Picking a Side

liftarn_DemonstrationDuck Dynasty. Eastside Catholic School. Frank Schaefer. Utah. The ‘homosexual debate’ in the media (social or otherwise) is inescapable these days. Everywhere you turn someone somewhere has something to say about it. It’s wrong. It’s love. It’s free speech. It’s freedom of religion. It’s a sin. It’s not a choice. I’m sure I don’t have anything to add to this discussion that hasn’t already been said and probably said better. So, why bother to add my meager two cents worth to the mile high pile of opinions, feelings, and beliefs?

Being a fan addict of Facebook, I have been watching much of the back and forth play out in my News Feed. I went to high school in The South, so not surprisingly many of my Facebook friends from that era are of a more conservative bent. I live in Seattle, so of equal no surprise many of my Facebook friends from this locale are much more liberal. A not un-small number of them are gay. I was raised by college professors, so it’s fair to say that I lean left in these matters. I suppose I could just go ahead and un-friend those right-wing folk who don’t share my views or my beliefs, but I don’t actually want to lose those connections.

There are loads of subjects on which I don’t agree with my lefty-liberal friends, but I’m keeping them too. If I had a dollar for every time I disagreed with my husband on religion, politics, or any other subject under the sun, I would be independently wealthy. Agreement is not a requirement for a relationship in my book. In fact, I will confess that I sometimes get frustrated with my more liberal friends for being so intolerant of other views and building a fortress of like-mindedness. I think it’s healthy to have our convictions challenged now and again. It either reinforces them or, heaven forbid, forces us to reconsider them. I try to be open to the possibility that I still have plenty to learn and how can I know where or how I might learn it if I close off anything that doesn’t fit nicely into my worldview?

So I keep my patchwork quilt of friends and am sometimes beyond amazed by what Facebook chooses to put next to each other in my feed. It’s like the developers have a twisted sense of irony and I kid you not I will see NRA posts next to a petition for gun control. Mostly, I stay out of the debate. I will “like” things I agree with, ignore those I don’t, and otherwise stick to sharing all things cat/internet related.

However, it has begun to trouble me to stay silent on the subject of homosexuality. Like many other subjects, I do have beliefs and opinions on this topic. You could probably piece two and two together based on what I share and like without too much effort, and I have not been totally silent on this, but that is not the same as taking a stand and speaking your mind and your heart.  After some internal debate about the best way to do that, this blog is where I share my thoughts and feelings and it represents no other views than my own, so it seemed to be the right place and the time is clearly now.

My one ‘rule’ for friending and un-friending in Facebook and in Life is that people treat each other with respect, regardless of how they feel about an issue, a topic, or anyone else’s lifestyle. So, with that respectfulness in mind for my family and friends who may feel differently, here is where I stand…

I believe that love is love and when two people come together in love, regardless of their gender, I believe God smiles on that love. I believe that the so-called gay lifestyle is pretty much the same as the hetero lifestyle. Hormones may drive our actions more when we’re younger, but eventually that is replaced by true relationships, family, and finding someone you can actually put up with for the rest of your life. I have been witness to two growing families in the past few weeks. In one case, a child was born in an unscheduled c-section after over two years of grappling with fertility issues. In another, a child was adopted from abroad and his welcome to this country was a surprise stay in the hospital for illnesses unknown. In both cases, parents cried tears of worry, tears of frustration, and finally tears of joy at these additions to their lives. I simply cannot believe that God looked any differently on either of these family units just because one was heterosexual and the other was homosexual. Love is love.

My position may cause me to lose friends, but if there wasn’t room for us to agree to disagree, it’s just as well that we part ways. My hope is that those who disagree with me on this will take this as an opportunity to thoughtfully challenge their own convictions and then follow their hearts, as I follow mine. For those who agree, I hope you will see the message behind the message that acceptance of others applies to you as well.

