Tag Archives: observations from a women’s transition

Invisible Standards

“We need your voice,” I said in closing a workshop with about a dozen women on a Saturday in early September.  I was making a connection between an exercise we’d done on developing our own voices and the needs of our national economy.  I view the development & expression of women’s voices as fundamental to our country’s long-term economic well-being.   For me it’s an easy and obvious linkage – although I won’t bore you with the details here.  What surprised me in that Saturday moment was the reaction I got.  The attendees were honestly touched.  My comment seemed to elevate our work.  It connected every one of us to something greater.  Our voice work was instantly relevant.  Meaningful. Continue reading

The courage of starting…

“I don’t know if I told you,” shared a friend, “but I left my job.”  It was my son’s first day of school.  Chaos swirled around me.  Kids. Parents.  The occasional dog. A forgotten backpack.  Above the din my friend’s tone was mildly apologetic.  While I saw a little sparkle in the corner of her eye, something weighed heavily on her.  Was it fear that I saw?  Shame? Continue reading

A Transition Solstice Celebration…

Who wouldn’t give their right arm for more hours in the day?   When faced with the prospect of newly available time, most of us instantly think about what we could do.   The possibilities are endless.  Think about it.  An important ‘to do’ for work.  A laundry list of actions in support of children, spouses, or dependent elders.  A few minutes for long deferred personal care or even a personal interest.   Maybe even a few moments dedicated to a long overdue job search.  What would you do with ‘found time?’  Would wishing make it to your list?

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Time was on my mind this week as we enjoyed the Summer Solstice. Celebrated on June 21st, the day marks the true start of summer for me.  It is our ‘longest’ day of the year in the Northeast, offering six more hours of daylight than its astronomical opposite on December 21st.   It makes me think about time and how I choose to spend it.  A concept, I might add, that I rarely thought of pre-transition.

Solstice derives from two Latin words; sol, or sun, and stare, to stand or stop.   Early astronomical observers believed that on the solstice the sun stopped its progression in the sky.  Its literal translation is the day when the sun stands still.

The solstice’s definition caught my attention this week because I’ve been noodling a presentation I gave earlier this month.    On June 9th I hosted a luncheon ‘dry run’ of the key messages from my upcoming book, Women & Transition: Reinventing Work and Life (Macmillan Nov 2015).   The outset of the conversation was standard fare: transition’s definition, its anatomy, and an overview of a process that I created to help women navigate transition.

What really caught my audience’s eye was a list at the end of my remarks about what surprised me most in my research.   For those unfamiliar with my research, I spoke with two hundred women in various forums about transition over an eighteen month period.

Before I share the surprise, let me give you some background.  It’s a bit of an  oversimplification so please bear with me.

Thanks to my research and my own circuitous path, I found that transition requires us to navigate an iterative two-stage process.  The first stage is ‘envision,’ during which we develop a hypothesis of what ‘might be’ possible for us.  It goes by many names.  A dream.  A wish.  A personal strategy.  You can choose the vocabulary most comfortable for you.  This stage asks us to think beyond our assumptions about what we could or should do – staring down boundaries set by ourselves and by other’s expectations of us.

The second stage is ‘validate,’ a stage during which we test and retest and learn about our ‘envision’ hypothesis.  This stage is experimental and flexible – progressing in increments designed to fit our own circumstances.  At the end of all this you get a refined wish and real life experiences to give you the confidence to move in that direction.   I referred to the transition process’s cycle at the June 9th lunch as the dream/do loop.

The surprise I shared on June 9th?  I’ve witnessed again and again that women shortchange the work in the dream stage, preferring instead to do.  The work of thinking – wishing – is difficult, non-linear and uncertain.   Let’s face it most of us would rather clean the refrigerator on a sunny day than undertake such a task.

Wishing seems fanciful.  This is only partly true.   Here’s what I’ve learned:  Dreaming requires us to trust our instincts – and most importantly to dignify what we hear.   There is a competency we build up in the process – we learn to quell the negative internal voices that instantly pop up to extinguish whatever those instincts may be telling us.

In the summer weeks ahead be aware of the shortening days as we begin the long cycle towards the Winter Solstice.  If you find yourself with a moment or two, dream.  I’ve found it’s the most useful do you can do.

Copyright © 2015 NovoFemina.com.  All rights reserved. No content on this site may be reused in any fashion without written permission from NovoFemina.com.

 

A simple step: reframe

Last week my ten-year old son and I watched the replay of the first game of the NBA finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.    We were rooting for the Golden State Warriors, his stand-in team given that his beloved Celtics will sit this one out.  Thanks to his interest, I stumbled onto a terrific example of one of my favorite transition tools  – reframing.

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Value?

