Posted in Everyday Musings, leadership

Toxic Trait Revealed by Quarantine Life: How One Dream Unlocked My Self-Deception

I’ve been having increasing challenges keeping my cool and reacting in my traditional, normal rationale (if sometimes dispassionate) way to regular and surprise life – noticeably and almost measurably for the past two weeks.

It got so bad that I had to ask for a perspective check this week on how sensitive I was being, as I’d taken a colleague’s question as an attack – that I wasn’t doing my job, or at least that I wasn’t doing it well enough. And this was from a colleague whom I know to be my (second) biggest fan.

And then last night I had a dream that was dark and kept spinning out even after I woke up.

The Dream

I was at a night-time church service. I was sitting with the worship leaders I’d worked with, served with, led worship with for over 9 years. It’s a liturgical service, with the same basic pattern every week.

The pastor leans over to me and asks me to go up to the lectern ahead of my part and do one of the scripture readings. I agree. No worries. I can’t remember the last time an in-service change or “mistake” actually felt like a problem.

I get to the lectern and pick up a hand-held, corded microphone, lean down and extend my finger to mark the beginning of the scripture reading so I can track what I’m doing…

And I can’t read the words. The entire Bible is in wingdings.

I look back at what the bulletin says is the scripture, to make sure I’ve got it right and to hope that the bulletin has the scripture printed (sometimes it does), and the scripture there is also in wingdings. The rest of the bulletin is in regular English, but the verses are in wingdings.

I squint, thinking it’s my eyes. I search my brain for what I remember of the passage, even if I have to paraphrase, and nothing comes to mind. I pray that a hymn verse or some anthem excerpt comes to mind so that I might at least sing a portion of the message.

Nothing.

I have nothing original, nothing scripted to provide support or direction or even a starting point.

And no one helps. No one offers to help. The entire worship team sits silent and waiting behind me. And the congregations sits silent and waiting in front of me.

And in that moment it feels like even God has left me to flounder.

Some Context

I grew up in the high German Lutheran liturgical church of the ELCA and rose to worship leadership quickly after college; I even dabbled in theology classes with the thought of becoming an Associate in Ministry (AIM).

I have served various liturgical churches as a professional singer and worship leader for over 20 years: Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian, Episcopal, and Methodist. Only the Catholics have never hired me ;-).

I’ve coached ordained ministers and career church musicians through the nuances of different liturgical services when they’ve filled in for another liturgical denomination.

I’ve trained churches through liturgical worship revisions and re-launches.

Knowing, following, understanding, working within the pattern of worship is kind of my thing. It’s what I would have specialized in as an AIM – worship practice and leadership.

Even beyond that, I think of the times when my choir director calls me as I’m literally driving to a Sunday morning service to tell me that the guest soloist isn’t going to be there and now I’m going to be singing a solo – in a style that doesn’t suit me terribly well – that I’ve never sung or practiced even as a lark – and doing so in about 30 minutes with maybe one run-through. Even that doesn’t phase me.

I’ve completely rewritten children’s sermons on the way to church because something happened on that drive that was even more powerful than what I had planned.

You might say vamping for God is something I do quite well.

So upon my first wake-up at 5:30 am, I turned on my peppermint diffuser, heated up my flax seed pillow, tucked back in with my pillow weighting down my eyes, and went back to sleep – with the objective of turning off those awful thoughts so I could wake up with a clear(er) mind.

And it worked – three hours later I woke to snuggle with Shadow and try hard not to be mad at myself for oversleeping my planned early morning hike before the rain.

Dream Reflection

For me to be so completely stifled, silenced even, is so far out of character, out of reality that as I woke the first time, the film in my mind kept going.

It’s been a really long time – probably a decade or so – since a dream kept going. It’s happened before, yes.

And it was the second wake-up – beginning with such disappointment in myself for not meeting a self-imposed commitment – that started my epiphany.

So here’s where I wound up – in case you’re ready to jump to another blog or head back to Facebook for a baby goat video – the change in interaction, in daily communication with certain people, the loss of feedback in visual/physical methods, these are affecting my personal ability to know that what I’m doing is

  • enough
  • valued
  • productive
  • helping others

And that last one is the real kicker. Between my 99S (DISC) and responsible, relator, and connectedness strengths (3 of my top 5 CliftonStrengths), that helping others and that what I’m doing is valued by others (useful to) are what’s critical to my ability to keep calm, prioritize and re-prioritize efficiently, to know and have confidence in what I’m doing and that I’m doing it well.

