Who you gonna call?

To you I call, O Lord my rock…

The opening to Psalm 28. I read it this morning and stopped to think, to reflect on the message the God might want me to take from these words this morning.

And what do I hear?

Who you gonna call? … Ghostbusters!

Deep, meaningful … hmmm. But then again, who do I call? Often when I’m talking to people who are feeling lonely, they do talk about having nobody to call when they’re feeling down. Who do you call to cheer you up? To listen to your rant? To share your joy? To help you? Often it’s a partner or a family member or a close friend. The oft-repeated phrase used to express true friendship or true love – “they’re just always there for me …”

David opens his psalm by affirming God’s place. God is the one he calls to first. God will always be here, the description of God that follows confirms this:

Oh Lord my rock …

A rock is so solid and comfortable – it’s not going anywhere. I’m reminded of another phrase – a solid lump of comfort – it’s a phrase used in the Chalet School books to describe someone’s husband who has been particularly steadfast through a tricky situation.

But what is God saying to me? How do I put these together?

God is a rock, he is unchanging and steadfast. He is my solid lump of comfort. And it should be to him that I call, regardless of circumstances, and he will be there to hear me.

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How are you?

Recently, I’ve been a lot more aware of what I need. Of what is right for me. There’s been an increase in my self-awareness and an increase in my ability to say what I mean. And to say what I need.

I remember times at school when I’d come home day after day and my dad would ask how my day had been and I’d say fine and run upstairs. Every day. He commented on it from time to time but I just kept saying that it was just fine, nothing amazing, nothing awful, just fine.

Plus there’s the not minding. What do you want to do? I don’t mind. Where do you want to eat? I don’t mind. What do you want to see? I don’t mind. 

Are you ok? Yeah, fine.

How are you? Fine. 

Fine, don’t mind, fine, don’t mind, fine, don’t mind.

Except that frequently I’m not fine and frequently I do mind. So why don’t I say so?

I challenged someone on something yesterday. She’s a doer. You ask her how she’s been and she tells you the things she’s done. You ask her how she is and she tells you what she’s doing.

I stop her.

How are you?

And she doesn’t know what to say. Oh, I’m fine … 

Sometimes I feel so much pressure to be doing something – to be achieving and producing and constructing. Even when I’m tired. Even when I don’t really want to and I know that whatever I do manage to do will be second rate precisely because my heart just isn’t in it.

Obviously, sometimes I will have to grit my teeth and get on with something. I’m probably never going to be that enthusiastic about cleaning the bathroom. 

But sometimes I will feel things and want to do things and have emotions and there’s no reason why I can’t say those things. The good, the bad and the ugly. I can say how I feel. I can say what I want. It’s okay to do that. 

I’ve said it before, if I like it when people are genuine with me, why do I think I can be anything else with them?

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Making friends

Inspired by this post from Emily, I’ve been thinking about networking a little bit this evening. I work in a corporate environment and, as I move up the organisation, people keep emphasising the importance of using your networks, of developing influence. But it all seems a bit corporate brown-nose-y for me.

I don’t like the idea of getting to know people because I think I might be able to make use of them in some way at some point in the future. It feels manipulative. It doesn’t feel genuine.

And then there are other considerations. I still think of my self as quite a shy and self-conscious person. I often clam up in situations where there are a lot of people that I don’t know or if I’m afraid of looking stupid (which is fairly often). How am I ever going to be any good at networking?

I’ve got concerns about what it looks like for a woman to be networking in a male-dominated environment. I find it easier to build relationships with women and to keep in touch with them after I’ve worked with them. I feel a little odd trying to maintain contact with men when we’ve both moved on, scared that it’ll come across the wrong way.

But increasingly, I am coming to realise that I actually have more influence than I realise. I actually know more people in the organisation than most of my peers and when I was working with clients, I often managed to build positive relationships with client staff that meant I was given far more information than was ever revealed in the formal meetings. Does this mean I’m good at networking?

As with everything else when it comes to leadership, I think that this is a case of my expectations of other people’s views are a long way from reality. I didn’t convince people that I should get onto a leadership training programme because I’d managed to fool them into thinking I could be good at networking and leading in a particular way. I got onto the leadership training programme because they looked at me, just being myself, and for some reason saw some potential for leadership that they wanted to develop. So if I got onto the course by just being myself, if I got to where I am now by just being myself, if I developed internal and external relationships by just being myself, why do I keep trying to force myself to change?

