I had a message in my twitter feed last week that asked me this:
Question: what is your existential crisis right now ?
I looked at it and thought about it. I understood what it meant, Wikipedia explains it as this:
An existential crisis is a moment at which an individual questions the very foundations of his or her life: whether his or her life has any meaning, purpose or value. This issue of the meaning and purpose of existence is the topic of the philosophical school of existentialism.
I was immediately offended. Why would someone think that my life doesn’t have purpose. Or anyone’s life for that matter? We all have a purpose, good, bad or indifferent. It doesn’t have to be job related, it could be relational. The fact of the matter is it is personal. Not something that needs to be shared – unless of course THAT is the purpose!
My answer to this question was simple:
I don’t question it. I know my life has meaning and purpose.
Some-days it is more obvious to me than other days, but purpose is there and I don’t have to look very hard. I know this question was meant to be well meaning and a conversation started on a philosophical level, but dude, I no longer need to analyze everything to death. It’s okay not to know the answer to every question. The hard part is accepting that. That could be your current purpose.
While I am away, I am reposting some of my olders blogs from 2011. It is interesting to see where I have come from. This is from /2011/02/28.
Today was wacky. I had a heated conversation with a colleague about what I know and don’t know. I was so angry by the time the conversation was over I wanted to walk out never to return. Instead I kept my composure, defended my position and used conversation skills I have learned in my course. Does it matter in the end? No not really. I was seriously offended though. I put it aside and went swimming instead of stewing about it. My arms hurt but I feel good. I thought about why she might say those things to me. Clearly we do not share the same belief system or values. I was questioned as to why I work so hard at what I do if I am not loving it any more. To me the answer is simple. If you do a job, do it well or go home. Just letting things “go” or ignoring situations is just not how I was raised. My Grandfather would be rolling over in his grave and my mother would ground me. I have set goals for myself and I know I will not achieve them if I do not put my best foot forward. I need to shout those goals to the Universe so everyone knows what my intentions are. Do you hear that Universe? I do not want to keep my regular position anymore, I want more.
To achieve those goals I need to remind myself of beliefs and values that are important to me. Genetic Offspring showed me his Power Point Presentation on Beliefs for his Religion class. It has inspired my list. I am writing them down because I need the reminder.
Family First Always. Sometimes I forget how much my family means to me. I am not just referring to the ones living in my house. I mean the ones down the street, across town, in another city and over oceans. Family is my reason for almost everything.
Doing the Right Thing is hardly ever easy. I wish it was easy. If everything was easy, life would be boring. However, would it kill you universe to make some things easy?
Great Wisdom often comes from children. I have learned amazing things from my children. I don’t just mean the answer to scientific questions, but the maturity my children deal with social issues, personal problems and road blocks inspires me to be better. I think all parents can learn from their children. If you are childless, you can still eaves drop on conversations of children. Not only are the a great source of entertainment but profound things often come out of those mouths.
Trust your instincts. There is a little voice or a feeling. Its something or someone trying to tell you something. Listen to that gut feeling. It is usually right. Trust yourself, you have your best interest at heart. Don’t let yourself down.
Show Kindness to others. You would think this would be easy. I see children who don’t know how to be kind to each other. We need to teach that. It isn’t instinctual. My ChatterBox is the kindest person I know.
Magic/Miracles/Pixie Dust are real if you believe in hard work. All of it will happen if you work for it. Look at me, I am working hard for it, a little pinch of Pixie Dust and I’ll have my goals in my pocket.
Nurture yourself. I never use to believe this. I have started practicing it. It’s true, it makes a difference. You have to love yourself first then other things fall into place.
No is as important as Yes. Learning to say no has been liberating. It ties in with nurturing myself. Hard to do, but essential.
Yes is as important as No. Saying yes to things you normally wouldn’t do is also liberating. Hard to do, but essential.
Family First Always – but don’t forget you are part of the family too.
I have talked about this before. My dear blogger friend Separated Dad (I would link you to him but it’s complicated. Here is his old site) posted a comment today that was part of a collective message that I received today. He wrote
I think we can add INTROSPECTIVE to your list. It’s wildly different from introverted of course and shows how you’ve thought about the you as she appears to you and to others. Marvellous stuff…
I know he is correct, I am introspective. Sean was referring to my post about character traits I see in me. He certainly brightened my day! Remember I said collective messages? There were several. One from a old episode from Being Erica, one from some text I was reading for school, one from a management blog I read, and one from a friend who I talked to on the phone with today. Want to know what is even more interesting? All of these collective messages came from men. Clearly the universe was telling me something.
