R&R

March 13, 2013

Ricochet RabbitRicochet Rabbit.  Do you remember that Hanna-Barbera cartoon character?  I used to refer to one of my bosses by that name, as I watched her bounce from one corner of the office to another.  Bing, bing, bing!

Funny thing is, I recognize that all-over-the-place, unrealistic pace and pattern in myself from time to time.  Too often, actually. Including lately.

It was common when I was running a small non-profit organization, where I fell into work-a-holism.  That was part of what led me to leave my job and go to grad school out of town.  I needed a bit of a break from my unreasonably paced reality.  Later, as I put myself on a sabbatical from politics, I was figuring out that doing all that campaign volunteer work while working a full-time job sends me into that kind of frenzy, too.

Why do I keep doing that to myself?

OK, so part of it is because I’m a Maximizer Achiever.  Deadly combination.  Let me explain.  Have you ever taken the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment?  It identifies what Gallup calls your top five “Signature Themes.” The point is that we all have things we do well or characteristics that tend to come naturally.  Gallup suggests that we focus on understanding and using those key traits rather than spending lots of time trying to improve areas where we are weak.  My challenge is that having both “Maximizer” and “Achiever” among my signature themes means that I always need to be accomplishing something, and I need to make the most of every situation.  If I don’t keep myself in check and find ways to manage those tendencies appropriately, I become Ricochet Rabbit.

Religion isn’t one of the R’s I had planned to bring into this particular installment. It was supposed to be a simple, secular post about getting some R&R.  But then I went to church this Sunday.  And Pastor preached about the 7 Deadly Sins.  With a twist.

“Some of us need a little more sloth in our lives,” he said. While some of us need to fight against a propensity toward laziness, many of us probably face an opposite challenge.  We need to slow down.

I’m not going to do justice to the various authors that Pastor referred to.  I’m sure there was some Barbara Brown Taylor in there.  And some Walter Wink, I think. The sermon’s most compelling concept for me was the Uber Sloth. Busyness is the Uber Sloth’s thing. This character may look like it’s doing lots of good stuff.  But it’s not really being productive.

Ahem.

My chicken-scratch sermon notes culminate in what is probably a paraphrase of somebody’s great quote: “Test the idea that you are worth more than you can produce.  You are still precious in God’s sight.” (Let me know if you know who I’m plagiarizing, so I can give them proper credit.)

Now for personal application and accountability.  Even when I’m trying to rest and relax and slow down, the Maximizer Achiever in me needs to feel like I’m accomplishing something and making the most of an opportunity.  So, as I test the idea that I am worth more than I can produce and work on being a little more slothful—and maybe even a little more productive in the long-run—I have to make an R&R to-do list.  This helps me make my signature themes work for me, as I get the satisfaction of checking things off my list.  And I’m going to write more about the items and ask you to check in with me to make sure I invest in plenty of:

  • Reading
  • Reflection
  • Recreation
  • Relationships

R&R.  It really was a theme this weekend.

After church I went to a memorial service for a colleague in social justice activism and philanthropy. She reminded me a lot of myself.  As I took in the beautiful pictures, music, and tributes, I was forced to think about what I hope people would say about me after I pass on.  I was struck by the beautiful friendships that clearly nurtured my colleague on good and bad days.  We were left with poignant words from a family member: “Busyness cannot be a way of life.  In the end, relationships are what matter most.”

What will R&R stand for in your life?

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A number of people have pushed back against the idea that I would swear off politics.  One Facebook friend responded to an early blog post with this quote from Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

And, honestly, I even think these things myself sometimes. Such statements feed my own anxiety about not doing more.  My anxiety about not playing particular roles in politics. I regularly feel drawn to make a difference in that arena because I can.  Or at least I think I can.  And should.

But recent conversations and social media statements have reminded me again and again. Sometimes you’re meant to be in a certain place at a certain time, even if it’s not where you or others think you’re supposed to be.

