“How do you do it?” Claire asked through exhausted eyes. Her usual all-put-together self, the spirited one that donned mini-dresses and fringe halter tops, was absent. Missing too was her energetic smile, her hopeful demeanor. In its place sat a woman who was perched in a chair at what looked like an uncomfortable angle. She asked me to sit close to her. I held her hand. Yes, I would be the one who got to go home that day. She would stay in this place, wondering. Continue reading
Are you making plans to re-set something in ’18? Exercise levels? Career goals? Relationships? Your look? Last week I observed a quick moment that reminded me of the very real opportunity we all have as we begin another year. The opportunity isn’t found in the newest exercise app nor in the latest color palette for our homes. Instead it is something that resides in each of us. Continue reading
The best presents do not come in boxes. My picture with Gloria Steinem is testament to this very statement. This holiday nothing in a box or with a fancy ribbon will compare to the moment captured in the photo. For nearly forty-years I have admired Steinem’s work for its ability to shape a meaningful public conversation. I even use her journey as a model for my own work.
She was more gracious than I expected. And kind. She embraced me strongly as if her own force could encourage me to continue my efforts. It was a tremendous gift, a gift borne out of a choice I made several years ago. With the holiday season upon us, I want to encourage us to think about our choices and the gifts we receive as a result. Continue reading
It struck me this morning as I reviewed my shopping list for tomorrow’s feast that I’ve learned a thing or two about Thanksgiving. It isn’t hidden in my special recipe for Bourbon Sweet Potatoes. Nor is it found in the holiday meal preparation guide that I’ve read and re-read in the Food Section of the New York Times. It is found in the work that I do everyday, work that more and more looks and feels like a ‘how to’ guide for navigating the emotions our lives.
Tomorrow when you reach across the table to pass the cranberry sauce, I hope you keep in mind two important perspectives from our work together in transition. Continue reading
Have you ever found yourself at a moment when you weren’t sure about your next steps? We all get there at some point or another. It can happen suddenly thanks to an unexpected event like the death of a loved one. It can happen in a more planful way when we decide to leave a job or when a child leaves for college. It can happen thanks to a recognition deep down that something just isn’t right. I’ve been fascinated by these moments for the better part of the last five years. I’m convinced that it is these moments that leave us at the doorstep of transition. What do you do when you find yourself at a moment when you’re not sure how to proceed?
Some respond to these moments with nothing more than a dismissive shrug. I hear this crew say, “Life. It’s just life.”
I smile politely when I meet these people. I will never convince them otherwise.
For those willing to respond to uncertainty with an open heart, I’ve learned that these moments are enormously important opportunities in our lives and in the lives of those we touch.
It is at these junctures that we have an opportunity to grow; to re-calibrate our voices; and to contribute more of our unique gifts to a world desperately in need of such contributions.
A simple one. Trust ourselves enough to bring voice to those things that hold value and meaning for us. Whatever this is or wherever it may lead.
One woman in my research told a powerful story recently that spoke to this task.
Hers started with a wrenching and destabilizing moment.
By 26, Lizbeth was immersed in an extremely competitive academic research lab. She realized, “This is not who I want to be.”
The realization was crushing.
“Up until that time, the package was defined. The package of me that is. It was stamped and it was on the truck going to its destination. I didn’t know what to do. I was feeling very confused and very lost and alone.”
Lizbeth toyed with leaving academia but was terrified by what that world might hold for her. “I was aware that if I don’t want academia, who am I? I had always thought that my attractiveness to other people was about being smart. If I didn’t want to offer that and be in academia anymore, then who am I? Transition was such a whopper. It wasn’t just a positional transition it was like a massive identity transition.”
Lizbeth made a decision to move away from academia. She described that decision as momentous. She wandered a bit. She needed to excavate and exercise her voice. It was circuitous. Messy. She got a little lucky. She slowly made progress. “I think I also got to the place of accepting not knowing.” She imagined all sorts of possibilities and gave herself the permission to try.
I now think of uncertain moments as invitations. We can accept or decline them. Accepting can be downright scary.
Could acceptance be viewed as an act of courage?
We live in a time that shuns those who are in a place of ‘not knowing.’ Think about it. How often have you felt the need to communicate to others that you’re on track? Heading in the right direction? Engaged? Successful?
These social norms can also direct us to ‘go quiet’ when our paths open up to uncertainty & possibility. The irony in all of this is that our voices falter even more if we react to uncertainty with silencing our voices.
“I am finding my voice.” Said a 51-year-old woman to me the other day. Imagine that. Her comment was unprompted. I wanted to cheer out loud.
Next time you find yourself at a moment with no clear path forward, take a minute to recognize it as an opportunity. Trust your instincts about what may be at play. See if you can’t use your voice to take one step in the direction of an imagined possibility all your own.
Is it time to turn up voice’s volume?
Have another minute? Read some earlier blogs about Voice:
Thank you for reading. Take a moment to comment below or tell me what’s on your mind: firstname.lastname@example.org
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This morning as I was walking our dog I found a painted rock by the side of the road. It had an inscription that read, Think Outside the Box. The unexpected treasure is a part of our town’s kindness project. Up until this chance encounter I didn’t really ‘get’ the program. Now, I have a different opinion. I smiled brightly when I found the rock. The inscription felt as if it was meant only for me. Yes, outside the box is a place I inhabit comfortably. I’ve been amazed at the goodness I’ve met there. What awaits you outside of the box? Continue reading
I’ve learned over the past four years that the word, ‘transition,’ is a loaded term. We use it to describe everything from the vital first efforts of a new presidential administration, a.k.a. a transition team, to the heavily scrutinized transition of celeb, actress and athlete Caitlyn Jenner. What does transition mean for you?
“Thank you for being honest,” said a woman who introduced herself to me Thursday after a speaking event I did with Women Unlimited. What struck me in our quick conversation was our agreement – both hers and mine – of how unusual it is for any of us to be so transparent. She sought me out after a story I told about a moment that I remember vividly. I was sitting in my boss’s staff meeting, an all-day affair attended by the top brass of a Fortune 500. I had worked tirelessly for decades for a seat at this table. This moment is so memorable and bracing because I recall sitting there saying to myself, “you’ve got to be kidding me. I’ve worked this hard…for this?!!? There must be something more.” Continue reading
It has been a long time since I fought back tears to get through a day. Have you ever had one of those days? Or weeks? It seems as if I am holding on by my finger nails of late. What could possibly be going on? And more importantly, why is this happening now?
“Can you tell us why you chose this?” I asked at the end of an event I attended with my daughter. We were at a seminar for middle schoolers sponsored by the Math Department at Dartmouth College. It was fun if you like number theory and Euclidean geometry. I was hoping that my daughter would leave the event with more than a few cool math tricks. I hoped she would have some perspective on the choices made by the those who led the discussions. With this in mind, I asked the above question of a newly-minted math professor. I followed up with “What path did you take from middle school to college professor?” His response was surprising although not unique. Continue reading