Thursday, July 27, 2017

the way the mind works

Or in this case specifically my mind. But it's also a 

a) reminding lesson in how we react to seemingly minor, mundane things and behaviours is based on previous experiences (and values)

b) more often than not you're your own great therapist (given you're reasonally sane and insightful of course)

The first time I really really grasped this was when I was on my lengthy burnout sick-leave (now over ten years ago) - 

sure the workload was heavy, but the real reason was it was basically a workplace from hell with a very unhealthy company culture of bullying, insecure bosses and lackeys who kept targeting one of the lawyers until s/he broke down and was replaced by a new, unsuspecting target. Specifically those who did the best job, thought outside the box and weren't afraid (initially) to speak their mind. And yes I was soon the perfect target. -

I could write a long long post about this of course, and I have written several touching on the subject when I began blogging - hey it's almost 12 years ago now! - but I'll just say as much that even if I was in that hell for too long, and the recovery took years, I'm also a much much better and healthier human being for it. One of my best life lessons, even if it felt like far far from that back then, deep under the duvet. And of course, Little Loaf would't have moved in here if it hadn't been for that dark period in my life.

That workplace experience also shaped me and my reactions to a lot of ways people behave - hello master suppression techniques, you don't escape me - when I shy away, when I genuinely dislike or embrace people and organisations. And yes, back then I got it why we all react in ways that seem logical to ourselves but possibly spaced out and irrational to others, our previous experiences set the stage for actions and reactions. Fight or flight mode.

And that was merely the prelude to the recent event I was to write about. A mundane and genuinely kind offer that threw me into a calm panic mode. Calm as in it wasn't a scary situation at all, quite the opposite, but my mind went into overdrive and I realised I've come so far in this past year and at the same time I'm so shaped by both my values and all those years before that it's both great and sad really.

A month ago I had a business meeting. The journey there by commuter train would take about 1,5 hours followed by a walk for about 15 minutes through a depressing industrial area trafficed by heavy vehicles. It was raining when I left home, it kept drizzling outside the train window for 1,5 hours but when I reached my station the sun suddenly appeared which felt like a great sign for the meeting to come.

After 300 metres the heavens opened and an absolutely mad rain began to fall. Never mind, I have a fancy Marimekko umbrella that will keep me dry. But then the sudden gusts appeared and I soon realised having a fancy schmancy umbrella would not make much of a difference from not having one at all. Half there I was basically soaking wet from shoes to shoulders. And got a crazy painful blister from nowhere. The rest of the walk I frantically sang 'High ho high ho it's off to work I go' to cheer myself up.

Had some time to try and sort out my drenched look before the meeting but it was quite obvious it had been a *rather* wet walk to get there and the person I was meeting was quick to offer me a ride back to the station after the meeting. I was needless to say grateful for the kind offer but these were my three instant reactions -

1. No way I'm accepting if the person driving doesn't pass the station on his way to something work related to where it's necessary to drive. Just because it might be convenient for me doesn't mean it's a sound environmental choice. I'm already wet, I can walk back too.

2. I'm an independent, grown up, professional person that can cope with annoying things like very wet weather and blisters. I must not get used to accepting rides when there's really no need for them.

3. The realisation that for most of all those years with M I was far too accepting to taking the car instead of the bus/train when we did things together. The car was like an extra limb to him, when it was more of an environmental and health issue for me, yet it was so very convenient... And time saving. And... I am now effectively weaned from that.

I could have declined the offer after the meeting. I didn't. I kept debating with myself when I waited. When I saw the car, a company car with logos but still your usual modern car much like M's car, it put me in some kind of weird 'oh no, I can't open the door and step inside because I will now be back in the passenger seat of my life with someone else driving' panic mode. 

You know, your average irrational behaviour and thought that seems so obviously logical to the person with a certain experience. The thing that saved me from saying 'thanks, but no thanks the weather is clearing up' and just run was that I hate making a fool of myself, especially in a professional situation and I'm insightful enough to know why I reacted the way I did. 

