A Few of My Favorite Books…

Next to the aroma of fresh-roasted coffee, I love the smell of libraries and bookstores best. A reoccurring fantasy of mine was to actually work in a bookstore unpacking new inventory.  Alas, bookstores are shrinking just like newspapers.  When I visit someone’s home for the first time I’m surreptitiously drawn, like a peeping Tom, to investigate their bookshelves–wondering if I’ll discover something new and interesting.  There is hardly a feeling I enjoy more than being engrossed by a great story.

My home contains six bookshelves all scattered around the house—small and large.  The shelves hold certain classics, science fiction, thrillers, spirituality, biography, general history, gardening, art history and art instruction books–and others hard to categorize.  Sometimes, my husband and I have played the game–if you could only take 10 books with you to a deserted island, which would you pick?  Don’t know what I’d do if this doomsday scenario came true.

Today, I spent the morning browsing the internet and stumbled across someone’s  recommended reading page.  As I reviewed their list, it occurred to me that I might like to share my favorite reads, too.  So, here are three to begin…

By Doris Kearns Goodwin:

The Fitzgeralds book image No Ordinary Time book image Team of Rivals book image

It’s ironic that we measure how good a book is by the sadness we feel as the end of the story moves closer and closer with each turn of the page.  A Pulitzer Prize winner, I find Kearns Goodwin’s books hard to put down.  She weaves the history of an era along with interesting details to help me imagine what it was like to be alive at a moment in time.

The story of The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys begins with the baptism of John Patrick Fitzgerald, an infant less than one day old, on February 12, 1863.  One can imagine the cold, dark,  and filthy Irish tenements of Boston where survival beyond infancy was surely a miracle.  How the Fitzgeralds and Kennedys became  one of the world’s most famous families reads like an exhilarating drama.

No Ordinary Time tells the story of  Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s marriage against the backdrop of the Great Depression, Roosevelt’s presidency, and the events leading into World War II.  With compassion, Kearns Goodwin illuminates their character flaws and foibles and makes these iconic figures come alive.

Her latest book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, is the basis for Steven Spielberg’s latest movie, Lincoln.  Knowing how the story ends—with Lincoln’s assassination, I thought I was prepared to find the story of Lincoln’s life and presidency interesting and enjoyable.  However, once again, I was immersed in the sweeping time and place of nineteenth century United States.  When I reached the end, I found myself weeping for a long-ago dead President, as if he had just been killed yesterday.

We are often tempted to judge history with 20-20 hindsight.  With Doris Kearns Goodwin, the moral tensions and historical complexity become part of the story.  I end up wondering, who would I have been?  Would I have had the moral courage to recognize injustice and take a stand?  And then I ask myself, “What about now?”

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Joyful Creativity

I paint as a way to relax—specifically, I use inks, watercolors and acrylics, to create abstract and mixed media art.  I’m self-taught, having accumulated used and new books on drawing, color theory, painting, collage, mixed media, etc.  My ‘how to make art’ instruction books, take up two full shelves on the bookshelf.  I love sharing my art and talking about making art with other artists; and vacations wouldn’t be complete without devoting some time to strolling through local, art galleries.  Even my internet bookmarks are an indicator of my passion for art—it’s astounding the amount of information that is posted by giving and talented artists.

Art books picture cropped

If I was looking at the above-description about someone else I would assume that person had always had a natural love and affinity for making art.  Yet, this is not the case for me. As I was growing up, and well into my adult years, I was certain there was NOT a creative bone in my body.  I remember in high school art class being mortified to share my drawings, painting, pottery, you name it, with the rest of the class.  My clumsy attempts could never compare with those who possessed real artistic talent.  Unlike me, they were innately creative.

