Archives

The Coffee Break: It Cracked Today And So Did I

I lost it this morning over a coffee maker.  Not just any coffee maker, a broken one.  One that was a gift because coffee in the morning is something to enjoy and to breathe in and to slow the minutes.  It’s something I do on purpose.

I’d filled my cup pushing the button with the rim just as gently as every other time.  This time, though, it stuck.  Suddenly, I’m calculating, “How much did I make?” as I’m watching 5 cups of beautifully roasted morning peace spread itself across the counter.  I laughed.  Holly’s dad comes around the corner to find me next to a mountain of Bounty hoping for the best.  He helped me dry the mess and went back to bed before another trip out of state today.  I went to get the baby, admittedly quite pleased with my ability to laugh this one off so well.

I fed Holly her usual breakfast and returned to the kitchen to refill mine.  I pushed the button.  It broke.  This time, so did I.  In one fluid move, I reached for the paper towels to dry the counter and quickly found myself bringing them to my face instead.  I let out one of the most heartbreakingly long sighs I’d ever given and hung my head along with it.  The baby was happily playing in her crib as I could see her tiny feet kicking with glee at the sight of her own warped face in the plastic mirror.  I looked up and found my own surrounded by the frame of my favorite $12 mirror on the kitchen wall.

I had officially lost my shit.  I sobbed as quietly as possible as I dried my face and reached down to clean the other mess.  I found my way to the tool box, pleading with the powers that be to let the power of a Black & Decker screwdriver save the day.  Each twist of the Phillips head felt strangely exhausting.  Soon, I gave up and left the pieces, collected my own, and returned to a cheerful Holly peering up at me from her crib.

I lost it over a coffee maker.  Packed into a few minutes of silent chaos, it was so much more.

It was new motherhood and navigating it like it’s the darkest forrest intertwined with beautifully sun-lit trails.  It was forgetting the meeting last week and forgetting what day this one is.  It was balancing the challenges of parenting life along with the fun of it.  It was finding energy to work and energy to take time away from it.  It was looking in the mirror to find a messy pile of once-styled hair atop a bewildered face wondering if I accidentally gave the baby an extra drop of D3.  It was wondering what that might do if I had.  It was glancing into her room to make sure she was safe and looking into the next to make sure her daddy was still asleep after the thunderous tumble of the hairbrush into the fiberglass tub.  It was standing in the kitchen losing my damn marbles over plastic and metal representing my only purposeful break of the day.

It was the moment I realized that this tiny human, our tiny human, was looking at me- tear-stained face and all.  While I’m doing all I can to stop the world for a minute, she’s looking at me to make it turn.  And suddenly, I forgot everything.

 

RenderedImage

Challenges: Our Very Own Freedom Fighters

The past few months have been a swirl of my one world colliding with itself like the front winds of a storm encapsulated in the form of one girl.  It’s been challenging and wonderful.  I’m at a point where I can be grateful for that and not at all intimidated.  It’s  great and extremely freeing.

Here are a few key things I’ve learned as each aspect of my life has taken a turn, executed the dismount, and nailed the landing before the next one.

  1. Challenges aren’t meant to be struggles.  They’re presented as opportunities but only if we take them as those.   We have to take chances and risk our own comfort in order to see them show up in the first place.  Here’s how:  Look for the one tiny white space hidden in the chaotic scribbles of something that seems insurmountable.  We’re going to go through some heavy experiences but the upside is that we’re alive to do so and those spaces between still exist.  They are meant to be there in the mess just as you are.
  2. Welcome everything.  Welcome the sad, infuriating, and negative feelings and events.  Welcome the elation, discomfort,  and wonder of things not yet known. Welcome the celebrations and rest following them.  Welcome yourself to a break. Welcome the air into your lungs and yourself into the space in which to breathe it.
  3. Accept that you will not be able to make sense of the day sometimes and accept that as being totally ok.  By doing that, you’re accepting the process that it is.  You’re creating the ability to keep moving.
  4. Be a mess.  Have it out with yourself or your closest person while keeping in mind that the ultimate goal isn’t anything other than learning from the experience.
  5. Look for more.

