Joy. I found it! Now time to dust it off…

The supreme Goddess of Wholehearted Living, @BreneBrown, has done it again. I was at the TedX Indianapolis event a week ago and they played her famous Ted Talk on Vulnerability. I have seen that video a gazillion times and it never fails to provide me with some nugget of wisdom that spurs reflection and personal insight.

That day, this was the nugget…

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See those words at the end…joy, gratitude, happiness, purpose…I had been wondering lately, “where did they go?” I didn’t feel them in my soul. Let me be clear. I knew I had many reasons to be happy and much to be thankful for and joyful for in my life. I’m a smart woman, I know I have people who love me, plenty to eat and a warm place to lay my head and sleep every night. But what concerned me was that I just couldn’t feel them deep down in my soul. Like when I went to look for these things in the depths of my being, to draw from their positive energy, it was like opening a drawer and finding it empty. I was so confused. “How can I know these things are true, know that I have had them there in my soul and now I can’t find them. Hum, where did I put them?”

Well, I had replaced them with despair. I wrote to my dear friend Karen and said, “On Saturday I received a message that hit home…it was centered around the word despair…thats it! I have been overcome by a sense of futility or defeat.” And, because of that, I was not vulnerable or willing to live a whole hearted life. I was numbing the hard feelings of despair and defeat that also meant I had misplaced my joy, gratitude and happiness. (Why is a WHOLE other post on writing the dissertation. Let’s save that for another day.)

It took two very special people in my life to make me feel them again and many dear friends to remind me that I am worthy of love, joy and all the dreams my heart desires.

Then, this morning when I woke up and went searching in my soul, I found it…

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Like an old beacon left unattended for a while, it just needs to be dusted off. I can feel hope again, it is in there. I know, because this morning when I opened the drawer looking for joy I found it and it made a sound! The pure happy, giddy, laugh from my belly joy. Now to nourish joy, gratitude and happiness in the days moving forward. I’m so glad to have found you again.

Much gratitude to my friends and family walking with me on this journey. Your gifts of love, encouragement, and belief are more precious than I could ever express. 

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Pieces of Me

As many of you now know, John and I are preparing for a major transition from Eugene to Indianapolis at the end of June. It is amazing to me how in a short amount of time, everything about your life can change. We weren’t planning a job search or to move but the Universe opened a door for us and showed us an opportunity that we couldn’t refuse. So, by the time July 1 gets here we will have packed up our lives in Eugene, sold off many of our goods, bought a new car, found a new place to live, and moved to a new city! All in 7 weeks! Again, life changes fast.

While that all may seem like chaos and completely unnerving (especially for us type-A folks that like to plan EVERYTHING out), I am at peace. This peace is giving me space to be reflective about my personal growth as each item I pack reflects the pieces of me.

At this point, my career has taken me from Texas, Michigan, Florida and Oregon. I have learned many things personally and professionally from each opportunity. There are pieces of me that I have left behind because they were no longer who I wanted to be. There are new pieces I picked up along the way because they better reflected my values.

Until now, this process over the years felt like I was shedding much of what I no longer wanted to be. Learning and growing meant unlearning many of the ways I had been socialized in order to become the woman and leader I wanted to be. Now, in this moment, I am finding pieces of me all around that I had put down unintentionally and that I actually LIKE some of those pieces. I still want them to be a part of me.

Now the question I have in my mind is, “How do I put this all back together?”

What I am grateful for is the opportunity to continue to learn and grow.

All of this is the process of becoming.

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Fearless Playlist

As mentioned in my last post, my #oneword for 2012 is fearless.

Back in December, I asked colleagues and friends on Facebook and Twitter to tell me, “what song makes you feel fearless?” I received an awesome response from people across the country and of great diversity. With the songs recommended and several additions of my own, I now have a playlist of 42 songs I listen to frequently to reinforce being fearless.

You can find the playlist here on iTunes.

What are you doing day to day to live your #oneword?

Fearless, fear less, less fear.

Happy New Year! I know I’m late to the party, but it’s better to arrive late than not at all. Especially when it comes to resolutions and setting a new #oneword for 2012.

Last year, I chose the word “spirit” and the resolution was described as: “I need to find ways to nurture my spirit and keep it alive. If it is buried, tarnished and bruised then I am not my best self for those around me. Spirit is the place from where I draw my courage, passion and agency to impact the world.” The last year I spent time internally focused and finding new ways to nurture the fire inside.