These are the foundational elements of my measure of my own self-worth, self-value. I *need* to know that what I do matters. It never needs to be helpful to me. It’s always about how helpful it is to others. That 99S is a doozy!

You see, the messages I do get are at cross purposes

  • you have to do this by x date – and “you” is specifically named me by name or by job title
  • you have to give yourself grace if you can’t get it all done
  • you still have to meet all of the deadlines, without fail
  • and you have to take care of yourself
  • you have to delegate some of this stuff to others
  • your leverage options are full and you don’t get any more (at least right now)

So the short is that I’m expected – expressly so by others and by extension myself – to do everything and more. And I simply can’t. Yes, there is a point where all things are NOT possible. There are literally not enough minutes in a day even when I work a “normal” 10-hour day.

Add to that the fact that my co-leaders have equally over-full plates. That’s where the not asking comes into play. Why on earth would it be logical for me to add to their plate? To burden them with my job when it’s my responsibility to figure out how to get it all done. They are at least equally as burdened as I am.

And therein lies the opportunity (because by biggest fan hates the word “problem”):

For decades, I’ve been the person who does and usually can say yes and get it done, even when I don’t have to be that person. It’s a natural part of my responsible strength.

I need to become the person who says “not now” and sometimes “no.”

I need to become the person who says “let me figure out how to make that happen” rather than simply assuming the assignment/request myself.

It feels mean. It feels like I’m letting others – and by extension myself – down. It feels like I’m not doing my job – or worse, dumping my job on someone else’s plate. That last is a HUGE piece of the mindset, much bigger than most believe.

And yet it is normal, it is human, and it is necessary. It’s called leverage, and for the person who’s spent decades being the leverage, it’s impossibly hard on a basic level.

How I Connected the The Dream and the Epiphany

So you’re wondering how I got from a wingding Bible to quarantine self-doubt, yeah? It’s a six (or seven) degrees of separation thing, I think:

In a context where I know and feel complete confidence because of my long-term knowledge, experience, and expertise

Asked and agreed to jump in the way I have a million times before – no worries

Failing completely at that last minute request – and especially in a way another expertise (linguistics) would normally have supported me

Recognizing that I’m in a new job not quite 5 full months AND a new role – from leverage to leadership; the job has woefully inadequate training and a high degree of inconsistency across the corporation in how it’s perceived and used

Not having the knowledge and experience long enough to feel confident on a foundational level – as a leader in “normal” times

Feeling not recognized and valued as a leader by others in leadership – specifically being treated as not important in the big discussions and decisions, only in a data entry role

Being deprived of the feedback, conversations necessary for me to know where I and the work I’m doing stand – knowing that I’m succeeding, somehow, in a role where there are very few standards or benchmarks

Is it any wonder I’m suffering from self-doubt in my abilities, in my achievement of success and standards, in my leadership attempts. Heck, I don’t even really know where I’m actually failing because I’m not getting enough of that communication either.

Is it at least 50% my fault? Yes. I have a responsibility to ask for the communication, the feedback, the evaluation, and the help that I need, especially since I’m well conditioned to project a ridiculously high degree of capability.

It’s at least another 20% my fault for, by default, not answering the question “what can I do for you today” with an answer other than “I have what I need from you.” And I give kudos to both my leadership and my staff for asking this. It’s my fault for not thinking about the answer more carefully, or even anticipating it and having things to leverage appropriately.

Oh who am I kidding? It’s 100% my fault for not speaking up and telling the people I’ve trusted to lead me and coach me that I need them to see these things and coach me on them. Push me to acknowledge that I’m doing it again. Stand with me to make better choices. I have to teach them my weaknesses, my challenges, if I’m ever to expect them to help me.

And therein lies the conflict: teaching them this and laying an expectation on them to help me fix my problem is that “burden” that chains the toxic habit to me.

Probably the most important “general” lesson – mantra – that I can take from the quarantine experience is goes something like this:

Bad habits are learned in good times while good habits are learned in bad times.

It’s not quite the right expression of the saying; it is as close as I can get as I’m wrapping up this post. And I’ve written it on my bathroom mirror because there is no day that goes by without me seeing myself in that mirror.

NOTE: these are thoughts in progress, a journey.

Books this reflection has prompted me to reach for include

 

 

Posted in Love Life

Confession of Wedding Dress Terror

Pretty sure this is THE ONE for me…eeeeek!

