Getting Over Ourselves

“They’re gonna do what?!” It was official – my mind was blown. I could not believe what I was hearing. My friend was sharing the behavior of people we know. I was appalled and indignant. How dare they behave this way? Didn’t they know that was wrong? What gave them the right to manipulate the situation in their favor? I was angry. My anger came from a deep place, triggered by the injustice of it all. If a nurse could have magically appeared and strapped one of those blood pressure machines on me, I’m sure it would have registered 400/200. I got home that evening in a flustered state and immediately asked my husband to pour me a glass of wine.  It didn’t really do any good as I continued to feed my outrage by recounting to my husband every detail of the situation. I wasn’t hungry at dinner and continued to talk through my disbelief. When bed time came, I was calmer but found myself in a foul mood.

When Saturday morning’s coffee was soured by my acrid mood I finally said, “Alright, I just have to get over myself.” Sigh – easier said than done. When things are bothering me they just play in my head in an endless loop, kind of like that “gotta go to Mo’s” jingle. Well, every time my indignity surged, I would take deep breaths and remind myself that I cannot control or change the situation. I focused instead on what I could control and that was how I reacted to it. I decided to trust that the people who are in the know and have influence will do the right thing. I couldn’t change the outcome and confronting the people about what they intended to do would be interpreted as self-serving. The best I could do was to pray and let go.

Letting go, however, required that I confront and stare down my ego. By the way, this wasn’t the first time I sparred with my ego. http://yayaspeaks.com/2011/11/20/getting-to-know-you-ego/. When we react so strongly to something, the majority of times it is because our ego is involved. I had to be honest and accept that my ego was bruised. Ego said that my contributions to the situation were loftier and more valuable and yet they were overlooked and had gotten me nothing.  Ego said that my beliefs and standards were holier and as such gave me the right to judge others. Ego fought back each time I questioned it: what right do I have to judge what others do?  How dare I behave this way? How could I believe that my way of doing things is the just way? Worst of all, how could I latch on to this judgment without all of the facts?

There was a lot of emotional processing that weekend. By Monday, I was 90 percent over myself. It took another two days before I could face the situation with total peace. That was about 40 hours of internal turmoil. Unfortunately I will not get back those 40 hours of physical disturbance, but I am fortunate to say it was a short time compared to what some people are willing to hold on to for years.

I think that our passion and motivations can result in anger. And, anger can be a great emotion to channel into action in order to make change and improve our life and others’. But, when the situation is out of our control, we have to let go and get over ourselves, especially when our anger is a result of a bruised ego. When we have a strong reaction to something, we need to put our ego on the hot seat and try to see what is behind the anger with objectivity. It’s an tough exercise on humility but worth the effort. Nothing is worth is our health and inner peace and so I end this week’s blog with the serenity prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Adopted from Reinhold Niebuhr’s original prayer

Much Love and Peace,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serenity_Prayer

At the Intersection of Ending and Beginning

That little white dot is me!

“The End”. Remember when movies used to flash those six letters on the screen to let viewers know that the story was unequivocally at its conclusion? I guess filmmakers didn’t want to risk us missing the other clues: the villain was dead, the guy got the girl, evil was thwarted, love prevailed and humanity was saved from total destruction. What could come after that, right?

In life, we experience countless endings. Some we anticipate, plan for, and we may even celebrate them. Others we dread. But, even when an ending is something we look forward to like, graduating, getting married, or changing jobs, we feel sadness and longing because we know that tomorrow is going to be different. When I got the news that my condominium had been purchased, I sat in my dining room and cried for 30 minutes. I was overcome by emotion, and even questioned my reasons for selling the condo even though my husband and I had agreed to purchase a single-family home. I admit that I may be exaggeratedly sentimental and that most people would probably not react this way. But, I remember in those moments of mourning, relishing in the memories of the first place I called my own: the pure joy I felt the day I was given the keys, moving in, the paint and wallpaper I had painstakingly selected for each room, gatherings with friends and family. This made the tears flow even more.

Fortunately, most endings are paired with beginnings; not like food and wine but more like a shot of tequila and a chaser. Beginnings can be exciting and energizing, and they sometimes soothe the sting of the ending. I love the thrill of beginnings. That’s why I love New Year’s Eve!  I am enamored by the blank page which has yet to reveal its surprises – its ups and its downs. Yet, even with the thrill, there has never been a beginning when I didn’t feel a bit of fear. The unknown is scary and at times I have doubted that I would be capable of handling what the unknown had in store for me. When my husband and I bought our home, I was intimidated by the amount of extra work it required versus a condo. But, with time I learned to manage it and can now appreciate the perks of having our own separate piece of property.

