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Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

-Neale Donald Walsch-

I thought it might be good to take stock in the past year before I start writing about 2012.  I can’t believe that wrote a total of 58 blog posts this past year; it is interesting, however, that I still have not written a background description for “About the blog” section. I hasn’t been the right time, I guess.  Still, it would have been nice to reach 60 posts, as the WordPress people were encouraging me to do, but it didn’t happen. I was not avoiding, though; I was just too busy living to write.  Yes, I have finally come out–remember the post with the Diana Ross song title?  It’s happening!  I am thrilled.  Elated.  I feel like Houdini after escaping the nailed and chained packing crate submerged under the East River in NYC.  Though I am still teaching two online courses, I am emotionally done with academia.  Over!  And, I have started a new life.

Meeting Judith Chusid on July 31 was transformational, professionally, spiritually, and socially.  As part of my training for Success is an Inside Job™ (SIIJ) workshops, I attended one myself, participated in an ongoing group working on blocks to success, and attended trainings on psychodrama. And although I felt lost at first, I shut down my Greek chorus when it started to berate me; and, pushing past the initial confusion, I see that psychodrama builds on my prior social work and spiritual knowledge and skill, and in the spring, I will be running workshops on my own.  Also, my academic way of thinking complements my collaborators’’ analytic training, which means that I am using all aspects of myself, as I had been longing to do.

So, after years of feeling professionally depleted and unappreciated, both Judith and Paul, from the Blanton-Peale Institute, sincerely value me.  As I write this, I am thinking that, I must be loving myself more, since our experiences and the people around us mirror our inner life. Oh, and wait, there is more.  I am meeting so many interesting people, both socially and professionally through Judith and SIIJ—fashion models, actors, writers, business people, and a recovering academic!  I am exploring the world beyond the Ivory Tower, and I am learning that no matter what we do for a living, or how successful we are, we all have the same fears and longings.

Before I go, I want to thank you for reading this past year and to wish you blessings beyond your wildest imaginations, like the ones I have received this past year. I will continue to write, though I am wondering about changing the format and the frequency.  We shall see.

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Last week, I had the insight that, I may be co-dependent.  In the past, I have rejected co-dependency as professional jargon, but last week, something told me to check it out; I did, and I’ve decided that it is a useful construct.  The term co-dependency grew out of the Alcoholics’ Anonymous Movement, along with the understanding that, the alcoholic was not the only part of the equation.  In essence, co-dependency is excessive caretaking at significant personal expense.   It is learned behavior that is passed on from one generation to another.  Although it took me almost a lifetime to admit it; my father had a drinking problem when he was younger, which is, obviously, a risk factor.

As I write this, I am also reminded of female gender socialization; in other words, females, across cultures are socialized to be caretakers of their children and their men.  Then, there are the expectations in some cultures (like Hispanic and Asian) that family come first.  I started wondering about all of this, because I have noticed that I spend most of my mental energy thinking about others.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to imply that I am a martyr, since there is always a pay-off.  Thinking about others distracts  me from taking responsibility for myself.  For example, when I was on tenure-track at Michigan, I would stop my work, or whatever else I was doing, to answer a phone call.  Abandoning your routine to respond to somebody else is one of the symptoms of co-dependency, according to Melodie Beattie in Co-Dependent No More. It took me years, and I am not kidding about this, to figure out that I could choose not to answer, or if I did, that I could say, “I’m busy, can I call you back?”  And, although I am far better than I was back then, I still other-escape.  Feeling compelled to help people solve their problems is another one of my symptoms, which may be why I avoided clinical social work.  Instead, I was addicting to helping others as a hobby.

As I said, earlier, this behavior is learned.  In my family, my mother would put her needs aside for my father and we were supposed to as well.  Her needs, my sister’s, or mine did not matter because my father ruled the roost; this implied that we should not have needs that conflicted with my father’s, and after he died, my mother’s.  He wanted me to get an education, to marry young, have children, and to live near the family.  That, of course, was not what I wanted, so I rebelled: I left home, got a PhD, married late, and didn’t get around to having children.  I don’t mean to blame my parents, but to recognize that I have been programmed to be-other directed, and I wonder whether that is why I didn’t make active choices in my career.  I did choose to go back to school, in part as an escape, but once I did, I followed the program that was traced for me by my dissertation advisor, both to please her and to avoid struggling with getting a “real job,” one that was not a continuation of graduate school.  Fast forward, twenty-five years, and I am taking baby-steps to discern my needs and wants, making friends with uncertainty, taking leaps, and hoping that, as the saying goes, I grow wings along the way.  My mantra:  It’s all about me.  What about you?  Are you taking care of you?