Doing what God has for me to do at this time does not equal doing nothing.

In mentioning last month’s Jewish Festival of Purim, another Facebook friend’s recent post reminded me of the phrase: “For such a time as this.” Purim celebrates Queen Esther’s role in ensuring that the Jewish people across the Persian empire were spared from an order to annihilate them.  The Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament explain how Queen Esther, an undercover Jew who, through an unusual opportunity, is chosen as queen by King Ahasuerus, is at the right place at the right time.  She takes a big risk in revealing her ethnicity and bringing to the king her concern about the threat to her people.  But she finds favor in the king’s eyes, and the Jewish people are saved.  The Book of Esther suggests that she was in that place and space for a reason.  In chapter 4, verse 14, the question is asked, “And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”

When I’m sitting at my desk at work, where I make recommendations for grant funding to non-profit organizations, I often think to myself, “For such a time as this.”  God has  given me a great job in philanthropy at a time when both the non-profit and government sectors are such difficult, unstable environments.  (I used to work in the former and have often aspired to the latter.)  While having the steady income and relatively low-stress work environment that wasn’t at all guaranteed during my non-profit career, I get to help direct funding toward needy agencies and communities. And I often have energy left at the end of the day or work week to go above and beyond the call of duty.  So I help develop the capacity of young leaders and less-sophisticated groups that might not otherwise position themselves well for future funding.  Rather than doing nothing, I’m doing something.

To be honest, my self-righteous self also identifies at times with Genesis’ Joseph.  (Remember the musical “Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat”?)  This Biblical character’s brothers resent him (maybe with good reason).  They sell him into slavery, which takes him to Egypt.  Through various ups and downs and ups, Joseph rises to the position of administrator of great stockpiles of food which become vital during a time of great famine in the land.  Joseph’s traitor brothers have to come to Egypt to beg him for provisions to feed their families.  Joseph doesn’t rub it in their faces. He sends them home with what they came for.

My professional position sometimes calls me to make grant recommendations to organizations whose main characters have tried to throw me under the bus over the years.  When I get full of myself and think vindictive thoughts, I try to remind myself of how—like Esther and Joseph—God has put me in this place and space for a reason.  I dig deep—or rather tap into God’s grace—and graciously facilitate funding even to those I may feel have done me wrong.

So as I (often impatiently) honor the roles God would have me play today, I strive to do the following:

  • Notice how well God has taken care of me while making me wait for what I think are other elements of my calling;
  • Allow God to work on my character flaws along the way;
  • Live in confidence that God will put me in the right place in politics at the right time, if that’s where I’m supposed to be.

I’m thankful that my political friends, colleagues, and even some rivals think that the world is a better place when I’m engaged with politics.  But it’s more important that I allow myself to live into God’s grace and accept the possibility that God may have me positioned in a different way for such a time as this.

Still

February 21, 2013

Good night friends! Tomorrow begins a 40 day Facebook fast for Lent. Looking forward to being fully present to those around me and to clearing out mental clutter to more clearly hear the still, small voice of God.” ~ Facebook friend

Still Small Voice 2

These words and images appeared in separate status updates from friends on my Facebook last week. It was just after I blogged about tuning out Facebook a bit more in order to be more fully present and to find a new state of mind. It seems many of us were thinking about seeking more stillness.

But how well are we doing?  As for me, I’ve been struggling for a while to be still.

In 2009, I was exploring running for the Chicago City Council.  The director of the “From Harvard Square to the Oval Office” women’s political practicum in which I had participated was asking me when I was  going to move from working others’ campaigns to launching my own.

As I tried to discern the right timing and path for my personal entrance into the political fray, I gathered a group of friends to meet with me regularly to pray.  A number of months into the process, one of the women told me that she believed that God had given her some words for me from Psalm 46:10– “Be still and know that I am God.” She and the other women prayed over me.  Shortly thereafter, I accepted that I indeed needed to be still and wait on God for some other opportunity to launch a political career.

