Monday, February 28, 2011

Die Hard

Well, it's the start of week four.  Pretty crazy.  I've passed the half way point.  From a glass-half-full perspective, this means I have time to at least double all that I've accomplished so far.  I woke up this morning pondering this half-way mark and what it could mean.  I'd like to think that if I've spent the last three weeks (and, frankly, the work weeks leading up to my sabbatical) focusing on who I am and the person I want to be that, perhaps, these next three weeks offer up an opportunity to try myself out a bit.  See how things fit.  Maybe make some refinements.

I was away this past weekend for some partying with friends.  It provided an interesting opportunity.  Could I still be the fun girl with all this new-found enlightenment?  Could I be someone who meditates; who visualizes her inner voice to hear what it's trying to tell her (whilst telling her mind to shut-it); who recognizes this desire not to be admired, but to be loved; who's trying to have meaningful connections.  Could I be all these things, and still be my old uninhibited self ?

The short answer is sort of.  It does get a little more complicated, and I'll come to that.  I certainly had a chance to really let loose. Not yoga-retreat-loose.  Dancing-drinking-grilled cheese at 4:30 AM-kissing strangers on the dance floor-loose. Oh yes. I was "that" girl. And I'm told it was hilarious.

Now, I've never been one to be particularly inhibited.  As long as I'm not hurting anyone (or anything beyond my own liver) and I don't have to give strong apologies in the morning, it's pretty much fair game. Admittedly, I've done things here and there in the past that if you have a clear black and white scale for right and wrong probably fall a bit in the wrong category.  But I like to live in the grey.  Not because it's easier to justify things, but because I believe that life's more complicated than right and wrong.  People do things for a lot of different reasons; reasons that you and I might not understand and aren't in a position to judge.  So, kiss a stranger (or two) on the dance floor? Yeah, I can live with that. Frankly, I can live with more, but I'll keep the blog PG-13 for now.

So back to the weekend.  Something interesting happened. While I was my "old" self in the evening, the morning brought some thought processes I hadn't previously been aware of in the past. I won't say that I didn't experience these thoughts before. I suspect they were there but I just wasn't listening. So I had a night where I was silly and (apparently) pretty funny with my antics.  But I also probably missed some opportunities to deepen some friendships and connect since I was too busy smashing my face against some random guy at a club. And then at a pub (new dance floor so, naturally, a new dude).  Now, I'm not opposed to this kind of behavior and I certainly don't judge it when it's someone else. And, if there was a "time and a place", this was probably it. But I don't want it to distract from trying to fit into this new skin of mine. A person where I not only emanate fun and energy, but also hint at something deeper and more meaningful. Not that I expect to seriously meet someone at a bar. But I was with some amazing people that I could have been spending more time with. Rather than focusing my energy on people who are ultimately "unavailable" once again. Oh, and slightly less alcohol may have helped too, but I don't want to change too much at once ;-)

I've been the fun crazy one for a long time. And I don't want to lose that. But I don't want to be making superficial connections either. So, now, I suspect it's a way of trying to bring these two halves of me together. To try to fit all the fabulous things about me (of which I know there are many thanks to all of you) into this new more open and exposed self.

Old habits die hard. But with a little more awareness, and a lot of focus, I'm hoping to make life even more meaningful. It's not about changing, but about improving on all those good things. Someone told me once that it's a lot easier to play up your strengths than change a weakness. What strengths do you have that could use some polishing? Hasta, sabbaticaljo

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Decisions, decisions

For most of us life is about options.  Paths.  Routes to choose.  Now, technically, this is a fortunate circumstance.  I often find myself reflecting that having options is a lucky spot to be.  There are certainly those who have fewer than others.  But there's a tricky flip-side to this.  One can easily be paralyzed by the number of options, routes, and paths available.  Apparently Swami Kripalu used to say that the only path is the path of love.  This is a beautiful saying.  But I find that it does not, in fact, allow me to choose whether to buy a new (used) car or put money into my current one; whether to go out for speed dating or stay in; whether to stay on my current career path or to venture into uncharted territory.  Anyone of these decisions could have a direct impact on my life, my finances, my future.  I'm now faced with starting to think about my career path; an area of my life that takes up an incredible amount of time, focus, and energy.  I'm struggling with who to listen to.  And I'm not talking about the advice and counsel of others.  I'm talking about which "me" to listen to...

But first, some background.  Generally people fall into one of a couple of camps.  The Thinkers and the Feelers (a la Myers Briggs).

The Thinkers
The Thinkers are all about analyzing the facts; the data.  This camp tends to be the left-brainers.  If you're like me, you analyze a decision to death before you make it, but once made there's no looking back.  No "did I make the right call?".  This may not be true for all thinkers, but for me I'm comforted in knowing that I took in the information (loads of it) and, once the decision is made, it's time to get on with it.  The downside for me is that I can sit on a decision for ages taking in all this information.  Sometimes I take so long that I have to start over because it's been so long since I started analyzing all the data.  You can imagine that something as simple as buying a camera can involve a multi-tabbed Excel spreadsheet.

Here's an excerpt from the Myers-Briggs Foundation:

"When I make a decision, I like to find the basic truth or principle to be applied, regardless of the specific situation involved. I like to analyze pros and cons, and then be consistent and logical in deciding. I try to be impersonal, so I won’t let my personal wishes--or other people’s wishes--influence me."

The Feelers
Now don't confuse Feeling with emotion.  This is about putting more weight in the people involved and personal concerns that data.

"I believe I can make the best decisions by weighing what people care about and the points-of-view of persons involved in a situation. I am concerned with values and what is the best for the people involved. I like to do whatever will establish or maintain harmony. In my relationships, I appear caring, warm, and tactful. "

Finding the Balance
So, after all these weeks of discovering how much of my life is ruled by thinking over feeling, can you believe that when faced with a key decision it comes down to THINKING versus FEELING?!  The universe is continuing its none-too-subtle ploy to shake me into connecting with my inner-feeler.  It's really interesting to me to think about decision-making in the context of thinking and feeling.  It's intriguing to me how so much of my daily life is driven and impacted by what part I listen to (which, duh, is mostly the thinking side).  So now I'm trying to move just beyond the facts and the data; to consider how I feel about my career and my desire to contribute to society; to tap into my intuition and inner-voice that called me to take these six weeks off.

So, the decision on the table is multi-faceted, but comes down to this.  Do I stay at my current company, or do I leave?  The layer below that is pretty straightforward as well.  If I stay, what path do I follow (and there are several options there)?  If I go, what do I go to do? 

So far this decision has primarily involved Internet research, a spreadsheet (this will not be shocking to those who know me), and conversations with those who have taken one path or the other.  But I hadn't taken enough to time to actually look at how I felt about all of this.  As I step back I find that one option provides stability, but little to no excitement.  While the other is risky, but has me staying up late researching potential options.  Put aside the facts and figures for a moment and this is telling stuff.  Now, this is me, so I won't be throwing away the research anytime soon, but I'm trying to listen to both of "me".  Which, as I describe it, is starting to make me sound mildly schizophrenic.

Career vs. Life
Switching gears a bit, and maybe even contradicting myself, I have a parallel thought process going on.  I've debated something amongst friends for some time now about careers, specifically.  We're raised to believe that we should find our passion with our careers.  Find the thing that's just perfect for us, and we will soar.  To be frank, I question whether or not this is akin to finding your soul mate and settling down to have eighteen babies.  At which point you will be fulfilled and ride off into the sunset.  Don't get me wrong, I want that.  But it's not exactly all sunshine and roses either.  Is it possible that our careers can be just "jobs"?  Just the thing we do to make money so we can live our actual life?  Or, is work such an integrated part of life that it's critical we engage in something meaningful?  And can we, as individuals, migrate between having work an integrated piece of life to something separate we leave at the office and allows us to live our "real" lives? 

