Journeying into the business world... one undiscovered culture at a time

Welcome to [Per]Suit of Anthropology, a blog dedicated to the exploration of modern business trends and perspectives from the view of anthropologist, with a special emphasis on cultural understandings of work-life balance and disability rights in the workplace. This blog is a way for me to connect two sides of my professional self that I see in constant dialogue. Though the business world and the anthropological world may not believe it - they have more in common and more to learn from one another than readily acknowledged. Topics covered include: Western business practices and the impact of those decisions on socio-cultural institutions worldwide, invisible disabilities, Ignatian spirituality, work-life balance, and some discussion of issues of tourism and its impacts on culture, and common human capital practices in private industry and government.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

An invitation to rest

I can hear the rain gently falling on the window. A calm, pitter patter that soothes the senses. The world looks grey, bleary and beckons us to stay inside. To rest a while. To take off your shoes, curl up with a good book while all the dust and pollen and pollutants are washed clean, and the earth made fresh and whole.

In my own life, I've recieved this same invitation to rest. No doubt many of you could tell in my last blog post how exhausted I was. It was true - I was at the end of my energy reserves. I knew that something was going to have to give. This time, I knew it would not be me, my health, or my family. That left one option: in mid-March I left my job.

It was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. I truly loved my job (or perhaps 85% of it). Unfortunately, that other 15% that I didn't like was starting to loom larger and larger - demanding more time and energy than I had to give. Since my seizure in December, I hadn't recovered fully. I had issues with high level cognition, memory, and concentration. The harder I tried to make things work at work the more that any modicum of success seemed to elude me. I was crying on a daily basis - exhausted from the moment I woke up to when I would crawl into bed. I had no energy for even the simple things of life - and that worried me. I became increasingly concerned that I was going to have a seizure, and that is never a good place to be.

I raised this with my boss and with HR - hoping, praying that something else in the organization could be found that would be a better match. But, alas, that was not to be. The pace of my organization was increasing across the board - and I knew that simply changing jobs internally wasn't really going to give me the balance I needed. So it was with heavy heart, but ultimately a lot of understanding and compassion from those at work, that I left.

It has been a wonderful choice. When I first left, I felt like a failure. So many other women can do the working mom thing, why couldn't I? What kind of example was I setting for my daughter? How was I helping my family by leaving this job that I so enjoyed? Well, for one, I feel more like myself than I have in years.

I recognized that in leaving my work, my life and body was calling me to come away, to rest a while. And it has been good. I have been more present to my family and friends in simple ways that I had forgotten. I have energy to call people in the evening, or to do little things around the house that have been bugging me forever. And since my seizure two years ago, and the birth of my child, for the first time in a long time I feel physically and emotionally healed. I don't feel like the edge of my soul is worn ragged - snagging on every little inconvenience life throws my way. Instead, I've been told by a few people that there is a light in my eyes that hasn't been there for some time.

Sure, as a mom, I am tired, but it is the good tired you feel when you know your day and life has been worth living. I haven't done anything in terms of worldly success - no published papers, no tasks at work checked off. But I have been there for myself and those I love - and that has made all the difference.

Now - onto the interesting quest of finding a job with a culture that is a better fit for me. Somewhere where my desire to have meaningful work - but work that is not overshadowed by my life - possible. Where I can help others recognize truths in themselves to be the people they are meant to be; sharing their gifts and talents with those around them.

Also for any moms who read this - feel free to comment about how you either succeed or fail at this whole working mom/work-life balance thing. I think the reality of this all is not something that is discussed nearly enough.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Sometimes, epilepsy just plain stinks!

This post is part of the Epilepsy Blog Relay which will run from March 1 through March 31. Follow along and add comments to posts that inspire you!

I leaned over my toilet, cradling it almost like I was hugging my little girl. I closed my eyes, breathing deeply - and summarily vacated my stomach of the day's food. I had the stomach flu - courtesy of my little babe who picked it up from somewhere (as an infant, who knows just where). With every heave, I silently prayed to God to let it be over, but I also had a thought that I wasn't just vacating the contents of my stomach, but also purging my body and my soul of all the negative thoughts that have plagued my mind as of late, "I can't do my job... I can't write... I can't bathe my child alone... I can't drive... I can't be a good sister... I can't be an attentive wife... I haven't seen my friends in ages... nobody understands... I'm afraid I'll have another seizure... What if I have one and I hurt my child? ... I can't leave her alone... I can't leave my husband a single parent... what the heck is going on... uggggh.... my stomach!!!"

