Colour – #21daysofWriting – Day 6

Day 6’s topic comes from the brilliant, creative Christine Locher Second foray into fiction, with a flash of colour, I hope

———

Scotland – 1920 ish

Isla sits on the end of the bed, breath held, no sense of how long she has been sitting there, waiting. Hands on her lap. Feet resting on the floorboards. The clock on the mantle ticks solidly. Everything is still and very very quiet.

She becomes aware that she is cold; and with that comes a sense that she needs to move. So she does. She smooths the skirt of her dress, the fabric soft beneath her fingertips, and slowly rises.

She stands for a second, no clear sense of direction, and catches the image of her face in the mirror above the fireplace. “I am pale” she thinks. She regards her dark hair, curled and pinned. Her blue eyes and prominent nose. Her mouth and the angles of her jawline. She sees dark circles and an unsmiling mouth, a gauntness that makes her look older. She tries to smile, but her nerves stop her eyes from catching the feeling. She turns away, her spirit stubbornly refusing to spiral downward.

Today is the day.

She is ready.

She looks down at the dress. A fine thing. An expensive thing. Beautifully fitted and perfect for the occasion.

She takes a deep breath and goes to seek the others.

 

The men have gathered in the kitchen.

The bottle of whisky on the table, dram glasses gathered around it, belies the fact that it is morning.

They stand, suited, smart, hands in pockets, glass in hand or leaning on the sideboard. Some sit at the table. There is talking, gesturing, fiddling with pocket watches or cigarettes or pipes. A shaft of low winter sun strikes through the gloom, dust motes and smoke moving through it.

She enters the room quietly.

Her father has his back to her. Uncle sees her, nudges Father and nods toward her.

Father turns, expectant, arms opening to greet her as he turns. He takes in the vision of his daughter.  He looks at her for a few seconds, staring. His arms drop.

“What’s this?” He says, quietly.

She doesn’t respond

“Isla?” Still quiet. Ominous. “What the hell is the meaning of this?”

She still says nothing, aware that the room is now silent; that all the men are looking her way; that the moment she knew would come is now here. For all she’d prepared for it, she now feels woefully under equipped and afraid.

She opens her lips to say something… but her tongue is thick and her mouth dry.

Father is standing facing her directly, still across the room. His eyes have ignited – cold fury shining from them.

“Answer me, damn you, girl. What the bloody hell is going on?”

 

“There’s no need to swear at the lassie, Gregor.” – A voice behind her. Mother.

She watches her father shift his position, less certain what to do in the face of his wife.  “Agnes. She’s wearing… she’s wearing…” He gestures at his daughter, unable to finish.

“Red, Gregor. Our daughter is wearing Red.”

He considers this for a second.

“What the bloody hell is she doing wearing red?” He explodes, “It’s a funeral for Christ’s sake, no a…. a… hoor’s convention”

Agnes stands beside her daughter, long black coat buttoned up, the cold from outside still radiating from her. She takes Isla’s hand.

“Isla, my lass. Tell your father why you are wearing red.”

She hesitates. Looks at her mother. Mother nods, gently encouraging. Eyes still on Father.

“It was Robert’s favourite dress, father. He bought it for me. In Paris”

Father looks at her, incredulous. “What?” his contempt is searing.

She takes a deep breath. “This is the last dress Robert bought me. He loved this dress. I told him I would wear it to the funeral”

Father looks between Isla and his wife, trying to take it in. “No. Absolutely No.”

“Gregor…”

“No. No. No. What will people say, Agnes? The Minister? What will the Minister make of it? I forbid it! No daughter of mine goes to her husband’s funeral dressed like that!!”

“Gregor..”

“Hush, wife. I’ll not hear it! I forbid this, understand?”

He rounds on Isla “What possessed you, girl? What are you thinking? A Red Dress, Isla? Paris you say? It looks like he bought it for a…. Tart. Get up the stairs and put on proper mourning attire, or I’ll thrash you like…..”

“THAT IS ENOUGH” her Mother thunders.

Isla doesn’t move. The men seem frozen, too. Only the smoke in the light-shaft moves.

Gregor looks stunned for a split second, then recovers. He puts his whisky glass down, purposefully. The silence is agonising. He moves toward them, menacingly.

