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The Interdisciplinary Work of Lyss England

Posts tagged career

I recently began “Integral Coaching” sessions with an absolutely delightful woman named Rae Kess. This process started with a conversation about where I’m at personally and with my creative work. It then moved to world-building and goal-setting. Then, Rae created a rad outline for our work (it’s very based on metaphors, super cool stuff) that provided a one-sentence focus for my work over the next 5 months. The topic she identified after our conversation was:

“To be more able to set clear boundaries so I can focus my energy on structuring and monetizing the creative work that I care about.”

To get there, one thing we discussed a current way of being and a new way of being. For me, the current way of being involves attending to other people’s needs and pushing aside my own creative projects because my energy has been spent elsewhere. Moving in to the new way of being will, theoretically, involve setting up structures that support my work so that I can be more intentional with where I spend my energy.

The thing that I’m intentionally maintaining is keeping a lot on my plate. I love to be busy, it keeps me well. The key is where I am prioritizing and focusing my energy. In order to re-set my energy throughout the day, Rae suggested a 5-minute-a-day exercise she calls “Tiny Explosions” (LOVE IT). The idea is that our bodies need to be engaged in the transition towards a new way of being. If I am emotionally/mentally/spiritually in a state of transition, it makes sense that my body ought to be as well- even if it’s just in a small way.

As a disabled person, I recognize the importance of connecting with my body and tuning in to it. This makes a lot of sense to me. So, I reached out on social media to crowd source strategies people in my community that people use to refocus their energy during their workday.
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Not surprisingly, people came up with a ton of great strategies. Here they are all in one place (with links to what they’re talking about):

Jasmine-June Cabanaw – Sun salutations

Ron Hyatt – Short walks, meditation

Amy Anderson-Macarthur – Exercise ball vs chair, Resistance bands

Jenni Burke – Spinal Flex: inhale forward and exhale back.

Heather Harrison – Kundalini

Cailey McCormack a cuddle with my pupper – no joke. She sits on my lap and stares at me and I stare back and it makes me laugh, and then I put her down on the ground and take a few deep breaths. I also drink an entire glass of water. It’s one of my strategies for helping me get out of a panic attack. Something about it that works.

Amber Dawn Vibert Eating food and drinking water is the only thing that makes me feel okay

Paul Devlin – I just take a moment to be happy I’m at work and not in the hospital or jail. Positive thinking for a min to keep me moving

Ariel Patricia – Jumping jacks

Craig Martin I leave work early. Takes 5ish minutes. When I get home and jump into the pool it totally re-energizes me.

Richard D. Quodomine – Feng Shui health and exercise balls

Danielle Hobbs – I run my hands under really cold water, like ice cold.

Dayna Lepofsky – Go for a short walk, cold water on the wrists or face, a quick stretch in the sun if possible, stretch out my limbs in the chair if I can’t leave my desk, crack my back, blink really really hard a few times but this one kind of just makes me dizzy sometimes lol

Sarah Jean Kennedy – I wash my hands and splash my face with cold water a few times. Fix my makeup and hair then back at it!

Tom Keefer – My fitness program consists only of doing one set of as many push-ups I can do once a day. It works pretty good and is real quick.

Andrew Charles Weed – pen

Monique Melanson  – Do a breathing exercise

Kim Doolittle – Sleep and naps

Jesse Watts – I do a couple 5 minute meditations a day. Helps me with my anxiety and helps me get “grounded”/relax. Not really physical but helps with body connections.

Jeff Wheeldon – Pushups. Start small, but do it many times per day. Amazing how fast your strength can improve from incremental gains, and it wakes me up like nothing else.

Anne-Marie Bouthillette – 5minute meditation/deep breathing/body scan

Effie Dice – Wim Hof breathing

To summarize, the most common suggestions were:

  • Push ups or jumping jacks
  • Meditation
  • Washing hands or face with cold water
  • Drinking a glass of water
  • Stretching

 

It’s powerful what happens when we ask for what we need. Try some of these strategies if you’re looking for a “tiny explosion” to refocus during your work day. Or, better yet, ask your community what strategies they use!

