Change…again…and again…

Another move…this time it’s a really big one, or so it seems. For the first time in my life, I’m actually moving out of state. Yes, after living my entire life in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, I will now be a ‘Virginian’! I’ve moved 11 times but always within a 15 mile radius of where I grew up.  It seems like it’s time a spread my wings a little, don’t you think? This time, it’s a real move…new city, new state, new climate, new region of the country.

Many people have asked me ‘why’ and ‘how’ this move came about.  The best answers are ‘because I found a great looking home on a small lake’ and ‘I was bored one night and started surfing the internet’.  In a matter of just 5 months from that night, we will be living somewhere new and facing all the transitions that come with relocation.

Of course, lots of people move. The longest my husband every lived in one place is 10 years. Life took him from Virginia to California to Hawaii to Japan to Malta to Virginia to Illinois to Florida to Georgia to Florida to Pennsylvania (where I met him!) and now back to Virginia.  So he’s taking this in stride. So what’s the big deal and why is it worth writing a blog about?

Because it’s an example of a dream coming true. Bill and I dreamed of living by a lake one day, in a place where we can kayak, bike, walk and enjoy this season of life.  So, we are doing it – now- and not a few years from now.  Life is short and precious and we want to live every moment of it. We believe God has something in store for us in this new place, even though we can’t name it yet.  We trust him.  So, we are changing, again!

Anger as Ally

It was the closest I ever came to being fired. Yet I was smart, loyal, hard working and got results. In fact, my sales team was ranked #1 or #2 for the past three years. The problem was I had a short fuse and fired a sarcastic comment at a Board member during a meeting. Of course, there was a reason for the outburst, a good one it seemed to me. Yet, I was within a hair of losing a great job and experiencing a major setback to my promising career.

Turning to my coach for support, she asked me to recount the details of ten experiences when I felt anger. As I summarized my list, it struck me how problems with anger and problems with relationships are connected. It reminded me that Garrison Keillor remarked: “That’s what happens when you’re angry at people. You make them part of your life.”

Because I could not control my temper in a professional situation, I now had elevated that Board member’s importance to a new level in my life. Did I really want him to become so important? No. Yet, this key relationship was jeopardized because I wasn’t respectful and couldn’t control myself.

It is natural to experience anger; it is a gift from God. Yet He admonishes us: “And don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil. (Ephesians.” 4:26-27) In what ways is anger difficult for you to manage? What other emotions seem to control you? What is the impact? Do you want it to change? How? Who can help?

God bless you!

FOMO: Are you afraid of missing out?

Am I one of the last to hear about the word ‘FOMO’ – Fear Of Missing Out? Actually, I know all about it because I am, just like most everyone else, in the grip of ‘FOMO Addiction’ – the fear of missing out on something or someone more exciting, better, or interesting than what I’m currently doing.

FOMO may be driving my urge to text, engage call waiting, or use SIRI while driving, talking with my husband, watching TV etc. Even when I don’t know who’s on the other line, who’s posting on Facebook or streaming on Twitter, I can’t risk that something more interesting might just be happening. It might be better, it might be worse – but I just can’t know for sure until I check.

Wikipedia explains that FOMO is a ‘form of social anxiety’ and researchers are discovering that sufferers are at serious risk, because those high in FOMO are more likely to text and drive. (Yes, believe it or not, research exists in this area: http://arno.uvt.nl/show.cgi?fid=130541). And, even if it’s not lethal, FOMO addiction is bad for my mental health and well-being since it produces negative emotions such as insecurity, envy, anxiety, and, of course, fear. I regularly check out my coaching colleagues on LinkedIn to determine whether they might be getting more business or have more connections than I do.

Even though FOMO seems to have emerged with the growth of social networks, which serve constant opportunities to compare ourselves to others, I think it was around even in Jesus’ time. Remember the time after Jesus was resurrected from the dead when He visited his disciples and cooked breakfast for them? Afterward, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him and commanded Peter to “Follow me.” You would think after having spent time with the resurrected Christ, Peter would be falling all over himself to do what Jesus asked him. But instead, “Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved—the one who had leaned over to Jesus during supper and asked, “Lord, who will betray you?” Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?” Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” (John 21:20-22)

As I ponder how my FOMO addiction impacts my behavior as a Christian I am convicted. Any new book or devotion that’s mentioned, I have to buy it (even if I never read it). If there’s a new bible study I have to join it (even though I stop attending after a few sessions). When the pastor’s wife is inviting women for coffee, I struggle to be included (although I complain all the way to Starbucks). It’s humbling to notice how my attention is more focused on making sure I’m not missing out on something better – better than spending some time alone, with Jesus, following Him and not reacting out of selfish anxiety! It’s His peace that’s lasting and with Him, I have enough…more than enough! And I won’t be missing out on one single thing! (Luke 6:38)

and the winner is….

Just because I’m not afraid to speak in public and have the ability to be direct, that doesn’t mean it’s my job to announce my opinions, judgments and POV. I wrote that last time. But since then, I’ve really been thinking deeper about the role I play in other people’s lives – and they haven’t invited me to, want me to, or even appreciate me for doing it!

A picture emerges with me as the play-by-play announcer, offering color commentary about their behavior, decisions, and moods. Sure, I point out the good stuff, but why don’t I stop there. Why do I feel I have to not just notice but to call out the missteps, stupid decisions, and when they drop the ball. I’ll even play scorekeeper, eventually deciding whether they are a ‘winner’ or a ‘loser.’