In short, its been a long couple of months. In my last blog, written before I went back to work, I had an optimistic view of all that had happened, and all that was possible. And that is still true - I have been so blessed. My post portrayed an optimism that is encouraging, uplifting, and very much who I am, as a person. Always looking for the bright side, always taking life as one big learning experience. But I'm going to be honest for just a moment and say this: epilepsy sucks - and that is a kind way to put it. The reality of being a mom, and being a mom with epilepsy is something I don't think any parenting book, or any blog or advice column could have prepared me for.

The majority of the past year has been challenging, just as it is for any parent who works. I went back to work in August and adjusted fairly well. I had my good days, and my bad days, and was starting to finally figure out the schedule between childcare, pumping, and getting everything I needed to accomplish in one day. Then, in early December I had a breakthrough seizure. It was very unexpected  and scared the bejeezus out of me as I was holding my daughter at the time the seizure hit. Thankfully she and I were both fine - other than shaken up. But I wasn't expecting the aftermath and what would come with it.

For me, typically, the months after a seizure my brain seems to work in slow motion and incomplete thoughts and fragment. Having a child, and thus having less time to myself and less sleep has exacerbated these after effects to a degree I could not have foreseen. And this is most evident at work. Little details slip through my mind like sand through my fingers. Things and details I once noticed disappear into the ether - and I've tried every trick in the book to make them stick. Notebooks meticulously organized, planners on paper and on the computer, and my mind still betrays me. I forget conversations and meetings that I have had, and feel as though I am constantly behind as I struggle to keep up. I have great thoughts or think about items to-do, and if I don't write them down at that moment, or get distracted in any way, it feels to me like the thought never existed at all.

And struggles with work are something that any working mom can relate to - baby brain is a real thing (or so proclaims my neurologist).  I just finished reading "Maxed out: American Moms on the Brink" It was a really interesting memoir that I think any working mom, and even some working dads, could empathize with - and it brought up much of these notions about especially in America we are not a family-friendly workforce. Take the very notion of work life balance. The typical mom faces a situation where she goes to work in the morning (after 2-3 hours of getting herself and child(ren) ready for work), puts in an eight hour day, eating lunch on the go, or at her desk. She goes home and gets dinner ready, helps with the kids, puts them to bed. And then often goes online, once again, to finish out the day's business. And that is if she is lucky. Many moms and dads don't have that flexibility. They don't have the time to go to doctors appointments, or take sick leave - or even a weekend.

In short, it's hard. It's hard for any mom to fight against this incredibly strong current - and it's hard for those of us with chronic conditions whose body necessitates a schedule that is no longer the societal norm. A true 40 hour workweek. With stress as my main trigger for seizures, I need time in the evening to decompress - the busier and the more hectic the day - the longer I take to decompress. I don't check email. I don't go back online to get more work done. I won't - I need the time to let my brain rest. And I would be lying if I didn't say that I was paying a price for that small need.

So what do I do instead? Where do I find purpose? While I know this isn't for everyone, my faith is what brings me that greater sense of purpose. It has comforted me and let me know that I am ok - just as I am... epilepsy and all. That I am enough - enough for my baby, enough for my husband, and enough for me:

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. 
Plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. 
When you call me, and come pray to me, I will listen to you.
When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart.
(Jeremiah 29)

I also heard this song at a concert last week (music is often a refuge of mine, whether I am participating in creating it, or listening to it). And this song brought me to tears. After a very trying week, and feeling exhausted, this spoke words of comfort to me. While listening I had the feeling of being held and comforted, of knowing that I am not alone in my struggles. That there are others out there who know, who understand it, who get it. And there are others whose struggles are more demanding than my own - and my heart goes out to them.

There are times, days, seasons and years when I have felt I could do anything - and some people in this relay will share in that sense of empowerment. And there are times, like now, when I must rely upon the grace of others to receive the help I need. I do not like it, but I also know that in going through it, and only by asking for the help I need will I, in turn, perhaps make life that little bit easier for ones who follow me. From relying on my husband to drive me to do errands, like grocery shop, or be home so I can give our daughter a bath, or telling my boss that I need more time to complete my work and sometimes flat out fail at my job, to begging forgiveness of friends for having to cancel plans on them, or just needing to stay in to recharge my energy - I am dependent upon the grace of others to get through the day. And by recognizing that my life is a gift and that God will use my talents in His own way, and understanding at a deep level "thy will be done..." comes a moment, a glimmer of peace, comfort and rest.

