My husband just returned from a quick trip to Istanbul, where he presented a paper at the International Society for Iranian Studies conference. If you ever wanted someone with whom to discuss the Gothic Sublime, and repetition and imagery in Sadeq Hedayat’s The Blind Owl, I’ve got your man. Also, here’s some pictures he took of Istanbul.
Unfortunately, he had no time for sightseeing, but I think he got some great shots.
Above photos are all by Aaron Albert Haley
Check out Walking on Travels for more adventure tales from bloggers.
Friday the 13th was a travel day. My time was spent contending with weather delays, missed connections, mismanagement, cancelled flights, long lines, and four separate boarding passes before I finally broke free of the Houston Airport. That flight actually took me to Washington D.C. (yes, coast to coast) before I could reach my destination in Indianapolis.
Exhausted from the chaos of the previous day, I joined my colleagues for breakfast, and the opening address from our CEO. I leaned back in my chair, sated with a delicious breakfast, and allowed the coffee to find it’s way through my circulatory system. I was acclimating. Then the words she was saying started to sink in. Like scraping the needle across a record, something in my brain screeched to a stop. I sat up straight.
You want to change YSC? You want to change the one thing that has been most helpful in keeping me sane over the past two years? I looked around the room; I wasn’t the only one looking uncomfortable. This wasn’t just any room, this was a room full of breast cancer survivors and supporters. These are women and men who are all-too-familiar with having change thrust upon them, changes no one should have to endure.
While the purpose of the event was to steer the organization towards a sustainable future that supports its mission to provide services for young women with breast cancer nationwide, I got a little something else out of it as well. The three day weekend distilled itself quite neatly into a lesson in change management.
On one day I saw agents rolling their eyes, defensively barking at everyone that they can’t control the weather, and disparaging travellers who were exhuasted, hungry, sore, irritated, anxious, travelling with a hoard of kids, and some (who may or may not have been me) who desperately needed to go to the bathroom but didn’t want to lose their place in line after already waiting an hour. To be sure, I do not envy their jobs; dealing with that many people in a crisis situation far from home can’t be easy. But in many ways the agents themselves contributed to the chaos and stress of the situation, encouraging it to advance from an unfortunate inconvenience to angry, pushing crowds.
The next day, I witnessed a very different method of dealing with change.
These are big changes that impact programs that were built with sweat, tears, and heart by unpaid volunteers. They are mucking about with, what is for many of us, our safe place. But I went home feeling ok about the situation, not because I agree with everything that has been decided, but because of the way the announcement and the subsequent activities were handled. The day was programmed around providing more information, and requesting comments, criticisms, and concerns from the participants. I’m fascinated by how liberating it felt to make a comment and have it really heard. Each time that happened, the stress lightened up a bit. After a night of dancing, things started to look a lot better the next morning.
There is also a great deal of value in hearing management say they don’t have that nailed down yet because they intend to consider our responses. Whoa. This was more than just letting affiliate leaders vent to get things out of their system, they were really collecting information.
I think there were two elements that were most effective in helping us process these changes: understanding and time. There’s just no way to quantify the value of being heard and really understood. Additionally, I have a better understanding of the plan, and on a logical level, I can see that these changes will help our organization be more nimble and responsive, remain sustainable, and ultimately help more young women with breast cancer. My head is there, my heart may take a bit more time to catch up.
And time was a critical element here as well. It allowed me to get used to the idea. These changes are six months off, so we have room to acclimate, plan for them, and make the best of them. Over the weekend there was a pattern of relieving pressure by taking and answering questions, followed by some time, and then another pressure relief opportunity. By the time I got on the plane to return home, I was still unsure how I felt about some of the elements, but the angst was gone. The transparency demonstrated throughout the event gives me hope that concerns that arise in the interim will be handled with the same grace.
It should be noted that the participants in this meeting are women and men who have already faced daunting changes and challenges, rose above them, and used them as a catalyst for helping others and improving the world around them. We have plenty of experience in adapting, and making the best of a situation. Give us a little time, resources, and infrastructure; we will make this work.
On the other hand, less time in Houston would have been preferable. But DCA turned out to be a beautiful airport (top photo), and I got to see the Washington D.C. monuments from the air, both coming and going. It’s been a quarter century since the last time I saw them.
How do you deal with change? Do you prefer to have time to get used to an idea? Or does more time mean you stew and worry more before it happens?
To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson is one of my favorite thinkers, and that quote really spoke to me this morning.
I tend to be hard on myself – comparing myself to others, and the outward expressions of their success: prestigious job with matching paycheck, or even just the ability to pay the rent. I especially have to be careful about checking my envy of those who are so adept and prolific in outward expressions of creativity.
