Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On forgiveness

It's been awhile since I've written and I'm sorry about that. I've also been crap about reaching out to everyone and properly checking in. It's been a wild ride, these past five months, and I'm still getting my head around all the changes and trying to find a more natural rhythm to the day. 

I've done my best to give what is needed to work and family. It's not until that quieter, later part of the day when I wish we could have a cold beer together and laugh about the whirlwind that is our lives. 

The topic of this week's post is on forgiveness. I wanted to share with you excerpts from a speech that my father recently delivered. But before I do that, I think it's important to add a little background. My dad reached out to me just before President's weekend to see if I could help him get his speech down in size. 

Last week, in the midst of juggling a growing-very-fast set of projects, I attended a full week of engineering training. Any opportunity I could take with half a brain left, I worked on revising my dad's speech. 

About the middle of the week, I had this strange realization. I'm trying to get my head around a new role that isn't exactly full of women. And though I am in engineering, I'm a communicator rather than a creationist. At the same time, I am rewriting a speech that is going to be given to a group of fathers and sons at an all boy's prep school that all the men in my family on all sides have attended for at least two generations.

I love this speech on forgiveness with all my heart. And I love my dad for dedicating his life to something so undervalued and so needed. But I can't help that little feeling of wiggle inside of me. Amelia will never get to go to the Prep, she won't be part of that long standing family tradition. And strangely enough, this doesn't worry me; I see her and know she is the future of innovation.

Women are and will continue to be for some time in the future the true pioneers of thinking differently, of breaking new ground, of having to do amazing things from the position of slightly on the outside but with still enough tools and resources to get us interested and invested.

Just so you know, I am planning on thinking a lot more deeply about these wiggly feelings. I've got a plan  too and a new blog that feeds into that plan, but I don't want to promote it just yet, as it is too early days (though if you tried a little, you might just find a first blog post online).

Here's excerpts from the speech that I helped edit that my dad gave to the fathers and sons of St. Joseph's Prep (Philadelphia, PA):

February 26, 2012

Friends, Preppers, Americans.

Good morning to all and especially to my Prep generation, Popeye's is in the house!
I am truly honored to talk with you today at this, the finest high school in America.
I am truly honored to talk with you today at this, its annual celebration of our faith and of the sanctity of father and son.

I am particularly privileged to talk with you about forgiveness and our country's defining issue: when will America walk its talk of equality?
I would like to dedicate this talk to the Prep students who lost their fathers as I did before the approach of their first Prep father-son communion breakfast, their courageous mothers, and to my courageous Irish mother, Eleanor.

In 1966, I arrived at the Prep as a crooked faced first generation only child of an Irish taproom owner who died before my 7th grade. During my time at the Prep, the approach of this annual Father-Son Communion Breakfast brought sadness and resentment.
First, let me say to those fatherless Preppers to whom I dedicate this talk:

Your sadness will one day give birth to joy when you attend this celebration with your sons as I have with my 4 sons, and as I do today, as well as with my grandson Dillon.

It is fitting that I dedicate this talk on forgiveness to you.

We faced at a very young age the difficult challenge of forgiving God and ourselves.

I had trouble forgiving God for the loss of my father. I was angry and vowed self-reliance in the absence of a father.

As hard as I tried, I could not adequately replace my father, humanly or economically.
Despite my best efforts and accomplishments, I could not ease the burden of sadness that my mother bore.
The difficulty I experienced in forgiving myself and my God bred an illness in me of body and spirit which took me a long time to overcome. My resentment set into motion a cycle of injury which prompted my need to seek forgiveness from others. 

This was my early introduction to the idea of forgiveness, an introduction that led to a later vocational commitment to forgive and to work on behalf of those in need of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is surrendering resentment or anger for a perceived offense and no longer demanding punishment. Forgiveness heals, spiritually and physically. The idea of forgiveness may seem abstract and religious in an other-worldly kind of way, but, in fact, forgiveness is very practical and necessary for human life on the planet to survive.

