From Type A to Type Ahh

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


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I am Just a Girl Learning to Say No!

wonder woman

Growth is hard.  In fact lots of things are hard.  Especially giving up an image that you have worked so hard to portray, once you realize it is exactly that, an image.  Oh and also that it is too much work to haul that image around and put it on and take it off. Confession time, I like accomplishing things.  There was a time in my life when a neat to-do list with perfectly lined up check marks brought a tear to my eye. (Sob) Sorry I need a minute.  I am now trying to focus on being present and accepting the imperfect and sadly the sometimes incomplete aspects of life.

When you are trying to change the universal law is that you will be given plenty of opportunities.  Right now my opportunity cup runneth over.  I am in the middle of managing a drought, which means increased workload and my best employee has taken another job. Normally, I would assume Wonder Woman posture lasso of truth at my side and personal life, goals and relationships fading behind me.  Also as you can well imagine, I  would be delightful to be around.

Something is different this time, after much research I figured it out…drumroll please, me.  Turns out if you react differently and make saner choices and stop trying to navigate in an imaginary invisible jet things are different.  I just finished reading this book on the 7 essential coaching questions so I can be a better manager.  Ironically, I found a question that I not only shared with my remaining staff, but I am using it to coach myself.  “What do I have to say no to if I say yes to this?”  What a concept.  It sounds like nirvana, right?  Except that I am not great at saying no.  In fact you might say I suck at it.  I am really attached to that whole Wonder Woman thing.  You know when you walk out of a meeting and hear them say “I don’t know how she does all of those things and still runs this project.”  I am not going to sugar coat it.  Letting that go is hard.  Using the idea of what I have to say no to in order to say yes to something is helping me stick to my priorities.  Meditation has helped to, because now I find when I am asked to do something, I can consciously find a little space by taking a breath before responding “yes” as quickly as your leg jumps when the Dr. hits your knee with rubber hammer.  It helps.

All of these little things add up.  The other thing I am trying to do is be present and conscious of the benefits I notice after I have said “no.”  For example a week ago I had all of these things scheduled and someone asked me to meet for dinner with a colleague from out-of-town.  I said no after many breaths.  The night of the dinner as I enjoyed a quiet evening of healthy food and conversation with my husband at home, I took time in that moment to experience it and fully realize the gain of saying no was so much greater than if I had said yes and less stressful.  Regret can really take it out of you.

I am by no means the girl who says “no.”  I am working on it and I am all the calmer as I wade into the temporarily choppy waters of chaos.  And me without my to do list!


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Now is When you Put it into Practice

zen-humor

You know that theory about trying to change something, that the universe will give you ample opportunity to master that which you seek to practice.  Well thanks universe!  I received a call Friday from a key staff person letting me know that she is taking a job somewhere else.  I am truly happy for her.  This is a great opportunity and the proximity to her home will allow her so much more time to pursue things she loves.  It is the next step on her journey and I was pleased to assist her and even wrote a letter to my colleagues who were “stealing her away.”

Funny how the next step in her journey will be an opportunity for me to take several steps in mine.  She is leaving in the middle of a work crisis.  We are in the middle of a drought and our workload for our small staff of three is already nearly unmanageable. I have noticed that this time I don’t feel the same level of chaos and panic as I normally would.  I have known for a few weeks this was a possibility, and I have been making conscious decisions about what we can and can’t commit to.  That may seem like a no brainer, but not for someone, who in the past, has prided herself on seeming like I could handle the impossible it is not.  In fact you could say I was addicted to pole vaulting over the bar of any reasonable expectations.

As you may know from reading this blog I have been really working on change. I have been meditating on accepting the uncomfortable and just sitting with it.  For most of my life I have been a jump in there and plan out every possibility,  work until it is nearly physically impossible to do more, put aside everything else.  Now when I look back at those times, though I made an enormous personal sacrifice and so did my loved ones, I don’t think there was an appreciable difference in outcome other than the weird pay off I got from “doing the impossible.”  That is personally hard to admit but even a little harder to live with the fact that I made that choice over and over.

So here I am again, the opportunity and siren call of exceeding all reasonable expectations beckons. Like Odysseus strapped to the ship I am going to resist.  In fact that has already begun.  Mentally I have already said to myself about several potential events and activities, “that is impossible.”  I was supposed to go to an event Tuesday night, but I know that will add even more work and I can’t commit to that right now.  Do I fear that I will miss out on something? If I am being perfectly honest…a little bit. None of this will be easy for me.  I am pretty sure I will know I failed in someway when I lock into the present moment in some meeting or presentation and think, “why am I here?  I could be home. They don’t need me for this.”