At the core of this thought process is the importance of passion during the working hours.  Perhaps it's acceptable to do something I'm not excited about if it pays well, provides tons of flexibility, and I construct it in a way that I'm out living my life.  The more fundamental question is whether or not I'm personally capable of doing this.  Of putting work in a box and not using it as a distraction from all these newly discovered parts of myself.  Equally, would striking it out on my own create needed passion, or provide even greater potential for distraction from the personal life I'm seeking?

So, I have lots of questions, but not as many answers.  But did you notice the questions I'm asking?  They're not quite feeling questions, but I think I'm moving in the right direction.  This is partially measured by the fact that the questions cannot be answered by simple math or an Excel formula.

Some final thoughts.  I am committing to making a decision before I return to work. Even if it means committing to not deciding and being okay with that for a while. Jim Rohn wrote "It doesn't matter which side of the fence you get off on sometimes. What matters most is getting off. You cannot make progress without making decisions."  I strongly believe that, for the most part, there are no right or wrong choices.  There are just decisions.  Which is to say that once you make a choice, you follow a path.  And even if you find that path doesn't give you the intended result, there's no way of knowing...(now listen closely here)...there is no way of knowing how the other choice and related path would have worked out.  If it would have been "better".  You cannot predict what would have happened if you picked the other choice.  Option B.  Door number 2. 

So quit sitting around. Unhappy in your marriage? Don't like your job? How's that whole "doing nothing" thing working out? Decide to go to therapy or geta life coach. Or get divorced or quit your job. Or decide to recommit. Or decide to do nothing and accept that this is the life you're living. But make the call.  Pick the option.  Open door number 1.  Or 2.  Just decide.  Indecision is a decision.  So if you choose it, choose it wisely.

What do you need to decide?  Time isn't going to make it easier.  Get 'er done.  Hasta, sabbaticaljo.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Single Mingle

So, I'm back from Kripalu-world.  A world centered around wellness, love, health, and community.  I'm trying to hold on to a bit of the stillness I experienced last week in the Berkshires.  So, doing (most of) my taxes yesterday may have not been the ideal choice.  But being back I was feeling energized and wanting to knock a few things off the to-do list.  I started the morning with back to back personal training and therapy.  A little bit of body; a little bit of mind.  And taxes; a little bit of WTF. 

Why are taxes so goddamn hard?!  I consider myself pretty intelligent [insert smart-ass joke here].  I'm no Einstein, but I can usually navigate myself through life pretty well.  But doing taxes sucks ass.  And makes me feel really stupid.  Having to do google search after another to fill out one box on TurboTax.  A sampler for you:
  • "Air conditioner repair or capital asset"
  • "Report sick pay federal state tax"
  • "New Jersey UI tax"
  • "AMT long term short term loss"
I should probably just break down and pay someone to do them.  But I refuse on the principal that this country should have a tax code and process that allows actual human beings (even the not-so-smart ones) to execute this annual task without headache or suicidal thoughts.  But I'm trying to stay centered and get my cortisone levels back down to a normal level during this time off, so I'm taking a deep breath.  In meditation we're taught that you can't stop thoughts from knocking on the door, but you don't have to invite them in for tea.  So focus on my breath; focus on my breath.  Crazy tax bullshit noted.  [rant complete]

When I was in Massachusetts last week, I'd gotten an email from an organization I joined a while back; New Jersey Young Professionals.  It seemed like a good way to meet people (similar to the groups I've joined).  But after joining, I never went to any events.  I was just some stalker checking out planned events, but never actually pulling the trigger.  Then I received an email last week about a "Single Mingle" event on Saturday night.  The bonus was that it was at a restaurant I'm quite fond of called Rats down in Trenton.  I've been blabbing on about wanting to meet people and ditch this whole "I don't need you" vibe, so it seemed well-timed for a bit of experimentation with my new-found centered-ness.

I tried to rope in a couple single friends, but no one was biting.  Which left me with only one option: go it alone.  So, obviously I'd more or less talked myself out of it all day on Saturday.  Because, come on, who would want to want to roll into some singles event without a wing man?  Okay, well a dude would.  But I'm a chick, so I oftentimes prefer strength in numbers.  Now, a slight sidebar here - I do a lot of things alone.  Probably more than the average person.  I'll hit up a movie solo, a restaurant, and have even done vacations to places like the Greek Islands and Scotland just me, myself, and I.  But for some reason, the prospect of going to an event with the intent of actually interacting with other people and not having someone to stand next to me was mildly nerve wracking. 

So, like I said, I'd more or less talked myself out of it.  I had the pizza menu in-hand, and the On-Demand movie listings up on screen.  And then I said "fuck it".  What do I have to lose?  Worst case, I would go, it would suck, and I'd turn around and go back home.  Plus, there was dancing.  So I really had no excuses.  So I rolled down to Trenton solo (which, if you're not headed somewhere specific I don't recommend) but feeling pretty fabulous.  And it was a complete. fucking. disaster.

Just was fabulous!  Gotcha, there, didn't I?  You were thinking "but that's not how the story's supposed to end?!"  Duh.  There were probably about 50 people there, split pretty much down the middle between men and women.  Within two minutes of walking in, I met a couple of women who had been to events before and they introduced me to others, who introduced me to others.  I met a bunch of great people, and danced until 2 AM.  Okay, technically until 1 AM at which point I sat my ass down at the bar because my feet hurt.  But, by then I'd scored some nice company so I had no complaints.  Everyone was ridiculously nice.  I guess I had forgotten that everyone was here for the same reason; to connect with other people.

I get so wrapped up in my own neuroses that I completely forget that we're all doing this life thing together.  Having similar experiences, similar desires, similar needs.  A friend of mine recently shared a story about  a guy called Derrin Brown in the UK.  He repeated a known experiment on a TV show  to try to debunk psychics.  He gets a group of 5 people to each draw an image on a piece of paper around their handprint, write down their date of birth, and place a personal trinket of some sort along with the piece of paper into an envelope, one per person. The envelopes are mixed so he doesn't know which is which. He then goes into another room for about an hour to prepare a personality profile for each of the participants. He comes back and when the participants study their own reading they are all staggered at it's accuracy, nearly all of them rating it between 80-99% correct. At which point, he gets them to swap over the readings when they discover that they are all in fact identical.

Don't get me wrong, clearly everyone is an individual, but we're so not alone.  We're all connected, even when we feel isolated.  That's something I've been learning more and more lately, especially as I've blogged about my experiences.  So that's what I got out of the evening.  Well that, and an exchange of numbers with a guy I'm quite looking forward to seeing again ;)

How connected are you to the world around you?  Hasta, sabbaticaljo

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Funny; Crazy; Community

It's my last night here at Kripalu.  Rather than a singular message, I thought I would share some of my most memorable moments from my 5 days so far; the funny, the crazy, and the community.  I'll be back on planet earth tomorrow (as much as you can call NJ that), and will try to go back to my slightly dark, yet charmingly witty, self.

