07.31.17

the bottoms

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:52 pm by Administrator

indeed we have thrown over the dredge
so many times that i can feel it now,
rope, mesh, and metal
crashing upon the salted water,
tumbling down in a frothy spume

like a diver lost in his thoughts
and bodily exhausted, falling away from light
and into the colder and heavier seas.
i feel its sag, as it descends from its weight
and not from any particular intention.

we know not the moment, but there is just
the sensation of a landing, a stretch upon
the tether, and the dragging of iron
upon the rugged rock. we drive into the waves,
and the teeth gnash upon the bottoms.

the ship creaks with the strain of its labor
as its dangling, twisted fingers dig across
unyielding earth. we are always searching
blindly, inelegantly, and with a hard fist
closed in an arthritic vice, hoping to ensnare

something from the deep. once, we snatched
a crab from the sandy floor. another time,
we hauled up a chain, man-made and severed
from its treasure. still another time, we brought
up mementos of china and glass that glittered

in the waning light, reminding us of something.
fragments only, but enough to make us wonder—
as we haul up and turn the wheel, dancing
on the deck slick with heavy water, pitting taut,
tired muscles against swinging metal—

that one of these times, we will catch upon the thing
just delicately enough that it will not break, that it will
come up with the thing it was tied to, which in turn
will pull from beneath the sand its treasure, its buried soul,
and all of it will come out of the earth together

an endless tendril dragged from the deeps, emerging
from the water and taking shape as it is laid across
the deck, layers and thick layers of itself, an unbroken
memory, heavy enough to stop us dead in the water
and to know it deep down, that the work is done

07.27.17

my boss, the 1

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:06 pm by Administrator

at a recent meeting, my boss expressed an interest in learning how far she could push me. “how do i know when i am in bounds and out of bounds when i am challenging you?” she asked. right then, i knew that this was a watershed moment for me; and so much would hinge on the manner in which i addressed the question.

i asked her for a separate meeting to explore this particular issue. and then later, when i had a moment at my desk, i sent her a link to the enneagram institute description of the 4. i told her that while i may appear confident and self-sufficient on the outside, i am a deeply sensitive and even insecure individual on the inside. i can be pushed and even confronted by someone if i know that i am thoroughly understood and deeply appreciated in that relationship; but i can lose trust and safety if i am not properly handled.

it wasn’t what i wanted to tell her initially. what i wanted to tell her in the moment was what i thought any good leader ought to say. that i can take it. that i just want the truth, plain and simple. that i don’t let my personal feelings get in the way. that i’m tough and resilient. the fact is that none of these statements hold true for me. i can only retain trust in someone who criticizes me if we have done the hard work of building mutual trust and admiration. and for every critique, i require at least twice as much affirmation and praise. one with little empathy or emotional intelligence might hear this and assume i need to be babied. but i’ve been on my journey long enough to know that only a mature adult can be this self-aware. i’m not a guy who can take it on the chin from just anyone; and i reserve the right to leave an unsafe relationship at any time. if you want to work with me, you have to earn my trust. and if you hurt me, i will not forget it. i am slow to forgive. my memory runs deep; it is what makes me creative, empathic, and vulnerable all at the same time.

i have thought long and hard about where my boss lies on the enneagram spectrum. she has a reputation for being a forceful and even frightening person to work with. her history of angry outbursts is legendary; and if you get on her bad side, you’ve got no future at the company. years ago, i observed her from afar and placed her as a 4 like myself. but i have realized over the past few months that i was wrong. her anger is not the explosive, self-integrating passion of the 4; her anger is the persisting indignation of the 1. her negativity does not come from the nonconforming resistance of the 4 or the 8; it comes from a predilection for judgment, rooted in a fixation with righteousness.

i know that my boss wants to know where to draw the line with me, because rules and regulations are what the 1 requires in order to manage his or her own hypercritical tendencies. the 1 cannot be in a healthy working relationship with someone if she does not know how and when to express personal critiques. their judgment is their Achilles’ Heel, even when it is their most important contribution. and this is difficult for me to wrestle with, the ever-sensitive 4, because i know that to manage me, she will need to judge and critique me. it is the only way she knows how to exercise leadership and influence. that style runs profoundly against my grain. but in the end, it is up to me to discern the way forward.