A huge burden of stress was lifted from my shoulders.  I literally felt the difference.

In retrospect, I realized that I had been working too hard and too alone.  A number of people who had originally encouraged me and had signed up to help weren’t following through.  Though I had successfully begun raising money, and it looked from the outside like all systems were go, I had the sense that something wasn’t right.  I’ve never been afraid of hard work, and I had plenty of understanding about and preparation for the challenges of running for political office. But I had been asking myself how hard I should have to struggle to pry doors open. Were the obstacles and questions I was facing signs that this was not what the universe had for me at this moment? It wasn’t until I stepped back that I was more fully able to hear the still, small voice.

Yet I surrendered to the call to be still in some ways but not others.  I felt good about my decision not to run for office at that time.  But I didn’t take my friend’s prophetic words to mean that I should disengage from politics altogether.  Shortly thereafter I jumped in full throttle to a mayoral campaign.  I don’t know for sure that I was supposed to take that route.  It wasn’t until I nearly collapsed in exhaustion after the mayoral race that I finally truly sought to be still.

My year-long-sabbatical from politics gave me more perspective.  As I have listened to that still, small voice, I have come to believe that God is going to have me keep waiting and trusting for a while longer. I must admit that I wrestle with that on a regular basis.  And I sometimes get confused when others’ voices encourage me to put my hat in the political ring sometime soon.  It’s hard to know which voices are which.

In the midst of this on and off conversation with myself, friends and colleagues, and God, my impatient self ran across a booklet by Joyce Meyer: When, God, When? Learning to Trust in God’s Timing.  The funny thing is, I don’t think I had ever read anything by Joyce Meyer.  But this booklet somehow ended up in a stack of devotional readings I had crammed in my bedside table. It caught my eye just at the right time.

A couple of thoughts particularly spoke to me.  Meyer suggests the following:

  • Enjoy the present while waiting for your calling to be fulfilled.  Too often we get so focused on the goal that we forget to appreciate the process, and even the waiting.  And life passes us by.
  • Sometimes God is preparing others that are supposed to be on the journey with you.  You may be ready, but your partners may not.

The latter really rang true for me.  As I was reflecting on Meyer’s writings, I noted with amazement how God is so clearly at work in the life of one of the people I had most expected to have by my side in my political journey. And I am excited to think about some significant support-system relationships where baby steps toward reconciliation have begun or new ones have been born.  Meanwhile, I realize that there are other key characters who are not yet fully bought into my dream.

So I’m trying to heed Meyer’s advice. I try to focus on being faithful in the little things day to day.  And to not miss out on joy by trying in my own strength to force the birth of my vision in my own timing. “Be still and know that I am God.”

More than three years after my aldermanic exploration, two years after the mayoral campaign, and nearly six months after my year-long sabbatical, I keep trying (and often failing) to be quiet and listen and be still.

Still.

A New State of Mind

February 13, 2013

Today, a Facebook friend posted a comment about how she was going to sign off of Facebook for a while.  She said it wasn’t necessarily for Lent, but it was part of an effort to simplify her life.

A few hours later, here I am watching people’s Facebook posts while I watch the president’s State of the Union address.  Now many of us multi-task that way.  I did the same during the Superbowl a few weeks ago.  And even last night while I watched The Bachelor.  (Yes, I admit, my husband and I have gotten sucked into this particular season.  And I checked my Facebook to see how many people were as happy as I was that the bachelor sent Tierra home last night!) Facebook has made things more complicated, hasn’t it?

My addiction to Facebook actually was facilitated by politics.  As I often do with new technology and such, I got dragged onto Facebook kicking and screaming.  My grad school friends encouraged one another to sign up as a good way to keep in touch with each other.  That was actually a great idea.  But I didn’t start engaging actively with Facebook until I decided to use it intentionally to connect with more people and raise my profile as I explored running for political office.  It was all downhill from there.

