Saturday, January 21, 2017

Saying Yes... Again...

March 7, 2009. I wrote and published a blog post titled Just Say Yes.You can read the post for yourself if you like, but basically it was about the decision to say yes to possibilities. At some point, I moved away from saying yes and moved toward maybe or perhaps later. From there it was only a matter of time until I heard myself saying no and then later, I can’t. I have said I can’t so many times. Too many times. I have said it aloud. I have said it to myself. I have put it on a loop and let it become my mantra. I can’t became a blanket. It felt safe. Safe is good. I’ve had a stroke. That is when I can’t started. I can’t walk. I can’t type. I can’t stand on one foot. I can’t run. I can’t (insert something here. I probably said that too!)

I can’t didn’t stop there. It started oozing into other areas of my life. I can’t be fit. I can’t be happy. I can’t be a good dad. I can’t be me. Me? In many ways, I have forgotten who I am. I shelved myself.

I became the partner.
I can’t be me. 
I became the business trainer and counselor.
I can’t be me. 
I became the dad.
I can’t be me. 

In between being a partner, dad and my job, I had absolutely no time to be me. I also didn’t even realize I had completely packed away who I was to be what was needed. I needed to be a good partner. I still do and I think I am. I also need to be a good dad. I think I do an OK job there. I enjoy my job. I’m very good at it. I have a great reputation. Robb knows. Robb can do it. Robb is the guy. I love the compliments. I love the trust people have in me. And at the same time, they have trust in a version of me. Me, and yet not me.

Just over a week ago, I hit a wall. I felt confined and suffocated. It wasn’t really triggered by anything and yet it was everything. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I started to feel scary things. Thing that were tinted with, I hesitate to even type it out now…

I love my family. I take great pride in my family. My family means the world to me. Ryder is the greatest love of my life. Ever. And yet, there it was. It wasn’t even really there. It was more like when you have a dream and you know someone is there even though you never actually see them. You just feel their presence. Yes, there it was, lingering just outside the edge of the picture. Resentment. When that word popped up in my head, it was shocking. It was scary. It was shaming.

How could I have that feeling when I am so in love with my family? My husband?  My son? My awesome-sometimes-frustrating-always-fantastically-perfect-just-as-he-is-son? It was a horrifying revelation. And since I have a very vivid and active imagination, I immediately projected decades into the future and saw how my whole family had fallen apart and John hated me, Ryder was in jail and I was miserable and alone and it all started at that moment. The moment I let my family down. The moment that slight tinge of resentment came into my life. Our lives.

Years ago, I was doing business with a company in Seattle. It was on a training visit that I got meet Deli and Halley. I had spoken to Deli many times on the phone and every word she said would sing through the phone with such authenticity, passion and so full of, well, Deli. Before meeting her, she became one of my favorite people. I loved her calls. She had me at hello, putting my spirits in a good place. I met her wife, Halley on that visit in Seattle. We spent a brief amount of time together and since then, we have always stayed in touch in that Facebook sort of way, liking updates, commenting here and there and then having the occasional conversation in Messenger. One thing I have come to LOVE about the universe or life or whatever name you want to give it, is when I can look back at seemingly insignificant moments and see those moments as the first steps toward something yet to be.

Halley and Deli have both been AMAZING sounding boards and my go-to people when parenthood rears it's overwhelming head. I knew Halley had been working on a book. Life, Incorporated: A Practical Guide to Wholehearted Living. I actually pre-ordered it months ago and it landed in my hands the morning following my resentment meltdown/revelation. I was still reeling from the shame and shock of it all when I opened to read the first few pages during a break at work. I was stunned. It was like Halley had channeled me. One of the first things she talks about, is the bullshit term of work-life balance. How we have so many places where we spend our energy. So many buckets to fill. Work. Marriage. Family. Me-Time. You get the point. Halley goes on to talk about how we attend to each one on an as-needed basis often times never getting to the Me-Time bucket. That was me. Ryder needs me more than anyone. And I gladly and freely give him my time. Time with him is my favorite time in the world. Even when I am at the end of my frustration rope, he is still my favorite person. His nose makes me smile. It would make you smile too. It’s so small and covered in freckles. He hates the freckles. I think they are spectacular! Anyway, Halley then goes on to talk about how, when she and Deli had their son, how she threw everything into being a mom and provider. And nothing into just being Halley.