this clash of styles was something i thought about and meditated on for months before i accepted the position. but here in my sixth month, the rubber is going to meet the road. i cannot deny that there are inherent risks to our working relationship, and i will require thoughtful boundaries and mutual respect in order to survive in that relationship. i want to express those requirements without appearing weak; but if i have learned anything in my life, describing my vulnerabilities makes me strong. i need my boss to see that i am an exquisitely emotional creature, easily demoralized and often self-doubting. but when i am properly supported, i can be both inspirational and uncommonly courageous. it all depends on how i am cared for and positioned to be effective. i am not just any kind of leader. i am a leader who thrives or dies on the basis of his emotional context. and i think i am willing to hand over the keys to my effectiveness, even if it puts me in harm’s way, because there is no other way for me through this quandary

07.26.17

the days

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:06 pm by Administrator

building on my monday entry, there is a predictable rhythm to my weeks. even when i can’t articulate it, i know it intuitively. but i’ve never taken the time to describe it or to understand why it is that i take my particular sojourn of emotions across the calendar landscape. so here it is—my attempt to define the periodicity of my preoccupations.

it begins with monday. i wake up on mondays and feel that the world is surging ahead of me and without me. and unless there is something dramatic or out of the ordinary on my monday calendar, i am invariably trudging into monday feeling disconnected from my work, alienated from my society, and generally pessimistic about my prospects. the fog of passivity and helplessness persists through the day, and i have usually contemplated at last one major life-changing decision by the day’s end.

on tuesday, i wake up and everything is completely different. i am struck by the urgency of what has to be accomplished. i am annoyed at how slowly the people around me are reacting to things. i read the news and i feel appalled by the senselessness and inefficiency of my society. i start my day with a hard run, more coffee than usual, and an aggressive attitude.

on wednesday, i am always surprised that i’m only halfway through the work week, because all the furious thought and work of tuesday has put me ahead of schedule and left me a little fatigued. i start making plans for the next week or the next month. wednesday is my most future-oriented day of the week.

on thursday, i am preoccupied with tying up loose ends. in all of my wide-ranging efforts of tuesday and wednesday, where did i miss the mark or overlook something important? what it is that i need to clean up or handle so that i’m not up against an unforeseen deadline on friday night? thursday is when i start the weekend housecleaning two days early, send pokey emails, clean my desktop, re-read memoranda, and begin to feel vaguely anxious about the course of my life.

on friday, i am tired and trying to make it to the end of my day. it’s when i see patients, which means that i am entirely focused on maintaining good energy. i practice deep breathing, i exercise at lunch, and i almost never blog. hour to hour, i am focused not on my patients but rather on managing my feelings about them. i never once doubt that i’m doing the right thing for them; but my focus is on avoiding frustration and anger toward them, which is almost inevitable. there is almost always something on our social calendar on friday evenings, and instead of planning around that, i invariably find myself surprised by how reluctant, tired, and uninspired i am when i come home from work. my favorite thing to do on a friday evening is go to bed early. 8:30 PM is ideal.

on saturday, i don’t drink coffee and i make no plans. i veg out. i don’t think about the week past; i don’t think about the week ahead. i check out, nap in the afternoon, and intermittently engage my kids. saturday is a constant negotiation between my need to disengage and my family’s wish for me to engage.

sunday morning is the best time of my week, particularly when church doesn’t suck. and since we’re at a great church now, sunday morning is excellent. i have racing thoughts about what i can accomplish, what i want to become, and what i can do that day. i almost always think about something i want to write. the more coffee i drink, the more creative and philosophical my thoughts become. i am suddenly interested in everything going on in the world. but as afternoon moves into the evening, it dawns on me that i am about to fall off the cliff and return to the inexorable and weighty rituals of monday. and as high as i fly on sunday mornings, i am plummeting to earth by sunday night. back when i was working my previous job nine years ago, the wave of depression was so powerful on sunday nights that i could not fall asleep.

in the midst of this terrifically intense weekly cycle of feelings, i often wonder what i can do to gain some control over this roller coaster and level out my emotions. in fact, i experience much more stability now than i ever did ten years ago. but it is difficult nonetheless. i don’t like this experience of life, even if there are enjoyable moments amidst this general struggle against the tide. i am tempted to blame mondays as the root cause. if only i could eliminate mondays, then the rest of my week would look different. but what are mondays? for me, it’s not just the beginning of a work week. mondays are the shifting of family relationships—from being together to existing apart. mondays represent the agenda of the world, pitted against my own human needs. mondays represent the expectations of people who employ me, bill me, and rely on me, and thus mondays represent an idea of myself that i have difficulty reconciling with my self-perception. mondays, i realize, are difficult to me because they are tragic. the tragedy of mondays is that i have never been happy with being the person required by my society. and no matter what job i am given, and no matter where i am living, mondays will always be about my unfulfilled and constantly frustrated desire to be understood and appreciated for who i really am.

