A Crack In Everything …

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Career, Career Change, Health, Mary, Uncategorized, Wellness

by Mary Yoke ~

I’ve decided to write about something this time that is rather personal: the physical challenges I’ve faced in my life and my struggles to overcome them. I don’t know if anyone reading this has endured similar difficulties. If so, perhaps my words will help.

I consider myself to be a thriver, even though I’ve had a great number of physical issues. It always has seemed to me I’ve had an unfair amount of suffering and pain. In fact, I spent a large portion of my life feeling sorry for myself as it always seemed no one else has had to endure as much pain and disfigurement as I have. Of course, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that everyone has to go through some pain in life. It just seems as if, for some, those trials don’t show up until much later.

My pain started at age 2, when my parents discovered I had a genetic defect. Odd reddish blots began appearing on my right leg, which eventually were diagnosed as a cavernous hemangioma, or blood tumor. I had my first surgery at age 2, followed by another at age 4, then age 6, and then three more surgeries before I was 21.

At first, my doctors weren’t sure whether the tumor was a malignant cancer, so apparently, for the surgery at age 4, I was prepped for an amputation of my leg. My mother has told me how overjoyed she was when the surgeon appeared in the waiting room after the operation and said they hadn’t had to amputate my leg. However, my leg remained in a full old-fashioned cast for several weeks, and I remained in the hospital.

Sadly, the hospital climate in the 1950s was not what it is today. Parents and visitors were allowed only 30 minutes per day to see their children. That meant I was alone for 23½ hours per day — for several weeks at a time over the course of each of my six surgeries.

Later, in my 40s, I was diagnosed with medical Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as I tried to come to grips with the pain and suffering and feelings of abandonment in my life. Many physicians, nurses and other medical personnel in the 1950s and ‘60s often were cruel, unsympathetic and impatient with the cries and demands of small children.

I had a number of traumatic experiences that involved medical personnel yelling at me, cutting me and telling me I was a baby and should not be crying.

Speaking of being a baby, a different type of scarring occurred in elementary school since I was forced to wear “baby shoes.” In those days, baby shoes were white, lace-up, ankle-high affairs — worn only by babies. I had to wear these shoes all the way through 4th grade. Plus, I had a limp.

I know we’ve all heard about the cruelty of children to each other, and I was a recipient of that meanness all through elementary school. No one wanted to be my friend; I was not invited to any parties. I was cruelly ostracized at recess; after all, I couldn’t play kickball (the most popular game) or any other physical activity enjoyed by my peers. I literally had NO childhood friends.

Luckily for me though, in 7th grade my small country school had to reorganize and become part of a larger school system, so I was bused 15 miles away to a new middle school with all new peers. By this time my limp had more-or-less disappeared, and I was no longer wearing baby shoes, so I was accepted and actually invited to some parties — and a modest social life amazingly evolved!

As I went through adolescence and young adulthood I still had some negative experiences related to my leg: I was never permitted to take gym class, and people pointed and stared at me on the street.

Once, when I had had it with the insensitivity of strangers, a woman in a clothing boutique saw me from across the room and very loudly exclaimed, “OMG, what happened to you?” causing everyone in the store to stare. I gathered the courage to reply loudly, “I was born with a birth defect, okay?”

As an adult I’ve learned to dress in such a way that my leg is always covered (pants, high boots, long skirts, etc.). But naturally, since my leg is seriously disfigured, it always has been a source of embarrassment at the beach and when starting a romantic relationship, and I have to say this aspect still persists today.

Every single day of my life I had woken up in pain (which usually went away after I got up and moving) until recently. Five years ago I had two pulmonary embolisms (potentially fatal blood clots in the lungs) that were determined to have come from my leg. I found a new doctor, who immediately put me on Coumadin, a blood thinner, which dissolved the clots. I now will be on Coumadin for the rest of my life. The good news is that my leg pain is, for the first time in my life, almost entirely gone.

Unfortunately, I have had many other physical challenges aside from my leg. I was in a car accident when I was 21 where my face smashed into the steering wheel (this was before seat belts had shoulder straps). One of my cheekbones and the bone under one eye were broken, so I had to have plastic surgery on my face.

I had a tonsillectomy and then a separate adenoidectomy at ages 27 and 28; these were attempts to help solve the problem of my vocal hoarseness (as I was then a successful young opera singer).

Then I had a number of surgeries around reproductive issues: a C-section at age 38, followed by an ectopic pregnancy at age 40, four miscarriages, and a laparoscopy on my fallopian tubes that did not turn out well (my physician accidentally nicked an artery). This was a very painful time, both psychologically and physically, as I was unable to have the two biological children I wanted.

