Monday, September 30, 2013

Plot twist!

I recently saw a posting from Elizabeth Gilbert's Facebook page that said: "When something in your life goes wrong, stop and yell "PLOT TWIST"and move on!"

Elizabeth Gilbert, for those who don't recognize the name, is the best selling author of "Eat, Pray, Love" and if you know me well, I have shared with you how much that very novel eerily mirrored a very low point in my life. At the same time, Liz' story echoed and helped me channel feelings, thoughts and experiences I was living myself. When describing how much this book changed my outlook on life, a relative said to me that "it was the most selfish novel she had ever read", put it down and didn't even finish it. My question: Is it selfish to examine your life at a crossroads and make what at the time is the best decision to get out of an unhealthy environment? Then, for once in my life, call me selfish.

This is not an ode to Liz Gilbert's writing, life-changing a-ha moment in Shangri-La. This is about how we are constantly faced with situations, challenges, hurdles, in essence, life. Life happens. If it didn't, we'd be dead, right? Duh... ;) So, I take a moment, to again, reflect on the last few days.

As long as I can remember I have been complimented with having a positive outlook on life. I look up and again insist on God (yeah, YOU!) having a pretty twisted sense of humor. ;) OK, I'll bite. I am always seeing, and if it doesn't come easy, I dig, dig and keep digging, until I find the positive in a situation. I cry, I run and burn my loud PUERTO RICAN sprinkled anger, but I get over it so quick sometimes I surprise myself.

I work hard, really hard, too hard and that at times is not good. When you don't see certain elements of your job as simply a job and more as part of your life, you have to be careful. I am learning that. Balance is everything. Not easy, but necessary. What I have experienced on the professional front is more along the lines of "been there, done that, now what?" I also look at gaining skills and experience as more of an asset than a sense of complacency. So, been there, done that, bring me more. Plot twist! I am not the only one, certainly not the first educated educator to explore new ways to do good work, to find creative and innovative means to share message, nurture a relationship, get a kid excited about school. Been there, done that. Let's do it again!

When I was about nine or ten I used to take old, huge WorldBook encyclopedia books and read them. After a while, for some reason I would go find a piece of paper and a pencil and would transcribe everything I had read. I would copy what was already written. Don't ask me why, I just enjoyed doing it. I enjoyed the feeling of writing. Holding the pencil and tracing on the sheet. Fast forward and I heard over and over again I am not good enough; good enough about this and certainly not good enough about that. That pretty much crushed quite a few goals and dreams. Wait for it.... Plot twist!

When I got off the phone after sharing my sympathy and pain with a cousin whose mother had died, my head was going to explode. I sat down in front of the computer and began to write. I didn't stop for almost 6 hours. I submitted what I believed was a short story to a colleague, English professor, for him to just humor me. His feedback: this is not a short story, it's a novel. You can write, make it work. Plot twist indeed! It only took 15 years, but I finally heard what I needed to hear in order to hesitantly take this skill, gift, talent, whatever this is, and appreciate it, embrace it. More than anything, I learned not to be AFRAID to use it, share it, do it, express it. Feedback or no feedback. Been there, done that, give me more!

People can be rude, mean, hurtful. That's unfortunate, but it's real. I mean, we all need people like this in our lives at least for the occasional clinching sensation of nails on a chalkboard, right? If not, life can be boring and who wants that. At least we get some writing material or at least a bit of comic relief... ;) Smile, I am keeping it light, cool? I say this because the plot twist may be necessary at times when dealing with a difficult person. I listen, respect, don't talk back, respect, respect and did I say respect? If that does not work something has to give, something has to change and if I am still standing there, talking to a wall, guess what? Plot twist!

No lecture here... just a reflection on memories, dreams, hopes and wants at times when things may not have made much sense. Moral of the story, life Dr. Webber, on his death bed told us last week during the season premiere of Grey's Anatomy: You have one life to live, how are you going to live it. Decide to live, to love. Decide. Feel, cry, laugh, get angry and run like hell to burn off steam. Love with all your heart and if you must, CHANGE, because it only proves we are indeed ALIVE. I guess we should be thankful in my at-times annoyingly positive, supportive tone...and if somethings in life go wrong, stop and yell PLOT TWIST and move on!

