Every year around this time I return to this blog and make a few posts. Along the way, the year happens and I either put writing on the back burner or write and don’t publish. I have a few 2020 unpublished posts, but not many.
This has been an interesting and challenging year. Working from home, visiting with family by zoom, missing hugs and in person events…
Like many, I am looking forward to 2021. I have no illusions that when the year turns over things will immediately be different, but there is that glimmer of hope that maybe with a vaccine, we can see people in person again and I can visit with my mom and dad.
My word for 2021 is kindness. We need more of it. There are so many people who are angry and polarized. There is more to life than politics and we have to remember that we are all neighbors and we are Americans.
Everyone has heard the phrase you can’t see the forest for the trees. The truth of it is, sometimes just trying to take then next step is overwhelming. Sometimes that leads to settling on a decision or project that isn’t the right one or wont solve the problem we are trying to solve.
The same goes for the phrase we don’t need to invent the wheel. What if we do? Carriage wheels are not exactly a good fit for our sports cars, are they?
The government and communities outsource their biggest problems to under-funded and under-resourced nonprofits and expect them to control their overhead and give every dollar to the program. This really isn’t a feasible way for us to expect complex problems to be solved.
The problem is that when we are in the midst of chaos or crisis, we can’t think about the long term. We wont let ourselves think that our project or ideas might not work. We can’t, we have to make it through to the next day or the next crisis. Complacent board members and donors with heavy restrictions complicate this situation.
What if we were to take a step back and look at the big picture? What if, we brought all of our knowledge and expertise to the table? What if people stopped accepting group think and started to ask questions before a decision was made? What if there were no good ideas so we started over from scratch?
The questions above require a culture shift. They require listening, thinking, deliberating, researching, and even being wrong. The idea of being more nimble, failing fast, and pivoting our work needs to be more welcomed and accepted in the nonprofit community.
I challenge people to think bigger, be bolder, and bring your full self to the table. The status quo isn’t working. We need to do better.
Since COVID happened and we are home all the time, like many others, we have started cleaning out drawers and closets and looking at ways to get rid of the stuff we have accumulated over the years.
We have closets full of things the kids left behind, as well as things I have held onto because maybe one day I will be a size 2 again…. I have an entire rack of suit jackets that I am pretty sure I will never wear again. Someone might like them, but this is Florida and they are just too hot for my taste.
What I have realized is that I also need is to purge my brain of useless stuff. There is too much happening in the world to just keep taking in. While I am fascinated with so many things, there is so much going on right now that I find disturbing and disheartening. If I am not careful, I can get so caught up in the muck that I won’t see the things that need my attention.
The world has led me to a whole range of emotions. I am mad. I am sad. I don’t understand people’s logic. There are so many people and things that have made me feel let down because they have gone down roads I can’t rationalize, but yet, I am a hopeful person. I see the good in people. I am always working on making things better.
That leads me to cleaning up. I am determined to spend less time on the negative. Less time reading people’s opinions, and more time reflecting on the good things. I don’t plan to bury my head in the sand, but don’t want to fill my head with things I can’t control either.
I was in a conversation the other day where we were discussing a potential Request for Proposal (RFP) for a program that will be changing hands. I asked if we had considered one of our local nonprofits as a potential partner. We had not. One of the people mentioned that another group member who had left early was on the board of this organization. I asked why this person didn’t bring this up and was told that he keeps his work and personal life separate.
The next words out of my mouth were “I am working so hard to get people to stop doing that”.
We have all heard the term that we wear different hats. My hats include my role at the Central Florida Foundation, Co-President of the League of Women Voters of Orange County, member of the Mayor’s multi-cultural committee, wife, mother, animal lover, world traveler just to name a few. We all play different roles in our lives, but how often do we think about integrating them? What benefits one group you are in, may benefit another. I get confidentiality and conflict of interest. Those things are important, but not sharing information can be a conflict as well.
The other area we often get stuck in is group think. How many times have you walked out of a meeting only to join up with a group in the parking lot (pre-COVID) and a bunch of people are complaining about the outcome? I worked for an agency that didn’t buy a building that was a great price because one board member thought we shouldn’t take out a mortgage. I received calls after the meeting from board members who asked why we made the decision not to buy the building. My simple answer was “You voted against it”. Would the outcome have been different if they had challenged the idea of not taking out the mortgage? I don’t know, but at least we could have had a real discussion.
