My family has been isolating here in DC since March 12th.

I’m grateful that we’re healthy and able to live our social-distance lives without some of the more serious stresses being experienced by the poor, the disenfranchised, the service workers, the health care workers and the first responders.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember it’s not a competition. We can all put our suffering in perspective on a scale from near death to absolute luxury, but it doesn’t change the fact that each of us are suffering.

Yeah, yeah, first world problems and all that, but shaming folks for feeling lousy about their own personal circumstances doesn’t actually DO anything productive. Except possibly let the shame-er (is that a word?) do a little virtue signaling and feel self-righteous about their social awareness.

In my privileged, bougie life during Week 1 of isolation I did the following:

  • Stared at the bedroom ceiling in paralyzing grief. I do not recommend this as an alternative to sleeping.
    • The grief was and is a combination of the empathy over the struggles my clients are experiencing, my own loss of clients & income from March – September 2020, and the anticipation of what this world event means to a whole generation of young people.
  • Had 1-2 glasses of wine every single evening while telling my husband this is an absolutely acceptable coping mechanism for both of us.
  • Took 4 naps. This may not be a big deal for others but I haven’t napped since the first trimester I was pregnant with my daughter 22 years ago. Since I am not pregnant I’m going to file the napping under depressed escapism.
  • Spent 68% more time reading news on my devices (yes multiple) according to those highly annoying reports they give you each week.
  • Read 7 magazines on the library app Libby.
  • Took a long walk every day with the kid to notice flowers, cute dogs, and interesting architecture.
  • Purchased Fellowship of the Ring movie (extended version)
  • Read good two novels, abandoned one mediocre book.
  • Took turns sharing my office with my husband so we could each make phone & video calls in privacy.
  • Baked bread.

Week 2 had a bit more structure

  • Decided to give away coaching to anyone who needs it (pay-what-you-can). Because being of use to others is more important than money right now.
  • Stared at the computer screen for several scheduled hours a day NOT writing the book I’m working on.
  • Flipped through 3 cooking magazines on the library app.
  • Reached out to clients, family & friends to see how everyone is doing.
  • Read one good novel and abandoned 4 more that the library recommended but were too uninspired to continue.
  • Baked some more bread.
  • Started to do yoga in the mornings with the kid (who is herself adapting to college online)
  • Downloaded three self-help books from the library and started plotting out my much needed self-improvement.
  • Purchased Two Towers movie (extended version)
  • Removed my essentials and gave my husband my office as he is on video calls nonstop at this point. The dining room table is now work-from-home central for both me and the college student.
  • Started converting my professional development workshops and trainings to Webinar format. I’ve resisted this for years for a variety of reasons but that’s another blog post.
  • Scheduled some video appointments with my therapist (Yay me!)

Now we are heading into Week 3 and I am setting my intentions in the hope it will keep me accountable. In week 3 I will:

  1. Write at least 250 words a day. A modest and therefore achievable goal.
  2. Bake the biscotti I have been craving and not judge myself for eating it with my mid-morning coffee.
  3. Create a daily schedule EVERY DAY! and then use it. Several days in the last few weeks are a complete blur which is disturbing.
  4. Do 30 minutes of yoga or other exercise.
  5. Finish the really good book I discovered so I can start the next book in the series.
  6. Resist the urge to check NYT, WaPo, BBC, Reuters, Twitter and FB every hour. Yes resist is a loose goal because I don’t know what my tolerance for this is yet.
  7. Practice using loving kindness when the urge to judge or give in to outrage overwhelms me. Especially when indulging in #5 above.
  8. Find one good thing every day to reflect on before I (hopefully) sleep.
  9. Take melatonin every night because the majority opinion is that its not addictive and what can possibly be bad about being addicted to getting full 6 hours of sleep anyway?
  10. And finally, – maybe I should make this #1? – I will forgive myself if I do not execute on any of my intentions for Week 3.

I hope you and yours are healthy and treating yourself with gentleness.

Hit me up if you want a video chat or need some coaching. That is a serious offer.

an isolated beach in Spain
A beautiful, isolated beach visited last year

 

 

 

 

For the first time since the slaughter of the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, hearing news made me cry.

Make no mistake there has been a nonstop parade of horrifying and repugnant behavior since 2012, but for whatever reason, the mass shooting in El Paso brought me to tears.

Later that same day I was having a discussion with a prospective client about how I facilitate discussions about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). They wanted implicit bias training but were worried about “blame and shame” – that I would be “too angry” or make their participants feel bad about racism.