how do i reclaim my days? how do i set aside the mask that i feel compelled to affix to my face? how do i bring continuity and consistency to my thoughts and feelings, even in the midst of the epic rise and fall of the world’s weekly rhythms? it strikes me that to fight against the false philosophy of my society, i must commit myself to rewriting the calendar. my life does not proceed seven days at a time, regardless of the Genesis narrative. i cannot make it on six days of deception and one day of truth. this kind of life is not a discipline; it’s enslavement. it’s not normal; it’s ludicrous. the first step to reclaiming my days is to recognize that there is no real difference between a sunday and a monday. the fundamental challenge of each day is exactly the same: to connect with God and with my world, and to position myself to bring value to my people.

but until i transcend my outlook calendar, i will put this stake in the ground and grieve what i have become:

mondays are for mourning—the life past and the death before us.

tuesdays are for war—against all that owns me.

wednesdays are for change—changing one thing about myself and my circumstances.

thursdays are for forgiveness—forgiving myself for what i cannot accomplish or become.

fridays are for survival—recognizing that in the end, all that matters is staying alive.

saturdays are for emptiness—connecting with what is nothing.

and sundays are for a dream—a dream of a life with no mondays.

07.24.17

dunkirk, mondays, and perspective

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:45 pm by Administrator

my son and i watched “dunkirk” together this past weekend. i felt a little ambivalent about taking him to a grim war movie, but he ended up finding it interesting and not particularly frightening, and it gave us an opportunity to talk about twentieth century history.

i realized as i laid out some of the historical context for the movie that it is a difficult thing to “teach history” to one’s own highly impressionable eleven year-old son. i found myself hesitant to describe the outcomes of the world wars in terms of winners and losers (because everyone loses when there’s war) and yet it was important nonetheless to define a winner in order to describe the shifts in power and ideology that resulted from those wars. i found the cold war particularly difficult to describe. when i described for him the difference between communism and capitalism and then asked him to react to those ideologies, he indicated a preference for communism. and why wouldn’t he? because my descriptions of communism and capitalism were in theoretical terms; when i considered all the nuances that have contributed to the totalitarian implications of communist revolution, i was paralyzed by my need to qualify those factors and to avoid oversimplifying the relative success of global capitalism.

in the end, i think i realized that for young boys, wars have winners and losers, and ideas in conflict must either be right or wrong. i imagine that for him, “dunkirk” was a bit like “rogue one”, a story of a defeat that presaged an eventual victory for the good guys. for me, it was an entirely different experience—a portrait of how desperate circumstances both reveal and ruin the moral agencies of young men.

the darkness and ambiguity of “dunkirk” has perhaps followed me into the vacant and anguishing beginnings of this week. i have a terrible “case of the mondays” and am writing really to make some sense of it. it is not an unfamiliar feeling, this sense of lostness, haziness, and abject pessimism about my circumstances. it will pass within a day as it always does, and it will be replaced by other preoccupations about seemingly necessary and important things. i don’t want to question the importance of those things; after all, it’s my ability to see importance in them that enables me to find purpose and satisfaction in the progression of my weeks. but there is always at the root of it all the one place in my heart of hearts where there is no gravity and no sound. a piece of my consciousness floats in that space, unable to discern up from down. my religion in that space feels different from the religion i experience in the other areas of my synaptic network. it is a religion of constant questioning and reframing. the world tells me what i am in certain terms, and against that construct my spirit asserts itself, with a statement as simple as this: i am not how others see me.

to describe why i live seems as futile as describing the history of the world. yet, there is a structure to it all: bills to pay, meals to eat, probabilities to heed, and future crises to prevent. sometimes when i awaken and realize how poorly i have slept and how unprepared i am for the day ahead, i try to immerse myself in that structure, like one dressing himself in an ill-fitting suit. in so many ways, it doesn’t work; but perhaps i am the only one who feels the tension between the shape of my body and the cut of the clothes. perspective, in moments like this, can be very simple; the body can stretch the cloth. a few hours from now, the clothes will fit better. tomorrow, my life will feel like it fits me.

yesterday, i tried to find a poem for my mood but i couldn’t. today, i’m vaguely reminded of something by sylvia plath. it’s one of those days where the words have to be aggressive in order to describe something that is distressingly mundane. in fact, i am a wanderer who traverses the same paths every single day; i am a nomad who has slept in the same bed every night for decades. this morning, i walked straight into a spider web while watering the plants, and it wrapped itself all around my head and my shoulders, hours of a creature’s life and labor, as if to tell me that life is building something that lasts for a day, every day, and that is okay