So in early January 2011, I had my first invitation ever to go wedding dress shopping with a friend. Woohoo! Fabulous! Can’t wait! Isn’t this every woman’s dream? To go wedding dress shopping? To imagine and dream of that one perfect day when she is a true princess, looks gorgeous no matter what.

Yeah, right.

Just a few minutes in the first shop, and I wanted out. While my friend tried on dresses (and I wrangled one of her two children), I walked around and looked at the dresses. At least, I tried. So many styles, colors, embellishments. It’s truly overwhelming…even more so for a woman (uhum, me) who hates shopping for clothes.

Nope, this is not the dress she picked for her vow renewal, though it was one of my favorites on her!

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE to dress up and look good and be really stunning on occasion as well. But when faced with the pressure…heck, just the thought of the pressure…of finding that one perfect dress that will do all the right things and not even think of the wrong things for that one perfect dream day, well shit. That is definitely enough to turn this old, hardened realist into a coward.

And then the truth was forced out of me. I’d never even tried on a wedding dress. You know, like that episode of Friends where Monica, Rachel, and Phoebe all go get a $99 sale dress from Kleinfeld’s (when it was still on 5th Avenue in Bay Ridge Brooklyn) and just hang around the apartment all day, pretending.

And then I made the mistake of posting said admission on FaceBook, which netted me a slew of commented, texted, and even called-in astonishments and dares.

And I can’t resist a dare.

So at the last store…David’s Bridal…yes, I tried on a dress. And damned if it isn’t THE ONE. Simple, fitted, with just a bit of bead embellishment on the top and straps. And best of all, it fit in my exact dress size, not the few sizes up that wedding apparel seems to run. And the bonus: under $500 regular price. Huh, not bad for a girl who started the day terrified of doing more than offering my opinion on the dresses my friend was trying on.

 

 

NOTE: I originally wrote this post on January 6, 2011 though I didn’t post it until January 31, 2020.

Posted in Being Healthy, Everyday Musings, God Loves Me!

Re-Discovering Self-Care

I started a new job six weeks ago. An amazing job. A dream job. An exciting job.

And in classic CeCe fashion, I’ve given it everything and more: 10 hour days, nights in front of the tv, weekends. I truly do love it and am enjoying the many ways I get to help others through this job.

Yet no matter how much I love it, it still wears me out…every day.

So last week when my co-leader caught me rubbing my eyes just after lunch, he started a campaign to send me home early, take some time off. Even if I hadn’t been working long days, I’d certainly accomplished well more than expected in a short time and had earned some extra self-care time.

So I left at noon on Friday only to realize I had absolutely no plan for self care. And it didn’t take me long to remember that when that question came up in my interviews, my co-leader had noticed…and noted…that I didn’t have a good answer for what I do for fun (self care).

So I gave myself permission to treat myself to some things I used to do regularly, a long time ago, that had somehow fallen off of my schedule:

  • massage – for the gift of touch, of meditation, of being present and focusing on the real needs of my physical body, of my acceptance that I can’t will away the tired when my body really needs rest
  • my favorite coffee – for the uniqueness, the spice, the warmth, the moment of earthiness with the first sip
  • my favorite handmade soap/shampoo/lotion store – for the indulgence, the expense, the luxury, and the promise of a bath rarely prepared
  • my favorite clothing store – for the self-expression through clothes that I’ve discovered only with age and acceptance of my body and my inner weird
  • my favorite rock – for the gift of stability, a place to sit, the elevation above the ground so I can see farther and more clearly whatever I’m looking at
  • my favorite church – for the blessing of my God, the comfort of a familiar place to worship, the words of prayer and absolution, the message I need to hear whether I like it or not, the safe place to cry it out in frustration, pleading, or thanksgiving
  • cooking – for myself to make intentional choices about how I feed my body and mind, for others to care for them
  • blogging – for sharing how my brain works things out, not always problems – more things that intrigue me, challenge me, seem important even when I don’t yet know why

Things I didn’t do that might also become part of my self care:

  • read a book or listen to a podcast – a devotion, a memoir, I think of this as something soul-feeding rather than mind-feeding, though certainly I’m happy for it to do both
  • hike a trail or waterfall – the mountains call to me, so that’s where I instinctively head for quiet time; and I wasn’t in the mountains this weekend
  • paddle a dragon boat on the lake (coming in spring)
  • meditate – something I’m trying out with a group starting 1/14

I have so many questions about what and how, all because I got out of the habit:

  • What do you do for self care that I might add to my try it out list?
  • What are you looking to achieve with self care?
  • What hasn’t worked for you, and why do you think it didn’t work?

