How to flunk perfectionism

I love to write!  I truly do.  So how come I can’t seem to write on a regular basis?

I’m convinced that my perfectionism keeps me from writing. In fact, I think I have received an A+ in my life’s course on perfectionism.  I see now that I need to learn how to flunk this course, because succeeding in it makes me stressed and miserable!

Here are the four steps I have achieved in my quest for perfectionism, as well as my intentions for flunking, or what I like to call becoming “perfectly imperfect”.

Step 1:  Set your expectations so high that you can never achieve them. 

Decide to write for 3 hours a day, then when you fail to write for that long, convince yourself it’s a sign that you are really not a writer.  In fact, you are a horrendous failure, a big time loser, who hasn’t learned self-control.  (Ouch — that hurts to even write!)

Step 2: Create rigid, high standards for yourself that keep you frozen.

Don’t even start writing anything! If you risk writing an article or book, people may not understand it or like it.  They may not be inspired or find any value at all in your writing; so just don’t write anything. That way you won’t have to worry.

Step 3:  Believe that you can operate without any flaws, defects or shortcomings.

Make certain that you have no tolerance for any of your flaws, defects, and shortcomings. If you don’t finish an article in the expected 30 minutes, give yourself a nasty reprimand.

If you can’t finish and post at least one blog article a week, look harshly at all of the reasons you failed. Make sure you use derogatory language like “lazy” or “pathetic”.

Look over what you’ve written so you can perfect it.  Be incredibly critical about your word choice, your phrasing, and your flow. Spend time agonizing over whether it’s just right. It must be perfect!

Step 4: Constantly compare yourself to others and measure your perfection against their success.

As you read other blogger’s work, constantly compare your work to theirs.  Notice how perfect their writing is and how prolific they are. Compare the number of subscribers they have to the number you have.

Notice how many books your favorite authors have written.  You haven’t even finished one?!! You must not be cut out to be a writer. You should just give up now.

As you read these four steps, do you feel what I feel? Reading them (and living them) make me feel depressed, hopeless, stuck, and frustrated.  I realize that these steps to perfectionism just aren’t serving me any more.

So… here is how to flunk perfectionism!

What really works is to be perfectly imperfect.

Being perfectly imperfect means:

… discovering after 2 days (or maybe 2 weeks) that writing for 3 hours a day is just not working for you, so you set a new schedule.  You decide to write for 10 minutes a day and see how that goes.

…understanding that you have to write to please yourself.  If you choose to write from your own heart, your unique experiences and perspective, some people may find inspiration and value.  Others may not.  But, that’s okay!  You will reach the people you are supposed to reach.

… realizing that your so called flaws, defects and shortcomings are really just differences in how you operate and how things work for you.

…not comparing yourself to other writers.  You are a writer because you write, not because you are better or worse than anyone else. Keep writing from that authentic, alive place inside of you. No other writer has the same perspective, life experience, gifts and values that you have.

Flunking perfectionism brings more ease, productivity, passion and fun.   I hope you will join me on my quest to live as a perfectly imperfect writer!

A Call for Entries

What is your favorite post on this community blog and why? Is it yours or another blogger’s writing?

What brought you to the Weekly Circle in the first place and what keeps you coming back as you can?

What sparks your urge to contribute to this creative canvas?

We’ve discussed pulling together a collection of our best shorts and the time has come!

In the name of inspiring others to launch community blogs that are rich with content and a sense of community worth spending a morning coffee hour with, let’s gather our favorite pennies and daffodils.

Suggest the posts that have made you laugh and think the most.

Let’s collaboratively create a blueprint that inspires and supports others in search of a writing community.

First deadline for nominations is May 15th.

Your Fearless Prolific Founder,

Deborah Drake – Authentic Writing Provokes

How it happened: the sweat lodge phenomenon

How is it that some people can sit and watch someone get hurt, or even die and not lift a finger to help?  How could those folks in the sweat lodge not notice that someone was in real trouble?