Friday, September 20, 2013

One of these things is not like the others... ?

It seems that as I get older the wheels in my head (not the bus) go round and round more each day.
It seems that the clarity and perspective I now see things with reminds me every day I am alive, awake, aware.

The last few weeks have certainly been full of challenges, blessings, celebrations of love and life better described as the sad and unfortunate, but long-waited passing of a beloved relative. For the last few weeks, the day to day has taught me lessons of patience, risk, trust and perseverance.

While every day, be it at work or at home, a need to focus on the priorities, the pecking order, the immediate needs take center stage. Here comes part of the challenge...Well, what if you, like me, are programmed to be able to juggle more than one ball in the air; to compartmentalize each area or item on your "to do" list and get to them at the appropriate time they merit. What if you are really good at more than one thing. What if you can be known, not just for your skills, but for the experience, expertise and way on conveying a message... What if you can listen attentively during a meeting as the presenter is pitching an idea you already connected the very idea to two or more possible links in order to support it or benefit from it? What if you are a connector and very precise in connecting dots for the betterment an organization??

What if you try to juggle too many balls in the air and suddenly you look to the left as someone said "squirrel!" and all balls fall to the ground. Ah! You got distracted. You dropped the ball, literally. Well, that happens.

I reflect on these questions and the statement that one of these things is not like the others because I have recently been challenged with, not just finding a balance in priorities, but to make sense of those very priorities, when at the same time and to the outsider looking in, all look equally important. How do you determine the pecking order. How do you determine if they are all "big picture" or "little picture"?

Today during a lunch conversation a colleague and I discussed priorities, but more than anything, common sense. Ha! At times it seems that common sense ends up as the last kid to get picked to play for a team and almost does not make the cut of how to prioritize. Basically, the advice we gave each other, in full-blown, but unintentionally Latino support, was to take look at all items on our "to do lists" and check off one by one, those things we can do TODAY that we both know are important.
Then, use common sense to arrange the items we know will take more time and resources, more man power and more collaboration. Those items are big picture and ideally, common sense has a role to play.

A wise and loving man said to me recently, as he listened to my rant about challenges I was facing having to let go of projects I am passionate about. He said "take nail and hammer it to the wall, then hang that problem on it... and walk away," more or else. It sounds better in Spanish "ponlo en un clavo y déjalo ahí." He believes God (yes, hi up there! ;)) will do a little surveying of his own and decide if what's hanging from the nail is worth staying there, hopefully, adding to the aesthetics of your life, like a pretty painting decorating your home. Perhaps what's hanging from the nail is not worth your time and does not add anything of value to your work, especially, your life. In other words, let it go and if it's mean to be, it will come back, it will happen. And yes, it will take time, so be patient.

So, one of these things is not like the others.... Meh, I guess not, but that's OK. Balancing work, life, family and friends is not easy. One of these things is not as important as others and we must put them in some sort of a pecking order??? Then again, why can't they??? I will keep trying to balance as much as I can (with patience, practice and perseverance) and do my best not to drop any of the balls flying above me, yet understanding that indeed it is OK if I can't do everything, all of the time. But as hard as it may be, darn it, I won't give up my passions and WILL try to balance as much as I can.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The two "Ls": labels and love.

The two Ls, labels and love...

You might recognize the phrase as one of the very first lines in "Sex and the City"- the first movie, please, for the sequel leaves something to be said. So, disappointing.

Anyway, this entry is in no way shape of form, neither an ode to Carrie Bradshaw, as much as I could quote her on a daily basis, nor about the two "Ls" she describes. My labels and love combination is far nerdier than hip, more intense that light-hearted (although I will try my best to indeed, keep it light- do you not know me? ;)) and certainly more appropriate for the world inhabited by those of us plagued with actually loving what we do and what career path we have chosen.  Shhhh, so, some of us chose the road less traveled, but to quote my favorite graduate from Dartmouth, not Dr. Seuss, but Robert Frost, it made all the difference.

