From Type A to Type Ahh

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


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No One is Guaranteed A Tomorrow

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Pretty perky, huh?  You might have thought I would write about our recent vacation. Instead I am thinking of a dear friend we laid to rest today at 41.  He had some medical challenges and he went in for surgery on Wednesday, supposed to be routine and a start to his healing.  Something happened while he was in his room recovering and he died Wednesday night.  I had just talked with him.

Everyone who knew him takes comfort in his strong faith.  He truly had strong faith.  I am of the secular Buddhist persuasion and he was a southern Baptist.  We did not share a similar faith, but I could admire his faith and he never judged me for mine or lack thereof.  He was possibly one of the kindest and most compassionate people I knew and that was echoed in the outpouring of memorials on Facebook and throughout the Water Industry in Georgia.  Duane did not know that Wednesday would be his last day here, but the way he led his life, the impact he left behind; it feels right and complete.  I don’t mean at 41 anyone has or should be considered to have lived a long enough life. Duane lived a life full of the important things.  There is sorrow, and a sort of disbelief that none of us will benefit from his counsel or his laughter, but there is not a sense of regret. No one could say “Duane was going to give back, spend time with friends and family, after he retired.”  Duane was living in the here and now, fully present for those who knew and loved him.   It made me think what if that happened to me?  Am I living like Duane?

Do I spend too much time projecting into the future or analyzing the past.  When I could spend a few more minutes cuddling my husband and cats in bed; do I always have to bolt out to start the to do list?  Could I be more engaged when my mom tells me the same story for the 10th time?  Do I have to interrupt and say yes you told me that.  The truth is, sooner rather than later she won’t be here to tell it at all.  I could take that extra moment to be  kinder and more patient.  I could see that maybe someone is hurting and put aside the project at hand just to listen.  My pursuit to slow down, be more present, be more compassionate continues.  Life provides guides and opportunities.  Duane was at first a guide, a truly compassionate, non-judgmental  person.  Now he has given me an opportunity to recognize where I can grow and improve. No one is promised tomorrow so we better start today.  Rest in Peace, my friend.  You are gone but the lessons you left live on.


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Giving Single Tasking A Try

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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

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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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Technology Togetherness

 

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This month has been a struggle and I have noticed a few things good and bad.  Since I am all about keeping this space honest and not making it look like changing core aspects of yourself is a walk in the park here are some observations I have made in pursuit of a less technology influenced Zen.  I use my phone a lot.  I mean enough that I can really notice and physically struggle not to use it.  So not proud of that.  In my mind’s eye I see a much more evolved version of myself.  Unfortunately, the harsh light of day I see me and my phone.

Giving up social media is really hard when your job and your volunteer work require you to use it.  If I am being totally honest there are parts of it I really miss, but parts I am grateful that I am missing.  I really truly miss keeping up with the Good Mews Shelter on our Facebook Page. I could tell which kitties got adopted and support other volunteers and I do feel out of the loop and not in that zen mountain top kind of way, but in that I am not fully supporting my friends and organization kind of way.  Also there are times that social media really provides some micro-local information faster than anywhere else.  See how by using my phone less I have had time to completely invent words like “micro-local”.  For instance we had another snow and ice event and I am not going to lie I used social media to get updates on roads, the County’s status since I work there and the school system where my husband works.  I also used it to make sure my friends and family were okay.  The other thing I miss is that these platforms, particularly Facebook, are a way to stay connected to family and friends I don’t see.  No, it is not the same as Face to face.  I feel that in the rare instances when we can get together face to face I feel closer to them because I am connected to them through this platform.

What I did not miss and where I think I sometimes got dragged along is all the other stuff.  The vitriol, the news stories, the fighting, and proselytizing.  I don’t think that elevates the discourse.  I can’t tell you how glad I was to have the mental peace of mind during the whole Government shutdown.  I think what has come out of this is a more intentional use of social media.  I think I may actually post less and support more.  I can better prioritize what to use the platform for so it becomes a benefit and not a distraction.

On using the phone less as a whole that has had mixed results and interesting revelations also.  This post has been long enough.  I will expand on that in my next post.  Hope your new year is off and running.


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The Not So Pretty Truth

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So I guess the whole reason that we, people, try new things, adopt resolutions, set goals is to be a better version of ourselves.  At least that is true for me.  A better version for me means a more present, calmer, and compassionate person.  I have been working on that.  It means letting go of  a lot.  For a self-proclaimed, and let’s be honest, other proclaimed uptight perfectionist it isn’t easy.

Again more honesty.  I was feeling pretty good about my progress.  I am less reactive, I do notice when I am acting out of judgement, etc.  For god sake I meditate!  Then I decided to set limits on my phone.  What no one tells you about the road to a better you is that you walk a lot of it in the harsh light of day with the current version of you.  I have to say limiting my phone has been harder than meditating everyday.  A fact I am not proud of!  Could I really be so dependent on some small metal and glass device.  Sadly, the answer is yes.

I had a couple of hurdles to overcome.  The first is well-known and often written about FOMO – Fear of Missing Out.  Without accessing social media for a month and not accessing my phone for several days a week once I leave work, I felt two things I was unprepared for: anxiety and guilt.  Anxiety came from the fear of not being responsive to a work issue that might rise.  It had been a long time since I physically and mentally left the office.  It felt strange.  I somehow felt unmoored.  What was going on at the office and if I was not fixing it who was?  Yeah I know right? Ego much?  I had kind of taken a lot of pride in being the always available hero of my own narrative.