Not having been there, I don’t know the exact circumstances.  But I do know what kind of atmosphere can create a situation like that.  Whether or not what I’m going to describe has anything to do with current news events, the patterns are worth all of us understanding in case we find ourselves, or someone we know, in a similar situation.

Let’s start with some basics.  Human beings need hope.  With hope, we will endure almost anything.  When we lose hope, we give up.  Humans also have a need to feel that they belong.  It is hard wired into us.  When we feel like we belong to a group, we become very loyal to that group.  When we are aligned with the group we feel good.  When we go against the group we actually feel like we are doing something wrong.  We feel guilty.  So it is natural not only to seek out people who give us hope and make us feel that we belong, but also to be intensely loyal to that group.

Powerful leaders use these innate needs of humans to create a loyal following.  They offer hope–hope that you can have it all; hope that you can be rich, successful, in love, beautiful, happy, etc.  What they offer seems possible, really possible.  So you open yourself up to have some hope.

The next step of powerful leaders is to remove fear.  They encourage folks to face their fears and demonstrate how you can’t trust it.  There are a variety of ways to do this.  The basic idea is that they push you through your fear, your doubt, and your logic and have you come out in a better place.  After a few times, you begin to doubt your fear and trust the leader just a bit more.  You start to want them to push.  The eventual goal is for you to trust the leader more than you trust your own feelings.

Once you are in the system, you don’t even realize that you are losing trust in yourself.  You may even be thinking that you are having a great experience.  You most likely feel like you are doing some important personal growth work and, you are.  Learning to face your fears is a critical life skill.  It only becomes a problem when you associate the good feeling of facing your fear with the leader and not yourself.

The experience of facing your fear and coming out in a good place is compelling.  The experience of having witnesses while you do this is even better, and when you witness others, then a group bonding happens.  At this point you have both hope and a sense of belonging.

Then, they add the consequences of giving up.  They tell you that if you back down from what scares you, you’ve failed yourself and missed out on something wonderful.   They teach you that the only reason you won’t succeed is if you “give up” on yourself.  Within this frame, all difficulties you are having with the leader or the organization are because you are being scared.  And, the way through that fear is to hang in there a little longer, until you come out on the good side.

This combination of hope, belonging and attitude that “the only way to succeed is to keep pushing forward with this group” is a powerful structure.  Stepping out, leaving the group often feels like being cast out or ripped away from the only good in your life.  The equation is now: being in the group equals hope and belonging, and being out of the group equals letting my fear win and giving up on myself.  Since most of the time when we join these groups, we are in some kind of transition and often do not have a strong support system outside of the group.  Going against the group means starting all over and this is extremely hard.

So, you are in this group where you have great hope. You are growing and you feel like you belong.  The leader often asks you to do things that are scary or hard, and you always feel better when you do them.  This time, it’s sitting in a sweat lodge.  It will be uncomfortable, hot and humid, but really nothing to worry about.  By the time you are a couple of hours into it, you are in a completely different state.  The group pressure to push through this new challenge is quite high.  And, you trust that the leader really knows what they are doing.  That is the key.  Once we hand over authority, humans tend not to take initiative.  They leave it to the one in charge.  They trust their leaders to do what is best and they don’t trust themselves to override the leader.

Now, we have a huge problem.  If the leader isn’t paying attention or is unwilling to act, people can get hurt.  People can die.  And the ones that live will have a lot of emotional damage to deal with.  It will be especially hard because from the outside we can’t even begin to imagine how the others could have witnessed someone in dyer need and not done anything.  And, they can’t even explain it themselves.  That transfer of their inner authority to the leader happened so subtly they never saw it happen.  If we had asked any of them while they were still a part of the group, they would have denied any problems because for them there weren’t any problems.  They had hope and they belonged.  They had all they needed.