And, as if that weren’t enough …


In 2005 I was attacked by two dogs, who punctured one of my lungs and took a large bit of flesh out of one side of my torso. In 2007, I had a near-fatal ski accident on the top of a mountain in New York. I crashed into a steel snow-blowing gun and ruptured my spleen. That resulted in a prolonged emergency surgery and a week in intensive care followed by another week in a regular hospital room. Suffice it to say I have many, many scars of all types!

So, what have I learned? Well, this lengthy history and my attempts to deal with it all caused me to seek therapy. Fortunately, I found a wonderful woman in New York who was immensely helpful for more than 10 years. I will be forever grateful to her.

I also found yoga and meditation, and these practices have pulled me through many dark times and helped me have some compassion for myself. In essence, that is the journey: to move from self-hate (I aggressively hated my leg) to self-compassion.

Although I’ve had many major physical issues, on a day-to-day basis I’ve always been robustly healthy — almost never sick in any way. I tell myself I’m never going to have surgery again, but obviously there are unknowns.

Being in my 60s now, I am aware of joint pain and bottom-of-the-foot pain (in both feet) that seem to be rather normal for people my age. However, as a former exercise physiologist and current health behavior academic, I am determined to stay fit for the long run.
My leg has taught me to be resilient. Suffering and pain are transient; there is always a strengthening of the pain, and then a lessening. It almost always passes, and we must let it go.

And it’s important to let go of how you think the world should be. In my case I needed to let go of the idea that life was unfair, that I somehow had gotten a bad deal, and that my body and childhood experiences were not as good as everyone else’s. This caused me to be flooded with self-pity and to feel like a victim for many years.

Is there value in suffering? Well, I think the long view is that it’s important to be compassionate, and my own challenges have helped me be more understanding of the difficulties of others. When we have pain, we have two choices: we can either bemoan our condition (this is where I was stuck), or we can accept it and use it as a vehicle for transformation and personal growth.


I have long loved the following poem by Leonard Cohen:

Ring the bells that still can ring.

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything.

That’s how the light gets in.

What a radical idea — perhaps accepting the brokenness and imperfections of our physical condition, the brokenness of our past experiences — perhaps that is how we can be filled with light and move forward and upward to full thriving.

by Mary Yoke | email | facebook | linkedin

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Two Months In And Thriving

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Career, Communications, Hannah, Internship, Job, Success

By Hannah Goodwin ~

After two full months I feel I can properly and efficiently tell you all about my new job. Well, at least I can tell you how I came to get this job as that is a pretty good story, if I do say so myself.

Now, I am sure you all have been hanging on to the edge of your seats since my last post, which was all about my number’s game strategy. But just in case you haven’t, in short, in that post I shared that the job/internship hunt is a number’s game, meaning that the more people you reach out to, the better your chances are at achieving success. I utilized this strategy once again when it came to finding a full-time job.

I reached out to as many public relations, marketing, communications, etc. companies I could find in Indianapolis. Much like previous experiences, I heard many “Thanks, but no thanks” and “We are looking for someone more experienced,” in addition to the multitude of crickets that did not get back to me at all. Thankfully, the positive responses I got boosted my self-esteem and boosted me right into the interview process.

One of my positive responses came from a communications company owner who said that while his company was not currently hiring, he would be happy to meet with me anyway. I took him up on that, as I am not one to turn down the opportunity to make a connection. By the time we met up, a former colleague of his from the Indiana Lieutenant Governor’s Office had reached out to him inquiring if he knew anyone who’d be a great fit and available to apply for a communications role that had become available.

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Signs on the wall right above the reception area depicting the agencies housed in the office.

Lots of emails, several phone conversations and one influential, mutual connection later, the job was mine! I will now get to the point of what this job actually is. I am Communications Manager for two of the five agencies that fall under Lt. Governor Eric Holcomb; these agencies make up the “Family of Business.” The two agencies I work with are the Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) and the Indiana Office of Defense Development (IODD).

I will be the first to say that I never pictured myself working in the public sector, but the way this position presented itself to me, I knew it was too good an opportunity to pass up. Because of the way I came to hear about and then interview for this job, I had not seen the actual job description until after I had been offered the job. I was very pleasantly surprised when I was offered the job, but slightly wary as I did not know what all it included. Upon reading through the description, primary duties and qualifications, I was instantly reassured. I thought, I have been studying for this, practicing all of these duties in my internships and this is what I want to do!

I have my own cubicle with my boss’s office on one side and the OCRA project managers next to me. I am along a wall and can see out a window, with a parking garage taking up most of my view. But, as I look to the left, I can see the dome of the State House. My boss and I comprise the communications team for the Family of Business, placing us in high demand and causing me to dive right in to my position.

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Panorama of my desk. It can always be found with 3 screens, 2 phones and 1 hardworking me.

