Monday, August 29, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Seventy-nine

Day 79 - Mentors
I’ve written before about the power of friendships, and the importance friends have in my life.  Today, I am particularly grateful to have reconnected with my very first mentor.
We hear all the time how important it is to tell the people you love that you love them.  A number of years ago, after reading a book that described the efforts and sacrifices a father made for his family, I took that opportunity to write to my father to let him know not only that I loved him, and how much, but to acknowledge all the sacrifices and efforts he made for me, for my mom, and for my brothers, and to describe for him how and why he was my hero.
Mom told me later how he read and re-read my letter, taking notes, preparing his response.  Unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough to write me back.  But that was OK - I knew he knew how I felt, and that was enough.  (Later, while going through old papers, Mom found his notes and sent them to me.  In the response that he was preparing, he turned it around and made it a tribute to my mom.  He loved her very much.)
One week ago, I made contact with my first mentor, Joe Hauseman, my fifth grade teacher.  In all my years of school, including university, no one impacted my life more than he.  I learned more from him about life, relationships, joy, truth, and responsibility over that one school year than I learned from any other single person I've ever known.  His joy for life and his determination to live it fully - and to have fun - has stuck with me ever since.  Joe Hauseman was more than just an elementary school teacher.  He was a true mentor.  I have admired this man for 39 years, and I finally had the chance to tell him.
We met in person today.  And thank God he hasn’t changed.  
We talked, and laughed, for two hours.  At times, I think other patrons at the Starbucks where we met must have thought we were nuts.  That’s ok.  I wouldn’t have traded this two hours for any amount of money.  We reminisced, laughing about how Janine used to torment me mercilessly (we’re now good friends).  We spoke of Robin, who apparently died in some kind of accident years ago.  Other names popped up - some I haven’t heard since we all graduated from high school so many years ago.  It was a lovely trip down that familiar “Memory Lane,” and worth every step.
We’ve agreed to meet again.  He is retired now, and he has an idea that he thinks might have potential for a joint effort between us.  I’m game - I’d work with this man in a heartbeat.  A month ago, I couldn’t have dreamed I’d have another opportunity to learn from Mr. Hauseman (“Joe!  It’s Joe.  We’re long past ‘Mr. Hauseman’”).  Today my glass isn’t half full, it’s overflowing.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Seventy-eight

Day 78 - Getting Out
Day 78 was stellar, except for the fact that my aerosol sunscreen’s propellant ran out long before the sunscreen, resulting in the most bizarre sunburn I’ve ever had.  I swear you’d think I was diseased by looking at my back.  ...OK, let’s not go there.
It was an otherwise perfect day: warm, sunny, not too hot, with a gentle breeze, and accompanied by good friends.  I had planned to leave earlier than I did - I was enjoying my time there way too much to go.  And I met a new friend, too, late in the day, so I was glad I stayed.  I still got my chores done at home afterward, so it wasn’t time wasted.
Friends ask me if I’m getting out of the house; they are afraid I’m becoming a hermit after being unemployed so long - as one friend put it, “Just want to make sure your not turning into one of those Momma’s Boys that sits home and knits in front of the TV.”  The fact is I’ve never been busier in my life.  I need a job just to get a break!
However, there is a kernel of truth in his concern.  While I’m getting out of the house every day networking like crazy, I haven’t done as much socializing - the type where it’s ONLY social.  It’s tough when you don’t have an income to support it.  I didn’t go to a “leather” event at the Eagle last night, even though I’ve had it on my calendar for three weeks.  I have passed up dinners and/or shows with friends.  Even the trip out to the river costs money in gasoline, and I pack very little food - usually only a few things I have on hand.  I often don’t feel like socializing, even though I know I’ll feel better if I do.
Like today.
I was so glad my friend Scott asked me to join them.  Getting out, meeting people, and having fun is crucial to one’s well being, income or not. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Seventy-seven