A good leader will do many of the same things that the dangerous leaders will do.  Determining the difference isn’t exactly easy.  A good teacher will have many ways to challenge you and many things you can learn from them.  The main difference will be in their intent.  The good leaders are focused on what is best for you, not what is best for them.  The false leaders will put themselves first.  A true leader, teacher, mentor, will continually hand the reigns back to you.  Or refuse to take the reigns when you attempt to hand them over.  They will push you, but they will make sure that you don’t begin to blindly follow them.  They will not promise you more than they will deliver.  Often they will not promise anything, they will simply show you what might be possible.  A true teacher understands that their ultimate goal is to help the student outgrow the teacher.

The damage done by false leaders can be very deep.  It can not be measured in dollars lost or time spent.  These people gradually take away our sense of who we really are, and recovering from that takes time, patience and often some professional help.  The shame people feel when they have followed a false leader is immense.

It is very important that we all understand that this really can happen to any of us.  Many people have had an experience of following a false leader.  The duration of time that we followed varies.  It is, however, very common.  Unless you understand the combination of factors that create such a following, you are likely to follow a few false leaders on your path.

A leader’s job is to create a compelling experience, one that encourages you to push yourself out of your comfort zone.  They will provide an opportunity to feel like you belong and motivate you to keep going.  When a leader considers themselves to be more of an authority on your life or your feelings than you are, it’s time to stop following.

If you’ve been there, or are there now, take some time to think about how you got there.  Be gentle with yourself about your experiences.  There really were good things within that experience and it’s OK to take the good and leave the rest.  Most importantly, you are not the only one who this has happened to.  You are not alone.

I think that most of us have walked at least a few steps down this type of path and spent a little time with someone who crossed the line a bit too often.  When and how we came to terms with it is an individual process.  But before we get too excited about the cases that make the news, maybe we need to check out the cases within our own lives and let that serve as a reminder to us to trust ourselves a bit more and be willing to speak out when something seems wrong.  A good leader will appreciate that you are speaking out.

Carla Camou, NLP Trainer and Personal Change work:  www.nlpinseattle.com

 

 

Being Like Your Parents

One of the statements I hear so often from my clients is that they don’t want to be “like their parents”.  This is usually in response to them telling me something that they are doing that is “just like their parents.”   Of course, this causes great distress for them.    Now I get to tread a tricky line.

There is no way that we can NOT be like our parents.   We come from them, and we have learned how to be in the world from them.  Even if we do the exact opposite (whatever that is) of what they do, we are still being like them.  Give me 5 minutes and I can show you how, but that is another topic.

If we could manage to not be like them, doing so would not serve us.  When we disrespect what we came from, we disrespect ourselves.  We are, after all, half our mother and half our father, DNA wise.   You can’t take the “father” half of your DNA out of you.  Who would you be if you could do that?

Since there is no way to not be your parent’s child, I have the strange job of helping my client find ways to be OK with being like their parents.  It sounds tricky, especially when what they are asking me for is a way to not be like them.   It sounds like I am trying to get them to do something they really don’t want to do.   So many things in life seem opposite of what they truly are.

One of the very basic principals in the Family Constellation work that I do is:  In families, everyone has a proper place; no one can be forgotten, cast out or denied.  The entire family can be put into distress when someone is not given or refuses their proper place.  I’m not talking about physical details like their proper place at the dinner table.  I’m talking about their “belonging” in their family.   Belonging does not mean liking or getting along.   Each person instinctively knows where they belong and will make adjustments in their lives to stay in their proper place.   They will seek to “belong” no matter what the cost.

These are not normally conscious moves.  This is why when you are trying so hard to not be a certain way, you sometimes are.  The soul level desire to belong trumps the cognitive choice to do something else.  The argument inside that ensues usually isn’t so pretty.

When we try to not be like one of our parents, we are trying to deny them their proper place and something in us knows this isn’t a good idea.  Our unconscious then makes adjustments to set things back to where they need to be.   If we understand this process, we can use it to align our cognitive wishes with the soul level need.  Done properly, this is satisfying and empowering.

