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I’m not screwing around. It’s time.

Live & Learn

patty-maher

I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:

I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go.

Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever.

Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You…

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Posted by on 07/25/2016 in Motivation

 

…So why am I blue?

The day is a loveless, cloudless summer day. The birds are singing, the cat is lazily bathing herself next to me on the couch, and a cool evening breeze stirs the air. Bills are paid, and enough money remains to take care of our needs. The house is mostly clean, and I’ve accomplished all my professional tasks. The kids are happy and (blessedly) peaceful, mostly due to the summer rules we’ve established (i.e., no fighting = more screen time)

And yet I find it hard to smile today.

It seems like something just outside of my ability to sense is slightly off-kilter. Kind of like when something smells slightly wrong, but you’re not sure why. It could be the low-level fatigue that is my constant companion. It could be that I’ve had some disturbing anxiety-ridden nightmares lately. It could be nothing at all.

Or it could be a simple need for chocolate. I intend to test that last theory this evening. download.jpg

 

 
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Posted by on 06/25/2016 in Insight

 

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Calm during the storm

I sit this evening and listen to the rain fall outside. I haven’t closed the windows because everyone in the family loves the sound and smell of rain. Just 24 hours ago, the air was sultry and the night sky was clear, which allowed my children and I to view Mars via our telescope.

Our personal lives are going through another growth phase, one I did not expect to occur. I find myself outgrowing my full-time position. I have grown so much professionally, and being confined to one type of learner in associate’s-only courses is feeling a little “pinchy,” sort of like shoes: once they were too large, but a growth spurt has made them just a little uncomfortably small.

I was reflecting on what triggered my realization that I had begun to outgrow the school and realized it was when someone who does not teach in my discipline (and never has) and who had never witnessed my teaching told me that I could not teach accounting. At first, I took the statement literally, which caused me intense self-doubt and anxiety. However, after much meditation and discussion with trusted industry colleagues, I realized that the statement was not about any inability on my part. Instead, it reflected a lack of understanding — and an unwillingness to understand — of the way that I teach my students. The school asked me to develop non-traditional ways of teaching  in my academic discipline, and  I have done just that. The students (all except one) have given me high ratings, and I have received many industry accolades.

That was when I realized that the issue was not my inability to teach, but the fact that I had somehow outgrown the school. So I applied for other schools– with trepidation, remembering all too well how drawn-out and awful the last search was. 750 resumes, 13 on-ground interviews, countless phone interviews…

After applying for about six places, I found myself suddenly being courted seriously by two different schools, one here in New England and one in Scotland I’m not sure if I want the latter yet). The one here in New England has asked me to a third interview this week, and wants me because they are a school of “marvelous misfits” (their term) and I know how to engage learners of all types. I visited the school’s campus in advance since it is not far my my house, and what really struck me was the motto that was prominently displayed on every lamp-post in the town: You belong here. Those simple words told me more about the school than any other literature I could find on the campus or in the town. The other telling part was the relationship between the town and the school: It was impossible to determine where the school campus ended and the town began. The town hall itself is on the school’s campus. Student housing is peppered among town residences, and school office buildings are scattered throughout the town. This told me about the attitude of the area and  its willingness to co-evolve. The school has asked that I be willing to teach in multiple disciplines and at multiple academic levels. I see this as the chance I need: To grow and evolve in a place that welcomes innovators and misfits.

To be thorough, we decided to bring the girls to visit the town, since they are also part of this decision. They noticed that a) the pizza was good, b) there is a 32-run ski area less than 5 minutes away, and c) there is a pancake house. All important things! My husband and I noticed that the high school was very highly rated and had programs that interested the girls and that the houses were nice, many built in the last 30 years, and definitely in the affordable range for our budget.

This afternoon, I found myself working on my materials and introspection that precedes every interview I have ever given, and I am calm. I feel none of the anxiety I recall from my last search because this time I am working from strength. The obstacles I faced before — that I was moving from instructor to professor and relocating — are not relevant this time. My CV is heavy with accomplishments and I am very secure in my abilities. My most trusted colleagues have assured me that I am ready for and worthy of this change.