Day 77 - Reminiscing
Today was lovely - perfect weather, spending some time with good friends, and looking at cars dating back to my childhood and beyond made for a wonderful day.
I joined a group of friends - a contingent of The Boys, as I call them - at “Cars In the Park” at the Portland Art Museum; today was Mopar day - Chrysler products.  I took nearly 60 pictures with my iPhone and posted many of them on Facebook.  It was great to see these old cars, most of them from an era when cars had style.  (Chrysler hasn’t been my favorite automaker in terms of design, but to see them brought back a lot of memories.)
It took me back to a time when life was simpler.  We were young and care free, as children should be.  We took the style of the day for granted.  It was all we knew.  Now, after decades of boxes on wheels and a focus on economy over flair, we see these huge fins and tons of steel and chrome and wish we could go back to the days of 35 cent gasoline.  And innocence.
The trick isn’t to find a way to live in the past.  It is to bring what was good and right from our memories and recreate it in modern form.  Maybe owning a classic car can help with that; simply going to the car show is enough.  Let’s live in the present, remembering what feels good, and focusing on what still feels good... like spending time with good friends, just like we did when we were young and care free.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Seventy-six

Day 76 - Accountability
Accountability isn’t something we often think of when discussing gratitude.  
I believe most people think of accountability as being held responsible for something we didn’t do on time, or at all, or did wrong, and now we’re in trouble.  Or better, someone else is.
I promised to have something done by Sunday, and I completed it today.  I was afraid to let my colleagues down by missing the deadline, so I acted on it as soon as I had time.  For a procrastinator like me, that’s an accomplishment.
What struck me was that, although my initial efforts were motivated in part by fear of failure or disappointment, it wasn’t the dominant motivator.  And better than that, the sense of accomplishment that came with completing the task felt wonderful.  I could have avoided making the commitment in the first place, circumventing the accountability altogether.  Instead, by pushing myself to get it done on time (or early) I achieved a success - small as it may be - that made me feel good.  
I need to feel good.
Now, on to my next success.  So far, so good. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Seventy-five

Day 75 - Confidence
Yesterday, I was told my confidence may work against me.  Today, I had a different experience altogether.
I met with the president of a consulting firm in Vancouver, WA and had a wonderful conversation.  He had found me on LinkedIn, indicating we were friends.  I didn’t know him, so I wrote back, asking if we had met.  When he responded, saying he had noticed that we did the same sort of work and both graduated from the same university, I replied with “Great news!  I thought we had met before and I had somehow forgotten you.”
It was a natural conversation.  We talked about all sorts of things - history, family, education, work experience, professional philosophies - and there seemed to be a natural fit.  By the end, he was telling me about how he brings consultants into his practice, and offered to have me sit in on any or all of the workshops they offer.  The first one on the calendar is scheduled for the end of September.  I told him of course I’ll be interested in attending.
As soon as I got home, I sent a Thank You email and then put a card in the mail.  I was feeling very hopeful this could grow into something really good.
Later this evening, as I was preparing to meet a friend for dinner, I started to second-guess myself.  I wondered if I had asked enough questions; I realized I didn’t do a proper needs assessment - asking him what his needs are and what a successful collaboration looks like, etc., although we did discuss some of these things.  I thought about how I could have approached the conversation as if I were already working for him (or for a client) instead of chatting with a colleague.  Was that the right thing to do?
Tonight, I received a response from my email: “The feeling is mutual. I look forward to more discussions and collaborations.”  
Hmmm... Maybe some people like the idea that I “have [my] act together.”  Maybe confidence doesn’t work against me after all.  We’ll see.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Seventy-four