07.20.17

the house we lived in

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:10 am by Administrator

today, my mom closed on the sale of the house that she has lived in for thirty-one years. i know that today is full of feelings for her. there is the relief of selling the house and being free of all responsibility for it. but there is also a sadness and a perplexity that comes from abruptly losing all connection to a place that was more than a shelter. it was a home. it was a place full of memory. it’s where we moved when i was just eleven years old. it’s the place where my father fell into a coma and died.

there were moments during these past few weeks when i wanted to get on a plane and visit that house one last time. i know that there would have been nothing there; the house would have been bare, and there would have been no pictures or photographs to suggest the lives that transpired in its spaces. it would have been sad, inescapably sad, for me to walk through its empty hallways and rooms and find it dispossessed, something already consigned for other purposes. in the end, i didn’t go back. i determined that i would remember the house as i last saw it—a place still breathing with activity and purpose, still flush with the passion of my father’s last moments.

of all the memories i have had in that home, the one that stands out in my mind is a seemingly random memory from a year ago. i believe it was in the mid-morning, given how bright it was outside. i had come up the stairs and was standing in the hallway, and through an open door i could see into the master bedroom. my father had just awakened, and he was sitting on the side of his bed, looking dazed. his profile was thin—agonizingly thin—and i could see his body moving with the work of breathing. he must have been on the brink of motion, about to get up and begin his morning routine, but what i remember is that motionless profile, that snapshot of him sitting alone with the light at his back, silent and hunched over and unaware of my presence. i didn’t call out to him. i just watched him for a moment, and the moment has not yet ended. i still see him there. it is a luminous, mysterious, sad memory, and it remains with me, even as the tunnel of reminiscences grows longer and darker, putting what seems like miles and miles between us

07.18.17

discerning the path

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:52 pm by Administrator

i’m not a future-focused man. it goes against my grain and against my design as a 4. but i recognize that there are times when this is necessary and healthy.

my wife struck out on her first academic job search. i think i recognized a couple of things as a result of that difficult and even gut-wrenching process. first, i came to understand that success in her chosen career path is perhaps more important than mine. what i mean by that is that my identity has less to do with my current work than her identity has to do with hers. i can adapt and change; my career path over the past seven years is a clear example of that. but for my wife, the path to influence is prescribed, and it goes down that road of publication and tenure.

second, i came to recognize that for her to succeed, we must be willing to go where the opportunity presents itself. there’s no hedging of bets in this beauty contest. she has to put herself out there and be committed to landing at any suitable destination. we tried to constrain her job search to the few areas that seemed ideal; in her field, that is setting oneself up for failure.

third, i realized that i can’t be of two minds when it comes to my wife’s career prospects. either i’m all in, or i’m not a believer. and when i look at my wife and her work, i know that i’m all in. she can do this—and she has to. one time during this agonizing process, she joked that maybe she’d just end up being a housewife in the end. it was a jarring moment for me and something i realized i’d not been prepared to hear. and that’s because i’ve seen her be a full-time mom. i know in my heart of hearts that it’s not enough for her. and because i know that, i know that the housewife path for her is not good enough for me. i’d be profoundly disappointed if that’s what she settled into. my wife’s career path, in other words, is vital to our relationship.

having learned these things, i know that i have to be ready to move. we have to be ready to move. we have to be ready to move next spring. and after that, assuming she hangs in there with her first job, we will likely be moving again five to ten years after, hopefully as the result of a tenure opportunity. it pulls at me, this idea of two big moves over the next decade, because i’m thinking of a lot of things. i’m thinking about what i want to accomplish before i’m 50. i’m thinking about the impact of displacement on my two kids—and particularly on my 11-year old son. i’m thinking about my mom, who’s willing to follow us wherever we go. i want everyone to be satisfied. but the complexity of that thinking just muddies the water for me in the end. when the ripples clear and i look into the water, i see my wife in the reflection. her fulfillment and success is the foundation of this family’s success. we have to make this work.

