Side note: I find it amusing that in the time line of my posting, this is the post which happens right after writing about the unexpected change of keeping the kids for a week longer than expected.
DSS Leadership – Assignment 11
Book – “Leadership from the Inside Out”
Think about the times you faced major crises or challenges. What qualities or potentialities arose?
I feel like a broken record constantly going back to the situation of mom’s death. It has been one of the most recent events in my life and by far the most self-changing.
I think back to the beginning, the phone call and how I immediately began problem solving. How would I get out there? What did I NEED to pack? Who needed to know I would be leaving for an unknown period of time? Who didn’t know about the situation within our family/friend circle and how was I going to contact them so they knew? I wrote things down so I wouldn’t forget later. I continued to try to write as a way to manage my emotions. I didn’t give myself shit for not having answers. I didn’t berate myself for not going to the gym. I praised myself for showering and cooking breakfast and actually eating it. I reminded myself that I HAD to leave the hospital during the day, when I changed shifts with my brother’s because I needed sleep. I needed to keep taking care of myself so I could be there rather than getting sick myself.
Even in the events that followed her death, I ensured I had the papers to fly with the urn in my backpack. I made sure people knew about the service. I made sure to attend the service and be there as the representative of our family.
When I got back to Orlando I dealt with the break up with Zane. I found a new place to live. I removed my belongings from the apartment. I made sure Scarlet had a safe place so she wouldn’t be alone any longer than she already had been.
In relation to my career, I worked the last months to see my class through its transition. In regards to beginning this new career, I researched the different schools I could obtain my CNA from. I studied. I passed my tests. I applied for jobs. I kept pushing through the endless stream of “no”. I cried and acknowledged that it sucked but it wouldn’t get better if I didn’t keep trying.
I bitched about how tired I was and how it felt unfair and how I wanted to give up and yet I kept taking steps to try to change things because I didn’t know how not to and eventually things DID change.
I saught help in the form of counsling because I knew I did not have the skills to handle all of the change going on in my life without help; without guidance and support and resources both emotional and spirital.
I guess the quality that I think of is strength. I think back to the conversation I had with my mom on the couch in what had been my childhood home in South Carolina. The conversation where Law and Order reruns played in the back ground while she told me one day she wouldn’t be here and that she knew it would be hard for me. She knew it would suck but that she had raised me to be strong and to get through it. She had believed in me. She had faith that I could do it and I couldn’t let her be wrong. I had to prove to her that I could in fact be strong and get through it so I did.
Whenever I faltered I reached out. I called people I normally wouldn’t have and told them that I was struggling, that it sucked to live without her. I had text message coversations while the other person watched the same show as me on Netflix so I could feel less alone while I stayed in an extended stay, sneaking Scarlet in with me because animals weren’t allowed.
I rebuilt everything; every aspect of my life. I relentlessly worked on understanding my grief and my emotions and insecurities. I found purpose in life again. I lived until I began living again. I didn’t give up even though there were so many times I wished I had had it within me to do so and from where I’m sitting, today, nearly three years later, I’m glad I didn’t even though I still have hard days sometimes.
What qualities would you like to develop further during those times of crisis?
I would like to develop a kinder inner voice. I would like to be as considerate of my own emotions and complexities of life as I am with others. I feel I have come a long way in this regard and would like to continue to develop it.
I deserve the same unbiased, calm, level-headed reflection and perspective as I give others. I feel a lot of that comes after; after the emotions have their time, after I acknowledge and accept that yes, I do have these emotions and it’s ok, but what am I going to DO? What actions are avalible to me? Stepping back, what would logically be the best move for me to make, not the most emotionally fulled one. Not the knee-jerk insticually driven on.
What were the key things you learned during those times?
The key thing I learned from mom’s death is to value the time I have and to trust myself. I learned that I will make mistakes and that’s ok. I learned that I CAN learn and that I can do better for myself. I learned to be my own cheerleader. I learned to be my own protector. I learned to value my self. I learned to take risks and to try new things and that doing my best is all I can do. I learned that as long as you make it to the end of the day then that is success enough. The greatest success is survival. If you survive that means you have a tomorrow to try again.
When presented with a new experience, what is your first reaction?