I took up not only a Facebook addiction, but a technology addiction, in addition. I got my first Smart Phone to enable my habit.  I could now post on the go.  Keeping up with Facebook and e-mails became my commuting routine.  It became something I’d do whenever I was bored.  While I was waiting for a friend who was running late to meet me for coffee.  While I was walking down the street, even!

And, for the next few years, my husband complained. I was never fully present because I was always paying attention to my phone.  While we were watching a movie at home.  While we were out to dinner.  He’d get up to go to the bathroom, and by the time he got back, I’d be in another world.  I’d be mad about some nasty political comment I saw on Facebook or responding in my mind to some work-related e-mail.

So six months into my sabbatical from politics, I decided to get what I call a Dumb Phone.  No internet access.  I can text and call.  That’s all.  Now I read a book while I’m on the “L.”  Or I just think.  Or I pray.  Or I just plain space out and let my over-worked brain cells rest.  And at home, I remain much more focused on my husband (and our mutual enjoyment of The Bachelor!)

It was a bit hard at first.  And I have to be a bit more organized since I can’t email someone to let them know I’m running late or look up directions while I’m on the move.  But I’m no longer addicted to having constant Facebook and internet access.

It wasn’t for Lent that I originally weaned myself off a Smart Phone. In fact, Lent hasn’t been a big part of my Christian tradition.  The personal opinion that I formed over the years was that having an attitude of sacrifice all year round was much more important than eating fish on Fridays for what seemed to me to be legalistic reasons.

But in recent years, I have come to value Lent as a time to get in a new state of mind.  I find it a good frame for thinking about how to reorder my life. A good time to think about areas of my life where I’ve been going overboard.  A good time to develop new habits.  Forty days of reflection and discipline can really change things.

Tonight our country reflects on the state of the union and the possibilities of this presidential term. And some of us put on Lenten reflection and sacrifice. How will you get in a new state of mind?

The Great Facebook Debate

February 6, 2013

“Hate can’t drive out hate.  Only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

It’s just too easy for strong words of disagreement to come across as hate on Facebook.  Or at least as unloving.  And as one who aspires to promote love rather than hate, that was a plenty good reason to put myself on a fast from Facebook debates as part of weaning myself off of politics.

You see, when I’m on a political high that is further stoked by Facebook debate, I’m probably not the best monitor of my own words.  Maybe I’m spewing something not unlike the very hate that I hate so much.

I had used my personal Facebook account quite prodigiously to promote my candidate during the mayoral campaign I worked.  I had commented a lot on other people’s posts in an effort to encourage real dialogue about policy and politics based on facts and reason.  My number of Facebook friends had expanded greatly during that period as folks I met on other people’s pages “friended” me.  Either they wanted to engage with me because they agreed with me, or they thought it would be fun to argue with me.

Much to the surprise of some people, I actually don’t enjoy arguments.  The many people who used to tell the teenaged me that I should be a lawyer might beg to differ, as might my husband.  I probably do have an argumentative streak in me.  But that’s exactly why I don’t need any extra incentive to argue.

Sure, there’s a role for debate.  Debates are an important element of politics.  But too much of the time, we call something a debate simply to justify being argumentative or to hurl insults.  We want to prove ourselves better or smarter than another person.  We want cover for simply being mean.

I had to “block” a few people during that campaign season.  That was the first time I had ever done that.  They aligned with the same political party that I tend to, but they supported different candidates than I did.  (In Chicago, the question usually is not whether you are a Democrat or a Republican.  It’s what brand of Democrat you are.)  But who they planned to vote for wasn’t the reason to disengage.  It was their orientation toward hate.  Rather than simply discuss their policy position or point out a politician’s voting record on a particular issue, they tended to use language of attack.  Attacks on me or attacks on candidates other than their own.  Personal and ugly attacks.  Hate.