References:

Mental Health America: Co-dependency

Codependency | Melody Beattie

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Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions”

Rainer Maria Rilke

Wow, I have gone three weeks without posting; that is scary and so sad, I feel like crying.  As I write this, I want to escape by calling or emailing friends—-everything to avoid doing something I love, anAdd Audiod I finally understand why.  Since I last posted, I attended a four-and-a-half day Success is an Inside Job™ workshop (SIIJ) .  What an amazing gift!  Thank you Dr. Judith Chusid for having the vision, heart, and determination to embody your dream, thirty years after conducting your original research success blocks.  I feel turned a corner, and since re-entering my life last Monday evening, my insights have deepened and expanded.  Early in the workshop, I completed questionnaires about my blocks to success (perfectionism, self-doubt, low-self-esteem, and survivor guilt) and fear of success signals (I have 25, including fear, esteem issues, distractions—my personal favorite, and negative self-talk).

We were also assigned “success” and “spiritual” buddies upon arrival, with whom we discussed our answers giving each other feedback about what we heard each other say.  One of my buddies, I can’t remember which one, was struck by my saying that I avoid the things I love the most.   Her reflecting that back to me inspired me to send a question out to the Universe:  why would I resist the things that make me feel most alive?  Neither she nor I could make sense of it, then.  But one morning, the answer came to me via a phone call from a friend.  I awoke thinking I would journal and focus on myself, determined to write and not be distracted, but when the phone rang, I automatically answered it.  As soon as I got off the phone, I received a text from another friend, needing my input on a matter, and despite my resolve to write, I dropped everything, twice.  This is not surprising, given my childhood programming, and my love of distractions.  Let me explain.

During the workshop, we did a psychodrama of my family dynamics affecting my relationship to career, and it was powerful! The reenactment, including my father, mother, and three and six-year-old inner children, and Dr. Chusid’s astute questions and observations expanded my understanding of my career paralysis.   First, there is my chronic avoidance of responsibility.  As the eldest child, I became my family’s connection to the English-speaking world as soon as I learned English at age seven, filling out crucial immigration forms, school absence notes, and translating. The trauma of such early daunting responsibility burdens me to this day.  Throughout my adulthood, I have said “NO” for all the times I could not, then.

Second, there is the dream issue—whose dreams have I been or not been living?  Ever since I can remember, my father dreamed that I would become a medical doctor.  Mom, on the other hand, wanted me to become a cartoonist, because of my artistic talent in elementary school.  When Judith asked me what my dreams were, I was speechless.   Dreams?  Looking back, I became a social worker because I was not ready to face the world, I needed an excuse to go back to school, and my therapist in college was a social worker.  My goal was to become a psychoanalyst, just like he was, but research and policy classes in graduate school convinced me, otherwise.  Those classes challenged me intellectually and sparked in me a commitment to social justice and to creating knowledge about Latino/as in the US.  Unhappy with the low status and low pay of social workers,  before and after graduation, I entertained a doctorate in psychology and even medical school, but chose to get a doctorate in social work, instead—not because I wanted to teach, but because I wanted options.  I realize now, that my doctorate and finding my life partner were my last career/personal dreams.  After that, the dream well ran dry.  By the way, giving upon reaching a goal is a fear of success signal, and that is exactly what I did after graduation; I landed the highest academic job I could and I retired, so-to-speak, embarking, instead, on my spiritual quest.

When Judith asked what I wanted to do in my career, I blurted that I wanted to work with her doing the workshops.  “Are you sure?,” she asked.  “Do you really want to do this, or is it that you are use to being a helper?”  I am thinking.   .   .  She ended the session with a brilliant solution that honors the six-year-old that balks at responsibility.  “You will have success without responsibility,” she pronounced.  Feeling uncomfortably irresponsible, I protested, “But it’s not that I don’t want responsibility.”  And, she repeated, “You will have success without responsibility.”

Later, I asked her what she meant; success without responsibility means that I only do the things that I want to do, for now.  I am not to force the six-year-old, which if you think about it, would be abusive.  But then, there is the lingering issue of my being a disappointment.  Since I disappointed my father, despite my accomplishments, part of me feels, why even try when I will end up disappointing people, anyway?  But this is when I need to sing the refrain from the Ricky Nelson song—-remember him from the sixties?  “But it’s all right now, I’ve learned my lesson well. You see, you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.

