, etc.  She said “I don’t know I just wanted to sit down with you because you are one of the few people I know who just seems genuinely happy.”  In that moment I realized I am genuinely grateful, peaceful and content and I guess in short that is happiness.  It certainly took long enough to realize it.
  4. We cut the cable chord.  We decided we wanted to watch less TV and that we just could not justify throwing away the money anymore.  We have a longer term goal, our retirements and move to the pacific northwest.  We have an antennae for local TV and we stream Netflix, Amazon and Sling.  Saving over $100.00 a month.
  5. I have gotten to volunteer more with the Good Mews Cat Shelter and that should make me stressed and feel like I have less time but I actually feel more satisfied and calm.
  6. I was listening to that same friend mentioned above and she said, “I am never off of work.  Even on vacation I am just not at the office, but I am still at work.  I can never be off.”  Wow, that was another full circle moment.  Just ask my husband, a few years ago that was me.  I would have thought “of course not.  It’s work.”  This time I had a physically different reaction I felt sad and a little sick.  I explained to her she would burn out and she had to carve out things that mattered to her and devote time to them.  It was like an out-of-body experience, because a few years ago someone was telling me that.
  7. Lastly, I had a weird moment at work.  I am responsible for keeping our rate information at my job.  I was out last week on vacation and my supervisor redid a chart I have been maintaining for years.  She sent it to me and I said “Thanks I will update my spreadsheet.”  She came to my office and said don’t just use mine from now on I like it better.  Immediately without thinking I started defending my old spreadsheet.  I was going on about it and I suddenly heard myself and just stopped.  All day it was kind of in the back of my mind.  This time I kept asking myself, “why does this matter to me so much?”  I am not sure I answered that question.  Instead I just accepted that it does, but it should not and I let it go.  You know what?  We still have the info we need.

I hope you have been having a good two weeks and your summer is off to a successful beginning.


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Sometimes it is a Struggle

So I am really working on myself and for the most part I would say it is going pretty well.  I have definitely made some positive changes and reaped some surprising rewards as discussed in my previous post.  With progress and mindfulness comes the recognition of how far we still have to go and how we are always a work in progress.  I guess we should be happy to still be employed in this work, the alternative is not great.

So what am I struggling with right now?  Gossip.  It is like the national past time of my office and even when I set my intention to be compassionate and act out of kindness and gratitude I still find that I can spiral into this easily.

Thank-God-for-all-the-gossip There is some good news.  I do find that I am far more aware that I am participating in gossip than before, where it was sort  of an unconscious act.  It may be a few minutes into the session but I find I will become hyper aware that I am participating in something that brings no value and might be damaging to someone else.  I do try a few things, I am not just going along aimlessly.  If I hear friends I am visiting with descend into gossip, I try to excuse myself.  If it is starting up outside my office I will close my door like I am about to take a conference call.  For the most part the challenging times are when the gossip is about someone I am personally struggling with myself.  That does not make me proud; I think it makes me human.

So I am interested in what you struggle to improve.  If like me it is gossip, are you doing something I am not?  Do you have any tips?  Once I am done with session and I am back in my office and the contact high you get from gossiping with your friends is gone it leaves me feeling empty and a little ashamed.