this isn’t to say that my career has little or no importance to me. it absolutely does. i myself have learned that i don’t ever want to retire. i want to work, express my gifts, and be an important contributor for my whole life. and i really really like my job right now. i’m a motivational speaker, a coach to physicians, the vice president of a brand-new and vitally important department, and a doctor to extremely loyal patients that i love very much. but here’s the thing: even on my best days, i know that this job isn’t what i’m about. sometimes i feel that as pain. it hurts, it really hurts, because what i’ve learned about myself is that i don’t think i’ll ever find the perfect job. i’ll always be something of a misfit; i’ll always be looking for something better. and that’s because i was designed to move, i was designed to change, and i was designed for a nomadic, ever-expanding, and ever-stretching life. my journey will never be about the destination; it will always be about what i’m leaving behind.

with all that being established, i think that the next move will be a fascinating one for me. it will be an opportunity for me to cut back on my work hours, rethink my life, and develop new interests. i can’t imagine i will give up clinical practice entirely; but for many years, i’ve imagined myself moving away from patient care entirely, and i think i’ll probably end up doing that in the next decade. i want to write, and more fundamentally i want to create community. i used to think that i would do this by becoming a pastor. but i think there are a lot of ways i can do this. in the next phase of my life, i want to test out something new. and for certain, i want to be a dad to my emerging adolescent in an active, participatory way, because these are precious years with him that i’ll never get back.

the phase beyond that, what i describe as the second move, will be a time of great fruitfulness i hope. my daughter, God willing, will make it into adolescence, and i’ll want her to see me fulfilled and generative in every way. my best years in work will be those fifteen years between the ages of 50 and 65, if my mentors have taught me anything, and i want that second move to put me on firm footing to be a transcendent leader and contributor at that time in my life. whether i’m a CEO, a politician, a pastor, a coach, or an itinerant writer, i want my fifties to be a visionary time for me—and i’m willing to sacrifice stability and predictability in my 40s if that’s what it takes for me to shine in my prime. but of course all that will take shape within the context of my wife’s career. she’s the structure within which i’ll find personal meaning.

it is not easy to discern the path. no one can tell me how it’s supposed to play out. among many learnings, i’ve learned that i have to choose what my life is going to be about, and i am responsible for making the decisions that demonstrate what it is that i believe in. i don’t believe in life the way i live it now; i do believe in the trajectory of my thoughts and feelings, which i count as a testament to the favor of God in my life. my forefathers in faith were uprooted and went to new places; they lost themselves and found themselves anew. in the same way, i’m nothing to myself if i can’t give up what i have to gain something true. i commit myself to that task, of emptying myself, of leaving behind what is meant to be lost. i call my god the one who takes the death out of my life. and so i look to the future, and i choose to change

my church

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:04 am by Administrator

i trekked over to my brother in law’s place last night to catch the Game of Thrones season 7 premiere. note that i’ve actually never followed a GoT season real-time until now. it was a unique experience to be caught up on the show and experiencing the thrill of the new season along with everyone else in the world that’s following.

the episode itself wasn’t anything particularly noteworthy. it was a “set up” episode. we were reintroduced to every major character, and as far as i can tell, only one character got multiple scenes (arya). as a result of that broad survey, i got a little taste of the things i enjoy (lyanna mormont scolding lord glover, arya offering a toast to remember) and a few of the things that i don’t (any scene involving daenerys targaryen or sansa stark). but whether i’m watching a mediocre character or a brilliantly constructed scene at any given moment, i’m engaged with the story. i take the good with the bad, because i’m committed.

for most of my life, that’s been the story of my participation in church. except that church hasn’t been nearly as good as Game of Thrones. church has had a hell of a lot of circuitous and tedious Khaleesi storylines and not a lot of Red Weddings or Battles of the Bastards. but i’ve stayed connected because the hero’s tale—that journey of Christ into the heart of man—is so good and so compelling, despite all the cumbersome shit we’ve injected into the tale.

and by cumbersome shit, i’m talking about apologetics, hermaneutics, and politics. i’m talking about rules and regulations for reading the bible, living a biblical life, and leading a biblical community. i don’t want to get into why i compare this stuff to the off-Westeros side show that was clearly a plot configuration error by GRRM. i’ll just say that there are people who believe that the Bible is a document that needs to be properly decoded in order to determine the proper mentality and lifestyle for any given age, and there are enough of them around that church often feels like little more than a prep course for a big-time entrance exam. i’m not saying that this stuff isn’t necessary. apologetics, hermaneutics, and politics are necessary because the scripture doesn’t speak for itself—and because any community based on a common reading of the Bible must share a framework for understanding its truth. regardless, that structural stuff isn’t the plot-moving material. it’s the tedious stuff we have to get through in order to get at what really makes us excited.