“Speak to me like that, would you? In front of all these people?” He hisses, quietly.

Isla is terrified. She bows her head, quivering. Her mothers hand squeezes hers and releases.

Agnes pulls herself to her full height, still smaller than he, and stands between him and his daughter.

“Aye. I would.”

“Who the hell do you think you are?”

She says nothing. Holds her ground. Dares him silently.

In the silence, in the safety of her mother, Isla thinks about the Red Dress. About Robert, returned from the war unlike so many of his brethren. About how he had passed through Paris on his return home. About how her had greeted her, victorious, with the dress. About how he had not seen her for over a year and when she put it on, he looked at her like she was made of purest gold. About the times she’d worn it since. About the promise she made to him, as he lay, riddled with TB. About her fury with God himself that He would return her Man and take her Man in such a fashion. About the bairn growing in her belly that meant this dress would not fit weeks from now…she takes strength from her anger, her grief, her dress.

She steps out from behind her mother and stares him down.

Gregor is taken aback under the eyes of his child. He’s never seen her thus. His own eyes glare back at him, defiant.

“I’m wearing the dress father.”

He shakes his head, enraged.

She restates “I’m wearing the dress to Robert’s funeral and that is the end of it. No man will stop me. Not you. Not the Minister.”

He considers his position. Looks at his wife.

“Are you proud of yersel, Agnes? You’ve raised a bloody Pankhurst bitch”

He spits on the floor.

Agnes simply unbuttons her coat, the crimson velvet beneath revealing itself to her husband.

“Aye. I’m proud.”

 

 

 

Reflection

I loved writing this. Just loved it.

I hung out with the notion of “colour” for a few days – debating how to frame it. the name fuchsia blue? The colours of emotion? what to choose what to choose….

At some point on Sunday night I thought about a red dress and the scandal of it… that was a hook for other things.. how it once would have been more scandalous (therefore age the thing) how the outrage needs to be placed somehow (funeral? wedding? although in lots of cultures, colours at weddings and funerals are essential). It began in Wales, with the father outraged in a Welsh accent ( you’ll see why tomorrow) and moved home to Scotland, where I understand the tone and texture of the language.

It wasn’t particularly planned.. the crimson reveal happened after I’d written Agnes was wearing a coat… it kind of came together by playing it through – what felt real or not…

What If? -#21daysofWriting – Day 5

 

This topic came from Alison Monkhouse, who I know through the Shindig and some really good conversations.

——-

 

What if things got simpler?

If the preparing of a piece of toast

was a work of art.

If the bread was sawn with a beloved bread knife,

handle familiar and weighty,

and the noise of steel-on-crust,

the feel of the vibration of knife-teeth as they bit,

was a pleasure?

What if the smell of the fresh-cut slice

and the mouth watering reaction to the glory of it

was gratifying enough to make you sigh?

What if the toaster was a contained furnace,

a miracle of engineering and research and design

a machine of fiery transformation to be revered?

What if the ready Pop

was better than any champagne cork

and the searing touch of freshly-charred bread,

pulled from the furnace, delivered to the plate,

reminded us of how much heat we can take

if we know there’s reward.

 

 

Note from J:

I stopped. Poetry is HARD and I think I’m trying too hard.. attempting to be clever and overly- contriving something. It started as fun to write – some sort of crazy over-blown ode. But then the line it opened with “what if things got simpler?” suddenly didn’t seem to hold any more…and I sort of lost faith….

I wanted to do stuff about toppings and butter – frankly some of that sounded rude – and it’s been… Of everything I’ve written in the past 5 days – this was the one I fidgeted and fiddled with most. It’s the one that feels like I’m defeated.

I don’t dislike it, horribly..and I have as I promised I would  written with heart and what I can muster…but it’s feeling clunky and awkward. It needs to be done, for now.

Also – I chose & created the images before I’ve written the stuff – and the image is a proper “what if..” road-less-travelled type image.. whereas the “poem” is tiny minutiae…

So… I’ve stopped.  I could be here until midnight trying to make it better or “right” or I could call it, stop now and get back on the horse tomorrow, a bit saddle sore, but more refreshed.

Yes. That’s my choice, for today

Trust #21daysofWriting – Day 4

This one is inspired by the very marvellous Kathryn Sheridan – whose work is focussed on “credibility consulting, assessing credibility and building credibility”

———-

This one has been surprisingly difficult and sprawlly… but here goes:

Part of me wants to write about Trust in a work context. 