According to clinical experience, forgiveness is an effective medical tool able to reduce illness, and necessary for physical, mental and emotional health.

Dr. George Valliant, the Harvard physician and preeminent healer of the aged and the director of the longest and most respected study of aging, found in his scientific studies that other than the use of alcohol and tobacco, the most significant variable in those that age well, are those that demonstrate the human capacity to forgive.
All faiths advocate forgiveness. Our faith's sacrament of reconciliation makes forgiveness there for the asking, requiring only confession, remorse, penance, and a commitment not to sin again.

Christ advocates forgiveness - the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the Sermon on the Mount, the story of the woman sinner who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.
Christ spoke of forgiveness when teaching us to pray “....and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us...".  
We were to request forgiveness only to the extent that we forgive others.

When we refuse to forgive, the cycle of vengeance, retaliation and violence just escalates, inside of us and outside of us. It is only genuine forgiveness that breaks the cycle of destruction and opens up new possibilities for health. 
Forgiveness is both other worldly and worldly, moral and practical, coincident with both conscience and science.
The healing power of forgiveness cannot be overemphasized whether given or received and regardless of whether it comes from God, ourselves, another human being, or a nation.

As a lawyer, I find myself always asking: Should not forgiveness be a component of all justice? I think it should. What is true for the health of a person must be true for the health of a nation.

My remarks must be considered knowing that I am an American criminal defense lawyer and standing beside me today and everyday is a person - my client.  A black activist, a blue collar skinhead, a young black man, a young hispanic man, an Asian, your brother, your sister, your son, your daughter, you.  

Every Monday morning I remind myself of the words of the great American Eugene Debs…”as long as there is a lower class, I will be in it; as long as there is a criminal element, I will be of it; and as long as there is a poor soul in jail, I will not be free.”  

I represent person, not ideas. Certainly not corporations. America recognized corporations as persons almost a century before real people of color. I will believe that a corporation is a person when the state of Texas executes one.

In 1970, I went to West Point to defend my country.  I still defend my country, but now one person at a time.

And now I’m going to ask a sensitive question. Does America forgive?

2 1/3 centuries ago, the American experiment declared its moral purpose to the world that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..." Government for the first time in history was created by the people for the people.
But the credibility of this declaration was betrayed by the diseased hypocrisy of slavery.  From its birth, America’s walk did not match America’s talk.

4 score and 5 years later, the American experiment suffered a great civil war to lance this cancer of slavery, and to reaffirm its promise that Government of, by, and for all the people shall not perish from this earth.

Tragically, the exploitation of slavery, for which thousands of white American lives were sacrificed, was quickly replaced by the domination of Jim Crow segregation, and the facade of separate but equal not only in the south, but in the north as well.

Jim crow barred black participation in America's political, economic and social life for almost a century until the crucible of the civil rights movement again tried to rescue the American experiment from the conflict between its talk and its walk - between equality for all and white supremacy.  

The cycle continued, and in 1971,  responding to the apparent triumphs of the civil rights movement of the 60s, President Nixon using the masked racist rhetoric of law and order launched the war on drugs which began the construction of a system of mass imprisonment which has been nothing more than a new Jim Crow.

Since the launch of the war on drugs, America's imprisonment rate, the highest in the world has multiplied more than 5 times.
America has only 5% of the world’s population but 25% of its prisoners, almost 3 million, most of color.

Blacks are now caged as a result of the war on drugs seven times as often as whites.  

Even though whites sell and use drugs at a much higher rate than blacks.

1 out of 4 young black men are in jail or prison.

Mass imprisonment on a scale unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country  today – as fundamental a fact as slavery was in 1850.

In truth, more African-American men are under correctional control today – in prison, jail, probation or parole – then were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.

