Monday, February 19, 2007

Valentine's Day Reflection

This past February 14th (2007) was our wedding anniversary. Bruce Conklin and I have been married now for thirty-one years. Bruce is a civil engineer. I studied business and have a passion for communication and marketing. Bruce and I are two very different people, and we both truly, madly, deeply admire and celebrate the strengths of each other. We both know the quality of our lives would be greatly diminished without the companionship and support we have come to count on. In some ways, it is difficult to remember what life was like before we were together.

More than ten years ago I entered a speech contest organized by Toastmasters International. My speech, titled “Love Makes Us More Than We Are”, had a theme that resonated, and with this speech I advanced through three rounds of competition. This was surprising because for at least twenty years I had struggled with public speaking, and had taken more classes than I can count, trying to overcome my paralyzing fear which made my voice shake and crack, my breathing stop and my knees tremble. In the speech I told three stories about doubting the importance or viability of my aspirations and having Bruce’s confidence in me make the self-doubt disappear. Bruce’s love and the way he shows it are very different from the love of my parents. My father was over protective and his openly voiced fretting and concern dampened my joy every time I stretched my wings. My mother’s attachment was close to claustrophobic. Over the fifty years of our interaction, every time we parted company, she was close to tears. My parent’s love sometimes felt like being trapped in molasses. Bruce’s love makes me feel lighter than air.

My aspiration is to make the supportive partnership that I have experienced being married to Bruce an accessible option for all relationships. My sense is that it is grounded in self-confidence, trust and mutual respect. And maybe even more importantly a sense of fun and perspective to see any bump in the road as an opportunity to connect with how lucky we are to have each other and our life together.

For the last six years, Bruce has been patiently observing me reading, thinking, planning how to make the work experience more experientially rewarding and emotionally satisfying. Childless by choice, I nurtured many bosses and co-workers with a protective passion many would claim is only appropriate for family. And in my child-like innocence, did not, do not, understand why almost everyone can’t be a member of my family…at least my extended family.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Love is in the air

Today marks 31 years of wedded partnership with my dear husband Bruce. He is an environmental engineer, and I am a business woman with a passion for communication and connection. At least half of everything I am is Bruce, and being connected to Bruce grounds my aspirations in the practical reality of getting things done in the real world. In an exercise when we were both asked to describe each other using one word, I said he is "home", and he said I am "life". When I asked him what "life" meant to him as it relates to me, he said "life is everything outside and beyond the routine". The two of us are a very well integrated whole. We know each other's strengths and weaknesses, celebrating the strengths and "framing" the weaknesses in the most productive light. We complement each other in almost every way imaginable. I am confident that I would be flailing away in outdated existing paradigms- rather than grounding the design of a workable future - if I had remained single or married another man. His belief and confidence in me fuels my belief in myself.

This brings me back to love. Our Norwegian collaborator, Turid Horgen, once said "It takes seven years to adopt a new idea. And then there is falling in love."

My sense is that seeing the value and collective benefit in uniting to advance our shared commitment...all of us, not just Bruce's and mine.... to collaboration and creating an expanding community of mutual respect and shared values is "like falling in love". It is and will continue to be sudden, compelling and irresistible. It is a softness, hunger and flutter that we have always felt in our hearts, yet were afraid to admit for fear of looking weak, foolish or naive. Living life according to one's own innate, heartfelt core values of caring for our families, our collective physical and emotional health and our relationships, instead of chasing power in its many forms, can be the cultural norm we share when we agree to change the "rules" about what individuals value, and what our organizations, our communities, our governments and our leaders value, together.

And, I am not a "dreamer". I have experienced the joy of connection, shared values and teamwork many times. The emotional high of shared purpose is adictive, and I am hungry for more.