Part of me doesn’t even know where to begin.

For a long time, I didn’t trust myself, so writing about this stuff is weird.

I think I do now, more or less…. It’s an ongoing relationship…not always easy… but I know, mostly, how to re-build trust with myself when I arse up these days. I know for certain Life’s better when I do.

I look back on the early days of fuchsiablue and I know I felt hollow; under pressure to be successful … trying to seem good.. and fundamentally, elementally hollow. I knew the basics. I flew by the seat of my pants, which was fun..and exhausting. I was surface and a bit shiny.. meaning when anyone knocked me, I was fairly quickly tarnished and damaged. Those who know me from back in the day know how it was for me. A lot of worrying, rictus grin where a daft one would have been better, a bit bubbly, a bit caustic…

I see that same look I used to have in others, sometimes. Typically it’s when folk have just left 20 years of working in X and they are setting up by themselves.. there’s a brittle fragility to some, faking it ‘til they make it… determined… sometimes a little desperate…lots of shiny, surface stuff happening. I don’t mean that in a mocking sense. I just see it. Lots of affirming public proclamations. Mild private panic behind the eyes. Oh. I know that look.

It makes perfect sense. In this context, Some of the things you trust and rely on don’t exist anymore. That Trusted Internal Reputation. That Trusted Title, showing your Trusted Status. That Trusted Salary. This is Organisational currency.. and we can be wealthy within that… but it tends to flatline outside of Organisational Systems. That which was professionally meaningful is socially a bit more “meh”… it’s a kicker… and unless you face into that – the loss, the doubt, the possibility of different – and have a good old look at what’s kicking – it can take you down.

In my coaching life I’ve met variations of this Identity Arrest. Those returning to work after a health episode, for example, feeling changed & suddenly less invulnerable. Their place of work has been fairly static – their personal journey, transformative. It’s disconcerting. Sometimes they no longer trust themselves.. to be well, to be energised, to function, to be as they now are. Sometimes they no longer trust the organisation. Sometimes both are true and fair. The work here, I think, is to build trust in the new self… getting the person to know and understand themselves as they now are – being less fearful, getting familiar with themselves again. The story running can be one of fear: “I might break” 

Yeah. You might. But we are here, now. You didn’t. You haven’t. Trust that. Work within the new world bandwidth.

We talk about “building” trust because it is just that – small incremental moments. Big risks and small ones. Action. Trial and error. Realisation. Putting stuff into practice in our own way… over and over.

I think this is where Belief comes in. It’s integral part of trust, in my view. If you don’t believe in an outcome, a future, a person, Trusting it or them is slightly fantastical. If I don’t believe I can shift my perspective, if I allow my stubbornness to write the story – if I haven’t got my heart in it, then I’m half-in and suspicious… and things are rarely peachy from that place. When you are trying things out, taking risks, building a picture, it’s wholeheartedness, red-blooded “give it a go”, blind faith and courage that allows you to see how far you really can stretch – and somewhere along the line, you realise you trust yourself to do stuff. 

The good news is you can outsource Belief. A good Mentor, friend etc can hold the belief for you for a while – willing you on, believing in your potential, your fabulousness, your talent, your ability. It only works for a while – it be can exhausted – but if you are willing to take on a pinch of that belief…and then a spoonful, then a ladle-load, then a bucket load, then embody it…. You find you trust yourself, in time.

My way to a place of reasonable self-trust was long and circuitous. I don’t learn quickly. I’m mule-stubborn at times. I used to want everything fast, so lost patience rapidly. At the core, though, I was in a state that some part of me knew sucked and I wanted…no, I needed to be more secure…because the state of constant self-doubt was paralysing and miserable. I went seeking something deeper, more stable and rooted…That’s why it’s about “Personal Development” ….Oh. I have to develop my Person?Yup – and the person I needed to develop was one I trusted.

My Relationship with my Trusted Bike – #21daysofwriting – Day 2

Thank you to the lovely Mike Collins for this topic area – many of my bike miles have been racked up joyfully with you.

In 2000 my then-boyfriend convinced me to buy a mountain bike. 