My first attempt at painting came one summer afternoon in 2007, when a creative, paint-dabbler friend of mine brought her easel, paints and brushes over so we could play outside together.  I covered the patio table, and had jars with water and containers ready for mixing paint.  I looked at my friend expectantly, and asked, “What do I do now?”  She smiled, handed me a paint brush, pointed to the tubes of paint and the canvas on the easel, and suggested I start painting.  I said in a worried, slightly infuriated tone, I don’t know how!  “So what,” she said, “just have fun.”  A quiet explosion happened.

Working creatively is an absorbing experience.  We may be completely unaware of time passing and have no conscious thought until we look up and see the stars twinkling outside.  By then, we realize that we totally forgot to take sustenance of any kind.  In this way, creating is like meditation.  This state is often referred to as ‘being in flow’.   Since working from a state of flow is not relegated to the arts alone, I would offer that creativity is found in all walks of life.  Ever hear of creative accountants?  Even the way a person successfully negotiates a sale or finds the solution to a scientific conundrum can feel creatively energizing.

When we finish and look at what we’ve made using our imagination, the feeling can be overwhelming.  We stare in wonder at our new creation, be it a poem or book, song, painting, garden or building design.  This new thing that never existed before comes from a place unique within our hearts.  It bears our personal stamp, like a fingerprint.  It is what is true within us.

Achieving this state of concentrated mindfulness is when one feels the most alive.  Furthermore, there are multiple avenues of creative expression that are potentially fulfilling.  Matthew Fox (2002), author and Episcopal priest, suggests that exercising our creativity is the path to experiencing a joyful life.  He states, “…what the artist is experiencing is far more than ‘actualizing one’s own potentialities’—it is experiencing the Divine joy itself.”

Like me, I suspect other souls have lurking, creative monsters within, just waiting to be liberated.  Rather than judging those impulses to use your creative imagination as unworthy, untrained or silly; consider that, as Matthew Fox suggests, exercising your creative imagination is your path to true Divine joy.  Wouldn’t you agree that finding joy is a truly worthwhile endeavor?  If you pay attention to what fires your imagination, you may discover the fuse and light your own explosion.  Below are a couple of humble examples of the days I’ve been quietly, absorbed, in the ecstatic state of flow.

 

The first time I fell in love with one of my paintings

The first time I fell in love with one of my paintings – 2007

A recent abstract

A recent abstract – 2012

 

Fox, M. (2002). Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet.  New York, NY:  Penguin Group, Inc.

 

Detective Bob Shilling: A Story of Tragedy and Character

This week, I read a local news story about Detective Bob Shilling.  After a long and remarkable career with the Seattle Police Department, he was recently invited by Interpol, the most prestigious crime fighting organization in the world, to lead their Crimes Against Children Group.  Now he is preparing to move to France after Thanksgiving to begin this new chapter in his life.

The interesting part of this story is that when Detective Shilling first began his career in the police department, he declared that he didn’t want to work sex crimes.  While he never told anyone, his adamant opposition to working child abuse cases was because he had been sexually abused by his grandfather as a young child.  His own mother witnessed the abuse happening and turned and walked out of the room, leaving him defenseless and alone as a young child.

The abuse of children is one of the most heinous crimes any of us can imagine.  A child subjected to sexual or physical abuse is clearly a powerless victim at the mercy of a predator.  Yet, for Detective Shilling the story does not end with the abuse.  Contrary to his stated wishes, his career did ultimately focus on bringing abusers to justice and making certain that victims knew the abuse was not their fault.  Today he is preparing to advocate for child victims internationally.

Reading about Detective Shilling  made me reflect on the nature of personal tragedy.  I was reminded of the many heroes, who have risen above trying circumstances, and then courageously face their fears to help others recover from similar hardships.  The stories of people living with disabilities, losing a job and becoming homeless, losing a child to drunk driving, losing a breast to cancer, victims of rape or incest, and even survivors of crimes against humanity, often become stories of transformation.  The survivors channel their pain and heartache into the very vehicle for serving others.

