Sunday, 28 November 2010

A decade has passed.

It is a belief many cultures share, that those we've lost somehow are still connected to us. The language for this varies, it might be heaven, life after death, eternal life, the spirit world, the hereafter, the happy hunting ground. Even in families there will be words for it, upstairs, beyond, in that other room. Our memories and our philosophies shaped by their presence in our lives. If the belief is held at all it is a comfort or a horror, depending on the relationship in life. 

This week a friend I lost touch with  contacted me and in the exchange asked me to fill in the gaps since we left off. I am still thinking about how I respond. What is relevant what isn't, who do they want to know about, what makes sense from the person they knew at school. There are the facts that are a matter of record and then there is the interpretation which changes with mood, time, perspective and experience. Later this week a postcard from another arrived, thinking of me as they know it is exactly 10 years  since my Dad unexpectedly and traumatically died. An odd milestone and the precursor to another.  I have been thinking about the time that has passed without his presence. 

Unexpectedly is an odd word to use about death, we are all expecting it, but because it is there all the time we ignore the possibility. I had a fear of it as a child, someone at school had told me with glee that because my parents were older they were going to die sooner and  for weeks afterwards I would check on them in the night to see if they were breathing. Eventually the checks became unnecessary.  But it WAS unexpected. Traumatic too because it happened in a car, medics worked on him and my Mother watched, as they tried, knowing he was gone...

So I've been thinking about my life in segments, and for the last few months very much about life since Dad. 

Dad isn't someone you can capture in words. The spirit of him is elusive in a very defiant and definite way. His views of heaven were subtle. He wasn't tied to a religious belief though raised in one. He had his own sense of hope and whilst quite capable of looking into souls and deciding whether their aim was true or not, he was optimistic somewhere about people.  He could see the worst and still notice the best.  His notion of heaven (and he had one I think) was that it was different for everyone and in explaining this he said perhaps it was doing something you loved, like an endless game of bridge.  

Inevitably with such self indulgent musings the question is asked what would he think?  I don't know the answer. It wouldn't matter what he thought anyway, as what drove our relationship, like all good personal relationships wasn't in the end thoughts but feelings. Proud or disappointed,  amused or bored, annoyed or contented, whatever the dynamic at the bottom was always love. 

So 10 years ago he left suddenly, rocked us all and the world has no idea what they lost out on.

But I do, because I was one of the lucky few for which he  fought to live as long as he did. 

Friday, 22 October 2010

Cultural development of HR though unconferencing disorganisation ;-)

At Talis  a great deal of emphasis and importance has been placed on the development of a culture that supports everything we want to do as people and as a business. It sounds simple in one sentence. It isn't, some of the ideas are, the practice though, well that's a different matter and takes commitment, serious business commitment. 

Finding people who care about people and culture in similar complementary and inspiring ways is hard. I don't have an HR background. Not having the automatic trained hinterland of an HR education is both a hinderance and a help.  

Yesterday face to face were 64 people from across the UK who do care about people, are aware of cultural impact, understand deeply what employer branding is or isn't and can argue for a purpose about it AND importantly for me get excited about the potential for people to change their own worlds and the world at large  This was at the great inspiring and informative event ConnectingHR Unconference: HR and the social organisation- Embracing social media for competitive advantage

Watching this unfold over the last few months has been great, seeing a set of radicals come together and not start from the Orthodoxy of what HR should be, nor be confined by historical professional best practices. Instead wanting to be innovative and develop the right practices for each and every situation. Being inclusive and wanting to invite others in to share information has been rewarding.  It feels not just like fresh air but like a hearty meal after lots of gruel that doesn't really keep body and soul together.

As an event it was nutritional, raw, the venue was stunningly basic almost brutal, the energy was maintained. There was progress, information exchange, connection and energy for the next opportunities to develop.