Actual caging, visible imprisonment, is only part of the new Jim Crow. The sentence for any criminal conviction in America is life because an invisible web of legal discrimination follows criminal conviction to the grave.

More black men cannot vote today than in 1870 when the 15th Amendment was passed barring laws that denied the vote on the basis of race - not because of poll taxes and the literacy tests of Jim Crow, but because of drug related criminal convictions.  

Once someone has been labeled a criminal, it is almost impossible to get rid of the stigma and public discoverable, especially after 9/11, criminal record attached to that status. This phenomenon is hardly new, but what is new is the scale of the problem and the color of those internally exiled. This problem has reached crisis dimensions.

For example, in Pennsylvania, in order for an individual with a misdemeanor conviction as insignificant as simple drug possession to obtain statutory forgiveness or expungement of that record, he must show that he has been dead for three years, or that he is age 70 and has not been in trouble for 10 years.   

Mass black, visible and invisible, imprisonment and the vacuum of meaningful forgiveness, just like slavery and Jim Crow before it, challenges the authenticity of America's moral legacy of equality for the world.

America's Criminal Justice System today is rightly called criminal, but anything but justice.

In a crisis, John F. Kennedy said, “Be aware of the danger, but recognize the opportunity."

The Prep with its unique gift, gave us the tools to be aware of danger, to recognize, opportunity, and to seize it!

A vital institution here at the Prep is Kairos. Kairos is the ancient Greek word for the opportune moment. According to Greek myth, Kairos was a young and beautiful god, and the personification of opportunity.  He was depicted with only one lock of hair.  He stood on tiptoes, had wings on his feet flying with the wind, and held a razor balanced on a sharp edge, attributes illustrating the fleeting instant in which opportunities appear and disappear.  He can easily be seized by the hair hanging over his face when he is arriving.  But once he has passed,  no one can grasp him since the back of his head is bald.

The Prep sent all of us out into the world to confront its crises with deeds that are both moral and practical, coincident with faith and science.

Coincidence is an event notable for its occurrence in conjunction with other events.  Einstein told us that coincidence is the way God remains anonymous.

The  coincidence of the faith and the science of the healing power of forgiveness dictates the next right action in bringing America's walk in step with its talk.

Faith directs that forgiveness be a component of justice.
Science directs that forgiveness be a component of justice.

As we know, one of the most important goals of Jesuit education is to be committed to justice. That commitment must embrace forgiveness.

“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but don’t forget.”

America cannot afford to be stupid or naive, and must choose to be wise.

Therefore, faith, science and our moral purpose in the world compel that we must, at a minimum, revolutionize and expand the criminal justice system’s instrument of forgiveness which we call expungement for all drug related crimes.

The federal government should take the lead, with a model expungement statute and also tie Federal block grants to model state expungement legislation, such as was done to lower the DUI intoxication level or the speed limit.

This model legislation would permit anyone convicted of a drug crime within a reasonable period of time after paying their debt to society to petition and obtain erasing of their criminal record upon a showing of:

  1. remorse - showing that they have remained crime free, and
  2. penance - showing rehabilitation, community service, employment, education or training
enabling them to a second chance and the full return of their civil rights and access to the political process, the labor market, student loans, and basic social welfare.  

A secure register could be maintained so offenses are not forgotten in the event of re-offending.  

This is not the time to discuss abolishing the death penalty, the ultimate rejection of the sacred idea that no man is beyond forgiveness, or ending the war on drugs, itself, which is destroying young black men and the black community. Those conversations are left for another day.

Before closing, I want to thank my wife Sharon, and my 7 children and 3 grandchildren.  All that know me intimately know that, but for Sharon and my children, I would be in jail rather than serving clients in jail.  

Philly sound's Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes spoke to us when they sang,  "Wake up everybody! Wake up everybody!...The world will get no better if you just let it be.  Change it now! Change it now! You and me."