I think and mull things over to the point of obsession. I need to understand the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How’s of my world. Introspection allows me to look at my role in conjunction with others. I use to be that kid who had an excuse for everything. “It’s Not My Fault!” I would cry out from my room, quick to blame the sisters or brother who started it. However Time and Introspection have taught me that the roll I play in a conflict or situation is just as important to the reaction I get from others.
It is simple physics really. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Oh Newton, how right you were!
I learned a long time ago that blame serves no purpose. People do the best they can with the knowledge they have IN THAT MOMENT. 20/20 vision is only available in hindsight. We all know that you can never go back. You can revisit, but it is never the same. It can be better or worse depending on your attitude and the attitude of others. The trick is, adjusting your attitude to support the best possible outcome for you.
When stuck, I tend to pull or push my way out. Force the situation to free me or give me what I need. It isn’t working in this case. Yesterday I shared this feeling with my friends. They, as usual, were quite insightful. They said to me, “Perhaps you are at that moment when you aren’t suppose to do anything. Just let things unfold”. At the time I thought about what they said and dismissed it. My thinking was, you cannot stay stuck in the mud forever, you need to make a move. The question is which one?
After the events of today and hearing the same message over and over in different ways, I realize it was a sign. A big 2×4 hitting me on the head yelling in my ear to be still. My life is a chinese finger trap. The more I pull, the more I feel a pull holding me in place.
I gave this some thought. The introspective me came out and wanted to write about it. Alas I had to write for work, school, and another project I am working on first. This was good, it gave me more room to think about it. I am in several situations where I want things to be a certain way. For various reasons, job availability, education, and people’s own personal choices, I feel like my hands are tied. I want the pain of longing to go away. What I want and what I have are two very different things. Reaching for them isn’t working. Working towards my goal isn’t working either. Well, it might be, but not at the speed in which I wish it to happen. Elenore Roosevelt said, “Wishing takes as much effort as planning.” Oh Elenore, I agree! But people do not share my vision for my life, my hands are tied.
So what I am going to do about it? Well, Dr. Thom on Erica said, “Erica, it hurts, it’s painful and you have to sit in it. Live with it. The only thing that will take the pain away is time.” Oh Dr. Thom, I wish I didn’t love you because I want you to shut your stupid face! I don’t mean that…maybe I do. He always has good advice. I just don’t want to hear it.
So this is me, stuck in the mud. Looking around and no longer trying to get out because that makes the suction stronger. I will stand here in silence, look around me and listen and just be still. When the time is right I will be able to move.
After a long week in the trenches, I find myself needing to be here. In spite of the fact there is homework piling up as the seconds tick away. I know from past experience I need to clear my head before I can be in the right frame of mind for homework, so here I am. Looking for that right frame of mind.
This week was brutal both professionally and personally. I find myself coming home and feeling mentally drained. When I am at work, I look around and try to feed off the excitement of my team. They are brand new to this field. They still experience the joy and excitement with doing what they love to do. For me it has become tedious. Sure it is always different on some level, but the nuts and bolts of it is very much the same from year to year. I liken it to eating chicken, rice and peas every day of your life. Sure there is nothing wrong with plain chicken, rice and peas, but it doesn’t hold any excitement for me. Then I come home, make chicken, rice and peas to feed my family, who quite frankly, will not eat anything that excites me. I have come to the conclusion that I am living my life for those around me. I do what is expected, I give the appropriate response, but I am meeting the bare minimum requirements. Even then, I find myself becoming passive aggressive. Saying yes, but thinking to myself, SCREW IT! I have a serious case of the blahs.
Earlier this week I read a blog that peaked my interest. She asked the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. Now THAT is a very good question. I fell into my profession because:
I didn’t know what I wanted
I knew I could do it
I was feeling pressure to go to secondary school and do something with my life
my life partner at the time didn’t want me to be “smarter” than him (How freaking sad is that?)
Meanwhile, fast forward to 2011, and I am very good at what I do. I have background knowledge that my colleagues learn and benefit from. I prefer meetings, planning, and figuring out problems to doing the work. I love going to work one day a week. That leaves 4 days where I rather be in bed. This fascinates me. That blog I read had a link to a motivational map questionnaire. I filled it out this morning. I came to the realization that I knew the answer before it gave it to me. All it did was validate my feelings and ideas.
The answer to the Motivational Map was…drum roll please! My Primary Motivator is the Spirit. Not in the born again Christian kind of way, I’m not knocking Jesus, but his non verbal attitude towards me drives me crazy. He prefers actions and showing me stuff, fine, if I have to live with that kind of response, so be it. However, Spirit meaning driving oneself. Years ago, I had a friend who always said I was a free spirit. Hard to tame. Well, children find away to tame that free spirit. Responsibility and commitment do that to a person. Maybe that is why I feel this way. My free spirit is aching to run, jump and live. I have kept it in a bottle.