In other cases, I’ve found a need to hide the comments even of people who share my political views and/or my faith.  Some of them share both with me.  Others share one or the other.  Either way, there are some people whose comments come across as hateful and disgusting, even as they think they are promoting something good.

So when my sabbatical started, I decided that I would not:

  • post any political commentary of my own;
  • participate in debates about politics on other people’s pages;
  • “share” newspaper articles about politics;
  • promote my favorite candidates—friends who were running for office.

That last one was particularly tough.

But I saved myself some pain by staying out of many-a-Facebook debate.  And I saved myself from possibly representing myself in ways I might regret later.  Giving myself a hard and fast rule had really helped me to just stay out of the fray.  Once my sabbatical was over and I waded back into the Facebook political debate space, I surely have irritated some people as some have irritated me. But I have tried really hard to avoid spewing hate.

So should one participate in Facebook political debates? In the end, I think it’s about moderation. And constant self-monitoring.

You see, I’ve found some sense of community by representing my political persuasion on Facebook.  And I consider it to be part of my witness.  So I don’t want to have to disengage completely from those conversations.  Despite the dangers, I’m afraid I’ll miss out.

I’ve connected with some old classmates from Christian college, for example, who I would never have expected to have similar views as mine.  And some of them have expressed to me how refreshing it has been to them to find others like me who share their faith AND their not-so-conservative political points of view.  Rare birds we are.  So I want to walk with them in sharing non-hate-filled policy and political positions with others.  I hope that we can positively influence others to think in new ways about how we together promote good government and the common good.

But to do that, I have to keep focused on love.  And not being argumentative.  Because as someone once said, “No one ever changed their mind because they lost a debate.”

Sacred Sundays

January 29, 2013

Sunday morning talks shows had to go.

I don’t have cable or the like.  So I didn’t need to give myself the rule of not watching 24-hour news cycle political coverage.  I don’t have regular access to that stuff anyway.  Even less so do I listen to talk radio of any kind.  But I often turn on the TV morning news shows as I get ready to head into my day. So I had grown accustomed to listening to local or national commentators debate while I was getting ready for church.

Nixing George Stephanopolous didn’t mean I had to avoid all talk of politics or public policy.  I still wanted to be an informed, engaged citizen.  I would catch some political headlines on TV morning news shows as I got ready for work.  I was pleased when on rare occasion my schedule allowed me to watch the national evening news.  And my work and volunteer service allowed me to impact public policy.  But as a political junkie, I knew that I needed to pull myself away from the most negative influences—those that most enraptured, irritated, and side-tracked me.

I had grown even more addicted to TV political talk shows during the mayoral campaign I had worked.  I often tuned in to see how our candidate would do during his interview or what opposing candidates had to say.  Being up to speed on the tenor and amount of coverage we were getting on a variety of media outlets was important to our team as we developed policy positions and talking points.

Additionally, I had become so busy during the campaign that I stopped going to Sunday morning services. (It didn’t help that I was struggling to find a church that had what I was looking for.  Nor did it help that my husband had given up on Christianity altogether.  But those are stories for another day.) I had been church-hopping when the campaign started, though I was still connected to a mid-week, Small Group from my previous congregation. But when campaign staff meetings were scheduled for Sunday mornings, and I was busy watching all the local TV interviews in the morning anyway, it was easy enough to disengage from my previous routine of going to church.  (It is my understanding that the busy candidate found a way to get himself to mass at least some Saturday nights. But for the first time in my life, my regular church attendance was interrupted—for about a year.)

Clearly, this politics stuff had contributed to me developing more than one unhealthy Sabbath habit.  Sleeping in a bit and watching political talk shows had become my new Sunday morning routine. Pulling myself away from those shows was going to be quite a doosie. But it was very important to my reclaiming my Sunday mornings for a focus on God.