America and each of us must break out of the colorblindness of denial, and respond as Preppers, and as Americans to conscience, to science, and to our moral purpose in the world and choose forgiveness.
Forgiveness is both the moral and the practical and is authentically American.


Let us this day pledge to seize Kairos' forelock and to consecrate anew ourselves and our country in the healing waters of forgiveness.

Forgive as persons!
Forgive as families!
Forgive as cities!
Forgive as a nation by revolutionizing the opportunity for drug crime convicted Americans to obtain statutory forgiveness!

The moral purpose of the American experiment yearns for it.

And if we do...
Our cities will be healthier, wiser, and stronger.
America will be healthier, wiser, and stronger.
We will all be healthier, wiser, and stronger.



Thursday, November 24, 2011

Being thankful

I woke up early this morning in the silence of the house, and the first thing that popped into my head was all of us sitting around the table at the Farm on Thanksgiving day, plates heaping with food, each of us saying what we are thankful for, my response almost always, 'the mash potatoes', something that started off as earnest, then cliche over the years. As the senses became more aware, I remembered the smell of Thanksgiving day: 

My dad in his workout clothes, sweaty, gathering up a gang to play a game of touch football; body odor mixed with beer (now weirdly not unpleasant) off my brothers and cousins from the night before, the Sobilo California smell mixed with the East coast; Sharon and Grammy Owl don't have their own smells this day - they are the turkey, the gravy, the food; Lindsey taking on the smells of wherever she lingers, and yet, as she gets older, there is her own smell, reminds me of strawberry lip gloss. In the background of it all, the turkey mixed with mud from someone somewhere coming in from the outside world (maybe even to walk the many dogs roaming around the place). That familiarity, my family, smells of warm chaos.

Since Monday, I have been trying to write this blog on being thankful, and up until now, I haven't been able to settle my mind enough on the topic to actually do it justice. Sitting here now in the quiet, I am processing the very 'fullness' of my life, moving at a pace that is fast, but directed, shifting, but focused, exhausting and wonderful.

Amelia and I have been talking about what it means to be thankful. Down to the very core of me, I am thankful for her presence, her spirit that is a true mingling of the very best of the widest net of family that I have ever seen. She is one of those rare persons who lights up every room that she walks into, makes every person who meets her feel happy, and with me, she nestles in and recharges. That more than anything else will be my role as her mother - to be like a power cord.

Yesterday on the way into work, there was a bad crash. Watching the ambulance race to and from the scene, this wave of vulnerability rolled through me, feeling a sadness for that family's Thanksgiving, and this very strong desire to do something physical. Despite the delayed start, I went for a run, short, fast, around Mountain View, the quiet of the early morning. Anyone who runs knows that feeling of sprinting in cold weather; that painful feeling in the lungs that is strangely pleasant. I am thankful for the joy of running, something that has been with me for so long, keeping me strangely grounded and free at the same time. 

The days in work are fast, very, and I know I am making progress, even if just baby steps, as I find myself renegotiating the priorities of the work. Vinny arrived on Monday, and we have had lots of talks about the change, himself curious about the differences between the old and the new. And it has been reaffirming, the comparison, of the choice that I made. The people in both places are similar, smart, easy, the culture mostly void of airs and graces, and they work hard. But the pace of work is different, one being like a roller coaster with peaks and troughs, the other a high-speed train, the trick being to get off at the right stop each day. I am grateful for this new opportunity; the train suits me better than the roller coaster.

Padhraic has been pushing towards a tough deadline these past couple of months. He is very good about making time for Amelia each and every day, but there isn't much time outside of that. He is at the top of the roller coaster, stuck at the part going 'click, click, click'. Soon he is going to come crashing down, then things will level out, and we will have a chance to spend some time together, doing what we love best, the normal stuff, going for a walk with Amelia, maybe to the park, making a nice dinner, watching a movie on the couch. I am grateful for a partner who works as hard as me; for a marriage that is based on the beauty of the best parts of normal life.