We lived in Jersey & I’d been pottering about on an old, borrowed red thing which regularly locked brakes or discarded its chain. I had, for the first time in my life, an actual salary. The island is beautiful and has many places to explore. Project Mountain Bike began.

He researched it. Thoroughly. Regaling me with tales of suspension and light-weight frames, of multiple gearings and the difference between block brakes and discs. I paid a modicum amount of attention – asking questions as I cooked.. eventually rolling my eyes after being shown the 105thpicture of Some Bloody Bike… I couldn’t get overly excited.

I only really got what the fuss was about when I went to the shop. My hypothetical Bike – so far only dreamed up or seen online – became a 3D tactile, tangible actuality. Some technical stuff sort-of mattered (I’d pretty much had the “two wheels, a frame & some brakes. How hard does it need to be?” Mentality. I still can’t get geeked out by much of the Spec stuff)

To my boyfriend’s annoyance, pretty much all research went out the window as number of things went awry in the face of reality.

Firstly, the man in the shop saw I was.. let’s say “physically more substantial” …than many of the “ladies” who sought mountain bikes. I’m quite tall. I’m broad. I’ve got fairly long legs & a long back – so I’d need a bigger frame than most non-men bikes would offer me. This had not been part of the research.

Also –  as previously stated – I didn’t give a toss about the brakes or the suspension ( I learned to re-think that particular lesson about 3 years later, rattling down a mountain at speed in New Zealand, after a helicopter ride to the snow-capped top….Ooh: Full Sus bikes are a THING), so I was pretty firm on the budget I was prepared to spend. 

And I wanted something that could be sustained – substantial, scratch-able, beautiful, but fit for purpose. I couldn’t bear some stupidly priced racehorse of a thing, super-fast but so desirable I’d spend my life unable to leave it locked outside the pub for fear of it being bike-napped.

But I suddenly “got” that I was going to buy a bike. My enthusiasm spiked. I must have cycled 10 or 12 around the block, testing gears and weight, bouncing about… this is what my research looks like, I realise now.

So it was that a shiny black Scott Tampico, Made for Men, got bought and has been in my life ever since.

That bike and I have done countless miles.

It’s been up hill, down mountain, through cities. Along the way I’ve been thrown off it, fallen off it, crashed it and learned how to maintain it. It is hopelessly unfashionable now – heavy, block-braked, the fork locking mechanism is dreadful… but I love it.

I loved it even more when, in 2012, I committed to do a sprint triathlon and foolishly went out to buy a road bike. Skinny tyred, skitterish thing – light and pretty, quick as the wind, but bloody lethal on Edinburgh pot-holes. Each practice ride was a dangerous game.. the high-pressure tyres punctured often… it was too expensive to easily leave outside the supermarket without 4 heavy locks….. I’d come back to my hulking tank of a Mountain bike, which took road ruts like a steam iron through crinkles and I’d be grateful.

In 2013 I had to learn how to maintain it. My boyfriend had become my ex-husband and I realised he’d held the bike knowledge. I hadn’t ever really set it up my bike or looked after it. He had. All the maintenance paraphernalia – the Muc Off, the non-claggy oil stuff, the wheel removal– most of that hadn’t really sunk in. Absence brings opportunity. I took myself off to a bike maintenance class or two… even got a blog out of it.. and my Mountain Bike became something I valued even more – because I understood it in an entirely different way.

And so my relationship with my trusted bike is one of a long and enduring friendship. Roads travelled, miles clocked up and being willing to understand the mechanics of it for that friendship to continue. One day…maybe soon.. I will need or want to buy a new Bike… but I’m not selling the other one for anyone.

Reflection

21 Day Writing Challenge

I haven’t blogged since December.

I knew it had been a while, but I hadn’t realised it has been so long…. And when I look at 2018, it was hardly a bumper year for my writing on the blog. That has made me sad – I get a real kick out of blogging and my fuchsiablue voice – it was hard fought for, personally, to publish and “speak” – to show myself and share in that way… why, then, would I stop?

I am writing, of course – mainly personal stuff, not formed for public consumption – raw, rough and reflective – to figure out a situation, a puzzle. To hear myself clearly.

But something is shifting.

