Friday morning i was cranky.
I cannot believe that was a four day week. It felt like a month had passed since the Labor day weekend. I'd spent time in post mortem meetings about the August install and meetings wringing hands over the November install: death watches, as a friend suggested, picking up on the theme of the post mortem. I'd trouble-shot, and a stack of the trouble shooting had nothing to do with my team's work. I am, apparently, one of the "best" (where best equals willing, i think) plus, as authentication and authorization is entangled with everything, it's easy for everyone to point to it as the root cause of a mysterious issue.
My counterpart said, "Go home." And as i wanted my staff member to "go home," i did. Well, i set skype to "invisible" while she set hers to "away," thus i witnessed her responding to a team member's request for help.
I then spent the afternoon and evening on the questions facing our meeting's Nominating committee. Yesterday morning, i followed up on details and put more data into my Numbers spreadsheet.
As an aside: the Number's application sucks when it comes to managing something like 300 rows and 9 columns. I have to wait while the CPU use goes to over 100% (dual core CPU, so it's possible) if i change a row so its sort order needs to be reevaluated. This is what you get for $20 vs paying for excel. It's pretty, but maybe i just need to learn how to really use mySQL.
I also spent some time with Christine, who is still recovering from the grief and frustration of her trip east to see family (the week after the August install: we are all still recovering). She's also missed me as i disappear into deep work distractions or into my relief work of peering at Friends' process or my photography or botany research.
This morning i posted the following to a mailing list of Quaker friends:
T--'s observation, of discovering something new about a dear friend [she writes about newly noticing birds in her daily walks in the woods], leads me to write about my new hope.
I think i've written about the depression i've wrestled with over the past years and how that is tied up with my employment: my workplace is wringing all the management skills out of me, particularly the gambling part of management. Gambling? Yes, the decisions one is forced to make with too few resources. Just like someone choosing to fix their car instead of pay for health insurance (because without the car they can't get to work, yet...), when one has too few staff, one is gambling that not working on this to work on that will allow you to eventually get back and fix this. And then there's the engagement with people, which, for this introvert, is pretty costly, too.
I think i do the management well, but it's not the part of me that hums and brings in more energy than it takes. It sucks me dry.
This spring i engaged with a career counselor and was blessed to be dropped by one who would have probably led me down the wrong path, to find just the right person. She led me through an exercise of brainstorming that has opened me to how i can take a current joy and start it down the way to another type of employment.
Over the past eighteen months i've been intentionally photgraphing California wildflowers and then working to identify them. I've gone from "I have a blue flower" to learning patterns of plant families to taking flowers from my garden and gently dissecting them. My photography has improved, and i might just commit to always carrying a tripod.
As a move to shift my career, I'm working with my spouse, Christine, to create iPad apps to teach the skills for identifying flowers.
I need a deep grounding for work, and as i run away from management (which i find to be a type of ministry) i needed to find a similar spiritual grounding for this work. The importance of diversity in an ecosystem and helping people be aware of difference: yes, that's of value, but...
And i held on to that "But..." in worship for some time.
And then it came to me, how important it is for each of us to be seen. We're not just blue flowers or men or women: we are distinct, and we want others to truly see us. To truly see a flower, you have to see the whole plant, and to see that plant you really need to take the time to look. To know each other, we have to take the time to listen and observe.
To distinguish between the different genus and species of popcorn flower one has to look at the bristly hairs on the plant. I think of my undergraduate years in physics. Professors would exchange the names of another woman and i when calling on us in class: we were close friends but we were not interchangeable women in physics! Not only could visual observation distinguish us, but our research interests and -- oh, how could i forget how differently we went about solving problems: I used a sensible visual understanding of the math and she just did crazy things -- our problem solving styles were quite distinctive.
How sweet it is when we are known, when you know me well enough to know that drawing me a picture (or graphing out the data) is going to help me understand quickly. We want you to slow down, understand where our birds live and our spiders spin their webs, understand whether our bristles are soft or not, remember to draw us a picture. Taking the time to know others, to observe all the distinctive aspects, as opposed to putting folks in a box (Lesbian or Gay or Bisexual or Transgendered or, damnit if you have to put this writer in one, call it Queer) and being done: this is a ministry.
I'm not sure if any iPad app can express this ministry, but that understanding is guiding my vision of how to express my passion going forward. I don't know if our app model will be enough to feed us or if it brings us attention for other employment (more gigs for Christine, contract work in environmental monitoring and data analysis for me), but it's a hope i can nourish and grow.
I'm delighted by reading T--'s adventure with her creek, accepting her narrative as another person's adventure in practicing taking the time to see.