At the intersection of endings and beginnings is where we feel the most human, maybe even the most alive. From one moment to the next we we may feel love, fear, excitement, anguish, sadness, happiness, relief or regret. Because we are in between what was familiar and is unfamiliar, we feel vulnerable therefore our senses are heightened, as are our intuitive powers. We are more accepting of the fact that we don’t control everything and may lean more on our faith and spirituality. We may also feel motivated and though we have self-doubt, we tend to be more courageous at the intersection of ending and beginning.

Right now I am at that very intersection. My contract with my client is coming to an end – and this time it’s for good. And, even though I don’t know exactly who the next one will be, I know that the beginning of a new cycle is already here. At the juncture between our endings and beginnings is where our past touches our future; it is where our experience meets our potential.  I am grateful for the ending and for the next cycle that is before me. This is the time to reflect on what I have learned and how much I have grown. If you find yourself at this intersection too, I join you in being acutely aware of our aliveness.  Let’s embrace the ending, give its due cry, and surrender to the future.

Much Love,

Wishing you un Buen Camino

 

Pelegrinos on the camino

Pelegrinos on the camino de Santiago de Compostela

Saturday nights are movie nights at our house and this weekend’s movie choice planted in me the nascent idea of a pilgrimage. The movie was The Way (Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez) and it is about a man who completes his dead son’s pilgrimage to the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela. The movie took us through the camino as the main character meets other pilgrims along the way.

 

Camino is Spanish for road or journey. The camino de Santiago de Compostela is a set of trails that lead to the Cathedral de Santiago, where Apostle St. James is said to be laid to rest. The cathedral is in Galicia in north-western Spain and the pilgrimage routes vary and have existed for over 1,000 years. Though the pilgrimage is for many Christians an important walk in their faith, not everyone who makes the journey does it for religious or spiritual reasons; some do it for sport, health, to experience the culture of the region, or to connect to the Milky Way which runs over the trails.

 

Though I am a spiritual person and believe in God, angels and spirit guides, I have not considered a pilgrimage. I would not complete the journey because I believe that St. James in buried in the cathedral, though I would still be moved by the idea and attend mass. I would do it for the time to reflect and because I believe that we are closest to God and our energy source when we are in nature. When I go for a walk, my mind operates in a different frequency and though my body feels tired at the end, my mind is refreshed. The idea of doing this for over a month while walking about 20 miles per day is exhilarating to me. Other plusses are: the chance to meet people from different parts of the world; to share an experience with the millions of souls that have walked the way for centuries; to see a beautiful part of Spain; to get in better shape; to discover a different side of me.

 

If I sound convinced about walking el camino let me say that I am not. There are a few things that I am not prepared to do: doing my private business in the wilderness is one; dealing with feeling vulnerable to robbery or attacks is another. And, being able to be away for over a month without any income is a significant obstacle. But, all that tells me is that it is not the right time.

 

My life is a pilgrimage inwards. As I have gotten older I have been able to peel back layers of blinders and distractions. I am getting closer to my spiritual core and discovering new facets of my life’s purpose. The idea of walking el camino de Santiago de Compostela is not a random coincidence. It is a stepping stone that lies ahead for me in my journey. What do you see ahead in your journey? When a situation becomes too difficult, with obstacle after obstacle, do you see it as a sign to seek a new avenue or a new perspective? Are you feeling pulled to do something else? Do you sense that what you need to do in order to change what is happening on the outside is to look at what’s happening on the inside? If so, I send you encouragement and love, and wish you, from a pilgrim to another, un buen camino.

 

Much Love,

 Links I found useful about El Camino de Santiago de Compostela

http://www.caminodesantiago.me.uk/st-james/history-of-the-camino/

http://www.americanpilgrims.com/camino/camino.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Way_(film)

 

 

 

Tips For Preparing For Grad School

Have you been thinking about graduate school?

A few months ago I began planning an educational seminar for women that offered lessons and tips about applying to a graduate program. The seminar was held in Washington, DC on August 1st.  The seminar was a great success and I am so happy to have welcomed a new group of women into our Yaya Speaks virtual village. Aligned with a mission to promote women inspiring other women to greatness, this Yaya Speaks seminar was a great way to launch my Woman Empowerment Series. This event could not have happened without the generous participation from the following women: Evelyn Garcia-Morales, Rosalia Miller, Holly Ann Triska, Elida Sarmiento, Betty Paugh Ortiz, and Lesley Perry. I would also like to thank Zenayda Mostofi and Gerri Walsh for their support. Below is a summary of the main messages offered by our panelists and presenters.