for most of my life, i’ve attended churches where the structural constraints were not just noticeable but pretty damn stifling. for example, when i was a child, i attended churches where the Gospel was adult stuff; it wasn’t interesting or relevant to kids, outside of providing a moral framework for good and bad behavior. when i was an adolescent, i attended churches that prohibited, repressed, and undermined sexuality, even though that was pretty much the focal issue of my teenage years. when i was a young adult, i attended churches that struggled to discuss current events and matters of social justice, when that was the stuff i studied, witnessed, and cared about every day. i was told to find the answers to my doubts and tough questions in the bible, when in fact the bible doesn’t have explicit answers for a lot of my questions. it really doesn’t! but try telling that to someone who really thinks it does. that’s been my life in the church for forty years.

my wife and i have been visiting churches for the past year with a checklist of things we were looking for. in truth, we were just looking for a church that had fewer of the things that we don’t like, such as a total lack of racial diversity, an inability to talk to or about gay people, and a lack of interest in the surrounding community. really, we wanted to find a church that was progressive and interested in making its surrounding community a safer, healthier, and more prosperous place. we didn’t think it would be hard in southern california, but it has been hard. extremely hard. for a while we were at a church in hollywood full of young people with a great program for welcoming refugees, and we were pretty happy—until an assistant pastor told us that the church’s stance on sexuality is that people are born with a gender but learn to be gay. and by the way, gay members are unfit to lead. boom.

in any case, we ended up at the church we are currently at after months of on-line research and emails to pastors we’d never met before, hoping against hope that we wouldn’t experience another bait-and-switch moment with a microaggressive community. to our shock, the community has been startlingly right for us. from the very first talk we heard (given by a lay member about God’s hope for the marginalized woman in the church), we heard our language spoken for the first time. it wasn’t the language of biblical living, compulsory Christocentricity, and evangelical righteousness. it was the language of inclusion and advocacy. it was plain speech from suffering people about a suffering humanity in search of an authentic, healing experience of God. and as the weeks went by, i realized that this was a place where i could let my guard down, express my real feelings about things, and not be put on notice for skirting the limits of orthodoxy. this was a church consumed with orthopraxy, and i was down with that. i will always be down with that.

for forty years, i’ve loved the church because it’s where God has met me. but this is possibly the first time in my life that i’ve loved the church because of what it represents about God. for once, i’m worshiping with a community that doesn’t get tripped up on the stupid stuff. and so, for the first time in my life, i’m actually looking forward to going to church on sundays. moreover, i actually take the communion. i get up from my chair with joy, i snap off that piece of cracker and dunk it into the grape juice, and i do it with conviction and great pleasure because the sacrament has real meaning for me now. i’m partaking of the communal bread because it’s such pleasure to be part of the community, and every thing i do that integrates me into this church makes me feel more connected to God. all of this has reminded me that the church is a gift; it’s God’s greatest gift to us, His people. it’s been a long, hard road with other brothers and sisters along the way, and i don’t want to diminish what they’re a part of, but i’m sure glad i’ve found where i belong. it’s sad that it took forty years… but it was worth it.

in any case, let the battle for Westeros begin!

07.12.17

the mood

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:44 am by Administrator

there are certain seasons when the feel of life is hard without being painful, fleeting without being pressured. like curtains billowing against the background of an impassive sky, the days suggest that they are more than simply the foundation of a future; they are a mystery unsolvable. i remember in those moments that i am lost—not simply lost in the romantic sense, but lost in the irredeemable and invariably tragic sense. that is when the moments appear to arrange themselves in something other than histories. they take on a rhythm as plaintive as the truth itself. i call it poetry.

for no reason other than this mood, i felt the need to watch tokyo sonata again. it has been many years. tokyo sonata is a story of many layers, some obvious but some not so obvious. the layers suggest the depth of a human experience so random and disconnected as to defy any distinct sensibility; and yet there is, at the end, a suggestion of beauty in the suffering, a sublimation. this is the third time i’ve watched the movie. i’ve gotten something different from it every time.

a good friend of mine was sentenced to a term in prison today. among other painful, raw, and profoundly upsetting things i’ve recently witnessed, this was a hollowing moment, one that left me lost for words and keenly aware of my own history of failures. life is so fragile. we can find ourselves in one moment at the very brink of humiliation and self-loss and wonder at how we arrived at this place of desolation. there are so many reasons for why we have ended up here; they are uncountable, and as familiar as the memories are, they are indiscernible. i have taken responsibility for a life that was never within my control. i was the one trying to pick up the pieces of glass and assemble a mirror to see the face that surges ahead of me at all times, a person known to all others but to myself.