By looking at our culture of go-go-go and saying, "no, no, no... this is not the life I choose, this will not be how I measure my success," is my own way of seeking peace in a time of tumult. The culture we are in today is one of incredible independence and self-reliance and it is very scary and lonely to go against that culture. But I believe it is a fight worth having, and that we have to work against this trend. Humans are made to live in community - we are a village and we are here to help one another. It is incumbent upon us all to help one another, and recognize that we each go through times and seasons of varying levels of effort and generosity.

We are all in this beautiful world together - and we have to share in each other's burdens. Thank you for reading as I share in mine.

NEXT UP: Be sure to check out the next post tomorrow by Karen C. at for more on epilepsy awareness. For the full schedule of bloggers visit And don’t miss your chance to connect with bloggers on the #LivingWellChat on March 31 at 7PM ET.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Not sure I can have it all... but here's to trying!

This post is part of the Epilepsy Blog Relay™ which will run from June 1 through June 30. Follow along and add comments to posts that inspire you!

One of the more well-known stigmas that surround those who have epilepsy is the idea that we cannot have children. This stigma, in particular, faces women with epilepsy who hope someday to have natural children. In fact when I was first told I had epilepsy over eight years ago I remember crying a lot. And it wasn't so much about the epilepsy as to the fact that I knew that having a family was going to be a little more complicated - if even possible. I remember thinking my  then boyfriend (now husband) was going to leave me as this question of having a child was so very unknown.

In fact, even my gynecologist at the time confirmed my fears. When he asked me what type of oral contraceptives my husband and I planned on using when we got married, and I told him none, his response was incredibly insulting.

     "What do you mean, you are thinking of having a baby? Don't you realize how dangerous that can      be, and how completely selfish it would be for you to pursue a family? Not just for yourself, but ,        you could risk the life of your child and yourself. What would your husband think if something          happened to you or your baby?"

Add to that my seizure and concussion of a year and a half ago and I thought for sure my chances of ever starting a family were shot. I knew that having seizures under control was of the utmost importance and here I had gone and had a seizure, and major brain damage. I could barely function myself - how would I ever be able to care for someone else? It was a moment when I had incredible doubts about myself - and my very identity as a woman. If I couldn't do the very thing that is so natural to a female, then what was I worth?

Now... I have a beautiful four month old daughter. What led us here? There are a number of considerations I had to manage before I thought about getting pregnant, during the pregnancy and birth, and also after the baby was born.

**Please note that the considerations below are those that I've personally experienced and are not to be used as medical advice. If you have epilepsy and are thinking of becoming, or are, pregnant, please consult with your OB-GYN and neurologist to determine a proper course of medical care.** 

Pre-natal Care: 
Ensure you have a good medical support team and plan for optimal health
Given the response from the gynecologist mentioned above, I knew I had to find a new OB-GYN, who would at least be willing to talk to me about the possibility of having a family someday. I wanted to find a neurologist also who would work with me to see whether or not having a family was really possible (and safe), and who would ensure that I was at my healthiest before I had a family. I was blessed to find the Tepeyac Family Center. They specialize in practicing the pro-life teachings of the Catholic Church, and are also trained in various methods of natural family planning. The benefit to this approach was that it helped my doctors to be able to see my cycles, and understand my reproductive health. As a result of their approach, they help a lot of women who have, like myself, various factors that could complicate a birth. They see having a baby as a natural part of life, not a condition to be managed. And all care is taken in the best view of the mother and the baby.

I was also lucky to have a neurologist at the George Washington Medical Faculty Associates who studies epileptic pregnant women. She and I agreed on a treatment plan well before I was pregnant to help me be as healthy as I could be. It involved regular check-ins with her, and constant monitoring of my medication levels.

Be on the right type and dosage of medication
As a note, it is important that if you are a woman of child-bearing years that you are on a medication that is healthy should you find yourself pregnant. There are a number of anti-seizure medications that can cause birth defects of babies in utero. There are also a number of newer medications that are seen to be more safe for women. Personally, I've been on Keppra XR for over eight years. The key with my doctor was to figure out how much I needed, while trying to be on as little as possible. As my neurologist stated, the risks to me of being off of my medication completely were greater than the risks to my baby if I were on the right amount of my medication.