The other issue of guilt took me more by surprise.  I felt really guilty being home and setting that boundary between work and home.  They had inadvertently over the years melted into one thing. I am home but mentally tethered to my work umbilical cord courtesy of Apple.  Why was I feeling guilty about leaving work at work and trying to be present with my husband, family, friends and cats?  As if that question was not bad enough.  I found an even worse one.  Why wasn’t I guilty about all the time I was not being physically and mentally present at home and in my relationships?

Well the struggle is real, and the truth can be ugly.  Until we look it dead in the eyes and set the phone to airplane mode.  Still on the uncertain road to better version of myself.  One missed tweet at a time!


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Slow Holidays

christmas-tree-and-lights-1140x641 Is this time of year like all the songs say?  Happiness and joy fill the air, you spend cool winter nights laughing with loved ones and sharing time.  If you are like most people this time of the year makes you question where this imagery even came from.  It can seem like an endless blur of obligations, errands, over spending and over indulging.  Probably one of the reasons New Year’s resolutions are so popular; we feel the need to cleanse and relax after the hustle and bustle.  That is what I used to think about the holidays too.  Last year, moved by recent events, my husband and decided Christmas would be different.  I wanted to bring happiness, peace and comfort and so did he.  We decided no gifts for or from anyone but we did make charitable donations to causes and organizations that meant something to the recipients. We also adopted a child for the holidays from boy and girls club and we gave items on the wish list of Good Mews, the shelter where I volunteer.  I have to say for the first time in many years I really felt the holiday spirit.

This year we are doing another slow, giving holiday.  We don’t spend every free minute attending holiday parties, because we are not really party people.  Instead we are going to see some local theatre, walk and run through Christmas lights and spending time together.  Hubby gets his Christmas break from school.  Because work is so slowat this time of the year, I usually take off nearly 2 weeks also.  It is a great time to reconnect.  No gifts again this year, but more charitable giving.  This year I will be giving a person clean drinking water on behalf of each of my friends and family.  You can find out more at Charity Water.  For each $30 donation you provide clean water to one person in the world.  What could be a better gift?  With our recent switch to vegetarianism I think we have a handle on the usual over indulgences.  I will bake some cookies, but not 12 dozen like past years.  I want to enjoy the experience.  Being more mindful and slowly baking a few cookies to share while listening to my favorite holiday music will make them more special for me and those I share them with.  On a side note I don’t have to fear the after Christmas bills and my husband and I can use the money we would have used to buy more stuff we don’t need to finish paying for the trip we are taking to the Bahamas in February.

I hope you all find time for what is truly important this holiday season!

 


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Giving Back and Getting More

volunteers Do you volunteer?  I mean with time, and your heart and energy behind a cause?  If not why not?  That is a question I had to answer.  I always saw myself as the kind of person who would volunteer.  I have causes, and activities I am passionate about. I care about my community and the greater good.

Truth was I had no problem volunteering for my profession.  I gave a lot to water related organizations in time and leadership.  Though I care passionately about my career field and water, it is not all I care about.  It was the only place I volunteered.  I had to take a hard look at that.

What I found was not that flattering.  It was easy to volunteer in my profession because work allowed it and the time investment I made, with small exceptions, was time I would have dedicated to my job.  The time I had trouble dedicating was my own.  I believed in these things and causes and certainly believed that people should give back in their community.  It just seemed whenever I really had an opportunity I thought more about what I would have to give up, my time, and my resources.

This idea did not align with what I have been working on, so head long into volunteering I had to jump.  I decided to pursue two things.  First was a joint venture with my husband.  This way volunteering was something we could do together.  Two years ago we started coaching a running club at his school.  The school is a low-income school, primarily hispanic population.  We coach a running club through Atlanta Track Club every Friday for twenty weeks a year.  It turned out to be fun.  We get to do something we enjoy, run.  We get to inspire that love of running in kids and we can be a support and role model for at risk kids.  Since this happens Friday after work and with my husband the dreaded time loss was minimized.  After that success I decided to do something I have wanted to do for years, volunteer in animal rescue.  Specifically, volunteer with cats.

This was not something I would do with my husband and not something I could do within work hours.  I was going have to give of my time, my heart, and my personal resources.  I started small by attending a training and volunteering for a couple of spaced out outreach events for Good Mews, a local cage-free, No Kill shelter.  As I began to volunteer I found that I did not really lose anything like I feared.  I gained so much more.  I now volunteer regularly as a team lead for programs like Reading to Cats and Yoga with Cats.  I recently became a Kitty Buddy committing 30 minutes a week to help a shy and under socialized cat get used to people so they are more adoptable.

I have really gotten more out of these volunteer experiences, than I give.  For the professional volunteering I have gained contacts, leadership experience, and knowledge.  From the running club I have a shared experience with my husband, exercise, and I get to participate with his school which helps me appreciate what he does more.  At Good Mews I am truly helping a cause close to my heart.  I have made new friends and talk about a stress reducer: lunch hour spent with 100 cats.  Maybe not for everybody but for me.  If you think you can’t volunteer, start slowly.  I have found that I feel more aligned with what I always said I believe is important.