In the movie, Carrie's Ls, labels and love, refer to the kind of labels many of us ladies (and quite a few gents I know!) are fluent in, Kors, Mizrahi, Gucci, Coach; the kind of labels that represent a look, a personality, some would say, a certain level of sophistication and of style. I do love those labels, but truly, for me they stand more for allowing some of us to be more in tune with the three Ps: poise, professional and put-together. Plug for the many style-icons in my family that enabled my educational metamorphosis into a labels savvy gal.

Carrie also describes the other L, love as the one we tend to generally default to: romantic love. The combination of emotions, thoughts, feelings and experiences when we fall in love are both exhilarating as they are nauseating. Don't we love it. The pain that comes with being in love, finding love, nurturing love, losing love, we desire in a sick and purely masochistic way. Ha! Bring it on, right?

Well, again, permit me to explain and clarify that the labels and the love I am feeling most animated about tonight, are not quite the same.

I am a woman, a daughter, a mother-less daughter, a mother-less mother, divorced, college educated. I am Puerto Rican, Spanish speaker,  English teacher, self-proclaimed expert on useless movie trivia from the 1930s until now. I have such and such titles and responsibilities at work. I am known as the go-to person to write prayers on the spot. I am this and I am that. I have labels that define me.

Labels are placed on people, as the Coach bag is handed to the woman who carries it well, strutting her strut around and sending a message. Confidence? Maybe. Fear? Could be. The label on her bag adds to the label that IS her. Good? Bad? Think about it...

Labels are frowned upon by many individuals who don't like the label they were either born with, or received upon reaching a certain stage or age in their lives. What's the point, I used to ask my students, of all of this?? Well, I have recently come to a realization and until I was challenged with having to examine my own labels, I had not appreciate the power they could have. Labels send a message, which could be good, bad, indifferent. Let's shoot for good, shall we? THAT is the power of the label.

Love. As passionate as I am about everything related to "loving" this, that, this person, that place, my "love" doujour is the love of vocation. Talk about true love. No, I am not zoning in vocation in the religious life way, but the holistic and true meaning of the word: a God-given gift and calling. My vocation is to be an educator. A ha! Is that a label? Stay with me! :)

When speaking about love, about true love, is it to describe a deep and profound feeling of joy, often mixed in with a dash of pain, but overall, life-filling and life-saving. That type of love is what I am talking about and how it can be difficult to explain, let alone articulate, when you are talking about in the context of what you do for a living. This is not meant to be saying in simple terms, I love my job. This is more than that. What I am trying to convey is that very sense of fulfillment in what you do. That just like a long, committed loving relationship at times, experiences challenges and heartaches, disappointments and frustrations. The catch is you stick it through. You weather the storm, you renew your commitment, because you believe you are doing what you are doing for a reason bigger than you. You love it.

We all have labels that make us unique, perfectly imperfect human beings that have a choice. We ca either choose to use our label as a crutch or strut our stuff and take our labels out for a spin in the road less traveled that may make a difference. Embracing our labels make us proud of what we have to bring to "the table", at work, at home, on the field, for the team. Each label comes with a history, a story, a perspective. We should not let the label hinder our successes or get in the way of our dreams, especially if it will negatively affect what we love, who we love. And guess what, having many labels is a good thing. I wish some people would see that.

Labels and love go together. Whether you get the knock off label at a certain time in your life, that's OK. Don't get hung up on the superficial meaning of the label, but of the true value and intention of what the label has to offer... Yes, yes, you all know what I a talking about. Our labels define us and add to the passion of the LOVEs, the vocation we so love because it also defines who we are, the place we love to work at because of the value, skills and talents, our label, brings to the bigger goals; to the person we so deeply love who supports and cheers for us in gray and gloomy days when not even the brightest label can make us smile.

Labels and love go together... Having a firm grip on recognizing the real label from the occasional knock off (DISCLAIMER, if I could get my hands on the Michael Kors knock off I bought in China, but left in the taxi, I would- lol!!), will help us perhaps define better what it is we truly love. This is a round-about way of saying, knowing first who you are will surely help guide you in life as you define your passions, likes and dislikes, loves of your life. :)

I am this and I am that... those are my labels and they make me who I am, and who I am is the person that deeply and truly loves her vocation, her label as educator. I shout out (embracing my label of loud and life-lovin Puerto Rican!) my label of loving what I do and what I work for...

Love your label, label your love.