Ramblings of a Creative Mind

Thoughts on Work and the World from an Executive Mom

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Spiders in Technicolor

Technicolor SpidersI’m a heavy sleeper and always have been. In fact, I sleep like the dead. As an adult, I’m grateful for that. As a kid though, I wanted to be a light sleeper like my Mom, who woke at every whisper. I envied her. She had it easy. She never slept deeply enough to get lost in a nightmare.

Me? I had nightmares often. Recurrent ones. There were two main themes: spiders and massacres. I’m arachnophobic, so anything eight-legged was never welcome. I’d dream that hundreds of the technicolor beasts would drop from the ceiling or crawl up from the foot of my bed as I’d huddle under the covers, unable to wake up or get away. Not fun. (Freud, have fun analyzing that.) I’d wake up crying, sick to my stomach, and afraid of any shadow I’d see on the sheet.

The second nightmare? Worse. I’d be out in the front yard while some party was going on in the house. Suddenly, I’d get a bad feeling. I would run from room to room, yelling at everyone to get out, but no one would listen. Then, the ‘bad people” came and the shooting would start. In the nightmare, I always ended up hiding on a shelf in our bathroom in the dark, listening to it all happen. Unable to escape. Unable to help. Then, everything would go quiet. I’d open the door to the same sight over and over again, which I won’t go into here. Though I’d try to wake up from this one, I couldn’t. The nightmare would rewind and start all over, until my sister would shake me because I’d be shouting in my sleep. It followed me throughout my childhood and into college until it finally (thankfully) began to taper off.

When you’re a kid, the world is a thrilling and scary place. Everything is bigger than you. New. Unknown. You’re still discovering who you are, and if you’re insecure like I was then, the fear is magnified. It rises up at night, and you try to work it out with spiders, snakes, or whatever your own personal Armageddon may be. You’re supposed to leave these fears behind, grow out of them, and move on.

Lately though, in the aftermath of all of the horrific, divisive, and hateful things that have happened recently, fear is everywhere. I’ve watched it infect my Facebook feed. The fire is constantly stoked by the media, politics, vitriol, rhetoric: you name it. What’s maddening though is watching how this fear is affecting many of us. It’s tearing us apart. We worry about the world we’re leaving to our children. We’re locking our doors, avoiding eye contact, judging entire classes of people by the color of their skin, their religion, their political preference, whatever. Fear is making us feel powerless, and we’re grasping at anything to make it go away so we feel “safe.”

Fear is natural. We’ll never escape it. It’s built into our DNA. It’s how we evolved. We were afraid, and it spurred us into action. We invented, migrated, and built. Fear was bigger than we were, so we became bold. Brave. Fear pushes us beyond our limits and into new possibilities. Safety? It’s comforting, but an illusion at best, and I’m okay with that.

Fear is a nightmare. Safety is a dream. Nightmares are dreams too. They’re not so different, when it comes right down to it. The only difference is how either one affects you. Technicolor spiders never stopped me from going to sleep the next night or the night after, and while a great dream may tempt me to linger, I still woke up. We don’t stop sleeping because nightmares exist. We keep moving on.

I’m well into my 40’s and still “don’t do spiders,” but it’s not as bad as it used to be. I faced an army of parachute spiders last week in fact, but that’s a story for another time. The massacre thing? Well, that’s moved out of my nightmares and into reality, which is damn awful.

Will I hide on a shelf or in my home? No.

Will I hide my family from the world in fear? Hell, no!

I will teach my children to be bold and brave, but most of all, I will teach them to stand up and fight: to live, love, and to make a difference. I’ll lead by example. After all, I’m an adult. So are you.

Face fear and embrace it. Make eye contact. Stare the damn thing down. Smile at strangers. Keep an open heart. But most of all, take action.


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Staring Down Dragons

Reggio_calabria_museo_nazionale_mosaico_da_kaulonTomorrow is a big day for work.  We are sponsoring a large event, and I am representing my Company there.  It’s a newer territory for me, and there will be a lot of people I don’t know at the event.  Normally, I’m not one to stress in new situations.  In fact, I often speak publicly for work.  Yet, as I packed my bags tonight, I found myself worrying over things that I really never worry about: what dress should I wear?  Will the competitor onsite talk negatively about my Company or me?  What will I say?  Even now, over an hour after I have finished packing, my stomach is in knots, and I don’t want to get on the plane in the morning.

So what am I going to do?  Get on that darn plane, of course.  Wear my red “look at me” dress – secretly, it’s like armor to a knight – and go out there and face my fear.

Sooner or later, we all find ourselves in situations that make us uncomfortable – or downright freaked out, insecure and scared – at work or in life.  We feel “out of our league, out of our element” or maybe just “out to pasture.”  We tell ourselves that we aren’t good enough.  The competition is too fierce, knows more than we do or just may eat us alive.  Our skills “aren’t enough.”  We feel like a fraud.  Stewing alone in our insecurity, we imagine all the bad things that are going to happen and ultimately cause them to become so.  Our fear is a dragon, bellowing the fire of failure.

No one ever promised that things would be easy.  Many of the most successful people in work and life have faced significant hurdles to get where they are today.  It doesn’t matter what your dragon is: financial, the competition, doubt or inexperience.

What matters is how hard you are going to fight to defeat it.  The only way to advance in your career is to know what you are fighting for and how badly you want it.  Facing those fears is going to be hard – that’s a given.  It may even feel like it’s going to kill you.

It’s easy to be brave in the good times.  To measure who you really are, see how brave you can be in the bad times.  See how willing you are to fight for a good cause and for the people who are depending on you.

For the record, my stomach is still a wreck, and though I can’t figure out what I’m really afraid of, I just know that I am.  I also know that, tomorrow night, I am going to rock that red dress, represent my Company and my Team well, and slay whatever dragon is plaguing me tonight.  Once I do, I will know more about myself and be a better leader and mentor for the people that I am honored to serve each and every day.