Day 74 - Pauses
I had an interesting day.  It began with a delightful conversation with my daughter, Catherine.  She is an amazing young woman who has been through a lot - more than a 17-year-old should have to experience - and who is blossoming into a wise young woman.  I have worried about her over the years, especially in the last 18 months, but I now know I needn’t worry further.  Though she has down days - even weeks - where she struggles, this girl “gets it.”  She has opportunities to stumble, pause, get back up, and get back into it.  I cannot express in words how proud I am of her and the progress she is making as a young adult.
I then met another HR professional over coffee whose professional experience has paralleled mine.  To meet someone else who understands exactly what I am feeling is wonderful.  I don’t think this was a situation of “misery loves company” - it felt more like “power in numbers.”  I want to start a business and include this guy.
Then I met with the two gentlemen who had contacted me after the newspaper story, who wanted to talk to me to see how they could help.  They both are well known in HR circles in the Portland area, and to tap into their networks could be valuable.  
They asked me a lot of questions, and eventually offered advice.  One told me that my high energy and confidence may be working against me - it appears that I have my act together - and if I have my act together, others may not be able to figure out how to help me.  When I asked him what I could do differently, he told me to be more humble, and more vulnerable.  When I asked him how he would suggest I show humility and vulnerability, he didn’t really answer the question.
The other gave me one piece of more concrete advice - to change my resume to show my consulting as covering a shorter period, so that the resume is balanced heavier on full-time employment, since that is something I am seeking.  OK, I suppose if anyone goes to my website to read that my consulting started in 1997, I don’t have to put that on my resume.  Fair enough.  
He also asked me if I want to stay in Training as far as my future employment is concerned.  I said yes, especially focusing on service leadership and cultural development, but that I’m certainly capable of doing more.  He then asked me if I wanted to stay in Training.
I walked away from this meeting feeling confused, and a little down.  If I couldn’t convey my message to these two, am I conveying it successfully to anyone?
I went to a dinner party held by some dear friends, Blaine and Dan, in Camas, Washington and felt the comfort of being around some wonderfully positive people.  I was a little out of sorts - I didn’t feel as “engaged” as I normally am with this group - but if they noticed, they didn’t let on.  It was nice to spend an evening where I didn’t have to be “on.”  
And it reminded me that I can pause a moment, take a breath, and just “be.”  Thank you, Boys, for letting me pause.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Seventy-three

Day 73 - Familiars
No, I’m not talking about witches, witchcraft, or anything that Christine O’Donnell may or may not espouse.  I’m referring to the moment when, as you’re talking to someone you’ve just met, they seem familiar to you, as if you’ve known them for much longer than four minutes.
I was originally going to headline this entry as “familiar spirits” but I had a meeting that went beyond the personality.  I met with a woman who looked familiar, too.  I know we have never met; though we grew up within a few miles of one another, she is four years behind me in age - we would never have met even if we had attended the same schools.  Our interests overlapped only slightly.  We would have had little in common back then.
Yet now we are both HR people, and in a similar quandary of looking for full-time work.  Her resume shouts her talent - it is obvious that she is clearly very capable on several levels.
As we chatted over coffee, I had the feeling I must have known this woman from somewhere, but I realized how she reminded me of others in my past - physically, vocally, emotionally.  It made me feel as if I were connected to her, though indirectly.  We were in sync - our paths parallel - though the roads we had taken had different names.
Eventually it occurred to me that we are ALL connected indirectly.  Even those who are wildly successful are connected to me, and I to them, albeit in ways many of us cannot possibly feel or explain in typical terms.  I’ve been talking a lot this week with friends and colleagues about following our intuition.  Maybe this interconnectivity is something to explore more.
At the end of the day (and after a wonderful dinner and conversation with dear friends Will and Robert), I felt the peace of being connected with those who understand and support me, and those in my shoes, as well as those who simply put positive energy out there for me to feel through the web we call humanity.  Let’s all be grateful for those whose vibrations in the universe resonate toward joy.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Seventy-two

Day 72 - Recounting the Surprise
I have had several opportunities to recount the story behind making it onto the front page of the newspaper.  I’m not looking for these opportunities, but I have to admit it feels good to get some positive press, even if it’s about a negative subject.  It also led to a conversation about another article that claims our current unemployment rate is actually much closer to that during the Great Depression of the 20th Century, but our politicians don’t want to admit it.  That’s one reason why they aren’t trying to count anyone but those currently on Unemployment Insurance rolls.
As I thought about being in another Depression, as we most surely are, it dawned on me that I’m not going through anything that my grandparents didn’t endure.  But they endured it, and were OK.  In fact, from my childhood perspective, they did fairly well, all things considered.  They could even afford a sail boat when my mom was in high school, so they must have been doing something right.  
So I press on.  It helps to gain a little perspective from time to time, and Day 72 was OK.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Seventy-one

