Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Potential, Not Position (or, what makes me a leader)

Let's play a little word association. When I say the word "leader," what comes to mind?

Specific people? Like Angela Merkel, Nelson Mandela, or President Obama?
Or maybe your list is dominated by qualities? Like integrity, charisma, or decisiveness?

I've never thought of myself as a leader. My work history is marked by several lateral changes to explore new industries and develop new skill sets. As a result, I haven't climbed a traditional career ladder, and have never held a position with any significant power.

However, as a member of the 2016-2017 Women's Leadership Program offered by the Boston Chamber of Commerce, I've started to explore what makes me a leader. At a recent two-day course taught by faculty at the Simmons College School of Management, I've identified the following abilities that make me a leader, regardless of what professional position I hold:

  • Understand, through focused and empathetic listening, what motivates people (and what demotivates them)
  • Build and articulate a shared vision by focusing on what ties groups together
  • Enable others to take action by creating frameworks for getting work done 
  • Enthusiastically and authentically celebrate small victories and create a spirit of community 
  • Identify points of frustration in a process, and then build and execute a plan for mitigating them
This list is built from the five-part leadership framework developed by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner:
  1. Model the way
  2. Inspire a shared vision
  3. Challenge the process
  4. Enable others to act
  5. Encourage the heart

What I appreciate about this model is that is defines power not as an outgrowth of one's position, but rather in relation to one's ability to help others realize their potential. This is in close alignment with my professional mission statement, which I developed in partnership with BMG. It reads,

"I get things done by engaging teams in collaboratively developing compelling goals and strategies, removing obstacles to their success, and achieving positive and measurable outcomes."

Understanding what makes me a leader is inspiring me to begin making some strategic decisions about my career path. As I uncover my own potential, I look forward to sharing it with you on here The Journey of Clownface.

Have you uncovered your own potential? What is it, and how did you uncover it? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Favorite Foods

Hello! My name is Clownface and I'm a bulimic.

I think of my bulimia like many people think of alcoholism. While I've been in recovery for more than 20 years, my eating disorder will be with me for my entire life.

I actively and regularly binged from age 16 to age 21. It was only after I finished college and was living on my own that I figured out the magic of purging. I stopped purging at age 25, at the same time I stopped living by myself. I knew I couldn't keep my behaviors a secret, and because my shame about my behaviors was so great, I knew I couldn't bear being confronted about them. So I quit. Cold turkey.

Twenty-one years later, I can read my emotional triggers when I start to crave my favorite binge foods. These were:

  • Anything from McDonalds or Burger King: I used to drive home from my part-time job in college, motoring through every drive-thru window along the way, eating a complete meal. In the 20 minutes it took to get to my house, I'd easily have consumed at least 2,000 calories. One of the few memories of my dad involves him bringing home McDonald's for family dinner. I've since come to realize that the McDonald's binge is about daddy. 

  • Cookies: When I was a little girl, I thought people who ate store-bought cookies were rich. (We always had homemade cookies.) Nevertheless, my mom would occasionally have a secret stash of Oreos or other store-bought treats. As soon as I figured out where they were, I'd have my way with them. And at Christmas time, my mom always made more Christmas cookies than one family needed. She'd store them in weathered holiday tins in our front vestibule, which was so drafty that it functioned as sort of an icebox for us. I used to sneak into tiny "room," sit down, and eat. As an adult, I love to bake but I also know I need to get the food out of the house as quickly as it has cooled to remove any temptation to binge. I've since come to realize that the Oreos binge is about my longing for my mom and the feelings associated with material goods being out of reach.
  • Ben and Jerry's: In college, I could toddle down to the on-campus convenience store, purchase a pint of Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream, and eat it all within 10 minutes. All of it. Several times a week. Luckily, I'm now lactose intolerant. Unluckily, Ben & Jerry's dairy-free ice cream is as good as the real stuff. When I want ice cream now, I know this means something is up on the feelings front. 
  • Ground turkey mixed with mushroom soup and white rice: This was an easy and quick family dinner we called "glop." In my early twenties, I would make and eat an entire pan of it in one sitting - pound of ground turkey, two cans of soup, heaps of rice. I've since come to realize this binge is about longing for family. And I still make this recipe. But, when I crave it, I'll restrict myself to 1/4 pound of turkey from the butcher, a dairy-free soup, and I'll add green beans instead of rice, making a comforting mash-up of "glop" and green bean casserole. 
Bulimia will always be with me; I definitely still feel the urge to binge today. On the rare occasion, I give myself permission to this, I try to control the caloric intake by eating things like popcorn, salted, steamed vegetables (e.g., broccoli, carrots), or raw cucumbers. 