Last year I very nearly got to that writer retreat I’ve been so-long promising myself and have been so-scared to do. Since 2012, Blogging has given me confidence – folk being really kind about what they read, about what I wrote – people recommending and complimenting…it’s been good for my soul.. so the possibility of “taking seriously” that I could write started to hold some weight. What if… what if…..?

In the end, Work kicked in and I “postponed” the retreat, telling myself it was always there, I could always do it “another time” – classic avoidance, I realise now. I could have chosen writing over Work.. I didn’t. 

And slowly I’ve come to see how afraid I am of going to the retreat (now re-booked for August) – because what if… what if I’m not a writer? What if everyone is better than me? What if I fail? What if I hate it? The simple act of application means I’ve asked myself to start applying. 

And I’ve loved my relationship with my words and the writing process….what if I arse that up? What if I lose confidence? It’s so comfortable and cosy where I am….

But there has been a wee whisper…A little voice going: What More?

What I’m realising is I’m “naturally” (whatever that means) able to articulate stuff – for myself, for others… but that doesn’t mean I’m a writer – I have no craft, little practice beyond the drills I’m so familiar with. I haven’t tried to stretch myself, particularly. I have this voice, which I worked hard to find and share..and I stopped challenging myself shortly after locating it. I didn’t push myself or try much different. I found a thing. It was more-than-enough that I blogged. That in itself was beyond anything my 20-something self could ever have imagined.

I stuck with that…. which means I might be stuck with that.

It’s a slow process, with me. I lack discipline a lot around my writing, if I’m honest. I put my energy into work and life.. and writing is there, quietly waiting when I need to understand a thing or hear a thing – like the most patient and wise friend – but it’s not something I’m terribly… serious about.. I’ve taken for granted that I can pick up a pen or open a new Word Doc and just fill up the page with stuff – that I can access my head and my heart without vast amounts of anguish  – that for years I’ve been doing just that and actually, I’m fairly well practiced at it now.

And that’s becoming unsatisfying.

Today I’m going to my darling friend Anne-Marie Garner’s book launch. She has been writing Knot, Albert stories for her children (my gorgeous Godson & his beautiful little sister) since they were tiny. She has put in monumental effort to craft those stories, get them published, get merchandise and websites – I have watched her with awe and pride…and a little pang of envy. 

She, who says she isn’t a writer, absolutely is and has. 

I, who would claim affiliation with writing, absolutely haven’t. 

Yeh… I’ve got to face into my own nonsense on this one.

So… I’m off to a writer retreat in August. No excuses. Nothing short of natural disaster will prevent it. I’m utterly, white-knuckle terrified.. and that’s OK.

In the run in to August, I’ve reconnected with Natalie Goldberg’s work. Her wild-mind writing techniques are familiar in my work on the Facilitation Shindig and with coaching clients. This time round working with her thinking, I’m paying more attention to her craft, trying to write in different voices, from different angles, practicing stretching my tone, pace, broadening my vision.

And so it is with this I’m asking for a little help. If I leave myself to my own training regime, I’ll do a variation of what I believe I can do and the true stretch might not happen. So I’m going to try a thing.

I’m committing to some discipline and practice – 21 days of writing. 

No fewer than 600 words, no more than 1500.

I’ll publish whatever I write, no matter what I think of it – but I’m committing to write the best I can on the topic – no half measures, I might not like what I publish, but I have to have put my heart into it.

And so to you , dear reader, I’m asking for topics areas or scenarios – what would you have me write on?

I’m looking for 21 subject matters – I’ll start on Friday 10thMay, finish on Friday 31stMay. I’ll try to write daily – if I’m on a roll, I might write a couple & feed them in of different days – this is about me practicing different “drills” and trying out different subject matters or voices.

I’m going to use the #21daysofWriting hashtag – which is already partially established on Twitter.

You can tweet suggestions or DM me on Linkedin/ email me julie@fuchsiablue.com

It could be a glorious disaster or great fun, hair-pullingly frustrating or cathartic – it might well be all of the above, but let’s see…

What’s Possible

What’s emerging as I continue to ask myself and understand for myself What Matters to me in the work I do (see here and here for more) and how I do it is the importance of possibility. I like having choice ( even if it is only the illusion of choice) and I like it when I can see, or magic up, or work to create choice with clients.