Pregnancy Health

Have a treatment plan with your doctors
Once we found out I was expecting, it became very important that I stayed as healthy as possible. Both my OB-GYN and my neurologist were very frank in telling me that a seizure early on in pregnancy would very likely cause a miscarriage of my baby. Furthermore, a seizure later in life could be fatal for both me and the baby. So ... no pressure!!  Seriously...

But what my doctors did help me to do was to make sure that I was taking care of myself. My neurologist had me get my medication levels routinely checked to make sure I had a therapeutic amount of Keppra in my system, especially as I gained weight and the baby grew. I also was encouraged to get as much sleep as possible (something I support all to-be parents to do).

Find support at work
I was also very lucky to have the support of my workplace. I was given all the time I needed to see my doctors - which included also a high-risk OB-GYN and epileptologist who gave second opinions on my course of action while I was pregnant. My work was also supportive on days where I just didn't feel very well, and encouraged me to take the time I needed to make sure I was healthy.
Honestly, throughout my pregnancy I felt like a human pincushion I was getting my blood drawn so often.

For pregnant mama's: make sure you are familiar with what protections are offered to you under the ADA. Work with your workplace to see what kind of time you can get for your appointments, and also if your employer could offer any type of telework opportunities to make it easier on your body.

Be open to the advice of your doctors in the moment
Despite my hopes to have as natural a birth as possible, my doctors advised me otherwise. When I went in for my 39 week checkup, much to our surprise my OB-GYN told us they wanted to schedule an induction. Now to be honest, my gynecologist's office is one of those places that really tries to do things as naturally as possible, so they often don't schedule inductions unless they think it is medically necessary.

Also during delivery, they wanted me to be as stress-free as possible and to my doctors pain = lots of stress. As a result they encouraged me to have an epidural, which I did. The result was a very relaxed afternoon, sitting, reading and chatting with my husband. I was nervous, of course, but otherwise I felt I was in great hands.

Have help when you get home
Before my baby was born, my neurologist told me that I needed to have help at home for the first six weeks. She said that I needed to get as much sleep as possible (which for new parents is quite a laughable request). So we had both grandmas come for two weeks stints. They would take turns with me and my husband getting up in the middle of the night, rocking baby to sleep. That way, I only had to be awake for the feeding portion. Although I still was up often feeding the baby, I was able to get some rest and take care of myself.

My neurologist also kept me on higher medication levels post-partum to account for my sleep deprivation and irregular schedule. Once baby started sleeping through the night, we readjusted my medication levels down.

My husband was also an amazing help and source of support for me. From listening to my fears during the pregnancy, sitting and encouraging me in labor, and getting up for midnight feedings, helping make meals and more, he was awesome. Even in the months since our baby was born he helps me to make sure I am getting enough sleep, and overall maintaining a healthy lifestyle. He also has become quite adept at changing diapers in the dark!

Maintaining a positive outlook
Now that my daughter is here by no means do my fears go away. The weeks after my baby was born were some of the most difficult times. I was so sleep deprived and so terrified that as a result, I would seize and potentially hurt my baby. I am constantly in fear that one day I may have a seizure while holding her, while driving, or caring for her and in so doing could hurt her. And while those fears are still there, now that the baby is in a routine, I am learning a new normal - knowing that the rest of life with a child will be learning a lot about how to be flexible to a changing life. Understanding that approach gives me more comfort, and a great understanding of what I need to do to be there for my family.

I want to show my daughter that despite any limitations, life is beautiful and that it is worth every moment. And proving to the world that out of much darkness and confusion comes light and life and the best adventure of all.

NEXT UP: Tomorrow is a Bonus Blog Day. Be sure to check out both posts tomorrow at and for more on Epilepsy Awareness. For the full schedule of bloggers visit And don’t miss your chance to connect with bloggers on the #LivingWellChat on June 30 at 7PM ET.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

What a difference a year can make!

This post is part of the Epilepsy Blog Relay™ which will run from November 1 through November 30. Follow along and add comments to posts that inspire you!

November 8, 2014 is a day that will be forever seared in my husbands memory, and in mine. It was a regular Saturday morning. We slept in, and I had just gotten up and was cooking breakfast. I remember turning over bacon in the pan, going through a mental list of things I had to accomplish in the day. The next thing I knew, I was laying on the floor of my kitchen, with my husband looking over me, pressing something to my head with an expression of fear and panic on his face that I'd never seen before. 