The Motivational Map suggested I quit my job and become a consultant, be self employed or carefully screen a boss that would give me the kind of freedom I need in my position. First off, I have the kind of boss who lets me make lots of autonomous decisions. She is brilliant at that. She has given me the kind of supervisor that does the same thing. I want to keep working for her. I know I don’t want to be doing the same thing any more. I change teams, but the work is the same. The work needs to change for me. I need less hands on and need to be in a more guiding role. School is helping me achieve that. HOLY HANNAH it is taking for ever! This time next year my goal is to be half way done. I doing one year of University in ONE YEAR. That may not sound like a big deal to you, but it means, I am doing this, working full-time, and raising a family.
I guess the bottom line is I am the type of person who needs to be fulfilled in all aspects of life. Don’t we all? Or is that just me? If work isn’t doing it for me, then what? I am responsible enough to know I just can’t instantly change everything. I need to feed my family. My leisure time is suffering because I am just too mentally drained to want to do stuff. I am taking steps to change that. The Sun is back up north so that helps! I suppose I am at a “wait and see” point in my life. Four more months left until summer. The question is, then what? I have a lot of thinking I need to do.
It finally happened! My brain was challenged to the point that I stopped and thought about what I was reading. Love that feeling!
My new University Class starts tomorrow, but I have been prepping for upcoming assignments and getting a jump-start on the reading. The class itself has to do with effective communication as a leader. Going through the chapter, it was easy to to label leaders I knew, this person was that style, this person tends to lead this way, etc. What struck me was the section on Self-awareness. There was a paragraph that screamed at me,
Emotionally intelligent people are keenly aware of their strengths, weaknesses, and desires. Those with a strong self-awareness are able to be honest with both themselves and others. They are aware of how their feelings affect them, other people, and their job performance. Self-aware people know when to ask for help, are willing to admit their mistakes, and at the same time are confident about what they can do. By sharing their imperfections, they underscore their authenticity.
Emotionally intelligent people. Wow! I always looked at people like that and thought they had it all going on, very mature, know what they want, and most importantly, I want to be like that. I think I have almost reached that pinnacle. I am keenly aware of my weaknesses. It isn’t kryptonite, but it is a powerful as kryptonite! I have a strong need to fix everything. Be the savior, the hero, the one who kisses it better. Letting other people succeed and fail without my intervention is incredibly hard for me. Having offspring has made it easier. It is important for me to raise children who have a strong sense of self. I know you learn more from failures than successes. By standing back and watching them figure it out on their own is easier for me then watching colleagues do it. Why is that? Why am I willing to let my own children suffer, fail, try again and succeed? I love sharing in their success! At work, I just rather do it myself. That leads to a heap of other trouble for myself. I am making huge progress in that area, but I still have a huge way to go. Learning to say NO is part of that. Learning the balance between sharing my knowledge and telling someone what to do is part of the process. So yes, I do know my weakness.
My strengths. This is harder. What I think to be my strength is not something others would recognize in me. I had a job reference once and she said I was practical. To me that was a HUGE compliment. It is an important skill to possess! Knowing the difference between possible, plausible, probable and impossible can mean everything in the workplace. Secretly I want my offspring to know that everything is possible. Time has taught me this has limitations as a mantra. I do believe in putting my dreams, beliefs and wishes out to the universe. Speaking aloud what I want, desire and need is important. It goes a long way to making the impossible attainable. But is that a strength? As I become more knowledgeable and experienced( older and wiser?) I find I am less tolerant of young University Students with no life experience telling me what I need. Yes this has to do with an incident I experienced this week. I verbally put her in her place by explaining to her the entire situation and letting her know that when she witnesses a snapshot in my week, she cannot possibly have enough information to solve my problem. Books teach many things. I have huge respect for people who are able to learn AND apply the knowledge they learn from books. However, life experience is just as huge. When I have a question about my studies, I don’t always turn to the people in my life who have a degree. Often, who are we kidding, I have more respect for practical management experience then I do for those who have “book learnin'”. So I look back at my incident with her and think about how I could have handled that situation if I was her supervisor. It likely wouldn’t have occurred, however, what could I have done differently?
As I think about it, I guess my strengths are : Practical, respectful, I want to say flexible but I am not as flexible as I use to be, experience has taught me plenty. I have an ability to think on my feet. I feel my creative juices slipping away for practical things. I think I am okay with that. I can be creative in other aspects of my life. A big strength for me is new, and still in the practice stage. I take a deep breath and compose my thoughts before I engage in a life altering situation. I need to practice this when I have been attacked, but I am getting there.
Emotionally Intelligent. My new goal on my Tourist List.
Quote taken from:Brody, Ralph 2005 Effectively Managing Human Service Organizations 3rd ed. Sage Publications