Journeying into the business world... one undiscovered culture at a time

Welcome to [Per]Suit of Anthropology, a blog dedicated to the exploration of modern business trends and perspectives from the view of anthropologist, with a special emphasis on cultural understandings of work-life balance and disability rights in the workplace. This blog is a way for me to connect two sides of my professional self that I see in constant dialogue. Though the business world and the anthropological world may not believe it - they have more in common and more to learn from one another than readily acknowledged. Topics covered include: Western business practices and the impact of those decisions on socio-cultural institutions worldwide, invisible disabilities, Ignatian spirituality, work-life balance, and some discussion of issues of tourism and its impacts on culture, and common human capital practices in private industry and government.






Tuesday, April 25, 2017

An invitation to rest

I can hear the rain gently falling on the window. A calm, pitter patter that soothes the senses. The world looks grey, bleary and beckons us to stay inside. To rest a while. To take off your shoes, curl up with a good book while all the dust and pollen and pollutants are washed clean, and the earth made fresh and whole.

In my own life, I've recieved this same invitation to rest. No doubt many of you could tell in my last blog post how exhausted I was. It was true - I was at the end of my energy reserves. I knew that something was going to have to give. This time, I knew it would not be me, my health, or my family. That left one option: in mid-March I left my job.

It was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. I truly loved my job (or perhaps 85% of it). Unfortunately, that other 15% that I didn't like was starting to loom larger and larger - demanding more time and energy than I had to give. Since my seizure in December, I hadn't recovered fully. I had issues with high level cognition, memory, and concentration. The harder I tried to make things work at work the more that any modicum of success seemed to elude me. I was crying on a daily basis - exhausted from the moment I woke up to when I would crawl into bed. I had no energy for even the simple things of life - and that worried me. I became increasingly concerned that I was going to have a seizure, and that is never a good place to be.

I raised this with my boss and with HR - hoping, praying that something else in the organization could be found that would be a better match. But, alas, that was not to be. The pace of my organization was increasing across the board - and I knew that simply changing jobs internally wasn't really going to give me the balance I needed. So it was with heavy heart, but ultimately a lot of understanding and compassion from those at work, that I left.

It has been a wonderful choice. When I first left, I felt like a failure. So many other women can do the working mom thing, why couldn't I? What kind of example was I setting for my daughter? How was I helping my family by leaving this job that I so enjoyed? Well, for one, I feel more like myself than I have in years.

I recognized that in leaving my work, my life and body was calling me to come away, to rest a while. And it has been good. I have been more present to my family and friends in simple ways that I had forgotten. I have energy to call people in the evening, or to do little things around the house that have been bugging me forever. And since my seizure two years ago, and the birth of my child, for the first time in a long time I feel physically and emotionally healed. I don't feel like the edge of my soul is worn ragged - snagging on every little inconvenience life throws my way. Instead, I've been told by a few people that there is a light in my eyes that hasn't been there for some time.

Sure, as a mom, I am tired, but it is the good tired you feel when you know your day and life has been worth living. I haven't done anything in terms of worldly success - no published papers, no tasks at work checked off. But I have been there for myself and those I love - and that has made all the difference.

Now - onto the interesting quest of finding a job with a culture that is a better fit for me. Somewhere where my desire to have meaningful work - but work that is not overshadowed by my life - possible. Where I can help others recognize truths in themselves to be the people they are meant to be; sharing their gifts and talents with those around them.

Also for any moms who read this - feel free to comment about how you either succeed or fail at this whole working mom/work-life balance thing. I think the reality of this all is not something that is discussed nearly enough.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Sometimes, epilepsy just plain stinks!

This post is part of the Epilepsy Blog Relay which will run from March 1 through March 31. Follow along and add comments to posts that inspire you!

I leaned over my toilet, cradling it almost like I was hugging my little girl. I closed my eyes, breathing deeply - and summarily vacated my stomach of the day's food. I had the stomach flu - courtesy of my little babe who picked it up from somewhere (as an infant, who knows just where). With every heave, I silently prayed to God to let it be over, but I also had a thought that I wasn't just vacating the contents of my stomach, but also purging my body and my soul of all the negative thoughts that have plagued my mind as of late, "I can't do my job... I can't write... I can't bathe my child alone... I can't drive... I can't be a good sister... I can't be an attentive wife... I haven't seen my friends in ages... nobody understands... I'm afraid I'll have another seizure... What if I have one and I hurt my child? ... I can't leave her alone... I can't leave my husband a single parent... what the heck is going on... uggggh.... my stomach!!!"

In short, its been a long couple of months. In my last blog, written before I went back to work, I had an optimistic view of all that had happened, and all that was possible. And that is still true - I have been so blessed. My post portrayed an optimism that is encouraging, uplifting, and very much who I am, as a person. Always looking for the bright side, always taking life as one big learning experience. But I'm going to be honest for just a moment and say this: epilepsy sucks - and that is a kind way to put it. The reality of being a mom, and being a mom with epilepsy is something I don't think any parenting book, or any blog or advice column could have prepared me for.