Shaken up but calm he told me I had a seizure, and I was alright, but I was bleeding from my head. He told me he had called the ambulance and they were on the way, and I just needed to be calm and hold a towel to my head. The next few hours flew by in a post-seizure induced haze... Not only had I experienced another grand mal seizure, but during the seizure I supposedly stiffened, and fell like a tree to my tile floor. I hit my head hard and was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, as well as a busted up shoulder. 

The few weeks after the seizure found me not being able to be alone (I was being monitored for internal bleeding). I had to take disability leave from work as I was put on a strict regiment of cognitive rest, which involved no thinking, reading, watching TV, looking at a phone or computer, or doing anything mentally strenuous. I remember crying to my husband and my parents worried that the very thing that so defined me, my intellect was slipping away. I didn't know if I would be able to return to work, continue my normal activities, or even have a family. They told me then, as did my doctor, that given the proper rest and new habits, my brain would slowly heal and I would get better ... slowly but surely...


Here I am, nearly one year later, and seizure free. It has been quite a challenging year, and I have had to realize some things about my own limits. 

1. I needed lots of help to recover. I am not one to like to ask for help... but having my seizure made me recognize that reliance on other people is not so much a sign of weakness, but a grace to help us be open to the gift of another's self giving. From the friend who brought us soup that first night, to my parents helping watch me 24/7 in the first few weeks after the seizure, to a husband who has accommodated his life to help me maintain my health... I am overwhelmed by the generosity. 

2. A great boss, and a supportive job can make or break you. One of the most fearful times in the past year was when I went back to my job as a think tank researcher in DC. I was never so afraid of failing in my job due to my cognitive limitations, nor was I so physically afraid of what would happen if I had a seizure. But my boss has been incredibly understanding, working with me to develop a plan to slowly get me back in the swing of things and encouraging me along the way as I rebuild not just my mind and my body, but also my self-confidence. 

3. Behavioral therapy is a great way to address common triggers. I also, as part of my therapy to rehabilitate my mind, was able to pursue cognitive behavioral therapy which helped me to identify physically what happens when I am faced with particular triggers. During the course of my treatment I was able to distinguish between the fear of having another seizure, and being more scared of the 'accident' that can potentially follow one. It also helped me to understand what things in life were truly necessary for me to do, and what things in life were tasks I had placed on myself that I 'ought' to do. 

4. Letting go of the life you imagined is the hardest lesson in life. Throughout this year, time and again, I have had to learn to let go of the vision of life I had for myself as a type-A person... and admittedly it has not been easy to do. I find myself in the season of performance reviews and while I have performed great at work, no performance review out there will truly recognize what I have been able to accomplish. And that burns sometimes - I mean talk about deserving a medal for merit! From not being able to think one year ago, let ago write, present or do anything necessary in my job, to standing up in front of senior White House officials and conducting high level meetings - I really didn't think it would happen in a year's time... and in recognizing that about myself I have found new found freedom. 

5. The life you did not imagine can be better than anything. This is what has most surprised me about my life this past year. While this year looks different than anything I thought, I have been blessed with graces I never imagined would be possible. I have written multiple blogs on my experience with epilepsy, and how to manage expectations in the workforce. I also have been able to cultivate a work-life balance that is truly life-giving... and more importantly I have been able to share those lessons with others! 

Because by God's grace I have come through this past year stronger, healthier and happier than I was before. I have a sense of conviction of helping others to believe in themselves, and a healthy realization that really for any of us, epileptic or not, life is completely out of our control. And I prefer to see that element of the unexpected as life's next great adventure!  

NEXT UP: Be sure to check out tomorrow's post at, courtesy of Ingo Helbig for more on Epilepsy Awareness. For the full schedule of bloggers visit

Thursday, September 10, 2015

New blog on What it's like to be invisible

Hi all! Given the great feedback I had to my last post, I was given the great opportunity to do a guest blog on's Blog. I wanted it to be more of a guide for those who also have invisible disabilities to be able to have the courage to find the help and support they need to manage their lives, jobs and education in a way that helps them to be successful.

In the meantime I do hope you all take a look at some of the other blog posts, and the great resources available on There are things there for those who have disabilities, employers, teachers, etc. It is truly an invaluable resource.