The only chances we get to free ourselves from the weight of worry and stress are in the challenges we willingly accept.   Like the tracks of a rollercoaster, they’re placed carefully there for a calculated reason.  It’s up to us to open ourselves to that free fall.

 

 

A History Lesson: Moveable Framework

One week ago, I had a comfortable job in a comfortable office for a comfortable 8 hours a day.  I had a routine and an alarmingly predictable schedule.

I had no idea what would be in store as I accepted a brand new job in a beautifully aged place.  It’s a palace of sorts full of little girls twirling in their fanciest dresses and couples walking hand in hand with tickets in the other for a night on the town.

The new office was built in 1928 and stuffed full of historic stage pieces, giant levers used to power what were once the most modern fixtures of the time in a basement I have yet to visit alone.  It has soaring rafters and drapes heavier than a semi held up by what I now know are “stage weights”.

Weights

This city was experiencing all of the thrills and struggles of the Roaring Twenties just as I had with mine.  It was young and still figuring it out.  The wonder and grandeur of the theater drew people in from all directions.

Today, I learned that the curve along the back wall of my office wasn’t created to be aesthetically pleasing.  It was created as a route for the African American community of the 1920s and 1930s to enter and exit away from the rest of the crowd.  It was a passageway created to segregate.  Throughout the decades, this wall has been transformed and painted and refinished eight layers deep.  Now it serves as the backdrop of my yet-to-be-painted office and I’m sitting exactly where all of the boundaries had once been pushed.

There is something immensely unique about this place left unseen by any guest out for a night.  It’s where hundreds of people have passed through the door of a creaky backstage dock.  They were there to share their talent.  They were rock bands and acting troupes, comedians, and dancers.  They were who someone wanted to be someday.  Some were nervous.  Some were naturally comfortable.  Each one of them, though, was there for a reason;  To transform into the person of their dreams the moment they stepped ahead of the curtain.  To do that, they had to push forward through the heaviest doors with the shakiest hands.

These doors are weathered and worn just as they were.  These doors kept opening to new possibilities just as they had.

Door

We all begin somewhere.

IMG_4896

One Word = Two Words:  Which One Have You Heard?

Progress:  n.  A forward or onward movement toward a destination.
Progress:  v.  To move forward in space or time.
The discussion surrounding “Progress Through Compassion” has covered a few key aspects to developing and maintaining a personable working relationship with each of your employees.
The word heard most often?  Progress.  It’s one of those strangely ambiguous English words that can take on two entirely different meanings.
Which one did you hear?
From a management standpoint, this is absolutely crucial to decide two things:
–How you interpret progress in relation to your ultimate goal
–How you put it in action
Now that we have touched on how you relate to your employees and how they relate to you, we can look at how we move forward with those elements in place.  You have your goal set to work jointly toward financial gain and personal fulfillment as anyone with a passion for their business should.  So how do we tie both definitions of progress together?
We open our doors.
All noise, chatter, and tapping of keyboards aside, your door should be wide open.  This isn’t one-sided.  It will allow your employee with a question to know they’re heard.  It’ll allow them to know you’re there just as they are.  It will allow you to stay in-tune with their situations.  It’s a visual representation of compassion.
By literally opening our doors, we allow the concept of Progress Through Compassion to fully evolve.

Progress Through Compassion Take Two: Keys To Learning The Curve

While composing part two of this short series on Progress Through Compassion,
the topic of empathy often comes up when I hear from management teams who are struggling to balance productivity with workplace independence. Employees want to be able to assert their independence as everyone works differently toward the same goal.  This is a beneficial thing, however it can also be detrimental.  Many times, employers find themselves feeling a loss of direction as their employees scatter into different procedures and methods.
So how do we find that sweet spot where our employees feel appreciated, respected, and independently productive?  For many in an employer’s position, this is where empathy becomes a skill to learn.
Here are two key points from that new baseline to regain balance and productivity.
 
