Sunday, July 02, 2006

Life before TheMonSter

Before my life was redefined by this illness, for something like 15 years, my profession was something called Organizational Development (or OD, not to be confused with 'overdose', please?). OD encompasses a lot of different stuff, from designing leadership training programs to one-on-one coaching to facilitating intense strategic planning sessions. It requires a lot of energy, both psychic and physical. A colleague of mine once described facilitation as 'watching two TVs at one time', and that's a great analogy. One TV is tuned to the task at hand (are people straying from the point being discussed? how are we doing for time?). The other TV is focused on group process (is everyone getting the chance to participate? are there any subtle hints of unspoken conflicts going on? is there an 'elephant in the corner' - something people need to discuss that's being avoided?) which I always considered much more demanding and exhausting than the task stuff.

Bottom line: I loved that work. Even though I'd approach every big assignment with knots in my stomach, convinced I was facing failure and eventual disgrace, I'd usually find myself at the end of a difficult session exhausted but elated, because (as the same colleague once told me 'trust the process, it always works'). And it does.

I miss that work more than I can say. I miss the daily contact with people, the challenge of learning to 'hear the whispers in the organization', the frustration involved in sorting through piles of information (and mis-information) until something just came together and clicked into place -- and I'd understand what the hell was really going on. It was a little like being a detective and searching out clues. It was a little like being a doctor -- listing symptoms and diagnosing what was going wrong. But most of all, it was a way to help people deal with the inevitable (and often painful) crap that always seems to surface when a bunch of them end up in an organization, trying to get something done. I know how smarmy and trite it must sound to say that I like helping people, but I don't much care if it does. I liked helping people.

And I miss doing that.

So a few nights ago, I had a dream that I'd been asked to address a class about my work as a political organizer (something I've never been). In my dream, I could walk without a cane, so I was able to stand in the front of the classroom, and walk around as I talked, making eye contact and paying attention to people's reactions to what I was saying. I started out with what was supposed to be a short description of my professional career, but the class members got really interested in what I was saying, started to ask a bunch of questions, and my entire 'talk' focused on OD rather than political organizing (a good thing, since I would have been lying through my teeth otherwise!). When I woke from the dream, I could still feel the rush of energy I'd felt as we talked about that work, the same kind of psychic and physical 'high' I'd get when I was still able to work.

I shared the dream with David, my husband, who suggested that I contact a couple of the colleges in the area to see if they'd be interested in a guest lecturer (unpaid, of course, since I can't manage more than an hour or two at a time on an irregular basis), so that maybe, just maybe, I could recapture a little of the wonder I felt when I was still able to work.

It seemed like a damned good idea, and I'm mulling over how to make it happen.

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