What’s the trick?  It’s a two step process.  Just because there are only two steps does not mean it is always quick and easy.  Sometimes, it requires a little outside help.

The first step is to find a way to respect each parent.  Respect them for who they are, even if you dislike or disagree with the way they live (or lived) their lives.  Respecting is not the same as liking, approving or even forgiving them.  Respect also requires that you allow them to be just as they are, and not try to emotionally take care of them.  See them exactly as they are without judgment.

A small side note:  respecting someone does not require that you actually interact with them.  In cases where the parent is dangerous to you, you can still respect them and keep yourself safe.

The second step can only be done after you find that place of respect.  In this step, you notice the qualities in your parents that you do admire; you notice their strength, love, talent, charm, tenacity.  These must be things that you truly admire about them.   Noticing these things about your parents, you own them as your own; you notice that you too have these qualities and that as you express these qualities; you are affirming your proper place in respect to your parents.

By doing these steps, you reaffirm your place in your family, and free yourself to be like your parents in the ways that you choose consciously.  This aligns your system and feels right all the way through.    When we respect and value where we came from, we can do and be what we want in the world; we are ultimately valuing and respecting ourselves.   I’ve seen my clients find a peace within themselves they didn’t know was possible, and that’s really what they were asking for all along.

Carla Camou, NLP Trainer and Personal Change work:  www.nlpinseattle.com

Essential Learnings

I was looking through my computer files and found a list that was written years ago.  It was a list that I wrote down during a session with a client.  I don’t remember all the details of the session, how we got to this point, but there we were.  She was a Kindergarten teacher, and had been for a long time.  I had a sense that she was doing a pretty spectacular job, and not totally aware that she was.  What I asked her was:”What is it that you want your students to learn?”  This was her list:

 

That they are worthy of being seen and heard

That they feel respected

That they know they have gifts and the time and space to pursue and share

To learn to focus on what they can do

To have a feeling of self-improvement

The ability to set their own goals

The ability to self-evaluate (not rely on someone else)

To be able to speak up, in a way that will be hear, when something doesn’t feel right

To Know they all have something to contribute

To know that it wouldn’t be the same w/out them (as good)

To be curious about each other

 

I sat in awe for a couple of minutes, imagining what it must be like for a 5 or 6 year old to have their first experience in school with a teacher that was holding this list in her heart.  After all, this was the year that for most children set the tone for the rest of their education.    A child who learned all this in kindergarten would be starting their education with some powerful tools.

I asked her permission to share the list.  When I shared it with others that were teaching, in a variety of venues, they were all quite impressed.  All of us who teach want this list for our students, no matter what their age.    It is what I want for all my students, although until I asked my client the question, I hadn’t thought to make a list, to set that intention.

I learn some of my most valuable lessons talking with clients.  This was one of those moments.  This list has stayed with me, in my mind and my heart ever since that session.  It is what is most important to me in the creation of a learning environment.  I teach NLP to adults, and this list helps me keep clear on what is most important.

This list is also a roadmap for all of us.  Take a look at this list.  Have you learned all of these things for yourself?  Are you unsure about any of them?  If so, these are the places in your life that are worth paying some attention.  We are all capable of learning these things, and we all deserve to know them.  Now, take another look at the list.  Do you affirm this in your interactions with others?  Can you see and know this about anyone you interact with?  I wonder, what our lives, what the world would be like if we did.

Carla Camou, NLP Trainer and Personal Change work:  www.nlpinseattle.com

Our weekly TwD Writers’ Conference

Yesterday’s session opened with the ritual passing of Deborah’s Chinese porcelain mirror into which we looked and said, “Mirror mirror in my hand, who was the leader of The Band?”

