Archive for April, 2019

Words to Live By

There has been a lot happening in my life. Some good, some not as good. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on what I learned in all those years of behavioral therapy. 🙂 Yes, yes, how to behave. 🙂 Although I doubt I’ll win any blue ribbons for best in show. *grin*

I just finished reading an article that came up in my Twitter feed: The key to loving your job in the age of burnout by Cassie Werber. I don’t usually read these articles. I’m not burned out (yet) and I rather like my job and my work. I clicked through on this one because the associated image was interesting. It looked like footprints on water, but had to be mud or sand, but there was someone on the dock next to the footprints. 🙂 It was the picture – I thought if I could see it more clearly I’d be sure of the substance. I’m still not 100% sure of the photo and I’m not sure I am completely comfortable with some of the observations in the article about the nature of work, the gig economy, part-time versus full-time employment, and bespoke careers. That may be because of my age and experience. But I do know that there are several key observations that I consider “truths” to a happier life.

“More and more, our sense of self is connected to the kind of person we believe ourselves to be—a combination of profession and meaning—and not to our place of work. In this, we’re reverting to an earlier mode: before we had companies and careers, we had professions (for example, stone mason) and tasks (build a bridge.)”

Yes, absolutely yes. My corollary to this is that we need to appreciate ourselves and value ourselves in order to be confident and content. To phrase that differently: other people cannot ‘fix’ us. Happiness (contentment) begins within. The foundation is internal, not external. Yes, other people and external factors can make us unhappy, sad, stressed and other negative and bad things. But if we can see that as OUTSIDE of our core, we have the strength and belief to keep going and not despair. Or so it is for me.

“Despair, and railing against the unfairness of the system, are both reasonable. Many people, globally, do not have the freedom to choose. Some work situations—losing your job through no fault of your own, being bullied, suffering discrimination—are certainly unfair. But the narrative of entitlement to a fulfilling job obscures the fact that it’s not our job’s job to be meaningful. It’s our job to find meaning in what we do. Some of us have the option of changing our work situation if that becomes absolutely imperative. But we can also change the narrative we choose to explain our work to the world and to ourselves—and in so doing, change our experience.” (Boldface my addition to highlight the text.)

WORDS! The words we choose to express ourselves and describe our situation make so much difference. I used to say such things as: “I can’t STAND IT ANYMORE”, “This is killing me”, “I HATE him”. It’s very hard to feel as if I can make a change when I use such absolutes. I’ve learned to dial the emotion back a notch: “It is so frustrating when this happens”, “This is so uncomfortable”, “That behavior is not enjoyable”. The latter group of phrases gives me room to maneuver. Did anything about the external situation change? No. But how I perceived it did. I can handle frustration and discomfort. Those are normal experiences.

“… the difference between finding a situation bearable—possibly, indeed, happy—and unbearable is about whether we experience ourselves as performing a willing sacrifice, or simply as suffering. When working hard tips over into working too hard, or with too little reward, sacrifice has slipped into suffering. … “Sacrifice might be hurtful and exhausting, but it is a conscious choice,” he writes. “Suffering is the result of feeling that we cannot slow down or else we will be shamed and lose control. Sacrifice makes us who we are. Suffering keeps us captive.””

You need to read all of the article to understand the “because” part of sacrifice. We sacrifice for a goal. We tell ourselves a narrative to put the sacrifice in context, to make us feel that the ‘suffering’ is bearable and acceptable because of the end goal. We have choices. There are at least 2 choices in this sacrifice/suffering discussion. The first choice is that we choose the language to describe it, we CHOOSE whether we make it a sacrifice or suffering. The 2nd choice is the harder one. We can choose to change the situation (leave the job, leave the relationship, not fix the roof). I used to argue this one over and over and over and over. “It’s NOT a choice” I’d scream, “I HAVE to fix the roof if it leaks!!!” And Howard would say, “No you don’t. You can let it leak.” And I’d point out that the wood would rot, the house fall down and on and on. And he’d reply that it was a choice I was making – to NOT let the wood rot. There are obviously practicalities involved. But there is also a choice, when you stop, breathe and look at it. Once you frame it as a choice, it’s easier to confront. If you can confront it, you may also see how you might bring about an actual change, not only an emotional perspective change.

