May 29, 2012

My Spoonie Mentor

At my firm, there is a big emphasis on mentoring relationships.  We are assigned mentors, encouraged to pick our own, and look to how we can be mentors to the next generation.  Our interim & annual reviews are held with mentors, and budgets are dedicated to maintaining these connections.  Why have such a sophisticated structure in place to enforce relationships usually developed by happenstance?  Why put so much focus on this entirely human factor in the oilled machinery that is one of the Big Four.  Well, if you ask them, it's because these relatonships are critical to the development of each individual, which in turn affects the longterm health of the firm.

Hm...the passing of knowledge gained through study and experience has a strong impact on health - or vitality, fritfullness, and quality - of our futures.  Sounds kinda like something every Spoonie ought to be doing.  I have mentors at work: one assigned, one selected in addition, and even a few 'off the books' who have taken an interest in me.  But I also have a Spoonie mentor, who I was lucky enough to find very early in my activism.

For those of you who don't know, Shawn and I are on vacation.  Our main destination is in Georgia (which I will post about as soon as I can because it is beyond my best dreams), but due to the prohibitive price of airfare, we decided to drive down & back, staying overnight someone en route each way.  Shawn drove the whole shift yesterday, and briefly when we departed this morning.  Shortly into the drive I took over, and drove for several hours.  However, after roughly 5 hours (give or take) I had to pull over and ask him to switch.  I found myself squinting and blinking extra even with sunglasses (and given my sensitivity, I have at least 4 different types of them in the car and went through most on this drive) and still struggling to see comfortably.  My control over the vehicle within the lane seemed to be loosening, and I was starting to struggle to make sense of signs around me.  It was pretty clear I was fogging over.

As we pulled back on the road, Shawn behind the wheel with a reassuring word that he had no problem doing it, I was starting my usual habit of beating myself up in my head.  I hadn't even pulled as long a shift as I wanted to, let alone after he drove the whole time the day before.  Then I asked myself the question every Spoonie knows and hates: "Did I really need to stop or was I taking an easy way out?".

You know what I'm talking about.  Self-doubt is like a pimple on the tip of your nose - always shows up at the worst time, isn't usually actually your fault, makes you want to hide your face, and only gets worse when you pay attention to it.

But then I thought about fellow Sjoggie & clutz supreme (and she knows I mean that as a compliment), Julia.  Specifically, I remembered a post she wrote about a similar experience.  Not long ago during a visit back home, Julia found herself driving her mother when the Sjoggie brainfog rolled in.  Of course, by definition this thought-muddling experience interfered with her ability to identify & react to the other words, she kept driving despite her impaired mental capacity.  You can read her post for the rest of the details but suffice it to say everyone's ok but more by accident or divine grace than her road skills.

I don't think I needed Julia to tell me WHY pushing it to keep driving (especially at high speeds with cars up my rear bumper and intermittent surprise severe rain) would be a bad idea, but I did need her story to make it sink in.  I would be taking my own life in my hands, as well as countless other people on the road, and most importantly Shawn's.  Suddenly, I felt relief.  We had defeated the ugly self-doubt monster and let me know it was not only ok but back-slap worthy of me to invoke the switch.

It's not the first time Julia's been my mentor - sometimes knowingly (answering my myriad of questions ranging from vitamins to managing blog stresses to family and everything in between) and sometimes unwittingly, through her stupendous blog.  I know for a fact she's also mentor to many, many others, even if she doesn't know exactly who and when she's helped.

In all seriousness, I am grateful for Julia.  I'm glad I found her blog, even more glad I reached out to her, and ecstatic that she wrote back.  Maintaining this relationship is almost effortless for me and reaps so many rewards.  If nothing else, there is so much comfort in that resilient voice reminding me it will be ok - not necessarily as I thought it would be, but still ok and I'll be happy.  I encourage every one of you to keep an eye open for the mentor - or mentors - in your life.  Whether there's someone you already know or will meet in the future, there's bound to be a person with whom you can connect and get the support you need.  It's a rewarding experience that I wouldn't trade for anything, and so I wish you all the same gift!
Learning from those who walk before me, like the beauties in this image, found here.

May 23, 2012


Fire is a life source.  We all know the cliches, about how fire transforms, it creates and it destroys, it changed human existence and in fact the world forever.  It is huge and yet it is nothing; it has no substance.  It is terrifying, but it is also beautiful.

But fire also dies.  Fire pits, bonfires, even expansive forest fires will eventually burn out.  Nothing lasts forever, not even fire.  And yet, we can always start fire anew.  Sometimes it even restarts itself.

©2010-2012 ~persistentgloom

When a fire "dies", it still retains a tiny bit of life.  Embers can survive even buried beneath debris for days.  All it takes for an ember to bring about the life of a fire anew are the right circumstances and some scraps - wood or material otherwise considered worthless - which are known as kindling.

Image found here.

We humans are fire.  We destroy, we build, we leave nothing untouched.  We eventually run out of fuel and sometimes it appears we've lost the passion that drives life...but we don't truly 'die'.  We are more than raging, uncontrollable flames - we are also embers, waiting for the right kindling.

It's been a long time since I've posted.  The demands of my job, trainings, and some scattered projects have taken their toll, on top of which the springtime (formerly a favorite part of the year) has become the worst for my overall health.  The wildly fluctuating temperatures coupled with seemingly endless rain & humidity play games with my physical being.  Coping with all these forces as well as plain old exhaustion and has left me drained.  

In a webinar I did with WEGO Health on "IRL Activism" (In Real Life), I was asked to summarize a few of the lessons I've learned into tips I could share.  One of the biggest hurdles I face in common with my peers everywhere is burnout, and I was asked how I cope with that.  The best I could offer is to let yourself be burned out.  Give in to the void.  Just as you would switch gears to cope with physical pitfalls, you must also allow yourself to heal from emotional, psychological, or even spiritual ones before pushing back into the grind.  I think, perhaps, it's not a coincidence this is called "burnout" (though, I swear it was a coincidence that I ended up saying it in this post - it's one of those posts unplanned, which gushes out of me unaffected by my urge to organize).  This 'burnout', like a dying fire, is full of embers and if you can be patient and observant, you will find your kindling.  Your fire, passion, will burst into new life, almost of its own accord.
(Although, I certainly didn't say it with this finesse...maybe I should ask for a transcript revision;).)

I think I'm finding my kindling.  I am not dead; my passion, my activism, my dreams, and my life are not dead.  I've just been stuck for a while on "smolder".  But tonight I felt a scrap of kindling fall in my lap and catch, warming itself as well as the world around it, and now eager with the potential to show its full force.  I just might burst into flames.  Tomorrow I will finally get to wear my Walking Gallery jacket for the first time. In 12 more days, I'll not only get to wear it again, but do so besides dozens of other exhibits in this gallery and the mastermind herself Regina Holliday, when we form a true Walking Gallery in DC.  The thought went through my head "I don't know which I'm excited about more"...and my embers glowed.  I'm ready at long last to explain the Gallery and my story depicted in my jacket, "The Picture of Health".  And I'm ready to burn up the web by resuming my blogging.  It's been a painful month since my last post (again, I swear that was coincidental too) and writing again really feels like I've come back home.

I'm glad to be back, readers, and hope you're ready because I can feel the impending blaze.  It's going to be a beautiful thing.
Image found here.