There it was.  That phrase.  “…since you’ve been a stay at home mom.”  An  acquaintance used it in conversation with me over the weekend.  It always stops me in my tracks.  I get a physical reaction.  The hair stands up on the back of my neck.  Let me be clear.  There is nothing wrong with the phrase – nor the choice that it represents.  Many women and men make the choice to stay home.   If it is your choice, I applaud it.  My problem?  It isn’t my choice.  So, when I hear it, I immediately conclude that the speaker can’t or won’t see the value in what I’ve chosen.    That’s where the disconnect comes in for me.  I can’t help but wonder where the problem is?  Is it them or me? Continue reading

The Courage of No

When was the last time you said, no?  I’m not asking about passing up a calorie laden dessert or skipping an indulgence at your favorite retail escape.   I am asking about turning down something meaningful because you knew deep down that it wasn’t right.   A job offer?  A proposal?  A move?   Someone else’s expectations? Continue reading

Four and Foresight

“I got a sense of breathing for the first time,” said a dynamic woman whom I interviewed early on for Novofemina’s Voices of Transition column.   Prior to being laid off she was a multi-decade employee of a large corporation.   She was also the parent of several children, one of whom she lost to a rare childhood illness.   She got herself another job within a year of her termination.  She described her transition as enlivening.     She was energetic and peaceful when we spoke.    I will never forget how I felt as I listened to her tell me her story.  Awful might be an exaggeration – but not much of one.  I remember thinking, ‘how did I ever get myself in this predicament?’  Her confident, delighted state seemed a million miles away from where I sat.

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Painful redirects

It is easier this late in my transition.  Reframing that is.  Earlier this week I had an interview for a professional opportunity.  It wasn’t my finest hour.   At the end of the day I am disappointed in myself.   Transition is full of learnings – successes and failures.  I thought today I might share a little about how I’ve learned to reconcile the less than stellar events along the way….

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At this moment I am frustrated with myself for not doing better.  The rich data and conclusions that I had to share barely came out.   In the moments since I have comforted myself with a continuous stream of negative self-talk.  Ever been there?  How could I have blown it?  In a spectacular fashion I might add…..

In my book I talk about techniques to help us reframe a situation.   Re-framing  contributes in two ways;  it acknowledges that there will be hits and misses during transition, and it embraces perspective – an incredible gift.  In transition we need to learn from the misses but not get stalled by them.

In my book I introduce a technique called externalizing.  It helps you bring objectivity to an experience.  It asks women to change adjectives to nouns.  By adopting this approach I would say, “you are not the problem. The problem is the problem.”   For example a friend of mine is very angry about her transition’s length.  The anger is a mix of many emotions – including shame and a real fear that she’ll never be able to get the job she desires.   She is very connected to how it might look – this extended job search.

For her this technique would ask her to change an adjective – like being angry – to a noun.  Instead of saying, “I am so angry,” the woman would talk about “How long the anger had been influencing her.”  The technique challenges my friend to redirect her energy away from negative self-talk and towards more positive activities.  It puts separation between her and her emotions.

Nelson Mandela in his Long Walk to Freedom said, “do not judge me by my success.  Judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

I find that my stumble earlier in the week was a gift.  It helped me recalibrate – at a critical time.  It brought me back to reality.  I had been a bit untethered.

Why?

A week or so ago my publisher asked me for a list of people who could possibly write a forward for my book.  Not all books get forwards.  The mere question sent me into the stratosphere.  It was a sign –  a good sign – she and her publishing house really believe in my project.

The gap between these two experiences was sobering.  The gift is that it has helped me hunker down on finishing the book.  It reminded me of the importance of bringing honesty to the experience of transition.  An honesty that from my viewpoint know one has cared to do before.   Yes there are painful days – even those days when the pain is self-inflicted.

Your transition will be characterized by wins and losses.  I hope that you have the presence of mind to bring objectivity and grace to your worst moments.   Within each is a gift – waiting for an appropriate frame.

Copyright © 2015 NovoFemina.com.  All rights reserved. No content on this site may be reused in any fashion without written permission from NovoFemina.com.

 

A Simple Direction

Three of us had lunch.  We got together because one of our crew was embroiled in a complex issue at work.  We listened to facts.  We agreed.  We disagreed.  We offered opinions.  Two minutes before parting the two of us not in the spotlight that day gave quick updates.  I told the story about my editor’s pre-Holiday remark, “I am finally hearing YOUR voice.”  She said it to me after patiently reviewing draft upon draft of my book.   Out of the blue a note arrived a few days after our lunch…. Continue reading

A mantra

“You get to decide how you show up,”  I said as I spoke with a roomful of women.  We were talking about transition and the stress that can accompany its triggers.  We’d spent the past ten minutes sharing stories about the obstacles that can get in our way….everyday.  A boss.  A difficult mother-in-law.  A husband who is channeling the 1950’s.  An illness.   An upcoming marriage.  Retirement.  Tons of life events can qualify.  Most of us have experienced at least one of these.  Here’s the tricky part.  What impact have you allowed it to have on your day?  Your demeanor?  Continue reading