One of my former co-workers, Jim De Piante, had fantastic presentations about managers and project management. I have always remembered something he said (and my apologies to Jim for any mistakes in the quoting): “Think of your management as your client.” That change in wording shifts the perspective radically. It goes back to the point that words matter. It goes to the point we have a choice. The difference in connotation between ‘client’ and ‘boss’ is HUGE. When we have clients, we are in the driver’s seat, helping to make our clients successful. When we have a boss, we are powerless with no buy-in to the outcome. I think of this approach whenever I have the endless tracking and administrative work that comes with being part of a huge corporation.

“Unreasonable conditions and real misery need to be met with concrete changes. But other conditions, Petriglieri says, can be radically changed by reframing what we expect from ourselves—and how we see what we do with our days in the context of our lives as a whole. “There’s some pain that needs a solution, and some pain that needs a story,” Petriglieri says.”

Tell yourself a story, and choose your words with care. 🙂

Forsythia

Because everyone can use some bright yellow flowers with a bright blue sky with puffy white clouds. And dirt and rhododendron buds and andromeda bush flowers and a garden mermaid (that copper piece rotates and sprays water). This is especially for you, Honour, trying to give you some long-distance spring until your own arrives.

forsythia.jpg

Gaining Momentum

March 17 to April 2 – 2 weeks.
April 2 to April 8 – 1 week.
Next time I show you this shot who knows what else will have sprung!

march 17

March 17

April 2

April 2

April 8

April 8

This Might Be a Book Review

I’m reading a book. I am completely engrossed in it. When I stop reading, I am thinking about the characters, wondering what happens next. It’s not that they are DOING anything exciting. They are living their lives. If you asked me what this book is about, I think I’d be hard-pressed to make it sound like something you should read. It’s about a family of 4 children whose father dies suddenly when they, and he, are quite young, and about how they grow up and who they become.

I’m reading the book much too quickly, I know. I can see the parts where I should slow down and savor the words, but I can’t. I want to go back and be with them and know what happens. I’m hoping for a resolution. Mysteries have resolutions. Do lives have resolutions? That’s probably a question I should stop and ponder. The book has many lines that are worth pondering. I’m so impatient. I may have to go back and read parts of this again, because I’m sure there is more here than I’m getting on the first read.

I have forced myself away from the book at this point because there are things I need to do in my tangible world, and I really need to pull my attention out of my head and into something else. And that is ANOTHER reason why I know I should be slowing down. As I thought about how intensely I’m experiencing this story, I began to write this post. When I thought about how I’d describe it, I realized that it could be a story about my mother. My mother’s father died when she and he were both very young. I don’t think she ever recovered emotionally from that. I had a flash of – not insight – but more shift of perspective about my mother. Although I’ve always felt I understood what happened to her, and how it impacted her, I shifted and thought of her as a ‘story’. It changes nothing, really, except for making her childhood and her pain and the damage more intense because it distanced it from me. It wasn’t about ME anymore but about this third party, this other, and while it didn’t change a lot, I think I maybe should use this perspective sometimes to understand how death in one generation ripples on and on and on. I knew that too. I don’t think I’m doing a good job of explaining why it feels like a shift of perspective and understanding to see my mother as not my mother but as a character in a story. We react differently to constructs than we do to the flesh-and-blood parts of our lives.

the last romanticsI don’t know how close to the end I am because I’m using a new kind of book reader. I’m using something called “Bookshout”. It does have an app but you can also read the book via a web browser and that’s how I’ve been reading the book. On an app you can see the number of pages, % left in the book, and other such information. The web browser gives me the number of pages in the current chapter and that is it. Have you noticed that I have not yet NAMED this book? That’s because although I’m completely engrossed in it, I have no idea what it is called. The web browser does not display the name anywhere on the screen. *grin* So although I know I knew the name when I ordered it, I had long since forgotten it when I started writing this. *laughing* I had to go look it up on my order.

I wrote this post in what felt like a headlong rush, all in one breath. I’ve been on my reading hiatus now for several hours. I suspect that when I go back, I will again be totally bound by the words. I think I don’t even care anymore how it ends. I think that even if the ending somehow manages to disappoint me (which I do not believe will be the case), this book is still a fantastic read. I want to have it in paper form. I want to pick up this book in my hands, let it fall open anywhere and start reading it again. I want to hold it and feel it and look at the print while I think about what they are saying and feeling.

I guess what I’m saying is that I recommend this book, The Last Romantics, by Tara Conklin. 🙂


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