The Import of Ice Water

I’ve been reading over my blogs (ok, there are only 4, so not so hard) and I’m realizing that I’ve not spent as much time on the blending part of my life. I’ll be honest, it’s been a tough summer in the blending department. Perhaps it’s that 3 of the 4 kids are teenagers. Or perhaps it’s because blending families, no matter how many years later, is really hard. I mean hard like heart wrenching, head splitting, deafening, stunned “how could what I’ve just innocently done result in THAT?”, I must be the stupidest person in the world, how could I make that same mistake again, hard.

And yet, there are the minor miracles. The small breakthroughs. The minutes where there is full and total equilibrium on that beam. And occasionally, there is even room for quick, breathless, slightly wobbly pirouette. Last Thursday evening, we had one.

Late in the evening one of our children came into the TV room where Pete and I were watching Doc Martin (aside – if you’ve missed this, don’t…). Of course, I love all our children, and I’ve got an special soft spot for this one because she’s struggled with the blending and she is often distant. I just want to wrap her in my arms and assure her everything will be (eventually) ok. But for now it’s a lot of pain and I’m the focal point of that. I never feel more helpless and clueless than when I realize nothing I do can fix the pain and everything I do causes pain. And as a ninja problem solver in the rest of my life, it is humbling, and really really scary.

She was stressed. In fact, the entire household is a little stressed right now with back to school. Three of the four kids have completely new routines, new environments, new friends, new, new, new. And she was panicking. Shallow breathing, chest pounding, sternum aching fear. And at that moment, all I saw was someone who desperately wanted and needed something I could provide – perspective, calm, some light humor and a glass of ice water. After falling of the beam again and again, there I was, nailing the routine. And more importantly, we were nailing it together. And as she unfolded herself from the couch and headed to bed, she thanked me.

Not bad for an amateur. I’ll keep practicing.

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First-Aid Disruption

Ok, I’ll admit it, I’m a word perfectionist. If I ever wondered it before, the creation this week of my first resume in 13 years removed any doubt. I’m not a perfectionist in real life, just when I’m staring at a blank page and realizing that every single comma, ampersand, turn of phrase or acronym has meaning. Done well, it’s the the kind of meaning that grabs you by the collar and shakes you into a action or inspiration. No pressure. Luckily, I think it’s the only perfectionist tendency I inherited from my father. But, then, can you expect anything less from a woman raised by a man who incorporated poetry regularly into his law briefs? I’ve always though he did the impossible, to take writing within strict rules and sneak in creativity. Bending, not breaking.

I think I got some of that from him too. The idea of disruption at the edges. There are a number of ways to get there. I used to think that it was bifurcated; either it was the art of “in-your-face” disruption, or the “you’ll wake up one day and realize everything has changed” type disruption. And while it has taken me numerous stumbles, left with my own foot shot off at times, or lulled into a false sense of change, I can honestly say that having tried both methods, I’ve realized that there is a third, more effective model – a hybrid of sorts.

I call it First Aid Disruption. As I’ve practiced and evolved this skill, I’ve been influenced from three places. First, is Ron Heifetz and Larry Linsky’s leadership theory: the best leaders disappoint teams at the rate with which they can handle the change. Second, words of wisdom from my terrific coach, Sabina Nawaz, reminding me about the need to hand out band-aids during a change “marathon” vs put someone in the car and drive them to the finish line. And from psychologist Janice Driver, who taught me about the art of distress tolerance, I’ve learned about the power of siting directly in emotion and letting its waves wash over you.

First Aid Disruption is simple in theory: in times of change, the leader must not only chart the course, run it yourself, but to bring the team along, you have establish First Aid stations along the way with band-aids, extra socks and water. Not only can you not take the blisters for the team, to be successful and actually affect real change, everyone must have a least a few raw spots. They have to each take the journey, and it’s the leader’s job to ensure they are cared for along the way. Of course, your feet will be chewed up too. And to truly change, each member of the team has to feel the rub, they have to learn how to care for their wounds with the tools you give them, and then they have to choose to finish the marathon, because of the strength they found through the rough patches. No pain, no gain takes on new meaning in organizational First Aid.

As the summer wanes, school starts up again, and I attempt to encapsulate my nearly 20 years of work history onto a few pieces of paper, I’m reminded of the value of blisters and the thrill of getting across the finish line, together. I’m gearing up for the next race!