I think back on my life and want to change decisions made in the past, but I know those changes would sever my connection to those who love me for who I really am. I am so blessed to have finally found people who value integrity and not only accept, but expect, authenticity from me. It’s a new kind of challenge, after a lifetime of trying to force myself into a box I was never meant to fit.
There is another quote that is making its rounds of the internet this morning. It showed up just as I needed it:
”Developing self-esteem requires an act of revolution, or several mini-revolutions, in which we begin to separate from group thought and establish our own sense of authority.”
~ Caroline Myss
It took me a long time to learn that decisions made to impress a specific group of people, such as a bag or shoes far out of my price range, or political party membership, is not a healthy way to build a relationship. Putting myself in debt for designer duds to impress someone moves me away from independence rather than towards it. I’m not acting on my own authority when I’m beholden to the opinions of others. When my self-esteem is healthy, and my relationships are healthy, then those relationships are secure, regardless of who designed my bag, or whether I voted the same way as the rest of my family. That is a freeing realization.
When I think of the effort it took to extract myself from group-think and learn to evaluate all the information available to me, rather than only considering that which reinforced the group’s position, I consider my daughter and her development. How do I teach her that she does not have to feel guilty for thoroughly pondering information available to her, and coming to a different conclusion from me? How do I teach her that the value of a position lies not in how it compares to my own, but in the integrity with which it is contemplated, and her willingness to reconsider with new understanding when new information is made available? How do I teach her that everything must be questioned, including me? How do I help her work around/through this stumbling block that consumed such a large percentage of my life? Do I help her? Or is that one of those things we need to work through on our own?
So much to ponder…. How do you define authentic success?
A friend once said to me “Enough with the character building; we’ve got plenty of character.” And I do believe I have plenty of character, yet life keeps the lessons coming at me.
One of those lessons is that I need to make a practice of taking care of myself, and I’m not just talking about the physical parts (exercising more, and eating less garbage), although that is an element. I’m talking about taking care of the rest of me – the parts that make me me.
Most of the time, I can rattle off 5 or 15 things that I love to do and I know will lift my spirits. Most of the time. The rest of the time, I’ve learned to rely on The List. The list is an ever growing and changing document that I keep on my computer, and periodically print out a copy for my purse and beside the bed. I also usually have handwritten versions in my journals, along with notes of items to add to the master list.
What’s on the list? Little things I can do, that are mostly quick, easy and free or very inexpensive to lift my spirits. At first, it felt a little silly to keep a list of mood lifters. I mean, I know what I like to do, right? But in those moments when I need them most, that seems to be the time I can’t think of any of them. I also keep a list of healthy snacks handy, for those times when my discretion is at the mercy of my cravings, but that’s another post for another day.
I’m not going to post the entire list – just a short version of some of my favorites. These are just some ideas you can add to your own list if you see fit. I usually add an item to the list every week or so, especially as I find new hobbies in which to indulge. I’ve also crossed off a few items. People change; what lifts them up can change, too.
The List: little pick-me-ups
1. Get out the camera.
Looking through the view finder forces me to look at the world with different eyes.
2. Change the lens on the camera.
New lens, new perspective. Everything looks different.
3. Get lost.
I love to hop in the car and drive. At every intersection, I choose the road with which I am least familiar until I’m lost. Then I find my way home. Instant adventure with a big bonus – I can do this while baby naps in her car seat.
There are two major approaches to journaling: to hold on to thoughts, or to purge them. Whatever works. I go back and forth between both forms of journal writing; it depends what I’m going through.
5. Toe wiggling.
It is impossible to maintain a bad mood while simultaneously wiggling your toes for any amount of time. Try it. I dare you.
6. Take a bath.
Yup, just wash the stress away.
7. Connect with a friend.
Phone call, coffee date, 3 a.m. email, facebook message, tweet, late night giggle-fest, whatever… just reach out every once in a while. (This one is especially important for introverts like me. I wonder if extroverts really need this kind of reminder.)
8. Lend a hand.
It frequently surprises me just how energizing and uplifting it feels to help someone else.
Stop groaning, and just do it.
Proximity to kids is good for this, or watch a comedy or comedian. Subscribe to the Bloggess, go back and look at pictures of yourself in the 80s. (ok, maybe that last one is a little frightening, but you get the picture)
This is much more fun than number 9, and if you do it right, it counts as exercise. We regularly have impromptu living room dance parties around here, and it always makes the day feel a little less gray.
And, if all else fails:
12. Ice cream.
EDIT: I was just asked about coffee. Of course, coffee is a pick-me-up for me, but as it is an addiction, there’s no need for me to list it. 🙂
We officially head into summer this week, and flowers are blooming all around us.
These photos were taken last weekend on my retreat to Harmony Hill on Hood Canal. I have so much to say about that retreat, but I’m still processing. I’ll write something up when I’m ready (Update: here it is).