Leading with Compassion

Wow, today was a good day. When I was working for U.S. Corporations, I noticed how flexible co-workers were from other countries. They could pack up and move to another country at the drop of a hat – even without family.

I remember a woman I was working with turned down a promotion to take a lateral move into a European country where her fiance worked. It was interesting how the two of them were navigating the world to be together.

Who does that? The best I did in the U.S. was a comment on how long-distance relationships were difficult and inconvenient.

Yet, today I was chatting with someone who had packed up and immigrated to the U.S. by themselves. For me, just the thought of uprooting myself from family and friends and moving across an ocean is a daunting proposition. It’s not just leaving family and friends, it’s the complete change in social norms when you move to another country. You have to relearn acceptable and expected behavior, and no one is going to tell you that.

Anyways, I commented to them on this flexibility I saw in people from other countries. I noted I was not near that flexible. I always made sure I was coming back to the U.S.

Their response was fascinating and had me looking at my life in the U.S. in a different light. They said it wasn’t flexibility. It was the ability to adapt. They mentioned they had absolutely no regrets about moving to the United States. The country they were from had a lot of corruption. People didn’t support each other, and ethics were not even a side conversation. There was much jealousy between people, and if anyone seemed to be getting ahead, there was a lot of hostility directed towards them.

I thought about that because I had worked with people from their country. I remember myself and my co-workers in the U.S. talked about a few of this country’s workers and what they were doing. In the U.S., their behavior was considered unethical. So, of course, we avoided them because the belief was it was just a timing game when they would have to pay for their sins.

My friend commented right away. My friend had no faith in their fellow citizens from their country of origin. Not only did they expect these citizens would be doing something unethical, this person believed these co-workers would not care as long as they were getting their own.

I thought back on the situation before responding, “Yeah, that’s true.” In the company, everyone knew what they were doing. When these co-workers from this other country realized everyone knew, they decided they no longer needed to hide their actions, like knowledge was consent. I told my friend it wasn’t consent. It was an opportunity for them to do the right thing and avoid all the ugliness.

My friend commented, “Yes, but that is who you are, who the people in the U.S. are. They are caring people and believe in doing the right thing. They work at helping each other and try to support each other.”

You know, it’s been a long time since I’ve been in Corporate America, but this person was right. That is precisely who we are in the U.S. And, I remember that you needed to figure out how to be that ethical, caring person to advance in your job. Not that we all start like that. Most of us don’t start like that because ethics and compassion is a response of maturity – the exact opposite of the drive practiced through high school and college. Work could send you through a lot of training and mentoring to help you grow up and find a more compassionate way.

And sure, we are not perfect in the U.S., and I’m not saying we are. But the thing that I loved about this conversation is this person reminded me of the very best in us. They reminded me of who we can be and who we strive to be. They reminded me about why, when I went overseas, the companies wanted to work with me.

It’s been a dark year. For many of us, the turning of Americans on each other has been emotionally devastating. It has been difficult for me to reconcile these actions with my belief in democracy and freedom.

Yet, to hear from an immigrant, their undying belief in who we are as a country and who we are as individuals almost brought me to tears. It was one of the best Christmas gifts I could have received this year, and just in time for Christmas.

I know the energetics of our country are changing. I know if there is anything to I-Ching and Daoism, this change has been moving forward for some time.

What is this crazy comment about the I-Ching? The I-Ching talks about how energy moves in the world. An example is how spring moves to summer, moves to fall, and changes to winter before moving back to spring. Life in Chinese Medicine is circular with no starting point and no ending point. Yet, life and the energy of life move in predictable patterns. The four seasons always flow in the same manner. We accept that summer follows spring like the sun rising in the East and setting in the West.

These same patterns happen in the body and with our interactions. The obvious one is the movement from a baby to an adult to the elderly. The I-Ching is supposed to help capture the patterns and help the individual make educated guesses on what to do next. So, if summer comes after spring, an educated guess would be to get the shorts out of storage.

