This is what I do, don't try to understand how I do it; I don't really know either

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Pivot

Today we were supposed to be on a plane to Poland. It was supposed to be a trip of a lifetime that I had saved for. It was possibly the last trip we all take together. The oldest graduates sooner than it feels like he should and our lives are going to go in different directions. We will always be connected, but things are going to change, as they are supposed to. If I did my job right as a parent then I will have taught my children how to be independent of me.

When Madrid started closing their schools, I knew for certain we had to pull the plug on that dream. We have tickets for Auschwitz because learning about history and standing in the place where it happened are two different things. The first is important but the second holds a power in the impact that is never forgotten. It was that way for me when I was in Rwanda and I wanted to share that with my kids.

So I had to pivot and adjust. I tried to rework the trip to go to Mexico, especially after learning that one of our family members is having serious health issues. I felt that perhaps the pivot was because we needed to be with our family. Yet here we are on March 22 at home after a week of self-isolation and many more to come. We live with a vulnerable person so we had cordoned off quickly and understand that this is the beginning of a long journey.

There is grief for any type of loss. Loss of a job, loss of a dream, loss of hopes. There is fear when there is uncertainty. What will happen in the future? How will we make things work, things like rent and food? Will the company, and all I have worked for and accomplished with it go down with a pandemic?

The oddity of it all is that I know that in this isolation I am not alone in these feelings. So many people had to pivot hard and fast on their plans. So many people are staring down unemployment. So many are trying to make sense of it all when none is to be had. It’s all incredibly surreal. Some moments I am strategizing on how to be the best mom, leader, daughter, etc. and others I am under a blanket eating cheezies and watching the office for the fourth time through.

It seems impossible to have any sense of a solid plan because the future is completely uncertain. There are no definitive answers. People at this point are trying to make decisions on the information that they have at the moment, but moments pass and information changes. It feels like you are trying to make a solid structure from cornstarch and water. It holds its shape long enough for you to see it and then it dissolves into a white puddle.

I have no answers only questions. Time will pass and it will tell me what I did right and what could have been better. With each ticking second, I watch the white milky substance drip through my fingers and wonder what will emerge at the end of it all. It will not be the same because I will not be the same.

Reclaiming Holidays

There are a lot of holidays in Canada. It feels that way for someone who is not a holiday person. I am sure for many people it is a lovely time to get together with family and connect or to celebrate Jesus or bunnies or your special someone on the day of love. I don’t have great memories of holidays growing up. My family was dysfunctional and that played out on holidays as well as every other day of the year.

Then I got married and if anything was to happen, the weight fell on me. If it was successful then that was meeting expectations: no real displays of appreciation because that was what I was supposed to do. If it was not good then it was my fault and I had failed as a wife and mother. So eventually I really stopped trying. I did the best I could to still give my kids some positive memories by hiding Easter eggs and I still always decorated for Christmas but my kids knew that I would rather not do any of it.

After my divorce, I ignored thanksgiving all together. It was easy because there were no invites to dinner and since I cook dinner for my kids every other night why would I prepare a large meal that takes more effort to make AND clean up.  The kids would eat but someone would complain because you can never please all of them and it would leave me exhausted and questioning the purpose. The year that I didn’t do anything felt good. After that, I decided we were eating pizza for dinner on Christmas with birthday cake and going to a movie. Over the years I have been finding things that the kids and I all enjoy. It definitely has been getting easier as they get older.

This past year something has changed. It’s not that I am really excited to celebrate holidays per se, but I am not dreading them and that is significant. I never in my life have looked forward to Valentine’s day. In elementary I watched kids all around me with stuffed valentine bags and I would get two or three that you could tell were from kids whose moms made them make a valentine for every kid in the class. I appreciate those moms because it was definitely better than getting nothing but I still felt like a complete loser.

I am excited about tomorrow. I have done somethings for some very special people in my life to make them feel valued and appreciated. I specifically chose people that are not likely to get a valentine and who have been working tirelessly for their kids. I have plans instead of sitting home and pretending its not the big V-day.

Today I learned, is Galentines day. I think Galentines day should just hijack the entirety of Valentines but regardless of which day it’s celebrated on, the concept is fantastic. More days of the year need to be Galentines day where women celebrate women. Social media, magazines, TV and movies have women ripping each other apart with their judgments and critiques. Let’s celebrate each other! So tomorrow I bought my kids chocolates and am writing them love letters and I am celebrating some very special women.

February is hard. It’s my brother’s birthday month (who passed away) and the month that my baby was due that I lost. But February 2020, I am doing well. I’m starting to thrive. I am reclaiming my life, myself, and who would have ever thought, but also holidays.

Do You Want To Fight?

Our perceptions of people originate in a very connected way to ourselves and how we interact with the world. This is why it’s so important to really know ourselves: how we operate and make the decisions that we do. Why some things evoke strong emotions from us and not others. The better we know ourselves the healthier our relationships with others will be.

boxingjpeg

I have often been asked the question (or one similar to it): are you looking for a fight? Sometimes it comes as an accusation: you like to start a fight! If the truth is told, neither is true of me. I grew up in a home that fighting was routine, be it either my parents or one of my parents with my older brother. In the early days, things were thrown and broken but there were always loud voices. Though I would never want someone to grow up this way (and I have worked hard for this pattern to not continue with my children and sometimes fail) I wonder if it has been a direct contributor to my ability to not back down in the face of conflict.