I looked around for the cameras. Had she been watching me? Watching my life? I was only a few pages in and already I knew the reason for my meltdown. I had no Me-Time. ME-time. Not getting Ryder to bed so I could be alone for two minutes before dozing off to sleep time. I mean the Me-Time that charged my batteries. Fed my spirit and gave me joy. The Me-Time that let me be Robb. Just Robb. Not Robb the dad – although that is my favorite label! Not Robb the husband. Just Robb. I realized I had not only been neglecting the Me-Time bucket, I had put myself in a box and sealed it with duct tape. Not cool duct tape. Plain, boring, gray duct tape. I neglected and ignored myself. It was making me cranky. It was making me less patient. It was making me wade into the swamp of resentment and that was one place I definitely did not and do not want to be.

As much as I was loving Halley’s book, something was wrong. Something was missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I set the book down for a few days to let things simmer and to see what would emerge. Enter Cindy. Cindy is one of the people I have been so blessed to know these past two years. I don’t get to see her as often as I would like. She lives about a two-hour drive away in St. George, Utah. But, she was in Vegas this weekend and we had lunch yesterday. As always, the conversation was wonderful and her energy infectious. I told her about Life, Incorporated and the epiphanies I had already in the first few pages of the book. Conversation drifted and "Year of Yes", by Shonda Rimes came up. I had seen it. I never read it. Cindy has. We talked about Christina Yang. Christina was my favorite character on Grey’s Anatomy. When Christina left the show, so did I. Inwardly, I am a lot like Christina Yang. I related to her more than anyone on the show. Something in me decides I need to read that book. Now. Before I read anything else. Before I finish Life, Incorporated.

I bought the e-book and the audio book just before leaving work and started it up as soon as I got in my car. Within a couple of hours, between the audio and e-book, I was over half way through the book. I realized what was missing when reading Life, Incorporated. I was reading saying maybe, possibly, and a few other things. But I wasn’t saying yes. I realized I could read that book all I wanted to, but like anything, if I didn’t say yes, it wasn’t going to do anything.

Like I did all those years ago, I decided I am going to say yes. Not just to possibilities, but to things that scare me - thanks Shonda – To things that will fill me with joy – Thanks Halley – To things that will make me a better dad and a better husband. I am going to say yes to Me-Time. I will say yes to playing more games. Playing more in general. Yes to being silly. Yes to being a badass. Yes to being me. And yes to saying no to I can’t.

Now I am off to restart Life, Incorporated. Because… Yes!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

My Unwanted Reality

The shock of the election results is slowly fading away and I find myself moving from a place of disbelief and disappointment to outright anger. I am not angry that Hillary lost, I am angry that Trump won. There are other republicans I wouldn’t have minded so much. I have watched this election bring out the worst in so many people. So many people I love and call family. I have tried to stay out of the negative rhetoric, respecting everyone’s right to a different opinion. The election is over, but the negativity has not stopped. It has increased. Hate crimes have gone up. Trump winning the election means that sexual aggression toward women is OK. Being a racist and/or making racist slurs is OK. Bullying is OK. Hate is OK. Marginalizing entire groups of people is OK. All of that behavior was validated with votes.

I am angry that since the election, I have been living in ever-increasing fear of what this all might mean. What it might mean for me and my family. I’m angry that my family and I face an uncertain future. A future where we don’t even know what rights we will have. If we will even be able to be or stay married. Or keep our jobs. Or enjoy the basic liberties and freedoms that other people in this country do. I’m angry that John and I are on edge. I’m angry that Ryder knows something is in the air and it makes him scared and nervous. I’m angry that John and I have had to talk about what we will do if or when things escalate. Will we need to leave the country to protect our family? Will we need to basically become refugees from a country that was founded by people fleeing religious persecution? I’m angry that all the people who voted for Trump believe that my family, my rights, my life, is less than theirs. I know they are happy and think I should suck it up and get over it. I have seen the posts on Facebook telling me to do just that. But their rights and their families are not on the line.

