Strengths and Struggles

 

“Creative, resourceful, and whole.”

This is how life coaches are trained to see their clients, first and foremost–or at least I know it’s how Christine sees me. She tells me all the time.

In a coach-client relationship, this fundamental framework sets the stage for the client’s strengths to shine, even as they struggle mightily with themselves, their circumstances, and those around them. By making this commitment of attitude, the coach positions herself to call forth the client’s highest and best self, and for the client to answer with authenticity, confidence, and agency. The client’s  fundamental need for psychological safety in this intimate relationship is satisfied up front and
without question, immediately creating space for honest, vulnerable work.

What if we all saw one another this way? What if we at least practiced more awareness of our default opinions, narratives, assumptions, and expectations of ourselves and other people?

As physicians counseling for habit change, as parents guiding behavior and skills development, as leaders coordinating team collaboration and working for collective goals–how often do we look down at those around us, seeing first their flaws, deficiencies, and pathologies? How often with spouses, bosses, coworkers, siblings, neighbors, and people of other races, classes, genders, sexualities, and professions?

Who do we see first as admirable, worthy of respect and reverence? How do we show up differently to these people, compared to others? And how does this impact–no, incite, inspire, or create—how they show up to us?  Don’t you find that a person’s vibe precedes them when they approach you?  You feel it
in your body, no?  Our species could not survive, evolve, and dominate without this instinctive, innate sense.  How much more could we accomplish, how much more potential could we realize, if we all approached one another with the sincere intention to bring out one another’s best?  Or if we each just did it a little more often?

It’s humbling to notice what negative assumptions and narratives I tell about people, and how blind it makes me to their gifts, talents, and contributions.  But the moment I can let go these mental chains,  I’m free, and I free them, from these unspoken yet deeply held limitations on possibility.  If I can choose more often to hold people first and foremost as Creative, Resourceful, and Whole, I know at least my own life will be much better, because I will show up to people joyful and curious.  And I bet I can make a much bigger, lighter, and more loving impact in everything I do.

ODOMOBaaT.

 

NaBloPoMo Theme Reveal, 2021

Okay, friends, it begins! 

National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) was an annual November thing back in 2015, when I started this blog.  Apparently the person who started it no longer claims it or formally facilitates, but many of us still practice.  This year a small cadre of women physician writers may join me in the challenge, woohoo!

The theme for this, my 7th year, emerged over the summer.  As some of you know, Son is a senior in high school, applying to college right now.  On a walk through the neighborhood one sunny evening in August, I ran into parents of two different classmates, kids he’s known since preschool.  We compared our respective parental experiences of contemporary college apps—fascinating!  In both conversations, I asked my counterparts what they wished most for their kids to learn at college, and then in life.  As usual, the question arose from outward curiosity, and before I could finish asking, I really wanted to answer for myself, too.

In short order, three primary ‘adulting skills’ came to mind: 

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Critical thinking

Over subsequent weeks the list grew quickly, as I sought additions from other friends and family. I noticed it was mostly nouns, which started to feel listless and uninspiring. Simon Sinek points out, in Start With Why, that posting static concepts such as ‘Honesty’ as organizational values is too abstract and unmotivating; it doesn’t tell people what to do. He recommends converting such nominal platitudes to verb statements instead: Isn’t ‘Always Tell the Truth’ a much clearer and more activating expression? And bonus: it also makes us accountable.

So this November, I intend to post one ‘action mantra’ each day, that I hope for my children to practice, to live a good life. I have chosen the theme title: Do Good, Kid. I like that play on words, too. 😉

This year’s theme is, perhaps, more personally meaningful and coherent for me than previous ones. I imagine it as the lifelong learning To Do list that could persist as my kids’ ethical earworms when I’m not around to remind them. It’s also a record of my own personal aspirations. How can I ask them to do anything I’m not willing to model myself? I have 30 days, and well over 30 practices to choose from. This could be fun.

So let’s see how it goes, eh?  Can’t wait can’t wait!

A Time to Try New Things

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My friends:  What’s happening for you these many weeks?  What are you noticing (again, still, and newly)?  What do you miss most, least, and/or not at all from pre-COVID life?

What’s been the best thing that’s happened for you in this time?