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Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.

via Marianne Williamson Quotes – BrainyQuote.

I have been AWOL.  First, I didn’t post, as I promised to do after my interview, last Monday, and I didn’t post yesterday.  Sorry about that.  Though hurricane Irene flooded our basement and stripped us of electricity for twenty-four hours, I can’t blame her.  Procrastination is a lifelong habit I hope to break as I train to facilitate fear of success retreats over the next few months.  Yes, I got the gig!  My interview could not have gone better; though, at first I wondered since prior to our meeting, I thought I heard her trying to set up a lunch date with her banker, even though she’d offered to take me to lunch.   Did she forget?  Needless to say, I almost took a nosedive into SELF-DOUBT; but I didn’t.  I took a deep breath and focused on the present moment, stifling my Greek Chorus before it had a chance to warm up.

Tell me about yourself, JF said.  Another deep breathe, as I recited an abbreviated profile of myself.  Then, to my surprise, she started telling me her story.  My friend Fefy, had advised me not to carry on about me, and this was a smooth transition, just as we’d planned it.  Okay, we are hitting it off, but I am getting anxious.  Am I having fear of success? Although we are getting along, two co-therapists separated at birth, once again reunited, a couple of hours have passed, and my blood sugar is dropping.  What if I pass out?  Not an option.  Focus.  .  . breathe . . . relax.  Finally, JF said, “Come, on, I will take you to lunch.  I think this will work.  We have a similar style.”  Great, but what if she takes me to a steakhouse.  Do I tell her I am vegetarian?   She took me to an organic restaurant that had vegan and meat options.  Perfect.

Again, she said that she thought we could work together, and then she told me the most amazing thing.  When she decided to change her staff, ironically, because they started sabotaging as she was about to launch her fear of success retreats, she went to her pastor and asked how she should go about finding new people for her organization.  Unity Church, where she belongs is big on visualizing what you want, so her pastor told her to visualize the kind of people she wanted in her organization.  Maria, whose energy she likes, but works for another organization, came to mind, so she visualized a room full of Marias.  Not long after that, she met me. Maria happens to also be Cuban!  Can you believe it?  Although I did not visualize as intentionally as J.F. did, I hoped to do consulting, coaching, and self-development workshops, but I had no clue how to even begin.  Little did I imagine that, I would find a way at my dear friend’s wedding!  God’s imagination is so much wilder than mine!  After three-and-a half-hours of conversation, stumbling from dizziness and yawning from anxiety, I made my way back to the Port Authority for the bus.  Fear of success, huh?  Yep, I have many of the symptoms, procrastination, negative self-talk, inability to stick to a vision, becoming distracted by people and activities (like shopping), and giving up just as you are succeeding, among others.  The list goes on.  So how did we leave it?  JF is training me to run her fear of success workshops by having me attend two retreats and a follow-up group she runs. The rest, I will leave to God’s imagination.

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It has been pouring since last night, and the town feels clean, though soggy.  Vacation was fun and interesting.  But, as you know, coming home is always mixed, because you must face all that you left pending, both good and bad.  It’s all good; but just the same, I am so ANXIOUS!  The separation anxiety I experienced before vacation has transmuted into stress that, though positive, is suffocating.  Suffocating, because I have trouble breathing, and I am constantly yawning.  So much so, that during church today, I thought of getting a clicker to count my yawns per hour.  It’s that bad.   So, what does yawning have to do with anxiety?  Anxiety, causes you to hold your breath, and yawning, I just found out, forces you to pull oxygen into your lungs.  So, instead of breathing, normally, I yawn.  Remember I told you that, good things are happening?

Two weeks ago, at Luisa’s wedding luncheon, the woman, who sat across from me, whom I will call Johanna, was saying that although she’d recently gone through a divorce and had lost a family member, she’d “turned a corner” the week before, and was feeling much better.  I listened, made some supportive comments, and we proceeded to chat with the people sitting immediately next to us for the rest of the gathering.  I did hear Johanna say, however, that she had not only left her husband, but she was also revamping her staff.   Changing her staff?  I knew from Luisa, whom she’d approached about working for her, that Johanna has a consulting firm, and that she runs self-development workshops.  Wow, I thought, I’d love to work for her; indeed, I’d often fantasized about running workshops and doing consulting.  Should I approach her?

