Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fire Energy

Wowie...another crazed week.

I had a very frustrating day on Thursday of this week. So, being me, I lowtalked my way out of the room and then let the dust settle so I could think about what had frustrated me to the point of anger. It was several things, as so often is the case. Fatigue being chief among them.

Here is what I'm thinking today, safe in my quiet home office with my tankard of french press coffee and dressed for a hike in the gorgeous fall day: it should, at some point, stop surprising me that I'm both drawn to and battered by the same things. I love to be in high energy environments, but I throw myself into things so wholly that it is also a teensy bit dangerous for me to live/work in them unless I am mindful to maintain balance. That's what lowtalking is - a way to make the energy of a situation balance itself. Too much heat, too much vehemence, too much volume - I am not wired to retreat, exactly, but I am also not wired to throw gasoline onto the fire by raising my own voice. Choices.

When I worked at the medical center, there was a time when they brought in a consutant to work with the management teams, which at that time were crazily dysfunctional. We went to a Catholic retreat center in town, which was serene and lovely. There were tears, and shouting. And this consultant then used the concepts of Chinese elemental healing to talk about what was going on. She explained that the elements (metal, fire, earth, water and wood, as I recall) each had important characteristics that were necessary to balance the earth, and that she believed communication/interaction styles could be organized in the same way. Everyone has a mixture of elements, but usually one predominant one and another that is secondary. Metal energy is strong, but lacks flexibility. Water energy soothes and buoys. Earth energy grounds everything, it's the foundation on which everything is built.

Fire energy, though...that was the one we talked about most. Fire energy is warm, inviting, attractive - and it can burn if out of balance. Fire energy is what we often admire and are drawn to, but get too much fire and you lose focus and feel frenzied instead of focused. And, for many of us, the exposure to too much fire energy makes us retreat to some other place. It makes us try to cool the flames by pulling back our own fire energy and switching to something more like water, if we seek to calm, or metal if we seek to hold our ground. When it feels too rushed, too hurried, too emotional - we become slower, more deliberate, cool.

And - the important thing - all of this adjusting is fantastic if it is a choice, and tiring/demoralizing if it is a reaction.

So, what did I learn about myself this week? Hmmm. I have always been very comfortable leading without authority. I don't wait for a title or a crown or a podium. I can't endure milling about - so in the absence of a clear or logical leader, I get started making people talk to one another, make decisions, commit. Some mixture of crazy curiosity and an inability to solve a problem I don't understand means that I am often to be found in the weeds, asking a zillion questions until the issues seem clear. This is all good stuff, for the most part. But it needs to be a conscious choice - because it all costs a little effort.

It's better, today. It gave me both opportunity and motivation to speak frankly with one of the participants and it let me see more clearly how I am functioning in my current work role. It gave me the opportunity to hear from, and be heard by, at least three people that I admire, and value. It motivated me to use a made-up Hallmark holiday as an excuse to thank those people for being who they are. I'm hopeful that it will be the start of a longer conversation about the root issue, which is competing urgent priorities in a system of finite, scarce resources.

Let the difficult stuff illuminate who you are and what you value. I'm sure I read that somewhere, though I don't know where.

Be well, as we prepare to enter the season of thanks-giving.

~ plk

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Threads of Connection

This has been such a week. I sincerely believe that things happen as they should - but sometimes it is damned frustrating to be both a "git 'r done" type and a person who believes that things happen as they should.

Two big thoughts for tonight. I am writing again, and I love the way it calms my bee-buzzy brain to spend time thinking about prose rhythms and finding words for a scene, or a moment, that will make it possible for a reader to be pulled right into the story's page. I love it. And I love that thinking in that way makes me see connections in things.

Have you ever thought about the way that we use the phrase "good at putting spin on it" to describe someone who is a bit tooooo shiny, someone who might do well selling used Buicks? I don't think spin is inherently negative. To me, a lot of people who are good at spin are also optimists. The best optimists, and the best spin artists, are not people who do not see the risk or the downside, but who see the odds of achieving the upside as high enough to put some skin in the game. In other words, they think the thing they are saying is possible. They believe it is. I'm one of those people - I can put the best face on something only if I believe in it, and I always describe the ugly underbelly, too. I emphasize the pretty, but the ugly is real, so I have to acknowledge it.

It occurred to me today that this spin thing is not just coincident - it is actually an expression of optimism. Of course is doable, it's only a question of effort. That's what the optimist believes. And so, too, it is what the realistic, optimistic spin artist says.

With me so far?

And that brings me to a trickier connection. It seems to me that giving in to addiction is, often, an expression of pessimism. Giving in is the action of a person who can't see the possibility of beating the addiction. So it can be no surprise to anyone who reads this or knows me to hear that active addicts make me uneasy. Work addicts, food addicts, alcoholics, narcotics addicts, smokers who cough madly and still reach for their nicotine - it all seems so clearly a choice to me. I'm not judging, I swear. I'm not. It's just that, to me, it's a matter of choice and priority. And when an addiction doesn't get in your way, then sure - indulge. Have your coffee, or your sugary treats, or your favorite form of fried potato or WHATEVER it is that is keeping you from tipping over the boat and swimming for shore. But when that behavior starts to get in your way - when you are lying about it, hiding it, breaking promises because of it or when it feels like it is in charge of you - then you need to change it.

Just change it, eh? Just, what, snap your fingers? Poof, not doing that any more? Well, kinda. That's how change works. You try and try and try, and then tada, change happens. No magic wand, just choices and effort. Developing, or having, an addiction is a tough break, but not a knockout punch. Giving in to it will eventually result in a knockout, or a TKO, or...well, you get the picture. All of which is why people like me find it difficult to live with addiction. Because guess what? It's a choice for the person living next to it, too. Their choice is a kind of tacit complicity. For many, living next to an active addiction is like watching someone give up 100 times a day - excruciating.

So, is that view a controlling view? I think the answer to that is ALL in what you do with the realization. So long as you remain focused on making choices that have to do with your own behavior, and not bargaining to make choices for someone else - I think you're probably staying out of the red zone. The truth is that we are responsible for our own individual choices. If living next to an addiction makes you feel a part of it, then you have a choice to make.

If I were in Cameron's office, right about now is where he would be saying something like, "are you confusing addiction with compulsion?" and I would be saying something like, "end of the day - it doesn't matter to me because either is a choice." He'd be tapping a pencil on his hand or his desk, and I'd be hugging one knee to my chest and holding my ground, but NOT stubbornly. And I would be smiling, because to me having the choice is all I really need. Making choices is difficult, but being denied the right to choose is the crusher.

Hunh. Politics aren't enough to argue about this month, apparently? I want to throw addiction versus compulsion versus choosing and pessimism vs optimism into the fray? :D


~ patti