Although no rational being wants to experience tragedy or loss, being human means we will endure pain during our lifetime.  However, as Detective Shiller discovered, within the suffering lies the key to healing.  In the midst of our grief we are called to marshal personal strength and survive; and, as we move through the experience, the opportunity exists to discover a compelling compassion (or passion) for others along the way.  In a way, this is part of our social evolution as a culture.  As each person surviving a loss or hardship finds the wisdom and grace contained within the experience, we are able to help others to heal, too.  Helen Keller said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.  Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”  It appears, for Detective Shilling, success will mean greater responsibility and helping even more children than before.

Byron, Linda, October 24, 2012, http://www.king5.com/news/local/Seattle-Detective-Bob-Shilling-Interpol-fight-global-sex-predators-175710391.html#

An Inspirational Snack

I loved the images in this post.  The story of this blogger is interesting and inspiring.  It is about being a man, facing and embracing vulnerability, willing to look at one’s self, growing and changing.  His year-long journey is interesting to read.  Enjoy.

An Inspirational Snack.

So how goes the job search?

Its been a while since I last posted about looking for work and conducting informational interviews.  I’ll bet you are wondering…so how goes that job search?  Well, its had its ups and downs.  Meeting someone who inspires me during an informational interview is definitely an UP experience.  Being invited to interview for a position is positive, too.  Waiting to find out if I got the job—hmmm, not so much.  Through it all, I’ve experienced fear, self-doubt, excitement, exhilaration, and disappointment—and not necessarily in that order.  One thing about being unemployed is that it gives one ample time to reflect.

This week, I received the nicest “no thank you email” from a prospective employer.  In addition to letting me know that I just wasn’t quite right for the position, they also said they found my qualifications “impressive” and would like to keep my resume on file.  Knowing, that the position was not my heart’s desire, I thought, what a relief they didn’t want me.  So I mentally said thank you for the lovely complement and by all means keep my resume on file.

In my moments of spiritual optimism, I believe that my future workplace and I are destined to meet each other.  Ralph Waldo Emerson in his essay, The Over-Soul, says, “The things that are really for thee gravitate to thee.  You are running to seek your friend.  Let your feet run, but your mind need not.  …For there is a power, which, as it is in you, is in him also, and could therefore very well bring you together, if it were for the best.”  Truly, that’s what I wish for, that my next work situation is the best for them and for me.

I’ve heard people describe how they felt a gravitational pull toward another person who then became their best friend or lover.  I’ve certainly experienced meeting new friends and knowing somehow they were meant to be a part of my life.  In that case, finding my new job is just a grown-up version of hide and seek.  The days   I am enjoying this adventure instead of being afraid, I can see each moment as an opportunity that is taking me closer to the organization that says “Wow, your qualifications are really impressive and we would love to have you come and work with us.”  Ready or not, here I come.

Friends Forever

A Passion for Cars – Harold LeMay

Harold LeMay in the Navy

This past weekend, my husband and I toured the amazing LeMay Family Collection at Marymount—an automobile museum in Spanaway, Washington, housing approximately 1,500 cars.  As we walked from one building to another looking at literally hundreds of antique cars, trucks and motorcycles, I was struck by the obvious passion responsible for creating this incredible automobile showcase.  This was no passing fancy; and what grew out of Harold LeMay’s lifetime interest in old vehicles is a legacy that people can enjoy for years to come.

Marymount Facility. Photo courtesy of the
LeMay Family Collection Foundation website

The facility is located on the grounds of the former Marymount Military Academy for Boys run by Dominican Nuns until the 1970’s.  (That’s a story all by itself!)  The setting is beautiful and well-maintained; with towering trees, manicured green lawns and the original historical, brick buildings.  Note:  The LeMay Family Collection is not to be confused with the LeMay-America’s CarMuseum located in Tacoma, Washington that opened this summer.  The two museums operate independently.