It was so refreshing to see HR people whose culture traditionally has been framed around organisational shape and  in organising things and people  approach the fluidity of an unconference formula.. It's a technique well used in some technical and development communities. The WorldCafe movement is another example and it paid dividends yesterday

The unconference I think exceeded everyone's expectations. Informed, opinionated and still open minded people wanting to communicate and share the energy and passion to get good things done. I came back with a head full of things to think about and a longer list of thoughts to think about after that..

Talis' strapline is Shared Innovation and it is a determinant factor for our culture and one we will develop and nurture. 

Seeing that ethos live naturally in what can be seen as a traditionally conservative profession was beyond delight.  Bringing the rigour of professional experience and combining it with a passion for positive development is something I certainly will want to participate in and learn from

Yesterday was a very good day. 

Sunday, 23 May 2010

The Dalai Lama and me

Yesterday I ventured into a supermarket on a Saturday. A rash act I know, as normally, particularly where I live, shopping on a Friday or Saturday is a rehearsal or warning about entering into HELL. A place to experience  LOTS  other people with less time flexibility than I am blessed with. Where their semi-feral children are released from the modern societal confines of small gardens and are  roaming the aisles whilst demonstrating  sustained sonic abilities. The children generally are amusing, but the energy from the stressed out parents and staff permeates the area around the checkouts like  a heavy pollution induced smog.

Yesterday these two dynamics of misery and merriment were not present, possibly they were  en masse at a nearby festival. The aisles were clear for some speed shopping in preparation for todays visitors and I took the opportunity with alacrity.

As I picked up the last few bags to leave, fought with an errant melon and some apples attempting to escape I noticed something I had before never seen. A small blue box with a slit like a postbox. Next to it were some small blank slips of paper and a pen with a note saying if you had something or someone you needed or wanted  a prayer said  for to put it on the slip and the prayers would be said at local  Christian Churches. I found myself looking at that and being moved by the act of faith in placing it there. The promise to pray, unfettered by constraints  about who the asker was.  I talked about it later and discovered that at least one other box like this exists in the County and am deducing from that flimsy evidence that its probably quite common. I think its wonderful. In terms of faith I think, as he often does, the Dalai Lama expressed it best when he said,

"This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. "

The presence of that box demonstrates that philosophy, nothing is being asked in return, an offer for free to do something for someone unknown.

After I had been released from months in hospital, I discovered that people I didn't know had prayed for me and for those close to me. Two people had actually paid for a mass to be said for me, neither of them knew me or even knew each other and I am not even a Catholic!  I can't thank them and they wouldn't want to be thanked anyway. Its good to remember. That box reminded me.

I was sent flowers at various times and when I was in various intensive care units I couldn't have them. They'd show me them and then whisk them away. One kind nurse put them in the window of his office for a few hours so I could see them. After a few hours I asked for them to be taken to the hospital chapel. I did so because I was passing something on.

Hospital chapels are strange places. ( In a good way)  I spent some time thinking in one when my Mother was in hospital. It allowed for every  and no religion really. It was a meditative place, a place of calm, without noises of pumps, or machinery or people in pain, or the noises that frightened visitors make to try to be normal. The absence of hustle and bustle -a place to collect thoughts, gather yourself. I had noticed the abundance of flowers in there and the vivid colours and vibrancy reminded me of the urgency of life. The phrase "the quick and the dead" passed through my mind. It was also cool. The ward had been hot, cloying and claustrophic. The chapel though a smaller room felt spacious. It was a place to inflate carefully.

As I drove home from the supermarket I thought about prayer. How you don't need a religion for it or even a belief in a god. You needed  faith, perhaps sometimes prompted or forced by desperation. The Chapel and also the supermarket as places said what the small box did. Beneath  all the difference there is a sense somewhere of US. A connection to something bigger than ourselves.

A unity of difference

Monday, 26 April 2010

its been a while

Late last year was a bit of an interesting time. Again I ended up in hospital, taken by ambulance in pain that it was pointless howling over, even though it was excruciating.