Let us not speak of tolerance. This negative word implies grudging concessions by smug consciences. Rather, let us speak of mutual understanding and mutual respect. ~Father Dominique Pire

 


Recovering from Rejection

job_interviewLast week on Monday and Tuesday I had two ‘final’ job interviews with two different companies. As you might guess from the title of this post, I did not get either job. In one case a candidate with more technical knowledge was selected over me. While disappointing, I can’t manufacture a skill I don’t possess, so that one was an easier blow. In the second instance, however, I did not connect well with the hiring manager’s manager. The tension was palpable and I could see discomfort in the hiring manager’s face. Either because of that or because of reasons, I drew a total blank on a question about this company’s industry. It was a stupid mistake and even though I stammered that I didn’t follow their industry, that wasn’t even true. With the benefit of hindsight I had numerous insightful ways I could have answered the question. But, I didn’t, and in interviews there are no second chances, only lessons learned.

Go back in time to the week prior and I was high as a kite with anticipation, excitement, and some anxiety. I studied, I prepared, I did role-plays in my head of how I would answer various questions. Better yet, I literally agonized over which company I might choose if I found myself in the enviable position of having both places make me an offer. I started mentally spending the money on all the things I’ve been wanting to do when I get my next job like go to the spa, or maybe a weekend getaway for Brian and me. Oh, the hubris flowed, and flowed freely, with a nice dash of false modesty on the side (“Of course there are no guarantees of an offer…” she said with a wink). The universe has a funny way of putting us in our place and God surely laughed at my audacity. I meant well, but my judgment was clouded, or rather my head was in the clouds.

I was blathering on to a friend about why this company wasn’t quite right, but maybe it was better than the other one, or maybe not. She rather astutely observed that perhaps neither was the right job. With the wave of a mental hand, I dismissed her comments and went on along my merry way.

When I got the first ‘decline,’ the stress of having to decide was lifted, so I didn’t spend much emotional energy on it. Of course, I already knew in my heart that the second interview was doomed, but I chose instead to torture myself with false hope until the “thank you, but no” email came a few days later. Intellectually, I could see that neither job was really right for me, nor were they what I truly wanted. I had told myself I was following the advice in Stop Worrying About Making the Right Decision and focusing on how I could make either choice a successful one. I also gave myself the “the right job will come along, you just have to have confidence, believe in yourself” pep talk. And I actually do believe the right job will come along. I just forgot to remember that I’m human and rejection sucks. Fast forward to today. I happened to watch that WestJet Christmas Miracle video and suddenly all the emotion poured out and I started to cry, and then cried some more, and kept on at it well after the video ended. I mean it’s a heartwarming video and all, but I went on and on far beyond the power of even holiday marketing efforts.

Why did I care so much about two jobs that deep down I knew were not what I really wanted? I suppose there is some element of fear around being unemployed (expressed to my husband as “No one will ever want to hire me ever again and we’ll have to eat cat food and/or move in with our parents!” she said melodramatically with hand to forehead.) But I think the larger pain is that of rejection. We always want to be the breaker-upper (“it’s not you, it’s me”). No one wants to be the dumpee. We want to be loved, we want to be accepted, we want to be chosen, even if we don’t want what is choosing us. Maybe that is a control thing, or maybe it’s about fear, or failure, or all of them. All I know is that rejection sucks, baby.

Fortunately, I don’t stay down for long. After wallowing around watching more sappy holiday videos (seriously, it’s emotional blackmail, people), I stumbled across this quote that made me feel better.

Thankfully, persistence is a great substitute for talent. ~Steve Martin

I am, if nothing else, a persistent person. Or at least I know how to be persistent. My job search efforts so far have shown me that I can actually make contact with companies and get interviews. The good(?) news about being rejected is that it’s not fatal. Not being picked does not actually damage you. You’re still you. So, I dried my eyes, took a deep breath and got back on Craigslist…

When you’re following your inner voice, doors tend to eventually open for you, even if they mostly slam at first. ~Kelly Cutrone


Time to turn off the timer

I love structure and process. Even in my current state of no-job-ness, I have established my own routines and habits for how I manage my time each day (see How to be unemployed for the bulleted list…). After deciding it would be helpful to create meal plans, I actually created a spreadsheet template that I can fill in each week. And one of the reasons I keep going back to Team in Training year after year is that it provides a structured program for my running. I am currently in between training seasons, so I found a running partner who keeps my running on track at least one day a week.

