I’ve been absent from my blog, lately. OK, very absent. Refrain from thinking I’ve abandoned my site or my project. In actuality, I’ve been busy writing and rewriting stories for a non-fiction anthology. The focus is on times spent with several older adults and the lessons I’ve learned; how these times together have impacted me. Several of the stories you have already read, but I’ve updated and expanded them. I’m over half done and hope to go into the revision/editing phase by the end of this week. It’s been very exciting, educational, yet stressful. I’ve got a title; but may soon ask for your input since it’s not been as easy as I thought to come up with a strong title. I hope you’ll stick with me as I make my way to the finish; maybe, help me out if I ask for input. Thanks for the support!
2014 has been, overall, a very difficult year for me. I can’t say I’m sad to see it end. However, even in the bad times which included recovery from toe surgery that pretty much tanked my running abilities, high job stress that did indeed result in being laid off & unemployed for 5 months and sadness realizing who wasn’t there & didn’t have my back after so many years of having their’s…I’ve also seen and done some great things.
I’ve completed 9 races (no medal for Moffitt) which tells me just how much I can take to see things through to a finish. I can say I have a crown 😃. I got to participate in 3 inaugural races. One of which I overcame my fear of heights and ran over one of the highest bridges. Another had me not give up for 12 hours to achieve @29 miles and finishing an Ultra. I made it to Key West finally & ran the 5k bandaged toe in hiking sandals and discovered I love Bloody Marys and KW sunsets. I thankfully had enough banked frequent flyer and Hilton points to be able to go home to see family, my niece’s wedding and some high school friends who I hadn’t seen since graduating in 1987! I got to see Annapolis after 14 yrs. I still love that place. And at the eleventh hour I witnessed so many things come together that resulted in me accepting a job right before Christmas! So even in the darkness, the light shines through and I keep going on my “race course” of life knowing I am a strong “muther f*cker” and that can’t be taken away from me! Thanks everyone who’s been there this 2014 when I reached out for help. Many of you know that it’s not easy for me to do. 😍
Sofia- Wisdom of the Ages blog and project will continue in 2015. Giving my new employment position, I may have to re-structure my posts and frequency. So have patience with me as I figure this out. I can feel that this is going to be a great year! Heres to an amazing, happy, healthy and prosperous 2015!!
Photo by: maf04 (under CC sharing rights)
What would you do if you were told you had breast cancer? Any men reading this? You too could be told you have breast cancer. It’s not just a female disease. So…what would you do? Would you fight? Would you go to all lengths possible in order to fight and win against this disease? Say you decide to fight against it with all that’s available and all you have inside of you. And you survive…maybe you’re even bold enough to say you won. You celebrate every year after on the date you were told you were cancer free. The years pass…5 years…a decade…18 years…then WHAM! It comes back. What would you do then? How has your attitude changed? Your approach to going to battle against this disease once again when you had thought you were in the clear…almost 2 decades?
Well, that’s the situation Susan Ricci has lived. Susan is a breast cancer survivor, two times over. I interviewed Susan back in October 2014 while home for a family visit. I wanted to share her story because of her strength and will to live. I am grateful that she agreed to sit down, speak with me and allow me to share her story with everyone. I’m hoping she agreed not just because we’re family. We may not be blood but she has been my “godsister” all my life. Pretty much makes her family. 😉
Susan is very candid about her memories of being diagnosed the first time and then a second time. Shares about her decision during her second battle with breast cancer to undergo elective double mastectomy. Her recovery the second time has not been as smooth as the first; yet she fights on to live life to the fullest every day. She opens up about the differences in her approach to fight and the types of support she had during each bout. A song by Cher has been almost an anthem to her to keep going, keep getting up to fight. Thank you Cher for giving her the will to fight because you helped keep Susan in our lives. She has a stronger will than me. Ultimately, what Susan shows is that you can’t fight alone when battling any cancer. It takes a family and what Susan now knows is that family isn’t always just your blood but your extended family, your network, other survivors and yes, even a song by a favorite singer.
This is Susan’s answer to the question, “what would you do if you were told you had breast cancer…twice?” Please share this video, especially if you know of someone fighting to win against breast cancer.