Back in July, when I didn’t think I could handle much more, I looked for guidance in Chinese Medicine. I wrote what I found in my blog, “Why 2020 the Year of the Metal Rat is Rife With Unusual Chaos”

I knew the worst of it was going to pass, like the year 2020. But, maybe it’s time to write another blog looking for guidance because next year will not be all roses and sunshine. Our country will become more stable, but many things that have happened will still negatively impact 2021, and it will take us believing we can work together to start to pull out this. It will take all us leading with compassion to turn this boat around.

And here again, I go back to my conversation earlier today with a person who had immigrated to this country. Their undying belief in who we are as a country and people helped lighten my load. They reminded me of my faith in myself and my fellow Americans. Their confidence in us left me humbled. Just that one act of kindness from a person who had no idea how much they were giving me in our brief conversation helped me remain on my path and stay true to myself and lead with compassion.

Judgment says more about the person than the situation

I was thinking about this today because my husband and I found a cute kitten hiding in our woodpile. My husband had noticed the little guy hanging around the house. He had tried to get close to the little guy, but the kitten was having none of it.

Well, the little guy, we’ll call him Smokie, was hungry enough to make it easy to catch him. He was really clean and well behaved, litter box trained with a good sense of boundaries. Whoever raised this kitten did it with love and respect and did a great job. A second similar kitten was found a few blocks from me.

I had wanted to post on our community chat to let the person know that this kitten and one other were safe and well taken care of and to thank them for doing such a great job of raising them. I hesitated because my community chat can be filled with judgment. I didn’t want to see my post overwhelmed with replies of what a jerk the person was and blah, blah, blah. Negativity overload!

So, I didn’t.

Many of you know, I lost my sister two days before her birthday in March of 2018. My mother passed a month later, in April of 2018. And, in June 2018, my horse passed. I was pretty shell-shocked.

Through this, I ran my business and saw clients. I had a new client who was a hairstylist. The only time she could get in was early morning – before my office hours. As a favor, I agreed to see her early.

Around the third appointment, I forgot I had booked her early. I woke up that morning and was overwhelmed with my grief of losing so much. I remember how sad I was. I was lost. I wanted to be alone.

I got ready for work thinking it was a typical day and trying to pull myself out of my funk. It is tough being in healthcare and giving to others when your tank is empty.

When I got to work, I heard the message on my answering machine. My client was upset. She was really upset. I immediately called her and tried to offer free products, taking care of her payments. She was having nothing to do with it. As far as she was concerned, I was unprofessional and had caused her significant injury. She was a very important person, and I had wasted her time(and let’s be real, many of us drop that attitude on others). I had the sneaking suspicion that judgment wasn’t going to be enough. She was going to want payback – vengeance.

Her husband had scheduled to come in that afternoon. I knew he wasn’t going to show up after the morning call with his wife. I expected her husband not to show nor call to cancel. For my small business, this is a big deal because the only thing I sell is my time. So, when a client books a slot, I can’t give it to another person. If they don’t show, I just lose that money and there is less money to pay overhead, employees, student loans, taxes and everything it takes to run a business.

My client’s vengeance would be that I deserved to have what she believed I had done to her – intentionally missed her appointment.

Well, that’s what happened. Her husband just didn’t show. I left her a message apologizing again. I never heard from her or her husband again.

I learned two things from that experience. First, that was the last time I made special arrangements for a client because if something went wrong, would we be grown enough to work through the problem?

The second was judgment says more about the person than the situation. She had made a judgment about what happened to her and acted on her judgment of the situation. You can either respond to situations based on your history or show a healthy curiosity about why I might have missed the appointment.

Even though the past no longer exists, it plays over and over in your head making you believe that every situation is the same situation from your past. It creates your playbook. That playbook judges what is happening and responds. I have a series on “Why does my Stomach Hurt?” which is starting production end of November 2020. It goes into this phenomenon from a Chinese Medical perspective.

Anyways, these types of playbooks create that kneejerk reaction to a situation and allow you to wonder, “Why does this always happen to me?” These kneejerk judgments and reactions that you can’t stop are an example of your past driving your future. My blog “Taking Back Your Power! How to Start Letting go of the Past and Moving On” talks to this. And when the story from your past is something that left you feeling hurt or powerless, the response is vengeance. You want to be able to tell the world you are no longer powerless.

