Friday, March 30, 2012

More on the C-suite

My good friend Tamara challenged me to explore the C-suite, that inner committee of chiefs that advise me. In particular, she suggested that I write a job description for the chief relaxation officer. So I spent some time doing that today and here's what I came up with for three of them:

CRO (chief relaxation officer)
Advocate for time off, turning off the computer, taking a break during the work day
Plan restorative vacations and prompt me to make those plans concrete
Help me get to the gym
Help me identify restful relationships and arrange time with those folks
Help me identify non-restful relationships and help me let those folks go
Help me set boundaries with my time and energy
Advocate for work/play balance
Remind me to pet Nellie and Frannie

CSO (chief spiritual officer)
Advocate for quiet time
Help me remember to meditate, rest in Spirit
Remind me to go to AA meetings and do a regular 10th and 11th step
Help me get out into nature and connect with whatever part of nature is around me
Encourage me to have deep conversations
Help me live by my values
Help me live by the Serenity Prayer

CCO (chief creative officer)
Help me make creative retreats a priority
Put the right creative opportunities in my path
Put the right people in my path
Encourage me to sustain the urge to create and to act on it
Help me have the discipline to be active and creative
Give me the courage to risk

I found this really interesting to think about. Now to consider the next step.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Women and food

On most Fridays, I host women writers here for a day of silence and writing. At lunch, we talk about different things and often about food. One of the women is on the Paleo diet (and writing about it). Feels better, is losing weight. Another struggles with food allergies and addictions and has gut issues. Portland seems a hotbed, as it were, of doctors sensitive to food issues. Or maybe it's because the town is full of naturopaths who are trained to think of diet and digestion as the root of most problems. (We have lots of naturopaths because we have one of the biggest naturopathic training colleges here.)

I've become rather skeptical about food allergies. My friend Pam appears to be allergic to lots of foods (she has migraines), but her careful diet doesn't seem to keep the migraines away. And when I travel in other parts of the country, people don't seem to have food allergies. They eat what's served and don't appear to be in any worse health than people here. Maybe it's a fad, maybe it's real. I don't know.

But what really struck me yesterday at lunch, after our elaborate conversations about what we will and won't eat, and what we can't stop eating, and what we wish we didn't crave, was a quiet comment from Judy, who spends half the year in South Africa working with poor women. Over there, the issue is getting enough to eat. She made that quiet comment and then held her peace. I admired her restraint and suddenly our conversation, real and important as it is, as health always is, took another perspective.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Using all the members of your C-suite

C-suite is a term I learned recently. It means the team of "chief" officers of a corporation, typically, the chief executive officer (CEO), the chief financial officer (CFO), and the chief operations officer (COO). In my counseling session with my spiritual director, I was confessing to continuing to work too much, to say yes to too many projects, and we began talking about what part of my self is making those decisions. Although she used the term Board of Directors, I immediately thought of the C-suite and who is running my life.

Most of the time in my life I see that the CFO and the COO are making the decisions. Taking more work is about money and financial insecurity. Staying busy with the day to day of life is where the COO comes in and my COO is a perfectionist so everything gets done.

But as I talked with Anna, I realized that I need to be listening to other members of the C-suite: the CSO (chief spiritual officer), the CCO (chief creativity officer), the CEO (chief emotional officer), and the newest member of the suite, the CRO (chief relaxation officer). How to go about that isn't clear but it's an image worth exploring.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

On the same note as the last post

I've had some great responses to the last post.

My writer friend Mary passed along this potential business card, suggested by her son:

"Your name here, Advisor
You don't even have to to ask."

 And my friend Karen often says, "Never pass up an opportunity to keep your mouth shut."

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Unsolicited advice

Last Tuesday, I had breakfast with a close friend. I was talking to her about an insight I'd had, a sort of emotional conundrum, and when I paused to gather my thoughts, she said quickly, "What are you doing Friday?" and proceeded to recommend that I take a workshop she was planning to attend that would clearly solve my problem.

Her advice came from concern for me but it annoyed me nonetheless for I hadn't asked for it. And she hadn't asked if I wanted it. And I realized in my irritation, that just like her, I freely offer advice way too frequently without asking if it's welcome.

There is something gentler and less intrusive in asking "Would you like a suggestion?" than in assuming that what I have to offer is wanted or even needed. Too often I don't allow the person talking to just think out loud. And thinking out loud is not necessarily asking for help. The idea of a sounding board, I believe, is to come to our own solutions, to hear our problem or question something out loud, to consider possibilities (perhaps offered by another), and reach our own decision.

What I found with my friend is that I didn't want her solution. I just wanted her to listen, to be present for my conversation. And when she tried to fix it, I just shut down. It didn't feel safe any more to ruminate in her presence. And that made me sad.

A year or so ago, I broke with a good friend over her insistence that I listen to unsolicited comments about my behavior and how I could fix them. I don't know what she found offensive in what I was doing as I refused to accept her unsolicited advice and sadly that meant the end of the friendship. But telling others what's wrong with them (in AA, we call this "taking someone else's inventory") never does any good and I was not in an emotional place to want to hear her criticisms, especially if they were linked in her mind to the continuation of the relationship.

Last Tuesday's experience was a good reminder about my own behavior, about just listening. And not offering my ideas about your problem, which, of course, is so much easier to fix than my own.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Love and admiration

This week during my conversation with my spiritual director, I had a major aha about my relationships with other people. I realized that one of the reasons that the letter last weekend from my ex was upsetting to me was that it was clear that this person, who had been a major player in my young adulthood, neither loved nor admired me. Maybe he did at one time. Certainly he desired me. Possibly he admired me. I don't know that he ever loved me. But the fact that his letter was full of evidence that at this juncture he does neither felt very painful.

I grew up desperately unsure of my mother's love. And by 6 or 7, I had learned to confuse or perhaps substitute her admiration for her love. She was happy with me when I get gold stars on my papers and good reports from the teacher. She wasn't happy with me when I got sent into the hallway for being disruptive or to the principal's office for talking too much in class. So if I was a good girl, an exceptional girl, an admirable girl, she would love me.

The crux of the matter, I realized in Anna's office, was that I learned I could do things to get people to admire me. I could be smart or funny or clever. I could get good grades or into a good college or work efficiently or solve problems or write books. But I learned or decided that I couldn't do anything, not easily it seemed to me, to get people to love me. They did (like my dad) or they didn't (like my mother). I could make them un-love me by being cruel or unkind but I couldn't make someone love me.

So in that odd and magical way we do, I moved into adulthood and found a succession of men who desired me and admired me but didn't love me. This confirmed my beliefs. Funny how we do that to ourselves. We find just the right people, as if by magic, who make the stories we've made up about life truer than true.

And I came to believe that I didn't care if they didn't love me as long as they admired me. That admiration was enough. And here I am, 65, and deciding that that isn't true.