No wait. That wasn’t the question. That was my timid humorist identity making an appearance alongside the usually-out-front sincere-ist identity. Our actual ritual was to look ourselves in the eye and say, “My name is Liz and I am a writer.” (Sometimes I write new words, such as “sincere-ist;” I’ll bet other readers of this blog also have fun inventing words.)

I once posted that claiming my identity as writer has helped to unblock and animate some of my other identities that need to work together toward the common good of various projects and responsibilities.

Deborah, as a writer, writing coach, teacher, leader, guide, and generous-hearted person offers at our Tuesdays with Deborah sessions a seemingly limitless supply of techniques, such as the suggestion that we free-write. Every weekly session results in practical, useful, do-able writing inspiration. As Deborah says, “Authentic writing provokes.” It certainly does.

The weekly sessions remind me of writers’ workshops I have attended.

I have attended the four annual “Search for Meaning” Book Festivals at Seattle University. This year, I attended sessions by two poets, by a writer in the field of ethical leadership, and by a writer of many genres including humor. The festival takes place each March.

Recalling the surprising benefit obtained by this non-poet in a workshop led by poet Frances McCue, I wondered if she has scheduled any local workshops in the near future that I might recommend to TwD peeps.  I came upon a two-day writers’ conference offered by Whatcom Community College.

Weaving many threads together in this post, I am grateful for the weekly writers’ conference that TwD is for me (and I think for others). I value the experience, the relationships, and the writing encouragement. I note that my next opportunity to attend a McCue workshop would be at a $259 two-day workshop.  Wow!  That is a little “less” accessible in the commitments of time, driving, and money than the weekly TwD sessions that happen just up the street from my home, every week, accompanied by a reluctant but practical invitation to help cover the cost of the space by contributing something less than the cost of a movie ticket.

I am eager now to read everything that has transpired in this community space during the month of April.

Write Drunk & Edit Sober

So advised Hemingway.

So shared Linda Zeppa with me as we parted ways after her Sunday workshop on Developing the Intuitive You.

It was an apropos comment for in some way I did feel quite intoxicated.

On Tuesdays we gather to talk about what we would like to write about or what we are writing or what we would love to see feedback (aka comments) on. And while I have considered making “writing” part of what we do, I have never done much about it because talking about writing and writing itself are two different animals for me.

Much like writing and editing are related–but not the same.

Today I was simply a willing participant following the guidance of an equally gentle and gifted facilitator. Simple prompts turned into writing that sparked thoughts of revisiting and going deeper down the writing rabbit hole.

I surrendered. I surrendered to being fully present and wrote from the heart space as the beginner I am always. If ever I get so uppity that I act like I know what I am doing, please somebody smack me with a velvet covered two by four (smile).

I shared writing time and space with a small group and Linda. There was perfection in the group that showed up on a Sunday afternoon for two hours of conversation, guided visualization and writing prompts.

My writing compatriots all questioned their ability to write like a writer, seeing themselves not as artists or writers but as less than, BUT they were not. They were wonderful and I hope my encouragement after Linda’s was received and stays with them.

You know how I gently harass the regulars and usual suspects who come on Tuesdays to just start and write what is wanting to be written…You know who you are…You who doubt your natural abilities to self-express and question if what you say matters.

It matters. Your perception of your experience shared may help another make sense of something in their life. You understand things I don’t as intimately.  You could open a door of understanding for me. If you dared to share your story, your perception, your “aha” moments and visceral experiences.

It matters and I get that it starts with getting over the fears and doubts you may have.

The gremlins that threaten creative self-expression must be dealt with I say.

A month from now another workshop will occur and me and my beginner’s heart and mind will be there. Join me?

For more about Linda’s passion and mission (that is completely aligned with my own) visit:

http://www.intuwriting.com/home

Catch her at East West Books in May…or corner her on a Tuesday after our Circle meets.  Yes, she is a quiet gem in the circle when she is there.  And yes, plans for collaboration our in the making.