Day 71 - Knowing Myself
I went to an ice cream social today, and met a whole bunch of really nice people.  I went with a friend who introduced me, and I felt welcomed enough to know that if I go again by myself, I’ll be fully included.  What a joy that is.
I had a conversation about following my intuition; I have found that when my “inside voice” tells me something isn’t right, and I try to make it work anyway, it never does.  (I often wish it would tell me when something was right....)  I am learning to listen, and to honor what I feel.
The family dynamics that have caused me quite a bit of angst in the past have settled down a lot (with only a momentary flare-up, which didn’t last long).  I have been able to express my feelings openly, honestly, and respectfully, without engaging in dysfunctional arguments.  I honor my feelings, protect them when I have to, and respect myself well enough to put some distance between me and the drama.
I have gone out with a few people lately, all with an eye toward dating again.  I have felt a certain willingness to put myself out there - after all, it has been over a year since my last relationship went south (as in “crashing into Antarctica”), and I am comfortable with who I am these days.  I like me.
So far, none of the people I’ve gone out with are the right “fit.”  One is in the process of divorce - never a good place for dating; two of them talk over me constantly, never allowing me to finish a sentence, much less a thought.  One lives out of state and only visits occasionally (though I suppose if he lived in the area, that might have some potential).  The others... well, we never made it to a second date.
As I ponder the various thoughts that come from these experiences, I come back to the idea that maybe I’m not ready for a relationship.  Not yet.  I like the idea of “dating myself” - doing things that make me happy, and not having to share the experience to get everything out of it that it can offer me.  I know myself well.  I am happy just being me, and I deserve to be happy.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Seventy

Day 70 - Quiet
Today - Saturday, August 20 - was a relatively quiet day.
It started out very early, at 4:00 AM, when the alarm first went off.  An hour later, I was taking Mom to the airport for her trip to Scotland.  She will be gone for two weeks (the last few days visiting friends in western Massachusetts).
When she first floated the idea of taking this tour, we had discussed the possibility of my joining her.  Then I got laid off and my income went away, making the trip an impossibility for me.  It’s OK - I have a few things ranking higher on my priority list now.
The apartment is quiet.  It’s not that she’s noisy, but there isn’t anyone here talking with me.  I have the place to myself.  The quiet is wonderful.
Don’t get me wrong - I get along with my mom very well.  My situation, though, of being without a home of my own for two and a half years is an increasingly difficult challenge - you don’t know how important privacy is until you lose it.  I can appreciate why popular actors and other celebrities go nuts after awhile.  I can certainly empathize with other homeless people who don't have anywhere but shelters and bridges to provide a roof for them.
I got a whole bunch of chores done without worrying if I were in someone’s way; I ate a salad with all the vegetables I like to put in it without having to wonder if anyone else is going to enjoy it; I did my own thing without it being anyone else’s.  I didn’t leave the apartment until my evening commitments required my departure.  The sense of peace was a gift.
I’m grateful for the quiet of the next two weeks, and while I will miss Mom and wonder about all the new experiences she’s having on her tour of Scotland, I’m glad I didn’t go.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Sixty-nine

Day 69 - Rhythm
I’m grateful for the rhythm of life I’m feeling.  It’s not the regular beat of a typical work day; since I’m not working full time, I have a lot of flexibility, and sometimes I am not as efficient with my use of time as I would be if I were working 8 hours every day.  But I’ve found a rhythm here in Portland that I’m enjoying.
It was set back a bit because of a phone call I had to make; I am helping a couple of fellow job seekers by doing a mock background check, calling their former employers for references.  When we got together recently, we talked about how we don’t know what our former employers were saying about us, and we decided to make some calls for each other to find out.  I had a 30-minute call for one who was afraid her former employer would not offer a pleasant reference.  As it turned out, it was very positive.
I got maybe a third of my workout done before I had to leave for the Job Finders Support Group meeting, figuring at least I did four exercises (it beats none at all).  The meeting went well, too.  
By keeping to a schedule, however flexible as it may be, I’m finding some comfort in the routine.  It’s not what I want yet, but it’s good.
I like being busy and having something consistent to look forward to.  I am grateful to those who have afforded me this new comfort zone.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Sixty-eight

