The teachers that don’t look like teachers!

This morning a friend sent me a link to an article in a local paper profiling someone we both worked with a few years back. The article positioned this woman as a rising star, someone who had achieved a lot in the corporate world and who stated that she had so much advice and expertise to share with women trying to succeed in business. Boy, did this get my day off to a bad start! I worked with this woman for about three years. She made my life hell!

I feel like I encounter these types of women a lot in my life. I’m working with one currently, and though I can’t say she makes my life hell the way the other one did, I dislike her, intensely. She’s manipulative, conniving, underhand. But she’s a smooth operator, she’s clever. And people (men in particular!) love her!

It makes me question how I operate in the world. In the corporate world, I’ve always felt I just don’t have what it takes to really succeed. My nature is to get stuck into the work and get it done. I meet deadlines. I complete projects. I take something on, I run with it and I finish it. I do this with 100% commitment and I do it really well. But no-one really notices. My achievements don’t get celebrated. No one congratulates me or says well done. And I don’t shout about it. Bottom line, I’m not good at promoting myself within the company! And no-one else is doing it for me!

You see, I am quiet. I am introverted. I shun the limelight, I do not seek it. So is this situation, this lack of acknowledgement, of not being seen and valued, of my own making? Or should the powers-that-be be more observant, more clued-in, see what’s really going on? Are they so superficial that they don’t see that the ones who shout the loudest, push themselves forward, make every exchange into an opportunity to promote themselves, are not always the best people on the team? Maybe they don’t have time to look deeper. Maybe they don’t really care.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. For every challenge I encounter in life, after I’ve had my rant about the unfairness of it all (the rant is usually internal and can last a number of days!), I ask myself ‘what is the lesson for me here?’ ‘What is life asking of me?’ ‘What am I being called to do?’

Yesterday on this blog, I mused about my role in the world, my gift, what am I here to give. I think this work challenge, that shows up time and time again for me, probably in every job I’ve ever done, ties into this. I feel like I am being prodded, annoyed, agitated, so much so and with such regularity that it’s time to take action!

It’s hard to put yourself out in the world if you are shy. It’s difficult to share your gifts if your tendency is to hide, to deflect. How can I impact the world in any meaningful way if I shirk a challenge rather than meet it head on?

And so I conclude that these women are here to teach me. It sickens me a bit to say that because I do not like them. I have always understood a teacher to be someone I look up to, someone I respect, someone with deep knowledge and experience, who has lived and learned and wants to impart their life lessons to me in a gracious and dignified way. These women are not that kind of teacher!

So I have to look deeper. To look beyond the surface. To stop wasting my time feeling angry and hateful towards these women, because I do not want to be that kind of person. Quite honestly, it’s not like me at all and I don’t want to experience it any longer.

And so I believe that the Universe has put these women in my life to stir me up, to rile me, to get me so uncomfortable, so angry that I say ‘ENOUGH’! I am no longer letting you walk all over me. You can no longer undermine me and think it is OK, because you don’t value me. No longer can you disrespect me. You cannot take the moment that is mine. I am  no longer playing small to allow you to play bigger than you really are. It ends today. I am pushing back.

Pushing back is not in my DNA. I like to work with people, not against them. I love helping people succeed. I like to praise and compliment people. Tell them they’re great. But you know what, sometimes that just won’t work. And in this world there will always be people who want to keep you down.

It took me a long time to learn this lesson, to fight back, to stand up for myself, to have more self-respect.

Who are your teachers? Who’s pushing your buttons? Who’s making you so uncomfortable that you want to catch them by the scruff of the neck and say ‘No More’! It’s hard to say thank you for these people. But in reality, perhaps they are our greatest teachers! It just galls us to admit it!

Dipping my toe in the water!

I’m in awe of people who reinvent themselves. Who multi-task. Who have more than one major thing going on in their lives at any one time. And I’m not talking about those thousands of people who hold down a full-time job while raising a family, doing the grocery shopping, taking care of elderly parents, walking the dog. This seems normal in this day and age, and don’t get me wrong, I have huge respect for these people – I feel exhausted when I look at their lives. I’m referring to people who seem to have multiple careers! They work ‘ full-time’, this is their 9-5 life, but they are also writing a blog or a book, designing something; clothes, a make-up line, something beautiful, and then do a bit of something else ‘on the side’. And this isn’t just a hobby, it’s another revenue stream!

It doesn’t seem enough to have a normal life anymore. By normal I mean a regular job, a family to take care of, a bit of a social life, a bit of downtime. Everyone seems to be doing so much more now; they’re multi-skilled and pack an enormous amount into already jam-packed lives. As an observer, an outsider looking in, in awe, I feel my life is pretty below par when I compare!