What a delicious intoxicating Sunday afternoon I had writing in the company of others bearing a little bit of their souls.

Now to the editing of the pearls formed in a short space of time.

 

A Time To Celebrate

The new Stephen is a year old now. Let’s back up a few years.

Since about the year 2000 I have beens struggling with some form of depression. It started out as SAD. Almost like clockwork, I would fall into a depressive state about the time of coming off of Daylight Savings. My life would start picking back up about the same time as light returned to our world, about the beginning of Daylight Savings Time.

One year, I missed the cycle. By the time January came around, The depressive cycle had cleared. I felt “cured”! I celebrated!

Unfortunately, the celebration turned out to be short lived. By the time August rolled around, I found myself right smack dap in the beginning of another depressive cycle. So much for the short term freedom That I had felt. With that, my depressions had gone from seasonly related to episodic, meaning my depressive cycles now came from time to time.

Through the years, I had tried almost everything. I started out with OTC’s like St. John’s and Sam-e, switched to prescriptive concoctions, some not working, other some what, still others working turning to not working, years of talking about my problems with licensed counselors. I felt like being on a full on roller coaster ride.

As you can probably imagine, years and years of this became tiring. I had to try something new.

In the fall of 2010, I started to see a psychologist. After some initial getting to know each other sessions, he introduced me to David D. Burns, a world renowned author/doctor on Cognitive Behavior Therapy, or CBT. David’s work with CBT predates the work on the new age of anti-depressants. Additionally, his studies have shown that CBT is a more effective treatment than antidepressants, both in the short term and long term in regards to depression.

The idea behind CBT is that the thought process is broken. Too often people like me are ruled by our negative thought processes. In encountering a positive thought about myself, it would take me seconds to countered that positive thought in multiple ways before I ever had a chance to get comfortable with that thought.

I started working the program “around the edges” and immediately started to see results. It seemed too easy and too good to be true. I crashed a couple a months later after the basic method began to fail me.

Little did I know i had only began to scratch the surface of CBT. In the book, When Panic Attacks, Dr. Burns outlines forty different methods to counter the wrong thinking that many of us encounter in our lives. (Side note: in researching the book, I found a succinct review,”Great book. Bad Title.” I whole heartedly agree with that review. )

The book explores how methods work great for some people and may not work at all for another person. Also, no method is to work for every situation. Good thing there are forty methods to try. One is bound to work. Dr. Burns gives methodologies of what methods work for what situations. His studies show a directed use of 5 methods are usually enough to counter most broken thought processes.

By the time May rolled around, I had done enough work with CBT to handle life on my own, without the assistance of my psychologist. For the first time in a very long time, I felt hope about life in general.

Okay, I admit, I’m a crazy scientist at heart. Things have got to be measured to have a better understanding of them. That’s why I have a weather station at my house, to better track my little neck of the woods. Additionally from 2009, I have been doing a daily track on how I thought my day went.

Since employing CBT, the results have been astounding for me. What use to be my highs reached a handful of times throughout the years of my tracking are now how I feel on an average day!

Dr.  Burns talks about getting better versus being better. Getting better is the point where the negative thoughts no longer rule the mind. Reaching the point of being better is when one feels capable to handle whatever comes their way. I am so thankful that I have reached the point of not only getting better, but also the point of being better.

Do, I follow perfectly using CBT? Not even close. Though, my slips are shorter because I am better able to calm the broken voices in my head. And if need be, I can fall back to the forty methods that Dr. David D. Burns has outlined in his book.

So, In closing, do you feel negative thoughts rule your mind? Tried everything and nothing seems to help? Take a look at Cognitive Behavior Therapy. It has made a world of difference for me.

(S)wordmaster

Being a force for good in the world is the aim of those who train in Aikido: the art of peace. How can a martial art increase peace in the world? It is the interdependence between training partners. No nage (nah-geh )without uke (oo-keh). Bringing energy, receiving and blending with it, and putting it out into the world for good. In Aikido, it looks like ending fights. Actually, when practiced well, it looks like preventing fights…. Sometimes it looks like “rondori” – multiple partners training together.