Enjoy! "What it's like to be invisible"

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Epilepsy Stigma Blog Relay: When Work/Life Balance isn't a balance - it is a necessity

This post is part of the Epilepsy Stigma Blog Relay which will run from June 1 through June 30. Follow along and add comments to posts that inspire you!
Last summer the internet was a buzz with Anne-Marie Slaughter's article "Why Women Still Can't Have it All." In her piece, she talked about the role of women in society and how it is really impossible, without a lot of help to be that super woman. The backlash, the social media stories, the tweets, and everything that has come out since has fallen on both sides of the argument. But what gets me is still this pervasive thought that when you want something bad enough, you can do it all... but in my case that hasn't always been true. 

I say add on a case of epilepsy and it is very difficult to be a super woman. I have had epilepsy since I was a junior in high school when I had a grand mal seizure before class one day. And while I've only had three seizures in my life, each one has forced me to come face to face with my very real, and sometimes incredibly frustrating limitations. 
Living on the edge... well within reason of course!

The common thread that ties all my seizures together are periods of extended stress... the first in high school, the second early in my career as a consultant, and the third just seven months ago following an incredibly stressful period of time at work...

Just before my second seizure, I was up for promotion at a major consulting firm. I was working long hours, traveling, and loving my job. I was active in groups in Washington, D.C., taking on leadership positions, and doing all the things that a young twenty something, single woman is supposed to do. The seizure up-ended my world. My neurologist told me in no uncertain terms that I could not work the hours I had been keeping and still stay healthy. what was something that was a background in my life, all of a sudden became a defining point in my career. 

I immediately set about to the Herculean task of trying to change the culture of my company to be more aware of, and responsive to the needs of individuals with invisible disabilities. While I couldn't work 60 or 70 hours a week, I made bargains with my bosses that "I can do in 40 hours what others can do in 50." And for a few years it worked. It worked so well that I was even invited to a highly selective Leadership Development program where I was able to research the latest trends in cognitive technologies in team and organization management. But as I climbed the corporate ladder, slowly I saw my days becoming longer, my stress levels rising, and my exhaustion becoming more prevalent. At the conclusion of my fellowship I made the agonizing decision to leave my job... a job I was successful at, a job in which I had a future, a great paycheck, and opportunities opening before my eyes. My friends and colleagues thought I was crazy, passing up on such an opportunity. So why did I do it? 

Because I knew I couldn't cut it.  I knew enough about my body to know when I was starting to push it too much. Because my epilepsy wasn't visible, the firm seemed to be growing tired of my so-called "excuses" for working less hours. They kept on wondering when I would be able to work "normal" hours; when I could take on more responsibilities; and how much I would be willing to do for the good of the firm.  I knew that I would soon be expected to maintain higher hours, even more responsibility, and I knew that my body would not keep up the pace. And so I took another job.

Fast forward another two years, and to my newest employer ...  Really one of the few places that puts their money where their mouth is when it comes to the health of their workforce (seriously senior staffers will question why you are at the office after 6pm). And still my epilepsy caught up with me. After a period of long days and weekends writing a paper (a culmination of a year's worth of work), I had my third grand mal seizure, during which I suffered a horrible concussion. I was on cognitive rest for a few months, was not able to work, and at the very early onset was told not to think. For a research analyst at a think tank being told not to think - this caused a huge crisis of identity. Who was I without my brains and my intellect? Who was I, if my increased dosage of my medications made me slow and sluggish... What would happen if the side effects never went away? My bosses already saw my  lack of concentration as laziness, or a lack of interest in my work. My vocabulary blanks were associated with me not being able to "think through situations" as opposed to my nerves misfiring... my very performance at my job was totally out of my control. 
Punting at my Alma Mater

So what have I done? I have had to learn the lesson that work-life balance for me isn't a choice, but a necessity. And that at one time, what work life balance meant (i.e .going from 60 to 40 hours a week), now means something different (working at most 40 hours a week, taking multiple brain breaks throughout the day, doing no communication after hours, etc.). And it is difficult. I have to be patient with myself. In a high powered city like DC where everyone is connected, and everyone is on the up and up, I feel like I am on the bleachers watching a game that once I could play, but can no longer. 