Where there are no options, the work feels deadened and empty, stifling and stagnant …. Where I or we can see different ways to do stuff, there is energy, liveliness, the possibility of newness or movement. It’s generative. Guess where I’d rather be?

Working this way requires more, personally, professionally – you have to be invested differently if you are going to create or commit to working with stuff that isn’t the “norm” – you have to recognise and tackle strong stories, well-established personal and organisational narratives, it doesn’t happen on the sidelines, you kind of have to get involved….and possibly that’s not for everyone. You run the risk of being annoying, or wrong, isolated or scapegoated… or knackered… so, you know.. there’s that…but what if you make a difference? Well.. there’s that too…

How it shows up in practice is through questions & hypothesis – Is that really how it is? Really? Really-really? According to who? What if we….? What would happen if…? What if we could…? And then through action – showing alternatives, doing things differently, taking up or creating space otherwise occupied by certainty and establishment, encouraging clients to see possibilities, challenging what presents itself…

So much of the change work – be it with coaching clients or in organisations and systems – is about really getting into the long-held narratives and what they do for folk….genuinely understanding how a position or a story has come into being and why it is so tightly held and so defended (because more often than not, the story is defended passionately: it IS this way. You CANNOT see this situation any other way. You DON’T understand. I AM ONLY permitted to do/say/be THIS way)….and of course, there is a possibility that that is true.. and there is a possibility that it’s just one interpretation and there are other worlds out there to explore….

And in all of this, the creating and realising of possibility, is the need for articulation and repetition. You have to clearly offer alternatives, to show the possibility in multiple formats and languages and they need to be worked through before they will take hold.. otherwise it’s just flaky dreamer stuff…. My working partner, Claire Marie Boggiano, holds firmly to the belief that you have to say or discuss or show a thing “seven to twenty one times” in an organisation before it becomes regarded as possible. Whilst we are not sure of the actual science behind this, we work on this basis and prepare ourselves for have the same conversations, or raise the possibility for alternative narratives time and time and time again until something opens up…

Perhaps this blog is mostly because I’m reading the Art of Possibility by Rosmund Stone Zander and Ben Zander Good summary here – it’s a beautiful read and is helping me see how I can contribute differently in my work…. So far, it’s the story of the Taiwanese Student that has most touched me.

At the beginning of a Semester, Ben Zander (world renown conductor with the Boston Philharmonic Orchestera) is working with the best-of-the-best-students in a special programme at a Conservatoire. He wants to get them to produce the best possible performance, to get them to commit heart and soul, beyond the technical requirements of the music, their instruments, their current state. He wants them to make mistakes – and in doing so, overcome and grow – he wants them to lose their fear of errors. He makes the decision to award every student an “A” at the beginning of the semester – he tells them: Every one of you will get an A in this class. Now I need you to go and write me a letter telling me, in detail, why you have earned this A… what you do , how you feel, who you are now as this A student. This is a letter from your future self to you now… what more does that person know? What are they doing or how are they being differently from you now?
How delicious….how compelling…. What a terrifyingly wonderful invitation.

The Tiwanese student is confused by this “getting an A” for seemingly nothing. He writes to Zander:
“In Taiwan I was Number 68 out of 70 students. I come to Boston and Mr Zander says I am an A. Very confusing. I walk about, three weeks, very confused. I am Number 68, but Mr Zander says I am an A Student….. I am Number 68, but Mr Zander says I am an A. One day I discover I am much happier A than Number 68. So I decide I am an A”

There is the possibility – a lifetime of an owned narrative of being number 68 good enough, turned into something else entirely by the possibility things might be better/ different for you than that and then the active choice to embrace the possibility…It’s a beautiful thing. It’s powerful as all hell.

No wonder this is part of my What Matters in my work.

image thanks to https://www.pexels.com/photo/abstract-art-blur-bokeh-285173/

What Matters – The Garden Centre Lesson


So after yesterday’s blog,  I start thinking about What Matters in my work. The things I value…The things that serve me well… I haven’t thought much about these in a while… I have an urge to properly pause for a bit and not do anything much other than stay with the question for a while – What Matters?

I give myself the gift of a few hours. I’m easing into the week from the Easter weekend and nothing is pressing too hard. There are other things I could be doing, of course, and I could allow myself to feel guilty for “wasting time” etc – but I’m over that stuff…. This is a lively, active pause, not a vegging-out, mindless one…. Good stuff will come from this…I’m encouraging myself to do as I said I was going to and stop for a while. No sudden moves. What Matters?