  • The obstacles to taking that big step to going back to school can be overcome with preparation, courage, and external support. For some (myself included) taking the GRE or any type of standardized test can be a real barrier. We feel intimidated and fear that our recall of quantitative formulas and vocabulary is non-existent. We learned that not all programs require GRE scores. But, if your program requires test scores then the best thing to do is to buy a test preparation book and take advantage of all of the free test preparation resources you can find, at your local library or on the Internet. The key is to study and take practice tests. To expand your vocabulary, read journals and newspapers and look up the words that you don’t know. If you budget can bear it, sign up for test preparation course. These are offered frequently and will provide a structured study environment for the test. Give yourself at least three months to study. One last thing about testing, schedule the test. Once you have booked the test, you are more likely to stick to your studying schedule. There is a fee to take the test so plan for that as well.
  • Other obstacles were internal. Doubting our ability to succeed and fear of failure was a major one. All of our panelists shared that they had moments of self-doubt and fear but they did it anyway. This is the definition of courage; moving forward despite our fears. Besides having determination, we also need the support of those around us. Having your friends and family as your cheerleaders is a great way to stay motivated when things seem overwhelming. One woman shared that her friends “kept her feet to the fire” and did not allow her to give up on her dreams. True friends will do that for you, and those who love us, our spouses, our children, can serve as coaches and cheerleaders when we need them most.
  • When working women get together we will undoubtedly talk about balance. How do we make enough time for school, personal life, health, and career? Well, the answer is it depends. It depends on you. You can accept that, for a while, you will not have balance but will focus on school and career and lean on others until you achieve your goals. Or, you can plan your schedule so that you devote some time to all. There is no question that going back to school is going to require sacrifice and focus. Studying, reading, projects and papers will require substantial time and effort if you want to do well. I think our panelists would agree that going back to graduate school is going to make you a better time manager and that in the end it will be worth it.
  • And speaking of school work we also talked about studying. We all learn in different ways. For me, reading a book in the library resulted in one thing: a nap. For others, the solitude and collective concentration of the people in the library served as a great motivator. Each of us has to find what works best for us. If you are more alert in the morning, you should chedule your study time in the morning. If you are a night owl and get your second wind after 5 o’clock, you will probably find it easier to study in the evenings. Also keep in mind most graduate programs are structured in groups. My entire MBA experience was in a cohort. Group study is a great way to learn the material quickly and to leverage each other’s comprehension and strengths.
  • Another key message from Wednesday was to be authentic and a bit vulnerable in your personal statement. The personal statement is a key piece of your graduate school application and should not be taken lightly. Spend time to develop your essay and show how your personal experiences, values, or convictions are uniquely tied with your desired plan of study. Admissions officers are looking to bring the most serious candidates to their programs. This is why your essay has to say more than just your accomplishments and represent the person you have become, and hope to be, given your unique life experience. Developing your essay will take time and you should plan to re-read and re-write at least a dozen times. Use your network of trusted friends and family to give you honest feedback. Always have other people read your essay because they will catch inconsistencies and errors that you will not be able to see. The evening’s discussion on writing a personal statement can be summarized in two words: dig deep.
  • Financing a graduate degree is a scary proposition, especially in this economy. We learned that there are scholarships and fellowships for graduate work and the American Association of University Women is just one resource. But, finding grants or scholarships requires research. It is very important to research funding opportunities as soon as you decide that you are going back to graduate school. Most people apply for school, wait to hear that they got in, and then they look for scholarships only to find out that the deadlines were six or eight months ago. Many scholarship applications are due in the fall whereas the admissions applications are not due until January. Also, speak about your interests with faculty at the school you are applying to because they may become a resource for funding opportunities that are not going to be advertised. Ask your employer about scholarship opportunities because not all employers promote this benefit. And lastly, consider community organizations such as the Rotary Club, the Key Club, and church as potential sources of scholarship support.

There were many words of wisdom exchanged at the seminar and various materials were available for everyone to take. I am delighted that many women made new connections and committed to sharing what they learned with other women.

If you would like to see a seminar/webinar about any woman-empowerment topic please send me a note.

Much Love,