The Funny
  • Yoga + Gas = hilarity.  I don't care how old I get, it's still funny when someone lets one rip in yoga class.  I'm not judging.  Yoga should move around all that stuff.  But still.  I have to hold back giggles.
  • I was showering in a group shower area after a whirlpool soak today and this woman came in from the sauna.  She gets under the shower head and proceeds to moan loudly and twirl around.  I was doing one of those locker room "not looking, but looking" things.  Now, if someone else was there I may have poked a bit of fun, but I was in awe.  She was just so joyful to be having this gift of a shower!  For a moment I thought it was possible, as I noticed the temp on her shower walking out, that she was just fucking cold.  But after I returned to the locker area and she proceeded to do fully naked yoga on the bench I decided that, no, she's just pretty joyful.
  • Quotes like "have you had the Quinoa?!  It's divine!".  And "What's Kirtan?  It's like a spiritual orgasm".  Now, perhaps both of these things are true (and I have no doubt they are to the speaker), but they still make the snarky one in me want to make notes for future mocking.
  • Today I was totally busted during a session entitled "Radical Possibilities", which was delivered by one of the on site life coaches.  She had us write down one thing we really wanted in life.  Then a bit of an action plan for how to achieve it.  I had been in one of her sessions before, and I knew she was big on sharing these after you articulate them to yourself.  I wrote pretty personal stuff, and I just wasn't in a sharing mood (or in the mood to cry).  So, I finished the task quickly and stepped out, figuring I could smartly grab a cup of tea while they did some sharing, then return.  I returned to the room once, heard the mass talking, and got another cup of tea.  A second return and I only heard the facilitator's voice.  Perfecto!  I walk in as she's saying "okay, now let's trade partners and share!".  Shit.  It's totally too late to go back.  So, I take my seat.  And, who do you think moseys on up?  The facilitator.  Life Coach extraordinaire.  Goddammit.  There's no getting around this one.  Ahh, two Kleenexes later, the punishment was over.  Why won't these people let me live in my isolated emotionless bubble!?  It's so comfortable in here!
The Crazy
  • I had an integrative energy session that's supposed to release blocked energy.  Now, mock me if you like, but a couple of really freaky things happened with just her placing her hands on specific points on my body (fully clothed).  While I was waiting for my session, this woman comes in after hers and she's acting like she's high as a kite.  She can barely get out a sentence, and can't stop giggling.  I'm thinking "Awesome...put me in, coach".  Well, it turns out you get what you come in with.  Which means I was screwed from the start.  First, when she hit my fear and anger areas, I had the incredible urge to cough, and cough, and cough.  And when she removed her hands it would stop.  Then she'd put them back and it would start up again.  Apparently it's a way to release energy from the body.  The other freaky thing was my jaw locking up.  Now, this has happened to me in two scenarios before.  One, during an Ayurvedic treatment I used to get in MI that's supposed to also release blocked energy, and also whenever I would do EMDR at my therapist's office (also in MI).  I know it sounds crazy, but it was weird.  Something's clearly going on there.  I then proceeded to sleep like shit and have one of the scariest and darkest nightmares I've ever had.  I've been assured this is completely normal.  But I still wanted to be like the hallucinating lady.
  • I went to a share circle today (yes, it's exactly what you're thinking it is).  I'd blogged the other day about everyone having a story and, man, is that true.  There's a great quote from Plato that's on a plaque here that reads "Be kind; Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle".  Isn't that the truth?  Anyway, so I "shared".  I talked about peeling back these onion layers and finding layer after layer of buried crap that I'd stuffed down.  And that I'm quite exhausted from all this self-discovery, and going back to being on emotional lock down is looking pretty attractive now and again.  After I finish, this woman comes across the room and just hugs me.  Yes, I know it sounds super-lame.  But, I swear, it was cool.  After the share circle ended, a second woman came over to me.  We'd never met, but I'd heard her story and she'd heard mine.  She goes and offers up her Vermont home that's vacant during the week if I want to use it during my six weeks.  I mean, really?!  This woman just met me and literally offered up her home.  This woman who's struggling with a potential divorce and recovery from a life-threatening illness.  Jesus Christ.  If these people aren't enlightened, I know know who is.
The Community
  • You don't have to believe in an "it" to experience anything/everything here.  This place is really spiritual, but so respectful of all beliefs, no beliefs, whatever.  In every class, time after time, a teacher would say something we'd repeat or be asked to focus on.  And they'd always give a [fill in name of deity here] message.  The only consistent messages here are love, mindfulness, and inner peace.  Their mission is dedicated to promoting the art and science of yoga to produce thriving and health in individuals and society.  And you don't even have to have experience with, or particularly like, yoga.  If they could succeed in spreading this message of compassion, respect, and kindness for all beings, just imagine what the world would be like.
  • A final "memory".  I came here with some skepticism that the people here (instructors and participants alike) would all be a little nutty; heads in the cloud people.  I could not have been more wrong.  The instructors, in particular, are funny, witty, down to earth, pragmatic people who are willing to share their life experiences; which look and feel just like the rest of us.  Taking on too much, trying to be too perfect, being addicted, being in recovery, trying to be everything to everyone.  This is a community that I wish all of you could experience.
So, that's the story.  Plenty of other things happened here, but those stories are between me and the others at Kripalu.  You'll just have to come here to find out more for yourself.  What's stopping you?  Hasta, sabbaticaljo

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Love Letter: Part II

Let me summarize today's post.  It's about hating being sappy or emotional, feeling cranky and irritable, and telling people how grateful you are to have them in your life.  It was a roller-coaster of a day.

If I count weekends, it's Day 11 of being on sabbatical.  It's Tuesday of the second week and, already, I've had some great revelations and been doing enough emotional exploration to go through a box of kleenex.  Now, let me talk about this crying thing for a minute.  I'm sort of someone who sees crying and emotions as a waste of energy.  And, I will admit that I've been known to quietly and internally mock someone who shows them.  Depression (and manic depression) runs in my family, so I'm always thinking "oh, wait, I cried.  Am I depressed?"  (don't worry...I'm not). I can, at times, be a hypochondriac for mental defects.  But I'm uncovering that this is particularly my issue right now and I have to stop being so afraid of them.  Because it turns out we all have emotions.  Fears.  Wounds.  Anger.  If you don't, you're a cyborg (which is sort of cool, but isn't helping me make my point).  And here's something you and I should remember...showing emotions, including sadness, anger, or other jacked-up stuff, does not have to mean we're unhappy with our lives.  Or our spouses.  Or our jobs.  Or that we're depressed.  It's just emotion.  And that's a good word, not a dirty one.

I will put my ability to bury emotions up against the best of them.  Now I'm trying to explore them, notice them (but not dwell in them), and process them.  Which sort of sucks.  Because it's not really that easy.  And, frankly, it's totally painful because it requires doing I would cut my arm off to avoid.  Trudging through the past.  Uncovering all these old wounds and hidden crap I thought I'd "let go" (hint: in my language "letting go" apparently means burying somewhere deep causing something akin to a hazardous waste leak into your system).  But I'm getting up every day and trying to do it.  Because I think it will make me a better person.  And if I want to have successful relationships in my life, this sort of feels like something I need to do.

Bottom was shitty.  So far my posts have been relatively encouraging.  I've been feeling good.  Smiling.  Doing the things I should be doing.  And today I think it may have caught up with me.  The morning didn't start off particularly bad.  I woke up with energy, though it quickly turned to frantic energy.  Do you know what I'm talking about?  It's like a state of irritation and agitation.  You feel off, but nothing in particular seems to be pissing you off.  Yesterday the idea of "silent breakfast" (there's no talking, hence the "silent" part) seemed enlightened.  Today it seems boring.  I went back to my room and was just sort of feeling blah.  The sun is shining for the first time in weeks, and I just wanted to get back in bed and pull the covers over my head.  So I did.  Until my 11:00 massage.  The whole time she's doing the massage, I'm focused on everything I'd rather have her do.  More pressure here.  Less stretching.  I mean, really?  I can't even enjoy a freaking massage? 