Being an integral member of the centralized marketing and communications team, I am constantly in contact with members of the agencies I work with, the communications staff within the other agencies and many others. I get to do everything from coming up with communications strategies to managing the social media and creating internal and external newsletters as well as all things press releases, media alerts, talking points, etc.

I am doing the kind of work I knew I wanted to do upon graduating. It feels like work in the sense that I have to work hard to get everything done and to have my work be the best quality possible, but the work itself is interesting to me and fun. Two months in, and I think it is safe to say I am thriving in my new position.

by Hannah Goodwin | email | website | linkedin | instagram

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I Don’t Know. But I Will Find Out.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Art, Career, Career Change, Kelly

Once upon a time, I thought I had to know the answer. To any question. To everything about which I was asked. If I couldn’t answer a question definitively, I felt like it meant I was behind and that I had somehow failed to know what I should know. That it meant I was letting the askers down and that they would judge me negatively. I think a lot of people believe this, and in particular, I think many new graduates feel this pressure keenly.

Today, I know this is not the case. (And that sometimes, the askers even intend for you to feel this way!) I also know that this does not have to be how the story ends. You can rewrite the ending — maybe even more than once. Careers, interests and lives are not necessarily linear, and if I have learned anything in the decade+ since I began my career, it is that it is perfectly okay not to know the answer as long as you are willing to work toward finding it. Because therein lies the key — I don’t know the answer. But I will find out. These are some of the most powerful words in my professional — and personal — arsenal.

How linear is YOUR path?
How linear is YOUR path?

There are many instances in which I have encountered this concept over the years, and I can apply it to multiple facets of my career and life. For now, I’d like to look at this concept in terms of choosing a profession. What do I want to be when I grow up? Some people know from the get-go. Some people hem and haw. Some people have no clue. But at 18-19 years of age, we choose a major.

Because at 18-19 years of age we should know what to study to get the right job.

At 21-22 years of age, we graduate with our undergraduate degree — which may or may not be in the subject we originally chose because it may have already become evident that there were things we did not know about ourselves. Having graduated, we then go get a job in the profession for which we are trained.

Because at 21-22 years of age, we should know what kind of job will satisfy and vitalize us.

Then — having chosen a career, we are identified with and by it. When we meet new people, we do the social dance: Where are you from? Where did you go to school? What do you do?

Because our profession/career should now define us.

Hmm… Noticing a pattern here? There is a lot of should going around. And there does not have to be.

The first two years after I completed my bachelor’s degree, I had jobs. I didn’t view them as a career. They were professional roles for which I was qualified and which had benefits and a paycheck attached. I learned some things. I had one good manager who taught me a great deal. (Thank you, Jeff.) I was still figuring out what I wanted so it didn’t bother me much that I wasn’t settled into a specific career path. I was working and that worked for me. But this is not thriving.

Then I took my first job in what became a decade-long career. My Political Science degree got me an entry-level paralegal position at a very good law firm. I was patted on the back and congratulated for choosing this career path. It was stable. I learned the role, sought additional education, climbed the ranks and ultimately ended up as a Legal Analyst at a top-tier company. I succeeded, right? This is IT. I should be really happy.

And I was anything but. I still was not thriving! I was bored, stressed and while good at what I did, it brought me no personal satisfaction. None.at.all. What was wrong with me? I had succeeded in building for myself a stable career in a respectable profession. And I was not happy. Worse yet, I could not answer questions about what more it would take to make me happy. (More money? A better boss? Better work/life balance?) I did not know the answer and when asked, felt like I should know how to fix this.

So I explored. I thought about it. I didn’t make any rash moves — there was no dramatic quitting of my job and then eating ice cream in front of the TV while I faux soul-searched. But if I didn’t know the answer, I needed to find it out. And that meant I went looking. I read. I talked to friends and colleagues whose opinions I valued. I was honest with myself about what I valued, what I wanted and what I no longer wanted.

I began to see that those things which I identified as ‘success’ 10 years earlier no longer aligned with my values. I honored those things that had value to me and sorted out how to give them a more prominent role in my career. And yes, I sought out more education so I that I was qualified to do what made me happy.

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Thriving in NYC, Four Freedoms Park.


The result:
A career change at 33 years of age and no sense of guilt for having done it. Because it isn’t a mark of failure to recognize that you didn’t know something. I did not know at 22 years of age that I would love working in the art world. I had no exposure to this field and had no way of knowing that what I thought would make me happy was not the right fit. But when I began to know what I didn’t know, I went looking for the answer. Not knowing was not failing. Not finding out would have been failure. And through my education and experience I had come to see that clearly.

So what’s next now that I took the leap and landed (happily) in a new profession? I don’t know. But I will find out. And that means I am thriving.

by Kelly Bush | LinkedIn

Kelly Bush

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