And you know what? When I’m so focused on her life or his life, I’m not living MY life! The spotlight is on the other person and an easy distraction from what’s happening in my own. Like the time yesterday when I criticized Bill for the 100th time for the way he’s feeding the cats. And, when I fired off a snotty email to a friend who aggravated me rather than giving her a call and talking it through. Or when I refused to show up early to help my teammates set up for our weekend retreat (after all, haven’t I done enough already?).

Some tough questions came to mind this week as I recalled something God said about logs in my eye and specks in my husband’s and everyone else. (See the book of Matthew, chapter 7, verse 3.) I’m still trying to answer:
* What makes me such an expert in his life?
* What am I afraid of?
* How am I just like her?

By the way, these weren’t just random questions. It’s the way God speaks to me, directly, through the Holy Spirit and it’s known as ‘conviction.’

I’m also beginning to wonder how my life could be lighter, less stressful, if I didn’t spend the time and energy focusing on other people. I’m going to try it, just this week, seven days, to really notice when I reach for the microphone to call the play on someone else. Simply paying attention to what I pay attention to. I’ll let you know what I find out.

An odd position for my mouth

It seems I have an opinion about everything. A solution for every problem. A recipe for every party. Advice for any concern. I’m just realizing that my first response when someone talks to me is to offer something…my mouth starts moving, my vocal chords engage and out pops words of wisdom or some brilliant perspective. Maybe some of the time I’m actually looking out for their other person’s best interests. But I’m beginning to wonder if I have another ulterior, perhaps hidden to me, motive. So I’m pausing now and asking myself some of these questions:

– In what ways am I trying to rescue this person?
– How am I trying to persuade her to think the way I do? (thus proving I’m right, smart, etc.)
– Why is he telling/asking me this? Does he really, really want my response or will letting him blow off steam or get his anxiety off his chest enough?)
– What would happen if I just closed my mouth and listened?
– How can I pray for her, right now? If I do open my mouth, do I have the guts to simply say, “Let’s pray about this.”

Hmmmmmmm.

What triggers me?

Someone who is much smarter than I am, David Rock (http://blog.davidrock.net/) studies the brain and how it’s affected when we are put under real stress. He describes five main ways we feel threatened in his S.C.A.R.F model. In my own words and understanding it goes something like this:
S = Status
If my boss promotes someone over me and now I have to report to my former peer, my status as a leader is threatened and I might feel guarded or insecure about my abilities. So I start looking for another job.
C = Certainty
In a meeting with my new boss, he talks about how the department must change and get better. He’s vague about what he has in mind so my sense of certainty about the future is disrupted. I avoid him and say little in staff meetings, wanting to stay ‘under radar.’
A = Autonomy
The first decision I make under my new boss upsets him because I didn’t check in with him first. I am used to working independently and now my autonomy is threatened. I go to my old boss and complain.
R = Relationships
My new boss begins to meet one-on-one with my direct reports without including me, talking to me first or telling me about the discussions. Now the great relationships and the loyalty of my staff are upset. I let my staff know how upset I am and let them know that I think the new boss is out of line.
F = In a cost cutting move, it’s announced that there will be no more company paid holiday lunches. Considering how hard we work all year, my value of what’s fair is challenged. I inform the staff about the change, making sure they know that it was the new boss’ ‘fault’ we weren’t going out to a nice lunch this year.

These are just a few examples of how we might feel threatened by someone’s behavior. When fearful, we resort to the ‘fight or flight’ response and behave in ways that make matters worse. What would happen and how would the outcome be different if I assumed the best in each of the above situations? What if the other guy’s promotion had nothing to do with my abilities or how the boss sees me? How could the changes ahead be for the better of everyone? Why am I resisting being under authority? What advantages are there for my boss to get to know my team? How could changing the holiday lunch tradition work be an advantage/

I find it amazing how turning a threat into a question can make a big difference.

So, where are you?

Whether you know it or not, you are here, right now, at this moment, in the present moment of your life. But are you really here?

Are you absent? I don’t mean as in absent minded or playing hooky from school. I’m interested in whether you are connected to the people the your life. For example, a friend arrived for Easter dinner, muted cell phone in hand, with her sister on the other end talking on and on into oblivion. As she walked through the door, put a casserole in the oven and poured herself a drink, she was clearly not present with her sister. Instead, she had moved on, into the ‘future moment’ taking care of herself and what she wanted next and next and so on. Made me think about how many times I’ve been the one on the other end of phone calls and wondered how often I’ve been muted as others move on with their lives.

Are you stuck? Bad relationships, painful mistakes and embarrassing moments can keep us fixated in the past. Sometimes it’s useful, even healing to reflect and reminisce. Today, however, my planning for an important meeting is constantly interrupted by memories of poorly managed conflict and hurt feelings. If I’m not mindful, I end up lost in time passed, trying to change moments already over – and likely to produce more missteps tomorrow and so on and so on.

Are you here? Psalm 118:24 reads, “This is the day the Lord has made. Let’s rejoice and be glad today”. Notice that God doesn’t point us to yesterday, or tomorrow, but to today. You and I, we are right here. There’s no doubt about it. Pause with me, double check. Who do appreciate in this moment? What decision can you finally make? What blessings do you most appreciate

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