Harold LeMay earned his fortune collecting trash.  In addition to picking up our garbage every week, he also acquired Lucky Towing, AA Lucky Storage, LeMay Restoration, Parkland Auto Wrecking, Helm Manufacturing, and various properties.  His reputation for being a hard worker was clearly well-deserved.  For years the LeMay name has been synonymous with garbage collection and recycling services.  Today, Mr. LeMay is famous for having amassed the largest antique car collection in the world.

Our tour guide described Harold as someone who loved cars so much he couldn’t bear to see them destroyed.  He loved tinkering, fixing and restoring old cars.  He even collected old car parts in case they were needed later.  As his reputation for being a car collector grew, strangers would call Mr. LeMay to offer him the old cars their parents or grandparents used to drive.

Harold LeMay lived to be 81 years old before passing away in 2000.  Fortunately for us, his obsession with antique cars never waned throughout his life.  As I looked at one beautiful, old car after another, I realized Mr. LeMay was truly an example of what happens when a person spends 10,000 hours learning a subject or practicing a new skill.  The result is that this collection is more than just about the man; it is the ability to view history reflected in the cars we used to drive.

To be an authority on old cars, Harold LeMay, did what came naturally—he focused his attention and spent as much time as he could on what he loved.  The same is true for any of us.  We each have subjects we are drawn to or curious about.  We have hobbies that absorb us—callings that continue to knock on the door.  When we spend our time learning, practicing, training, exercising, or preparing, we become masters and maestros, experts, authorities, leaders and professionals, connoisseurs, even champions.  Becoming a master may require hard work and discipline; however, it sounds far more satisfying than settling for a boring existence.

If you want to visit or learn more about the LeMay collection at Marymount, check out their website, at http://www.lemaymarymount.org/.  To entice you, below are  just a few photographs of the  classic cars, graceful hood ornaments, beautiful curves, long fins, and real white wall tires.

Hey! Anyone looking for a project?

Tips for Conducting Informational Interviews

My last entry explained why I’ve become a fan of doing informational interviews, and why I think they are invaluable to finding a new job.  On a recent trip to my hair dresser, I mentioned that I was looking for a job and primarily relying on informational interviews to network.  She politely listened to me and then let me know that what I call informational interviewing is how the Hispanic culture routinely establishes connections to a wide variety services and opportunities.  I realized that for me, approaching someone for a networking opportunity feels like I am imposing on their time.  Yet, for people with strong cultural ties, networking is natural and part of belonging to an interdependent and giving community.

Statistically, only 20-30% of jobs are filled on the open market.  That means the remaining unpublished job openings won’t be found on public list services.  In an article on Hcareers.com, Dumas states that “approximately 80% of all jobs filled are done so in what is known as the ‘hidden’ or ‘unpublished’ job market.”  This means the majority of jobs are filled by word-of-mouth and network referrals.  Unfortunately, when hearing the word “network,” many people visibly pale and imagine themselves going up to a perfect stranger, smiling shakily and saying something like, “Isn’t the rain/sunshine/fog/lightening/cumulus cloud we’re having today, amazing?”  Please God, never let me talk about the weather again!

So how does one go about conducting informational interviews?

You start by telling everyone you know that you are looking for a new opportunity—even your hairdresser!  Ask if they know someone who works in your industry or area of interest, and if they would kindly arrange an introduction.  For myself, introductions have mostly been via email; however, several friends have actually arranged face-to-face meetings for me.  Try to always schedule face-to-face interviews.  In contrast to email, telephone or Skype exchanges, talking face-to-face gives both parties a chance to experience each other’s personality through rich conversation.

When you actually meet with the person, be prepared to share a little about yourself—5 to 10 minutes.  Give the person a brief synopsis of your work experience, the type of work you’re looking for, and something personal about yourself, such as family, hobbies, or volunteer work.  People are more willing to share contacts and recommend you to their friends if they believe they can trust you.  One gentleman spent the first half-hour asking me questions about myself before he was willing to be interviewed.  I happily obliged and it turned out to be one of my most valuable interviews.

