Ramblings of a Creative Mind

Thoughts on Work and the World from an Executive Mom


Leave a comment

mind·ful·ness

Heartmind·ful·ness 

NOUN

  1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something:
  2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

I’m on the road for work again, spending time with strangers in airports, on planes, and in coffee shops. When I started traveling years ago, it was easy to strike up a conversation or see the world. The only barrier back then might be a magazine or a Walkman. Today, it’s tougher. Most people – myself included more than I’d like – are transfixed by their smart phone, staring down glassy-eyed while the bright lights of a pseudo-world stare back at them. We spend hours connected to our devices and the imitation intimacy they offer, and disconnected from the sea of humanity and real mystery all around us. Our smart phones weigh us down, stealing time from our family, stealing sleep and magnifying stress. Lately, it’s been bothering me, so I’m focusing on doing things the old-fashioned way – living in the moment with everyone around me.

When you practice mindfulness and look up, it’s amazing what you may find. Perhaps it’s a quiet moment, making eye contact with someone or smiling back at a child. Maybe it’s shared laughter or seeing an act of kindness. Finding an interesting book cover and wondering what the other person is reading inside. So many airports are filled with art – of the creative and human kind – and so many of us miss it, but when you look up, it’s yours to cherish.

Sometimes, I enjoy the sounds of the terminal… the cacophony of noise that somehow blends into a sweet hum of energy. Other times, I’ll find a soundtrack that suits my mood and marvel at how the world falls in step. Either way, time seems to slow. It’s not even measured any more. No destination. No deadlines. Just before, now, and what may come next. Stress melts away. Worries subside. You get lost in your thoughts, lost in day dreams, lost in the moment just enjoying the people you’re with. Looking up, you see the world and reflect it inward. Emotions wash over you and through you. It’s a beautiful thing.

Now when my flight landed, my teammate picked me up, and we began to drive the back roads of Wisconsin. I’ve never been here before. It’s one more state checked off the list. Now she knows I like to watch the world go by, and as we cruised along she mentioned how “beautiful the barns are here, how they’re different than in Kansas, and how brightly colored they are.” She told me that she’d often wished she could travel to far away, romantic places: Paris, Rome, China, and that sometimes she’d felt like she was missing out, staying close to home. But something had changed.

Six months ago, when my “living in the moment” journey began, I’d come to visit her. Throughout the days we spent together driving across several states, I’d kept commenting about how beautiful the hillsides were, how the shade of grass changed from Nebraska to Kansas to Missouri, and how stunning the fields of corn were as they swayed in the breeze. Then she paid me what may be one of the highest compliments I have ever received.

She shared with me that our three days together last year had changed the way she looked at the world – that listening to me made her see things with fresh eyes. The world looked new to her with so much beauty all around, and now as she drives the highways, she looks up and it’s gorgeous.

Put down the phone. Look up. Practice mindfulness and pass it on. It’s contagious, and it’s good for the soul.

Advertisements


3 Comments

Genetics in Action

20131002-220336.jpg

Do you have a scar? I do. It slices through my left eyebrow – a leftover of a time I bulldozed my poor brother into playing a game that was downright dumb. I got my payback: a concussion and 36 stitches to mend skin and muscle. It’s subtle now, but if I lift my bangs, it’s still there.

What about a scar you can’t see? Where is yours? We all have them… something we did, something done to us or something passed down by people who were once as innocent as we were when we were kids.

I’m one of too many kids to count. Both of my parents worked hard to provide for the family, especially Dad. He is a doctor, and pulled a lot of overnighters. It was pretty common for us not to see him at all from Monday through Friday, with weekends being our special time. Now, kids compete for attention from their parents as it is. When time is limited though, that competition gets especially fierce. Everyone picks a “role,” digs in and tries to out-do everyone else.

For me, I was going to be the “perfect” child. I was going to get excellent grades, be a massive overachiever, win every award and never get in trouble. That’s a lot to aspire to when you are 10 years old. Plus, my dad is a genius, so you’re trying to live up to that as well. I worked hard and did pretty well, but it came with consequences. Since I was always striving for perfection, which is frankly unachievable, nothing I did was ever quite good enough. So I took on more and more, and lived in that constant cycle of fear that I was letting someone down. I was not good enough. Now, you can’t see this scar, but it’s long, deep and self-inflicted.

When I first started my career, I packed those bags and took them along with me. In the arts, there was always a better singer, a better dancer, a better anything. And as I transitioned into business and began to rise through the ranks, I continued to take on more and more… making myself “indispensable” because it was just easier for me to handle something. That way, it would be “right” the first time. It would be as close to “perfect” as I could get it.

That’s a recipe for unhappiness though. You become completely overloaded, overwhelmed and stressed out. Nothing is ever good enough, and you can’t truly move on in life because you haven’t fully invested in someone. You haven’t trusted someone enough to learn to let go.

While the quest to create something truly great is admirable, perfectionism comes down to issues of trust and control. You have to learn how to trust someone enough to let go of the reins and release control, providing guidance so they too have the opportunity to learn and evolve. It’s a basic tenet of leadership, and probably the hardest lesson I continue to learn every day. I’m getting a lot better, but there’s always another mountain to climb.

I’m a parent now, and my kids are great. But here’s where the genetics kick in. While my oldest son looks like my husband, his personality is all me. He is quirky, inquisitive and wants to try everything. He also has a major perfectionistic streak… one that already causes him undue stress at the age of 5. While there are many things I want to pass down to him, this is not one of them. I want to set him free as I work to do every day in my professional life. I want him to know that our imperfections are what makes each of us so special… So perfect. He may have a scar on the outside, on his chin, but I don’t want him to carry the scars inside that so many of us already have today.

What scars are your carrying around inside? What will you do today to help them fade away?

 

For the cool weekly writing challenge, check this out: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/30/writing-challenge-dna/