I have a weakness that I’m ashamed of as a speech-language pathologist. I feel I am a horrible listener. Shameful, since I know better. I know and understand the power of listening vs. always speaking. True comprehension of an incoming message and all its verbal, non-verbal parts. It’s the going beyond knowing you were heard to a person demonstrating s/he listened and is processing your “full” message. You see we can hear, listen but only get a portion of the message…you know…enough of a response to get by to be a good friend, employee, spouse. Yet, did you “fully listen”? Many times not. Many times you were being distracted. Distracted by other actions/noise in the environment but also distracted by competing needs whirling through you, the listener, as you try to focus your attention (hopefully) on the speaker.
I’ve noticed over the years that I should be better at listening. This past year, especially these last few months, I’ve been trying to dissect my listening skills and why I feel driven to speak more than listen. “What are my distractors, my hurdles that I need to remove in order to become a better and more effective listener?”, I have been asking myself, analyzing and trying to implement stronger listening skills. It’s not so easy. I’m still a work in progress. To this I’m sure some of my friends could agree.
Communicating effectively tends to be thought about mainly in the active, the speaking aspect. (Although writing is another form of communication) People want to speak well so they can tell you what they are thinking, what they need, to entertain, etc. That way it can be acted upon by the listener or a target audience. There is such power in seeing your words acted upon by having something occur or seeing a positive reaction such as laughter. All this because you spoke. What power. I think that is one of my hurdles. I like to see the power of my words result in an action I wanted to have happen. I will admit that in past meetings with a team I was working with, I spoke and spoke with the intent they will have to listen to me until they agree to what I need them to do. Selfish ME!!! So they nodded their heads and “yes, yes’d” me. I felt successful because they agreed to do as I instructed and asked. In actuality, I was a verbal bully and I failed. I should have approached that meeting to listening to what was going on with the project, what they felt was going well or not well and why they thought this and how I could best help them in their opinion – not mine. Then given time to synthesize and fully assess, I could have provided the information they needed. I probably would have garnered better respect and trust from them and quicker. I’ve got to get my ego out of the listening component of my communications.
Another hurdle, I’m afraid that I’m going to forget a point that I want to bring up to the person speaking. It’s a good point. I’m afraid I’m going to lose it. At this point, I’ve blown it! I’m now more focused on trying to remember my point and my full listening capacity is gone. At this point, have you ever had this happen and now realize you haven’t heard anything they’ve said since your internal “ah ha moment”? Admit it. You know you have. It’s O.K. to admit. I won’t tell. But you act like you’re actively listening by leaning in, nodding your head, maybe “hmmhmmm”ing. This is a concern of many as we age. The fear that our brain can no longer participate efficiently in multiple activities such as listening, assessing information, synthesizing, and locating information in our memories that we think is beneficial to share. Never mind there just may be too much crap going on in your head because you’re a teenager or you’re a mother.
Who ever said listening is passive to the speaker’s active is crazy! It’s very hard to listen beyond just hearing. Hearing just happens because our ears have the functioning physical apparatus to do their job. It’s the ACT (then skill) of listening to this stimuli or input and how your brain works on it that becomes crucial and how well you do as a listener. You have to be attentive to listen effectively. Being attentive is not passive. How many times have you been told to pay attention and not get distracted? Yes, distracted. Being distracted while trying to pay attention and listen to your speaker, I allow this to happen often. In this case, distracted by the need to bring up a point I don’t want to forget. Some would say to then bring the spotlight and power back to me. Ah power and ego. Seem to keep coming up, don’t they? Nothing bad about it. It’s human nature. We like things to be about our self. Yet being on top of the food chain and having the capacity of higher thought, I can target improving my skills to become at better listener. It is scary to move away from thinking about your needs, your ego’s needs while participating in a conversation with someone. It’s not easy because it’s also a very comfortable habit. It takes awareness and practice to do so. That means work. Yes, more work. However, the benefits that can come about as a result of this work can be extremely worthwhile in both your personal and professional lives.
As I wrote earlier, I have been asking myself, analyzing and trying to implement stronger listening skills. It’s not so easy. I’m still a work in progress. I promise to keep trying because I do see great value in what comes from fully listening to others.
To appear wise one must talk.
But to be wise one must listen.