And though it sounds as though I regret it, I too have come to know my strengths. In a world that is always 'on' and always plugged in to some type of device, I have learned how to savor the slow moments. How to make time for meditation and prayer every day, how to be kind to my body through good exercise without going overboard, and ultimately how to be proud of myself for who I am even with these struggles. And quite honestly, to recognize all that I have been able to accomplish, and the great blessing that has been my life. During my time with epilepsy I was accepted into some of the world's top universities for my undergraduate and graduate degrees, and graduated with honors. I've traveled to Tibet, China, Lithuania, France, and Norway; camped out overnight with over 2 million people in crowded fields in Rome and Madrid, backpacked across northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago, done study abroad programs in Japan, and learned a few languages along the way. I moved to (and survived in) a foreign country and then a large city on my own, navigated the world of corporate consulting, met my husband, and finally realized before many of my peers when it was time to stop the rat race. And all this before I was 35!
Post Marathon Finish!

While I am still frustrated with my latest go-round after my last seizure and injury, I too know that this is temporary, and that many of the habits (good sleep, low alcohol consumption, stable diet, and routine) are ones that will serve me later on in life. 

And I realized I am not alone. This past fall, I was honored to Run the Marine Corps Marathon, raising over $1,600 in the National Epilepsy Foundation's Athletes vs. Epilepsy Campaign. With every step I took, I heard the clanging of my medical ID necklace - constant reminder of my limitations... but with every step I took, I also grew stronger and more determined to cross that finish line. And was surrounded by others, just like me, who were taking it one step at a time, one day at a time. And that determination, really, has been what has gotten me through. 
Looking out at all the possibilities life has to offer
So maybe my goal of a PhD may take a little longer; maybe being an adviser to the President, or an Ambassador to the UN won't happen by the time I am 40...or 50... or even 60... maybe being a good wife, friend and (God-willing) a mother will take all the energy I have. Because I know my dreams will happen, and in ways I cannot even imagine... I just have to be patient with myself and know that I am exactly where I am meant to be. And that means proud of all of who I am, all that I have accomplished, and living well with epilepsy. 
NEXT UP: Be sure to check out Amanda Filippone's post on Epilepsy Stigma.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"How Fascinating!" A detail oriented person and a big picture thinker agree on one thing

I was talking to a friend earlier this week. We were discussing, of all things, things we had heard at our jobs that we needed to work on. He said he was encouraged to work on thinking big ideas, taking initiative, and the next step. I said mine was, as always, attention to detail.

We then got into a bit of a philosophical discussion about how we thought that the skills we've been told we were lacking are, in our own separate opinions, what is necessary for success. I told him that I've always thought that "detail oriented" people have better job promotion potential because they see all the little things that employers tend to like. He told me he had the opposite view, that he feels that he is capped out at his level unless he can really take his ideas to the next level, learn to speak up, lead, etc.

I remarked how fascinating it was that we both thought exactly the opposite. As my one mentor said, whenever in doubt at work, or a professional situation, you always respond with "how interesting!" I suppose it is the adult version of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!" - which by the way I do want to figure out how to work into a real life situation.

I digress - I thought that in the current business world, there is an expectation that we are all things to everyone. And I wondered how smart of an idea is that, really. For example, take my friend the detail oriented person. As he progresses he will be expected to go into management, a role he may or may not be suited for. Who knows, this person may be comfortable in a more technical environment.

As for the big picture thinker, I am all well and good, until I forget a detail. I can have a lot of good things at work about performance, but one small mistake and that is all I hear. Both of us are at a disadvantage as current business practices of acceptable performance and management systems are set up for one person to be good at everything, especially as you rise in seniority.

If you examine most organizations as you progress you automatically get into management situations, sometimes with no training. Now for some this may present an exciting new opportunity, but for others annoyance ar not  doing what you enjoy, to fear of leading. Likewise, some people who have the penchant for leading may not have the opportunity to do so as they have not "proven" themselves in a particular position, or in certain tasks required of them.

Thus I think the business world needs to get out of the mindset that rising in ones career naturally means you enter management. Such is not always the case nor should it be. This is where I think the government has a good example. They have senior levels of expertise (GS 14/15s) as well as the Senior Executive Service, which gets into the more senior posted requiring a very high amount of management skills. While the system is not without its own flaws, organizations should look to this and a possible model for how to manage different types of thinkers. 

Again just a thought...  In the meantime I recommend checking out Dan Pink's book, "A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future." He speaks of the history of why certain skills, namely those of the left-brained, are what is desired in current businesses. His theory is that the more creative types will soon have the edge when it comes to business, but first we have to make our way and achieve success in a logic-oriented world....

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future