For most of last summer I had been dragging myself to work. This is not like me at all. I love what I do and even when its a grind I know its just stuff to dig in for, so that I can get to the stuff I want to do. Not last summer. Last summer I was waking up exhausted. I was existing in a world full of treacle. I had nothing left. I don't know what I was running on but it wasn't as full as empty. It was mystifying, as if I had gone back a few years. When I was just out of hospital then, when after learning to walk again a 2 minute stand in the kitchen to make a cup of tea would leave me whacked for more than an hour afterwards. I learned to keep drink near me, diet coke to keep back the nausea ( it works btw) so that I didn't dehydrate.
I thought those days were long gone. I hadn't noticed I'd taken the horses out of my life again. Riding stopped - a mixture of too busy and too tired, I had ceased. But I hadn't noted what was going on. It was insidious and crept up on me til I was forced to a standstill.

It turned out to be a simple thing, easily controlled. Diabetes. What a relief, something to pay attention to but in the scheme of things quite manageable. I should have been diabetic after they removed most of my innards and I had frustrated the medics when I hadn't been then. Now I was. Now I am.

Being at home contemplating how bloody I had felt and thinking through what this diagnosis now meant in terms of lifestyle changes was an interesting experience. I now have to eat breakfast. Six words. Six innocent little words that do not convey the depth of difficulty that adjustment has been, still is, for me to make. I now have to eat regularly. I was always a "eat when I am hungry" person - get lost in my activities and then realise the day has passed and no food. Now I eat more regularly, still I have a long way to go, and I have appointed guardians who ping me regularly to ask me if I have eaten, just to make me conscious of the thought.

I also made another change. A while back my dog had died, and for lots of reasons I had not been ready to have another one. I knew my role at Talis was changing or rather how I approached it would be, which meant that having another dog became a real possibility. As the time wore on at home recovering I was allowed my laptop and clearly from there I had easy access to any part of the world I liked. Initially I was looking at greyhounds and  contemplating rescuing one and it is still in the back of my mind to do that. I was reminded by a nephew that I had always wanted a dalmatian. He was right, I had, How had I forgotten that too? So then another hunt was on. In December I collected a little spotty wolf in puppy clothing. I saw his litter at 3 weeks old, he chose me and  I collected him at 7 weeks.

Dalmatians are bonkers. I just thought I'd mention that. They are permanently ON. They are very intelligent and thoughtful (yes really) and quick to spot opportunities. They are also playful in the sense that they tease. They are industrial strength chewing machines, but at the same time quite gentle. One of his toys a giraffe is loved hard with this teeth but is still intact, and carried around. His bed is picked up and tossed across the floor and into another room when he is annoyed and there are others which he relentlessly, diligently and systematically ruthlessly destroys. He is coming to terms with the cats. He has an awareness that their thinking is quite different to his own. He might bounce them like Tigger but both cats know about dishes served cold. Once the Panther has had enough of his antics she will hold his head down with her paws and bite his ear till he squeals in submission and then she will stop and look at him hard. This interspecies sibling rivalry doesn't stop her wanting to join him for a walk in the valley in the evening though, nor he from running up to her after a day a way and licking her older wise head (which she finds disgusting but tolerates as she can see he means well). The Spidermonkeykitten cat has a wholly different but no less effective strategy. Though tiny she runs at him squawking and he demonstrates his dressage ability well and backs away. Even she will be given a quick whole face wash when he has a mellow moment hit him.

Dalmatians need exercise, lots of it, so as well as breakfast a serious amount of outside walking is happening under a big sky. He is still only 6 months old, watching him notice things for the first time, or seeing his surprised look on his face when his back legs decide the front of his body is heading across the field at a rate of knots brings a pleasure that is hard to convey but easy to experience

So with the help of breakfast, a dog and lots of exercise I am no longer dragging myself anywhere. What a sense of freedom and space that has given to my mind.

Next month, I plan to put the horses back in too.