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ruthless compassion
14 February 2018 @ 08:52 am
This year's confessional is happening over on dreamwidth.
ruthless compassion

Finally, and belatedly, I'm thankful for those painful moments of embarrassment about my own past behavior or speech or thought that, when I can see past the cringe factor, let me see and appreciate the growth and progress I've made in my skills, values, empathy, or compassion. The moment isn't always fun, but it does always provide a powerful lens to view progress in a way that few other experiences do, and it never fails to inspire me to want to go further in the directions I strive, in hopes that over time, I'll behave less and less frequently in ways that cause me embarrassment after the fact.

ruthless compassion

I'm so thankful for the many people who have been hurt by people who had power over them, and by the systems the powerful create, who are finding their voices and ways to speak up and out, or to work against the system quietly, or to find whatever way they can to make the world less likely to hurt the next person than it was to hurt them. They inspire us all to be helpers.

ruthless compassion

I'm grateful for my home and housemates. They've been away for the last few days, and that's been a pleasure of a sort that living alone all the time wouldn't provide. But ti also makes me appreciate how much I enjoy sharing a house with friends, the opportunistic hanging out that can occur without anyone having to go out of their way, the shared cooking, eating, socializing. I feel incredibly lucky to have a physical home that I find so pleasant and inviting to be in, and to host others in, and to share it with people with whom I have easy living-alongside relationships. 

ruthless compassion

I'm thankful for the natural world, and the fact that we get to experience it as beautiful. There's no evolutionary reason that we have to find nature beautiful, but we do anyway. I've read that there have even been times in history when people really didn't find beauty in the natural world, which ... what a loss. I love nature's small beauties like a bunny on a grassy lawn, or a bee wiggling its furry way into a flower. And I of course love nature's grandest vistas, those vast expanses that make me feel so satisfyingly small and insignificant.

ruthless compassion

Like every year, I happily reserve Thanksgiving proper to give thanks for the people in my life who make it everything that it is. It doesn't even make sense to imagine my life without the people in my days, my months, my years, and the lives we make together, and in parallel, and in broad community with each other. Almost all of my most treasured blessings in life are my friends and family, or things those people have brought into my life with them. Every day, I feel lucky in the people I know, and the more difficult the world is, the more grateful I am in my near and dear, and the sense of hope they help me to nurture, even in darker times.

ruthless compassion

I've been grateful almost every day this year for my newfound meditation practice. It's hard to describe what a difference it's making, because so much of it is inside me and kind of amounts to, "Well, I just FEEL different from how I did before." But it's true. It's been like hitting the gas on my personal development, helping me be kinder, more thoughtful, more gentle, while also holding myself to a standard that I'm raising a little bit each day.

Daily meditation helped me through the dark days of last winter, and have given me a powerful light to shine on my internal world and values, to be able to deepen my sense of myself and where I'm coming from, while also loosening the grip I have on that sense.

I have a lot of that convert's zeal about it, but every day it's a gift I give myself, and it's one that's making my world better each time.

ruthless compassion

This has been a fucking exhausting year, and one that has seen an unusual amount of change, both locally and globally. Looking back on a year ago, I felt so bleak and desperate, and I'm glad to say that level of feeling has shifted to something that feels more sustainable. But there's still a lot of bleakness and desperation in the world, and it all sure feels turned up right now.

So, I'm thankful for the people who are shining lights in these times. I'm grateful for the victims and survivors of abuse and harassment who are finding the incredible courage to speak out against their abusers. I'm grateful for the activists who are working against the systems of oppression in our society. I'm grateful for the people who find ways to bring greater kindness to their days and to build their capacity to see others' humanity. I'm grateful for people who make others smile and laugh, even in dark times. I'm grateful for the people who fuck up and then get up and aim to do better next time.

ruthless compassion
14 February 2017 @ 11:42 am
Back by popular demand! Tell me a secret! Tell me a not-so-secret! Whisper sweet somethings in my comment box. Express your maddest crush or deepest curiosity! Expound upon the fabulousness of your friends or lovers or would-be friends or lovers! Or people you know or want to know. Share your best self-care for the political climate! Do it anonymously or with your name attached*; anonymous commenting is on and IP logging is off.

You know you want to!