Crazy, but I understood who she was because I grew up in a situation where I felt powerless and unsupported at times. Even today, experiences from my past lurk in my shadows.

The feeling of being powerless is the worse feeling. When confronted with a situation where I feel powerless, I feel that the need for vengeance.

Chinese Medicine is all about balance and two sides of the same coin. Being powerless is also being vulnerable…the out of balance side of vulnerable. In Chinese Medicine, everything has a point of perfect balance. Vulnerability in perfect balance is love. Vulnerability out of balance is powerlessness. And, when someone has experienced the out of balance side of vulnerability for too long, the ability to experience unconditional love can be foreign along with compassion.

So, judgment says more about the person than the situation. Everyone will experience judgment differently. Not everyone gets to experience the situation I experienced, in Chinese Medicine you experience life based on the law of attraction. The world brings a mirror into your life every day. Each day is an opportunity to find another piece of yourself through your interactions with others. She was my opportunity to see myself. It could have happened at a less traumatic time in my life. But hey, life doesn’t wait for you. I have another blog post, “Learn to Remember What You Want in Life to Live a Happier Life” which starts to touch on how to change attraction.

Yet, I started this story about an abandoned kitten. I want to end with an abandoned kitten.

I had a friend back about thirty years ago when we were still teenagers. His cat had kittens, and they were the adorable mixed siamese kitties with fluffy hair. They were all buff with blue eyes. His parents told him they couldn’t keep all the kittens.

He wasn’t about to take them to a shelter because who knows what horror would happen to them there. He could have given them to a feral cat adoption group, but he couldn’t be sure who would get his kittens. He could advertise them, but who knows who was going to show up?

What did he do? He took his cute, clean, healthy, fluffy kittens and put pink bows around their neck. He got three picnic baskets and put a baby blanket in each basket. He put one kitten in each basket.

He picked people he saw in his communities that he thought were good people. These were people he didn’t know but would have liked to know and put the picnic basket with the kitten on their doorstep. His kittens ended up safe and well-loved.

Even back then, he was a great salesperson and understood presentation is half the battle. And judgment, you never know why someone does something or what it means unless you ask. Judgment is more about your past, your beliefs, and your value of yourself than the situation.

The Afternoon When Quarantine Fatigue Hit and How it’s Challenging Your Identity

Have you reached it? I have. Early afternoon about two weeks ago, I was sitting in my house looking around. I looked at my husband and said, “I just hit quarantine fatigue.”

You can look through my blogs and my Youtube channel and see I’ve been fighting the good fight. But the pandemic has been going on for a long time, and there is no end in sight.

I grew up in a world where self-medicating, and one pill cures are the expectation. Everything has been instantaneous, and I have never been in a situation where I had to be uncomfortable for a long time. I’ve never been in a situation where I had to deal with myself and find solace in being alone with myself.

I had to go into the city this morning. I’ve been in quarantine mode for so long it was uncomfortable being in a city again. It was weird watching people walk by in their clothes. Weren’t clothes one of our most significant, useless consumer items purchased pre-pandemic – stacks and stacks of clothes? And shoes! Everyone had on shoes that expressed who they wanted to be.

I know, because I was a bit excited about getting to go into the city. My love is sweaters, and Europe knows they have the corner on the excellent sweater market. I had purchased the majority of my sweaters from Europe. I love the fact that they are all wool, super well-made, and comfy!

I swooned through my sweaters this morning, almost hyperventilating that I was going to get to wear one of them. It was cold out this morning, so I had some great options. I could go for a layered look wrapped with a jacket or use one of my jacket sweaters with a turtleneck or blow the whole sweater thing and go for one of my jackets layered over a turtleneck. The options were breathtaking.

I mean, that is part of the fatigue, isn’t it? The inability to express yourself to the world. Hey world, look at me! This is who I am!

I even spent time choosing my shoes, waffling back and forth between the perfect match or comfort. Comfort won out, but to be real, it was comfort with style.