So, I'm aware that this is all happening but I'm struggling with what to do about it.  I even know why it's happening. My brain is literally fighting me trying to work through all these emotions. Something about my frontal cortex not being strong enough to battle my reptilian brain.  Apparently there's an old neuroscientist joke says that the Reptile Brain is responsible for the “4 F’s”—Feeding, Fighting, Fleeing…..and well, you know.  Seriously, google it.  So the reptile brain is screwing me (pun intended).  But here's what I came up with...

Emotions don't have to all be negative ones.  There's happy kick-ass emotion too.  Like, how I felt when I got the love letter I blogged about.  I decided that if I could send a little love into the world, maybe some of it would come back to me and get me out of this funk.  So, I made a list of people I'm grateful for.  At the top of the list were family members on my dad's side.  I have a complex relationship on that side of my family since I'm incredibly close with my grandparents and aunts and uncle...but don't actually speak to my father.  I've probably seen him five times since I was eight years old and haven't spoken more than a few words to him since then (remember that buried emotion I was talking about?  I started young ;) 

Back to the grateful list.  I wasn't comfortable doing something that would require me telling them in person, so I wrote each of them a "love letter" telling them why I was grateful for having them in my life.  Five in total.  I decided to mail them, rather than e-mail.  So they're saved to my computer for printing and mailing this weekend.  And it really did feel good.  To tell someone how much they mean to you.  How they've shaped who I am. 

What about you?  Who are you grateful for?  And when was the last time you told them?  You'll be amazed at how good it feels.  Hasta, sabbaticaljo

Monday, February 14, 2011

Everyone has a story

Day two of the yoga retreat and I feel pretty good.  Highlights of the day were a workshop on stress, gentle yoga, an intro to Integrative Accupressure, and a YogaDance seesion.  Now, most of my friends know my complete love of dance.  Am I any good?  Not particularly...but I make up for it with pure enthusiasm.  YogaDance is basically a dance party in the middle of the day.  No choreography...just a bunch of goofballs dancing their ass off to fun music.  It's a bit similar to Nia if you've ever done that before.  If you like to dance at all (skill is not required in this format...there were some serious crazies in today's class), you've got to try it.  It's AMAZING.  Seriously, I had chills the whole time.  I felt alive.  Pure and simple.  Hard to explain.

I had dinner for the second night in a row with T.  We met last night in a gentle yoga class.  I'd noticed him when he walked in.  He's just one of those people who looks interesting.  Short and muscular, dressed in black, tattoos, a beard.  Probably in his forties.  At one point, we were asked to make eye contact with a couple of people in class and smile.  We made eye contact, and his eyes were warm; a contrast perhaps to how one might first react to his appearance (though I know better from experience).  At dinner, I spotted him and sat myself down, and we struck up a conversation.  T is a former NYC high school teacher.  A few years ago he had a bit of a meltdown and found himself at Kripalu for three months of healing.  Here, he got into massage and yoga.  And he's been following a path to become a massage therapist over the past few years, including a several-month stint out in Big Sur, California.  I learned that he was here for a Thai Massage workshop lasting all week.  We parted ways, sure that we would see eachother again. 

He caught my eyes at breakfast this morning and we exchanged a hello as I was heading out, and he was coming in.  Our dinner schedules coincided tonight, so we sat down together and had a chance to share our lessons for the day, and talk a bit about life.  He's been following his passion, but his savings is starting to run out.  He still hasn't really found his path (at least not one that affords much income).  But he's encouraged because he's not steeped in worry like he would have been three years ago.  He's learning and growing and knows that he'll figure it all out.  He's not ruled by fear.  Or worry.  Or dread.  Hearing him talk is quite calming.  Even with a bit of his rough edges seeping in now and again during our conversation.  When I say I'm looking forward to my Integrative Energy session on Wednesday beacuse I'm holding on to some unhealthy emotions, he encourages me to let it all go.  And it makes me want to. 

So, why share all of this with you?  Because we're all searching.  In one way or another.  Whether we realize it or not.  Because most of us want to be more.  To do more.  To grow into something better.  The question becomes what you're willing to do to change.  Everyone has a story.  And the beauty is that you get to write the next chapter.  So, what's your story going to be?  Hasta, sabbaticaljo

I am a chunk of coal

Maybe it's having the time off, or maybe it's a new awareness, but I'm noticing more these days.  Quotes.  Articles that resonate.  Thoughts I've had but hadn't paid attention to.  Another sort of weird thing that I'm noticing?  Smiling.  I consider myself a happy person already, but this random smiling is weird.  I was driving to this yoga retreat in the Berkshires yesterday and found myself actually smiling (I was also only driving 65 the whole way, which is even weirder).  I'm sure the cars passing by thought I was high, but whatever.  It's all good.

Yes.  I am at a yoga retreat.  It's called Kripalu, and was recommended to me by my therapist.  I've only been here for about half a day, but so far it's super-cool.  The most common question I got when I said I was doing this was what a day actually entails at a yoga retreat.  Thankfully, Kripalu has posted it on their website, so I won't repeat the generalities here.  I arrived about 3:00, checked into my (shared) room, did a one-hour gentle yoga class, had a healthy dinner, attended an orientation, and did a 80-minute meditation workshop.

Ahh, yes.  The meditation workshop.  First, this woman was crazy-cool.  She knew her stuff, but in a really pragmatic, direct, and humorous way.  I loved her for that.  If you're interested in trying out meditation, you can get a recording of the workshop I took or peruse her website for more info.  I've tried guided meditation before, but pretty much always laying down in bed, near bedtime.  Which has one consistent result.  Falling asleep.  Which, apparently, is not the point of meditation.  So, I was excited and encouraged about the workshop.  She did a good intro before we delved in.  She warned us that meditation can be frustrating, and that "doing it right" is defined as just doing it; however it goes.  Ok, cool.  Got it.  I'm encouraged.  I'm feeling mindful and relaxed.  Ready?  Go. 

3 minutes in my left foot is asleep and my right hip is throbbing.  When thoughts enter my mind, I'm supposed to notice them, but not invite them in.  So, I notice that my hip is throbbing and return to focusing on my breath.  Then all I hear are the idiots outside the door chatting it up.  Don't they know there's a freaking meditation workshop going on?  Okay, idiots noted.  Return to focus on my breath.  But, seriously, did the woman next to me not eat anything for dinner?  Her stomach sounds like it wants to eat me.  Noted.  Return to breath.  Are we done yet?  How much longer?  Wait.  Nagging thoughts noted.  Return to breath.  Finally, it's over.  We're debriefing the experience after and I raise my hand.  "How long did we do it for?".  18 minutes was her reply.  Actually, way longer than I thought.  So, perhaps I'm not a totally lost cause.  I resolve to try out the meditation room a couple times this week.