Day 68 - Time
Today I’m grateful for time - time to get it right.
I went to a luncheon yesterday where the speaker gave me quite a few things to think about.  It was an interesting experience.  I’ve spoken to others who were in attendance who didn’t care for him - they felt his presentation lacked structure.  He was bouncing from one concept to another pretty quickly, and as HR professionals, many of us need to follow a recognizable process to understand and connect with a speaker.
Except me.
I think I must be just as scattered as the presenter, because I was following along incredibly well.  One of my colleagues said to me that she was certainly able to follow him, but there was a lot of “fluff” - he could have given all this information in about 15 minutes.
OK, I respect that.  For those who prefer the structure of Powerpoint and bullets, this guy was not for them (and he warned them of that in the beginning).  I came away with a lot, though.
I decided to focus today on one concept I came away with: to always be working on something.  He suggested we all should have something we want to improve, something to work on.  Today, I chose to begin working on something he mentioned: only hurrying when I’m actually in a hurry.  I don’t always have to walk fast, or drive fast, or get around the idiot in front of me who stays in the left lane even though s/he’s the slowest on the freeway.  ...OK, yes, I do have to get around the slow-poke because that’s not only stupid, it’s rude.  But I digress....
And as I began working on this, I realized that I have time to get it right.
I have already written at length about my Fifteen Minutes of Fame, and it seemed to die off pretty quickly.  Well, I got an email from another HR professional today who saw the article in the paper and got my contact information through our professional association.  We’ll see if it leads to anything.  The point in this, though, is that I have time to let it happen.  I don’t have to hurry.  I can remain open to whatever good the universe is bringing me.
I have time to get it right.
I am grateful for that, indeed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Sixty-seven

Day 67 - Fifteen Minutes
Who would have thought my “Fifteen Minutes of Fame” would be associated with unemployment?
When I was in 7th grade, I knew I wanted to be an actor.  In fact, during a “Career Day” activity where we were asked to fill out a questionnaire that included the job title of our future job, I wrote “Movie Star.”  
Within a couple of years, singing had become my greater talent, and as I matured toward adulthood, I gained my identity as a theater performer.  I knew I could be great.  
I have learned to live by the quote most often attributed to John Lennon: “‘Life’ is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.”  Needless to say, my life as a singer/actor did not bring me fame and fortune.  I did not win an Oscar, and I did not become a movie star.
In fact, I became a U-6.
I’ve already written about the front page Oregonian article in which I was featured.  As I began my day today, I was wondering how I should handle an increase in attention; I’m not really seeking attention - I’m seeking a job.  I didn’t know if I could expect job offers from this kind of publicity, or if I would get any attention at all.  I decided to approach my day as any other.
I attended an HR industry luncheon, and had a good meeting with an old high school acquaintance I had long forgotten (she had forgotten me, too, and we laughed about it today).  I then had a lot of emails from friends and colleagues about the newspaper article that I wanted to return.  I had a number of phone calls from friends and colleagues, as well as text messages, all wishing me success on getting a job from it.  And while I didn’t like the fact that my Fifteen Minutes of Fame was centered on unemployment, it gave me a flicker of hope that maybe my fortunes were turning.
I decided to save the photo that ran on the front page, so I went back to the Oregonian website to pull it up.
I couldn’t find the story.
Eventually, I did find it, but it wasn’t easy even though I remembered the headline.  I think my Fifteen Minutes of Fame lasted for about 15 minutes.  It’s over now.
What lesson on gratitude did I learn today?  It was that in that 15 minutes, I got to speak for people who want to work and are not given that opportunity.  In that 15 minutes, I got to represent the networking groups I work with, and the job seekers I have coached, and the executives who can’t get a job because we’re over-qualified, or we’ve been unemployed for too long.  I learned that 15 minutes of hope is better than a lifetime without it.
I guess I can move on now.  Maybe my fortunes have changed - I won’t know unless I keep going.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Sixty-six

