Month: April 2012

Where’s Jessie?

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Last week, I was in my multi-tasking power run planning my daughter’s birthday party. I was running behind schedule during the week and went to the local bakery to put an order in for my daughter’s birthday cake. Since she was 15 months old, she has been watching Toy Story 2. She loved the cartoon so much that she yelled a resounding “Toy Story!” when I asked her what she wanted on her birthday cake.

Following orders, I went through the design book as I munched on the complimentary chocolate chip cookies looking for the appropriate Toy Story cake layout. This book had 3 designs, but two of them were too elaborate with an action sequence between Woody and Buzz and the third one was a large picture of the cast, minus the character my daughter loved and identified with the most: the loud, bold and rambunctious Jessie. Obviously this was an error to this specific bakery. I closed the design book, grabbed two cookies and headed to the next bakery.

To save time, I got to the point “You have Toy Story cakes?”  “Of course!” the baker replied.

“Ok, well because my daughter demanded Toy Story for her birthday cake, and I am running behind schedule already.” I said.

“I understand. Here is our design book, its filled with quite a few Toy Story cakes.”

So I started flipping through the pages. She was right; there were quite a few toy story designs, more than any other theme in fact.  YET, there was a problem.

Much to my surprise the last bakery did not have a design error.  This bakery also decided to have cakes featuring every character in the movie from potato head to the little aliens BUT….you guessed it, no Jessie.

I asked the baker “Where are the ones with Jessie?”

She replied “Well people usually want cakes that have Woody and Buzz.”

Now, I was just a little annoyed. So against my better judgment I replied. “Have you seen the cartoon? Jessie is a very central character to the whole story. She actually helps Woody escape more than once. It is just odd that you don’t have Jessie.”

The baker replied with a sigh “Hmmm. Do you want another cake?”

I was unnaturally appalled by the innocent baker’s apathy, after all she had nothing to do with any design decisions. “No, I don’t but I may need to get another theme altogether…..But I am really annoyed, it seems that whoever designs these cakes seems to think that Jessie was not important at all and neither is my daughter’s preference….because what she likes is not catered to.  And its not like Jessie is some unpopular side character.”

Now, I understand that this is just a cake and this is just a cartoon. No need to ruffle any feathers. But, I think the scenario deserves at least some discussion. The truth is, I wanted to get a cake that my daughter could get excited about. These are the little things that matter to 3 year olds.  AND I wanted her to have her favorite character that she relates to – a strong willed fun girl like her. The fact that she was denied the opportunity made me feel like her appreciation and love for Jessie was just not appreciated. More specifically the fact that Jessie was denied an opportunity to even be considered a main cast member really kind of saddened me. It was like she was invisible for the 2.3 hours of the film for these cake designers.

To expand the discussion, I started thinking about how often women have been central figures in institutions and are often sidelined when it comes to recognizing successes.  How often are women the main producers of phenomenal work products, the main doers behind the scenes during projects, negotiations etc. but very few actually show up at the press conferences?

I have personally seen so many incredible women who are the actual doers in multiple institutions.  Or legislators who are actually striking deals to legislative victories…..but more often than not, they are never the ones who take the praise home.  A lot of times it’s the nature of who they have been socialized to be. Many women have been raised to believe that wanting or needing recognition for their contributions in whatever capacity is considered not lady like. Instead, the need for recognition is selfish and self- absorbed behavior.  I have learned to believe there is limited merit to such a philosophy. Modesty and outright denial of ones gifts and contributions are two separate notions. In the professional world, every time you deny your contribution you are taking away an opportunity from another woman to learn and be inspired by you.  And the more you let others take credit for your work, the less chance you have to professionally grow based on knowledge of what your supervisors think you can do or have done.  Your modesty should be YOUR biggest asset, not someone else’s.

In my mediation sessions I work with quite a few couples contemplating or ready to execute divorce.   One of the main themes I see in these troubled marriages are women reaching a breaking point after years of feeling that they are not appreciated.  In a nutshell, they have felt invisible in their marriage.

As I work with the couple, quite often I ask her to think about what caused her to become invisible. Was it her husband’s neglect or her own acceptance of the status quo for so many years? Majority of the time, women can point to themselves and should.

This is probably why I was more annoyed by the female baker. Her apathy as Jessie being missing had nothing to do with her. But I feel it does. Every woman that notices that another woman is being sidelined in anyway should speak up.  Even if the women does not deem her contributions to be valuable professionally or personally, it should be all of our responsibility to remind her that they indeed are.

As I end this post I ask you to think about how many women you know that are sidelined. Or, how often do YOU allow yourself to be sidelined? If the number is more than just one, than push yourself in your own way, to ask: “Where is Jessie?”

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Are You Guided by Your Personal Compass?