I’d love to read what your self-care experiences have been.

 

 

Posted in Everyday Musings, leadership

2020 Bucket List

IMG_0613I’m a #theonething #the1thing follower. I read the book annually. I listen to the weekly podcast. It heads my 411.

I use the #411to plan success.

So what do I want to achieve in 2020? Here’s my #2020BucketList – and these are in importance order:

  1. find a church and faith community where I can continue growing
  2. celebrate my 45th birthday at Harry Potter World 10/31/2020 – with my nieces and anyone else who wants to join!
  3. add 5 states/countries to my list of places visited (get a map to start tracking and planning this; get a National Parks Passport): Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Spain – this covers 2 vacations this year
  4. go on one big hike each month (join a hiking group/meetup?)
  5. get my real estate license (for referrals, y’all!)
  6. write to the people who live in my house in Homer, AK to start working on buying my house
  7. pay off planned debt reduction (part of larger financial plan)
  8. save/grow at least $15K (part of larger financial plan)
  9. enjoy a full year’s subscription to Sparkle Hustle Grow – and the books and growth training included in that!
  10. design and get my fireweed tattoo

PS: my bucket list for work is different. How? It goes on a Growth Plan as my focus for each month – ways to ensure that I am constantly in a system review and quality improvement mindset.

Oh, and the best part: I give you permission to hold me accountable. To text me and ask where I am in accomplishing one or more of these goals. I mean, you read this far, so deserve that permission. Make it count!

Posted in Everyday Musings

Heart: Word of the Year 2020

I’ve never chosen a word for the year. In fact, for the past 8 years, my word has been chosen for me as I picked a star out of a basket on Epiphany Sunday at church. And now that I’m in a new place and a new job and headed down a new-ish path, I’m taking charge.

As of New Year’s Eve 12/31/2019, I had the following “short list” of words for 2020:

  • brilliant
  • rescue
  • feed
  • heart
  • love
  • present
  • be
  • abundance
  • joy
  • open
  • yes
  • answer

All of these words came from prayer and meditation on the classic word-choosing questions:

  • What did I enjoy receiving or giving in the last year?
  • What did I *need* more of?
  • What did I *want* more of?
  • What did I *not* want any of?

And then I gave myself one last night to sleep on it and my #firstdayhike to make my final choice. I’m still not quite sure if I chose it or it chose me. Either way, it was immediate and confirming, and I have no doubt this is my word for 2020.

IMG_0619The moment I saw the heart-shaped rock in my path, right where my footstep would naturally land, I stopped and picked it up. It was freezing cold, as I expected and hoped it would be; I love the way rocks hold cold and are cold even when the world around them is warm.

IMG_5207I held that rock in my palm the rest of my hike. It fits perfectly. And it’s pretty close to the same size as my heart rock from Homer, AK, though a completely different stone.

Why “heart,” you ask? Especially since I’m not particularly fond of the shape!

I’ve heard people – lots of people – tell me in the past year about how they can see my heart, that it’s a big heart, and a good heart. I think it’s a result of being authentic, and I want to be intentional about it – not accidental – because I truly don’t know what I’m doing, when I’m doing it, that shows my heart.

And I want to be intentional about helping others find ways to show their heart and to know their heart is seen and valued.

It sounds so simple when I put it like that. Simple, but not easy, right!?

So you’ll help me, yeah? Tell me when I’m doing it!

Posted in leadership, What I Read

Read What Ops Leaders Read

Ops Boss Pink Carpet Photos
Kacee DeVore and CeCe Mikell at Ops Boss Leader Retreat 2019.

It was #OpsBossLeaderRetreat 2019. #WeGotBossy.

  • 13 hours of scheduled retreat: speakers, workshops, masterminds
  • 18 hours of unscheduled retreat: dinners, lunches, train rides, the National Mall at night

Homework #1: schedule reading these books that ops leaders use in their thinking and doing every day

Miracle Morning, by Hal Elrod: recommended by Kristen Brindley. Structure your morning to get your head right and maximize the day for success.

High Performance Habits, by Brendon Bouchard: recommended by Kristen Brindley. And get the planner to go with it. It’s about the questions you ask yourself every day!