Day 66 - Chance
Tuesday, August 16, was an unusual day.  
I received an email on Monday evening from my friend and Job Finders Support Group leader, Cleon Cox, in which he introduced me to a journalist from the Oregonian working on a story about under-employed and unemployed workers.  Of course I had no idea what to expect, but I agreed to help the journalist as best I could.  He wrote back to say he’d call me tomorrow, since it was already late in the evening.
Tomorrow became today.
Just after my daily workout at the gym, I received the call from Rich Read, who asked me about my experience of being a long-term under-employed worker.  He explained that the story was about “U6” workers - those who are working part time when they want to work full time, or are unemployed altogether, and are not counted in the “official” unemployment numbers.  It’s not that we drop out of the statistics that politicians like to talk about because we’re working, but rather because we no longer qualify for unemployment benefits.  We no longer matter to our government.
I’m not going to get into all the frustration that comes with that idea.  Instead, I want to focus momentarily on the satisfaction of knowing that I was chosen to represent thousands of Oregonians who, through no fault of our own and despite efforts often herculean, remain unemployed.
After our conversation, Rich asked if he could have a photographer make arrangements to meet up with me for some photos.  Ross Hamilton called awhile later.  He explained that he wanted an “environmental portrait” (photos of me at my regular duties) and perhaps at home would be best.
If you know me even slightly and have seen how I keep my home, and then witnessed the horror of my desk, you’d understand why home is not best for me.  I suggested a coffee shop I like to use as my “office,” where I often meet people for networking or do my online job seeking.  He met me there just before such a networking meeting, and took a variety of photos.  He sent me a couple of “headshots” (as good as any I’ve ever had, and taken under a patio umbrella without fill lights, makeup, or any of the standard equipment in a photo shoot - this guy is good).
And that was it.
Later, I thought to ask Rich when he thought it might run.  I figured this story would be found somewhere deep inside the Business section (bottom of page 4, probably).  When I got his response just before heading to bed, I was stunned.  It was to be on the front page of Wednesday’s Oregonian.  In fact, before I actually made it to bed, I had two friends comment that they had already read it online.
I didn’t go to sleep at all quickly.  My mind was involuntarily focused on how this might affect me the following day.  And I thought about how grateful I am that life can be so random as to have a journalist contact a friend who would introduce me to someone who could tell a little of my story.  What a day!

* You can read Rich Read's story on Oregon Live:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Sixty-five

Day 65 - New Day
I didn’t accomplish much on Day 65.  I made some good contacts, had some nice conversations, and took advantage of a dinner special at Hamburger Mary’s that gave me a sizable meal for only $7.  (Maybe too sizable... off to the gym I go....)  I’d say that was a good day.
After last week, it’s good to know I have a new week ahead of me.  Today begins several days of new possibilities, and I want to focus on what can happen, not what hasn’t.  It will be relatively busy, but not out of hand.  At least it isn’t set up to be, but a lot can happen in a week.
I’m grateful for a new day in which I can begin a new process, a new train of thought, a new path.  Wish me luck... or maybe Bon Voyage.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Sixty-four

Day 64 - Rest
As I said before, it was a challenging week.  My body concurred today.
I have felt like I was slacking this past week - I didn’t think I worked that hard or accomplished that much.  I even missed an important networking meeting because I hadn't been sleeping well and felt too awful to go that morning.  I have pressed myself to try to do more, and today my body said “enough.”  While my mind was saying “keep going,” my body told me to take some time off - give myself a rest.  So I did.
I slept for two hours this afternoon.
I got done the things I needed to do today; I didn’t do everything that was on my calendar (including meeting up with some friends to celebrate the visits of two out-of-town members of our “group,” and I’m grateful for their understanding when I didn’t show up at the party).  I really needed this rest.
I am feeling better as a result.  Tomorrow begins a brand new week.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Sixty-three

Day 63 - Talkers
Twice this week, I’ve spent time with someone that doesn’t allow me to get a word in.  Sure, it bugs me at times (especially when I’m not able to make a point that I felt was germane to the topic), but I remembered something important:
I asked for it.
Some time ago, I identified a certain habit that I wanted to change about myself, namely that I talk too much.  I want to listen more.  I try to practice listening, and when I find myself talking too much, I try to ask a question to take the subject back to the other person.  Am I good at it yet?  Probably not.  But I keep trying.
The universe brings us what we ask for.  
I have met a couple of sweet, funny, intelligent people over the past few weeks who, when we get together, talk a lot.  They both interrupt me, talking over me, seemingly oblivious to the idea they’ve just prevented me from finishing a sentence again.  ...Or are they just doing what I do back to me?  Honestly, I don’t know.  But I’m learning to listen.
I am getting less annoyed by the interruptions, too, the more I practice.  I don’t like the fact that I talk too much, or interrupt people, or finish their sentences for them.  I am embarrassed when I catch myself doing it.  I want this growth.
How odd to find myself in this situation.  I hope I learn well from it.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Sixty-two