It is 9AM and everyone is still asleep, but it can't be for long and I genuinely need to get cooking. I am hopeful for a day full of friends, food, new smells, a run, and those little moments of Amelia snuggling in for a quick boost of energy, Padhraic sitting on the couch with a cold beer, feet up and without his phone, me doing what I love best, taking in the energy of the world that surrounds me and processing it into memories for the years to come. 

Much love to family, friends, and co-workers (old and new).

Monday, October 31, 2011

All Hallow's Eve

This morning Amelia woke up very early, very excited, talking of monsters and pumpkins. Her eyes lit up when she saw the huge bowl of candy sitting on the table. She asked for a piece, calmly, and didn't seem to mind when we explained to her that it was for tonight, later, when the tricker treaters came to the house in their costumes.

We had a group hug and I headed out for the early bus. As I walked, I tried to think of a good opening for this week's blog. Originally, I had planned to write about how I wasn't superwoman, how this weekend I made a decision not to run the Healdsburg half-marathon, how I spent the weekend catching up on sleep and much needed family time instead.

And then a memory that use to be very painful came back to me, filling me with this amazing sense of calm. A long time ago. I was back east for Christmas and could only make a short dinner visit. On the drive over, I pulled over to throw-up. By the time I got to the house, I was sweating, and aching all over.

She took my temperature - it was 101 and climbing. I tried to brush it of, I would be fine, it was just a cold, I could only stay for a short time, and then I had to meet my other obligations. She insisted that I stay, lay down on her lap, and rest for awhile. After an hour of absolute comfort, I got up to go and the tears streamed down my face (the fever was high). I really did not want to leave.

She picked up the phone and rang my dad's house and I could hear her say that though I was stubborn and heading for the door, she was not going to let me go. My fever was over 102 now, and I had been vomiting. I needed to rest. Her voice was strong, authoritative. She was insisting that she knew what was best for me, that someone had to look out for me, because I was always looking out for everyone else.

That night, she put me to bed, the green room. She sang me to sleep like she did so many times when I was a child. In the morning, she made me pancakes. This is my last living memory of her. But every year, around this time, she and Pop-pop are with all of us. They are the spirit of Halloween. My sister and I talk about it sometimes, their overwhelming presence at this time.

When I go back to that space, the memories are crystal clear. I know this because I experience them with all my senses. I remember a line of kids that wrapped around the corner, waiting to meet the Doc and get their candy. We would run in and out of the door, taking in their building excitement, knowing how their eyes would light up. The air always smelled like cold chocolate outside and warm licorice inside.

That low table in the living room covered in small wicker baskets, each one packed high with full-sized candy bars, full packs of gum, and a basket of special treats that Pop-pop kept close at hand for the little ones with magic in their eyes. She would make a big-fuss, and he would wink and the parents as he gave the little one exactly what they imagined would be at the end of waiting.

We would eat candy, as much as we could possibly consume, no dinner, just candy. We would stay up late with our friends laughing so hard with sugar-highs, that a couple of times, one of us actually peed our pants.

I often wish there was some way to share the magic of Park Place with Amelia, that absolute feeling of happy-tired after a full day at the beach, swallowing so much sea water that your breath is short and shallow, that lazy Saturday morning cartoons and the biggest buttermilk pancakes that you have ever laid your eyes on, Stephen's Day (the day after Christmas), stealing a sip of champagne, cucumbers and Russian dressing, and a room full of toys and clothes and sweets. 

All Hallow's Eve, cold, crisp night, when the whole town knows just what it means to be a part of that magical Park Place. That night when we were famous because we didn't have to wait in that line around the block - we could come and go as we pleased, having access to spaces that no one else could enter, but everyone assumed was full of even more magic...

And they were right.  

Friday, October 7, 2011

The adventures of Nemo

All week I have felt like this small, little determined fish in the great big sea.