I feel like this is pretty open-ended and I honestly don’t know how to answer. I suppose I freeze for a bit. I have to analyze. What are the pros of this situation? What are the cons? Do I gain anything? Do I lose anything? Is there a balance or am I the only one put out? Does it positively affect someone? Is there kindness involved? Is the experience in line with my values and priorities?
I need to figure out what the experience is to me and so I suppose there’s hesitation because I need more information before being ok with it. That also brings into question was the new experience something of my own doing or in the case of going to the pumpkin patch with the kids, an event wholly unexpected and created without my voice being involved? I remember the initial situation being “not ok” in my mind because it took away time from myself without my consent, but the trip itself was pleasant and I’m glad I went. I could have handled the initial change better than what I did because the change itself, with hindsight, was a good thing.
How do you react when you have invested significant work and effort into something and it doesn’t work out? What do you fear most?
Most of my projects with work have been successful. I remember how my first project when I was in finals had the issue with the facial deformation, causing me to receive a 70 as my grade rather than the 100 it would have been. I remember how I spent nearly two weeks contemplating dropping out because I was obviously a failure. Here I was about to graduate and I was making a barely passing grade. How was I going to get a job with barely passing work to show for myself.
With relationships, there’s usually a sense of “I have nothing left to give”. I try and try to make it work and it doesn’t. There can be frustration and anger. Injustice. Fury. Betrayal.
Closure in the form of the “INFJ door slam”. That moment where something snaps within myself. I’m done. Not just done, but DONE. There is no recovery. There is no talking or working it out. It’s over. It’s dead because I am killing it, here and now, without remorse. It deserves to die. Quickly. Cleanly. No suffering. It doesn’t deserve to suffer. It doesn’t deserve my time to suffer and when it is over I burning everything within my inner landscape to the ground and I stand within the flames letting them consume me so I can emerge clean from a situation I know I let myself stay in for much too long.
What I feared the most was my mom dying. I no longer fear that. It happened and yet, here I am, still alive. Still breathing. I fear losing Ox. I fear losing my brothers. I fear losing the people I care about, but I know it’s going to happen and so that fear, that anxiety, while it makes my chest tight and causes me to irrationally cry sometimes, is not something that I feel paralyzes me as often as it used to.
I don’t know what I fear most. I still fear disapproval. I still worry about hurting people’s feelings. But I don’t worry about finding a job. I don’t worry about finding a place to live. I don’t worry about money or making ends meet. And even with the disapproval of others, there’s a quiet calm within myself where I know I honestly don’t care. If they don’t approve, fuck them. I’ve lived through so much, fought through so much, survived so much. I’m not here to meet their approval. I’m here to live my life the way I feel I should be living it.
So I don’t know what I fear. Maybe I fear not living up to the expectations of mom now. Not making her proud. Doing something that would dishonor her memory or make her hang her head in shame.
The next time you face a potential loss, how will you address it?
I suppose the same as I have in the past. Analyzing my situation and figuring out where to go from wherever it is that I’m at. Potential loss is too broad of a term to really be able to say how I will react. There will be emotion involved, but after the emotion there will be reflection, and then action.
Reflect on how well you manage the following:
Focus on Opportunities vs. Problems
I think I do well with this one. I may focus on the problem for a bit, but generally, I’m able to shift my focus from one of dwelling to one of action. What can I do to change the situation? What options are there? Out of those options which is the best one for the moment with the information I have? What other obstacles could potentially arise? Should other people be involved or informed? Are there trusted mentors who could give me a clearer perspective or other avenues to pursue? I myself, being in involved or in the middle of the situation, may not be able to see the whole of the picture as someone uninvolved might be.
Focus on Long Term vs. Short Term
I feel I am, for the most part, balanced here. I am fairly good at identifying sort term goals as well as long term ones. What short term actions fit into my bigger overarching project? What can I do in the now to progress to where I want to be? What in the short term benefits the longer term?
Focus on Purpose vs. Circumstance
I feel I struggle here. I do tend to get caught up on circumstance. This situation, this issue is wreaking havoc on my life. This moment of struggle and challenge and despair and grief is the only moment in all of existence. I can lose sight of what I’m working towards or trying to achieve. Emotions become overwhelming and I falter. I lose sight. I cannot see past the enormity of what is before me, this mountain in the time of my life that has no end. It will go on for forever and I don’t know how I will move past it.