I am drawn to these people. I am fascinated by them. I think of them a lot. I dream of them sometimes. Bottom line, I guess I want to be one of them. Because it seems like their lives are amazing. Never dull. I imagine them rushing from one fantastic place, project or event to another, from one part of their lives to another, totally unfazed, as if this is just how it is, this is what life is supposed to be, this is the full monty!

Then I look at my own life! I work ‘full-time’. I put this in inverted commas as 9-5, Monday-Friday, doesn’t seem quite enough anymore. I am blessed to be able to work from home most of the time. So in reality, I should be able to take on something more, some creative endeavour, some new hobby. Why do I struggle to do this?

I’ve worked for my current employer for six years. I’ve done the same job for most of this time and what started off being something I really enjoyed has over time become dull and monotonous. But there are so many pluses to my situation; the flexibility, the freedom, the hands-off management style. So I do not want to walk away.

Which is why I got excited when a new opportunity arose within the company. A new position on a new team. A new boss, new colleagues, new challenges. So I went for it. And I got it. I am excited. Genuinely! It will change my working life significantly, challenging my brain like it hasn’t been challenged in some time. I’ll build new relationships within the company. I’ll put my mark and expertise on some very important projects. I know I will enjoy it. I think I’ll be good at it. So why do I feel like it’s just not enough?

Are we not contributing enough when this is what we do? When we hold down a ‘full-time’ job but in our free time we do what we want, or what our commitments require us to do? Should I be packing in more? Am I not fulfilling my purpose? Giving my gifts back to the world?

Honestly, I’m not sure. I am torn between my obligations to the world and my obligations to myself. Or is it the same thing? If there is a niggling doubt, a pushing, a coaxing in my brain telling me there is more, is it the Universe telling me, ‘get up girl, get out there, it’s a big and beautiful world and you’re not playing’.

I don’t know how creative I am. I don’t know what my gifts are. I honestly am not sure what my purpose is on this earth. But I do know it’s time to start exploring, to test the waters a bit, to try out a few things.

And so I am committing to writing this blog. To test this creative side of myself. To see if I enjoy it. To see if others enjoy it. To see if I can impact the world, outside of 9-5, in just a small way.

What are your dreams and are you pursuing them? Perhaps you too can take a small step today and get out in the world and play! Just a little!

The Pain of Loneliness

No one wants to say they are lonely. It seems like such a shameful thing to admit. We’ve begun the conversation around mental health; people are open and willing to discuss their anxiety, depression, low mood. But I have never heard anyone say simply, ‘I am lonely’.

So I am going to say it. Am I the first?! I am lonely. I am really lonely.

That statement fills me with embarrassment and shame. I never thought that would be me. I expected loneliness would visit me when I am old, you know, eighty plus, having raised a family and been in a long happy relationship, maybe having recently been bereaved. That’s my picture of loneliness. But that’s not how my life turned out.

Is it because I am not in relationship that I am lonely? Is partnership the ingredient to ensure loneliness doesn’t descend? I’m not sure. I think I could be in relationship and still be lonely, I’m pretty sure some people are.

Loneliness is my general state of being. That’s not to say I don’t have times where I connect, where I have fun, where I am happy. I have friends that I love, parents I adore, and siblings that I get along with just fine. But just underneath, it’s almost imperceptible, there is a low level pain, an emptiness, an ache near my heart which tells me things are not quite right, this is not how things should be.

I spend a lot of time on my own. Saturday morning is my favourite part of the week, a time where I delight in being alone, when I go downstairs and make coffee, fill my hot water bottle, and come back up to bed to read a book. It is sheer bliss. In these moments I feel blessed. I feel extremely fortunate at my position in this world.

So being alone is not the issue. I’m talking about when I am with others and I just don’t get it, where I don’t feel wanted, where I’m sure I don’t belong.

And honestly, I wonder if this is just how society is today? I’m not sure we know how to connect anymore, how to be inclusive, how to look out for each other. Are we all just pretending? Pretending we’ve got it all going on, have lots of friends, have crazy busy social lives doing a wide variety of fun and interesting things. Why do we feel we have to prove this? Is it not a bit desperate updating Facebook so the whole world knows what a great time we are having?

What would it be like if we all disconnected from technology for one day, for one hour for God’s sake! Could we do it? How about we not only disconnect from technology but we connect with each other? How does that make you feel? Are you uncomfortable with that suggestion? Think about it. If you had to, right this very minute, put away your phone, your iPad, your computer and disconnect from the world wide web, and simply turn to the person nearest to you and talk to them for one hour, could you do it? Would you want to?

It’s an interesting question and probably gives an indication of where we are, what kind of society we have become. Honestly, I’m not sure I want to do it either. But if we don’t, are we all not just sharing a planet but living separate, and perhaps pretty empty lives?