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I’ve had two pictures in the last couple of days. Someone shared one with me yesterday – I was in a canoe, drifting down a river in beautiful surroundings. It wasn’t necessary to paddle, just every now and again, to dip a paddle in one side or the other to steady myself, or steady my course.

The other image comes from a blog that I’ve been reading recently: chattingatthesky It talks about currents in the sea and how relaxing and allowing yourself to drift with the current is easier than staying steady as a rock.

It all reminded me of how much I enjoy swimming and being on boats, and even in canoes/kayaks when the water’s reasonably calm. I like going with the flow when actual water is involved. It’s the figurative flowing that I find a little more difficult. I like to stay in control and to know what is happening. That way I’ll feel safe and I’ll be able to plan.

But sometimes the best thing to do is to let go. You’re not going to get down the river if you never let go of the bank.

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On a Saturday night …

It is twenty-five past eleven on a Saturday night and what am I doing? I’m making bread. From scratch. The River Cottage method (it takes a while). And it’s not as though I’m just waiting to take it out of the oven – I’m waiting for it to ferment. It is taking its time to rise and after that, there will be the shaping, proving and baking.

Perhaps I should have done this earlier. But earlier there was a party to go to, some people to catch up with, tennis to watch and time to waste.

Really, I should have just accepted an hour ago that I wasn’t going to make bread tonight and just left it until Monday evening when I could have started earlier and generally had more time. But I wanted to make bread.

I find it incredibly soothing – there’s a rhythm and certainty to this way of bread making. Particularly the kneading. Rather than violence and stress relief … that’s what I used to understand by kneading … there’s a real rhythmic stretching and scooping and spinning and smoothing. And it works (at least it did last time, still remains to be seen about this time).

So even when there’s a lot going on, or perhaps especially when there’s a lot going on, I like to spend a few hours making bread.

Plus it makes the house smell amazing!

There are no mistakes. You might do it differently next time, but that’s because you did it this way this time. Perfect, even if you say too much this, too little that. It’s you and please be yourself.
~(Tassarjara bread book, as quoted in River Cottage handbook No.3: Bread)

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I’ve spent this evening with a good friend. In the circumstances of our lives, we’re quite different. OK, so we’re both white, middle class girls in our 20s, but apart from that …

She was brought up as a Christian, I was brought up as an atheist
I’m a graduate, she’s not
She’s married, I’m not
She has one son and is a full-time mum, I have no children and am a full-time accountant 

I know these things don’t define either of us but they do mean that our lives are very, very different. But I love the fact that we can still just share our lives with each other. We don’t have a lot in common on the outside but we still want to hear about what’s going on in the other’s life.

And I learn so much from her, and I hope she learns things from me. If I do get married in the future, I will be better prepared for marriage from having open conversations with my married friends and in the meantime, I’m better able to recognise what I have in my single life, as well as what I would want to look for in a husband. I hear about raising a child and realise how Not Ready I am for that.

I love just processing things out loud with her over dinner and ice cream.

So, really, this is just to remind me of how much I have to learn from people who do things differently.

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In which I use the West Wing to discuss identity

Over recent weeks, I’ve been re-watching the seventh series of the West Wing. When I first started watching the West Wing, I remember someone warning me that Sorkin left at the end of series 4 so everything got a little shakey after that.

Part of the shakiness is to do with the integrity of the characters created by Sorkin. I think it was Richard Schiff (Toby Ziegler) who commented that he didn’t feel that his character as conceived by Sorkin would ever have done what he ended up doing in the final series.

I wonder if it is partly this that means that most of my favourite moments in the last episodes come from the Santoses – characters new to the show in the post-Sorkin era. These characters were not conceived in the Sorkin mode and therefore they think and act in a different way. So the post-Sorkin scripting comes more naturally to them. It fits with who they are.

In contrast, no matter how good your actors – in fact, particularly when you have good actors(!!) – it is difficult to fit a new style of writing to characters created on a former style, particularly when Sorkin is all about the dialogue.

I know they’re only fictional but I’ve heard a couple of people talking about identity recently and something linked up in my brain this afternoon. It’s really confusing when people that you know in one way – people whose identities you think you’ve established – suddenly start behaving in a different way, suddenly start being someone else.

It can actually become quite uncomfortable, because you no longer know what to expect from them. And you start to doubt yourself, your judgement of people, your depth of understanding and the nature of your relationship with someone.

Surely it’s only a small step from that doubt and uncertainty to being uncertain of our own identities? And that’s not a particularly comfortable place to be either.

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