The hardest part is the not knowing how this will turn out. The storm of the unknown swirls around my head, threatening to distract me from my other responsibilities. Despite that storm, I cam calm, centered, and grounded. It is the calm during the storm.

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Posted by on 06/05/2016 in Growth, Insight

 

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Lost in translation

Today, in the American Christian tradition, is Pentecost. According to the Bible, it is the day when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles, they each perceived the message from the heavens in the language of their birth, and each was instructed to take the message to the world. For most who follow Christian tradition, it’s the end of yet another Easter season; for others, it’s instructions about how to worship.

I say it’s more. Much more. Besides, who says what is the correct way to worship? Or that formalized, programmed worship is the only way to go?

If you would, shelve your personal religious practice for about 30 seconds and follow along with me. (You’ll get your practice back…I promise!)

What are the main messages of each faith tradition?  According to The Harmony Institute, the top ten messages are:

  1. There is one “God” (substitute whatever name you prefer)
  2. God is everywhere
  3. We each have a soul
  4. God is inside us
  5. We are all capable of understanding spiritual knowledge
  6. God has a name (again, whatever you prefer to call it…some traditions hold that many names exist for the same being)
  7. We should be respectful and compassionate of each other
  8. Morals are important
  9. We are all connected
  10. Peace and nonviolence are the goals

There are other messages, to be sure, but I agree this list comprises the commonalities. What we get hung up on are the details of the religious practice because of the way that our practices have been translated, filtered, and passed down through time. Differences in language, culture, emphasis, and translator bias has resulted in a bunch of people who are divided over the meaning of the same thing.

The very same thing.

I think that the message of Pentecost is a reminder of number 9 of the above list: We are all connected. By missing this part of the message and focusing on the “speaking in their own language” part, we have not– we can not — achieve number 10. We are simply disconnected people who periodically descend into exclusion, further division, and violence.

And with that, the lasting message of God (or Buddha, the Creator, the Goddess, etc.) is lost in translation.

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Posted by on 05/15/2016 in Insight

 

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We are hard-boiled eggs

I sometimes feel that my life is very busy — overwhelmingly so, on occasion — and that taking time to slow, breathe, and reflect simply means that I am shirking my work. For those who know me personally, I doubt that they would ever associate the word “shirking” with me. Workaholic, perhaps. Driven, definitely. When I do take time to slow down, I wonder what is the point of being so busy. Is it that I truly have that much to accomplish? Or am I using my commitments as some sort of defense mechanism?

I took one of those ubiquitous Facebook tests recently, and this particular one struck a chord with me. The purpose of this test was to help the tester determine what might be subconsciously holding them back from attaining their career aspirations. My result startled me at first, but it makes more sense upon reflection. It revealed that I am afraid that other people will not like me, so I avoid situations that allow me to open up to other people fully and am reluctant to state my own truth because of this fear.

Talk about being hit in the head with the proverbial 2×4… That result, as childish as it may sound, is spot-on correct, which makes me a little uncomfortable. I regard myself as serious and adult (for the most part), and it seems silly to be afraid of other people not liking me. What drove it home for me was the insight that every failed relationship in my life has left me with some element of thinking that I am unlikable and that is why the relationship failed– not because the other person was going through something that I did not understand or know. Upon reflection, I see a pattern of my trying too hard to get someone to like me and to show me their esteem in a way that I need to see it. And by not seeing that, I have built up a wall that has become thicker over time.

Prior to taking this test, I happened to be on a retreat with my church’s leadership team. The retreat was held at a lovely monastery in upstate New York that had glorious views of the Hudson River. On the first morning of the retreat, I happened to be peeling a hard-boiled egg with my breakfast, and it occurred to me that part of this life’s journey is to find a way to remove the built-up layers of defense that we all have so that the real person may emerge. If you have ever peeled an egg, you know that sometimes the shell can be removed easily, but sometimeseggs-peeled it requires painstaking effort and patience.

I have a feeling that I am in the latter category.

