Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Taking Recovery to Work: The Political World

We are in a recession—or we’re not. Things are getting better—or they’re not.  We don’t know whether to get our hopes up or to hunker down.  The national and state politics are scary.  But it’s the political scene we enter tomorrow morning that will keep most of us tossing and turning tonight.

Office politics. Those are the hardest politics we face.

A young friend recently said to me, “I don’t want to work where there are politics.” 

I understood her distress, but I thought, “Then go home and make pot holders.”  There is no work without politics because there is no work without people.

Any time we organize ourselves into a business, a women’s club, a church group or a scout troop there will be politics. 

The trend toward making the workplace feel like home doesn’t help. By loosening the home and work boundary we get to have—at work—all the goodies that belong at home: sibling rivalry, parental intrusion, and fights about money, cleaning and table manners.  Maybe if work were less like home we’d go home to get the things we’re supposed to get there: love, companionship and intimacy.

Another complication we add at work is using the word “team”. I know it’s supposed to be a metaphor for playing nicely together, but we forget what really happens on teams: hierarchy, competition and rivalry. Do you watch March Madness? Then you see great teams –and great coaches-- and a lot of sweating and swearing and glaring. 

So, it’s inevitable that we have office politics.   Every day each of us carries our emotional baggage to work in an invisible tote bag and then we pick from it throughout the day. But this is not necessarily a bad thing.  Working with other human beings is a creative process—and that is always messy.

 Maybe the best we can do is to try not to draw blood, and to say we’re sorry when we do.  But like the sign in every casino says, “You must be present to win.”  We need the politics in our workplaces and in our communities to work out who we are and how we get better. 

I’m an optimist. I see the messiness of human beings as a good thing.  You might roll your eyes and call me a “Pollyanna”, but that fictional girl is not a bad role model. The Dali Lama has very little on the 11-year-old girl that Eleanor Porter created in 1912.

Pollyanna is the story of a girl who went through so many painful events with the most difficult people , and she was able to remain optimistic and make changes for the good.
It can feel safer to stay with the negative, but pessimism is actually lazy. To stay optimistic takes courage.  You have to keep believing that things will work out even if it’s not the way you hoped they would.    

Now in our nation and our workplaces we get to make that choice. We can moan and groan, or we can choose optimism.

Friday, January 12, 2018

What We can Learn from French Women

You have read the articles about how French women shop, dress, cook, flirt and even parent their children. We have been told that they are more elegant, chic and more mysterious than we “pursuit of happiness” American gals.

So, we wonder “Could I learn to be all of that?” Well, the mystery has been solved—or more accurately, we are being let in on the secrets. And it’s really good news. 

The “secret” to being charmingly French is not in the 100 splashes of cold water (on face and breasts), and it’s not in the wine with lunch and dinner (thank goodness, after all, we tried that), and it’s not even in having a collection of Birkin bags and Hermes scarves.

Author Jamie Cat Callan is touring the country right now to teach us that the big secret to French charm is in one’s thoughts and attitudes. 

And certainly, every woman in recovery, knows about “think it through” and “attitude adjustment”. We know how to do that.

Last week I drove to Chatham, New York—a beautiful village south of Albany and North of Manhattan—to see—and hear—Jamie kick off her book tour for “Parisian Charm School—French Secrets for Cultivating Love. Joy, and that certain je ne sais quoi”.

At the Chatham Bookstore Jamie kicked off the evening in a most French way with beautiful foods by Alexandra Stafford, and French music and a great deal of laughter. 

Then Jamie spoke about French style—fewer clothes, but clothes you absolutely love, French food—they eat much less than we do, but always the finest quality so they are more satisfied, and French dating—they don’t! French women have friends of both sexes and socialize in groups, and maybe a special relationship develops over time—over a long time.

The French spend time with their families –immediate and extended (yes, even if dysfunctional or troublesome), and they embrace their history—personal, cultural and national. 

The biggest take-away from Jamie Cat Callan and her years of French life and study and practice is that French women are different but we can borrow their qualities: savoring, thinking, moving—and speaking—slowly, and being more present in the world and in the day. It is those qualities that lead to their great wardrobes and great skincare and not the other way around. 

"Parisian Charm School" may not technically be a recovery book, but it is a book for recovering women-to help us recover a sense of self, self love and care, and a charming new life.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Happy Introvert Day!

It is January 2nd! The day that introverts get to breathe a sigh of relief.  We can come out of hiding; it’s safe to answer the phone and we can stop pretending we feel the flu coming on. Yes--the holidays are over. 

From mid-December through New Year’s Day, those of us with an introverted nature live in a state of perpetual dread. The weeks of office parties, neighborhood potlucks and open houses drain all our energy. But today we can relax; we made it through.

I speak from experience. I am an introvert. It surprises most people because I’m outgoing and friendly and very far from shy, but I prefer one person and one conversation at a time. 

I fought this for years, always trying to be someone else. I made myself go to parties; I tried to fix what I thought was “wrong” with me. It didn’t help that other people would press, “But you’re so good with people” as if being introverted meant living on the dark side. But I finally got it. 

This is also one of the blessings of long recovery. I no longer eat or drink in order to fit in or to numb the discomfort of social activities I don’t like. It’s a great relief. 

It’s no wonder that we introverts are sometimes defensive. Seventy-five percent of the population is extraverted; we’re outnumbered three-to-one, and the American culture tends to reward extraversion. 

Here’s what introverts are not: We’re not afraid and we’re not shy. Introversion has little to do with fear or reticence. We’re just focused, and we prefer one-on-one because we like to listen and we want to follow an idea all the way through to another interesting idea. Consequently small talk annoys us.

Many great leaders are introverts and many of our better presidents have been introverts: Lincoln, Carter and the John Adams—both father and son.  No, maybe I’m not being totally fair, but life isn’t fair to introverts. Introverted kids are pressured to “speak up” or we were hounded to “be more outgoing”. 

The philosopher Pascal wrote, “The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.”  Introverts do. So let’s make January 2nd, Happy Introvert Day. We’ll be quiet and happy. And grateful as another year of “Out of the Woods” recovery begins.