Life Is In The Small Moments

Personal turning points aren’t necessarily the larger than life scenes of dramatic cinema. Sometimes they’re small, quiet moments when your mind is finally ready to see what your body already knew. Sometimes the moments are so mundane in appearance that it’s not till later that you realize how remarkable that seemingly ordinary moment was. Such was the case for me.

Before I set off across the world, I spent most of my time in my corner office in a smoggy industrial gray part of Los Angeles – most of my days, most of my nights, and far too many weekends. I toiled for years to get that office. First the title, then the waiting for someone more senior to vacate, then the petty argument with the Operations manager about putting up a white board so had enough writing space to chart my campaigns, then the bureaucracy to get a standing desk before I actually contracted carpal tunnel like so many of my coworkers and a doctors note required it, directing the handyman to place the photographs where I wanted them, move in the extra filing cabinet and wall mounted book shelf (yes I still own such things). It was a labor. But when it was finished  I was proud of my office. It conveyed my stature, it displayed my accomplishments, it had good natural light.

Alone in my large office one late afternoon in March, the door shut, I hung up the phone with the Chief of Staff, and I knew I was done. I looked around the office that I had worked so hard to put together, my history in the organization sitting on every shelf, and hanging from every wall. I wanted to keep that office. I wanted to keep working with my staff. But I didn’t want to keep my job. I don’t remember what that particular discussion with the COS was about. He and I talked regularly. It wasn’t the time I hung up the phone with him after a particularly frustrating argument and immediately burst into tears. It wasn’t the time I walked out of the senior staff meeting thoroughly disgusted with the way the organization was demeaning and belittling accusations of sexual harassment that had surfaced on the heels of the #MeToo movement. And it wasn’t the time that I confronted our union president after one of his notorious tirades, this one directed at me for no particular reason, and told him, that he was abusive, that he had a drinking problem and that he needed professional help. Years of therapy crystallized in that moment as I realized I was still, in my 40’s, living with an abusive parental figure having merely transitioned from my step-father to my boss.

I stayed after all those incidents.

Continue reading “Life Is In The Small Moments”

Quitting: A Musical in Four Acts

I grew up with musical theatre. Maybe because I was born in NY it was always there. Musical theatre floated through the city on the wind. It was on Broadway and Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway. It was in junior high and high school. Often when something significant, or even not so significant, happens in my life the soundtrack for the moment flips on in my head, as if some unseen director has cued the orchestra. Well, something significant sure has been happening. Click on the links and enjoy the show!

ACT I: I started working toward quitting in January. Yes, in January I cleaned out my office and disposed of or distributed years of campaign binders. In February I wrote a list of advice I wanted to impart on the team I would leave behind. In April I went on medical leave to focus on restoring my health. Finally, after literally years of emotional manipulation on the part of my managers cajoling me to stay, after all the deep breathing and internal fortification I had to do to make the call, after months of practicing what exactly I would say, writing it down, running it by close confidants, after all of that, quitting was so…easy.

I’m proud of myself for keeping it simple, for not begging to leave but simply letting them know I was leaving. I am proud of myself for how gracious and kind my final calls to the bosses were, thanking them for the opportunity to open a vein and give my life blood to the organization, and even meaning it. I’m proud of myself for the way I have handled these final moments, something that would not have been possible four months ago. Still, in my head I was singing “boy, bye.”   


ACT II: I talked to the Chief of Staff, the Vice President and finally the PresidentAs soon as I hung up the phone with the President I felt free. I felt a hundred pounds lighter. I felt that I could fly. In fact, had I been doing cocaine I would have jumped off the roof of something and tried to literally fly and ended up dead. (It’s a good thing I don’t do cocaine). But I didn’t jump off anything. I just floated home. Free.


ACT III: On Sunday I went to the office to pick up the few things I wanted to keep – an award I won from AAPC and a few personal effects. I chose Sunday because I didn’t want to see anyone and subject myself to a string of phony maudlin goodbyes. I wanted to sail off into the night like Coco in the 80s tv show Fame: “goodbyes aren’t for people like you and me” she says to Bruno as she closes her locker door for the last time.

I was surprised by how much stuff there was in my office: files, campaign binders, certificates of accomplishment, photos and gifts accumulated through the years. I took what I wanted, threw some things out, left notes for my assistant on what to do with other things. I hadn’t seen it all for four months, and looking at again felt like looking at a life. A very full life full of very meaningful work. I stood in the doorway of my office and just took it all in.

I wrote cards and left gifts for a few people on my team who have meant the most to me, who have given me as much as I have endeavored to give them, people who I will care for for the rest of my life. I wrote a letter to my entire staff. They are the people in the organization who I love, who I’ve poured myself into, people who are inspired to make social change, who are not yet jaded and cynical, burnt out or corrupt. They are the future and they give me hope. I took what I wanted and closed my office door for the last time. To everyone else I said nothing.

By Monday morning everyone knew. The assistant director read my letter to my entire team. The chief of staff told the senior staff. It was public and it was over. And I have sailed off into the sunset just like Coco. Goodbye. And then I was signing again. 


ACT IV: DURING the call when the news of my resignation was being delivered to my staff I got a job offer. Someone texted someone who texted someone and before the announcement of my resignation was finished, someone called to offer me a job. I said I would consider it. Later that afternoon, after my email to friends and allies went out, I got three more invitations to discuss my future.

When I finished my panchakarma my doctor said my life would change. She said they had cleaned the toxins out of my body and they have cleaned my karma. She said doors would open for me, I would be more open to a partner and what I’ve lost will come back. I took the leap. And doors are already opening. Now I get to decide which door I walk through. 

Flying Cat Freeing Myself from Fear

I am someone who has always had very intense dreams during times of great conflict and change in my life. Their meaning often remains a puzzle to me; but I don’t fail to notice their increase in frequency, emotional intensity and my own heightened attention to my dreams during these times.

Last night (the night after I resigned from an organization I worked for for twenty years) I had a dream that I was carrying my cat in a messenger bag all over New York City (the city where I was born). I was flying with her in the bag slung securely over my shoulder looking for the address of our destination, first passing it flying too far north and then overcompensating flying too far south. She was getting annoyed by the sounds and lights of street traffic – headlights and car horns glaring and blaring up at us from the crowded street below.

At one point I saw another cat on the street that looked just like her and I thought it was her; I thought she had gotten out of the bag. So I landed on the street and took that cat and merged him with my cat. Together they made a kind of muted version of my cat, but extra furry. Then i realized the other cat wasn’t my cat at all – too furry and the beautiful mottling of her colors lost their distinct pattern in the extra fur – so i unmerged them back into two cats. I put my cat back into the messenger bag over my shoulder and left the other cat on the street in a semi-empty parking lot. My cat seemed somewhat free after the change, happy to be back to herself.

As I lifted us above the city streets, I held on tight to her. As we flew above the empty lot to be on our way, the other cat, was baring his toothless mouth at us, looking sad and confused.

img_0609.jpgI woke up confused. I have been having a lot of cat dreams lately and while I’ve always considered myself the crazy cat lady in waiting, this has been a bit much.

I think this dream is about leaving my job. My cat is my closest companion, subconsciously representing a part of myself – my heart, what is most precious to me. I thought my job was a part of me; now that I’ve separated from it all the fears I had about leaving are defanged (an animal without its teeth isn’t much of a threat). I can see the animal for the neutered beast that it is – isolated and ineffective. The dream ends with me leaving the beast behind. And then turning to look out across the city – my city – scanning for what’s next, holding tight to my heart as I head out on the journey.