(Thanks for the inspiration, Rae!)

 

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I feel burnt out. Maybe it’s the time of year (it’s fall, things are dying and the ever-changing air pressure is torturous for a person, like myself, living with fibromyalgia). Maybe it’s just the eb of the flow that is my mental health. Maybe it’s because of capitalism.

Yeah, that’s probably the one.

I’ve read a lot about how your worth is not determined by your level of productivity, but I’ve also always struggled with that as a kid who grew up in a household where productivity was number one. I grew up, like many others, believing that the Road to Success was to do well in school, go to university, get a degree, and work 40 hours/week. However, like many other millennials, I have found that, since graduating with my undergrad, I am lucky to get a job even remotely related to my field, let alone those nine-to-five hours I’ve always dreamt of. Going to grad school is an option (and, it seems, the only option if I want to work in the ‘helping industry’), but it’s an expensive option that dictates where my little family and I will live and work. Simply taking the amount of time off of my day job to complete and submit grad school applications is time-consuming (and expensive) enough, let alone actually attending grad school.

Anyway, the aspirations I had for my career in social work are fading, and I find myself, a person who has always focused on school/career/building a resume, a little lost.

I define my Self as an artist/activist. I am an interdisciplinary artist who paints abstract expressionist paintings and performs and, at times, holds a vision for various pieces of work. I am a writer (allegedly) who exposes pieces of myself for the sake of radical vulnerability (like I am now). Because I am an artist who believes that the most important part of art is the process, and that there is not beautiful and more meaningful process than that of the Self. I am an activist who strives for caring communities and healing and restorative justice.

But I have never believed that my art and/or my activism would be able to support me. And if I am not supporting myself, I find that I do not value myself. This is obviously problematic and rooted largely in trauma. Some personal trauma, and some trauma that reaches society-wide. For all the times that I have encouraged the people in my life to take some time to take care of themselves, I kind of suck at it.

Maybe that’s not fair to say. In some ways, I take good care of myself. I have learned that the key to managing my disabilities is to be intentional with the things I eat, the things I do, the amount I sleep, the way I do the things I do. It’s kind of hard to live by the seat of my pants. I promised myself that for the month of September I would prioritize having fun and doing the things I wanted to do rather than work or other things I felt like I ought to do. It was awesome, but It took me three weeks to recover physically. My body went into fibroshock mode and I was more or less useless for a while.

Now I’m trying to focus on creating art rather than my day job- which is  harder said than done. A significant portion of making art is, after all, drinking too much coffee and waiting for inspiration to strike. And there I face a paradigm: do I prioritize doing things that inspire me but also physically ruin me, or do I prioritize my Real Work and find that I am too self-deprecating to create anything at all.

I had high hopes that this time in my life would be dedicated to entering every open door to feel out where I fit in this world. Instead, I am finding that there are a lot of brick walls that don’t budge, no matter how hard I work to move them (or even climb them). Between my disabilities and my politics, it seems as though I am not a very “good fit” for much of anywhere, and between my obsession with productivity and my passion for exerting mass amounts of emotional labour that I don’t have the spoons for, I don’t feel like I make a very good artist/activist either.

And it comes back to capitalism. Measuring self-worth by my productivity, and also reconciling the fact that I need to make money in order to eat and live reasonably with the fact that the majority of the work I do (both professionally and personally, come to think of it) is emotional labour- feminized work that is not valued enough to compensate the person engaging in that labour.

I love taking care of my friends and community members, but this is a truly laborious process that I put a lot of time, effort, and skills into. It’s something that I attempt to fuze into both my art, and my activism. I know that I will have many opportunities to further my career/Work/whatever, and I know that I will not feel like this forever.

But in this moment, I feel burnt out. And I know I’m not the only one.