In between classes/workshops/stuff, I checked out the magazine here.  I opened it to an article called "Experiments in Love".  Seriously?  The only way the universe could be clearer that this needs to be an area of focus in my life is if it sent the perfect man to my doorstep.  Which, by the way universe, that would have been clearer.  Can you hook that up?  A sidebar in the article by Kate and Joel Feldman talked about the fact that maintaining healthy relationships requires practice.  They used the acronym of PRESENCE.  I thought it was a great outline of things I want to remember as I spend my time off.
  • PRESENT: I can tune into my body, mind, emotions, and spirit.  I allow myself to be in contact with myself and others
  • RESPONSIVE: I am able to respond emotionally.  I allow you to impact me, and I let you know how I feel by responding to you.
  • ENGAGED: I am interested.  I am willing to be part of your world.
  • SELF-AWARE: I notice the feelings and sensations in my body; I can track my own thought processes.  I know my strengths and challenges and am able to communicate skillfully.
  • EMPATHETIC: I express my interest, curiosity, and care for what you are doing through.  I make amends if I have hurt you.
  • NATURAL: I am relaxed with myself, authentic, and able to express myself without fear or defensiveness.
  • CONNECTED: I allow myself to care for, and be cared for by, others.  I have good internal boundaries while staying openhearted.
  • ENERGIZED: I experience myself as alive, caring, and intentional with the important relationships in my life.
So, I resolve to keep at this introspection thing.  And do meditation even when my feet fall asleep and I want to kick the woman next to me for fidgeting.  Malcolm Forbes once said "Diamonds are nothing more than chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs" (for you slow-starters, I am the chunk of coal in this metaphor).  So, I will stick to it.  What should you do a better job of sticking to? (yes, now you're the chunk of coal.  seriously, you need to pay more attention).

Hasta, sabbaticaljo

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Love Letter

Either the dog woke me up at 5am, or I woke her up.  But either way, I was awake.  And I was worried.  Yesterday, I sent a link to this blog to about 25 or so friends and acquaintances.  I hadn't put that much thought into it, and now I was staring at the ceiling freaked that maybe it was the wrong thing to do.  Now, I'm not one to generally worry too much about what people think.  But this list included several people I've worked with in the past, and perhaps could work with again.  What if it was TMI?  What if they didn't get it?  What if they just thought I was weird and misguided (ok, well they probably already though that, but still)? 

I cautiously checked email at five this morning to see if I had any reactions.  And what I came across was a message emailed to me from a close friend with the subject line "A Love Letter" (perfect for this Valentine's Day time of year).  I mean, really?  I have ridiculously fabulous friends.  She agreed to let me post it.  You'll forgive me, I'm sure, if it seems a little self-indulgent...but since you're not the one baring your soul on this blog, you don't get to judge me for this one.  We all deserve a love letter.  Each one of us who knows we're not perfect and there's work to be done.  Especially those who are always focused on being more.

During your period of introspection, you are obviously focusing on your flaws/issues (which I suppose is necessary if your goal is to address them). However, I wanted to make sure that you do not lose sight of all that makes you so great! Therefore, for your reference, I have made a list of the things I love and admire most about you:
  1. Your wit/humor – you are one of the wittiest people I know and you’re just plain fun to be around.
  2. Your intelligence – not only are you clearly brilliant, but you also have an uncanny ability to understand and read people and situations. I don’t think there is anyone whose advice I value more than yours.
  3. Your beauty – you are extraordinarily beautiful, both inside and out.
  4. Your charisma – people are naturally drawn to you and you make others feel good about themselves. This is an extremely rare quality and you’ve got it.
  5. Your resilience – you are extremely well-adjusted and grounded given all the crap you’ve been through. Sure, you’ve got a few issues like the rest of us but you certainly have license to have many more than you do! :)
  6. Your fearlessness – you are open to any adventure (even if it’s flying solo in Europe)!
  7. Your independence – you have thrived and succeeded all on your own for your entire life. Nobody but you can take credit for all that you’ve accomplished. However, we all need to rely on other people and I want you to know that you can always rely on me to help you out in any and every way. Just make the call and I’ll be there.
  8. You’re a great sister – I’m so impressed by your connections and all that you do to help and support them.
  9. You’re a great friend – You are always there for your friends when they need you. It has been such a good feeling to know that I can count on you to talk me down from the ledge when I’m in the midst of my “crisis du jour”! In addition to being all the things a good friend should be, you’re just so much fun to be with/talk to (see #1 above).
  10. You are a phenomenal writer! Your blog is really compelling and very well written. I was glued to my computer until I finished reading every entry!
I know there are more items for this list but 10 is a nice round number and I need to get to bed now. Please keep these things in mind and appreciate yourself as much as I (and many others) do!

I shouldn't be surprised that I know some really, really talented and incredible women and men.  Over the last 24 hours I've received several emails from people sharing their personal journeys and struggles.  A desire to find something more.  People who relate to wanting to figure "stuff" out.  But not always knowing what that "stuff" is.  I cannot tell you how much this makes me feel like sharing all this stuff on the page is meaningful.  If for no other reason than to know I'm not alone in this wacked-out mind of mine.

It also struck me that I'm really fortunate to be able to take a full six weeks with little to no responsibility.  So many of you have husbands, wives, kids that you love but that maybe don't afford the luxury to drop everything for six weeks.  I think this line from one of the emails I received today captures it well...

I got a chance to spend some time today reading your entries (while someone was pulling at me saying "i-pad, mommy, i-pad, elmo, bball")...managed to shake the kiddos off (shh, mommy's reading) and catch up.

I hope everyone can find a little bit of time for themselves, and that my fumbling might provide a little guidance or, if nothing else, a little humor! 

A final thought.  I went to a meditation workshop tonight and wanted to share something the teacher said.

Anything you say after "I am" is fiction.

Yeah, wrap your head around that one!  Okay, yes, you may be a mom.  Or a brother.  Or a CEO.  But, really, you just are.  Think about it.  I know it sounds must be all this mountain air here in the Berkshires.  Thanks to all of you who are reading, and sharing.  And thanks for reminding me to be grateful.  For who I am.  For the time.  For you.

So, what's your love letter to yourself?  Hasta, sabbaticaljo

Saturday, February 12, 2011

"Available" (Lessons from Week 1)

I can't believe it's already the end of week one!  This week has definately been focused on catching up on a number of outstanding to-dos.  I ran across a note I'd taken from Time Off for Good Behavior about resisting the impulse to use the time off to catch up on chores and errands and I'm going to need to be mindful of this going forward.  One week of catch-up is fine, but I've decided that I will survive if cleaning the garage doesn't make the cut until I'm back at work.

A few weeks ago I'd written down some goals in my journal.  I hadn't shared them, because I'm still not sure they're the goals I want to focus on. But more on this later.  Here were a few:
  • 20 lbs of recomposition (15 lbs fat loss, 5 lbs muscle gain)
  • One year career plan
  • Run a 5K
  • Volunteer
  • Complete my resume and distribute
Today I accomplished completing the Cupid's Chase 5K.  I had a bit of a funny moment on Thursday when I went to pick up my packet.  I gave her my name and she asked "Available" or "Unavailable"?  "I'm sorry?" I replied.  She repeats herself.  "Available for what?" I ask.  Then it hits me.  The tshirts piled behind her are in two distinct piles of red shirts and white shirts.  And emblazened on the back of the shirts are "Available" and "Unavailable".  Right.  Cupid's Chase.  Valentine's Day.  It's all coming together.  I would have previously found this horribly irritating, but after this week's self-discovery, I'm embracing my singledom.  "Available" was my official reply.  And, yes, I did wear the shirt today during the run.  Sadly, no one tried to pick me up.  Probably because they were all in front of me and "Available" was on the back.  Yes, that's definately it.

I'm actually surprised I did the 5K since any training prior to the sabbatical fell off the radar f-a-s-t.  But I was able to jog one pretty much every day this week to prep, so at least I knew I could finish.  All in all I probably ran half and walked half, but I certainly wasn't last, so I'm still proud.  I've also managed to gain 5 lbs of muscle, but my overall weight has stayed the same.  I'm off to a yoga retreat for a week tomorrow, so 6 days of eating retreat food should help kick some fat loss into gear.