As part of this structural madness, when I go running, I wear a Garmin watch that records my pace, distance, and even plots out my run on a map when I upload the data online where I track my performance over time.

Left to my own devices without all these self-imposed organizational techniques, I am prone to procrastination of epic proportions. When I trained for races outside of Team in Training I was often getting done as after the sun was setting because I put off running to the last possible hour of the day.

Structure, organization, plans, guidelines are my security blanket. Without them, I seem to flop from the “all” to the “nothing” end of the spectrum. But sometimes I think it’s healthy to shake ourselves up a little, even if only in small ways.

This past week I went out for a solo run. I started my Garmin and about two minutes in, I asked myself what would happen if I turned off my watch and just went for a run? It wasn’t easy as there would be no record for posterity of my efforts on the interwebs, but I stopped the timer and decided to ‘just run’ for a change. My pace wouldn’t matter and I wouldn’t know what it was anyway, so I felt myself relaxing. When you aren’t obsessed with your splits and stuck in your head about your run, you can remind yourself why it is you run in the first place.

SAMSUNGI looked around and saw the beautiful fall colors, I heard the crunch of the leaves beneath my feet. I was running along a street that overlooks the Puget Sound and saw a ferry crossing the water below me. It was a cool, crisp autumn day. The kind that is perfect for running. I ran simply and only for the joy of it.

How often do we go through the motions and follow our systems and plans without remembering why we are even doing these things in the first place? Sometimes we have to turn off the timer, put away the spreadsheet, set down the calendar and remember to enjoy ourselves.

I went to see my hairdresser Christy a couple of weeks ago. I was telling her about all my job seeking efforts and my frustration at how slow-going it all seemed to be. (The best hairdressers are as good of listeners as the best bartenders.) She commented that if it was going to take a long time, I might as well enjoy it.

There is no rule that says you are required to be somber and serious while looking for a job. In fact, that approach probably hinders more than it helps.  Of course, I wasn’t trying not to enjoy myself, but I had gotten wound up in the routines and habits, that I forgot to relax and enjoy the ride. I am very fortunate that I have an amazing support system of family and friends, who have gone out of their way to help me. I have a loving husband who since he’s working from home these days I actually get to spend time with for a change. I have a roof over my head and food in my belly, and I am financially able to weather this storm without being one (or two or ten) paychecks from homelessness. I have much to appreciate about this journey.

When you are running towards an intersection where the light at the crosswalk is about to change and you don’t have quite enough time to make it – but if you run and run hard maybe there is a chance you just might make it. So you kick it into gear and make it across the street with one second to spare.  Then you remember that you don’t have to run, you aren’t making a reluctant choice to run, you are lucky that you get to run as hard as you can.  I am very lucky in both my endurance training and professional endeavors that I “get” to run and I’m going to do everything I can to enjoy both to their fullest.


The Real Me

vanity2Now that I’ve been at home, not working for a bit, I’m starting to uncover a few things about my true nature. Not that these traits are any big surprise, but I think we often see our work selves a little differently than we see our rest-of-our-life selves. As it turns out, I have some habits that are intrinsic to my personality, not a function of my job, workplace, or profession.

Here, in no particular order, are a few observations:

  • I have no attention span. I know, I know, I’m an American living in the land of instant gratification, but still I am amazed by my own lack of focus. I interrupt my own interruptions. I will walk out of the bedroom to take a glass back to the kitchen and stop to catch something on TV and then turn from that to check my email, then Facebook, then Twitter, which will make me think of something on the TV and then I will see my glass, but remember there was something else in the bedroom I wanted to get and you get the idea. It can take 12 hours for that glass to make it all the way to the kitchen sink.
  • I am a big procrastinator. Given that I have huge blocks of time at my disposal to finally get this or that big project done, one would think I would have started, something, anything. (Maybe I’m just too tired from all the ADD-based activity noted above??) Alas, I haven’t organized my scrapbooks. I haven’t created a menu plan with all new recipes I’ve never tried before. In fact, it took me almost two weeks just to get my cycling gloves back downstairs in my bike bag. Thankfully, I’m not a complete loser – I was able to tackle some of the important job-seeking tasks like updating my resume right off the bat. In fact, there seems to be some correlation between the level of priority and the level of procrastination. I do address the mission critical stuff in a timely fashion. I think I was just a little surprised to realize all those things that weren’t that important when I was employed (e.g., the scrapbooks) still aren’t that important.
  • I like helping others more than I like helping myself. This is not to say I’m not doing things to take care of myself – I am still going to Weight Watchers, I’m still running, and I am spending time each day on my networking/job hunt efforts. However, I find when I am doing the job search my mind tends to wander to other folks I think I would great for this or that opportunity. Today, after chatting with a recruiter about what I was looking for, we spent a good fifteen minutes with me telling her about this other friend of mine she should be talking to as well. Of course, I didn’t think that helping people was strictly tied to work, but I guess I had expected that I would become much more self-focused not being in a regular work environment every day. So it has been heartening to know that my desire to think about others has persisted even when home all day.
  • I’m still an extrovert. Okay, this is no surprise to anyone, least of all to myself. There is only so much hanging around at home that I can handle. Fortunately, I have been taking advantage of my flexibility to catch up with old friends for coffee or lunch and have been doing a little volunteering here and there to get me out of the house. Yesterday was one of those rare days that I was home all day by myself. When Brian got home, we went to run a few errands and bumped into a friend. We stopped at the corner and chatted for a few crosswalk cycles and it was amazing what a lift to my mood it was to talk to someone besides the cat.

As un-earth shattering as these insights may be, I do appreciate that I have had the mental bandwidth lately to observe and take note of them. I think a little self-reflection does us all good, and seeing some of the same patterns in our different walks of life helps reinforce what is “us” and what is our environment. As much as I would love to blame some of my short-comings on factors outside my control, I am actually glad to know that I’m the same (flawed and complex) me, working or not.

I think of myself as something of a connoisseur of procrastination, creative and dogged in my approach to not getting things done. ~Susan Orlean

How to be unemployed

resumeFirst, a couple of points on what this isn’t… This is not a piece on how to become unemployed. Generally speaking, I find most folks are able to figure that one out on their own. This also is not about how to get a job. There are loads of great articles on job hunting and the main suggestion I’ll make on that point is LinkedIn, LinkedIn, LinkedIn. (Oh, that, and I am finding the book Purple Squirrel by Michael Junge to be a great resource.)

This is more about how to spend the time you aren’t scouring the inter-webs and networking a go-go (LinkedIn – seriously, people). I was going to call this “rules for unemployment,” but they are more like pirate-style guidelines and don’t require 100% strict adherence.

  • Make the bed – this requires that you actually get out of bed, which is good for you and prevents bed sores. I put away the alarm clock and don’t worry too much about when I get up, but I don’t lay around wallowing under the covers. (No one likes a wallower.)
  • Put on clothes – they don’t have to be fancy, but they can’t be the same thing you woke up in. Repeats are okay, but clean underwear is a must.
  • Go out into the world – hey, you’ve got clothes on, might as well take advantage. These don’t have to be big adventures and some days it’s just down to the 7-Eleven to get a Slurpee, but I try to make sure I leave the house at least once a day. Think of it as Vitamin D therapy.
  • Do nothing – every day, I sit out on my deck and try to be still for at least 10 minutes. You could call this meditating or praying, but as long as there are no electronic devices present, I just call it being calm.
  • Do something (for yourself) – lately for me this has been catching up on my Rom-Com DVDs (50 First Dates, anyone?), but it can be anything that is not job-hunt related that you enjoy. You will never be any good to anyone else, like a future employer, if you aren’t good to yourself first.
  • Do something (for someone else) – I believe we’re on this earth to help each other. I try to find a way to do something, no matter how small, for someone else every single day. Maybe it’s volunteering, or maybe it’s helping a friend with their job search. And some days it’s just bringing home a Reece’s Big Cup for my husband when I make my 7-Eleven run.
  • Be active – I find physical activity keeps both the cobwebs and the blues away. Some days, the hubby and I go for a long bike ride, and my running buddy, Duana, and I meet for runs once a week. Today, I took my pregnant friend for a walk (double bonus for helping someone else at the same time!)
  • See people – setting the networking aspect of this aside for a moment, take advantage of the fact that your schedule is flexible and start catching up with all those folks you always promised you would meet for coffee when you had time. You now have that time. Sitting at home alone seeing no one makes your brain grow mold and who wants a moldy brain?
  • Be grateful – I try my best to think of one thing I’m grateful for every day and when I’m having a hard day, I make a list. Again, this can be big stuff or little stuff. It all counts. Sometimes the little stuff is the big stuff.