The difference is now I know what I would actually miss by giving into that fear and addiction to succeed and surpass is what really matters. I no longer want to give up time with my husband, assistance to my mom, exercise, cooking healthy meals, contented purrs of happy cats, opportunities to volunteer, blogging and meditation.  Let someone else work on that new opportunity.  Right now my hands are full; it’s impossible.


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Clarity at the Crossroads

crossroads-sign

Last week I went on a job interview.  I am not out of work, I am not even unhappy at work.  I happen to be one of those fortunate people who work in a field that really aligns with a core value of mine.  Why was I interviewing?  Funny, that is the question that kept popping in my head during the interview.  In fact when asked, “why do you want to leave your current job?”  I said, “to be honest, I am not sure I do.”

Since I am trying to be more intentional and more present, I really had to sit with this the rest of the day.  Why did I need to say yes when I was called about this job?  There is the obvious, it is flattering, when you are skilled enough in your field that others pursue you.  I have had that happen before and usually I decline.  This time when I really thought about it, I had to admit that at 48 I may have succumbed to a little peer pressure.  I don’t mean the kind like when we are in high school and we whip out our first fake ID to be accepted by our cooler friends…just me?  I mean I have been with my utility for 16 years.  That kind of loyalty or (sloth and lack of ambition) as it is now seen can be a career killer.  Also I rose pretty quickly through the organization my first 8 years, but have been in my current upper management position for the last 8 years.  According to everyone I see who keep asking me “what next?  What’s your next move?” I am supposed to be seeking my next goal.  I went in search of that answer.

Only what I found out is I already had the answer. It is just not the traditional upward mobility, fueled with unmatched ambition answer.  The answer is “this.”  I have reached the place I always wanted to go, and I am happy here.  We are financially stable, all our needs are more than met.  We have another 8 years at our current positions when we can leave with a substantial retirement income and savings and move from the south to the Pacific Northwest and downsize our life’s dream.  I have earned tons of leave so I can take time off with my husband and we can enjoy the hobbies we love.  I have time to volunteer with causes I care about: the water profession, a running coach for my husband’s disadvantaged students, and at a no-kill cat shelter.   I have banked enough sick leave that I could take a year off with pay to take care of my mother if I had to.

My career itself is enormously rewarding.  I protect the environment, help our citizens and community.  I have the trust and respect of our leaders and our community.  I have decision making autonomy and endless variety in my daily tasks.  I get to use my strongest skills and because I have mastered my job, I get to mentor others and travel around the state and country teaching and learning from others.  I remembered how grateful and content I am for all of that sitting across from a very nice General Manager of a very good company who will find the right person for them.  It just won’t be me.  I am not sure if I would have been aware enough to hear my soul so clearly; if I had not started down this path to living more mindfully and quieting my mind through meditation and simplifying.


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An Ode to Letting it Just Happen

My husband and I are wrapping up our week off by going to the oldest Art Festival in Atlanta, The Dogwood Festival.  We did not even know this festival was this weekend and that is the point of this post.  My husband and I took this week off without any plans.  We went planless and without expectations and guess what ensued?  Life and simple joys ensued.  We won’t have a great answer to the question that always follows time away from routine, “what did you do on your vacation?”  Not because we did not do amazing things or have amazing experiences but they were not the traditional sound bite experiences.  We did not go zip lining in the mountains or body surfing at the beach.

Instead we had quiet conversations and held hands, we rode bicycles, ran and exercised our bodies.  We were quiet together and I spent time talking to my mother about the books she loves.  We cooked delicious meals and we shared his love of music with my at a seedy bar.  We laughed about all of it.  I had time to meditate and read.  These activities may not make great pictures but they made my life richer.   This is not natural or easy for me.  If you don’t believe me read my post on discipline and you will understand how unusual this is for me.  I am a planner.  In fact my good friend always imitates me by saying, “get a plan and execute the plan.”  I love a plan.  I am passionate about regime and routine.  As I move toward a more open and relaxed me, I am trying to put it in its place.  I am trying to use routine to allow more time for the unexpected gifts to develop.  It is not easy but it is so worth it.

Things-to-Not-to-Forget-for-a-Beach-Vacation

So no, maybe we did not have beautiful beach pictures.  Maybe some people may think “what a waste of time off.”   I think I leave this week off having had time to add to the things I value: mental and physical health, relationships, our cats, growth, reading and writing.  These are not your values.  Your time would be better spent doing something else.  What I would urge is to throw away the list and expectation.  Open your mind to the possible and not the planned.