The word “networking” has been coming up for me a lot this past month. Up until last week, I had shunned all attempts by strangers or casual acquaintances to meet for coffee. I did this for a few reasons. One is my days off are precious, full of errands and me time. I guard them like a momma honey badger. The second is I like to keep boundaries between my professional and personal life. Lastly, it hasn’t felt right and I couldn’t see a reason for doing it. So when I received her email asking me if I’d like to have coffee, surprisingly, I didn’t hesitate. I immediately said, “Let’s do it!”
Several years ago my very wise bestie Charmaine said something to me that altered my life. As we were sipping adult beverages by the shore of her parent’s lake cabin, we were talking about commitments. I was recently divorced and still very new to knowing about this spiritual growth stuff. She said, “Here’s how I try to live my life (I think she was all of 25 at the time). I examine each request I receive. If I immediately know I want (not should or need) to do it, I commit on the spot. If it has merit but I’m not sure, I’ll think about it and tell the person I need more time. If it doesn’t feel right or if it’s not for me, I’ll decline the invitation. Where it gets tricky is when I feel I should do such and such but my heart isn’t in it. Even with that kind of stuff, I sit with it for a while and if it feels like a chore, I won’t do it.”
I’m taking some creative license with my memory. I think, in truth, Charmaine said something like, “I won’t do something because it is socially expected of me. I don’t care if it’s a family, work or social obligation. If it feels wrong, I won’t accept the request even if my family feels I’m letting them down.”
Some time ago I wrote a blog entitled, “No” where I talked about my reaction to trying to get out of things I’d committed to but didn’t really want to do. Does praying for a natural disaster sound familiar to anyone? Uh huh. I thought so.
Over the course of the years I’ve learned how to sit with stuff and if it doesn’t feel right, I won’t commit. So let’s get back to the coffee date. Maybe I agreed because I read energy for a living and I knew her energy was not manipulative. She didn’t want something from me and there wasn’t an ulterior motive. She was open and honest and very complimentary about my blogs (oooh yes, pet my ego..purrr….purrrrr…meeYOWWW). She’s also a fabulous woman who, at almost 40 (yes, I received permission to publish her age), is coming into her own by making decisions that may not win the popularity vote with family or friends, but they feel right to her.
We talked about our lives and loves and about ¾ of the way through our chat, I discovered I had ordered a caffeinated beverage and was talking faster than an auctioneer. Truly. And I, by nature and geographic location, am already a fast talker. I heard my voice becoming even more Alvin and the Chipmunk-like and I stopped mid-sentence, took a breath, leveled a gaze at her and said, “Shit. My coffee is caffeinated.”
I’m telling you this because even then I felt completely at ease. Maybe it’s being in my late forties. Maybe it was her energy. Maybe it was mine. I don’t know. I was comfortable with who I was and who I had become. I wasn’t worried about pepper in my teeth or the fact that I didn’t do my hair. I wasn’t concerned I wouldn’t know what to say or how to act or that I’d be judged for my choice of careers. I wasn’t worried about coming off as professional or (God FORBID) unprofessional. I was just being me and I was having fun.
It was a turning point for me and I will be forever grateful to Marilyn for conquering one of her fears by stepping out on the skinny branch (as she termed it) and asking me out for coffee. It helped me realize I no longer need to put on a public persona or act a certain way (old issue). It felt really good to make a new friend and to awaken a new healing awareness within myself.
It also felt really good to be able to share our knowledge in ways that mutually benefited us. That, my friends, is the type of networking I’ll do all day long as it feels less like a chore and more like an extension of the Work I do while I’m in session.
(Side Note: If any of you know a Networking group you think would be able to handle me, ooops, – cough – I mean I would enjoy and be able to make valuable contributions to, please let me know.)