Athena Refreshes To Find Her True North – February 2017

Kate prepared meticulously for her speech at the annual strategy-planning meeting of her company which sold a popular soda. She heard rumblings from employees pushing for reduction in sugar grams in the soda which were jaw-dropping high. Of course, the suger jolt had a lot to do with why the drink was so successful.

An alpha woman to the core, Kate took great pride in having risen so quickly in the company. She was sure this speech would put her in line for yet another promotion, a birthday present to herself for having just turned 30.

Beautifully composed, confidently presented, she was floored when her speech was interrupted by boos. “Let’s face it,” shouted one young man in jeans and beard. “Sugar is poisonous. People are waking up to that fact. We’ve been cited as a dangerous product in numerous articles.”

A surprising number of people nodded in agreement. Kate stomped out of the room.

In the hall, her cell phone rang. A policeman was calling from a nearby hospital. “Your mother has been involved in a traffic accident. She damaged four parked cars when she lost control of the wheel.”

Her mother Adele had Parkinson’s disease. She had also been complaining about headaches. Kate assumed her sister Violet was looking in on Adele regularly as she had for years. Then she remembered that Violet was confined to bed because of complications in her pregnancy.

At the hospital, the cop said her mother was under arrest and could not be released unless Kate agreed to be her guardian.

What? Looking after mother was Violet’s role. After all, Kate was the family star. Her mother bragged about Kate’s achievements, but counted on Violet. Her mother’s friends seemed to value Violet more. “She’s True Blue,” they’d say.

Kate signed the guardianship paper. After the cops left, a hospital chaplain came and sat with her mother. Though her mother was weak and not completely clearheaded, she was surprisingly optimistic.

“I shouldn’t complain,” Adele said. “I’m rich in many ways. My volunteer work gives me a lot of satisfaction. I have so many friends, and interests such as reading books. And now Violet is going to have another baby.”

Kate was aware that her own name did not even come up. Back at her apartment, her boyfriend Edward called. He wasn’t that ambitious but he was her “steady Eddie” — husband and father material. Plus he was relaxed enough to be good in bed.

Though she often talked to Ed in the same ‘woman in command’ voice she used at the office, this time she broke down. Pouring out the details of her wretched day, she ended with “I realize I hate my job.”

Long pause. Finally Ed said, “Remember how we met at the American Red Cross fund-raising telethon?” Of course Kate remembered. She had signed up for the telethon because it would look good on a resume.

Ed continued: “That night I listened to your phone calls and you were so optimistic and persuasive. Well, I heard they have an opening at the Red Cross here in town for an executive. Why don’t you look into it?”

A nonprofit? Heresy.

Ed heard her gasp and said, “Maybe today the gods are sending you a message. They might be saying that you would be a lot happier if you used your high intelligence and formidable skills to make life better for other people.”

Kate was in the clutch of a Threshold Experience:

If you’re heavily influenced by the goddess Athena, you may be unduly focused on your own master plan. You may not easily get that other people think and act differently than you. Treat this realization as a challenge to explore. Be curious.

  • Life was conspiring to stop Kate in her familiar tracks. She had grown up in a divorced family. Time with her dad was much more interesting than with her mom because he took her to work with him during Kate’s vacations where she shadowed the office manager – all her ‘take charge’ impulses fired. College and business school had been a snap. Adele’s volunteerism had never been on Kate’s horizon.
  • What better way for the goddesses to conspire for change than to have ‘mother’ come to live with her? This could have proved to be a nightmare, but didn’t.
  • Kate was observant enough to open to her mother’s – read feminine – ways. With Adele’s current position so up front and personal every day, Kate was dipping into a deep well of compassion and empathy. Her heart began to open to this unique mother of hers, and she realized she had never given Adele a chance to share how she’d found a life of ‘service’ so fascinating.

Listening to Adele’s excitement and review of her life’s work in volunteer positions, her varied interests, the influence of growing up in a household with a bedridden grandmother – all this led Kate to rethinking what her own life could be.

Kate had already called into work and explained that due to a family medical emergency, she was taking a leave of absence. She took care of her mother Adele with style and grace; helped Violet get ready for the baby and invited Ed to move into her condo. She was still bossy, but she was on her road to fulfillment. Kate followed the dots and discovered a more authentic way of being.

Athena – December 2016

Converted Her Anger to Energy

“Take your life in your own hands, and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame.” — Erica Jong

Like many successful women, Carlotta was coached in the ways of the world by her ‘take no prisoner’s’ father and she rose in the ranks of TV journalism to become producer of a top ratings news show.

On this day, the stress of her one-year marriage collided with the stress of her job and Carlotta was pushed to the boiling point. Her assistant, Nancy, had screwed up the show’s lineup of graphics and Carlotta blew. Calvin, the boss, witnessed the scene.

Leading her into his office, he said: “Take a one-month’s leave of absence. This is a directive, not an option.”

Carlotta grabbed her coat and briefcase, exiting with the line: “My job better be here when I get back.”

Calvin was silent. Then said: “We’ll see. Get some therapy.”

She collapsed into a cab sobbing. What could she tell her laid-back husband Tony? He was self-employed as a computer programmer, a Type B personality who appreciated her Type a drive but recoiled from her anger and impatience.

But this time she was too crushed to rant about the ineptitude of those who worked for her – Tony felt the seriousness of her mental state and looked after her. In this period when she was totally exhausted, she appreciated his nurturing side.

Instead of shock and shame about the scene she threw at the office, her thoughts ran like this:

  • If she lost her job, she’d never get another one.
  • How could she ever re-gain the respect of her boss and her peers?
  • She didn’t even want to think about how disappointed her parents would be in her.

Tony helped Carlotta find a therapist who diplomatically pointed out that she was taking too much credit for successes in her department at the network, and was too quick to blame her team for the failures. This focus on protecting her self-esteem crippled her relationships and stunted her personal growth.

Role-playing different scenarios around the incident at work led to further self-awareness. Though this exploration was hard work, Carlotta began to take off some of her shiny armor and became able to see that she had been too busy blaming Nancy when she could have explained what the news segment actually needed. She often felt caught in a cycle of anger, self-defense and blame – a pattern she had to let go.

She wrote a sincere letter of apology to her assistant, detailing her many accomplishments and how much she valued Nancy. She forwarded it to her boss.

This led to some frank, sometimes painful conversations with Calvin during which Carlotta admitted that she had a short fuse. If she didn’t change her reputation, it would limit her career.

Working further with the therapist, she talked about her relationship with Tony. “He’s pressing me to have a baby.” We agreed to two when me got married.” Now that Carlotta was at home and feeling needy, they were have sex on a daily basis. It was doing wonders for her disposition, but the baby issue was looming larger.

“Tony works at home. He’s not a chauvinist. You can work it out.”

Carlotta got her job back. The personality changes made her fresher, more creative and efficient. She even reached the point where she could laugh at her competitiveness and perfectionism.

Are you an Athena?

  • Are you too aggressive and demanding at work?
  • Do you make enemies of the very people you count on to obey your orders?
  • Are you tough with everyone around you?
  • How do you respond to an ego-deflating situation?

Consider:

  • Your expectations – of self and others.
  • Watch your rationalizations.
  • Listen to how you justify your anger.
  • Change your language to one of support and see what happens.