  • Dress professionally.  Like it or not, it is human nature to judge others by their appearance.  So make certain your grooming and dress reflect someone who is intelligent and lives by personal values that evoke trust.  Now is not the time to wear your favorite, low-cut t-shirt and jeans.
  • Arrive on time.  Or better yet, 10 minutes early (this probably goes without saying).  Arriving early allows you to breath deeply and clear your mind.
  • Be prepared for the interview with a set of questions you developed in advance.  The questions should reflect that you’ve done your homework.  Find out everything you can about the person and their industry or line of work, and from there, formulate your questions.
  • Tip:  It is better to ask questions that invite a thoughtful response, rather than a yes or no answer.
  • Tip:  Make the first question about them.  “How did you become the _____?”  Or, “What do you like about working at _______?”  Not only is this an effective ice breaker, it provides you with valuable information about what it takes to become successful.  Nothing wrong with emulating successful people.
    • Ask if it is OK for you to take notes.  Most will readily agree and even be pleasantly surprised.  On the other hand, some may find it distracting; so be polite and verify first.
    • Keep track of time and be ready to end the interview on time.  If the person indicates they are interested in going on with the interview, that’s great.  However, out of respect for their time, allow the person you are interviewing to initiate extending the conversation beyond the stated time limit.
    • Before you close the interview, ask if they know of any openings that would fit your search criteria, and find out if they know anyone else who might be of assistance.  Ask for contact information or ask them to introduce you via email.
    • Keep track of everything you learn and use it to move you forward in your search.
    • Contact your new referrals and request a short 30-minute interview at a time and place that is mutually convenient for you.  Some will be available to meet for coffee or lunch, and others will prefer to meet in their office.
    • Follow-up with a thank you note.  While some recommend sending a handwritten thank you note, I have decided to send a typed letter, or email instead.  First of all, my handwriting style is not the best, and secondly, a typed email is much more professional.  A typed email or letter also lets me demonstrate that I can form an articulate sentence.

Some suggest handing out resumes to the people you meet with.  However, others strongly suggest that handing out resumes destroys your credibility.  Presumably, you didn’t set up the interview by saying you were there to ask them for a job, or they may have declined the interview and told you to forward your resume to HR, instead.  I never bring a resume with me to the interview.  When asked to, I forward my resume electronically, and I am always willing to drop it by another time.

Life can be a merry-go-round and I would rather laugh than cry!

I encourage you to try informational interviewing.  Approach this part of the job hunt with a positive attitude and treat the experience like a treasure hunt.  When I told a former colleague that I was going to begin conducting informational interviews, she told me that every position she ever held came from having used the very same technique.  She had never responded to an ad for employment.

I am consistently overwhelmed by how gracious and generous people are with their time.  Not only do most of them voluntarily extend the amount of time we spend together, they also willingly arrange for me to meet their friends and colleagues.  I believe the people I’ve interviewed sincerely wish me success.  Although I do submit applications in response to ads and public listserve websites each week, I am convinced that my next tribe will show up because I have developed these valuable relationships through informational interviews.  Someone in my network is going to know someone, who knows of a position, for which I would be just right.

Michelle Dumas, http://www.hcareers.com/us/resourcecenter/tabid/306/articleid/600/default.aspx

Why Make Informational Interviews Part of the Job Hunt?

I am back in the job hunt after 24 years, and what I notice is that the experience is like entering the dreaded dating game after you suddenly find yourself single again.  The idea of forwarding my professional-looking resume and carefully worded cover letter to potential employers, who, if I’m lucky, will only give it a cursory glance, can feel downright depressing.  Just like dating, it feels like a desperate attempt to get someone to notice me.  How does one stand out in the crowd, if you’re not tall, dark and handsome, or a pretty, slender blond?