Before I talk about the rest of the goals, I'll share a bit about some of my other accomplishments this week.  Since I'm Type A, it's very "me" to document actionable items completed to help ease the panic of "wasting" time while I'm off.  Of course, by now, you should recognize the irnoy of that statement.  Part of the whole point was to take a break, not go Mach 10 for six weeks on non-work stuff.  But, again, I digress.  Here's some accomplishments:
  • Exercised each day (mix of jogging, working with a trainer, and yoga) 
  • Completed ELI assessment and thought through Life Coach key questions about my life
  • Met with Life Coach to debrief assessment and discuss
  • Completed lessons one through five in Keyboard 1 lesson book (yes, I'm re-learning's part of my creative outlet)
  • Massage (yes, I get to count this as an accomplishment)
  • Haircut
  • Tire alignment on car
  • Reviewed current financial situation, found a wealth advisor and had initial in-person meeting
  • Met with a Partner mentor of mine to discuss potential career paths at current company
  • Wrote a short story
  • Went to fiction/memoir writing class (and didn't cry)
  • Met with my therapist (and did cry)
  • Had dinner with a friend on Wed
  • Had drinks with more friends Thurs
  • Had dinner and drinks with even more friends on Fri
Accomplishments aside, what have I discovered this week?  I've discovered that I may have been off a bit with my initial goals.  I came into this first thinking that I just needed a bit of a break to do nothing (who was I kidding?).  Over the holidays and during my planning phase in January I found myself talking more about the career aspects of my life.  Should I stay at my company?  Go elsewhere?  What is it that I'm good at and want to do for a career?  But in every conversation I had in the last week, it hasn't been about that.  It's been about my personal life.  Here's some of what I've discovered:
  • I have a fairly strong desire to have a deep and meaningful romantic connection with someone (I was, in fact, surprised to learn this)
  • There may be some pretty clear reasons I don't have it!
  • I am terrified of being taken advantage of
  • I come off to men as "I'm all set, I don't need you" - which apparently isn't super hot if they're wife shopping
  • I don't really trust men
  • This trust junk is starting to explain my uncanny ability to attract unavailable men (emotionally or otherwise)
  • I use work as a distraction from dealing with my personal life, since there's some emotion there I may have been avoiding
All of this is more or less becoming the focus of my work with my life coach, my therapist, and frankly my writing.  I had an interesting moment with my life coach this week where I said that I'm still quite concerned about locking down this whole career thing.  But that I'm trusting in my discovery process.  I'm driving here, and I seem to be naturally moving towards uncovering some emotional junk I've built up about trusting others.  And I believe (at this point) that if I work through some of that, these questions about my career and my passion will come.

So, there you have it.  A bit of time.  A bit of focus.  And I'm discovering things that apparently I knew.  I just didn't know I knew.  And, just in case anyone asks...yes, I am Available.  And becoming more and more so every day.  Are you?  Hasta, sabbaticaljo

Friday, February 11, 2011

Why do I write?

Headed off to second writing class tonight.  I was late.  Again.  How can I not be working and somehow late to just about every scheduled thing I have this week?  Anyway, I come in and everyone's clearly already been given an opening writing assignment.  I check in with Hanna, our facilitator.  I'm meant to spend ten minutes responding to the questions of why I write, or want to write.  This time, I'm going into it fully aware that she's likely to ask me to read this.  And I'm going to make an attempt not to cry in class this time.  I go right to everything that's been going on with me this week.  All that introspection about struggling to express my emotions and to open up.

I find it hard expressing my emotions in a conversation.  I can always tell you waht I think.  But what I feel?  That's another matter.  On paper, though, I feel safe to say things I wouldn't think of feeling in "real" life.  Anger.  Sadness.  Jealousy.  I'm free to want things.  Through my own thoughts on the page directly, or through a character I can manipulate to be the things I want to be.  Or are afraid I am.

The written word also seems to allow me to think through what I'm feeling.  How I'm connecting to what I'm writing.  I can't always assess my emotional state and then articulate live. With the written word you can flow directly from head to pen to paper.  No filter required.  No emotional dam that's blocking something that might be the "wrong" thing to say.  Or think.  Or feel.  But writing?  Well, that can always be changed later.  Edited.  Evaluated.

I joined this class thinking that I wanted to write about my experiences.  BUt those ideas cenetered around the tactical.  How to.  Step by step.  But when I sit down and start to write I'm consistently going to the emotions.  The feelings behind the steps.  The story.  The heart.  But I find myself wanting to move to a fictionalized version of what I want to say.  Something one degree removed from myself.  My baggage.  Those hidden emotions I've so successfully buried.

It was so interesting to hear others' responses to the task.  I identified with something in each one of them.  And these aren't necessarily people I'd make easy conversation with in a bar.  Or anywhere for that matter.  But, in a weird way, they're each a kindred spirit.  Each of us with a unique story to tell.

A couple of the guys had their material read in class this week, and it was really helpful to hear it read allowed and then critique.  One was a memoir, and one fiction.  I took away a few key points, that I'll try to employ in my writing.
  1. I really liked when I could picture something in a story being told.  I realized I play the story in my mind, and when I can't I'm not as engaged.
  2. People want to connect to a character early.  They want to know who to care about, even amongst a big cast of characters.
  3. Introducing a conflict can pull in a reader, such that they're interested in reading to hear what happens next.
  4. Point of view is important.  If you're struggling, try changing the point of view that your material is written from.  Oddly, I'm finding myself doing this.  I set out to write some personal stories, and it's way easier if I write it from a fictional character's perspective (even if it's clearly me).
Do you have a creative outlet?  If so, why do you do "it"?  If not...dude.  You should.  Seriously.  Hasta, sabbaticaljo

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

El Miedo (The Fear)

I'd only met M, my life coach, once before last night's conversation.  That was during our initial complimentary session for me to find out if she, and life coaching, was right for me.  Since then, we'd exchanged a few emails but last night was my first official session via phone.  I'd sent her my limiting beliefs and done my homework on the ELI results.  She was impressed that I'd clearly thought about it and done some homework, which leads me to believe that she must get a lot of clients who are looking for her to do the work for them.  She referred to me as "engaged".  And I feel that way.

M tells me that I need to find out how my "core" thoughts are driving me.  We start delving into my results on the ELI assessment (see my prior post for description of the "levels").  Most of my energy is sitting in Level 2 (sometimes associated with anger), which she says can also come from fear.  For example, she says, fear of trusting.  I'm surprised at my reaction to her saying this to me (as I seem to often be lately).  I'm tearing up.  What the hell?  I'm literally irritated at myself for being so fragile.  And, yet, this is exactly my problem.  She says she believes my number one fear is being taken advantage of.  And I'm not disagreeing with her.  In an even stranger twist, I'm thinking about my ex-fiance (the one who dumped me five weeks before the wedding as he was concurrently sleeping with a 19 year-old).  I make a note to explore this in therapy. 

This whole "trust" thing seems to be a theme for me this week.  The fear of being taken advantage of in a romantic relationship (or relationships in general) is easily traced back to my childhood.  I spent the bulk of it caring for my brother and sister (though only as well as another kid could do - so apologies to them for that) and taking care of my own needs from the time I was really young.  It has to be said that this has made me, literally, the perfect employee.  I owe the large majority of my career success to the ability to take on anything, since this was a life requirement for me early on.  A woman who is unemotional, focused, driven, capable, energetic, competent, aggressive.  Oh, and single without kids to go home to?  If guys in charge have to choose one woman to work with, they're literally drooling to put me on the team.  The irony of this situation is that everything I am at work is everything that appears to be holding me back in life.  This realization is both exciting and totally frustrating.

