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

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