Heliotrope

“Some people are so much sunshine to the square inch.”– Walt Whitman

I’ve never been afraid of starting over. I enjoy new experiences and have never had too much difficulty moving to a new place because I love being a part of the ebb and flow of life within a community’s boundaries.

Nearly seven years ago, my family had the opportunity to relocate to a beautiful region in the Pacific Northwest—and we jumped at the chance. It was the fulfillment of a dream, as we were finally able to purchase property and develop it as we saw fit.

We moved to the area during the summer, and those first few months were a whirlwind. There was so much work to be done, cleaning, repairing and upgrading the property, that we spent little time doing anything else. We were so busy with those things, in fact, that I never really gave a thought toward integrating into the community itself.

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Throwing A Lifeline

Earlier this week, I had  Mike Rowe’s podcast playing in my car while I was running errands. I tend to like most of what he does, and I wound up just sitting in the car at my destination to finish listening to this particular episode (which, for the record, was #173: Visiting Hours).

Without giving too much away (because it’s worth a listen) the episode focuses on the idea that letters from home are one of the lifelines soldiers hold onto when they’re deployed in foreign territory, far away from everything they know. It underscores an idea I’ve talked about before, which is that written communications hold a special place in our relationships.

Then, today, I saw a Facebook post where a friend asked, “what has 2020 meant to you, in one word?” My own word came readily to mind, but I was genuinely curious to see how others responded to this question. This has been such an odd year. We’re all out of sorts, and most of us are living with changes that we would never have envisioned one short year ago.

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Rebalance

Given the amount of time since my last post, I suppose that some of you have been wondering whether I’d fallen into the abyss. That’s actually not the case. Quite the opposite, in fact—I’ve been out exploring new frontiers.

It’s required some lifestyle changes that have meant a redesign of my schedule, however, and I’ve been left with quite a bit less free time. I am still here, and writing, it’s just that not much (read: none) of it seems to have made its way to this blog.

Please forgive my absence. I’ve spent the last couple of months trying to find equilibrium. I think things must be leveling out, however, because today, for the first time in quite a while, I got an idea for a new blog. I’ll try to get it written up and posted this week, barring unforeseen scheduling conflicts.

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Rate of Exchange


“Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand.”- Emily Kimbrough

I’ve been sort of floundering around over the past few weeks, trying to come up with a topic worthy of discussion, and failing miserably. I’ve decided it’s because my musings here tend to be rooted in conversations I have with friends in the normal course of life…and there’s been far too little time spent lately with some of the people who inspire me and make me think.

Because our house is still practicing social distancing, the precious little socializing I have been able to do has taken on a very special quality. When I saw a friend recently after months apart, I was surprised by the depth of the emotional reaction I had to seeing her in person again. I mean, I’ll be honest, I always feel a little bit like I’m getting away with something in my friendships; like I’m getting the better end of the deal without the other person quite being aware of it. That feeling is even more pronounced now, because I feel the absence of these interactions so keenly.

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Heavy Lifting

I recently published an article in Forbes titled “How to Cultivate Mental Toughness In Uncertain Times”. I hadn’t put up a blog about it until now because I’ve spent the last couple of weeks thinking about this concept and how it applies all through our lives.

The primary reason I focused on this topic to begin with was that I was hearing from so many friends about how precarious they feel their balancing act is during these weeks of social distancing. People are facing brand-new professional, financial, relationship and parenting challenges—all at once, on a large scale—and it’s taking a toll.

No doubt about it, quarantine has turned many of our lives upside down. I think, however, that we have to be very careful and not forget that in the midst of all this, people are also experiencing hardships that have absolutely nothing to do with this virus, or quarantine. They’re dealing with past traumas, new illnesses, and losses of all kinds.

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So Emotional

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”– Edward Everett Hale

Emotional intelligence—sometimes referred to as emotional quotient or EQ—is the ability to recognize and manage both your own and other’s emotions. Two researchers, Peter Salavoy and John Mayer, developed the concept in the 1990s, and used it to define and improve communication within marriages.

Over time, it’s become clear how emotional intelligence is critical to maintaining relationships in their various iterations, including those we foster in the business world. The concept is of such interest to employers that it’s being researched extensively to gain a better understanding of its impact on leadership and success. (Data shows EQ is the number one predictor of performance. You can see my Forbes article on that topic here.)

Emotional intelligence is more important than ever right now, because it feels a little bit like we’re living in a world under siege. It’s not just about the threat (and reality) of this specific virus. We’re all operating under new pressures. Millions of people have had to change how they function at work and are trying to juggle personal and professional obligations in a world that’s no longer compartmentalized. Millions more have lost their jobs or businesses entirely because of forced closures. How will they pay their bills?

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Merry and Bright

Winter is my least favorite season. There. I’ve said it.

I love the holidays, but I really sort of despise winter. I guess we’re not technically there yet—the winter solstice is still a couple of weeks away—but someone apparently forgot to tell the local weather. It’s utterly convinced that the season has arrived.

What that means in the Pacific Northwest is grey skies, fog… and rain. Lots and lots of rain, for months on end. Until recent years, I’d spent most of my life in sunny climates, and I don’t think I appreciated the sunshine enough. I can tell you, it’s not something I take for granted now.

Today there’s been a constant thrum of rain that has all but washed away the noise of the outside world. Without any background sounds from music or television, the only things to be heard are the clicks of my keyboard and a steady musical plink as drops hit the roof’s metal flashings.

And it’s dark. Why is it so dark at 4:30 in the afternoon?

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Change of Pace

Lean on me, when you’re not strong”. – Bill Withers

As some of you may know, or have gathered from previous postings, I’ve had a fun medical year with a broken foot that ended up needing surgery back in September. I am on my feet and walking around now, but I’m still having trouble with mobility and tend to move at what feels like a snail’s pace.

Last week, a friend and I attended an event that turned out to be much larger than I had anticipated. As a result, parking was at a premium, and we wound up in a spot a couple of blocks away.

When we got out of the car, I apologized in advance for the fact it would be slow going, even over such a short distance. Without missing a beat, my friend looped her arm through mine and said “There’s no hurry. We’ll take as much time as you need”.

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Present Tense

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” – Hamilton Wright Mabie

As the temperatures fall, and I begin to see the skeletons of the trees and the frost diamonds sparkling in the morning sun, I welcome the idea of a warm wood stove, and quiet evenings spent with family and friends. This can be the most peaceful time of year, if you allow yourself the freedom to enjoy it.

I realize that may be easier said than done. This month, I did some research on the holiday season and discovered that 62% of people say their stress and anxiety is “elevated” this time of year. I think the biggest reason for that is increased responsibilities; we’re stretching ourselves even further physically, mentally, and financially to meet the demands of the season. You can see my Forbes article that addresses that idea here.

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Character Study

The better you know yourself, the better your relationship with the rest of the world. – Toni Collette

My son is in his first term of college and is taking a career class that is helping him narrow down career options based on his interests and personality. It’s a pretty brilliant idea, actually. I wish I’d done something similar in my first year of college; perhaps I’d have realized that my chosen career wasn’t a good fit for me and changed tracks.* Instead, I had to figure it out the hard way in my 20’s, when I finally started to realize what I was good at, and what I enjoyed.

I don’t suppose I’m the only one who missed the mark on understanding certain things about myself as I established my adult identity, but I got so many things wrong. There really should be some sort of “adulting” certification, and personality testing should be a mandatory component.

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