But the 5 minute car ride felt really awkward, I played normal, - albeit still a rather wet and damp version of normal - chatting away and to make it even worse my glasses broke. One of the sidepieces just bizarrely fell off. I didn't mention it and tried to keep the glasses on my nose like it was the most normal thing in the world to have one sidepiece only. Soon that world looked really lopsided and I almost fell out of the car at the station because I couldn't see properly and for all the tension of acting normal for 5 minutes while my inside was in turmoil.

I hope I was a good actress. And I seriously doubt the person in question read this blog. (If you do, feel free to have a good laugh at my weirdness.)

At the same time as it was an encouring realisation in how far I've come on the journey of redefining myself as a me alone it was also a bewildering feeling of being ridiculously childish, a stubbornly independent weirdo who blow things out of complete proportions as well as an insightfully wise and value driven human that makes/wants to make conscious decisions for the greater good not only my own convenience in the moment.

Sometimes I'm just so liberatingly uncomplicated, easy to grasp and please, others my brain take me on the wildest rides over seemingly random, mundane things. I guess that's just a case of being a multi-layered human being. An odd bird. And growing up with an always analyzing, deep thinker father like mine.

All in all, high five to me for realising the whys and the hows for my calm panic reaction to something as simple as a kind gesture. I have no idea how I will react when something similar happens again one day.

But at least I got a blog post out of the ride that turned into two quite different rides, outside, inside.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

that special feeling

Remember I wrote about a new and interesting project I accepted in the beginning of the year? But also a project that initially left a bad aftertaste due to financial reasons - I'm a freelancer not a serf, and seriously, if companies don't pay reasonable money to the ones that actually do the very job in the end, us freelancers, then that will never ever be good practice or decent behaviour, is that really what your company wants to stand for?

That said, to not be engulfed in the financial resentment of not being reasonably paid - which have and will happen to us all one way or another sooner or later - I've decided to always, always look at it as an opportunity to learn new things, grow and be a more well-rounded (professional) person, add skills to the CV and not least do a great job before I move on. Because badly paid or not, moving on is the fabulous option at the end of a gig we freelancers have, we're rarely bound to any lengthy contracts.

So what have I done these past few months then, part time? Well, I've been contracted subconsultant in the role of career coach for international talents. An integration project specifically targeting immigrants from different backgrounds and countries with the common denominator being they have an academic degree.

I've put in lots and lots of hours, I've been moved, nagging, hopeful, annoyed, impressed, angry and very happy. But for the financial reasons it has been a fantastic learning and growth experience. And as it turned out, surprisingly enough, also a great way to make a real difference both in a single person's life as well as in society. Noone can change everything but we can all make something change for the better.

The heartwarming outcome for one of my participants - an electrical engineer from the African continent - has been that after finishing his 12 weeks traineeship, at a large Swedish corporate group that's also one of Europe's leading generators of electricity, he has been offered a permanent position with them.

Which made me so incredibly happy to hear. And not least seriously proud to be a part of the process. The company itself, or rather the employees I've been in contact with, have also impressed me a lot, their honest solution orientation, getting people on board in the project and openness. Kind of blown away about it all actually.

To be a subconsultant is obviously not financially sustainable, but I will forever be grateful for this experience. And the people I've met, the stories I've listened to, it has made me into a better human being. And made a real difference. On so many levels.

I've always seen myself as a champion for animals and animal rights - because those rights are intricately linked to women's rights and human rights (and not least sustainability), I just wish more people could connect those darn dots by now! - and obviously deeply concerned about environmental issues, climate change and sustainability.

But as much as I know integration is an important issue that hasn't been taken very seriously for decades - and look what that's led us - I've never, for various reasons, seen myself as someone working with such matters. Nor have I seen it as a sustainability issue, but I've come to realise social sustainability is equally important to environmental sustainability, without either we can't have a stable and sound society and world. Or a healthy future, if there's still a chance of that.

I don't know where the road will lead me from here on, professionally and privately, but I'm open and expectant for whatever exciting things, opportunities and people that will cross my path. And again, so very grateful to have been a part of this. Turned out I was pretty great at connecting with the right kind of people and doing a job I'd never even concidered. And somehow this experience has tickled my ol' lawyer-gene and background. Who knew.