I sit on the floor of the office with a cup of tea in hand. The Dog is delighted I’m at her level and wags over to my side, dumping herself unceremoniously beside me….I cuddle her and stare at the spines of books, wondering which one sort of “speaks” to me – where to begin, where to begin? What follows is a period of picking books up, raffling through pages. Noticing what resonates. Noticing where I shudder…. I give myself freedom to just go with whatever. I notice myself fretting about what’s not on my shelves..is my library good enough?… I manage to laugh at myself a little…good enough for who? Who the hell is watching right now? I figure what is there got me this far & I haven’t read half of it cover to cover – there’s enough here, for today.

Through this process, I reach back to points in my learning and my development as a Practitioner where light dawned on previously dark spaces…. I find myself seeking to return to what I have been shown… Revisiting my training: how to reflect and put that reflection into new action. How to take a thing – a moment, a regular occurrence, a block, a belief, a question-  and look at it through different lenses and positions and therefore work with it differently. What Matters?

Turns out that experience matters – I don’t mean Years-Served-Endless-Hamster-Wheel-Clocking-up-Time experience, I mean the lived experience of being in the world. Of being a fully living, sensing, thinking, learning being operating in a fully living, sensing shifting world. It matters to me and for my work… my lived experience impacts me, influences me, changes me.

When I started an MSc in Org Change in 2012, I was horrified – and I mean properly Are. You. Kidding. WTF horrified – that it began with Philosophy. One of the first sessions was on Phenomenology (cue about 3 months of me having the muppets’ M-numm-M-nunnh song in my head, only with the lyrics as “phenonmenon doo-doo-do-doo-doooo” – very very bad – if you want a different experience from this explanation, view here)

Phenomenologists argue that there is no one hard and fast, objective reality, that there is simply experience, followed by the interpretation we put on that experience.  So when we were sent off to visit places near Ashridge and a bunch of us went to the same Garden Centre what we found was: We went to the same place but Oh MAN did we have different experiences. For some of us, it was all about the lovely flora & fauna – spring, colours, growth – for others, flowers signified hayfever. For others it was about security cameras, warning signs and signs saying: do this/ don’t do that – human rules on nature. For others it was about the quality of cake and coffee – the welcome and offering. The Garden Centre Lesson: Bottom line? We were physically in the same space but emotionally, mentally and experientially worlds apart.

When we got back together to talk about what we heard/saw/ noticed/ experience it was like we had been to different places. Who was right? What was important? Whose experience was more valid? Powerful stuff.

So experience matters – my experience is just a valid and useful as yours. What I see and experience counts. Even if it’s inconvenient to you.  (actually, as a Consultant…arguably especially if it’s inconvenient to you) If we want to understand the whole garden centre, we can’t just see the roses. If we want to understand the internal Culture, we can’t just data-gather from one source  – (ie Leadership, or Frontline, or Customers, or coachee etc) I mean we CAN… but if we do, we need to be clear on the limitations of that view/ experience.. and not arrange the whole world/ training budget around a single view… ( And yes, we need to layer context on to experience eventually, or no-one gets anywhere… there needs to be a value judgement in there someplace or we won’t make decisions.. but later.)

My training: Notice the phenomena. Drop the shoulds and oughts and coulds. Have the experience. Notice the data (all of it – what you think, feel, sense – bring your whole self in) Sense-make and hypothesize. Create meaning. Reflect on it (either in the moment or after the effect – or, if you are me, probably both)…Notice your bias, your Bubble & blindspots if you can…and from there, can I play with that meaning in order to move on?  Can I offer myself choices: go deeper into the issue, or widen it out or just shift it elsewhere… momentum, progress, perhaps? I’m seeking difference, insight, learning.

I go back because it’s a thing that has served me well – reflective practice – an iterative process that moves me from Here to There – wherever There might be. I know there are good models for reflective practice – interested in hearing from others what they use or value

For me? this is What Matters. Taking my experience seriously.  Taking others’ experience seriously. Data gathering from different sources. Discussion. Iteration. And time for reflection whilst cuddling the dog & perusing books that fire my synapses.