In less than 72 hours after getting elected, Trump has pulled people into his inner circle that have definite anti-gay motives. And anyone who says they didn’t see that coming needed to look no further than his running mate, Mike Pence. During an October interview with James Dobson, host of the wildly homophobic Focus on the Family, which you can listen to here, Mike Pence assured his interviewer and his supporters that any progress made toward protecting LGBTQ rights under President Obama will be swiftly undone under President Trump. Issue by issue, he asserted over and over again a plan to marginalize and invalidate an entire group of citizens, including me and my family, whom he is about to lead as vice-president. 

Trump has pledged to sign the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), if passed by congress. If he does, it will legalize anti-LGBTQ discrimination across the board, including among employers, businesses, landlords and healthcare providers, as long as they claim to be motivated by firmly held religious beliefs. In March of 2015, Pence signed the Religious Freedoms Restoration Act into law while he was governor of Indiana.  

Trump’s domestic policy advisor, Ken Blackwell, spoke to the Columbus Dispatch when he was a candidate for the Ohio governorship, and stated that being gay is a sin, a lifestyle that can be changed and something that can be cured. On his 2000 campaign website, Mike Pence wrote “Congress should support the reauthorisation of the [HIV funding] Ryan White Care Act only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organisations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviours that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behaviour.”

Other members of the Trump transition team cited as red flags by the Human Rights Campaign are former Attorney General Ed Meese, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation who has said same-sex marriage “shows how the culture has deteriorated over two centuries,” and former U.S. Office of Personnel Management chief Kay Cole James, who in her book “Transforming America from the Inside Out,” compared gay people to drug addicts, alcoholics, adulterers, or “anything else sinful.”

On their blog, the National Organization for Marriage commits to working with Trump’s administration to:
  • Nominate conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court and inevitably reverse the ruling of the Supreme Court imposing same-sex ‘marriage’ on the nation. The quotes around marriage are theirs, not mine.
  • Rescind over-reaching executive orders and directives, including the dangerous “gender identity” directives.
  • Pass the First Amendment Defense Act. As I mentioned previously, Trump has already pledged to sign
Anyone who thinks my rights or the rights of my husband, child and family are not going to come under scrutiny and quite possibly get reversed has their head in the sand. His choices are clearly showing that is one of his administration’s big priorities.

I know I have friends and family that are happy for a Trump victory, and that is something I am having a very hard time dealing with and accepting. I am not less of a citizen. I am not less of a human. My family is not less than anyone else’s. My son is not less deserving of a safe and secure family than his friends. My relationship is not less than yours. My life is not less than Trump, the people in his administration and the people that voted for him believe.

People have the right to vote for whoever they chose. It is one of the things that make our country great. But one person’s vote should not cost the rights of another.

This is going to take some time.

This is going to take a very long time. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

I Don't Belong Here

A few days ago, a dream of mine came true. After over a year of planning, conversations, preparation and dreaming, I was finally holding the first leadership workshop under my own company. I sat in the room, with a small group of people, all of whom had paid to be there for six weeks, two and a half hours each week, fifteen hours in total, and I was the person they were all looking to as the leader. And then as I started talking, all I could think about was that I should not be there, that I did not belong there, that I would say something and everyone in the room would know I was a fraud. I was in a moment of my dreams and I felt like an impostor.

This was not the first time this type of thing happened, and over the years I thought it was just me. I thought I was the only one waiting for the phone call, the email, the knock on the door when someone would tell me the gig was up and I had been found out and it was over. When I would stumble over a word or felt things weren’t going exactly as I had planned, that tape would loop and I found myself having what I can only describe as an internal panic attack while on the outside I was trying to remain calm and confident. I left the workshop feeling relieved it was over, but also asking myself what the hell I was thinking when I thought this would all be a good idea. Who did I think I was, anyway? I felt like a fugitive from the fraud police.