At the end of the luncheon, I saw her exchange numbers with the woman to my right, and I was disappointed that she’d not asked me for my information.  Again, I thought of approaching her, but I defaulted into wallflower status.  I let it go and was saying my good-byes to others, when Johanna came up to me.  She said she’d really enjoyed meeting me, and that we should get together for lunch with Luisa, some time.  The words that came out of my mouth next astonished her as much as they did me.  “Yes, I’d like that” I said, “and you should hire me!”   Taken aback, she asked, “Why, what do you do?”  So, I told her a bit about my background, and she asked, “Are you serious, would you like to interview?  With your personality, you’d be great.” “I am serious”, I affirmed.  But, which “I” was talking?’  This was not the diffident, apologetic, academic me.  From where did this self-assurance erupt?  From my heart—I know that my life’s work is helping others find their heart’s work.

Although I gave Johanna my email, I didn’t wait for her to contact me, and I emailed her with my resume.  When she didn’t respond right away, I didn’t worry, because I knew I’d hear from her eventually, and I did.  She apologized for not getting back to me sooner, and said she’d been “thrilled” to meet me, and we scheduled an interview for a week from tomorrow.  And, I am anxious, not because I don’t think I will do well, because whether I get the job or not, I know it will be fine, but because I am finally divorcing academia.

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“You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not?’”

via George Bernard Shaw quotes.

It looks like this is turning into a series on finding heart-centered work. Two weeks ago, a spontaneous feeling led me to check a professional job bank, and, I discovered that the college where I interviewed, and had not heard from, re-posted the job I applied for. My fleeting response was shock, anger, and hurt that they had not informed me. Not a word. But before my feelings turned into self-pity, I chose, instead, to be mindful. For one thing, they have not officially rejected me, and, if anything, they are mirroring my ambivalence. Although I like them very much, I have questions about the fit, and about a five-day-a-week commute—something I have not done in thirty years. Likewise, it was obvious that they liked me, and they said they were impressed with my credentials, but they expressed concern about my scant administrative experience and wondered if bored at an institution much smaller than what I am used to, I would leave after a few years (the last director was there for fifteen). Having taught at four different schools, in almost 25 years, has branded me as a “loose woman—the Run-around Sue of academia. Have I been teaching for that long? Yikes, where has the time gone? I concluded that, if this job is mine, it will return to me, and I will be in a better position to bargain. If not, another door will open. In the meantime, I can, conceivably, work through my professional ambivalence (or, maybe, not).

 

 

Days later, talking to my friend Luisa (not her real name) about my job search, she said some things that jostled me. I must tell you that, this friend was my housemate when I was on tenure track at a TOP SCHOOL, so she is well acquainted with my persistent discontent with academia. The first thing Luisa said was, that I needed to change my thinking. What? Me?! She pointed out that I have spent years looking at what is broken within system, instead of seeing possibilities. She also said that I expect rejection, so, of course, I get it. She’s right. I have been putting my attention on what’s not working instead of envisioning my “dream” work, and if you are of the school that believes that we create our own reality . . . well, you know what reality I have been creating. Is my ambivalence giving me away? I think so.

 

Back to Luisa, who also said that I keep going back to academia, because I cannot conceive of working outside academia. Remember, I am the one that has spent 80% of her life in school. I am not using my imagination. But in all fairness, my imagination was anesthetized by my conformity-uniformity-inducing left-brain education. I think of Lisa, a professional violinist who is getting a masters in social work because she dreams of opening her own holistic healing agency where she can use her musical and yoga training. What I do I need to imagine for myself? I realize that my professional dreams ceased upon completion of my Ph.D. I was too tired to dream, never imagining the enviable job I got right out of school; I applied because my dissertation chair envisioned me at her alma mater; but, it was her vision, and one I would never have dared to dream.

 

Yet, I have a phenomenal dream record of accomplishment. I dreamed of the perfect relationship for me, and I have it; I dreamed of light and space, and I live in a home with a cathedral ceiling and wall-to-ceiling windows that radiate sunlight; and I dreamed as a lonely child, with only had one friend, of loving friendships, and I have bonded and connected with the sweetest souls! So, after looking at what  I have NOT had professionally, I am at work constructing possibilities. And, as scary as it is, my dream work may not be through an institution, because as my friend Val says, I don’t like to follow rules. Perhaps, I am a lone she-wolf—an older wolf, pushed out of the pack, or a young wolf at heart, in search of new territory. What are you not dreaming of?