Maybe your list is different, or maybe you don’t have a list and throwing the list away is part of your strategy. Whatever it is that you do while you are laying fallow, spend the time on your own terms. It may or may not take a long time to find that next job. You can choose to see that time as tortuous and long, or as a gift to be appreciated, but it is a choice – and the choice is yours. When I think about my next employer, whoever they may be, I imagine they would rather have someone positive, calm, and happy as a candidate and not someone bitter and frustrated. Or forget the job search for a minute, why would you want to be bitter and frustrated in any case? Life is precious and short and there’s no use wasting that precious time, regardless of your employment status.

Positive anything is better than negative nothing. ~Elbert Hubbard


To LexBlog, with Gratitude

Thank_you_pinned_note Yesterday was my last day working at LexBlog. Although of my own choosing, the parting was nonetheless bittersweet (fortunately more sweet than bitter). But, I left because of, you know, reasons, and I certainly take full accountability for my own shortcomings in that equation as well. I requested a graceful exit and I am very appreciative that LexBlog, specifically CEO Kevin O’Keefe and President Kevin McKeown (aka “The Kevins”), honored and supported that request. So, I don’t want to spend my time and blog-space focusing on what did or didn’t happen and why it didn’t work out.

It can be challenging to leave a company, with no other job in hand, and keep relations friendly. It’s a little like breaking up and promising to still be friends. It’s theoretically possible and it does happen, but more often than not, it’s a bit more of a unicorn hunt in the making. But, hey, who doesn’t love a good unicorn hunt, and sometimes it is the trying that is as important as anything.

I have been reading a lot lately on the correlation between gratitude and happiness and have therefore been trying to spend a little more of my energy on being thankful versus being negative.

So, with all that in mind, I offer here a few of the things for which I’m grateful to LexBlog…

  • This blog: Although the blog existed before I came to LexBlog, I had written exactly 0 posts prior to starting here. It was through the encouragement of Kevin O’Keefe that I was inspired to try my hand at blogging. To my surprise and delight, I found it was an outlet for expressing myself in writing that I didn’t realize just how much I would enjoy.
  • Walking Meetings: Kevin McKeown and I had many a 1×1 walking from LexBlog’s office to downtown Seattle. Sometimes we talked business, more often we just chatted and occasionally we stopped to window gaze at shop displays.
  • Pranks: As Kevin McKeown and I were walking down the street in one of the aforementioned meetings, my bus pulled up as we arrived at the stop and I decided to hop on. After I got on the bus, Kevin jumped on and told everyone on the bus that it was my first time ever riding a bus and then promptly jumped off as the bus pulled away. And, I’ll mention just one other instance where the Kevins got into a Twitter debate over whether martians would think dogs ruled over humans…
  • Our Clients: I have formed some very close and hopefully long-lasting relationships with many of our clients. I have been touched beyond words at the support and encouragement I have received when I  shared news of my departure. I hesitate to name names here for fear, like the Oscars, I would forget someone who deserved to be acknowledged, but for those of you who I’ve spoken with lately, I think you know who you are.cat
  • Cat Videos: For whatever reason, sharing funny cat videos seems to be a “thing” here at LexBlog and I can’t count how many times a well-timed cat video seemed to be exactly what I needed at that moment. (Cat in shark costume is a current favorite…)
  • My Colleagues: LexBlog knows how to pick ’em. Seriously. I’m not sure I have worked in another company where there is zero in-fighting behind the scenes and such a general sense of comradery. (Maybe it’s all the cat videos??) Y’all are great and it wasn’t easy to go because of that.