Monday I left the safety of the reef and made my own way down to orientation. I gave myself plenty of time assuming traffic would be bad. It was much worse than expected, so instead of arriving thirty minutes early, I was right on time and desperately needing to pee. I asked if I could sneak out before everything started and they told me to wait... and wait... and wait. Twenty minutes into it, a very nice woman said that I could go ahead, it was taking longer than expected to start up the intake process.

The first day kind of reminds me of that part in Nemo where Marlin is swimming around trying to figure out where to go. Come to think of it, there are lots of parts of the week when I am swimming around trying to figure out where to go. It's a big ocean. There was the usual orientation for contractors. Pretty straight-forward, get your stuff and get ready to move, fast. I made my way to my new building and met a co-worker who brought me to all the important stops in the building, fast, no chat, just here is this and here is that. Deadlines and annual review time. And she knew that we were going to lunch, which would be when we could relax a little.

The ocean is that way. There are designated times and spaces where it is OK to relax a bit and let your guard down.

The team went to lunch in one of the many cafes and then it was back to the desk to try and absorb all that is new around me. I had some green-behind-the-ears moments on the first day. Couldn't get into the wifi and couldn't find any outlets around my desk. Went to tech stop to sort out wifi - they couldn't figure it out. Raised a ticket to get a socket and connection point for an ethernet cable. On the start of my second day, realized that my backpack was blocking the outlets for my desk - and despite looking everywhere, it never occurred to me to move my bag. Also, in accessing wifi, I was entering the wrong security codes - it was my own human error. So I added a comment apologizing in a self-deprecating way. Something tells me that doesn't happen too often in the ticket tracking system.

Day two, facing one security wall after another, my manager, a warm woman with lots of experience, reached out to a friend to see if he could help. He suggested I come find him in the fish bowl. Having seen random fish around the place, I was looking for an actual fish bowl. Turns out it was just the nickname of the room where he and a group of writers work (these guys are amazing, seriously). He introduced me to this very cool woman. I hesitate to call her Dory, as she is incredibly smart. But she is Dory in the way that she is kind and so very open to helping you get to where you need to go. I left work on day two still feeling like a small fish in the big sea, but not so alone anymore.

Day three, an opportunity to do real work, a chance to show that I am pretty good at this writing stuff. I decided to bring myself to the giant blue fish upstairs (I am not speaking metaphorically here). I spent a few hours working away in the body of a big blue fish with a big red bed. The work felt good. And there is something about my experience that is very different to the world here that might add a tiny bit of unexpected value. It is still early and I am humble. But I see a glimmer of hope. I am a pretty good writer.

Day four was a somber day. Steve passed away and there are lots of people around me who are genuinely sad. You cannot help but feel it, the loss of someone so great who has touched so many lives. That very sacredness of striving for excellence no matter what - a complete denial of the politics that normally dictates the pace of the corporate world, a true creator... I continued to make baby-steps towards real productivity. And I started to get a feel for the varying people on the teams that I will be working with. It is going to be very important for me to show people what it is that I am good at, but I need to do it in a way that is subtle, non-invasive. It will happen. One day soon. But I can't push too hard. It doesn't feel right. I need to make some significant strides on my own, kind of like Nemo swimming up the filter. At the end of day four, I got an email from 'Dory' - she sent it to all the new writers - a chance to earn my first tee shirt. I ran out of the office over to one of the cafes, participated in an experiment, and went home chuffed about my new shirt.

Each morning and night, I have been joking with the bus drivers - nice guys who have helped me out. And I couldn't help but notice that people don't talk to the bus drivers and not many people actually talk to each other, even just a polite smile and hi is a rarity. Then last night its like all my preconceptions came tumbling down. I turned to the person I was sitting next to and asked him a unix question and wound up talking the rest of the way home about his mad job (he spent the weekend in promotions with a famous enough rock band). As I got off the bus and said my usual good night to the bus driver,  all the other people getting off said good night to the driver too. I realized that even though I am a little fish, I am making an impact.