[Please note ground rules here.]

[Here's the link to the flat (chronological, unthreaded) version of comments.]

A note on user experience: If you're starting a new thread, if you give it a subject, it'll be easier to pick out comments in response to it down the road.

*I encourage you to default to anonymous comments unless there's special value in being identified with your comment.
I'm feeling: curiouscurious
ruthless compassion
17 December 2016 @ 03:54 pm
I'm seeing more and more examples of Trump supporters who are surprised and upset at the choices Trump is making around cabinet picks (what about draining the swamp??) or policy suggestions (e.g., doing away with medicare). And I've seen a couple kinds of dismissals/mocking of those folks, most of which boil down to, "Well, that person should have known better/was stupid to believe everything Trump promised."

It's particularly interesting to me that I'm seeing that sentiment pretty frequently from other Trump supporters.

I can see how, for folks who have hopes about positive effects of a Trump presidency, it's important to be able to dismiss others' disappointments without reflecting too much on them, or on what it means about the incoming PEOTUS. And while it's true that no politician keeps all the promises they make during a campaign, I think it's fair to say that Trump is breaking more promises more quickly than average.

So what I want to ask you, if the above describes you, is: What would be too far? What would be the promise that Trump would have to break for you to look more critically on his presidency? IS there a promise he would have to break to make you think, "Actually, no, this is a bad dude who is doing bad things for the country."? Or are you an unconditional follower? If you don't believe the critiques of him as a person who lies more than average, even for a politician, or as a kleptocratic authoritarian, is there anything he could do to change your mind?

If there is, write it down. You don't have to share it with me, or with anyone, although I'm curious to hear it if you ARE willing to share. But write it down, and look at it from time to time, just to be sure you're not following blindly someone who has broken your trust the way he's broken all these other people's trust.
I'm feeling: sadsad
ruthless compassion
05 December 2016 @ 04:40 pm
Nothing can ever happen twice.
In consequence, the sorry fact is
that we arrive here improvised
and leave without the chance to practice.

Even if there is no one dumber,
if you’re the planet’s biggest dunce,
you can’t repeat the class in summer:
this course is only offered once.

No day copies yesterday,
no two nights will teach what bliss is
in precisely the same way,
with precisely the same kisses.

One day, perhaps some idle tongue
mentions your name by accident:
I feel as if a rose were flung
into the room, all hue and scent.

The next day, though you’re here with me,
I can’t help looking at the clock:
A rose? A rose? What could that be?
Is it a flower or a rock?

Why do we treat the fleeting day
with so much needless fear and sorrow?
It’s in its nature not to stay:
Today is always gone tomorrow.

With smiles and kisses, we prefer
to seek accord beneath our star,
although we’re different (we concur)
just as two drops of water are.
ruthless compassion
05 December 2016 @ 04:39 pm
There's a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.

I've walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don't be fooled
this isn't a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

I won't tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

And I won't tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it's necessary
to talk about trees.
ruthless compassion
Normally, this is a once-a-day gratitude practice for the week of Thanksgiving, but November was hard.

I'm grateful for change and the knowledge that what's difficult today will not always be difficult. Of course, new difficulties will arise, and there's every chance that today's challenges will grow even larger in coming days, but the fact of change means that nothing is forever, and that fact is the key to the door of hope. I'm stashing that key in my locket for all those times when I need it.
I'm feeling: sadsad
ruthless compassion
I'm thankful for bright umbrellas, and for other small, bright tokens that are reminders on gray days that color exists and we can carry it with us.
ruthless compassion
Today, I'm thankful for nature, and its inescapableness. There are times, of course, when that's harder to appreciate -- that swelteringly hot summer day, or the bone chilling blustery wet winds of the shoulder seasons -- but I love the rhythms of the seasons, and coming to know how they take shape year to year in a place that I've lived long enough to start to see some micro local patterns: where the shadow keeps the grass greener, or the long autumn sunlight filters through fluffed up seed pods, richly golden.

I'm grateful for the way that even in this most human of environments, living in the city, nature makes herself known, in small ways and large, always offering perspective and solace.
I'm feeling: thankfulthankful
ruthless compassion
I'm thankful for the friendship I had with contessagrrl. It was uniquely wonderful in what she and I brought out in each other, in how we could join together in fun and play and delight in the world, in our fellow humans, in taking big bites of experience together.