The hardest part of peeling the egg is making the initial crack big enough to start the process. In my life, that first crack involves an element of force followed by gentle, careful, and persistent trust. Trust that I will be liked for who I am. Trust that the walls I have built no longer need to exist. Trust that all will be well. And in my case, trust that it is alright to not be busy, that people will still like me if I take the time to take care of my own needs, and that I am likable just as I am.

This could be one of the biggest challenges yet.

 

 
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Posted by on 04/28/2016 in Growth, Insight

 

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On an ordinary Saturday

It’s an ordinary Saturday. Everyone has slept in and is waking up gently, either reading a book or doing whatever they like on a tablet. The cat is purring, and meows at me to get up and get my coffee going. It’s drizzly and 50 degrees, and the leaden sky obscures any sunlight. I prepare to do the weekend errands and get into my new car. The seat is warm against the slight chill, and I quickly find my favorite music on the satellite radio. And then it hits me:

This is the life I’ve always dreamed of.

In this one ordinary moment of existence, I am aware that I have a career that fulfills and stretches me beyond what I think I can do. I have a happy family, including two children who are growing in beauty and intelligence, who occasionally stun me with their insights, and who grow faster than I could ever have imagined. My husband is very successful in his chosen profession and is well respected in our community. Our furry friend always greets me when I come home, even if it’s only with a flick of her tail. I am going to the grocery store to choose nutritious food for the family. The area in which I live is gloriously beautiful, even on this damp morning. I glance through the large moonroof as I drive and see trees silhouetted against the clouds and little rivers of raindrops streaming toward the back of the car.

What drives this all “home” is the little Facebook memories posts that occasionally pop in to my feed. Pictures from three and four years ago appear, and I would have never guessed then where I would be today…

…On an ordinary Saturday.

 
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Posted by on 04/02/2016 in Insight

 

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Subtle changes are the most powerful

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These past couple of weeks have passed in a blur that has included dropping kids off and picking them up, creating fun classes for my students, watching the snow disappear (sniff!), and a myriad of too many other tidbits. Among it all, I’ve noticed some very subtle personal shifts.

  • I find that I am deliberately choosing the healthy food options, not because some diet plan tells me I must, but because they make me feel healthier. I had a hamburger and fries yesterday, and almost immediately noticed the draggy feeling of too much fat and salt. Even if I never achieve that slender body I once had, I feel healthier.
  • I had the great fortune to escort some students to see the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. It was amazing to be in there, but what was more extraordinary was when we took the students to the 9/11 memorial. Standing on the site, I suddenly understood the magnitude of the shock and the terror that literally a million people in the local area would have felt. It was eerie to stand at the edge of the reflecting pool and realize that it had been the basement for the building where thousands of people worked. Where once I would have been thrilled more by the trip to the Exchange, what stayed with me was the profound sorrow that I experienced.
  • I have had two situations within the last 24 hours in which I felt justifiably, furiously angry. In both cases, I allowed myself to feel the anger, but instead of allowing it to burn on, I let it burn out and chose to be calm. In one case, the calm was for myself so that I didn’t allow the weight of the anger to weigh me down. In the other situation, the calm was for my daughter, who was so terrified that she was somehow unlovable because I was angry. In both cases, the shift I noticed was that I didn’t experience the physical side-effects of the anger (i.e., a tension headache) because of a prolonged reaction to the event, and my calmness influenced the mood of my home.
  • I’ve also been dealing with a fairly uncomfortable medical issue (not the un-friend RA, but something different and definitely TMI) that has required a significant amount of patience for me to handle. Tonight is the first time in about three weeks that I’ve felt relief from the pain and discomfort. Through it all, I have been patient and hopeful that the doctors and I would arrive at an appropriate solution. Where once would have been anxiety, there has been hope and endurance.

What has caused these small, powerful shifts? Maturity? Perhaps. Wisdom? Again, perhaps. The answer is that I simply do not know. But I am grateful that they occurred. I feel calmer, healthier, and more content than I can remember in, well, ever.

 
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Posted by on 03/11/2016 in Growth, Insight

 

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