When I found I would soon be out of work, someone loaned me a small book titled, “Want a New Better Fantastic Job?” by Pam Gross and Peter Paskill (2001).  My friend suggested I read the section on informational interviews.  I’d heard of informational interviews before, but knew very little about it in practice.  When I read the section she referenced, the vision of me taking charge of the interview process to find a new career immediately felt liberating.

In contrast, the way most of us learned to conduct a job search by filling out an application and submitting a resume on line feels passive and anonymous.  We all know that employers are flooded with hundreds of resumes for every position they advertise.  Culling through all those applications to find the group of 3-5 best candidates boils down to checking education status and seeing whether the stated prior experience matches what the employer is looking for.  Today many organizations use computer systems to perform a key-word search on the applications they receive to make the initial cut.  The goal is to unearth that small, elite, group of people blessed with:

  • The appropriate college degree (Hmmm.  You say you have a Russian history degree?);
  • Unique job skills (paralegal who can read and write Mandarin); and,
  • A record of employment stability with a history of varied, yet somewhat dissimilar and progressively more responsible positions (I ask you, is all of that experience absolutely necessary?).

While HR recruiting efforts are certainly important to having an open and fair process; from the perspective of a new job hunter it feels like a massive wall between me (a well-adjusted, creative, smart, and service-oriented professional) and my potentially fantastic workplace.  As I learned more about conducting informational interviews, I knew I would have a better chance at being seriously considered for a position I wanted and have fun at the same time.

I understand that for many the idea of approaching someone and asking them to spend some of their valuable time with you may seem presumptuous, even arrogant.  However, I have three main reasons why I believe it is one of the best tools for finding a new job.

  1. I would much rather be the person asking the questions.  Next time you watch a TV show or movie, pay attention to who has the power in the conversation.  An ardent Closer fan, I’ve noticed that when Brenda Leigh Johnson begins interrogating her suspect everyone immediately recognizes who’s in charge.  Regardless of how big and bad the criminal sitting across from her may be, because she is asking the questions, Brenda has the power.

Informational interviews should never resemble harsh interrogations.  However, I certainly feel more at ease being the person driving the conversation.  I get to ask the questions, listen to their answers and take notes about anything I may want to research further.

  1. It’s impossible to know for sure if a potential employee will “fit in” with the organization just by reading a resume.  Employers want to hire someone who is intelligent, creative, adaptable, a system-thinker, disciplined, committed, dependable, and emotionally mature (and that’s not all…).  The only problem is that few of these character attributes are found on a resume.  It is only through personal interaction that one can observe the soft-skills of a potential employee.  Do they present themselves well?  Is the person well-groomed, attentive, polite and self-aware?  Can the person listen and respond intelligently?  The blessing of doing informational interviews is that the other person can observe and get to know you without you going through the stress of being in front of a hiring panel.

Success in nearly every situation requires “soft-skills,” and these behaviors can be learned.  If you don’t feel confident about your ability to smoothly interact with people, work to improve yourself.  The more you grow as a person, the greater your self-esteem and self-confidence.  The internet is filled with valuable information, and many great books and audio programs are available on the subject.  A book I really appreciated is, Emotional Intelligence:  Why it can matter more than IQ, (Goleman, D., 1995).  The book explains why having a high IQ and quality education is no guarantee for success.  Instead, employees who possess emotional maturity cost the company less to manage and usually raise productivity, too.  Another book I recommend is Social Intelligence (Albrecht, K., 2006).  Someone with strong social skills will find their careers moving forward with minimal effort.

  1. Many jobs are filled without ever being advertised.  Instead, someone knows someone else, who knows the perfect person for the job.  And voila, the position, that was never advertised in the first place, has been filled.  The more people who find out that you are looking for work, the better your chances to be the person someone else knows is perfect for the job.

