Monday, July 4, 2016

You Forgot Your Change

To say that I've developed a lot of baggage over the last four years (please see the graphic on the left side of your screen) is probably the understatement of my life (or less hyperbolically ...because I love a good oxymoron) of the last four years. To whit...

  • One month and fifteen days before my four-year work anniversary, I have been introduced to my fourth new leader. And I'm going to refer to her as "my leader" because that's what I want: not a boss or a supervisor but someone who leads the way, shows me how to accomplish what I want, what I know will be positive change for all...and not just where I work, but out in the community, in the world. I want a "leader" because I want to co-lead with a shared vision of what is possible. What I don't want is just (so much meaning in that four-letter word) someone who tells me what to if I didn't already know. 
  • I've lost friends...due to betrayal and to death (J, your number is still in my phone as if I'll be able to reach you on the other side...though I know those numerals now belong to a stranger. Our final conversation lingers...I remember you started with, "Oh. My. God!" I can still hear your voice and see your pony tail swaying as you walked in that lovely green dress. I miss you). 
  • I've experienced conflict with people I thought were the least likely to question my motives or ideas and who cost me important progress in my career. 

We all try to maintain perspective, but it can be hard to do if you're already struggling with a mental illness (generalized anxiety disorder for me). Under a tight deadline, I function exceptionally well because I'm a writer, I live for that excitement, I know that drill, and the end is in sight.

Under constant and uncertain stress, it's a different story. What did I do wrong, and when will this end?

Under these circumstances, I withdraw. Completely. As in I haven't been to a party or out to eat with friends in months. I quit exercising because that requires being somewhere other than in front of the comfort of my horror flicks and K-dramas. There is a very private booth reserved for me every day in a local restaurant at 11:00 a.m. I've been going there to escape; the staff ensure I'm well protected from intrusion. And I've spent thousands of dollars on this luxury, no joke.

The unfortunate result is NOT just that a lot of mental baggage is sitting at my door everyday when I prepare to leave, when I leave. I've added a couple physical carry-on bags as well, and I'm not referring to the ones I keep at the ready because I hate preparing for trips, either (I LIVE to travel and keep my luggage up to date for that reason). I'm referring to those bags bulging from my stomach, rear-end, etc.

And to those who might say, "You should accept your body as it is," my response is this: "Right now, my body does not match how I think of myself: strong, athletic, capable of climbing mountains, able to throw a huge order of drycleaned clothing over my shoulder without my knees buckling," etc. (My family is in the drycleaning business; it keeps one in shape.) This is not how I am (to quote Pink Floyd). 

These extra 40 lbs. don't represent how I envision myself out in the world. They DO represent very well how weighted down I feel in my heart and in my mind.

So I need to start remembering to collect my change. See, I've been through this before...back at the turn of the millennium. I had even more weight, psychic and literal to lose, eight-years' worth. I felt so stuck, I took a year off to lose all the baggage, which worked, but I'm older and don't have a year off to spare getting rid of all the spare tires.

I will admit I am the laziest person in the world. The thing is, you can always turn a minus into a plus if you ponder it long enough. A colleague and I have an ongoing discussion about how laziness is the most significant factor leading to innovation. These conversations take the form of "Yeah, Edison was the youngest, so he probably got stuck lighting and putting out ALL the candles and thought, "Eff this noise, I'm going to find a way to make this simpler."

They're really just extended and fun jokes we use to punctuate office-worker time. None of it is based in fact, actually (except, Thomas was, indeed, the youngest). Edison innovated the best electric light bulb (for the time), not the first.

And I'm not really lazy. I'd just rather be doing other things than grunt work a "boss" expects me to do because he doesn't have a vision of what I COULD do and doesn't bother asking me about my vision. Let me have a go at my vision. Let me go for a walk and take photos with my phone or camera. Don't constrain me to cleaning house, cooking, going shopping, or driving ANYWHERE. (I hate driving; it requires extreme concentration and least if you're doing it right..and there is no other way for me).

In short, remind me I forgot my change.

Yes, remind me about the things I did in 2000 to lose weight and gain perspective and all the things I forgot (the quarters, nickels, dimes, and pennies that add up after a while) I could be doing now. I was so worried about the present I was presented and not enough about the present I could make, I forgot I could still change, still grow, still be who I wanted to be because I'm the only one who is in charge of that. Not a series of weak "bosses," bad personal relationships, or untapped / un-mined conflict. (Damn! Conflict, like wind power, is a natural resource, y'all!)

Recently I said this on Facebook:  "I will not wake up at 5:00 a.m. beating myself up for all the things I still haven't accomplished. Good things take time, and small incremental actions accomplish more than grand gestures thrown willy-nilly at creating change."

So here's the deal, social science research indicates that if you have high expectations of someone (yourself included), that person feels respected and respects you in return.

So it's time to collect the change from the little slide that dispenses the coins owed when paying cash.

  • I vow to have high expectations of the people I work with and care about. I will see my new leader as that, a leader. I will see my colleagues as co-leaders, all leaders in a vision of change...if small and incremental. 
  • I vow to keep close the friends and family who have remained true to me because we don't know what's going to happen (watch...or not...1000 Ways to Die). And I'm letting go of the people who suck up my energy with their drama. Planet Sans is now a drama-free zone. 
  • I vow to uplift those with whom I've had conflicts. Conflict helps us identify someone else's perspective, see where all concerned are missing the point, and find ways to help each other out. If we avoid it, nothing will ever change
  • Finally, I will maintain my perspective by adapting to the reality of who I am and the accomplishments I hope to make in my life. 

In short, I want to condense my baggage to only those things I need, those things that will make it possible for me to travel all over the world, write, start a new career, and feel like a physically and mentally strong human being. That will not happen if I keep forgetting my change (literally, as in spending money I could use for other things, and figuratively, as in forgetting to adapt to new circumstances).

So. How does one lose mental and physical baggage? How does one start small to begin change?

I'm not an expert. Just a person who knows how to innovate in small ways and who has a few goals. Tomorrow, after doing the day gig that pays my bills and the night gig that brings me joy (that's a 10-hour day, y'all), I hope to begin giving my readers something in return. This will not only give me a chance to practice my writing craft, but also think about community and economic development. My next post will cover sustainability and food waste as related to our mental and physical baggage. I hope to complete it July 10, 2016.

In the meantime, don't forget your change.

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