~For the past several Mondays I’ve been reading from the book, “Five Minutes on Mondays: Finding Unexpected Purpose, Peace and Fulfillment at Work”. It’s written by Alan Lurie, a rabbi with a business background working in commercial real estate. Several years ago, Mr. Lurie was asked by his boss to deliver a weekly sermon to the staff centering on business and ethics. He has compiled several of them in this handy little book. At this point, I’ve read three of those sermons or pep-talks. This week’s, titled “Try Them, Try Them: Developing Persistence” (pgs. 38-44) was unique and inspiring enough that it has driven me to want to share the insights and lessons learned.
~Just by reading the title, you know the main point is going to be about being persistent. Well, persistence is surely playing a role in my life as I continue my job search. I’m trying to remain positive and steadfast. However, as you read further into this piece, Mr. Lurie talks about how a co-worker of his finds Dr. Seuss’s story, “Green Eggs and Ham” to be one of the best stories of effective marketing. It is pointed out that one of the messages of this great children’s story is that of persistence – to market and sell the green eggs and ham to the uninterested and highly resistant grumpy character. As we recall, Sam-I-Am tries every angle. One doesn’t work, he immediately tries another, and then another and another, until he succeeds. As a matter of fact, once he succeeds, the once resistant grumpy character discovers he actually likes the dish. Geesh, what took him so long! Ah, well this lovely end realization also provides further wisdom and points of consideration for the adult reader to ponder. Let’s continue to explore.
~Not only does Sam-I-Am teach about persistence, the author of the piece points out several other lessons. Sam is rejected multiple times. (Oh, I understand that well, right now!) Yet Sam maintains a positive attitude. He remains optimistic and he doesn’t take the rejection personally. (Hmm maybe something I need to keep practicing and reminding myself of). It’s pointed out that he keeps his ego out of the situation. (Now that’s a tough one but a good one to try to embrace. It’s not about me even when I’m trying to sell me to a potential employer. It is about them and what they need as a best fit for a position. My needs are not of their concern or awareness for that matter!) Mr. Lurie next hones in on the fact that Sam believes in his product. He believes in it enthusiastically. If he didn’t or found himself bending the truth or his ethics just to get a sale then at some point it will undermine him, his conscience and his ethics. (OK, keep enthusiastically believing in myself and what I have to offer to an employer. I know I have great skills. Stop trying to sell myself short, bend my skills or my abilities just to say I got a job offer, any job offer. Bend too much just for the sake of a job and I may find I’m in high water or hate the job. Both will bring on a living hell I’ve experienced before and it was not good for either parties involved. The best fit job is out there for me and I will find it if it doesn’t find me first!)
~Lurie takes his insights to the next level. He notes it as a “subtle, spiritual lesson on the nature of persistence”. Sam is an agent of change. Oooh, the big feared concept of change! The resistant character is actually resisting change. He would rather stay in the comfort zone of eating what he knows he likes vs. his “desire to try something adventurous and the lure of playing it safe…a refusal to enter the unknown and accept the risk that comes with changing…old ways.” As I stated earlier, once he finally succumbs and tries the dish, he finds loves it. Sam had to keep at him until he accepted the chance to try and change his opinion/experience, resulting in a positive outcome.
~Lurie then writes this passage that rings so true in my life as it has happened multiple times.
“Dr. Seuss’s book is a story about the persistence of the call to growth and change. If you have experienced this phenomenon, you know that, somehow, the same message continues to reappear in your life – perhaps in different guises, from different people and different situations – and that this message will continue to pursue you until you consent to listen and act.”
~Well, amen to that! I’ve lived it. I’ve less graciously referred to it as the Universe’s Way of trying not to hit you upside the head with a two-by-four! Personally, I’m tired of getting hit upside the head. I’m still learning to see the signs sooner that a change in my life is needed. I’m getting better but it’s a work in process. I do know that I’m better with the concept that change shouldn’t be assumed to always be bad. In fact, even if first assessed as negative, I’ve found given time that I see more positives resulted.
~To close out, I’m going to review what Mr. Lurie points out as lessons from this innocent children’s book:
1. Don’t give up.
2. When one approach fails, try something new.
3. Stay optimistic.
4. Don’t take rejection personally.
5. Believe in what you are pursuing.
6. Don’t be so resistant to change that you deny yourself something that’s good.
~All great nuggets of life’s lessons and wisdom found in such a simple story.
“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.”
