The week of taking stock

Thus begins the last week of the year, the week between Christmas and New Years Day, a week off for many people, and so it is for me. Except I have a research project I’m still gathering data for, an interview meeting on Wed, and probably a meeting with a graduate student on Thurs.  No matter.  It’s still a light week in terms of work, and the last week in the year.  To some the new year becomes a time for resolutions, a renewed attempt to “do better” than the previous year.  I’m not much for resolutions, but there is an added reason for taking stock; my birthday falls during this week that already signifies both closure and new beginnings. Doubly burdened with evaluative and planning potential, the last week in the year impels me to look back at my progress, identify mistakes and missteps, push toward new goals and/or reinvigorate established ideals.  Usually I do much of this rumination during a long run or series of them; running helps to clear my mind. Sometimes I use tools or rubrics for the evaluation and planning. This time I’m making it visible by showing some of my process here. It begins with the realization that my birthday is coming and the year is ending, a subtle switch in the back of my mind from getting things done to contemplation.

Using a 2008 NYT process by Michael Melcher, I made a list of what I did in 2011. As such lists go, it spans some ground, including items like a whale watching tour aboard a catamaran, maintaining a long run base, starting a new book project, and leadership training, as well as voluntary public speaking when I introduced a colleague who was winning a service award. As usual, travel was a consistent theme with trips to Denver, Hawaii, and Florida, while career growth barely outpaced fitness goals like persistant speed work for dominance on the list.  Ballroom dancing lessons figure prominently, not due to the amount of time we spent at them but because they were symbolically important.

Compared to 2010, this year has been what sports teams call a growth year. No additional marathon, no awards, a slower pace with publications, but dear goddess it was also less filled with dread and pain.

The next step, of course, is to use this list and my analysis of it to plan for next year, set appropriate goals.  While I am working on those steps, maybe I’ll take that offline.  Good luck with your end-of-year evaluation.  Taking stock has its benefits, despite the discomfort.

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He Still Doesn’t Get It

A few days ago I posted about my sibling, who for some reason (patriarchy/kyriarchy) believes that I should be required to discuss the topics he chooses with him. He does not believe I am allowed to decide which topics make me comfortable and which do not.

Much of what must have appeared like sibling rivalry to my parents was simply a matter of me feeling like I should be able to direct my own fate and my brother believing that he (as eldest and male) should direct both of our lives.

This week, when I sent a direct, kind response telling my brother that I would not discuss Africa plans with him, but that I would like to build a relationship based on mutual respect as siblings, he sent a long, embittered reply that went from scary to pitiful.  The gist of his message was that if I do not talk about my security plans for my trip with him, I must either a) feel superior or b) be planning something illegal.  These bizarre conjectures ignore a simpler explanation, the truth actually, that I might just prefer not to talk about it with him.  It also suggests that for me to say no to a request from my sibling must always needs be negative.  There is no room for me to make my own decisions in a quiet, non-involved way.  Either I say yes to whatever he asks of me or I have bad intentions.  It’s a nice construction if you are him, and you do not expect women to ever have their own ideas or plans, but it leaves me little room to speak freely in the family.  Luckily, these crisis points only occur every three or so years.

The always obey (for that is the reality) or you must have bad intentions construction reflects a situation I have been in since childhood.  Only now, as I work to address this lifelong bully in firm but kind ways, do I see how insidious his affect on my life has been.  No wonder I fear other people’s anger.  No wonder I avoid rather than engage when people question me.  I spent much of my younger days being told or otherwise instructed that my thoughts and actions were not my own, but were either “for” or “against” my older brother.  Super weird, when I mostly just wanted to be left alone to read books.  I think that may have insulted him the most.  As soon as I could read, books became my preferred playmate and I ceased thinking my brother was the most important person in the world. It must have stung being rejected for an inanimate object, but books do not hit.  They do not chase.  They do not taunt.

I’ll write here what I wish I could write to him (30 years ago preferably) and to my parents but never can. They seem self-evident, but not to bullies.

1. I am my own person. My choices are mine to make.

2. Sometimes my choices have nothing to do with you. Sometimes I make choices for reasons you cannot understand.

3. You are not entitled to a reason for my choices, including my choices about how, when, and about what subjects I communicate with you.  I may want to explain those choices, but I am not required to do so.

4. Just because you want me to be someone or do something, doesn’t make that desire my responsibility.

5. When I do not comply with your wishes, it is not an attack upon your person.

6. When I do not comply with your wishes, it does not mean that my reasons are necessarily negative.

7. I know what is best for me, and you cannot possibly know the complexities of my life unless I choose to share them.

8. I do not spend my life finding ways to hurt your feelings. I actively try to avoid it to be honest.