The majority of the past year has been challenging, just as it is for any parent who works. I went back to work in August and adjusted fairly well. I had my good days, and my bad days, and was starting to finally figure out the schedule between childcare, pumping, and getting everything I needed to accomplish in one day. Then, in early December I had a breakthrough seizure. It was very unexpected  and scared the bejeezus out of me as I was holding my daughter at the time the seizure hit. Thankfully she and I were both fine - other than shaken up. But I wasn't expecting the aftermath and what would come with it.

For me, typically, the months after a seizure my brain seems to work in slow motion and incomplete thoughts and fragment. Having a child, and thus having less time to myself and less sleep has exacerbated these after effects to a degree I could not have foreseen. And this is most evident at work. Little details slip through my mind like sand through my fingers. Things and details I once noticed disappear into the ether - and I've tried every trick in the book to make them stick. Notebooks meticulously organized, planners on paper and on the computer, and my mind still betrays me. I forget conversations and meetings that I have had, and feel as though I am constantly behind as I struggle to keep up. I have great thoughts or think about items to-do, and if I don't write them down at that moment, or get distracted in any way, it feels to me like the thought never existed at all.

And struggles with work are something that any working mom can relate to - baby brain is a real thing (or so proclaims my neurologist).  I just finished reading "Maxed out: American Moms on the Brink" It was a really interesting memoir that I think any working mom, and even some working dads, could empathize with - and it brought up much of these notions about especially in America we are not a family-friendly workforce. Take the very notion of work life balance. The typical mom faces a situation where she goes to work in the morning (after 2-3 hours of getting herself and child(ren) ready for work), puts in an eight hour day, eating lunch on the go, or at her desk. She goes home and gets dinner ready, helps with the kids, puts them to bed. And then often goes online, once again, to finish out the day's business. And that is if she is lucky. Many moms and dads don't have that flexibility. They don't have the time to go to doctors appointments, or take sick leave - or even a weekend.

In short, it's hard. It's hard for any mom to fight against this incredibly strong current - and it's hard for those of us with chronic conditions whose body necessitates a schedule that is no longer the societal norm. A true 40 hour workweek. With stress as my main trigger for seizures, I need time in the evening to decompress - the busier and the more hectic the day - the longer I take to decompress. I don't check email. I don't go back online to get more work done. I won't - I need the time to let my brain rest. And I would be lying if I didn't say that I was paying a price for that small need.

So what do I do instead? Where do I find purpose? While I know this isn't for everyone, my faith is what brings me that greater sense of purpose. It has comforted me and let me know that I am ok - just as I am... epilepsy and all. That I am enough - enough for my baby, enough for my husband, and enough for me:

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. 
Plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. 
When you call me, and come pray to me, I will listen to you.
When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart.
(Jeremiah 29)

I also heard this song at a concert last week (music is often a refuge of mine, whether I am participating in creating it, or listening to it). And this song brought me to tears. After a very trying week, and feeling exhausted, this spoke words of comfort to me. While listening I had the feeling of being held and comforted, of knowing that I am not alone in my struggles. That there are others out there who know, who understand it, who get it. And there are others whose struggles are more demanding than my own - and my heart goes out to them.

There are times, days, seasons and years when I have felt I could do anything - and some people in this relay will share in that sense of empowerment. And there are times, like now, when I must rely upon the grace of others to receive the help I need. I do not like it, but I also know that in going through it, and only by asking for the help I need will I, in turn, perhaps make life that little bit easier for ones who follow me. From relying on my husband to drive me to do errands, like grocery shop, or be home so I can give our daughter a bath, or telling my boss that I need more time to complete my work and sometimes flat out fail at my job, to begging forgiveness of friends for having to cancel plans on them, or just needing to stay in to recharge my energy - I am dependent upon the grace of others to get through the day. And by recognizing that my life is a gift and that God will use my talents in His own way, and understanding at a deep level "thy will be done..." comes a moment, a glimmer of peace, comfort and rest.

By looking at our culture of go-go-go and saying, "no, no, no... this is not the life I choose, this will not be how I measure my success," is my own way of seeking peace in a time of tumult. The culture we are in today is one of incredible independence and self-reliance and it is very scary and lonely to go against that culture. But I believe it is a fight worth having, and that we have to work against this trend. Humans are made to live in community - we are a village and we are here to help one another. It is incumbent upon us all to help one another, and recognize that we each go through times and seasons of varying levels of effort and generosity.

We are all in this beautiful world together - and we have to share in each other's burdens. Thank you for reading as I share in mine.

NEXT UP: Be sure to check out the next post tomorrow by Karen C. at http://livingwellwithepilepsy.com for more on epilepsy awareness. For the full schedule of bloggers visit livingwellwithepilepsy.com. And don’t miss your chance to connect with bloggers on the #LivingWellChat on March 31 at 7PM ET.