In the past, I would have let it eat at me. I would have spent the time between the last workshop and the one next week, repeating that dialogue and chipping away at whatever confidence I had that would let me walk into the next one. This time, I am doing it a bit different.

I don’t believe that absolutely everything happens for a reason, but I do believe that some things do and I also believe that some people come into our lives at moment we need them, and whether they stay or are just passing through in a matter of moments, they can change everything.

A few weeks ago, I was having lunch with a friend of mine, Nyla, a dynamic woman with the kind of presence that ignites a room just by being there. We were talking and she said something that immediately resonated. She also speaks and holds workshops and she told me that so many times, just before giving a talk, she was all set to go out and be her complete and authentic self, but then suddenly sent her representative in her place. I immediately knew what she meant. It can be very difficult and intimidating to just be ourselves. It is something I struggle with when I am in front of people and expected to be an expert on something or feel I have to keep people entertained. When doing leadership work I feel it even more. If I am authentic and let everyone see how vulnerable I feel, will anyone take me seriously? But if I am not authentic, then who am I in that moment?

About a week ago, I was at an event my company organized where Punam Mathur, a vibrant and respected business person spoke. A few days later she phoned me and suddenly, I was having a mini coaching session. She asked me “When was the last time you failed so badly that you never recovered?” The answer, of course, is never. She asked me if I knew what “FEAR” stood for and when I replied that I did not, she told me it stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. I don’t know if that is something she came up with or got from someone or somewhere else, but it resonated with me and when I am in those moments of feeling fear, I remind myself of this.

Around the same time, another friend of mine introduced me to the work of Amy Cuddy. I watched her TED talk and then dove into her book “Presence.” One of the things she talks about is impostor syndrome or impostorism, the term I prefer. I was stunned to discover that not only does it affect around 70% of people, a number I believe to actually be higher based on conversations I have been having, it reaches across professions, academic achievements, accolades, awards, cultures, genders and pretty much every aspect of life. It is a topic that I am becoming increasingly passionate about.

I love working in leadership, holding classes and workshops, watching people blossom and grow while I myself learn and change as I go on the journey with them. I have realized that we can never reach our full leadership potential – or any potential, for that matter, if we are operating from that belief that we are a fraud and we don’t belong where we are, and people on our team are operating from the same belief and fear, then how can we possibly achieve that level of greatness we are striving for?

I decided to try the advice that Amy Cudder gives in her TED talk. There is a lot of research done by her and others around the idea that body posture affects our confidence and stress. I watched the talk and while I was inspired and intrigued, I immediately thought “Seriously? Body posture can change my thinking and mood?” I did her experiment one morning when I was feeling particularly vulnerable and emotionally homeless. And I was two hours from standing in front of a group of people for a training. While I wanted to believe something so simple could work, I knew there was no way it would. I took her advice and did my little experiment to prove her wrong.

Her advice is basically this: Change your posture in certain ways for two minutes. One of the ways she talks about resembles the typical superhero pose; standing tall, shoulders back, chest out, chin up and hands on hips. The media has since named this “The Wonder Woman Pose.” I live in a house full of superhero comics, and figures and had infinite examples of inspiration for this type of pose, but the idea of a Wonder Woman pose struck me as funny and so I went with it. I went into the bathroom and closed the door. If I was going to stand like Wonder Woman for two minutes, I was going to do it in private!

In less than a minute, I felt myself smiling a bit. I could feel my confidence increase and my stress lessen. This is all backed up by science. Adopting a power pose for just two minutes, increases testosterone, which elevates confidence and decreases cortisol, which is responsible for stress.

From now on, I will do my poses. In private, of course. And not only that, but now in my leadership workshops, I am going to share this knowledge in the first class, so that anyone going through those feelings of not belonging, being a fraud and therefore, not being fully present and standing in their own path to success, can hopefully move it aside just long enough to connect a bit more.

And over time, that feeling of “I don’t belong here” will diminish and just maybe, vanish. Would love to hear your comments on this.