She opened my mind and my world of experience more than any one other person in my adult life, not through any particular effort on her part, but by being who she was, and giving me the opportunity time and again to say yes to something new.

There's so much to miss about her, and I've been missing it for a long time, due to the effects of PTSD on her interior world and what that meant in our friendship, but I always imagined we would find our way back to each other somehow in the future, and I'm so sad to have that taken away from us. But more importantly, I'm so sad that she doesn't get to return to the world with her love of life renewed, as she worked so hard to do.

That's the thing that I think will always be the biggest part of my memories of her: that love of life, of exploration, of humans, of hedonism paired with a deep longing to be better.

I am thankful for her.
I'm feeling: sadsad
ruthless compassion
I am thankful for activists. I'm so goddamn thankful that there are people who push the edges further, to make our society and institutions more supportive of humanity, life, the planet, compassion, sustainability ...

People are fond of saying that the arc of history bends toward justice, like that's something that magically just happens, as if people are just good without having to struggle with difficult choices and dangerous endeavors. The arc of history bends toward justice because individual humans decide to work together to pull it that way against the insular fear and tribalism that competition for resources and petty little minds so easily foment.

I'm thankful for the people who came before me who pulled that arc toward them a little bit farther, and for the people today who continue to put their weight into that effort. The world is better for that kind of work.
I'm feeling: thankfulthankful
ruthless compassion
Today, I'm giving thanks for people who expand my notion of myself, who hold me to high standards, who bring out the best in me, and who allow me to do the same for them. I love the way so many people I know strive, and therefore inspire me to strive also. We hold each other up with our work to climb higher ourselves, helping each other save our own lives, and sometimes those of others, in as many ways as we can. This process is so humanly imperfect and messy, and is the root of my best relationships. What a gift.
I'm feeling: thoughtfulthoughtful
ruthless compassion
It's pretty hard to feel thankful this year. In the last two weeks, contessagrrl died suddenly and unexpectedly, and Trump was elected.

But in dark times, hope shines the light of a way forward, so I'm starting out this week's gratitudes for hope. It springs eternal, the green bud of the crocus pushing through the snow banks, not promising that winter is over, but promising that it will end.

I don't know where we're going from here, but I know I'm bringing hope with me, and that's what has me putting each foot in front of the other for now.
ruthless compassion
07 November 2016 @ 09:23 am
“Affirmation” by Assata Shakur
I believe in living.
I believe in the spectrum
of Beta days and Gamma people.
I believe in sunshine.
In windmills and waterfalls,
tricycles and rocking chairs.
And i believe that seeds grow into sprouts.
And sprouts grow into trees.
I believe in the magic of the hands.
And in the wisdom of the eyes.
I believe in rain and tears.
And in the blood of infinity.

I believe in life.
And i have seen the death parade
march through the torso of the earth,
sculpting mud bodies in its path.
I have seen the destruction of the daylight,
and seen bloodthirsty maggots
prayed to and saluted.

I have seen the kind become the blind
and the blind become the bind
in one easy lesson.
I have walked on cut glass.
I have eaten crow and blunder bread
and breathed the stench of indifference.

I have been locked by the lawless.
Handcuffed by the haters.
Gagged by the greedy.
And, if i know any thing at all,
it’s that a wall is just a wall
and nothing more at all.
It can be broken down.

I believe in living.
I believe in birth.
I believe in the sweat of love
and in the fire of truth.

And i believe that a lost ship,
steered by tired, seasick sailors,
can still be guided home
to port.
I'm feeling: sadsad
ruthless compassion
02 March 2016 @ 01:53 pm
Monday was a travel day. I departed Puerto Morelos in the morning, catching a bus to the main terminal in Cancun, where had a couple hour wait for the bus to Chiquilá, the final mainland town before hopping a boat to Isla Hotbox, which is a peninsula, not an island, but there's nothing in the connecty bit, so it might as well be an island.

I adore traveling by bus in Central America; it's incredibly inexpensive, and it's more experiential than any other form of travel I've found. In particular, I love how, once you're out of a city, the bus will stop to pick up and drop off food vendors, who bring their wares onto the bus for people to purchase en route, which is especially nice when one doesn't plan ahead for a long ride.