Having just moved to a new home as my political sabbatical began, I also started looking for a church in my new neighborhood.  It sure was easier to get moving and out the door on my quest for a new congregation when I wasn’t engrossed in Face the Nation.  And once I found a church home, I arrived there in a much better mood and more ready for worship than I did in the past. Lingering aggravation about political commentary no longer ruled my Sunday mornings.

Not watching Sunday morning talk shows has another benefit.  It helps me better honor my husband. He dislikes TV news, generally, and often gets worked up even more than I do over political rhetoric and posturing. He much prefers TV-less and politics-free peace and quiet any morning of the week.

This past Sunday, the intro to Meet the Press appeared on my screen just before I switched the boob tube off.  Old habits die hard. But, all-in-all, I’m doing pretty well in beating back that temptation post-sabbatical.

Now both I and my hubby are in a better frame of mind as we try to enjoy Sundays together and endeavor to make it a true day of rest.

More on that one later.

Me and ObamaWatching President Obama’s second inauguration, I can’t help but think about the advice of one of my professors in grad school.  She suggested that I not work the Obama presidential primary if I wanted to run for office in Chicago as a Democrat. At least not work the campaign back home in Illinois. She said I’d make enemies among local members of the party—folks whose support I would need later down the road when I became a candidate.  This professor used to come to class having just gotten off the phone with the former vice president whom she had staffed during his days in office.  She had played strong roles in Democratic party politics.  So I decided she might know what she was talking about.

It was tough to swallow, though.  Obama had announced his candidacy for president while I was away at grad school.  Being from Chicago, I had long been a big fan.  I could claim a closer-up look at Obama than most of my classmates and professors. I had watched him with great interest since he gave a speech at a conference I attended in Chicago around the turn of the millennium.  He had knocked my socks off.  He was still a state senator at the time. Only later did I learn more about his community organizing background and work with affordable housing residents, with which I resonated.  It was even later that he made that great speech at the convention that put him on everyone’s radar.

When he ran for the U.S. Senate, I jumped on the bandwagon early.  I first met him at a neighborhood rally hosted by three of my favorite Latino elected officials—back when no one thought he had a chance.  I marched with the Latinos for Obama contingent in the Mexican Independence Day parade. I attended a small fundraiser for him, hosted by a church friend who is his neighbor. His staff later included me—then the director of a Latino-focused non-profit advocacy organization—among those who stood with Senator Obama at a press conference announcing his support for an initiative important to Latinos. I later lobbied his office in D.C.

Surely he has no idea who I am.  But I felt connected to him and was quite tempted to seek an opportunity to work for his campaign for president.  Various of my grad school friends got jobs with Obama for America (which in some cases, led to jobs in the White House or elsewhere in the administration.  Yes, I’m jealous.)

It turns out that it didn’t take too long for the Chicago powers-that-be to put their weight behind Obama over Hillary Clinton. I might have been able to work the campaign without endangering my own future as a politician. But regardless of the ultimate relevance of my professor’s advice, I was no longer a spring chicken with tons of energy and a willingness to live on the cheap with scarcely a place to call home.  The fact that I met the man I would marry just as the presidential campaign season was getting into high gear also influenced my thoughts about how much of myself I could pour into a national campaign. So I let that boat sail without me.

As I settled back into my hometown after school, it was a different race that tugged at me.  My state senator—the highest ranking Latina in the state senate and one of the politicians whose event had first introduced me personally to her then-colleague Obama—was being attacked from three sides in her own party.  Partly because she was a woman who didn’t “know her place.” That really got my goat. Despite any wisdom associated with my professor’s advice, I jumped into a fight pitted against other Democrats.  To make a long story short, we saved that campaign. That was 2008, and my reputation as a kick-butt campaign volunteer was cemented.  And my addiction to politics was set into full gear.