The people you meet while doing informational interviews will likely become part of your expanding network—important professionals who can support and mentor you along your career path.  In nearly every instance, the people I’ve interviewed have asked that I let them know where I end up when I reach the end of my journey.  I believe the reason they make this request is because they are now a part of my future success.  Their desire to see me do well is far more encouraging than waiting for the Dear John automated email after submitting my resume in response to an ad on Monster.

It’s Time to Reinvent My Life

Today, I’m at a crossroads.  I’m not talking about the everyday small choices and decisions we rarely think about.  I mean a real, honest-to-God, CROSSROADS!  The kind of shift that happens when you suddenly have a radical, new perspective, your life is forever altered from this point forward, and “the earth …moves …under your feet.”

A Brief History

Twenty-four years ago, I took an administrative assistant position with a public port.  I was the single mother of 8-year old twins, and the port was the most exciting place I had ever worked.  I was part of something the world depends on—international trade.  Within a few years, I moved to a new role administering construction contracts.  Again, it felt like I was part of something larger than myself, watching the transformation of two-dimensional blueprints into roads, shipping terminals, or huge, mechanical cranes that lift and move containers from ships two to three times bigger than a football field.

Eventually, I began training others to administer construction contracts and service agreements.  I liked what I did every day.  As others became confident in my abilities, I was asked to lead the Contracts and Purchasing Department and given a whopping raise.  Oh, and along with the added compensation, the organization paid for me to go back to school and complete my college degree.  How great is that!!!

Slowly, like the frog heating up on the stove without realizing he is being cooked, I became incredibly busy.  I lived for the weekends when I could relax and think about something else beside the office.  However, on many Friday nights, I would slog home with the solemn intention to complete armloads of work, and a deepening sense of guilt that I was not meeting the expectations of others.  Even better, were the Saturday mornings I would get up to drive to the office.  I was a veritable hamster churning on the wheel of industry.

Something had to change.  My solution—work until 5 o’clock going to meetings, answering emails, responding to the questions of others, providing support to employees in the department—then from 5 o’clock on, I would work on my projects.  After that, I would go home.  No more weekends—mostly.  This was an improvement???

Dawning Awareness – The Longing Within

To be fair, I don’t believe that working 12-hour days is wrong, so long as one feels absorbed and joyful in the experience.  There are those lucky few who find themselves compelled to work for hours and hours because they can’t tear themselves away from an absorbing project.  Such an experience could be energizing.  Matthew Fox, former Catholic Priest and author of “The Reinvention of Work,” distinguishes one’s “work” from a “job” by suggesting that work is a vocational calling.  He explains that work has a connection to the Universe, the unfolding of creation.  I imagine work in this context would be fulfilling and life expanding.  You might enjoy reading an interview with Matthew Fox where he explains the role of work as it relates to the health and well-being of the individual and society (http://www.personaltransformation.com/Fox.html).

Throughout my life, I have experienced the wonder, fascination, and longing to feel connected to the spiritual.  As my career progressed and my personal circumstances changed, I began to feel this compelling desire within me to do something meaningful.  I dreamed of touching people in a way that left them happier, stronger and free from fear.  I wanted to share with them a life of adventure and joy.  (Oops!  Physician, heal thyself, before attempting heal anyone else.)

Sending God the SOS

Last winter I let the Universe know I’m ready for change.  I prayed, “When I retire God, I’d like my next, wonderful career, where I am helping others, earning a great living, and able to work into my triple-digit years, to be ready and waiting for me to enjoy.  In the meantime, I’ll step toward whatever miracles you’re going to brew up on my behalf by reading, researching and networking with others to figure out what that wonderful life looks like.”

The funny part, is that I believed I needed to wait to experience this joy—the adventure of a wonderful life.  I wasn’t going to retire for another eight to ten years.  So there was plenty of time for God’s spirit-magic to unfold.

God’s Belly-Laugh

I’ve heard the saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”  Hmmm, is that thunder you hear?