That said, I also find it super stressful an anxiety-producing to be going by bus route that I'm not familiar with through bus stations I don't know. I always worry I'm going to miss my bus or get on the wrong one or miss my stop or get off at the wrong one and accidentally wind up somewhere horrible with no hotels or food or anything. This has never happened, mind you, but it doesn't stop me feeling nervous that it might happen any time I let my guard down!

So, it's scary and hard. But it's also super satisfying!

And, as has been the case in the past, nothing bad happened. I bought a bag of oranges from one of the bus vendors, and when we got to Chiquilá, I get on a small boat that left right away, rather than wait for the ferry, which would have meant waiting about 30 minutes. This in turn meant that I was able to jump in the ocean before getting a drink at my hotel's delightful little beach bar and then venturing out for dinner.

This is the garden between me and the beach:

This is what happened at sunset that first evening:

This place is basically the epitome of what I envisioned when I set out to have a tropical paradise vacation. It's got the sleepy, low-key vibe of island culture, and while there are activities to do, there's a lot of simply lounging around and enjoying what's right in front of you. The water is this amazing milky green color, unlike anything I've seen before. We're on the Gulf of Mexico here, so it's not the clear turquoise of the Caribbean, which I guess some people this is a drawback, but I'm delighted. And the beach is just littered with shells, mostly tiny ones, but there are occasionally beautiful larger ones also. I'm not a huge shell collector, but I expect to be bringing some of my favorites home with me.

I might depart here someday, but I'm glad that day isn't today.
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I'm feeling: chillaxstatic
ruthless compassion
26 February 2016 @ 03:33 pm
Puerto Morelos continues to be delightful. I've fallen into a rhythm of chillaxing during the day and then venturing into town in the evening, for the most part, though the last couple of days, I've visited town (about a mile away) during the day AND the evening.

Today, I geared up and ventured in to catch a boat ride and snorkel tour of the nearby reef, which was just great. It was a totally lively and beautiful reef ecosystem, with (among others) multiple sightings of barracuda and trumpetfish and of course all the other little colorful tinies you see in a thriving reef setting.

I lucked into a small, inexpensive operation, where they also gave me the Mexican price for the tour, since I speak Spanish. I had my doubts about this (everyone always promises a good price, after all), but the other folks on the boat mentioned what they'd paid, and it was, in fact, a bit more than my price (but not so much that I felt incensed on their behalf). Then it turned out I was the only client who spoke Spanish, and the tour guides had pretty rudimentary English, so I got to play translator, which I always enjoy, so I think everyone won. I'm thinking about going out again tomorrow, because, well, it's not normally every day that you get to splash around a gorgeous reef, after all.

Now, I'm just waiting for the sun to get a little lower before I dive back into the water here at the B&B. MOAR splashing!

The vast majority of my time here is in motion in some way or another: hammock, bed suspended by ropes, swimming, boating, walking, biking, taxiing ... so I'm slightly discombobulated those rare times when I'm sitting in a chair that rests on the ground. I think that means everything is just the way it should be.
I'm feeling: relaxedrelaxed
ruthless compassion
23 February 2016 @ 08:28 pm
I arrived in Cancun mid afternoon yesterday, and with one brief, heartstopping moment of panic when the first ATM I tried didn't accept my non-chip card, it was a pretty smooth transfer to my lodging in Puerto Morelos, about 30 minutes south of the airport. Two hours after landing, I was in the ocean, which I think is a personal record, so that was pretty awesome.

The place I'm staying is very sweet, with a variety of rooms in small, two story structures scattered about, with some greenery between. Last night, I had a spacious room with three beds and beautiful fanciful murals and a gorgeous tub tiled with shells.

This morning, the proprietor offered me a room closer to the ocean and with a better view, and I jumped on it, so tonight I get to sleep in a bed suspended from the ceiling by ropes!

There are hammocks everywhere -- two on every private porch/patio, and a large palapa on the beach with four. It's great. And the beach is right here!