And that special feeling? Well, that's the magic blend of stepping outside your comfort zone, learning new things while applying your skills, doing a great job, meeting new, interesting people, making a real difference working with others, being a part of something more hands on substantial than writing web copy, content or managing social media channels. Even if its always rewarding with satisfied customers, and fun tasks, I have to admit that so far those assignments haven't touched my soul in quite the same way as this one did.

This was simply rewarding on a whole other level. And that's a warm and fuzzy feeling I want more of in my professional life. Though from here on, accompanied by a reasonable payment, thank you very much, Future.

Yours truly with gratitude,

EDIT: On July 26 I had my very last project meeting with my last participant from Syria - the outcome was just as happy as for the electrical engineer, he got a job offer! This time in hotel management and booking in the largest Swedish hotel chain, with hotels mainly in the Nordic countries but also in the rest of Europe. Once again, hello warm and fuzzy feeling! 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

hello emotional flooding

Who knew active work with the grief recovery process would open up a veritable flooding of emotions? As if I wasn't an (over)analyzing person before, now my mind is on some crazy overdrive with thoughts and feelings everywhere. I know it'll be all good in the end, but current status: exhausted. Mainly. When I'm not feeling exhilarated and expectant or wistful and blue.

Just before this summer's period with substitute buses for the commuter trains begun - 

three years in a row, hopefully this will be that last year... It's been such a stressful hassle, and I haven't even been forced to commute for a job every day. This summer it basically means a journey from door to door takes double the time ie for me getting to the city takes about 2 hours. Which is just crazy. So as much as I'd love to just take the train to the fair capital and enjoy unpretentious walks, views and fika I can't stand the hassle so unless I have booked meetings I need to attend my city trips will be very scarce until the trains are on again on August 14. Which means I have  a  l o t of time with my brain as my company alone this summer (as last year)... Hooray -

it was an intense period of meetings and meaningful conversations. It felt like a great idea to cram in as much as possible of that before the substitute period/most people's holidays begun. In hindsight perhaps it wasn't a very wise move.

Life right now is like a bowl of summer strawberries - some juicy and sweet making me go all week at the knees, others sour with a bitter tang and some are even moudly and inedible. But the overall impression is sweet and delicious, I think.

My intuition and gut feelings are stronger than ever, but at the same time I'm not really comfortable following their every instinct. What I am comfortable doing is saying no to things my intuition says is not for me. I'm working on becoming comfortable in saying yes more often. And being more proactive in certain situations - but that's scary...

Stronger and more determined for every day - except for the blue days, but they shall always pass - I'm just incredibly grateful for so many beings and things I've had, have and will have in my life.

Referring to my last post and the internet dating thing - that isn't me at all but one must brave one's prejudices now and then. My experiences so far (which have made me think of a making a podcast on the subject):

:: The first site I tried has continued to disappoint and entertain (because it's so poorly user experience designed). With few exceptions the men seem obsessively interested in sports, training and drinking wine, intellectual interests are far and few apart. Add to that bad selfies and badly written profiles. 

As I have no interest in paying for the *service* I can't search for vegans/vegetarians which is my basic criteria. I have also purposefully written my profile in a way that's either pretty scary or intriguing. The only one who has dared to contact me so far was a very short guy who had pictures of himself drinking supersized champagne bottles. I. Can't. Even. 

I have no interest whatsoever in depicting myself as a graceful damsel in distress-like woman with no real views or values of importance. Of course I don't have a sign around my neck irl with all my views and preferences/demands, I'm actually quite easy to talk to and grown up enough to realise you can't mould someone into some ideal person that tick your every dream box. But really, some basic standards isn't too much to ask for and if you can't be really clear about who you are and what you're looking for (in a way that some might find intimidating, no pun intended) on a dating site, then when can you?

I'm not desperate, I'm discerning. And will forever continue to be.

