But I digress….

Standard

This post may seem like a non sequitur, but I will try as much as I can to weave it into the “authentic living” theme of this blog.

As part of my year of trying to live more authentically, I’m exploring a career change, and to that end I started an online master’s program in library and information science. This post is actually a class assignment, but it gives me a chance to do some self-assessing, which is always a good thing. You’ve got to know where you are before you can determine where you need to go.

I’m strong in self-motivation, and generally very organized in my work life – though not nearly as much in my personal life. I do struggle with time management, especially since I’m working full time, going to school part time and working at a part-time student assistantship. Then of course there’s the husband, the cats, the house, etc. So I’m struggling to stay focused on whatever I need to be working on in a given moment; there are always the nagging thoughts of all the other things that need my attention as well.

One possible solution I’m trying this week is designating specific times for classwork and the part-time work, instead of just sort of playing it by ear as I have been. Monday, Wednesday and Friday will be “class time,” while Tuesday and Thursday will be work nights. Hopefully on weekends I’ll be current enough with my classwork that I can focus on work projects.

Complicating this plan, though, is the reality that I often have to bring work home from my day job, so some nights and weekends I’ll be pulling double duty. It’s going to take some juggling – and lots of caffeine – but my husband is very supportive and encouraging, and I’m trying to take it a day at a time. If I look too far ahead, I’m quickly overwhelmed.

The online teamwork material gives me pause, though. I like to think of myself as a team player, but in reality, as an introvert, I much prefer working independently.

I’ve served on lots of committees over the years, both in paying jobs and in volunteer work, and I recognize some of the issues that are mentioned in the assigned lectures. Haycock’s attempts at differentiating “committees” and “teams” have me a bit confused. I think I’ve been on committees that functioned more as teams, according to his definitions, and vice versa.

His “second dysfunction, based on a fear of conflict,” touched a nerve because I can’t stand conflict of any kind. My preferred way of dealing with conflict is to NOT deal with it — avoidance at all costs. This usually results in the griping with another person in the bathroom kind of behavior he mentions. Learning to deal openly and directly with conflict will be a huge hurdle for me, though I’m sure it would serve me well personally and professionally.

In listening to Irwin’s lecture, I recognized that in a group situation, I worry that either I won’t have anything to contribute or that no one will be interested in hearing what I have to say.

I was encouraged, though, by her definitions of teamwork, which make it clear that there’s space for individual work within the team project. I can handle figuring out what my part is (going back to Haycock’s advice to know what you’re good at and not so good at), going off and completing that, and then coming back to the group to share what I’ve learned or accomplished.

I really liked that both stressed setting team guidelines as a strategy for success. The biggest downers I’ve encountered in group work have been people who are very negative or controlling, and I think having some ground rules in place from the beginning will go a long way toward establishing an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation, and creating a safe environment for everyone.

Advertisements

Opening up

Standard

After taking this blog “public” recently, I felt I should let my husband know in case he wanted to read it, even though the thought of it made me a little queasy.

When I started the blog, I neglected to tell him about it until several days after my first post. It wasn’t intentional; with the holidays, vacation and all, it just slipped my mind. He was rather put out about it, though, so I didn’t want to make that mistake again.

But baring my soul to an unseen — likely nonexistent — audience in cyberspace is one thing. Knowing my husband was reading my inmost thoughts was another thing altogether.

It wasn’t as if there was anything in it that he didn’t already know. And I promised him this wasn’t husbandshaming.com (although a therapist friend laughingly suggested that could be a great idea for a website!).

So shortly after I changed the blog’s status from private to public, I told him it was “out there” if he wanted to read it. Then I waited nervously for his feedback.

Several hours later, he hadn’t said a word about it, so I had to ask if he’d read it. He had. “And…?” I prompted him.

He thought a moment and said, “I’m OK with it.”

The knot in my stomach finally eased. And a wall that has grown up between us over the last couple of years was breached.

We still have a ways to go to get back the closeness we had earlier in our relationship. But it’s a start.

Baby steps

Standard

One of the activities I’ve begun as part of this year-long journey of creating a more “authentic” life is keeping a gratitude journal. The practice of jotting down five things I’m grateful for each evening has quickly become a looked-forward-to part of my bedtime routine. It’s making me much more mindful of the small joys that fill each day, even when I feel like the only thing in my life that doesn’t suck is the vacuum cleaner.

A few years ago, I read a column about being grateful for what’s NOT wrong in one’s life. Having lunch recently with a friend who’s going through treatment for breast cancer brought that to mind. That kind of reality check puts my challenges into perspective, and reminds me that even on the suckiest days, I still have much to be grateful for.

First steps

Standard

OK, so some other women have started this type of blog before. None completed a full year. I’m not sure I will either, but that’s the plan.

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” (I’ll overlook Hank’s sexism for now.) Well, my desperation is growing louder almost by the second, and has very nearly surpassed my ability to contain it.

I cry a lot. Most of the time, really. And when I’m not crying, I feel like I need to but the tears won’t come. I say horrible things to my husband, a passive-aggressive way of expressing my hurt, anger and disappointment with him, our marriage, my life.

I can blame him, my job, hormones or other things for my pain and frustration, but the truth is I’ve been slowly dying inside for years. I get through my daily commitments out of habit and willpower, and the fear of what would happen if I stopped. I know where I am now is largely the result of choices I’ve made along the way, but I don’t know how to get back on track.

I’ve had the book called “Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self,” by Sarah Ban Breathnach, for several years. I don’t remember just when I bought it. It’s been sitting on my bookshelves all this time, but for several weeks now I’ve felt prompted to finally open it up.

I did so on a recent vacation, and felt from the first few words I read that she knew exactly what I’m going through. It’s not just menopause or a mid-life crisis, and I’m not losing my mind. In fact, I think my hopelessness and despair may be the first steps toward sanity and — dare I say it — even joy.

One of the things I wanted to be “when I grew up” was an archaeologist, so I like Ban Breathnach’s use of that analogy for this process of re-discovering our authentic selves. I want to blog about this process as I go through it mainly as a way to chart my own progress, but also in hopes that someone in similar straits may stumble across it one day and experience the same feeling of grabbing onto a life preserver that I felt when I opened Ban Breathnach’s book.

I want to give this process a year, though I may get what I need from it much sooner than that. Or, as usually happens when I start some creative endeavor, “life” may intervene and put an early end to it. That’s probably a large part of how I ended up where I am now.

Ban Breathnach’s coming from a New Agey perspective — referencing karma and reincarnation, for instance — but having been there, done that and moved on, that doesn’t bother me. The results of our actions needn’t take lifetimes to come back to bite us; often it’s nearly instantaneous, I’ve found. And as she points out, we each go through many states of being and experiencing in just a single lifetime.

I don’t know that SBB (as I’ll call her for short) will be my only guide on this journey, but this particular book seems like an excellent place to start. I also don’t know how often I’ll write. It’s probably not going to be every day, but I’ll try not to let much more than a week go by without posting an update.

Instead of calling this process self-discovery, I’m dubbing it re-discovery, because I really believe, based on not much more than my own experience and intuition, that we know probably from birth exactly who we are.

Little kids don’t need workshops or retreats, vision quests or around-the-world treks to “find themselves.” They instinctively know their preferences and dislikes, what excites them and what bores them, and are far more spiritually aware than most adults would ever imagine. They have an innate sense of what’s real and true, and easily see behind the disguises adults so often wear.

So what happened? How did we get from being those wise little people to conflicted, self-doubting, middle-aged messes? And more to the point, how do we reclaim that “lost” part of ourselves and incorporate it into the lives we’ve created?

I guess that’s what this journey will be all about.