Some of my colleagues from that state senate race parlayed that experience into roles with the Obama campaign.  One even went off to work in the White House.  But I stayed local, nurturing a new marriage while growing my political network in Chicago.  I did tiny little bits of work on a county commissioner campaign and a state representative race.  I launched an exploratory committee and started raising money to lay the groundwork for my own run—for alderman—but then decided it wasn’t the right time.  Then the Illinois politician I have held in highest regard asked me to direct the policy team for his mayoral bid.  Of course, I said yes.  That last one nearly ran me into the ground. (In all of these cases, the main battles were Democrat vs. Democrat, by the way.  So much for me listening to my professor’s advice.)

No wonder I was run down.  I get tired just writing about it!

My sabbatical kicked off just as four local races that I cared about got started.  The state senator was up for re-election again, and she had asked me to join her leadership team.  I went to a couple of meetings and then backed out—for a number of reasons.  But a strict sabbatical from all campaigns for the sake of my physical and emotional health was the most important reason and a good, legitimate, truthful excuse.  In the end, the state senator didn’t have a challenger, so an active team wasn’t necessary.  Nonetheless, with other candidate friends running in the cycle, I couldn’t say yes to one without opening the flood gates to other requests.  So it was good that I had said no.

As for the other races, in one case, the candidate and I went way back.  And he represented the community’s long-term struggle. Years ago, his father had been an aldermanic candidate and was murdered as he challenged the status quo.  In another, the candidate and I had worked side-by-side on two previous races that we both found extremely meaningful.  In the other, I didn’t know the challenger personally. But I knew the incumbent had to go.  I had to turn all three of these challengers down when they asked for my help.  I admit that I gave two of them money and one of them pointers.  But I didn’t work the campaigns.

They all lost.  Two of them by slim margins.  In one case, the vote was so close that I felt particularly guilty. I figured I had enough influence with long-time friends and neighbors in that district to have personally delivered the number of votes needed to change the outcome of the race.

But I had genuinely needed the rest and the perspective.  A number of things were easier to see from outside the fray.

Including that it’s not all about me.

When I’m on a politics-induced adrenaline high or doing something because it makes me feel valued, I may not be able to see straight.  And if I was thinking that the success of any particular campaign hinged on my involvement, then at least one of two things was probably happening:

  1. I was thinking too highly of myself;
  2. There weren’t enough of and/or the right people committed to this candidate or campaign for it to be tenable.

The first point is especially significant because some people in my community were already suggesting that I was arrogant because I had the audacity to consider running for office myself.  I’m convinced that some of those comments came from jealousy, a concern that I was a real threat, and gender and/or generational issues. But I indeed have to monitor myself to make sure I’m not getting a big head or accidentally coming across as such.

And I need to be careful to participate in a campaign because it is one that I truly believe in, not just because I want to perpetuate my profile and power.  Not to mention, I get star struck with certain politicians (as you can tell from my recounting of my very minor interactions with Obama.) The danger of wanting to feel important by association always exists.

The second point is poignant for me because I tend to rush in to stand in the gap when I see a situation that lacks resources or leadership and for which I have appropriate skills and experience.  I need to think more about whether every gap is there for me to run in and fill it.

Finally, taking a step back offered a good opportunity to discern who my real friends were.  I tend to let people get close quite easily. Sometimes I forget that some of them may just want to use me or may abandon me when we find areas of disagreement.  I need to figure out which people are my “friends” only when I am doing their political bidding. And who values me regardless of which side of a political fight I come down on.

I still fight with myself over how much energy to put into political campaigns that I care about.  Once again, I had to consider whether I wanted to work the Obama campaign.  My sabbatical ended just a few months before the 2012 general election, and I had friends making weekend trips to other states that were in contention.  About the same time, just days after my sabbatical officially ended, I got a call from a woman I appreciate asking for help on her campaign for local office.

It can be hard to sit out and watch all the action from the sidelines—especially on days like today.  But it felt like I was an alcoholic about to take a drink after being sober for a while.  I had to say no to both.

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