The one down side is that the ocean right in front here is a sort of messy/rocky entrance, which makes it more of a chore to get in and out, though once in past waist deep, it's delightful. Still, I was really picturing vast sandy stretches, and in my travel-weary state last night, this set off a whole cascade of doubt about this whole endeavor. "What if I've made a horrible mistake and this is going to be three weeks of not-as-awesome that I just have to endure?? Maybe I should go back to Boston?"

I tried to talk my brain out of the tree with logic ("You're tired and worn out and you just got here; things will probably seem better in the morning!" and "Every big adventure has this moment; it will pass!"), which didn't stop me feeling that way, but it did prevent me from losing my shit about it. Instead, I went into town and had fish tacos on a patio while listening to a local musician, and then I came back and had a beer and went to bed.

And, indeed, this morning, I felt better. I also decided to move my travel plans around a little bit to spend 2 fewer days here and 2 more days at my next destination, which I suspect will have beaches more in line with what I'm envisioning, but there are a couple of things around here that I'm hoping to see that won't be at either of my other destinations: a spectacular coral reef that's swimmable from shore (though I will have to bike or get a taxi to that spot, which is north of where I am), and cenotes, which are these giant, water-filled limestone sinkholes that you can swim in and explore.

Tomorrow is a local market, and more very important reading and swimming to do. So, you know, so far, so good.

I'm feeling: relaxedrelaxed
ruthless compassion
25 January 2016 @ 10:01 pm
I recently had someone at work ask me to mentor her, explicitly. I know that a lot of the people who work for me see me as a mentor (because they say so), but this was a first. It feels incredibly fucking awesome to be seen that way by smart, capable people who I respect and admire. Holy shit. It is a powerful force against the voices of insecurity and self-doubt when they drop by for tea.
ruthless compassion
On this last day of the week of Thanksgiving, I give thanks for all the things we don't know, yet. Every day, I wish we could flash forward to a day when we have all the answers for the big questions of our days, but I know that those answers will only lead to more questions, and that's pretty exciting. I like to think about all the things we know now that we didn't know 100 years ago, much less 1000 years, and I know it's pretty much impossible to imagine what the world might look like in 100 years more. It's scary, but it's also exciting, to have so much to discover.
I'm feeling: thankfulthankful
ruthless compassion
Today (as a stand-in for yesterday!), I give thanks for play. It took me a while, as an adult, to come to see the importance and in fact necessity of play, but I have definitely come to see it as one of the human needs that is perhaps surprisingly low down on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Play brings an opportunity for imagination, laughter, connection, lightheartedness. I know that not everyone has access to the time and space that allow for play, and I see that as a deep reflection of the injustice that we more commonly see in the uneven distribution of other resources like money, food, safety. I think that in order to thrive, humans of all ages need opportunities to play, both alone and together, and I'm grateful for my own access to play.
I'm feeling: thankfulthankful
ruthless compassion
Today, I give thanks for the current crop of young activists. In particular, I'm grateful for the voices that have lifted the Black Lives Matter movement into greater visibility, and for the real, measurable changes in the public conversation about race, privilege, class, and safety. I dearly hope that their work continues to bear fruit for many years to come.
I'm feeling: thankfulthankful
ruthless compassion
Today, Thanksgiving Day proper, I give thanks for the uncountable wonderful people in my life. I'm thankful for my outrageously fantastic family and friends, so many of my coworkers, my unreasonably great neighbors, my supportive teachers (both formal and informal), the strangers who've showed me kindness, the near-strangers who I see regularly in my day-to-day and with whom I share an occasional smile of hello-kindred-person. People and our connections are so much of one's life, and I feel so lucky in mine.
I'm feeling: thankfulthankful
ruthless compassion
Today, I give thanks for the opportunity to help people I love. Of course, I would rather they never hit the kind of rough waters in life that require really heavy lifting, but since that's not an option, I am glad and grateful to be part of many communities and relationships where help is needed or wanted, many people come together to make the load easier. I'm grateful to people who need help and ask for it, for not shouldering the burden alone and in silence, and for giving their friends and family and sometimes the community beyond the opportunity to lend a hand. I'm grateful for how this brings us together and deepens our relationships and connects us to the larger network of humanity.
I'm feeling: thankfulthankful
ruthless compassion
Today, I give thanks for options. I wish that everyone had all the options they want in life, but we don't, and I'm grateful for the many that I do. To be able to engage in steering my life and make choices that are not driven purely by necessity and basic need is such a thing, and one that I know as a profound privilege. And it's one I'm incredibly grateful for: To be able to live the quirky life I live without substantial fear of persecution, abuse, incarceration. To be able to make choices about how I spend my money and my time. To be able to break social conventions and behave oddly. To be able to choose my friends and loves. And in so many ways, I am grateful to options large and small, and I wish them for everyone.
I'm feeling: thankfulthankful
ruthless compassion
For this week of Thanksgiving, I start off with a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation for my current state of health and able-bodiedness. The older I get, the more I understand the fragility and temporary nature of both states, which is a bittersweet way to come to appreciate them that much more.
I'm feeling: thankfulthankful
ruthless compassion
22 November 2015 @ 03:28 pm
Here is an amazing thing that a big group of people working together can do:

This is a Castell, which is a tower made of people, typically competitively. Bunches and bunches of people make up the lower level(s), leaning in to lend strength and stability to the higher levels.

There's a lot I love about this, but one of my favorites is that it's mixed age and mixed gender. Fun for the whole family!

People are awesome.
ruthless compassion
21 November 2015 @ 02:25 pm
I just finished watching Human Volume 1, the first of three movies of interviews with people from around the world. It's beautifully and simply shot and edited, and I found it profoundly moving. I look forward to watching the next two. Here's the first one:

It reminded me of another video project I discovered recently and have been enjoying enormously: The {} And. This is a series of videos of interviews between pairs of people, mostly in close relationships (partners, siblings, friends, parent-child), where they're given a series of questions to ask each other about their experiences in their relationships.

Check them out; they're both really wonderful.
Tags: , ,
I'm feeling: human
ruthless compassion
12 November 2015 @ 08:53 pm
When I think of Rick, I think of his deep, resonant voice, and his big belly laugh that invited you to join. I think of how sweet and loving he was with his son Gabe and other little kids. I think of how he would listen carefully to what people would say, mulling it over, never simply taking their words at face value. I think of how little patience he had for bullshit, including his own. I think of how hard he worked, and how much he dedicated to making a better life for his family.

Rick had a wonderful turn of phrase, an ability to shine a light on a conversation or way of thinking that could always make you laugh and think at the same time. One of his phrases that I still use is "God sauce" to apply to anything religious-y. Reiki? God sauce. Bible? God sauce. Magical thinking? God sauce. I can see him holding his hand over an imaginary platter as though pouring out from a ladle.

Rick died unexpectedly in October, leaving his amazing and loving wife and son, and so very many people who loved him. He was one of those people who filled a room in a wonderful way, cracked jokes, listened thoughtfully, was generous and loving and kind. He was one of those people who can leave a him-shaped hole in your heart, even if he wasn't part of your day-to-day. I do and will miss him so so much.

God sauce, just pour it all over everything.
I'm feeling: sadsad
ruthless compassion
10 September 2015 @ 09:02 pm
Last night, Lizette and I went to the Congress Street Bridge in Austin and watched the bats fly out at dusk. We were standing at a point on the bridge where the bats flew out in an arc and then back under the bridge to -- as far as we could tell -- join with more bats to fly out in a flowing mass from under the center of the bridge. We could look down and watch this arc of tiny winged rodents just stream out, tiny creatures in such volume that they bumped and tumbled against each other. The sound of their high-pitched squeaking and the leathery flap of their wings clacking and the woosh of air was like nothing else. All the hair on my body stood up, and my eyes filled with tears in the same way that happens when I'm in a stadium full of people having a shared emotional experience. It was powerfully moving and otherworldly and so very of this world.
ruthless compassion
12 August 2015 @ 07:44 am
This morning on my walk to the bus, I hear an enormous BOOM and felt a pressure wave from it against my skin. It was deep sounding, like a bomb or a fireworks, and I have no idea where it came from.

It scared the crap out of me and everyone else I could see on the sidewalk. It was not immediately apparent what it was.

Did you hear this? It was about 7am. If anyone hears anything about what it might have been, I'd appreciate knowing!
ruthless compassion
11 August 2015 @ 08:44 pm
In March, I nominally took over a team of an unspecified number of people. The number was unspecified because it was unknown! So one of my first tasks was to figure out, based on organization and role, how many people were in what would ultimately become my team.