Remember the great opportunity to lead a department, the wonderful compensation, the overly-busy life?  Guess what!  I discovered this past spring, I was losing my job.  The circumstances felt particularly painful—with people talking behind my back, but refusing to talk to me when they saw me; writing everything they disliked about me and then sharing it via email; and having it progress so far that there was no way to heal the damage.  I was suddenly, after 24 years, persona-non-gratis.  It was time to leave. 

As painful as the experience was, there were bountiful lessons.  I was a partner in the situation.  To say otherwise, is to suggest I was a victim.  All of us contributed one way or another to the outcome.  Furthermore, I can honestly say that everyone involved (including me) is a good person.  Finally, I know I am only responsible for me—for how I respond—for what I learn.

Hold Onto the Wings of Change.

Grieving is, by it’s nature, to be in the midst of change.  Losing a partner, moving to a new city, recovery from an illness, or losing a job, are examples of having to let go of something.  Even good changes require that we leave something behind.  The irony is that the harder we try to cling to what we had before, the more difficult it is to move to a place of peace.  Those wonderful individuals, who exhibit outward calm and grace, are not unlike the rest of us.  They, too, have experienced loss and change.  Yet, they have the ability to go within, mourn a loss, let go of the past, and adapt to change.

Many of us stay in jobs that we hate, getting up every morning wishing we were doing something else.  While I didn’t hate my job, I’d had a deep longing for something new.  I felt as though I had spent a lifetime (24 years qualifies, I think) in the same place.  I was stagnating.  So although, I miss the place that was my tribe for 24 years, it is time to go within, mourn, let go, and adapt.

Being at a crossroads means it is time to figure out who I am and what I want to do with my life.  What a magnificent gift!  Hold onto the wings of change—it’s time to create a new story.  It’s time to reinvent my life.

Embracing Change

10,000 Hours to Be Me is about embracing change; about moving toward the larger life many of us secretly long for.  Sounds good…even exhilarating!  Then there are the changes we didn’t anticipate or maybe even wish for:  such as the loss of a job or loved one; an injury or change in our health; even new responsibilities, like caring for an elderly family member.  One might feel overwhelmed, scared or even angry.

Some changes we expect; however, the reality of the experience is far more, or far different from what we expected, like moving to anew city, having a new baby or losing weight.  When this happens, change goes beyond the experience.  While we may have expected that a new home, having a new baby, or losing weight would be the change we experienced—in reality it was just the beginning.  The bigger change is the internal makeover that will continue to manifest slowly within us.

For example, living in anew city will demand that we find our way in unfamiliar territory and start over creating a home.  It is a fresh start in the truest sense.  Having a new baby will, day by day, encourage us to develop patience, force us to reorder our priorities, and increase our capacity to love.  Losing weight can change how we view ourselves and help us lose unhealthy inhibitions that keep our inner light hidden behind a false self.  Although these experiences are shifting our very world on the outside and visible to everyone around us, the bigger change is taking place on the inside.

When I had young teenagers, I often repeated the phrase, “Nothing stays the same, except for change.”  You will have new classmates in the fall, friends may move away, your body will seem unrecognizable, you’ll gain new responsibilities and greater independence.  I wanted them to understand that while the world is constantly shifting around them, change is a normal, human experience.  It is the dance of life.

It’s normal to resist change—regardless of whether we judge the circumstances to be desirable or not.  We long to feel comfortable in familiar terrain again.  The reality is change is continually occurring and how we respond will determine the quality of our lives.  We have the choice to suffer in frustration and bitterness; or we can see our personal evolution with a heart of gratitude.  The former keeps one locked in the past with no desirable future to look forward to.  While gratitude keeps us moving forward, open to the new opportunities and miracles that manifest before us.

We may have loved the way the old brand of shoes fit our feet, and wish we could find them again.  However, when we are ready to open our hearts to change—voila, will wonders never cease—those new shoes waiting for you just around the corner are lighter, come in more colors, and look great with your new clothes.

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