In fact, given all the good there has been, it hasn’t been easy to go, period. But just like that really great, really nice guy who you know in your heart isn’t the one, sometimes you still have to break up. Regardless, I’ll be rooting for LexBlog from the sidelines and will only be happy to see the company’s future success. As I walked out the door, I proudly put on my rose colored glasses, erased the bad memories, clung tight to the good ones and was grateful for the time I spent there.


On being huge

Me, being huge (and healthy)

Me, being huge (and healthy)

I was on my way to my weekly Weight Watchers meeting leaving three women behind me on the elevator. As the doors closed, I very distinctly and clearly heard one of them say *cough*huge*cough*.  This was not one of those situations where maybe someone said something that was misconstrued. There was no mistaking that the comment was referring to me.

At first, I was kind of confused. Huge?  Am I huge? I know that I am overweight. (I was on my way to a Weight Watchers meeting after all…) In fact, I know specifically exactly how overweight I am and how much weight I need to lose. It’s not a pretty number, but I have to say I never think of myself as “huge.” The term is relative so I suppose it’s all a matter of opinion. I also asked myself if me and my size had done something to encourage the remark. The elevator was not full, I had gotten on first and wasn’t blocking the door. It’s not like the ride was slowed down on account of my huge-ness. I certainly wasn’t doing anything undignified that we huge people ought not to be (like the often awkward looking 40-plus-year old carrying too much stuff desperate run-shuffling to catch the bus I do every other day – I might actually make fun of myself if I saw me doing that). I guess I was wearing a bright pink Lands End jacket that would probably make Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries cringe, but was that actually a reason to be snarky? Maybe I didn’t get the memo that we huge people aren’t supposed to wear pink in public.

From there, I couldn’t help thinking that those women were just plain mean. Working women mean girls. In my fantasy re-enactment of the event, I turn around just in time to stop the elevator door with my hand and defiantly say something witty and cutting like, “Did you just call me huge? At least I can actually do something about my weight. You’re going to be bitches forever…” and definitely swirl away in my fabulous berry-pink-jacket-ness and leave them shocked with the doors closing on their dropped jaws. In reality, I doubt they even realized I heard them and I was left to simply wonder what would make someone say something so mean.

I also told myself I shouldn’t care or be bothered by the comment. I was literally on my way to a meeting where I would be accepted for who I am as a person and at the same time encouraged to take steps to improve myself and my weight. It’s not like calling me weight-related names in any way motivates me to get un-huge. In fact, generally the opposite is true. If they had caught me on a day when I was already full up on my own negative self-talk, the remark might have made me cry, or added to the mountain of helplessness and self-loathing I sometimes succumb to regarding my weight. Fortunately, I was in a good mental space that day and had even shown a loss on the scale (ha-ha, mean girls, I’m 2 lbs less huge than you thought I was), so I quickly moved on with my day and my life.

But it did get me thinking. I don’t know if we truly realize the power that small words and gestures can have on other people. I’m sure those women have no idea that days later I am still turning what they said over in my mind and that it affected me enough to take it to the blogosphere. I also reminded myself that I have had some pretty positive experiences with random strangers, too.That same day when I was making my evening run/lurch/shlep towards the bus, a couple of guys got the bus driver’s attention and had him hold the bus for me. A few weeks ago someone in my office building who has seen me out training for my half marathon told me that seeing me run had inspired her to get active too.

I guess the trick is to tip the balance in favor of the positive. Because, if I’m honest, it’s not as if I’ve never been some variation of a mean girl myself. We all say inappropriate things at one time or another. Sometimes we do it to be funny, or to fit in, or we simply did not think through the implications of our words. Instead of imagining some fantastical revenge plot against those nameless women, or getting up on a moralistic high horse and pretending I’m better than them because I happened to be on the receiving end of their comment this time around, I am going to suggest a different response. Next time I hear (or make…) an inappropriate remark, I am going to find a way to put a little positive energy out in the universe in it’s place and I invite you to join me. Compliment the next person you see who’s wearing fabulous shoes. Hold the door open for a stranger. Be an inspiration to others by your actions.