the trick, you see, is to never be wrapped up in any one tale. the truth is that the place of ruin is no different from the one full of happiness so many months or years ago. it’s the cadence that shifted; it’s the poetry of living that changed. it’s the music that tells us it’s time to laugh, time to slow down, or time to prepare for the end. i hear it sometimes, i hear it shift on me even when no one around me can, and those are the times when i realize that it is ok to feel what the music is trying to convey

07.10.17

GoT Season 7

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:33 pm by Administrator

among other things i’ve marked on my mental calendar of important upcoming events, there is the Game of Thrones season 7 premiere this coming weekend. there was a time when i was critical of benioff’s HBO adaptation of the book series; but my profound disappointment with GRRM’s writer’s block coupled with season 6’s salient moments have solidly converted me into a fan of the TV show. i actually can’t imagine that there are many loyal fans of the books now that the tv show has thoroughly outpaced the written story. it’s such an unusual situation. really, i find it unacceptable. how can a writer with any semblance of dignity allow tv writers to take over his story? but i digress. GRRM’s fall into disgrace is not the point of this entry.

there are a number of important questions that need to be settled in season 7, and they include:

will a person of color actually amount to anything more than a white woman’s slave?

will the Daenerys storyline actually become remotely interesting to viewers, who have now waited six seasons to finally be finished with the philosophically heavy-handed and inadvertently nonsensical non-westeros side show?

can we stop with Dorne?

will we finally get some epic battles between dragons and white walkers?

when and how are we going to get a Stark family reunion?

i’ve read up on the “awayforthelads” spoilers as well as the rest of the big fan predictions, and i’ll say that i’m a proponent of the “Jaime Lannister is Azor Ahai” theory. jaime was by far the most interesting character in the books, and he got significantly stronger and more compelling as the volumes proceeded. i’ll go as far as to say that jaime’s chapters represented GRRM’s best writing overall—and i believe that this reflects jaime’s central place in both GRRM’s psychology and the GoT story universe. an obvious villain from the start, jaime evolves into an anti-hero of the kind favored by postmodern fantasy writers. his repressed and self-deprecative humanity contrasts with jon snow’s narrow-minded earnestness and daenerys’s adolescent narcissism and lends itself more compellingly to an authentic arc of heroic redemption. i think jaime will prove himself queenslayer, azor ahai, and martyr hero of the seven kingdoms before the tale is finished, and the lesser heroes—Snow and Daenerys, among others—will play their role as complementary pieces.

in any case, here are my hopes for the final season and a half, in no particular order:

1. as previously suggested, jaime lannister executes cersei for the sake of justice, crushes the White Walkers with his golden hand and his Valyrian sword, and dies on the battlefield unapologetic and without friends, extolled posthumously by the only two people who ever loved him—Brienne of Tarth and Tyrion Lannister.

2. the inevitable romance between jon snow and daenerys targaryen ends with her tragic death in the battle of the White Walkers. finally, that ridiculous silver-haired mother of slaves takes her exit…

3. snow and lyanna mormont ultimately tie the knot and bring the delights of civilization north of the Wall, while Sansa (celibate to the end) and her brother Bran rebuild Winterfell.

4. grey worm and missandei emerge as the beloved heroes of the people and formally abolish the Iron Throne after Daenerys’s shocking demise.

5. after the abolition of the throne, Westeros effectively becomes a colony of the Iron Bank of Braavos—with Arya Stark playing a principal role as power broker for the Starks and Tyrion Lannister becoming a governor of Westeros. now there’s capitalism for ya.

07.07.17

leadership learnings

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:32 pm by Administrator

since I took on my new role five months ago, the company has become a whole new thing to me. I used to react to the company’s strategic plans; now I’m helping to shape them, and I have to represent them. I used to complain about poor communication from leadership; now I am being held responsible for that issue, among others. I get random emails from peers and providers about problems that I’m not directly responsible for, and I want to help, but I don’t want to step on toes, and in the end I’m not the one who can actually make the difference. but even in those moments, I recognize that leadership is how I manage the communication in the moment, the hand-off of responsibility, and the follow-through on the issue, regardless of whether I am ultimately responsible.