Day 62 - The Week’s End
This was a challenging week for me.  I’m glad it’s over.
Not that I get a break from my job (of looking for work) - that will continue daily.  But it’s the end of a standard period of time - Monday though Friday - and now I get to start a new one next Monday.  The new week may be amazing.  It doesn’t have to be like the one that just ended.
We get to choose our attitude.  Sure.  Sometimes it chooses us, and you know what?  That’s OK, sometimes.
I read a poem on a coffee shop chalkboard a couple weeks ago by Rumi, a 13th century Persian poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic.  The poem was entitled, “Guest House.”
Guest House
This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, 
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture, 
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing, 
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
I am not yet very adept at meeting them at the door laughing, but I’m trying.  I’m grateful that this week is over, and I can start anew.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Sixty-one

Day 61 - Being Supportive
In prior blog entries, I’ve discussed my gratitude for the various kinds of support I receive from friends, from my mom, from colleagues, etc.  This time, I want to say how happy I am when I am offered the opportunity to be supportive of others.
I had a wonderful phone call from a coaching client who told me of a successful interview; he has been out of a real job for five years, and today he was offered a real job.  It’s not a “bridge” job - as a cashier at Home Depot - it’s a job that uses his skills and abilities beyond scanning a UPC code and handing out change.  It’s a job he’s excited to do.  He thanked me for the help I had given him in the form of Interviewing Skills training.  What he may not realize is how much I gained by serving him.
I also had the opportunity to talk to an HR professional about a company that needs some help; I will be able to pass this information along to a consulting colleague in an attempt to support him and his business.  It’s possible that, sometime down the road, he may come to me with something, to reciprocate, but the idea that I might be able to help someone else at least gives me the satisfaction of making something good happen.
Then I had a chance to talk to my youngest daughter, Catherine.  What a joy.  She has her struggles - burdens placed on her by toxic, abusive people - and to see her push through and thrive now that she’s in a healthy environment is delightful.  Her therapist told me that my support during the past few phone conversations has really helped her a lot.  He couldn’t have made me happier if he told me I won the lottery.  ...OK, bad analogy, but you understand....
My friends, fellow job seekers, family, colleagues, clients... they do so much for me just by allowing me to support them.  I am grateful.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Sixty

Day 60 - Contrast
I’ve been at this blog for nearly three months.  It doesn’t feel like it.  I thought after 30 days, a new practice becomes habit.  While this blog as been easier at times, and my attitude has certainly been very positive periodically over the past three months, it feels like it’s getting harder with time, not easier.  I’ll be interested to see how the next breakthrough comes.
It didn’t happen on “Day 60.”
I had two meetings - the first was lunch with a hypnotherapist I met recently, and the other was to introduce a couple of people over coffee to expand their personal networks.  Both meetings were very pleasant and offered interesting potential.
The balance of the day was sort of like the day before - Eeyore’s cloud came back.
I’m reminded of the Abraham-Hicks quotes I receive via email every morning, and some talk about “contrast” - you have to experience what you don’t want in order to identify what you do want.  This must be one of those weeks - where the things I do want aren’t present.  So I am taking a long, hard look at what I don’t want - not to dwell on them so much as to learn from them.  
I have to be grateful for the contrast, so that I can be clearer in my intentions about what I want in my life.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Fifty-nine

Day 59 - Slogging Through Emotional Mud
Wow... what a long day.  It didn’t feel like a summer day.
The weather was fine - maybe a little cool for an August day, but that’s not unusual anymore (the last two Augusts have been unusual here in Portland).  My energy, however, was really low, as was my mood.  It felt as if I were trudging through an enormous field of mud, and it took all day to get across.
It started out with an emotional cloud over my head, sort of like what you’d see over Eeyore.  I had no energy.  It was a struggle to get to the gym, and even more to practice any sort of patience with the drivers ahead of me on the road.
I had a late morning coffee meeting with a very well-connected woman from one of my networking groups, and she gave me four people to contact in my networking efforts.  She’s a delightful woman, and I enjoyed our time together.
Then I had lunch at Chino Sai-Gon (NE Broadway at 9th, who makes the best chicken coconut soup you’ve ever had while offering the worst service) with an energetic colleague I know through PABA.  Sharon has more energy that PGE, and it was a wonderful conversation.
As the day progressed from there, though, I felt as if I were a leaky balloon.  That which was keeping me “up” was leaving me.  Quickly.  I felt exhausted - physically and emotionally - just as I had in the morning.
I wonder if I would have even left my bedroom if it weren’t for these meetings to entice me.  
By the end of the day, all I wanted was the end of the day.  What I realize is that slogging through the emotional mud has been a workout, and working out makes me stronger.  OK, so maybe there’s the kernel I needed to find some gratitude.  Please let this day make me stronger.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Fifty-eight

