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Monday, August 22, 2011

Road Warriors/Write a Back Story

Ah....Monday's are always sure to come around.  Let's buckle down and get some work done, yes? This morning Joey and I were chased off the dog beach by swarms of biting black flies, they were crazy making.   He and I were both miserable so we hightailed it back to the house and enjoyed a lazy time on the deck, I drank coffee and he munched a bone.

I actually had a good weekend!  That's HUGE!  The heaviness in my heart is lifting and not a moment too soon.  Between the silly time at Schaller's Pump on Friday, the party at the Bloom School of Jazz on Saturday, and yesterday, sleeping in and then dinner on my deck with dear friends Steve and Helen, it was a happy three days. I am proud of myself for having a fighting spirit and choosing happiness over despair.  I will always, from this experience, be compassionate about people who are crippled with despair...it's a desperate place to be. And once you descend there, it is like being in a dark, dank well with slippery sides.   Easy to say, "snap out of it!" but the reality is, there is no snapping.  It's like you have been buried alive with stones crushing your chest.  My friends came to my rescue - they didn't let the stones crush me.   They couldn't remove them all, but they were able to lift enough of them so I could survive long enough to find my own will.  And when that will was restored, I forced myself erect - the rest of the stones are falling away.

So last night, Steve, Helen and I talked about everything under the sun.  We sat out on the twinkly deck for hours and caught up. I loved hearing about the international projects they worked on this year - especially the one they did in Iraq where they had to implement software that would be used by the nascent government to manage legislative initiatives.  Steve travels the world over as a "have gun will travel" networking consultant.   He is hired because he has a unique ability to deliver and execute, despite the challenges of working with people of other cultures, many of whom are accustomed to stuff not getting done.   He embodies the American "can-do" spirit.   I told Steve I'm at a point in my life where I would like to have some adventure.   My kids are grown, my business pretty much runs itself these days, I'm not in a relationship, and I am looking for my next raison d'etre.  He and Helen both think my skills would translate well to international project management.   I think I have the right combination of fearlessness, focus and charm to be effective.  So we'll see where this goes!  I will throw my hat into the ring and see if I can get a gig.  My kids will laugh at the idea of me being a road warrior - this is the woman who travels with her own down pillow!

So to look at Steve, Helen and even me, a casual observer would never guess what power houses we are.  Helen looks like a Mary Englebreit sweet older lady whose only passion is pruning roses.   Steve looks like your average guy who could be found at a bar watching the ballgame, eating pretzels.  I look like a pleasant middle aged woman who wouldn't hurt a fly.   And yet, we three could be a swat team.  We would be so unlikely no one would see us coming.   When Helen was in Iraq, the Iraqis and the American project manager thought they could marginalize her - they had no idea who they were messing with.   She showed them up, time after time, producing and executing in a way that humbled them.   Steve always gets his man - he  immerses himself in the local culture, immediately knows who the real power brokers are, and then aligns himself properly to get the resources he needs to execute.  And you all know I am not a woman to be trifled with - as Patrick would say, "I will be as nice as you let me".  I am fair and kind, but when I need to, I have ice in my veins - my motto, "do whatever it takes to get the job done as long as you don't break too many laws".

That got me to thinking about how people pigeon-hole each other.  I'm as guilty as the next person. When I meet someone new, I look at their appearance and make instant judgments based on nothing, really. What a waste that is - think of all the interesting people I may have missed getting to know because I decided they were not worth talking to - too old, too unattractive, too something. I've decided to challenge my assumptions.  I'm also going to exercise some creative muscle.  Now when I pass people on my walks, I am going to "write" them an interesting back story.   The old man who walks slowly, looking at his feet, used to be the president of Morgan Stanley. He was also an ambassador under the first Bush administration to Argentina where he learned to tango.  He met his third wife there, she was the daughter of a general and an internationally acclaimed dancer.  She killed herself by drinking anti freeze when their late-in-life child died of SIDS or was suffocated by the nanny (there were suspicions).  He now lives with his daughter in Evanston and is writing his memoirs. You get the idea....I could have a lot of fun with this and my guess is the real stories people have to tell are even more interesting than what I could concoct!

So today, challenge your assumptions and look at the people around you with fresh and curious eyes.   Try and imagine what they do or did for work, what hidden talents they may have, what qualities they have that they are loved for, and if you can figure out a way to strike up a conversation, try and discover the thing that makes them tick.   My friend Carol is so adept at this.  I joke she collects people - she has a human menagerie of friends and acquaintances.   I think she finds the rest of us clueless when it comes to socializing and networking.   If you meet Carol, she will look at you with undivided interest and within minutes she will know more about you than I do, even though I may have known you for years.  She REALLY listens and then asks just the right questions to discover even more.  Once you have been "indexed", she mentally cross checks you against every other person she has ever met and soon you will be receiving e-mails or calls from her with introductions to other like minded people, books that seem to have been written just for you, ideas of places to go and things to see, etc.   We, her friends,  joke that she is our "concierge of life".  Carol would NEVER look at someone and make snap judgments - everyone is interesting to her, everyone has a story worth knowing.

The above picture is Liza and Pam wearing their new dinner roll "snackware" fine jewelry line.   I'm sure you can commission a piece from them if you're willing to pay.


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