This week in the 52 Lists Project, BMG and I are blogging about our favorite foods and treats. What are your favorite foods and treats? Let me know in the comments section below. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Few of My Favorite Things (about myself)

What would you say are your best qualities? This is the question posed by the 52 Lists Project this week.

Luckily, I've had nearly 20 years of therapy and introspection to figure this out. So here goes my list of the Top Ten Things I <3 about="" i="" me="">:

1. My honesty and "transparency"
What you see (and hear) with this girl is what you get. For better or worse, if there is something you want to know about me, I'll typically tell you. On the flip side, I don't always have patience for people who obviously lack self-awareness or who deny parts of themselves.

2. My intelligence
Is this a quality, or just luck of the draw? I think the latter. Regardless, I appreciate how smart I am, even if I occasionally temper myself in the interest of not wanting to be perceived as a smarty-pants.

3. My love for my family
This is particularly true for my nuclear family and my siblings' families. I feel lucky that, having grown up with only each other, we still (mostly) want to spend time together. 

4. My deep empathy
Particularly for those who I perceive or who I know have been oppressed for reasons beyond their control (e.g., gender, sex, nation of origin, skin color, sexual orientation).

5. My dislike for overt brand devotion
I grew up poor, which meant brand names were largely out of reach for me. And I experienced them as impregnable walls between me and the "rich kids." As a result, I eschew overt brand devotion as crass braggadocio.

6. My spirit of adventure
My brother-in-law asked me on Friday night if I was truly adventurous, or if I liked the idea of calling myself adventurous. Maybe a little of both, in that I'm selectively adventurous. I won't typically try something I believe will cause harm to me or others, and I'm not always adventurous (sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name). But, I'm typically willing to push my boundaries in the interest of having a good story or discovering something new about myself.

7. My quirks
I am grateful the many ways in which my personality and my style falls outside of the lines of my particular station in life. My love for gnomes,my lack of disgust for nose-picking (everyone does it), my constant willingness to brake for squirrels, my enthusiastic style of dance not unlike that of Elaine Bennes, my nearly daily hula hooping - I could seriously go on. I embrace these things because they make me unlike anyone else I know.

8. My laugh
I don't laugh a lot, but when I do, it is loud and unabashed.

9. Parts of my physical self
I have long struggled with loving my body. Those 20 years of therapy, yeah, they were A LOT about that. But, I'm happy to say there are some physical qualities I have that I like: my breasts, my hourglass shape, my smiley eyes, my skin tone.

10. My generosity
I give 5% of my pre-tax income away to charity, and I give with intention. I love to bake, and I tend to give (nearly) all of it away to my neighbors (see #9 above), I am often willing to compromise my own needs in the interest of helping someone in crisis. BMG sees my generosity as a flaw, as an unfettered doorway to misery and exploitation. But I don't. I am glad to bring a little peace, joy and/or justice into the lives of others, and value this quality in others.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Numbers and Letters

"Let's play the numbers and letters game," I would declare. Then whichever of my siblings wanted to spend an hour dreaming of a better life would pile onto the couch and the fantasy would begin.