This is a legitimate fear. Most discussions of “isms” will feel risky to somebody in the room.

In this case, talking about bias felt so risky to the client that they put off hiring a DEI consultant for two years following their decision to “offer education on the topic”.

As I explained how I work, I realized that I should probably need to include some description of my values and belief system on my website and in my proposals.

I need to be explicit about the change theories I ascribe to, and the evidence based research I utilize. These are the bits and pieces that help folks see the rigorous underpinnings that support my DEI work.

In the meantime, I told this prospective client that I don’t believe in “blame and shame”. My workshops, facilitation and coaching are always centered on individual growth. People shut down and dig their heels in when they are attacked. I don’t like when it’s done to me so I don’t make a habit of doing it to others.

That said, what I do instead is invite folks to be uncomfortable.

Think of it like when you go to the beach, or to the pool on a cool day. Some folks creep into the water slowly, some dive in and get it over with quickly, and others stop when the water reaches their ankles.

But they are all in the water.

Getting in that water – those discussions of racism, sexism, xenophobia and so on – is a choice for most people. And if you don’t know how to swim it can be scary, even life-threatening.

What I do when I facilitate is invite you to be uncomfortable.

I invite you to be brave and get in the water with me. To be cold, to flail and to tread water. To hold your breath and go all the way under.

To learn to swim.

I never throw anyone in the deep end by themselves. That’s not my style. I am right there with you in the deep or the shallow. You can trust me. I won’t let you drown.

Now more than ever we need to understand our role in shaping the society we live in.

We need to commit to the actions and behaviors that will make our “good intentions” reality.

We can do better.

If you work with me for more than five minutes you’ll know that’s one of my signature phrases. I use it to remind myself to start where people are to help them move forward. It keeps me in a place of hope and out of that cozy place of judgement.

“We can do better. We are all good people doing the best we can, and we can do better.”

I asked my daughter what she might say to help a friend have the courage to do something new even though they were scared.

After clarifying that the scary thing wasn’t something I was trying to trick her into doing, she gave me some good advice.

“Tell them to remember that its only scary for the first few minutes and then when you get there, someone is usually nice and says hello. Or you will see someone you know that you can go stand with, or there is something you have to do like fill out forms, or find a seat. And afterward you won’t remember what you were so nervous about.”

I asked her advice for two reasons. First, because of her personality and style, she usually has a different perspective from me, and second, because I found myself on the receiving end of an invitation that I found scary, so I was gathering multiple opinions about what to do.

In my coaching practice I often work with clients who are attempting new and often scary transitions.  When that happens I help them question the assumptions behind their fears, so they can hopefully start to align what they say they want, with what they have to do to achieve it.

This recent “scary situation” helped me categorize some habitual excuses:

  • “They don’t really want me there, they just invited me to be polite”  (Protecting Self)
  • “I don’t know anyone, it’ll be awkward for everyone” (Protecting Others)
  • “I don’t really have the expertise to belong to this group” (Imposter Syndrome)
  • “I have too many other things I need to do” (Martyr Syndrome)

I ended up not attending for these and other reasons. Instead, I spent those hours, and days afterward, mentally berating myself for being so cowardly.

Then, as I was getting ready for meeting with a coaching client, I noticed that several times between sessions they hadn’t followed through on a plan, or “taken the risk”.  My notes showed we worked together to adjust plan or break it down into smaller steps. I helped them, encouraged them, provided additional tools and information.

I didn’t call them a coward.

In fact I can’t think of anyone I would call a coward for any reason. Except myself of course.

Ouch.

Based on this experience I think “learn to be nicer to yourself every day” will be my meditation for the next thirty days. I also forget sometimes to give myself credit for the risk I take every time I publish a new blog post. My opinions, flaws and ruminations are readable, searchable, and if we believe in the power of the NSA, permanent on the internet.

So maybe not totally cowardly.

Cowardly_lion_cover

UPDATE: November 25, 2019

Much remains the same since I wrote this post back in 2014, and some are actually worse. One thing that is better (and worse) is a new Tamir Rice Safety Handbook created by the ACLU of Ohio in collaboration with Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice.

The better is that Samaria Rice can help publicize a tool that may keep other children from being killed. The worse is that we need a guide for black and brown children to navigate interactions with law enforcement.

 

ORIGINAL POST: November 25, 2014

I knew the Ferguson grand jury would not indict officer Wilson. I’m not cynical, just familiar with history.

I knew I would feel like shit hearing the outcome, but I wouldn’t have predicted the sadness. I naturally lean toward anger & outrage in the face of our ongoing social & political injustice.