I actually started to think about what my #oneword in 2012 should be in December. It was first inspired by this post @kellystier made:

Then, in conversation with a dear friend, we identified that in Chinese astrology 2012 is also the year of the Dragon. Since the Dragon is our animal, it is our year! The Year of the Dragon has been described as, “Dragon years are favorable for the enterprising and ambitious. If you want to succeed at something major, start early in the Dragon year. Don’t give up. Express yourself openly. Show no fear. In China, it is said that the Dragon year brings luck to those who dare to speak out, to take charge and even to take over.” (link to Astrology.com)

The word “fearless” resonated even more. It was time. I had renewed my spirit. I was ready…to be fearless. To fear less. To have less fear.

In 2012, I commit to:

1) Owning my truth, speaking my truth and advocating for myself. Sometimes I am guilty of not speaking up, putting an idea out on the table, or standing up for myself. I am a smart woman, with gifts to share where respected. I will remove myself from environments that do not nurture my spirit. I control this moment.

2) Embrace my beauty. Believe in myself. Swallow my fears. Push myself to the limit. Be open to the possibilities and the power I hold within. I’m going to make a splash!

3) With fearless abandonment, I will attack and complete my dissertation in 2012.

What’s something fearless you have done in your life? What tips can you share on living life boldly?

Wearing Heels in a Lumber Yard

Tomorrow, I have the privilege of seeing one of the most important people in my life. This woman is present in my earliest memories and has been at most every milestone event. She gives the best hugs; the kind you just melt into. She makes the most delicious sugar cookies. She is determined and don’t you dare think about crossing her anger threshold. We always have laughs and she sure knows how to have fun. She taught me an awesome queso recipe and that I should always come home at the time I am told. She’s shared some of the most heart wrenching information with me because she knew I needed to know the truth. She writes me poems in cards so cute I cut them out and frame them. Please meet my grandmother, Frances Swayze.

About 7 years ago, I sat down with Frances Swayze to have a talk. I never call her by her given name. As the oldest grandchild, I called her what I heard everyone else calling her- Mom. I wanted to know…well, everything I didn’t know. I knew Mom from my frame of reference but I didn’t know who Mom was prior to my existence. So, we sat down with my digital voice recorder and began talking.

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Mom and I at my wedding in February 2010

She shared the names, birthdays, and stories of her 12 siblings. What it was like to be somewhere in the middle of the line up and watch the doctor come to the house to deliver you newest sister or brother. I was interested to learn that one of her brothers names was John Wesley as my husbands name is John Wesley. We shared a smile.

I had questions about the divorce she went through at a time when it was not encouraged or common at all. She actually waited until her mother passed away to get one. She didn’t get child support for her three daughters. She had to make it on her own and get a job at a time when jobs for women outside the home were few. Since many of her brothers were carpenters, she knew a lot about lumber and managing lumber for projects. So she set off to the lumber yard to see if she could get a job. She convinced them to hire her to manage lumber orders for contractors. She was required to wear a dress and heels…even in the lumber yard. At the time, she believes that she was one of only two women in such a role. The other woman was in Oregon. She had to watch every order carefully to make sure it wasn’t sabotaged by her coworkers who didn’t care for a woman in “their” workplace. She still remembers those 8-9 hour days in heels walking the floor of the yard. She went on to work for decades in the lumber industry.

When I was younger, around 8-10 years old, I remember going to the only place I recall her working. Her office was up a flight of stairs and had an open wall overlooking the lumber yard. I remember thinking it all was hers, that she was the Queen of the lumber yard. And in a way it was. She made her way in a career that tried to squeeze her out at every turn. Determined, she made her way. She beat them at their own game.

This is my heritage. I am proud of this heritage of women going against the grain. Taking chances, taking stands. Reminds me of the quote, “You have to be brave with your life so others can be brave with theirs.”

Mom, you are brave with your life. And now I try to be as brave with mine, still rocking those heels.

Creating Space for Silence

I’ve been silent for the last several of months. I haven’t written a blog post. I haven’t posted much on twitter. I haven’t been as present in our virtual community. I started to apologize and feel guilty (I really did miss everyone!), but then I received a gentle reminder from a friend that it was ok to be silent.

The work/life negotiation concept is one that I feel my friend @MonicaMFochtman has empowered me to think about and name for myself. When June hit, it came with such a whirlwind of work commitments that I found myself negotiating with with life. Life, can I call you back next week? Can we work over dinner? I won’t be home for 5 days as I have another conference. There almost was no life to squeeze in. Then I had so much to recover in personal life that I found myself negotiating with work. Work, can this wait until next week when I am back from vacation? I’m only working 7 hours today because my brain is dead. When I set the out of office greeting, this time I really will only respond when I get back and not while I am out.