It went like this:
  1. The person sitting in the middle would hold the J.C. Penney catalogue.
  2. We would claim a letter and a number. "A" and "1" were the best.
  3. We would then flip through nearly every page of the catalogue, identifying which outfits, toys, and home furnishings would become "ours" based on the numbers and letters we had chosen. If you picked A or 1, whichever item bore that letter or number in the catalogue would go in your fantasy home. 
We would play this invented game for hours, going through nearly the entire catalogue, skipping only the men's fashion and tools. 

Numbers and letters was complemented by other games my siblings and I played together. Games that involved creating 2D architectural renderings of our dream homes, or building elaborate homes out of wooden blocks and Fisher Price toys. We would set up our tableaus in places where they could live for days at a time (i.e., under the dining room table, in the attic), because building a home took more than one day. 

As an adult who has had more than her fair share of therapy, I know now that, at least for me, the Numbers and Letters game helped satisfy the longings I had as a poor kid living in an increasingly wealthy and materialistic world. 

This week, The 52 Lists Project asked me and BMG to make a list of things we would do to rejuvenate our space, My brain immediately keyed into my own longings about the tiny space in which I live today, particularly the cluttered office and our pantry.  

The spare bedroom, aka the office, that I share with BMG today

The pantry/cat box space/utility storage/laundry room at The Tiny Bungalow

So let's play the grown-up version of the Letters and Numbers game. And instead of using the J.C.Penney catalogue, I'm using

So, if I had all the resources in the world to rejuvenate my current space, I would:

1. Create a tidier, lighter feeling office space. Maybe something like this?

2. BMG uses the office almost entirely for storage. Which means he's ALWAYS in the living room - working, playing, relaxing, napping. If I could, I would add comfy seating to our office, so I can have a space to which I can retreat when I need some alone time or want to escape the inevitable sound of snoring on weekend afternoons. Maybe something like this?
Atlantic Archives Images

3. Moving on to the utility room, rejuvenating this room means creating a space that doesn't put food in such close proximity to cat poop, and doesn't require sweeping every day in the fight against the our cats' desire to pave the floor with cat litter. Something like this? 
Laundry Room

4. I would also like to have a utility space with exceptionally efficient storage, solid shelves, and maybe a and a tidy counter, a place that doesn't overwhelm me with the constant need to rearrange things to make it look less cluttered, to make the food being stored more accessible. Maybe something like this:

5. While I'm dreaming about rejuvenating my space, I'd also like to request a tiny meditation space, where I can go to breathe. This would be a space that is all my own, a space where I don't have to share or compromise, where I don't have to navigate my husband's clutter, where I am not confronted by housework I have to do, bills I have to pay, obligations I need to meet. Maybe something like this:
Park Hill
Photo by Sheri Kaz Designs - Search Asian home gym pictures

I know I'm solidly middle class, living a life of privilege. BMG and I have enough money to shelter, clothe, and feed ourselves without having to struggle. By all accounts, mine is a good life and is typically one without complaints.

But, I still have longings. There is still a 10-year old self inside of me, who longs to have the finest things that she can possibly imagine. 

Thanks for the dream time, 52 Lists

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Not My Circus

"Not my circus, not my monkeys" is one of my favorite tropes.

Often described as a Polish proverb, to me, this saying acknowledges that drama exists in every person's life. And the drama from other people's lives can be very entertaining. But, at the end of the day, we can only responsible for directing our own circus. 

Which brings me to this week's 52 Lists Project writing prompt, which invites me to: 

"Make a list of the things you will try to ignore."

Now ignore is a tough word, because, by definition, it calls on me to pretend something isn't there. 