Getting up earlier does not make more hours in the day

Time is finite. I understand this intellectually. Yet I still went into my Lenten discipline of getting up at 5am every morning (weekends too) believing that this practice would give me MORE TIME. I held onto this delusion for a few weeks even though I pretty much immediately learned that getting up that early requires going to bed much earlier as well. And I can attest from those nights when I stayed up too late, that the quantity of time you gain is seriously compromised by the sleep-dreprived hazy quality of the time you get as a result. There are 24 hours in a day. You can slice and dice them any way you want, but you can’t make more of them. That’s the deal.

But, hey, if I am getting out of bed at 5am every morning, when I wasn’t before, I must be doing something with that slice of time, right? Without much any forethought, I sort of assumed I would do deeply meaningful and spiritual things at that hour. What have I actually been doing?  Uh, well, I started reading my work emails earlier. I started going in to work earlier too. I have been making far more of my breakfasts at home, so I guess I’m slightly healthier than when I went to the deli for breakfast every other day. This morning I watched Maid in Manhattan, which I enjoyed immensely (and maybe even cried a little when JLo’s character told Ralph Fiennes’ character that he never would have noticed her if he knew she was a maid), but that is hardly a meaningful or spiritual endeavor.

Okay, so much for the spiritual angle. Maybe I have at least become suddenly amazingly more productive at work. Not so much. I still have barely looked at my iPad since I started this practice – and reading blogs and sharing articles on Twitter is actually part of my job. If you go in earlier, you also burn out sooner at the end of day. Turns out there are just so many hours of professional productivity available as well. I think it’s fair to say that anyone I work with has noticed zero difference in my work output since I changed my sleeping habits. And looking at your inbox earlier in the morning only means you start getting stressed out about everything that’s in it sooner. It doesn’t change the number of emails you get.

Is there any point to this exercise other than a chronic lack of sleep? (As an aside, I do think it’s cosmically funny that Daylight Savings happened in the middle of Lent this year, ensuring I didn’t get *too* used to getting up at 5am before I had to get up yet an hour earlier.) I am re-learning again for the millionth time that magic doesn’t happen just because you temporarily change one thing in your life. Especially when you do it practically on a whim. Sometimes I think the reason I observe Lent each year is to keep reminding myself of how naive I am about the nature of personal transformation.

I am learning to appreciate that it is the choices you make about how you spend your time that matter, not the amount of time you have, even if I haven’t always been making those better choices.

858359_10151537763294179_864527148_oI have had one “stand out” moment in my early awakenings. A few weekends ago, Brian and I went to Alderbrook Resort on the Hood Canal. I really was not looking forward to getting up at 5am on a Sunday when I was supposed to be getting away to relax. I thought about invoking the Sunday-Lent exemption, but since I observe my sacrifices on Sundays too, I reluctantly picked up the phone, requested a wake-up call and hoped they would forget. They didn’t and so I rose before the sun was up and went into the sitting area in our room. I was able to find a small light that I could turn on without waking Brian and I sat near the window reading. It was quiet and peaceful and although there was no jaw dropping sunrise, I was present to see the dawn break. Nothing dramatic happened, but for that short and precious time, the jangling chaos that so often invades my life was held at bay, and that was a true gift.

For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed. ~Khalil Gibran


I Fail, Therefore I Am

I screw up. A lot. If I had a dollar for every missed opportunity, misstep, or flat out failure in my life, I would have a lot of dollars and I would be writing this post from my beach house in the tropics… I have weight issues, I had a failed marriage, and I’ve had plenty of professional failures too. I even failed my driver’s license test as a teenager. Three times. And for me, one mistake often leads to ten others. Which is a sign that I don’t even make mistakes the right way; because the best mistake-makers learn from their mistakes, right?

There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All mistakes are blessings given to us to learn from. ~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

It would be really easy to pack up my bags and go home (writing this post is making the dark space under my covers particularly appealing right now). But one of the things I seem to actually have going for me is a deep reservoir of resilience.

Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. ~Winston Churchill

Yes, I failed my driver’s license test three times, but I took the test four times and did ultimately pass. I had a marriage that ended in divorce, but I had the courage to marry again and I have now been happily married for over 13 years. I completed a boot camp that I had no business being in because I simply just kept showing up. Sometimes I think it’s not that I am so resilient, but rather that I am too stubborn and determined to know when to quit.

