A real jam…

“I’m not used to asking for help,” shared Kate, a dynamic business owner and  mother of six whose husband travels frequently for work.  We were carpooling to a school event.  She had taken a morning off, a rare moment to accompany her daughter’s class on a field trip to The Franklin Park Zoo Help from Kate’s perspective seemed like an unaffordable luxury, one with its own time requirements and bandwidth issues.   Kate repelled help.

Have you ever been in this spot?   In listening to Kate I wondered how many see help, or reaching out to others, as another obligation…a burden?

Last Thursday I got together with some friends under the auspices of our book club.  It reminds me of a funny comment that I heard Gloria Steinem make when she spoke in Boston not too long ago.  ‘We called them consciousness raising groups,’ she said.  ‘You call them book clubs.’  Regardless of the nomenclature there is no replacing female peer connections during transition, or anytime for that matter.

It was our last meeting for the year prior to breaking for the summer.  We were talking about summer reading ideas.  I told them about the Summer Book Review.   A book a week for twelve weeks…..


“That sounds like a lot,” offered one kind friend.  “Why don’t you try one a month?”  She was appealing to my sense of reason after a day in which we both experienced the swirl of spring sports and end of year activities jammed into the hours historically reserved for dinnertime.

Her unintentional help got me thinking.   If I were to give 200 hours to my blog over the next twelve weeks, my best guesstimate of time, how would I use those hours?  Would reviewing books be the highest and best use?   What do you think?

“I immediately went inward,” remarked Stacey, a self-described type A achiever who was describing a painful and uncertain time in the early stages of her transition. I was interviewing her for the Research Jam.  She participated in a 1-on-1 interview reserved for those who could provide a perspective on women in transition via their day job.   She fit the expert interview bill but we switched to her personal story almost immediately once the interview began.

She shared that her transition had been a six-year cycle.   “I lost myself, my identity, my confidence,” she shared.

Stacy is in her early 30’s.  Over the course of 6 years she got married, became a parent and changed careers.   She described this period as a significant transition.  Early on in the cycle she took a marquee job with what seemed like a lot of bells and whistles.   She was infatuated by the job’s fanciness during the interview process.    These distractions caused her to not ask as many questions as she would have liked.  Her summary in the rear view mirror was, “a poor work environment.”  Six years and a career change didn’t entirely anesthetize the pain.

Stacey noted that on several occasions during her transition people ‘popped up.’ She’d run into a former boss.  A cousin of a long time friend.   A former neighbor.  Engaging in conversation with these folks was transformative.  “You start looking at things differently.  Thing shift around in your head.”

These conversations and their follow-up coffees left Stacey with fresh new ideas.   She views these encounters as one of the most valuable lessons of her transition.  The others?  A renewed belief in her own resourcefulness and a redrawn set of highly personal objectives.

Could explaining something to an objective 3rd party catapult your thinking forward?

The conversation with my book club friend caused me to have an epiphany a la Stacey.  What if I used some of my Novofemina time this summer to evaluate the data from the Research Jam?   I have buckets of data that I haven’t touched…not for lack of interest by the way.   I haven’t had a full day to look into any of it.  Imagine what 20 hours or 200, for that matter, might do?

Voila.  I’m onto a new path.  One that I didn’t even consider until talking out loud to someone else.

My simple example is an illustration of the power of connecting.   This isn’t the first time I’ve thought about this.  In Transition: Necessary Anxiety?  another Research Jam interviewee shared ‘take the time to get to know people.’  She observed, ‘women are less comfortable picking up the phone to network.’   ‘Men want to be tee’d up to talk with folks.’   She strongly recommended engaging with people….’even or especially when the outcome is unknown.’

Over the next weeks….please expect some musings about the Research Jam along with a few book reviews.   Here’s the funny part.  I wouldn’t have put this together on my own.

Why?  Sometimes even my transition can be characterized by ‘going inward.’   Less and less but still.  When I look at my pre-transition self I am Kate…my hyper scheduled life repelled unaffiliated people.   Toward the end of my role I viewed connecting with those not on my schedule as a  sheer luxury.

Funny I didn’t see it but I was in a real jam then.  It’s taken a lot of conversations with people and with myself to convince me otherwise.  Are you to busy for help?

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