Closer to home, Tamir Rice, the 12 year old boy from my old neighborhood who was killed by a police officer on November 22 for having a toy gun, deepens my sadness and amplifies the questions.

  • How will we change the value we place on black lives in this country?
  • How will we change the perception that black skin is to be feared – the assumption that drives and justifies a violent response from police?
  • How will we grant black teenagers the benefit of youthful stupidity – a privilege widely enjoyed by white teenagers?

The biggest question, the one that is currently making me sad is – what do we do now?

I just taught a workshop the other day about dealing with difficult situations by recognizing your habitual responses and learning about different potential choices. Deciding how to respond rather than just reacting.

So how will we respond to our deeply flawed and biased society? What do we address first? The legal system? Gun culture? Institutional racism? The fact that citizens are brainwashed into thinking that they have no power to change the system?

If I had my druthers I’d start with eliminating folks feelings of collective helplessness so we can get to collective action.

We need to do more.

I need to do more.

Cudell Recreation Center where Tamir Rice was killed

Writing about violence is much like writing about rape.

As a culture we understand the definitions but it gets fuzzy when we move from the general to the specific, or from the specific to the general. However, this post is not intended to be a lesson on the merits or flaws of using deductive versus inductive logic. Rather I am thinking of all the ways “running” is part of the act of terrorism in Boston.

  • People targeted while they were running.
  • The average runner finishes the Boston Marathon in four hours, the time the bombs exploded.
  • People running away, in fear and confusion.
  • People running to, to help and save lives.
  • Thoughts running to fear for our loved ones, friends and acquaintances who might be in Boston.
  • Thoughts running to fear for ourselves and our loved ones at similar large events that might be targeted.
  • Thoughts running to understand, blame, accuse, and ultimately – not today of course – leverage for whatever agenda or prejudice it can be attached to.

The word running is losing meaning as I read it now. Which is part of my point as meaning, or sense-making, will be a Swiss cheese affair no matter what evidence is eventually produced. It seems to me that it’s always the holes in the cheese, the negative space, that is used to support the “leveraged agenda”. The arguments that this proves that “Obama is a bad president”, or “we need more guns” or “stronger immigration laws” or “stronger policy on North Korea” (saw this one already) whether it has anything to do with the Boston event or not.

I watched the violence in Chardon and Sandy Hook get tied to agendas outside those stories, so I’m pretty sure it will happen about Boston soon enough. There’s a whole category of religious, political and news commentators (and I use that term very loosely) “running their mouths”, offering answers that makes national tragedies even worse. For me at least.

The only answer I’m looking for is how to adequately explain to my daughter that we can each decide how world events shape us. We’re not clay, we can choose. And the choices for processing and reacting to world events are endlessly complex – fear, courage, love, hate, action, destruction, paralysis, and on and on and on. Deciding rather than hiding is my policy because ultimately we can never run away from ourselves.

My deepest sympathies are extended to those affected by the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Wishing all those injured or responding a speedy reunion with loved ones.

I responded today to a quiz that a friend put on my facebook wall. I usually ignore these kinds of things but I was stone cold bored with sitting alone in my office wordsmithing a proposal. The fill-in-the-blank quiz gave you an age (29 in my case) and you had to fill in where you were what you were doing and so on. Continue reading

It is such a short trip to the land of fear. It is one of those places you can get to from just about anywhere.

The predictable response from the NRA to the massacre in Sandy Hook was to blame every other societal ill beside gun proliferation. And of course to advocate for more guns because “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre points to our “blood-soaked culture” as reason for the violence rather than the ease of obtaining military grade weapons equipped with high-powered ammunition. One of many arguments based in the idea that our culture has disintegrated, youth are desensitized, music videos glorify thug life, we are not safe.

What we are is a gun culture. And the easiest way to perpetuate the need for guns is through fear.

We talked with our daughter about her thoughts on Sandy Hook. Mostly she described the reactionary intruder drill the school held the next week and how unsatisfying it was. She said she didn’t feel safe with this one teacher and the room had too many windows. They had the kids hide under the desks, and most of them are too big to fit, which doesn’t matter anyway because its as useful as  “duck & cover.”

When she identified other rooms & teachers she’d rather be with if “something happened for real”, I asked her to imagine what she’d do if she was in charge of that classroom. She had an immediate answer. I said if something “real” ever did happen, she should trust herself if she didn’t think the adult could keep her safe. This is a dangerous thing to say, but I don’t know how better to clarify that we trust her to trust herself.