Expand your vocabulary to avoid words like “control” or “policy”.
These words are obviously functional and important in any working environment.  But what if we flip that into this:  Control is actually a function of maintaining balance.  Approaching the same principle with a less polarizing perspective by simply switching a word helps to give you a platform while letting your employee stay open to ideas and even constructive criticism.
Take notes.
Take notes-  Not about work.  Not about profit margins or Power Points.  Take notes about what makes your employee tick.  What makes them thrive?  What changes their demeanor or makes their day?
We often get lost in the technical side of conducting business while losing site of WHO is conducting it.  This is your baseline-  your key to moving forward.
I often think of a particularly fantastic Seinfeld reference where “Anyone can take  reservation.”
take-the-reservation
Think of this as learning how to “*hold* the reservation.”

Empathy: Progress Through Compassion

Most days, we set out to experience the world with our own perspective-  Our own shoes.  But what happens when empathy is a core value with no set line? How do we draw it?  What if we don’t know how to express or experience it in the first place?

 Empathy is a peculiar thing. It’s a vital form of existence that some possess to an almost torturous degree. We feel deeply both positive and negative things. It’s a gift and a curse all in the shape of one human.  Turbulent and ever changing, it can make or break a life.  The goal for empaths is to balance and sustain it for as long as possible.  We will never give up feeling what we do because we’re lucky we can.  On the opposite end, we wish it would stop to let us feel nothing for a few.
As I experience empathy in my core relationships, I struggle to find a line between two key points:
– Letting it become so strong that I lose sight of my purpose and focus entirely too much on whether or not someone else is struggling.. and..
– Letting it be as it is so that I may trust that things work out as they will.
Just as it applies to our personal relationships,  empathy can be the key to progress in our work relationships. It can be the one link that fills the gap between managing your workload and owning it. Throughout the next two weeks, I will be discussing a few key points to help find, balance, and pursue progress through compassion.

Translating Transformation- A Different Point Of View

How do you take on something that overwhelms you?
How do you turn doubt into determination?
How do you translate someone’s perception of you or your actions?
These are questions I’ve asked myself as I go through yet another shift in my Darah-fied life.  I keep coming back to the same conclusion:
Transformation isn’t about your image.  It’s about the image of everything else to you.
Let’s break it on down now!
Transformation isn’t about your image.  
How are we presenting ourselves as authentically as possible?  The truth of the matter is this-  Our ability to be authentic requires us to do some ridiculously tough but valuable work in looking at ourselves.  Human nature is to run from discomfort and one of the most uncomfortable things in life is to look at our own flaws while simultaneously displaying our own vulnerability in the form of.. well.. every bit of what makes us who we are.
Transformation is about the image of everything else to you.
It’s about perception. It’s all in the approach and how you choose to navigate things you see and experience. This is where the aforementioned questions come in for me.  Allow me to present a super detailed info-graphic**:
image001
**Not an accurate depiction of how it looks in my mind.***
*** Note to self: Work on design skills.
If you’re anything like me, an idea can quickly become a challenge.  This can be a good thing!  The problem is this:  If I don’t focus on how I personally approach that challenge, it can then become an obstacle.  The obstacle starts to seem insurmountable.  I start to realize how done I am with stressing over it and I’m back to where I started before I even began.
Lately, I’ve shifted my focus to small changes instead of giant ones.  This strategy allows me to maintain some balance while everything else is shifting.  While I have undergone some pretty sizable transformations in my 33 years, none of them have been without self-doubt, outright failures, and numerous “restarts”-  You know those Mondays where you promise yourself you’ll start fresh right after you enjoy a ridiculously lazy and gluttonous Sunday night.  I have done this using three key thoughts.
*Missing a personal goal isn’t failing as long as I’ve successfully tried.
*Try again.
*Smaller goals in daily life can be as simple as drinking more water than you did yesterday.
True transformation begins with looking at that line between our own view and theirs.  
True transformation shows us our strengths, weaknesses, and willingness to challenge them.