Maybe it’s the 3-week hiatus from writing for this blog; maybe it’s all the holiday food; maybe it’s having too much fun doing things with my son who soon will have been home for a month on his college winter break. My mind is everywhere and nowhere. I have some ideas about organizational issues on which to write, but oh, my, I just couldn’t muster the energy or the focus for it. Eventually, I decided to just write something a little personal, and all of a sudden, felt a weight lift off my shoulder! A friend’s response to my decision was, “it is your blog!” Indeed, but this professional commitment and integrity are pretty serious stuff.
However, my son’s presence is substantial. It isn’t that he demands my attention; he doesn’t; he’s fiercely independent. But he is our only child and his days around the house will only be fewer as he grows and progresses…as it should be. It isn’t that we do a lot of things together or talk much, but even the silent and easy companionship is something to be cherished. Yes, it’s all excuses.
But this personal dilemma isn’t unfamiliar to a lot of people who have to constantly select among working, having some fun, doing some exercise, committing to family concerns, keeping up with friends, and just setting aside some down time for personal rest or reflection. I don’t work for an organization, but I still have to plan my days in order to “feel” productive. I am lucky to be able to live my life pretty much according to my design, and yet, I still box myself in at times. The ability to allow oneself to be true and truthful does not come easily, certainly not for me. Aging has helped me to relax my need to control, as well as heighten my sense of self-awareness. But the two people from whom I have learned most are my husband and my son, with whom I have grown and around whom I feel most comfortably and truthfully myself. Now, for those who don’t know me, would you have guessed my gender through my writing? I am sure you have!
Yesterday a bunch of children’s books arrived; they are gifts for a baby-shower for a friend this weekend. It’s a tradition we picked up from another couple of friends who gave us a batch of books for our newborn son almost 20 years ago; we love this tradition. One of the books is Harold and the Purple Crayon. So very enchanting. Harold couldn’t fall asleep and so he started walking with his purple crayon and created whatever came to his mind as he walked along. Sometimes, he’d draw something he loved, and other times, he was caught off guard by unintended consequences, such as a fearsome dragon to protect his beloved apple tree! The fear caused his hand holding the crayon to tremble and before he knew it, the wave lines he accidentally drew became an ocean, but thinking quickly he drew a boat…etc. A lovely adventure Harold had, and my son and I enjoyed the adventure many times as we read the book together. But in re-reading it yesterday, I thought, “If only organizations can be as quick witted as Harold, as imaginative and creative as Harold, as delightfully impish as Harold, and as willing to absorb mistakes and take measures immediately as Harold.” Organizations seem to be very good at drawing themselves into “sub-optimal” situations, such as aping each other’s skewed ways of encumbering their employees, but are unable to seize the opportunity to draw themselves out of such situations. Sometimes, I think dozens of business books cannot add up to the wisdom in a single one of our children’s books.
Of course, my favorite children’s books aren’t necessarily yours. However, wouldn’t it be a delightful experience if during one lunch hour at the office, people brought their favorite children’s books and read to each other?!
We are very lucky that our son is still willing to “play with” us still. We’ve skied a couple of days already this winter, and will do more together. Of course, he’d rather ski with his buddies, but when he skies with us, he’s happy too. Young people are very good about living in the moment. Sometimes, I think we need to be more in touch with young people for a bit of “living now” and engaging them in our “planning for future.” Why not let high school students go into local organizations, listen in on some boring planning meetings or weekly staff meetings? Why not send in some top executives to local schools to lead field trips and Q&A during snack time?
For the last year, I felt stuck in my painting; this is usually a sign of a development phase when I or my skills will be morphed. But there is always the possibility that I just can’t paint any more. Of course, the only way to find out is keep on painting, more frequently than I had been doing. In December, in responding to a friend’s invitation, I took a stained glass class, which turned out to be a wonderful experience, and very satisfying! There is something to be said about hand work, and work that has a clear beginning and ending. I don’t know how many paintings I started and just couldn’t finish, yet a few paintings that I pushed myself to finish turned out rather nice. A dear friend of mine, who passed away a few years ago, often pushed me to trust my instinct. I still don’t do it as often as it probably is good for me. Like this week’s post: Had I followed my instinct and decided earlier to forgo the regular organization topic, I might not have wasted time moping about!
I hope that I will keep on learning till the day I die. My mother turned 89 last October. When I left after a week-long visit to celebrate her birthday, I left with her my old iBook, and now she’s addicted to it. She’s another point of inspiration for me.
Our brain is our biggest and best asset; no one can take that away from us. So anyone who looks down on those who value learning is an embarrassment to humanity. American society is funny about that; we cherish people who bootstrap themselves to become successful but are suspicious about the education that enabled success. I will never apologize for my hard-earned education, and we have taught our son that value. Richard Feynman, Nobel laureate, is one of my heroes. In his delightful little book, Surely You Are Joking, Mr. Feynman?, he mentioned that he’d never experienced drugs because he valued his brain too much to risk them. It resonated with me.
In honor of my son’s presence this month, the pictures in this post were ones I took with him on a photo-shoot for his class in high school. I felt very privileged.
In the next couple of months, I will have heavy traveling schedule, so realistically, this blog probably will be a bi-weekly event. This blog is still in its infancy and will continue evolving. I would greatly appreciate any feedback.
I hope you all had a great holiday, and that 2011 is shaping up to be better for all of us. Next post will be on 1/23/11. Till then,
Staying Sane and Charging Ahead.
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