This conversation was actually Part 2 of an earlier conversation about fear. We were in a run down neighborhood and she remarked that she always felt a little afraid in poor neighborhoods but then she feels bad because she is afraid that’s racist. I think the DSM-V should consider including this as “The White Folks Dilemma.” We teased apart what she was afraid of and why, and none of the reasons were because the people were black. Poverty scares a lot of people. It can look like desperation, potential crime and violence.

What I was afraid of with The White Folks Dilemma was that she would talk herself out of her instincts. Our bodies know danger faster than our minds. And our minds are trained to overrule all sorts of useful signals. Its useful to be afraid sometimes, it heightens your awareness. Its not useful to be afraid all the time because, again your mind is overruling instinct.

Its so easy to give in to fear. Its much easier than joy, or love or trust. But that kind of “the world is a dangerous place” fear, seems implausible to me. I am much more afraid of easy access to semi-automatic handguns than I am of a shooter going in my daughters school. Or randomly shoot me through the floor to ceiling windows in my office. That just occurred to me today after 8 years in this office by the way.

I don’t have any solution except to keep reminding myself and others that fear is just one of our emotions. And I will continue to stumble stupidly through the world believing that humans are inherently good. I am a Platonist at heart – “To know the good is to do the good”. Now we just need to teach the NRA the meaning of “the good”.

sandy+hook+school+sign

I flew Southwest Airlines for the first time in my life yesterday. The experience was unexpected to say the least. The only point of reference I had was flying People Express in the 80’s when I was younger and had considerably less travel experience.

My first clue that I had entered a whole different wing of the airport was when they would not accept my boarding pass from my smartphone. Armed with highlighters and nary a scanner insight, I was sent off to print a boarding pass at a distant kiosk. As this was explained to me by TSA, I saw people behind me not just irritated at the delay I was causing but smirking at my mistake.

I printed the pass and went back to the front of the line (seeing as I had already waited once) and the trusty highlighter let me through. Given the amount of dirty looks sent my way I had the impulse to explain to the folks on line that I was not swanning through security, I had Special Circumstances.

When I arrived at the gate I was totally confused. Not only were there were hordes of people, but there was only one desk for four gates and the sign for flight info was on a reader board where you put the letters up one by one. The kind you generally find in an office or medical building listing names and suite numbers.

I found what my ticket said was my gate and since they were already boarding (did I mention the usually one-hour Taxi ride to the airport took an hour 45 putting me at the airport 25 minutes before my flight? Anyway. I cannot for the life of me figure out my seat number. I pull out my phone to compare printed to electronic info and I still can’t find a seat number. Roughly a hundred people are huddled around the entrance like vultures, so I go back to the agent at the desk who is patiently updating flight info with her tray of letters and ask her to show me where my seat number is on my boarding pass.

She smiles indulgently.

Turns out (which the rest of the world but me obviously knows), there are no assigned seats on Southwest. You line up by “boarding numbers” between these poles and they let customers on it batches and you grab whatever seat you want. Now understanding the system I instantly realized I would be one of the last five people to enter the plane meaning I was guaranteed a center seat between two over sized businessmen.

There was no more overhead space by the time I got on and the flight attendant grabbed my bag. I said ‘Are you gate checking my bag?’ and she said “I’m checking it!”, with full head bob and attitude. I held out my hand for the check number and she said “I’ll bring it to you, don’t worry”. I looked down and she had bits of torn paper with the final destination scrawled on them tucked under the handle of the suitcase. I bravely walked down the aisle sure that I would never see my suitcase again.

The flight itself was uneventful so I had plenty of time to reflect on what social etiquette makes the aisle and window seats both entitled to the use of two arm rests. Apparently the center seat is the red-headed step child of the airplane world. I also had time to notice a certain level of shabbiness and lack of professionalism that made me nervous.

First of all none of the flight attendants clothes matched. It was sort of like how all the workers at Target need to wear something red on top, all these Southwest attendants all wore something blue. One had a blue polo and shorts, one had a blue vest over a blouse, one had a blue blouse with a little fake tie. They all looked wrinkled and, not exactly grubby, but “unfresh”.

From my center seat purgatory I had time to wonder: Why did the blond flight attendants roots showing make me think her less competent? Why did the bad makeup job on the older than me (!) flight attendant make me think another airline let her go? Why did the little jokes they made during the safety instructions make me uneasy rather than lighten my mood? Everyone else chuckled appreciatively.

That’s when I decided I had officially turned into a snob. And being a snob, I have no plans to ever fly Southwest again if I can possibly help it.

Airplane!