This morning, I decided to wear my running gear on the bus, thinking I might be able to sneak in a run before the morning started. And I started to notice around me that lots and lots of people were wearing work-out clothes. As I got off the bus, I waved to the bus driver, and he beeped and smiled. I dropped off my bag at my desk and headed off for a run on this glorious Fall morning in sunny California. So many people running and waving and smiling. Friday is like a different ocean all together here. Heading up to my desk afterwards, there was a coffee station set up with fresh blueberry cake and decent music playing.

I grabbed my Odwalla and headed up to my desk feeling pretty darn Googley.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Stream of consciousness farewell

After 11 years, I am leaving my first real job, and I can't help but reflect on the amazing ride that it has been. I genuinely believe in the importance of capturing these reflections in writing so that some day when I am much older and the memory isn't as good as it use to be, I can revisit that younger self. But I also want to make sure that I am abiding by the blogging code of honor for these types of topics. So I have decided to attempt to write my farewell using one of my favorite writing techniques - stream-of-consciousness. Most of you won't have a clue what I am talking about, some of you might recognize bits and pieces, and a small handful of you will know it all, as we shared this time together.

Raining. Presenting my papers for the first time - excited to see him at the gate. Joking with the immigration guard-- 'Why would you ever want to move here, ah, for love, except for love.' Everything I own in bags and boxes strewn across the airport floor, trying to find his number written on one of the many pieces of paper in the folder with all that other important stuff. I need to get more organized. I have no change, so I am going to have to dial collect. But I haven't a clue how to dial collect here. The phone is ringing but no one answers. The taxi driver isn't very pleased with all my bags. He drives me to the address, and I get in the gate and tell him to leave me at the door to the apartment building. And I ring the bell. Over and over again. Finally he comes down, hung-over, half-awake. He forgot to pick me up. He forgot I was moving to Ireland.

First day in the office. The business park is under construction. The building is cold. No one is here except the guy in ICT. He is laying cables and he shows me a desk where I can sit. There is no phone, no computer, no people. Printed documents for me to read, a few screen-shots printed out in black-and-white. I am the first one to work in the new office block. The phone comes first, then a machine, the network, and slowly more people start to populate the desks. The team arrives, only they aren't going to be my team. I am being moved off the marketing team, heading upstairs to engineering. And I take a seat next to my boss. He is most people's boss. There are lots and lots of people around all the time. 

The first job is to write a suite of user guides. I am the first person to press every button, link to every page, try and complete every single business process all within a short period of time. I have lots of questions, I am gaining confidence, raising bugs, wanting to do more and more. I am driving him nuts, in a good way, I hope. Most nights I go home lonely though, to a wet, cold, dirty Dublin flat. After weeks of watching them get off the bus and go for pints, arriving in the next day with hang-overs, I finally get the courage to ask if I can join them. And so life in Ireland begins. I become the editor of the company newsletter. I know everyone and everyone knows me. I know what is going on, and people come to me for knowledge, gossip, support.

The company reaches out to NYC in their time of need. I am writing about unimaginable things. We believe in something. And we start to work long hours. All of us. A make-shift golf-course is built behind my desk. For weeks, he tried to get a ball in the hole and failed - I could not contain myself, knowing that they put magnets in his ball. Finally he catches on to my bright red face. 

I am no longer alone. I have a peer who is with me for the long haul. The team continues to grow. I have a mortgage. I make lists and I check off every item on every one of them. I am torn between the two worlds of wanting to know how stuff works and wanting the team to be successful, to represent something that is more than just the words we put to paper. For the most part, we are successful, but we do have a hard release that teaches us some very important lessons, like never stay in the office all-night. Sneak out even if it is just for a short-while, long enough to take a shower, change clothes, brush the teeth. I am running all the time, fast, far. The head is clear as I face the next adventure.