Many of us are out of our depth here; we have no map.  As NASA says, we must “test as we fly and fly as we test.”  That necessarily means putting aside what we usually do and how things usually work, and trying new things–experimenting.  What a fantastic opportunity for learning, growth, and connection!

Be the change alpha workout

The Alphabet Workout

How has the pandemic affected your physical activity?  How have you adjusted?  After the New Year I realized I needed workout buddies to strengthen my workout resolve.  My colleague and I started exercising together after work a couple days a week, and then the pandemic hit.  Almost right away I came across various alphabet-based interval workouts, perfect for the newly shut in.  My siblings and friends and I started meeting on Zoom to try it, first spelling our names.  We moved on quickly to our heroes’ names, and now to sayings we like.  Exercise, accountability, variety, fun, and connection—yay!

opera cake 4-26-2020

Baking

My daughter may single-handedly make our whole family diabetic.

Spring break started a week early, then the kids transitioned to distance learning, with minimal direct, real time interaction with teachers.  With so much more time to complete homework and a recently developed fascination with any and all things French, we now have a baker in the house.  And with anaphylactic allergies in the family, recipes are necessarily converted to vegan and nut-free.  To date she has succeeded with macarons, beignets, fruit turnovers, cupcakes, and red velvet cake.  But by far I’m proudest of her opera cake, completed tonight and surely damaging to my waistline.  It’s worth it, though, to watch her experiment, fail, redirect, and succeed (mantra = “It’s edible!”), gaining confidence with every attempt.

The sibs had better not abandon me on those Zoom workouts, though!

moon path LOH

Photo courtesy of Dr. Karen Cornell, January 2020, Loveland, CO

Circadian Loosening

I always knew I was a night owl, but holy cow, left to my own devices, I am practically nocturnal.  I never pulled all-nighters for school.  The first time I stayed up all night reading was for one of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books—I had not even done that for Harry Potter!  I have discipline when I need it.  I get up for morning calls now; I even look forward to them, as a sailor looks for the buoy thrown by his shipmates when he has fallen overboard.  I will readjust to a regular work schedule when the time comes.  But for now I can truly enjoy my owl self.

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Connecting with Friends

Maybe you’re missing your friends the most.  Somehow I’m not, which is a bit shocking and disconcerting.  But maybe it’s because I’m still connected, in some cases better than ever.  I miss meeting Donna for breakfast at our usual egg and toast place.  But I love that we now talk weekly on the phone while walking outside.  I continue to send and receive snail mail from friends across the country.  Perhaps I’m FaceTiming more with the Colorado sister and my parents, in addition to our sibs Zoom workouts.  And finally yesterday, blogging friends Nancy and Donna and I got together, after talking about it for at least three years.  Of course it was over Zoom, but without COVID-19 who knows how long it would have taken us to meet in person, living in Washington, Illinois, and Michigan?  Now we plan to ‘meet’ monthly—so much to share!

Writing Out of My Comfort Zone

Thanks to sister member Christina Guthier from Ozan Varol’s Inner Circle, I accepted a 5 day mindful writing challenge set by Nadia Colburn this past week.  Free, only five days—why not?  Nancy, Anne, and a few other friends agreed to try it with me—they accepted my Facebook invitation.  After a short meditation and poem, each day Nadia offered a prompt, followed by ten minutes of writing dotted with serene reminders to stay with the breath and remember to smile.  In these brief, structured and yet freeform sessions, I stretched existing ideas and queries farther than usual.  I quieted the inner critic sometimes and not others.  I learned a little more about my style and preferences for writing.  And I wrote a poem.

Based on “I Am Offering This Poem” by Jimmy Santiago Baca, Day 5’s prompt asked us to write a poem entitled, “I Am Offering This ______ to You.”

Onward, my friends.  Let us try new things, learn, grow and connect.

 

I Am Offering This Love to You

So imperfect

So flawed

So human

Yet honest, earnest, real

How can I make sure

You feel it the way I intend?

Or do I even need to?

Who would that be for?

What’s the best way for you to feel

Loved by me?

According to whom?

What is the best outcome

Of all this love

We carry for each other

In our families

Between friends

For our country

For the world

For humanity?

How can we live into this now

Today?

I am offering this Love to you

Now

On this day

In this moment

With this breath

What will you do with it?