Day 58 - New Old Friends
I had an interesting day.  Emotionally, I wasn’t really ready for the day, but I did have a few bright spots as the hours passed.  
One came at a networking lunch, when one of my networking acquaintances agreed to schedule a meeting.  I’m not sure if it will bring me any business, but it felt good to be asked.
I had coffee with another job seeker before our weekly Monday afternoon networking meeting.  He has been unemployed for some time, and he and his wife are currently living with his mother.  We shared a few stories, and I’m so impressed with his energy - this is a quality man, and I feel fortunate to have him on my side.  
The day ended with a delightful dinner with someone I feel I already know, but hadn’t met in person.  We were introduced “virtually” by a dear friend in Long Beach back in late 2008, and we have played Scrabble via Facebook ever since.  We have shared various frustrations, joys and “down” times over the past few years, so when I met him in his hotel lobby, it felt as easy and natural as any other friendship I’ve enjoyed.  I was so happy to transform this virtual friendship into a “real” one.
It’s nice to spend time with genuine people.  People with integrity - there just aren’t enough of them these days.  And even if we’re new friends, it feels like I’ve known them for years.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Fifty-seven

Day 57 - PTO
Sunday was a “me day.”  I took some Personal Time Off.  I needed a break.
Actually, I need a vacation - I haven’t taken a significant amount of time to recharge in a year or more.  But since travel and leisure aren’t in the cards for this month, I made the most of a few hours to enjoy the outdoors during some wonderful weather.  It was what I needed in the moment.  
I did meet a couple that I hope to run into sometime again - they told me they go to “beer bust” on Sunday afternoons at one of the bars in North Portland, and I hope to have a chance to meet up with them there at some point.  There will undoubtedly be others there who are equally interesting.  We’ll see.  But more importantly, I need to make an effort to delve further into the social aspects of Portland, and make my “me time” more connected.
It wasn’t much, but it was nice.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Fifty-six

Day 56 - Respectful Disagreement
I had an interesting experience.  I asked a friend how he was doing; I said, “How are you, my friend?”  
“Just OK?”
“I’m surprised you’re even calling me your friend.”
(Whoa....  Where did that come from?)  It turns out he took issue with my political views as indicated by the articles I had recently posted on Facebook.  I admit I was surprised to find out he was Republican (I think he is the only artist I know who is), but that wasn’t what surprised me the most.  I was taken aback by the idea that just because I didn’t like the brinkmanship demonstrated the Tea Partiers in Congress, and have made my feelings clear about them, I might include him in with them.
First, he’s not in Congress.  Second, I don’t discard my friendships because we have opposite views of a given subject.  While I might agree with certain columnists’ descriptions of the ideological extremists that are forcing their narrow views onto our government’s actions, I don’t automatically describe all fiscal conservatives the same way.  Some are actually rational.
What made me feel good about the whole conversation that ensued was the fact that we could disagree and discuss without shouting, name-calling, or otherwise shutting down the other person.  If anything, I think the friendship was strengthened (at least one can hope).  He treated me with respect, and I reciprocated.  I was glad we could disagree without being disagreeable.  I only wish our representatives in government could do as well.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Fifty-five

Day 55 - Esteem
I believe in Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs.”  I’ve seen it work.  If you don’t know who Abraham Maslow was, or what this hierarchy is, do a quick Google search.  (He introduced it in 1943, and still it’s “news”....)
I was treated today to a moment of “esteem” - the fourth of five levels - as I was asked to facilitate a support group for job seekers.  The group founder, Cleon Cox, was going to be late due to another engagement, and he asked me to lead the group this week.  This was an “esteem” moment because when he asked me to cover for him, Cleon indicated I had the competence to do it, and that he trusted me.  It made me feel very good.
OK, so it’s not leading an international think tank, or a presidential panel.  This was leading a fairly unstructured conversation among a group of people in the Portland area looking for full time employment.  But still, Cleon’s trust means something to me.  It’s not what people do that makes us remember them, it’s how they make us feel.  
I’ll never forget a teacher I had many years ago saying to our class that while we may be loved unconditionally, to be trusted is the greater compliment.
Thank you, Cleon, for trusting me.