That number turns out to be 40, which is a lot of people! And yesterday, I took them out of the office for a day to start to build an explicit sense of team by working together to create a brand statement and some team agreements.

I've run a lot of offsites and workshops in a lot of settings and for a variety of configurations of people, but this was my first time designing, planning, organizing, and running this kind of event as the head of the team. It was interestingly basically entirely familiar and also completely strange and different. In particular, I repeatedly found myself joshing around with the team, and then having a twist of realization that, wait, I'm the boss! Which, I don't know, it's not like that changes that we're all humans together, and, yet, it also totally changes things, and in ways that are probably less perceptible to me than to others.

Forty people is a lot! I'm feeling this in a lot of ways, especially because I currently don't have enough managers in the team, so I have too many people reporting directly to me. I'm in the process of changing this, and I dearly hope to have at least two and possibly three more managers on board by the end of the year.

I've also never managed managers before! And I'm learning that that has its own challenges and pitfalls, possibly more for me than the initial transition to management.

I feel like I'm having a similar kind of fun to having kids: It's exhausting, demanding, tiring ... but there are moments of brilliant satisfaction and reward, and if I can navigate the process successfully, I'll feel like I created something amazing. But my day-to-day happiness is definitely taking a hit.

At least they haven't taken to waking me up in the middle of the night!
I'm feeling: worn
ruthless compassion
15 July 2015 @ 10:36 am
A thing I hadn't really thought about when I switched from moving from managing a team of 6 or 7 to managing a team of 40 is this: if each person has only one crisis a year where they need their manager's help, with 40 people, that's almost every week.

And it turns out, the frequency is a bit more than that. So it makes sense that I feel like I've been actively helping people put out fires at a high rate since March.
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I'm feeling: tiredtired
ruthless compassion
02 June 2015 @ 10:45 pm
The other important-to-me discovery/realization of the last month: I really thrive in chaos. I feel more lit-up and engaged since the sudden increase in the pace, scope, and level of surprise of changes around the office than I have since my first three months in my first role at the company. It can't stay this way, and it wouldn't be healthy if it did, but WOW, I think that would work for me.
I'm feeling: chipperchipper
ruthless compassion
02 June 2015 @ 10:40 pm
I've had four bosses in the last 6 months. December 2014 was my last month reporting to the CTO, who hired me into my current place of employ in the first place. In January, he moved into a new role, and I briefly reported to his successor. This was always intended to be a temporary setup, a placeholder while administrative gears turned in the background,; though I was reporting to him, I wasn't working for him, as I was using the time to wrap up and hand off my old job while I started to lay the groundwork for the new one, so I kind of don't count him. In early March, I officially started my new job, reporting to boss3, an executive who had been with the company since basically the beginning (17 years). In mid-May, she and the company abruptly parted ways, and I suddenly found myself reporting to the CFO.

So, it's been a chaotic time. But that whole story is just a little contextual backstory for the actual story of my first meeting with my new new boss. As my previous boss had left the company in a fashion that might lead one to think there were substantial disagreements in important decisions, I decided to use my first 1:1 to run her through my nascent program and make sure we were on the same page. I did, and none of it was a surprise to her, and she was in full support of it. Hooray!

And then she said, "I trust you as a professional leading this project, so don't wait for permission, just do what you think is best. I'll be comfortable reining you in if I need to."

So, that was a surprisingly explicit blank check! I wasn't surprised that that's how she felt -- upon reflection, I think all three of my prior bosses felt this way -- but this is the first time anyone has said that to me so broadly and concretely. In the 2 weeks since this conversation, it has slowly been dawning on me the depth and breadth of what this means, and how I can enact it.

And it's interesting, too, to realize that -- even though all of my bosses at my current company have probably held the same opinion -- I have been operating under the Seeking Permission paradigm. What does it even mean for me to simply do what I think is best? It means not just doing the job that's on the paper, but pursuing other tasks and projects that are interesting to me. It means just making things happen that I want to happen. It means ... I don't even know. I'm simultaneously gobsmacked at the mandate and annoyed with myself that it feels like such a profound change.
I'm feeling: happyhappy