:: I then remembered there's a dating site for vegans/vegetarians, perhaps that would be a better bet? 

It turned out to be a like a chat room for teenagers and full of pimply 20 something guys. I deleted my profile after five minutes.

:: There's a dating site that actually has a rather cute TV commerical, well, might as well try that one too while I'm at it.

That was a mistake. In fact it was truly scary. About five seconds after I had registered a profil with a photo it had a gazillion visitors, messages, flirts and likes. So many desperate men (or stalkers) looking for love, who knew. I must have lived a very sheltered life. The experience was so creepy I promptly deleted the profile.

As this experience so far has surpassed my every prejudice my only conclusion is that I was right, it isn't for me. And it will never be. I'm sure it suits some, their stars align and that's just lovely. The answer to most everything is love. But the answer on how to find it differs. Which is great, because how boring would life be if we all looked for meaningful relationships in the same way, in the same places?

Next blog post - job related. Promise.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

the grief recovery process

Hi, hello, long time no blog.

And again so much, yet so little, has happened I don't know where to start really. But I suppose the most important thing I've done since we last met online is that I'm doing grief recovery in a small group. Turned out it was both really difficult to find a good tip on grief counsellors and they were really expensive. And in order to get a therapist that is connected to the public health care system (ie you only pay a fixed sum) you first had to go see a doctor to get a referal. A lengthy, emotional process to get there.

And then a friend suggested I'd connect with her former manager who had experience in this. To cut a longer story short I'm now doing much of the work myself and then we meet in this group and talk, listen, cry and laugh together with the help of my friend's former manager as the guide. It's so cathartic. We're going through the grief recovery process with help of "The Grief Recovery Handbook", we're half way through it and will reconvene in August after the summer holidays.

I never ever thought I'd enjoy (possibly not the right word here, but "find it useful" sounds too dull and unengaging) group sessions, talking about deeply private and intimate things, some of which I've never told anyone before. But I think 4 people is just the right number for it.

Friends and my mother have commented I'm looking more relaxed and open since I began with this. And I have to say I'm feeling much calmer. And the strange thing is that I discover things about myself and why I act, react, do and feel things the way I do in life in general through this process. I'm getting much more out of it than the grief recovery itself. Which is amazing.

When it comes to work I've accomplished a lot of things, but not as much as I would have liked. I still worry about my finances and am still looking for that brilliant part time job. Not a lot you can do about it over the summer though, in Sweden, where pretty much everything closes down in July. Especially one work thing I've accomplished, as part of a project, has made me truly happy. It deserves a post of its own - and will hopefully be written in a not too distant future.

With all this recent and current liberating of emotions and thoughts, talking with friends about relationships and what the future might (hopefully) hold I did something today I've sworn I'd never do - I've signed up to a match making site. I see it as part of a study process of human behaviour and not really something that suits me.

But every decision you make move life forward, one way or the other.

I'm open to meeting new people, of course, but I'm not really open to dating yet. I'm not sure I'll ever be. It just feels like a really awkward thing to do. But feel free to laugh about it. I know I have, when I've looked through all the so called matches of men that has been lined up for me.

Seriously, after all the questionnaires I filled in, after being VERY clear with the importance of vegan, vegetarian, sustainability, animal rights values, these are the men your algorithms match me with.

If this is what the world has to offer I will be forever single. 

Or quite possibly the best people, my kind of people, as I suspect, don't use dating sites. I'm just too opinionated and strong-willed to have any "success" at this, too odd. And that's fine, adapting and compromising too much would not make me (or anyone else) happy.

The best thing about this though is that when I read through my eloquently written - compared to the well-educated guys in my age group that apparently haven't bothered about writing since they graduated high school - descriptions, I kind of fall in love with myself instead. I'm just a quirky adorable person, with amazing values and pretty decent writing skills.

And I believe in magic, serendipity and when the time, place and person is right it just happens.

At least I got a good laugh from it all, and confirmation of my suspicions/prejudices. I will now continue with the grief recovery process, my part-time job hunt and being as happy as I can be with just amazing me, myself and I. And the fabulous felines.
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