I was in the city looking at the diversity of expression. Shoes were winning out, and boots seemed to be the big winner. Expressive boots that had seen little or no wear. Boots with heels, elevated boots, rounded toes with memory foam, boots with laces, boots were all over the place.

People walked and walked, showing off their shoes. Yet, there was confusion. I felt the confusion. I was confused. We were doing what we had always done. However, it didn’t make sense anymore. The masks certainly detracted from the look. And every one of us had a mask on. On the streets, in the parking lots, in the buildings, everyone had a cover on.

It brought back the eerie reality of today. The excitement over finally getting to wear my favorite clothes again out in public dissipated. Once again, I was faced with the critical points of self-discovery this pandemic continues to dump in my lap. This time, it was consumerism.

You know, I’ve wanted to buy another sweater, but this pandemic has me putting the breaks on things. I’m actually asking myself, “Do I need another sweater?” No, I don’t. I have too many sweaters right now. Too many, and there won’t be enough time in my lifetime to wear them all down to nothing.

Most of us are spending time in the grocery store. That is our outing for the week, the month, or whatever. I use to get whatever I wanted and throw it in the grocery cart. Later, when I found I had forgotten to eat it, I threw it away.

I really wanted to get a pastry this morning on my way back from the city. I stopped myself because I have a bundt cake at home and a few pounds of frozen berries I need to make into a fantastic dessert.

Pre-pandemic, I would have bought the pastries and tossed the bundt cake.

How I looked at purchases and the value I placed on purchases changed when I spent a month looking for toilet paper and eight months looking for a can of Lysol.

Everything is regaining value. The value is no longer the empty promises and mass hysteria of pathological consumerism. Instead, I began purchasing the things I needed. Because I wasn’t buying everything, I had time to enjoy the things I did buy.

The separation from people has helped me put my head on again. Much of my consumerism was created by my interaction with the media and others. All that interaction has gone away.

It’s crazy. It’s like that frantic search for validation that focuses on consumerism has had to find a different outlet. Without an outlet, could all the energy be a part of the rampant hostility expressed today?

I’m talking to my friends. It’s incredible how much we use to buy. You may think this lack of purchasing decreased their quality of life. That’s not what is happening. Their life hasn’t become less. It’s actually become more.

My quality of life wasn’t harmed because I didn’t buy that pastry or that sweater. It was hurt when I was purchasing all that stuff. When I was on a tear of consumerism, I wasn’t enjoying what I bought. Because I was spending so much, I felt the need to chase the dollar to have more dollars to spend on stuff I didn’t need.

With winter coming in, it appears we have a long ways to go before this pandemic has found its end. That means the world will give us a lot more time to sit alone with our thoughts. All this time, I’m thinking I will get back to that time when I was seven, laying in the grass watching the monarch butterflies lightly dance through the air. I wasn’t worried about my next purchase. I was just enjoying the here and now.

So, I find myself sitting here on a sunny fall morning, typing this blog, eating my warmed bundt cake topped with butter and a large cup of flower tea. I didn’t do this before the pandemic.

Before the pandemic, the house’s goal was to find a respite from the world and a place of peace. It never did because I never had time. I do now partly because I didn’t distract myself on my way home, looking for the perfect pastry. You know, the weirdest thing is the slice of warmed bundt cake topped with butter coupled with a fragrant cup of tea was more perfect than any pastry could have been.

It’s Time to Double Down on Positivity

Last night was a crazy night. Did you all feel it? There is another bloom of negativity rolling through right now. It woke me up in the middle of the night. Clients are saying they feel off or depressed and can’t point to a reason. 

I touched on societal blooms of negative Karma in my Youtube episode “Understanding the Laws of Karma, the first step to finding your true self.”   Sometimes, a society “spontaneously combusts.” Not really, but emotionally creates this harmful bloom that consumes the society and drives it into calamity. 

You know, the energetics had mellowed out for about a month, and then this past week, they started picking up again. Last night, I was just overwhelmed. I hear it from my clients. “I’m feeling depressed.” “I’m on edge.” “I can’t concentrate or focus.” There is this sense of hopelessness that is creeping into people’s lives. 

