Monday, March 15, 2010

The Colors of Life

Life is art. Sometimes its an abstract painting. The kind where paint is shot from a cannon violently at the canvas. Ever feel that way? Like you're standing in front of a cannon anticipating the blow of red goo. Will it destroy what you know, or show you something new and wonderful?? I think its one part attitude and one part mental capacity for growth.

Most everyone would agree that the people in our lives can teach us and help us grow. Would most everyone also agree that we grow and learn the most from the people we don't necessarily love having in our lives? I've spent the last 3 years in a job that I, for the most part, don't have any passion for. I greatly enjoy the leadership aspect. I love supporting and challenging people to be their best, and watching the fruits of my labors as they grow and then turn to thank me for the push. But the foundational elements of my work are not really the field I want to be in. Originally I saw it as a great opportunity to build my resume. It turned out to be an opportunity to build my character instead.

I'm not even 30, and most of the women I work with are in their late 40s and 50s. This has presented many different opportunities for me to stand in front of the cannon (or cannons) and wonder what color and at what velocity it would shoot out at me and my canvas. I belong to Generation X. Most of my coworkers are Baby Boomers. If you know anything about generational research, these two are everything but allergic to each other. Toxic when mixed. In addition, there's the "kid" factor. I'm young, inexperienced, have no respect for "how things have always been done." Of course not, because I don't have a clue how things were done 20 years ago. I was watching Smurfs, eating Lucky Charms with my babysitter. The point is, its been a huge learning curve, with not many cheerleaders on the sidelines.

I recently had lunch with a coworker of mine-young, bright-who was going through something similar. Trying to contribute and improve the agency but people didn't want to listen, and her growth had been stunted. She was doing her job quite well, but lacked a challenge. We discussed how much we had learned from working with people with whom we had so very little in common, and I'm not talking Bridge club and weekend grandchildren visits. We're talking about theoretical approaches to leadership, problem-solving and policy implementation. Dale Carnegie stuff. So frustrating. But it has given us both the opportunity to choose. Do we get angry and resentful? Or do we find a creative approach to preserve our happiness and continue to contribute in some way to the success of the agency? Do we complain about our incompetent boss, or take notes on what qualities we see as essential in a management role, and how we want to exemplify those in our future? It was refreshing to have such an open, mature conversation with her. I felt encouraged.

I come from a highly religious upbringing, which I have chosen not to continue in adulthood. This has been a complicated transition, and continues to provide me with opportunities to once again, hope a beautiful new shade will explode on my canvas which I can embrace and enjoy as complementary of the colors already painted. I have an endless struggle on my hands. The struggle of living my life to find my own happiness and peace, much to the disappointment and disgrace of my family, or yielding to their definition of happiness, which results in being untrue to myself and my values of self acceptance and honesty. And, as my mom put it today "you have your family forever" so how do I ever find a solution? These circumstances have resulted in some interesting conversations here and there, none as poignant as one I had today. Markedly painful. I had to really dig deep and evaluate myself. Are you doing it for them or you? Are you motivated by what others think or by what your heart and mind plead? Can you be at peace that these answers will never be accepted by them? I expect this conversation between my little shoulder angel and devil will ensue hundreds of times over the course of my life. A battle that may never be won, but must continuously be fought, to keep me afloat, awake, aware.

Pain is the key. Pain awakens us. I can't imagine its often that you say to yourself "wow my stomach really doesn't hurt right now. That's great. I'll keep doing what I'm doing." We make adjustments to our lives based on mistakes or intentional mishaps, but ultimately, pain. If its comfortable, why change? I think people give us the greatest opportunities to change, IF WE CHOOSE.

It takes enormous amounts of strength and courage to be willing to 1-recognize the pain 2-accept it and ourselves as we feel it, and resist placing blame or dismissing it through reactive emotions 3-see it as something to be learned from! So often pain is interpretted as an indicator that something is WRONG- like a check engine light. When my check engine light goes on, my heart drops to my stomach. Oh know the feeling, the dread. But with people, its different. It means we can pause, and find out something new about ourselves. Why does it hurt? What does that say about me and what I value? In what ways am I fragile? What areas do I lack courage or trust or understanding of myself or others? Such potential for amazing insight! And insight that we probably couldn't have access to any other way. I need to really work on taking advantage of those opportunities while I have them. Who knows how much longer it will last...My job and family with both soon be very far away.

1 comment:

  1. Who needs pain to survive?
    I need pain TO CHANGE MY LIFE
    In gentle myths and turning leaves we all come to bury truth

    -Billy Corgan