Procrastinate on Purpose, by Rory Vaden: recommended by Kristen Brindley. Focuses on the significance of time

13 Fatal Errors Manager Make and How You Can Avoid Them, by W. Steven Brown: recommended by Adelina Rotar. There are a lot of ways to mess up managing people, and some key corrections YOU make to make managing others more successful.

Scaling Your Business: How to Drive Revenue, Save Time, and Create Your Dream Company, by Daniel Ramsey: recommended by Daniel Ramsey. Text SVP to 31996 to get this book free

The Art of Gathering, by Priya Parker:  recommended by Sheena Saydam. About creating meaningful client events that they’ll fight to come to.

Stand Up: 75 Young Activists Who Rock the World…and How You Can Too!, by John Schlimm: recommended by John Franklin Stephens. Bust through limiting beliefs!

The Power of Moments, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath: recommended by Stephanie Bracket. Creating a culture that makes agents and staff seek out your company to join.

Getting Things Done, by David Allen: recommended by Stephanie Brackett. Check out the workbook too!

The One Thing, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan: recommended by literally EVERYONE

Visual Journaling
First page of my visual journal. Same concept as a vision board with more focus on discovering yourself and your goals.

And you can see the full list on Amazon here!

There’s more…soooo much more. I’ll share it over time.

PSST: when you go to order your books, make sure to order through smile.amazon.com and choose a charity to receive a donation from Amazon for every purchase you make. I choose Special Olympics South Carolina because it’s through sports and training that my brother, a brain injury survivor, has continued to set and achieve goals in his life, including as a public speaker and advocate for others with disabilities.

Posted in Everyday Musings

Why I Call Myself a Grinch – but I’m Not Really a Grinch

It’s like a switch that automatically turns me off as soon as the Advent 1 church service starts. All of the joy and excitement and celebration that suddenly becomes the center of everyone else’s life for four weeks to Christmas just falls right out of me. Dries up. Heck, runs away screaming.

Because of this, I’ve always called myself a Grinch, sometimes a Scrooge or a Humbug.

But dammit, I’m not. I’m none of those characters. I’m not mean or nasty or heartless. I don’t steal anyone else’s fun and cheer.

I don’t hate the holidays – the secular ones or the holy ones. I don’t hate the traditions, the gatherings, the food, the songs, the colors, the festivities.

But I’m an introvert. The holidays, and my reaction to them, is one of the few ways I know, truly know that my Myers-Briggs 1-point preference for introvertism is really true; seven other behavioral analysis, several repeated, confirm this. I know, it’s hard to believe of me, right?

“The holidays” are inherently a social phenomenon; they can’t happen without the tacit cooperation of groups – mostly large groups – of people, whether parade marchers or watchers, naughty and nice list comparisons, and the most basic present giving and receiving. Even more so, the religious foundation of holi-days is social, beginning with and culminating in a collection of the largest worship services of the year for most churches.

Think about it. There is not one single holiday tradition that carries a positive connotation and is experienced without engagement with others.

And for me – an introvert with a 6-person max – this is excruciating. Even if I’m mostly left to “wall-flower” (which is what I always secretly hope will happen), I watch the clock so that I can cut and run as soon as I’ve attended for a respectable amount of time.

And I do want to be respectful when I choose to attend; I never want to make a host/ess feel like s/he has done something to make me uncomfortable or unhappy. It’s why I choose quite carefully and deliberately when and how and with whom to engage during the holidays.

If I cow to expectations and attend, I’m often noticeably reserved, even if I have a drink. In fact, I willingly – actually cheerfully – volunteer to cook, serve, and especially clean up just so I have an easy excuse to just be rather than interact.

If I do what I want and RSVP regrets in favor of Die Hard and Home Alone marathons, I’m labeled a Grinch, a Scrooge, a Humbug by others.

It’s a Catch-22 of the purest variety.

Because I’m not a Grinch with a heart too small to love others. I’m not a Scrooge who’s been hurt by others and just wants to hurt people back. I’m not a Humbug out to squash others’ celebration. (While I do detest yard decorations with a passion, I’ve never once suggested that others stop decorating or take theirs down.)

But I don’t have any other cultural references to use when trying to simplify my discomfort with the norms of the holidays than to call myself a Grinch, a Scrooge, or a Humbug. They serve to convey that I don’t want to participate, certainly. But the edge of negativity they come with is something I’d like to figure out how to divest.