I forget the purpose of what I am trying to do. The why behind my struggle. My reason becomes the struggle, not the goal at the end, the summit I wish to reach. The view which the thought of had captivated me so strongly. The rain and mud and rocks and scraped knees and bloodied hands are all I can focus on and see. My eyes are down rather than ahead.
Eventually, I come out of this state. Either I remind myself to look up, to focus on where I’m going, or something, someone sparks the perspective shift for me. If you look down while you’re crossing the thin line of wire of a tight rope you will only fill yourself with doubt and fear and worry. You won’t see where you’re going, your destination, your light at the end of the tunnel, the view of the summit you so convictedly wanted to climb in the beginning. We all get caught in “the long middle”. I don’t think it’s weakness or a fault to need help and support and reminders that there is, in fact, a bigger picture, a bigger purpose. I think it’s human. I think it’s something we all go through in varying degrees. The bigger the project the easier it is to get caught up in the “things”, the circumstance.
There is a driving factor behind everything. Sometimes we just need a reminder to look up and remember what that factor, that purpose is.
Focus on Adaptability vs. Control
I think I’m getting better about this. I think I do a fair job at flowing and blending with others. I can take control when I need to, I can also delegate and divert when needed. I am not concerned about having the main role or the credit or the control. I’m more concerned about achieving what we are striving for. If that means stepping back or doing what I’m told, ok. Things are going to change. New information will come into play. The battle plan that was created with such care will become obsolete and a new one will need to be constructed.
Mom’s death taught me that very little is actually within our control. It is better to alter your course to match life because life will not, cannot alter its course for you.
Focus on Service vs. Self
When I become overwhelmed I struggle in this area. The more burnt out, the more hurt, the more tired and battle weary I am, the more concerned about me I become. What do I get out of it? How does it affect me? Why should I care?
I feel that much of my life is service oriented. I should be mindful and more aware of when the “self” thoughts begin to creep in. Why are they there? Could I be handling things better or in a more constructive way? Am I truly living by my values or am I regressing back to coping rather than character?
Focus on Listening vs. Expertise
I am not sure what is meant here. I suppose it might mean listening as in being open to learning or other perspectives rather than falling back on what is known or understood to begin with. Preconceived notions or patterns from the past which may cloud our judgment of the present situation.
I feel I do a decent job at listening. There are still times where I find myself listening to respond rather than listening to understand, however. Such a case can be illustrated by a conversation with my younger brother where he was expressing his frustration over his living situation. I realized halfway through his explanation that I was waiting for him to finish talking so I could launch straight into what I wanted to say. That’s not listening. That’s not hearing or understanding. That’s not being open.
Being aware that this is still a habit within myself allows me the opportunity to catch myself, call myself out on it, and to do something to correct it. It is a behavior I do not agree with. It is not how I want to behave.
What are your biggest challenges when it comes to learning from first-time situations?
Firstly, most likely allowing myself to have them. Secondly, being open enough to see the positive in them if they happen to be a negative situation. Accepting that I am still human and will make mistakes. Accepting negative emotions and allowing them to have their time so I can move past them is another challenge. I try so hard to pass that initial stage, the emotion stage. I glaze over it and rush past only for the emotions to come back later.
Emotions: Um, hi. I know we had a little bit of time together a few days ago, but I just wanted to let you know that it really wasn’t enough time and now we’re going to stick around for longer and be even more annoying and unruly to deal with and take even more time and energy from you. You really should have dealt with us in full in the beginning rather than brushing us off or pushing us down or to the side or into a box you knew we wouldn’t fit in.
I feel like if I could have a conversation with them, the emotions, that that’s how it would play out. Emotions are natural. You can’t hide from them. You can’t deny them their time and space. If something makes me feel bad, or wrong, or like a failure, I need to own that emotion. I need to embrace it, accepted as real, and then ask it why it’s there.
Me: Hello, my friend. It has been a while since I felt your presence. Anger, wrath, fury, despair, depression, apathy, insecurity, abandonment. Please sit and tell me what brings you back to me?
Maybe if I said that to my emotions rather than, “Not now, guys. I’m far to busy at the moment and tomorrow doesn’t look good either,” more constructive progress would be made in that beginning stage and prevent unnecessary hardship for myself later.