Fall seven times, stand up eight. ~Japanese Proverb

Many years ago, earlier in my career, I was in line for a big promotion at work. It was practically a done deal. So much so that my boss asked me not talk about it. So what did I do?  I went to lunch the next day with a colleague and confessed it all in deepest confidence. What did she do?  She went right to my bosses office after lunch to tell her about our discussion. Needless to say, I did not get that promotion. It was so tempting to quit. I dreamed about quitting. In fact, I polished up my resume and started looking. However, for some reason, I didn’t leave. I didn’t want to leave. I would love to say I learned some huge life lesson from it all, but mostly I learned to live with my disappointment.

For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I’m going to be honest here. Failure sucks. As great as it is for developing your character (I have enough character already, thanks), it is no fun. I have no regrets about my life and you couldn’t pay me any amount of dollars to go backwards in time. However, if it were possible to go through life and become self-actualized, non-egotistical, and fully functional-in-society without having to go through the school of hard knocks, I would be the first to sign up. Of course, it’s not possible. I am who I am today because of my failures. It’s what keeps us all from being complete asshats. No one is perfect, no one escapes making mistakes. That’s the deal.

You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you. ~Walt Disney

So, how do I cope with the inevitable failures in my life? Sometimes I write blog posts about them. This would hardly be the first post that is as much for me as it is about me. I have a great support system. One time, after coming home from a particularly tough day at work, my husband cheered me up by calculating how much money we could get if we cashed in both our 401k’s to move to Hawaii, complete with internet search results on affordable condos in Waikiki. I laugh with friends, or cry by myself – or vice versa. In a pinch, a minute or two on the site Cats In Sinks generally cheers me up. I plan trips. (When going through a box in the back of my closet the other day, I found a large stack of state visitor bureau catalogs that I used to order when I was feeling blue before the days of the internet.) I keep on keeping on, just like everyone else.


In the Service of Others – Who’s Serving Who?

bobocal_Shaking_Hands“You dropped something.” I looked down, and not seeing anything, looked back at the person who made the comment. “You dropped your smile.” I immediately replied to his comment with the lost smile, the moment passed, and I moved on with what I was doing.

The church Brian and I joined, First Church (http://firstchurchseattle.org/), serves a hot breakfast to 250-300 hungry people every Sunday morning. We signed up to help and for the past few months have been volunteering one Sunday a month. Although I live and work in an urban setting, and encounter homeless men and women on a daily basis, there has not been much in the way of engagement in those encounters. I put on my “city face” and walk with purpose past those in need without pause.

The first time we were to volunteer, I will confess that I was anxious and nervous. Would the people be scary?  Should I worry about my safety? I’m not proud of these sentiments, but I was ignorant, and at least I was willing to show up anyway. Since we would be on our feet for two hours, serving food, and clearing tables, I dressed down in old jeans and sneakers. We were told to show up at the front entrance of the fellowship hall to be let in, and to further demonstrate my lack of experience, I wondered if we might be confused with those seeking a hot meal. Well, I should not have even bothered with that concern, as I quickly discovered that the chasm between the “haves” and the “have-nots” is deep and wide and hardly denoted by the clothes we wear. I suspect we all could have been wearing identical track suits and the differences would still have been obvious. I think there is something intrinsic in the way we carry ourselves when we know where our next meal will come from and where we will sleep at night, just as there is when we don’t.

My worries and expectations were turned upside down in the first moments we were there. The guests were gracious and thankful, and it was rewarding to be of service. If I had known how much I would have gotten out of the experience, I would have overcome my fears long ago. To be real, it’s not all fairy tales and unicorns. There are issues and challenges with working with those who are down on their luck, but my concerns were way overblown and the rewards much greater than expected.

It was my experience with the gentleman who encouraged me to smile that made me realize this experience is not a one-way street. When he prompted me to smile, he pulled me out of my head and my single-minded focus on the task at hand. He reminded me that smiling is important. In that moment, he helped me. I had hoped that serving at these shared breakfasts would be rewarding, but I had not realized that I myself would receive the service of those I thought I was serving. On the surface, it was a simple comment, but somehow he knew that at that moment I needed someone to ask me to smile.