If you watched my episode on Karma, you already know the only way out of these negative blooms is through self-searching, treating people with respect, and finding your way to stay positive. So, I want to encourage you to double down on positivity. 

For myself, I focus more time on meditation. I self-prepare before going out and interacting with society because I want to try to stay on the right side of positivity. I work on catching myself when I veer off-track and pulling myself back to a collaborative bent. I’m happy I caught myself. That doesn’t always happen.

I’m really focused on me and trying to keep my interactions on a high note. 

Yet, there is a lot of baiting going on in social media and in conversations. 

What does baiting mean when it’s people you know?

Sigh.

I had to put a lot of thought into this and find my own balance. How do I see their story? Isn’t that where the point of compassion and the ability to let go meet up? 

Yup, and I got to say; it almost feels creepy walking in another’s shoes right now. You know why it is creepy? It’s creepy because they are feeling the same things I’m feeling from a different direction. It’s like we are standing on the same compass, just different cardinal directions. I might be on the Eastside, and they are on the Westside. We’re on the same compass, the same planet. We just see the world from different directions. 

When I was in college, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was the crux of what drove action. Sure, the theory has expanded over the years. But, the same baseline needs are still drivers. The need for health, safety, food, shelter, and clothing are all the first steps. 

When I started looking into some of the posts on social media from my friends, sure, they were baiting, but they were also wrapped in fear. I mean, it’s a scary time right now. Small businesses are the crux of the economy, and they are struggling. Large companies are struggling. I was stunned when I read Regal Cinemas closed their doors. 

“The world is shifting under my feet.” I thought to myself and felt that familiar feeling of being unsettled and out of balance. That uncomfortable feeling that has highlighted so much of this year.

I was talking to friends who have had a hard time getting unemployment or finding a job. Fear. “How am I going to pay my mortgage, my rent? How am I going to put food on the table?” “How am I going to home school my kids when I have to go to work?” Fear. I can’t even comprehend their trials because their trials are so overwhelming. We don’t have a society that has a safety net for that. 

Here is the thing, everyone is at risk right now. We are all worried. It becomes a decision on whether you will be part of the problem or part of the solution. 

I’m frightened. I’ve been climbing over some big mountains this year. I know that I can’t afford to waste more of my energy on being baited. Being that I’m so frayed, baiting sneaks up on me. I’ll be minding my own business, staying positive, and one of my friends will say something really baiting. It’s baiting because it ignores the fact that I’m a person hurt, threatens my safety, security, and ability to put food on the table for my family. 

I was in the middle of the fires up here and couldn’t breathe. One of my friends posted an ill-advised political comment on global warming. I had a melt-down. Really???? I posted something along the lines, “We are dying here, losing everything we own, losing our lives, and you want to taunt global warming?” 

I was furious at how insensitive the comment had been. The thing was, she took the comment down. I think we forget people live behind our comments. That act of removing the comment changed my fury to one of admiration and thanks.

I had the opportunity to be on the other side of a similar conversation. I had been trying to get something corrected for a long time. I wasn’t successful and had a snotty note with Customer Service. Customer Service didn’t know I had been trying to get this fixed and thought they were doing something great. Well, she was, and I heard her disappointment with my response. I had the opportunity to lay down my lousy behavior, thank her, and apologize. I took the opportunity to change the world and cleaned up my act. 

No one knows what any one of us has been going through. It has been a tough year. Everyone is on edge. Here is your opportunity to define who you are. Are you going to double down on positivity or bait your “use to be” friends?

A Mid-life Crisis or a Coming of Age Story

“…For I’ve grown a little leaner

Grown a little colder

Grown a little sadder

Grown a little older…”

–         Jerry Herman

This has been a tough year for me and it’s brought me face to face with many things. It’s brought me face to face with things I thought I was too emotionally stable to experience. I guess I was too over-confident. Every time I get too confident, life takes a twist and flips me on my back. 