I think about these last several months as a pendulum. Work was so busy that my attention swung over to the work side only. Then in order to compensate, it had to swing back the other way to my life side only. Tick, tock, tick, tock. Before I knew it, the summer was over and we were launching into fall. Where did the time go? It was ticking away as I was managing the swings.

Now, how do I get it back into a rhythm where there is a fair amount of trade off and negotiation rather than a constant back and forth?

I looked to silence. From mid-August to mid-September I tried to maintain space for silence.

“The purpose of silence is to expand individual consciousness so that the human being can be nourished from a deeper source.” “Taking time to be silent comforts the heart, enlivens the mind, gives liberty and joie de vivre to whatever actions will be taken at other times, and brings an individual out of a more shallow existence, into a deeper knowing of themselves.” Julie Redstone

While I am comfortable with change, work commitments and love my job, it was silence that made me feel whole again. Instead of feeling like I was swinging from limb to limb, silence gave me a place to feel like I was in charge rather than swinging along.

This summer tested my concept of work/life negotiation and as part of the process of becoming, I learned some valuable lessons about the role that silence plays in my self-care so I can be of service to others.

Space for silence worked for me. What do you do to restore and renew?

Cross posted at http://sawomenlead.com

I Let a Student Take Me for a Walk

Yesterday was one of those magical days. As my husband and I drove home from campus, he asked me how my day was and typically I can name specific things that were good or bad. Yesterday, I sat in the car simply smiling and trying to figure out how I could relay to him the feelings I had after all that had transpired.

My day started out talking with @KMcCarthy8185 and connecting about the unique and fulfilling educational experiences we had by attending a woman’s college. Both of us were able to reflect on the life changing and empowering experiences that shaped us into the women we are today. Then, I talked about WISA Panel of Listeners program at our NASPA regional conference. I love taking action to make our profession one that embraces the advancement of women in leadership. These were both conversations that I had on my calendar and I looked forward to as I woke up on Thursday morning. They were everything I anticipated they would be.

Then, in the afternoon, something totally unplanned and unexpected happened. I let a student take me for a walk.

I had my afternoon free for once and one of my senior students stopped by to give me a gift of gratitude for serving as an advisor to the student group she leads. She gave me a token of appreciation that will be a wonderful addition to my office and remind me of our event themed “adding a colorful twist.”

However, the greatest gift she gave me came from this-  She asked me, “do you have time to take a walk?” I looked at my to do list and my open calendar contemplating for a minute. Then I looked up and said, “yes, absolutely. Let’s go.”

What proceeded was a 2 hour walk around campus visiting her favorite spots all while listening to her talk about the meaning of her journey the last four years. She told me about what her education means to her, the challenges of her father committing suicide and her grandmother passing away in her first year of college and raising her brother, and the impact of capitalism on class and feminism. She told me what being on the debate team had contributed to her ability to critically analyze and problem solve. She talked about her work in Zimbabwe, in the local DA’s office to address violence against women, and in the local high school around sustainability. What an amazing journey.

I listened, I followed, I sat, I took it all in. Our last stop was at a particular bench on campus over looking a statue of “the pioneer mother” on campus located by the residence halls the first women students on campus occupied. On a beautiful, sunny afternoon overlooking a significant campus location we sat and she shared a speech she had submitted to be selected as a speaker at graduation.

As she delivered her speech, I sat in awe. The passion she conveyed about how her education will empower her to create a new future moved me. Here is a woman who majored in political science talking about creativity in music, dance, and art. She talked about the ability to change the future through multiple means of expression. The power of a liberal education to interrupt the reproduction of our greatest societal ills and transform a new path for humanity. For 15 minutes I sat and listened to the power behind her narrative.

I was glad I had sunglasses on because I had a tear or two. Here, sitting right next to me on this bench, is a clear demonstration of a student who harnessed  everything that higher education hopes to offer to students. I think deep down, I was so moved because it reinvigorated my hope for the future. This woman sitting next to me transformed before my eyes into someone I would gladly stand side by side in the struggle for what our world will look like in the years to come.

In the end, I didn’t talk much at all. I let a student take me for a walk. And, it was one of the most beautiful walks I will ever take in my life.