Some of biggest challenges to bringing your full self are distractions and stress. Distractions are easy to define. They can be texts coming in, emails you feel like you need to answer right now, or even boredom (I get fidgity when meetings go too long). Stress may be more subtle. I have had to learn to re-set myself to go from one meeting to another or moving to another task. I think it is important to give your full self to others in the meeting you are in. This one I have to work on all the time, but it is that important. I have learned to practice mindfulness, listen to calming music, and also to take a deep breath before I walk into (or call into) a meeting.
So before your next meeting, ask yourself these questions:
1. Am I bringing all of my hats?
2. Am I willing to go against the flow? This doesn’t mean creating conflict, it can be as simple as asking probing questions?
3. Have I eliminated distractions and stress?
When you can answer yes, you can show up as your full self.
This is the time of year that I usually travel. We have had an annual family reunion for years and it has become a much anticipated tradition spending time with loved ones, having adventures, and making memories.
COVID has taken that away this year and it makes me sad. What makes me even sadder is the unnecessary loss this virus has and continues to cause.
Being quarantined since March makes me appreciate how much I miss.
I miss hanging with friends in person.
I miss my routines, including talking to my buds on the way to work.
I miss hugs from family, friends, and colleagues.
I miss shopping trips on the weekend.
I miss not worrying about getting sick, or my kids getting sick, my parents getting sick, or just anyone I know getting sick.
I miss traveling and adventures.
While I miss all of these things, I am thankful for health, employment, family, friends, and technology!
One of the analogies I give when talking about distractions is the kid running down the soccer field towards the goal and he sees a butterfly and stops to chase after it, losing interest for that moment, in the game.
I have not written in this space since 2018.
I believe the reason is twofold. One, is that I can’t dish about my political opinions as freely due to my position within the League of Women Voters, and two, I have too many things in my head. There is so much to talk about and weigh in on. Things in my life have changed over the past few years and I go between being chill to being frustrated as hell.
Part of it is that I don’t understand why things have to be so political all the time. For example, there is a demonstrated drop in corona virus cases when we all wear masks and social distance, but it has become a statement over freedoms. I can tell you that this act should fall in line with things like seatbelts, drinking laws, and speed limits. These are all designed to protect not only the individual, but others as well.
How can you follow the command to love your neighbor and yet want to hurt them? Whether it is the lack of respect by not wearing a mask, or resenting or hating someone for the color of their skin or the way they choose to believe in God, none of that represents love.
I wonder what would happen if we all started to care a little more. To care less about making a political statement and more about how others feel. To understand that people of different races and religions do not need to be persecuted. They need to be heard and loved and respected. If we are all God’s children, why is it so hard?
July 30th is the last day to identify with a party to be able to vote in the primaries in Florida. When I left the party I had been part of for most of my life, I decided to just declare for the other party for that reason. These days, I am not in agreement with the politics of either party, but to me having a voice is more important.
I remember going to the voting booth with my mom as a child and watching her pull the levers. As a naturalized citizen, she took this right very seriously. I do too. My family passionately talks about politics. We don’t always agree, but we vote.
Politics has been so polarized and divisive since the 2016 election. Some people have just tuned out while others have become more engaged.
If you want a say in policies and laws that affect you, vote.
If you want to defend or stand up for what you believe in, vote.
If you want to complain about the status quo, vote.
Apathy changes nothing. Don’t stand on the sidelines. Become engaged. Voting is a right. Take advantage of it.
We were always told not to talk about religion and politics because they are such heated topics. Some of us are very passionate about our beliefs and others think being neutral is the safe bet.
More and more, we are so divided and distrustful when it comes to these topics. We assume that others in our circle think like us because believing otherwise is just too hard. For people like me, we strive to understand what is happening and how we got here. My logical brain doesn’t get it.
Social media gives us a platform to say things we wouldn’t say to others in public. Yesterday, I called something out that was photoshopped and was asked to “prove it” which is what I promptly did, but several people after me chimed in with hateful comments about a picture that was fake. Anger over something that was created just for that purpose.
What I don’t understand is why people feel the need to defend, deflect, and share things that make them appear to be racist, intolerant, and sometimes hateful. And then I wonder, do I appear that way to them?
I have purposely not created a bubble. I listen to both sides, I strive to understand. I crave productive debate and rational discussion. Yet, I feel like that is not enough?