 

P.S. Right after I finished this post, I found a stray fortune cookie in my kitchen. Want to hear the fortune?

 

“In dreams and in life, nothing is impossible.”

 

Dream on!

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When the phrase “the path of least resistance” floated into my brain, as I wrote my last blog, the accompanying subtext was that I had shirked my responsibility to actively choose a socially “successful” path.  This makes sense given that I am a product of a “Doing” society.  Okay, here is where my academic stripes come out.  Humor me with a brief lecture.  Please hold all yawns until the end.  According to the work of anthropologists Kluckhohn and Strodbeck, cultures are guided by stable value orientations that emerge in response to universal problems that all societies face but respond to differently.  Although there are five dimensions, I use two, here, to deconstruct my self-deprecating assumptions.  The first refers to how we manifest in the world in terms of activity (being, doing, becoming), and the second characterizes our relationship patterns (lineal, hierarchical, and collective).

 

According to this values orientation framework, culturally, we are programmed to establish goals that we work hard to achieve as masters of our destiny.  The more we do, the more we achieve, and the more we are worth.  Merit is determined by past, present and future accomplishments more so than by virtues, with the pursuit of material wealth revered over that of spiritual development.  Is this why I feel compelled to retroactively beat myself up for not making the “best choices” that led to measurable success (number of publications)? “Slacker” is my personal Greek Chorus’s favorite slur.  Yet, the Tao invokes us to:

 

Practice not-doing,

and everything will fall into place (p. 3).


And,

 

Things arise and she lets them come;

things disappear and she lets them go (p. 2).


Yet, in Western society, we are also indoctrinated to be independent, individualists, and to exercise self-control.  Hence, we are expected to make life choices according to our self-interests with little consideration for the needs of the collective.  You may recall that when the government bailed out struggling homeowners, concerned about how the collapse of the housing market would affect the economy, and how abandoned homes would affect property values, people whose mortgages were secure went into an uproar.  In these people’s minds, if they, as individuals, had paid their mortgages, why should their tax money support others’ irresponsible behavior?  So, this is a long-winded road to my point.  That, while I have been busy bemoaning my irresponsibility for not actively choosing, I obscure how my presence in academia may have benefitted the collective, a reason why I went into the field in the first place.

 

As a Latina educator, I am a role model for fledgling social workers, ands, while I was in the most ivory of towers, I represented the interests of minority students in white elitist institutions, witnessing that they, too, could aspire to a seat at the table.  And, role models are so critically important.  Oprah, the most powerful woman in television, recently thanked Barbara Walters and Diana Ross for showing her in the 60’s, when she was a child growing up in the South, then unimaginable possibilities— that a woman could be a respected journalist, and that a Black woman could reach the top of the music charts.  So, who knows who I may have inspired a long the way.  Actually, I do know some.  But because of my culturally sanctioned self-centered, individualistic orientation, and because inspiration cannot be measured, it doesn’t count, at least from this worldview.

 

Switching to an Eastern worldview, we get a radically different picture.  Non-western cultures hold “Being” or “Being in becoming” activity orientations.  Within a predominantly “being” culture, you are valued because YOU ARE, not because YOU DO.  Hurray!  Achievement does not have to be equated with self-worth.  I don’t need another PhD, or another notch on my vitae to be worthy!  Within the being-in-becoming orientation, we are primarily placed on this earth to develop, spiritually.

 

Writing, jostles my memory, and I remember that I CONSCIOUSLY decided to not publish for the sake of publishing, choosing projects that mattered to me, instead of projects that deadened my soul, but would get me tenure.  I chose inner peace over extrinsic validation through my role as a tenured professor.  I chose to stop waiting to live and to start LIVING.  This is not to say that there are no happy academics, as some of my close friends are, but I was not one of them.  So, yes, I made responsible choices for me, though my colleagues (and I, at times) may look at me with pity, I CHOSE to BE.  Will you please remind me the next time I forget?  Oh, and you can yawn, now.

 

Kluckhohn, Florence R., and Fred L. Strodtbeck. 1961. Variations in Value

Orientations, Evanston, IL: Row, Peterson.

KLUCKHOHN AND STRODTBECK’S VALUES ORIENTATION THEORY,

http://ivythesis.typepad.com/term_paper_topics/2009/11/kluckhohn-and-strodtbecks-values-orientation-theory.html

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