She starts asking me about how I feel when someone disagrees with me.  She seems to be wanting to hone in on something, but it's not connecting with me, so she pulls back.  She keeps asking me how I feel.  And I'm hearing myself answer each time.  "I don't know".  What do I think?  No problem responding.  This has come up with me before.  This inability to recognize how I actually feel.  I've really become an expert at stuffing things down.  This is heavy shit. 

It's time to conclude and I'm given my assignments.  I'm meant to try to stop this week and periodically realize how I feel in different situations.  I'm also supposed to "create the perfect man in words".  She asks me to write everything in as much detail as possible.  We're about to hang up and she throws in a final task.  "Daydream," she says.  Ugh.  This sounds so incredibly lame.  But I'll do it.  Because she's the coach.  And because I'm learning that being so freaked out by too much emotional junk is making me like the worst date ever.  So, it's on the task list.  I'm sure you'll hear from me about it later.

So, what stuff should you be examining in yourself that you're too busy, or too freaked out by, to explore?  Trust me...if I can do it, so can you.  Hasta, sabbaticaljo

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Energy Level 2.49

After my complimentary session with my new life coach, she gave me two initial assignments.  The first?  List three "limiting beliefs".  Things that I believe that hold me back.  Over a pot of organic peppermint tea at a local coffee house, I sat down to write down these limiting beliefs of mine.  As I'm starting to write, a guy who's probably in his early 20s strikes up a conversation.  He's a chatty guy.  Liberal.  Irritated by the perceived wealth and high-and-mightiness of Princeton.  He starts talking about trying to find himself.  I'm grinning, thinking of the page I've just entitled "limiting beliefs" in preparation for a conversation with my "life coach".  He clearly thinks I'm younger than I am.  I might love him a little for this.  I reply to his inquiry, "No, I'm not a graduate student.  I'm actually taking six weeks off work.".  We chat briefly about life, focus, and creativity.  After our conversation concludes, I'm struck by the fact that I've just had this conversation.  I do like to talk to people.  But generally I'm so focused on me, and on the task at hand, that I find chattiness distracting and mildly irritating.  It's my second day off and perhaps I'm refocusing already.

Back to the limiting beliefs.  Here's what I emailed to my life coach:
  • Feeling too much emotion, needing others, or being in a position where I'm reliant on others might mean I will get let down
  • People may take advantage of me, so I have to be catious in new relationships (including friendships)
  • I won't be able to find someone interested in a relationship with me until I lose weight
These were really interesting to come up with.  There's no doubt these are becoming clearer just in the first couple sessions with the new therapist.  I'm not sure I would have been able to get so deep on the first go if I hadn't been starting to explore this.  Someone asked me the other day how it works having a life coach and a therapist.  I will admit I didn't expect there to be so much intersection.  Which is dumb.  Because of course there's going to be a connection between things that may be holding you back and what's happened in the past.  So, here's how I'm looking at it.  The therapist is helping me sort through the past.  The life coach is helping me look forward to the future.  That's the story I'm sticking with.

The second initial assignment given to me by the life coach was to complete the Energy Leadership Index (ELI) Assessment, review some background and the intial results, and answer some questions to prepare for my debrief with her on the results tonight.  Now, I'll warn you.  Things get a little fru-fru here, so beware.  First, let me give you my understanding of ELI.  The premise is that everyone's a leader.  In your life.  In your office.  Whatever.  And the question is how well you lead.  The ELI is meant to provide insights into how you show up as a leader in various aspects of your life.

"It measures your potential leadership ability by your level of consciousness - your awareness about who you are and what life is about. Studies prove that higher levels of consciousness are associated with higher levels of success in life, including success in finances, relationships, personal development, achievement, and more."

Cool.  I'm told that there are seven levels of energy.  The assessment will help me learn how to apply the various energy levels available for any purpose I choose.  Apparently higher levels of energy are associated with powerful and effective leaders, while lower levels are associated with stress and effort.  But different levels of energy are good at different times.  There's plenty more reading on the levels, but here's my notes:
  • Level 1: I lose (victim thinking)
  • Level 2: You lose (in order for me to win)
  • Level 3: I win, and hopefully you win too.  But I win first.
  • Level 4: You win.  Little or nothing is taken personally.
  • Level 5: We win, or no one wins.  Everything is an opportunity.
  • Level 6: We always win.  In reality, no one really ever loses.  All that happens has purpose and value.
  • Level 7: Winning and losing are illusions.
I love that last one.  Winning and losing are illusions?  That may be a little too enlightened for me.  I can tell when I'm reading the descriptions that I'm likely to be sitting somewhere in the two or three region.  Not surprisingly, this is what I find when I get to my results.  My overall energy level?  2.49.  A shattering 27% of my energy showed up in Level 1 (why does this always happen to me?!  ;) and 43% in Level 2.  Ever the optimist, I note that that leaves 30% in Levels 3-6, which are associated with positive energy.

Initial reactions to the report?  I generally think of myself as being quite unaffected by others, and often have a hard time relating to others who are constantly affected by what other people think, do, etc.  In spending more time thinking about my personal life in the past couple of weeks, and upon re-entering therapy a couple weeks ago, the report confirms some of what I'm learning.  Specifically, being unaffected by others ultimately means that I'm disconnected...which is precisely something I think I'd like to change in my life from the perspective of a romantic relationship.  I feel quite connected to my close friends and 100% trusting in them, but those relationships have really taken a lot of time to develop.

One thing I struggle with, though, is whether or not I'm really bought into this whole energy leadership thing from a pure work/career perspective.  Intellectually, it all makes sense - and I can absolutely see the result of being closed off in my personal life.  However, from a career perspective, my approach has made me very successful.  It's harder for me to see the connection between operating at the upper levels and career success when looking at my past 10 years of work experience.  In addition, when I look at those I perceive to be successful at work, they definately don't appear to be operating at Level 7 if you get my drift.  I'll definately be bringing this up tonight during the debrief.  In addition, I'm obviously hoping to get an understanding of how to move more of my experience of life to the higher levels and when/where that's most appropriate/desirable.  So, what level of energy are you operating at?  Hasta, sabbaticaljo

Monday, February 7, 2011

Superbowl (and sabbatical) Kickoff

I'd decided a few weeks ago that it would be fun to party a little on my first weekend off.  Admittedly, I didn't think that would mean me waking up still at a Super Bowl party location on Monday morning of my sabbatical.  But that's probably another blog post.  Or another blog.

Friday night I got a hilarious call from India.  I'd blogged earlier about my virtual assistant service.  I'd managed to sell a couple others on it in the past month and one of them used the service to call me with a congratulatory phone call on my drive home from the office on my last Friday night.  A few of us had joked a bit about the fact that the request form had an option for "Celebratory Phone Call".  Like, who would be so lame as to have some random person in India make a celebratory phone call?  I like Ghouse as much as the next gal using AskSunday, but I don't need him calling my mother to say happy birthday.  But a friend used the service to call me and it was ridiculously funny.  A great way to kick off the weekend.