there have been so many learnings, many born of frustration and failure. I am pretty terrible at meeting management, and this issue goes back to my very first staff meeting seven years ago. I don’t spend enough time thinking through the flow of a meeting. beyond simply constructing a sensible agenda that touches on the issues important to the stakeholders, I need to actually visualize the meeting; I need to think specifically about what I aim to deliver in the meeting, and what I need each participant to deliver to the group in turn. this kind of rigorous, detail-oriented thinking goes against my grain. it’s just not natural for me to think deeply about or anticipate the needs of others. I’m a 4, after all. it’s my natural tendency to assume others are incidental. to manage meetings effectively, I have to think about the lives and priorities of others. it remains my greatest weakness.

not to mention that my communication before and after meetings is inadequate, and my handling of meeting business is unsystematic at best. true, I don’t have an admin assistant to help me; but still, meeting notes and follow-through on action items are basic necessities for any meaningful forum, and it’s my responsibility to ensure that these basic communications are handled without exception. it’s a responsibility I don’t take seriously enough. managing work is not my forte. but as a manager and now a senior leader of the company, I don’t really have an excuse for being unsystematic in the way that I link and support other leaders of the company.

beyond this, I’m undisciplined in the way that I thread conversations about longer-term issues. in the moment, I always have a strong sense of what I want to address, when it comes to the macro challenges we face on particular issues. but from check-in to check-in, lunch convo to lunch convo, I don’t keep tabs on what I’m finding agreement on with my partners across the aisle. I don’t manage and move the thread along, in a disciplined manner that pushes the agenda while respecting boundaries related to scope of responsibility. this is a political skill, but it’s also an interpersonal social skill. I have to keep the score, not for the sake of exacting equity but for the sake of understanding where exactly everyone stands. being able to count on someone’s support is the main key to success in most every controversial area I wade into—and because of my role, I am constantly in the midst of controversy.

lastly, and this is not by any means a new insight, I have recognized the single most important thing I must recognize is that managing my morale is a non-negotiable and constant personal responsibility to myself. I get beaten up on some days. I get undercut, undermined, overlooked, and criticized on a regular basis. very little of the feedback is intended to personally injure my ego—but it invariably does. it’s my responsibility at the end of the day to circle back with myself and tend to those injured feelings. I’ve gotten better at that with time, but I’m still not great at it, and it doesn’t help that I’m an acutely emotional person. managing my feelings and addressing my morale on a day to day basis is not an optional skill for me; it is an absolute necessity. it is the difference between making it through a tough week and deciding that it’s time for me to move on. for someone like me, the option to quit is always real. I’m never a perfect fit for my circumstances. I have to renegotiate and confirm my commitment to what I’m doing on a weekly if not daily basis. that’s the unique struggle of being who I am. other people aren’t like that, from my experience.

my giftings, on the other hand, continue to be unique giftings, and I’m appreciating them more each day. my capacity for insight is considerable. I facilitate breakthroughs in perspective in most every visioning forum I’m a part of, and most of these moments are not premeditated; they are almost always the result of spontaneous, creative thought. I naturally relate well with others, and it is second nature for me to forge deep personal bonds with most anyone, regardless of age or gender. exec leaders pull me aside to talk about personal issues and sadness in their lives. people hug me because they are glad to see me. sometimes I’m surprised by the level of intimacy people feel with me. it’s my gift.

I can talk to a crowd in almost any situation and connect with them. I can make people cry. I can connect people to purpose in thirty seconds. and I can advocate for something intangible, something remote, and I can do that without forethought. reaching people’s hearts and minds is something I do intuitively, and my company has put that skill to good use. I’m the guy that managers call in when their work units are suffering from disconnection or disengagement. sometimes, I feel like I’m HR, or even just the company ombudsman.

leadership is forcing me to understand both my limitations and my strengths in more and more vivid detail. my sense of self has become vastly more complex, as a result. I’m not simply the guy who can do this thing but not that thing. I’m a guy who can do anything but with varying degrees of success. I’m a guy who doesn’t have the option of resting on his strengths while dismissing or minimizing his weaknesses. I’m the leader who has to constantly exercise his gifts while always managing and improving his areas of weakness. the goal isn’t to be perfect; the goal is to be adequate for the task, at every time, and for every person that needs me.

leadership is very, very hard. I’ve had to learn this the hard way. it is taxing and unforgiving, and it makes me lose sleep at night. I often fantasize about leaving leadership and being unaccountable. but even this, I realize, goes against my grain. there is something I was designed to become, and leadership is the vehicle for that self-actualization. it is not a matter of glory or ambition for me. it’s a matter of connection with self. something happens to me when I suffer, stretch, and sublimate what I am; and even when it is painful, it is delightful. it gives me a reason to exist

« Previous entries