I am married now and we are trying to buy a house, which isn't easy. I am trying to embrace the notion of raising a family here while never truly being Irish. Friends move on, far away, peers are dispersed, and I take on a new job, working with the best team that may ever cross my path. We challenge each other, we respect each other, we get stuff done fast and to a high standard. We are all friends. This is our life. We don't want much else beyond the work and the occasional night of free beer. 

I am asked to leave the team that I love and rebuild. It is hard to leave that which is all I ever wanted in a career. But I do. I want to share this with the peers that got lost in translation. I am studying, I am pregnant, I am sick, I am a mom, I am finished the dissertation and back to work. Things have changed in my absence. No one writes the newsletter anymore. Childcare isn't great and it is incredibly hard to leave her each day. But I am determined to make it work, to get my mojo back. We are trying to decide whether or not to move to California. 

We move to Noe Valley, so different than we remember it - all of us are grown now, lots of kids and dogs. It takes just over a month, but we start to settle in, a new house, a great daycare, old friendships renewed, and new ones on the horizon. The sun is shining and it looks like things just might settle into a rhythm. The job changes. And I am trying to embrace the freedoms that less responsibility affords me. But it isn't in me. My daughter is thriving, and I want to be that mom who is comfortable in my skin, which means I need to find that spark again. 

I think I know how to get it back, and I begin to work hard to make it happen. Someone whom I admire takes me under his wing and gives me something to get stuck into. I am studying, negotiating, running, working out solutions from as many angles as possible, never closing any door that might just be the right one. A new door opens a little bit, and I decide to stick my foot in it. I am nervous about leaving that familiar space for something so completely unknown, but I like the way it makes me feel, to be new among a settled group, to know nothing among some of the cleverest peers.

This week is quiet-- a few quiet emails from people wishing me the best of luck, some harder ones from those who are like family. I have teared up a couple of times, and felt unsure as to whether or not that is OK, to be sad saying goodbye, and yet completely incapable of separating the personal from the professional in so many instances of the past 11 years. I am nervous about the unfamiliar. Will I be as known as I have been; will I be as able? Will there be a clearer line between work and home, or will those lines become blurred again as I will love what I do so much that I will need to merge the two together? Will I have a golf-course behind my desk?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I'm bringing sexy back...

On Sunday, I ran for 60-minutes, which I havent' done in a very long time. And at some point along the run, with the sun shining over the bay, thousands of people noticing each other and their surroundings on the day that was in it, I started thinking about this week's blog, and I how I wanted very much to write something that wasn't heavy - I wanted to have fun with it.

And I remembered back in the day, being editor of the engineering newsletter, every Friday chasing up team leads for the weekly news, interviewing one or two people offsite, working on customer projects. There was something very comforting in liasing across groups, doing my utmost to convince the least interested that they could get something out of partcipating in this space. Each week, I would write an intro and most weeks I would find something funny, a picture, a story, something I wrote myself. My style back then was as I am when you meet me - babbling, warm, sometimes surprising people with a darker side of humor.

In direct contrast to my writing style as newsletter editor, most of my blog entries (if not all of them) are heavy going. One of the things that keeps me writing each week is that the blog allows me to work out the bits and pieces swimming in my head so that I am freerer and more relaxed in my daily life. Looking back across the lifespace of the blog, I have to admit to myself that if I read my blog, I am not sure I would want to meet me. I'd seem far too serious about life. As the blog evolves, I want my readers to know that side of self that is much lighter.

Running towards the Golden Gate, determined to touch the bridge before I turned back, I thought about how very much I wanted to shed the extra weight that I am carrying, both physically and metaphorically. As I touched the red iron and made my decent back towards Chrissy Fields, Timberlakes, "I'm bringing sexy back" started playing. My stride seemed to take on this little wiggle that could only be a disturbing sight for the hundreds of tourists around me...

But I couldn't help it, things are in motion now, change is happening, and I am seeing things in a brighter shade of grey.