I often hear about how much the human being fears change, avoids it at all costs. Change for some will only occur if it’s the last option they think they have left. We’ve all heard the saying, ” if it ain’t broke, why fix it?’. I’ve been guilty of it myself. Over the last few years, I’ve learned to approach change with a different attitude. I don’t always like that a change in my world may be needed, especially if I was enjoying the calmness. Yet sometimes a change will actually make me a better person and improve my surroundings or my life.
Working in quality improvement for the past several years is basically all about change. In order to improve outcomes, customer satisfaction, improved quality of care, processes have to be reviewed and improved. New strategies have to be compiled and piloted. A person or organization may think they are doing the best they can because they meet some company or government guideline yet they are running on systems and processes that haven’t been reviewed for years if not decades. A lot may have changed since their original conception. By putting the minds of your staff and managers together, imagine what change and further improvement could occur to make you not only in compliance but maybe a shining example of the best. Change in the workplace can be difficult, especially when trying to get people on board with it, but when done with diligence and respect to how others approach change (yes, there is an area dedicated to Change Management…fascinating actually) – it can improve your situation and make the old way of doing things look antiquated.
Change in the non-work environment happens every day. As an individual you may loathe and believe you’re avoiding having to change. However, that’s never the case. How so, you may ask? You may refuse to change a habit, stop smoking or drinking, stay in a job you dislike or even hate. In the past it may have taken a catastrophe to get you to have to make a change that maybe somewhere deep down inside you knew years ago needed to be done. How does it feel to have the change done to you vs. you having taken the initiative to do it yourself? I can tell you from experience that it feels better taking the initiative. It may not be smooth sailing doing it this way but it sure is a lot less rockier in the overall scheme of things once you look back. I’ve learned (and yes, I’m still learning) that even changes that I labeled as “bad” initially have resulted in something good along the way or down the road. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t run towards change, I don’t always seek it out. Yet I know it has to occur or I will stop growing as a person.
Many years ago I heard in an anatomy class that every seven years a human being has a new body. Every day thousands, if not millions, of cells die within your body and are replaced by new ones. Your organs become new ones due to this change over of cells. I was told it’s why a person’s allergies can change over the years – because they have a new system or body. So you see, you are changing every single day whether you see it or not. It happens to you regardless and it’s O.K.
“I am a baby. I know nothing of hatred, intolerance, racism, sexism, bigotry, indoctrination, homophobia and prejudice. I don’t yet understand things like love, compassion, integrity, tolerance, human decency and truth. For the first and most important formative years of my life all I will know is what you teach me. Choose wisely.” ~Unknown
It always amazes me when you discuss a topic with someone only to have the same thing resurface soon after in your life in another form. In this case, the topics of mixed ethnicities and racism were brought up by Larry M., a recent interview subject. Larry spoke to his family tree containing not only containing African American heritage but Irish, several Native American tribes and a few others. He recalled a conversation with a young girl that referred to herself as a “mutt” because she was mixed ethnicities. The two compared their family tree composition. Larry felt there was more to say regarding the use of the descriptor “mutt” but didn’t have the words at that time.
During our interview he expressed the desire to contact this girl to explain to her his thoughts that she shouldn’t refer to herself with this label, mutt. He felt the blending within one’s family tree resulted as a means to survive, improve and proceed in life. This blending was not something to denigrate but appreciate since it resulted in the family continuing and strengthening. He saw it as a way for the strengths of each ethnicity to have the opportunity to combine into a stronger person/family. Given the advent of DNA testing becoming available to the general public, we discussed how many may be surprised to know what their genetic composition contains. In his opinion, he added, concerns about race are adult learned. As children, we know nothing about a person’s race or races, their family history. The child is only concerned about feeling safe and cared for. They don’t have knowledge that they are considered a “color”. It is what the child is told, taught or observes in the adults around them that results in racism or prejudice.
This week I seem to be focused on His Holiness the Dalai Lama for inspiration and wisdom. I first came upon this quote several weeks ago. It corresponded with my decision to pursue my long delayed goal and desire to document others’ life experiences and wisdom then to share it with a larger audience. It’s what brought about the start of my website and blog. I decided to pursue my dreams so I could enjoy my present. Doing this project gives me great joy in my present and my future. It’s not easy. But his words of wisdom encourage me to keep trying.