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Well, here we are! Another spring with the promise of a glorious summer ahead.  Each year we come out of hibernation to be inspired by the weather – the blooming of trees, new flowers and warm evening breezes.  As we awaken from our winter slumber and emerge from our trust down jackets, I want to bring your attention to a different type of hibernation many of us are not even aware we are in, and therefore, may never rise from.

I am talking about our spiritual hibernation.   Before I continue, please let me say, I believe every person has a different spiritual leaning.  Every person has a different name for it.  So, accordingly, I am speaking of the spiritual source you identify with. The source you lean on, turn to, love, and think about in wonder, be it everyday or maybe once or twice in your life.

I also do not think that being religious in any form shows that you are not in spiritual hibernation. In fact, I think many people use their religious identity and devotion as an external badge and still be completely void of a spiritual connection. They will read, but not internalize. They will pray, but not feel. Lastly, and most importantly, they will ask for something in prayer or meditation and promise unconditional acceptance but secretly fear an outcome that they do not want.

So let me put plainly what I mean:  spiritual hibernation is when you are asleep at the wheel spiritually.

You are busy, very busy, doing things – running errands, making plans or complaining of not having any, taking care of everyone, feeling great at your accomplishments, criticizing yourself for your failures and working very hard at being the best you can be in all aspects.  But somehow you do not have the time, energy or opportunity to facilitate a connection with your spiritual source. You are awake, but somehow asleep at the same time.  It’s an odd existence we all experience at different points of our life.

The reason why I wanted to write about spiritual hibernation (SH) is because I was in one, and  each spring season, I am again revitalized and reawakened.  I  had no idea  was in a SH. You see, I was very happy with my life, devout to my spiritual source, and completely content as I pushed myself to excel beyond even my own  expectations.  I was dedicated to my family and loved my work.   I believed I had it all.

Then, something happened.

The best way I can describe it is as a gradual shift of my personal compass. And It all started with the birth of my daughter, almost three years ago.  It was then, I came to realize the miracle of a spiritual source that I could not comprehend. The joy, the love – it was overwhelming.  For those of you mothers out there, I’m sure you can relate to the feeling.

Soon, my leanings and interests slowly started to change. I started to appreciate nature at a deeper level.  I craved silence even more than I did before.   Even as someone who always loved their alone time, now I was looking for those quiet moments to think and feel more .  Deep insightful conversations excited me. I started becoming more impressed with deep thinkers than orators or even over-achieving doers. I started becoming more attracted to quiet contributors than center-stage personalities in all capacities, personally or professionally.  

But most importantly, I started to really slow down.

I became even better at being present. Wherever I was, I was there in my entirety.  I became much better at enjoying the moment I was in – no matter how small.  Even professionally, I had more inspiration, more joy.  And because I slowed down, I was able to use precision in my work – making me much more productive. I was accomplishing more, but felt more balanced than ever. I started dealing with clients who gave me a deeper sense of fulfillment.  Different interests started opening different doors for me. Not doors to what society would generally view as powerful places or people, but to places and people that were truly authentic. All this made my experiences extremely satisfying.

My personal and professional relationships started to change as I became more aware of everyone around me at a deeper level. I had always thought of myself as someone who could read people, that’s why I chose legal mediation as a career, but now I felt like I truly understand people.  I felt their energy, whether positive or negative, around me.  I learned and felt a level of empathy for those around me that did not exist for me until now. I could actually see and feel who was and was not in tune with their personal compass, despite what they displayed externally.  This insight provided me both with appreciation and disappointment, as I understood what these relationships really meant, whether they aided my spiritual awakening or took me away from it. 

All around me was an infinite amount of joy and energy. Everything and everyone offered inspiration.  I had woken up. 

Over the past three years, I have woken up to what I really want, love, and need.  I had woken up to accept The Big Plan and take all of the pain, challenges and joy it brings.   And I continue to wake up.  

I honestly thought that as I did pro bono work or advocated for social justice, I was following a noble personal compass.  I considered myself the good guy.  But until I woke up form my SH, I didn’t realize how much better of a person I could be, and how much more I still have to go.  It let me see that my past “happiness” was a life that needed major tweaking.  My good intentions were also accompanied by my ego, looking to challenges and accomplishments to feel victorious.  I led a results driven life that would get me down if I didn’t achieve what I thought to be a perfect solution.

I realize now there was a greater force carrying me through the whole time.  Something bigger than me that was providing me with this ambition and passion.  No matter how much I knew this intellectually, it did not become real until I internalized it.

So, now it’s your turn – what compass is guiding you as a new spring season is upon us?  Is it your love, pain, joy, fear, ambition, insecurity, greed, ego or something else entirely?   Spring doesn’t happen overnight, and neither does waking up from SH.  So, take your time, let it sink in, and then find what guides you.