I was positive I was too stable to experience something as cliché as a mid-life crisis. I thought mid-life crises happen to other people. They happen in middle age when people are in the autumn of their life. They happen to people who didn’t do their bucket list, didn’t experience as much as possible in life, didn’t, didn’t, didn’t….

My dad past away when I graduated high school. And then nothing happened for a very long time. I was in my early 40’s and one day, one of my high school friends stopped facebooking me. And I wondered about that. I queried up his name and read he had died of a heart attack.

Reading about his passing was unsettling. I was still in the context of “living forever” and here was a friend of mine who died. Reading he passed quickly brought death close to me. How do people my age pass away? We didn’t die…. yet.

After that, people I knew started passing more frequently. It started happening every year. Someone I knew passed every year. Then death started stalking my inner circle. My friends and family got cancer, had heart attacks, had strokes.

I was no longer in the context of “living forever”. With each serious illness, with each passing, the reality of life being finite came closer and closer. I stopped looking at the whole of my life in front of me and started seeing that my life was half over. I became aware of the passage of time in a way I never had before.

I changed and stopped living so freely. I stopped gambling so recklessly on stocks, jobs, sports. I purchased life insurance. Bought safe cars. I stopped eventing horses. I started a business. I settled down and got focused.

I started asking questions about life. I wanted to figure out what I needed to do so I wouldn’t ask the question, “Is this all there is?”

And then time rolled me into this year. First, I lost my sister. A month later, I lost my mother. Another month later, I lost the horse that I bred and was my show partner for the last 18 years. So much loss in such a short amount of time. An enormous hole in my life opened where they use to be.

That hole held some new learnings for me. I learned my internal definition of who I am is based on my relationships. It is not based on my job or my activities. It is based on my relationships with others.

The closeness of those relationships created my world. We came together to experience the world without having to apologize for our actions or compromise on things we loved to do.

When my sister, mom, and horse left, the force they applied in my life vanished. They were like a strong wind guiding my sail across an exciting sea, and without them, the wind suddenly stopped. I found myself in the middle of an empty sea in a stalled ship. Losing one of them would have been disorienting yet manageable. But all three of them?

No one was holding me up. Things that we would do together were no longer important. Without them why would they be important?

I didn’t know who I was anymore and found myself asking, “Is this all there is?” “What is the point?”

It drove me to want to seek out the past. I wanted to find them again and the time when we were still all together. And I wanted to go back to where I grew up. I wanted to go back “home”.

I was in the middle of a mid-life crisis.

I think what surprised me the most was a mid-life crisis was created by loss. It could be any significant loss pulling apart a piece of what defines you. The kids going off to college, losing parents, your partner becoming impaired from dementia or stroke or dying, getting a divorce. These losses could have built up over time or happened all at once.

I realized I had been looking at the definition of a mid-life crisis backwards. I was thinking that a mid-life crisis happened and then we became crazy and unpredictable. I didn’t realize the loss came first and when the loss became too much to bear, then our grief sought refuge in a younger you when everything was still possible and the losses hadn’t happened yet. That frantic search for the past was labeled a mid-life crisis.

I was experiencing many of the things that define a mid-life crisis. I started wearing clothes I wore when I was a teenager. Thank-goodness they were still age-appropriate like wool shirts, jeans, and docksiders. I listened to music from high school. I reacquainted myself with my extended family. I picked up hobbies I had when I was younger. I planned trips back “home”. And, I was changing my work experience one more time.   

And here is the thing, a mid-life crisis is about loss. I wasn’t psychologically prepared to face so much loss in such a short time. As I reeled over one loss to another, I wasn’t given time to acknowledge and process the losses.

I guess the last thing I realized about a mid-life crisis is that it isn’t a crisis. A mid-life crisis is a coming of age story. It’s your own coming of age story where you, once again, are given the opportunity to mature. Only this time, you do not have to learn about responsibilities, standing up for yourself, or struggling to find your place.

This time, you get to learn the value of the world around you and how to give back. The world becomes more important than yourself, your jobs, your life, your daily routines. Loss teaches you the value in the world around you each day. 

What have you learned from loss?