Peace. The “low level” peace of stopping, or not starting, a fight, the practice of which forms persons to be peace-hearted people. Peace requires strength, heart, courage, and diverse skills in the world.

Aikido derives from sword forms of martial arts. There is a lesson here for those of us whose art is the word.

Writing and speaking are art forms, like Aikido, that require interdependence between partners. Communication is a loop between two, or among more than two, people. Uke and Nage and Rondori…. The same concepts exist in the world of Aikido and in the world of words…. bringing energy, receiving and blending with it, putting it out into the world, sometimes with multiple people at a time.

Aikido is being an embodied force for good in the world. Writing and speaking provide the opportunity to be a voice for good in the world. A different kind of force for good in the world.

Masters of the sword honor their gift in the world by being careful to not cut people. Masters of the sword are careful when to use the sword… And how…. And where…. And why… And with whom.
Masters of the word honor their gift in the world by being careful not to cut people.
Being my kind of force for good — for peace — in the world is the combination of what words to use, where to use them, when to use them, how to use them,  with whom to use them, and why.

I am the aspiring word master whose life has been formed and informed by many forces, including a swordmaster named Jeff Sensei, his teacher named George Ledyard Sensei, and their many students, one of whom is my beloved son and teacher Carson.

Writer as a facet of identity

I am a writer who elevates jargon into plain language. This is one facet of an identity that can be imagined as a geode. Imagine a stone that has been broken open to reveal aquamarine crystals – flat, complex, light-reflecting, light-bending, light-enhancing surfaces.

Let’s think of identity as a geode with many facets. Like the multi-faceted geode interior, my identity is a combination of skills, heart, curiosity, work ethic, enjoyment of learning, and enjoyment of language.  The same set of facet-like attributes, expressed and combined differently, exposed differently to light, might produce an identity of teacher, painter, pianist, gardener, or others.

Sometimes the light shines through a “writer” facet of the geode. The crystal facets once reflected light into the information systems world. Then I entered into a more important world – the world of real people who are vulnerable because of age or other attributes – extremely young age (beginning with the “light switch” change of venues when our son was born two decades ago), or more advanced ages, experienced through the rediscovered interdependence among the generations in my family during the past decade.

The light has shined simultaneously through the “writer” facet of the geode, and “leader” facet of the geode, in groups oriented around the systems world, diverse community projects, parenting, community organizations, and family transitions.

Thirty years ago the light dimmed a bit through the “writer” facet of the geode when I was laid off from a job I did well. I saw that professional writers and educators were among “the first” to lose their jobs in a recession. So I began polishing an “expert” facet of the geode. I came to value the “expert” facet of the geode more than the “writer” facet of the geode. I adopted the measuring tools of “the marketplace” to value different facets of the geode. I became very comfortable as a well- informed practitioner in the world of systems planning and database design. I never wrote a line of software code to make my living; I wrote and spoke everything except the code – repeatable methods for system development, plans, materials, requirements, specifications, and more. The light shining through the communication facet of the geode pointed toward and brightened the expertise facet of the geode, rather than shining independently into the world. I kind of forgot that I had my own measuring system to value and polish the “writer” facet of the geode. I forgot that I might move the geode around a bit to see what happened when the light shone through different facets of the geode of my identity, more or less.

Recent encounters and engagements, and the response to them, have reminded me that a unique facet of my identity is…. a writer who can elevate any jargon into plain language, right now on subjects that affect the quality of life of vulnerable people. Our complex world has expanding needs for that identity. I feel as though the recent engagements have invited me to see the geode as positioned in three dimensions, gyroscope-like, so that the light can reflect more or less on and through different facets at different times.

And I discover, to my surprise, that life is enlightened, life-giving and energized when I claim that reality.