This weekend was all about getting to connect with friends.  Saturday was a day in NYC.  I had lunch with a friend, drinks with the girls, then a few others met up with us for dinner and dancing.  Sunday morning I migrated from NYC to a friend's house near the shore for a Superbowl party.  Plenty of drinks and snacking later, I awoke Monday morning.  My first day of not having to go to work.  It was beautiful.  Although I was not in tip-top shape, I hauled myself to the gym and hit the treadmill.  The best part was after my workout when I leisurely showered and got ready in the locker room for the day.  No rushing.  No checking my calendar.  Only one goal to complete the Energy Leadership Index (ELI) Assessment that I'd been given by M, my life coach.  I sat at Panera for 2 hours, completing the assessment and returning emails to friends that have been sitting for weeks.  Once home, I sat down at my newly purchased keyboard and worked through three lessons.  It's amazing how quickly reading music and playing is coming back to me.  It's a great reminder of how much is in us that we don't regularly access.  I can't wait to learn more about what I can do.  What talents are hiding in you?  Hasta, sabbaticaljo

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Crier

Tonight was my first writing class.  I got a little nervous when I checked the registration website and saw the comment "must have a work in progress".  Shit.  I'd forgotten about that.  Oh well.  I figured I'd wing it and make it up as I go along.  I arrived at class 5 minutes late because, even though I knew parking was going to be a bitch and I live like 5 minutes away, I still didn't leave early enough.  Nice start.  There's maybe ten people in the class.  Diverse crowd.  I'm not the youngest, but I'm close.

One of the first tasks, before we've even formally introduced ourselves, is to spend about ten minutes writing about a relative or a friend that we feel strongly about.  There is no hesitation before selecting my mother as Exhibit A in this exercise.  This topic will easily provide ten minutes of writing fodder.  I've so got this covered.  My pen is moving furiously for the full 10 minutes.  At the stop time I've filled about a page and a half of my notebook.  I'm feeling good.  I had no problem writing something.

Our teacher/facilitator/leader says it's time to introduce ourselves.  Oh, and here's an idea...she asks why don't we read what we wrote?

Holy.  Shit.  Is she kidding?  I just vomited ten minutes of angst over my mother on the page.  I haven't even given anyone my name.  She wants me to read this?  I'm totally screwed.  How on earth did I not see this coming.

But then she says we don't have to.  Phew.  Close call.  I'll hang back from being the first off, and raise my hand somewhere in the middle. 

Except that every single person, without exception, reads what they wrote as part of the introduction.  At this point I'm totally struggling to focus on their names because I'm realizing that, if I read this, there's a pretty solid chance I'll cry.  Now, I'm not a very public crier, so this is freaking me out a bit.  As each person introduces themselves I'm mentally steeling myself for this experience.  I can do it.  I can do it.  I can do it.

Okay, my turn.  Starts off good. 

She always closes the door.  I never really understood that.  But the message was clear.  Do not disturb.  Visitors not welcome.  Don't feed the animals.  What did she do behind that door for so many hours.  For days.  For years.  For my entire childhood.  Soundless or on the phone with someone she could let in.  One of my earliest memories is one of living in the house with the chocolate-colored carpet.  As if the silence in the house wasn't gloomy enough. 

I'm about a third of the way through and my voice is getting a little shaky. 

Me, maybe six or seven.  Needing something.  Love.  Attention.  A meal perhaps.  So I wrote a note in my childish script. 

But then I'm steeled.  I can do it.  I can do it. 

Neatly folded, tiptoeing to the door.  A careful calculated slip under the 1/2 inch between the chocoloate carpet and that damn door that might lead me to my mother.  Did she hear me in all that silence?  It would be 25 more years before the isolated silence would have a name.

Oh fuck.  I can't do it. 

Manic depressive.  Bipolar.  I only knew it as the force that pulled my mother from me and pushed me into the role of caregiver.

I'm so close to the end.  But I can't.  The tears come. 

At eight, when my sister was one.  At thirteen, when she was eight and my brother one.  At thirty-one, when she's twenty-hour and he twenty.

And, to top it off, a nice big sob right at the end.  Jesus Christ.  I'm totally the girl that cried in class during introductions.  Goddammit.

No one makes a fuss about my mini-breakdown, and it's on to the next intro.  It allow me to wipe the snot from my nose while the next few people introduce themselves.  Classic.  Afterwards, one of the guys from class said this one reminded him of his last writing class - it was like group therapy.  Somehow his acknowledgement of my emotion is actually comforting and I leave class proud that I wrote something so personal and shared it with strangers.  This is totally going to come up in therapy.  If you were given the same assignment, what would you write about?  Hasta, sabbaticaljo

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Therapy. Again.

After getting a bit emotional from the life coach question on what's missing from my life, I decided to officially make a therapist part of Team Jo.  I mentioned in an early post that I have some experience with therapy.  I find it's like riding a bike.  That is, if the bike required you to know it really well to work properly.  And everytime you got a new bike you had to spend like ten weeks getting to know it before you could learn to use the brakes.  Oh, and if every time you rode the bike you cried.  Ok, maybe it's not exactly like riding a bike.

The last time I needed to find a new therapist (when I lived in Michigan), I found interviewing a few in close succession was really helpful.  I could pick the one who I connected the best with and jump in straightaway, rather than dragging out a crappy relationship for too long.  Well I don't know what the hell is going on in Princeton but either therapists only take like three clients at a time, or everyone in Princeton is a headcase.  Because I cannot freaking find a therapist who's taking new patients.  I finally find two and set up appointments, though I'm concerned since they seem to be the only two in time who aren't booked up.  It's like knowing if you call the hair salon the day of and actually score an appointment with someone, there's a good chance your coming out with a whole lotta mess on your head.

Dr. L
I can tell I'm literally going to want to punch the first therapist in the face from our initial conversation.
Me: Hi, I'm [sabbaticaljo].  I'm looking for a therapist in the area that's taking on new patients.
Her: Why do you need a therapist?
Me: Well, I've been in therapy in the past.  I'm getting ready for a period of introspection and think there's some things I probably need to explore and delve back in to.
Her: Like what?
Me: (I'm driving to the mall having this conversation.  All I want is an appointment.  Is she for real?) I've struggled with some family issues.  Relationships seem to be a sticking point.  But I'm not really sure.
Her: So if you're not sure, why do you need a therapist?
Me: (I consider just hanging up at this point.  But no one is taking new patients and I'm desparate.) Look, if you're not taking new patients, that's fine.  I think I'd be more comfortable having this initial conversation in person.
Her: I'm very busy.  I only have Tuesday at noon.
Me: Ok, sounds great.  Look forward to meeting you.

The in-person meeting is, of course, equally awkward.  She's one of these therapists who refuses to say anything first, which just results in a staring contest.  Except I totally cry through the whole session. So, either her tactic works, or I've got so much pent up emotion all it took was sitting next to a box of kleenex to destroy me.  I walk away discouraged about her role on Team Jo, but fully aware that seeking a therapist appears to be the right choice.

Dr. J
As I arrive at the address, I realize I'm pulling up to someone's house.  Which is instantly awkward for some reason.  I call the number I was instructed to phone when I arrived.  She proceeds to give me some crazy directions for navigating to her home office.  It involves a sidewalk, a door, three steps to a basement, another door, walking through a basement with all their laundry out on the table, through another basement room that looks like a scene from Hoarders, up a staircase, and finally into an office.  I am not amused or encouraged at this stage.  But I sit, and we talk.  And she's actually quite warm.  I'm feeling like this could work.  She hones in on my trust issues straightaway, which I knew about but had sort of forgotten.  She also gives me a recommendation for a yoga retreat and a book for my six weeks.  Sessions's over.  I book another session.  But then I have to walk back through the dungeon of dispair and old furniture to get back to my car and I'm sort of freaked out.  I decide I'll keep searching.

Except no one will freaking call me back.  And I've only got a week left until sabbatical starts.  So, Dr. J it is for now.  I'll just try to close my eyes until I get to her office. 

Do you need a crazy therapist too?  Hasta, sabbaticaljo