Perhaps a result of my commitment to honoring the inherent worth and dignity of every thing, but there are very few things one can actually ignore in the world. On the short list, MAYBE:
1. Paranormal claims, including sightings of the Loch Ness Monster and other mythical beings
2. Conspiracy theories espoused by people with documented and severe mental illness
3. "No-see-ums" and other pesky bugs that potentially annoy, but can't hurt me
4. Dogs barking and other animal noises that are an innate part of their species' behavior
5. Noises - usual and unusual - made by cars either driven by me or near me; I am masterful at simply turning up the volume on the radio

However, I think the spirit of the writing prompt is seeking a different kind of list. I believe this prompt is inviting me to consider making a list of things that distract me from my true north, from being my best self, so that I might try to become impervious to their meddling influence. 

At the top of this list is people and their drama that neither hurt me, nor offer me any discernible opportunity for growth, insight, or other benefit, including:
  • Men at work who constantly undermine my success by redoing or challenging projects other men have called "done" 
  • Anyone who's last name is "Kardashian" 
  • Fights between friends of friends of friends
  • Friends who do not have the self-awareness to get unstuck, and have neither requested nor seem receptive to loving feedback
  • Co-workers' trials and tribulations with their friends and family
  • Bad drivers
  • Judgments made of my weight, my housekeeping, my style of dress, my car, my cooking, or any other immaterial aspect of who I am and how I present in the world that comes from a position (conscious or unconscious) of malice or jealousy
This is the list of things I will try to remain immune to, so I can keep my focus on achieving my goals and living my values. 

What is on YOUR list of things you will try to ignore? Of things you will strive to be impervious to?

Friday, October 14, 2016

Words to Live By

What are your favorite quotes?

This is the question the 52 Lists Project is asking this week.

I'm a words person. I keep printed quotes around me - hanging on the walls of my workplace, my home office, even my bedroom and laundry room. I surround myself with inspiring words to help me stay centered, and remember how I wish to be in the world.

I have quotes I wish I remembered and lived by, like the one I keep at the top of this blog:

And then there are quotes I actually remember and often use to help me stay centered.

The most frequently used quote is this:

The first time I heard this quote, it was referenced as a Quaker saying. Since then, I've learned it has been attributed to great thinkers like Oscar Wilde, Ralph Waldo Emerson. As someone who has long struggled with giving myself permission to enjoy life, I use this quote to remind myself that it is okay to sometimes let go of my manic control of life in the interest of having fun.

A new favorite is one I discovered while on vacation in Sanibel, FL. I found it printed on the cover of a journal in a tchotke shop.
I love this quote. It gives me permission to be be my best introspective and introverted self.

The last quote is one I use in my work as a writer and strategist. I've seen it Mark Twain, Thomas Jefferson, and the Roman philosopher Cicero.
I use this quote to remind myself that thoughtfulness takes time, and to give myself an excuse when the work I've done is sloppy. Like this blog post.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

I'm No Fun

"Make a list of the things you do for fun," instructs the book 52 Lists.

My heart sink. "Dang it," I thought. "This is going to be hard."

There isn't a lot I do for "fun." This is one of the reasons why I fell in love with BMG, because he is all about the pleasure principle, and balances my instincts to dedicate my time to "getting things done."

I said to BMG, as we talked about the exercise, "There are things I do to relax. There are things I do because they are satisfying. There are things I do that make me happy. But FUN? I'm not sure there is anything I do for FUN."

"And you see how that's a problem, right?" he replied.

So I thought a little harder. And tried to recall activities that make me throw my head back with laughter, or cause me nothing but joy. I came up with this meager list:

1. Road trips with my husband
2. Going to the movies in a theater, particularly matinees
3. Watching good comedy
4. (Sometimes) shopping, especially for Christmas gifts or in foreign grocery stores
5. Playing console video games, like Zelda, which I haven't done this since at least 2012
6. Going on amusement park rides, which I haven't done since maybe 2011
7. Whitewater rafting, which I haven't done since at least 2004

What is the lesson learned from this 52 Lists post? Maybe I need to be doing more to have fun in my life. So if you are looking for me today, I'll be shopping.