There is a massive difference between fighting and healthy conflict. Fighting is a form of conflict but it’s not a healthy one. Conflict is inevitable in life but how you handle it is essential to health. I am the type of person who likes to take conflict head-on. I will engage in it when I believe it to be important. I have learned as I get older that some of the conflicts I thought were important are actually not. I try to be selective about my conflict but I don’t hide from it.

This is likely why some people view me as a person who looks for or enjoys fighting but I think that could be a larger reflection of them than me. Some people are quiet and fear, hide, or refuse to enter into conflict. I could say things about those people and put them in a box because of that behavior but I don’t. I’m saddened when I see it because it’s not healthy- it’s actually just as unhealthy as dealing with conflict in an angry way but more socially acceptable for understandable reasons.

But just as I don’t want to look down on them for how they handle conflict I would hope people would do the same for me but it continues that people misunderstand my straightforwardness or sometimes outright confrontation. I want to deal with things that need to be dealt with. I want to not hide things in the darkness. If there is an issue let’s put it on the operating table, cut that sucker open, and figure out what’s making it ugly so we can deal with it and move forward in a healthy way. This is an uncomfortable process. People feel more comfortable with the monster festering under the table or in the closet. At the risk of sounding like Rihanna, I am friends with the monsters under my bed because I know them and we work together. I am finding ways to use my weaknesses to help myself and others. Mark Manson said that our weaknesses lose power if we embrace them. I am grabbing hold of my monsters and teaching them so that they don’t lead me. Ignoring things doesn’t make them go away, ever.

If you want to view me negatively because I own my faults and dive into conflict then I’m very ok with that. I like who I am and am confident in myself – even my weaknesses. I do my best to speak the truth in love and apologize when I fail but if my personality, values, and how I live my life don’t work or feel comfortable for you, that’s ok. It’s my life, not yours. We can set up some healthy boundaries that work for both of us 😉

The Imperfections of Good Leadership

I am reading Arlene Dickinson’s newest book called “Reinvention”. I’m half way through and I love it. I have loved her since I saw her on Dragons Den and wanted to be like her in so many ways. A strong woman entrepreneur.

She talks about when she first started on the show and how intimidating it was to be a role model but then she saw that it was her imperfections that made her a good leader. It made her relatable and human. She didn’t have flashy degrees that made her what she was – she was who she was because she worked hard and was true to herself.

This inspires me because I can can definitely embody those two things – imperfection and being myself. Being imperfect is easy but being true to yourself is harder because you have to let your imperfections show. They are a part of who you are. Leaders who “have it all together” will have more followers, until the armour tarnished and cracks appear – because they will, and then people will be disillusioned. An imperfect leader may not have some people follow because they are disillusioned from the start but those kinds of people will just jump from one “perfect” leader until they fail and then they will find another. Those people do this because they can not accept the imperfections within themselves.

Everyone fails. To fail is to be human. I make a ton of mistakes all the time but I do my utmost to own them. They are my mistakes and I desire to learn from them and grow. I’ll share them with you and I hope you share yours with me so we can grow together. I know that airing my imperfections in a public place, like I have here, has hindered some potential opportunities but I would rather be real and accepted for who I am than pretend.

My degrees don’t make me who I am – which is why I do not want to ever be called doctor. My company doesn’t make me who I am- I built that but it’s not a definition of Amanda. Even being a mom- which is the best thing in the world, does not define me. I am me because of my character and my core values. Take me or leave me, that’s up to you but you know what your getting: imperfections and all.

To Be Where My Feet Are

I have been so blessed to be able to travel as much as I have. There are still so many placed I have not gone and want to go, as well as many I want to go back to. A few weeks ago I got to spend some time with someone I highly respect named Bob Goff and he spoke about being where your feet are.

For many who have suffered trauma, it has been a necessary life skill to learn how to be in another place in your mind, as far away from where your feet are as possible. This also happens when I am preoccupied with other things. Sometimes this is not bad because I have a lot of things on the go and I need to remember deadlines or projects, but it has been too common that I have not been where my feet are when I could or should have been.

This skill is something I am taking to heart and practicing being intentional about. There is an aspect of my job that requires me to be on call 24/7 but even still I am leaning more on my team so that my phone can be off when I am doing schoolwork or spending time with my kids. You can call during our family game night but I will likely have to get back to you.

Sometimes I consciously think in my head, “what is in this moment that I need to get out of it?” I am finding a lot of peace in that. I have always been a destination person. I don’t like to stop on road trips or ‘enjoy the journey’ if you will and I think in many ways that won’t significantly change because I am a goal-driven person but there is a balance. There are things to experience on the way and I am finding ways to not miss those but also to not get off track.

The future looks so bright and I can not wait to get there, but it will not come one second sooner than it will so right now I am discovering what is here in the now. I can’t wait to be done course work but I found myself in a course I really love (finally haha). I am actually reading all of the textbook for that class instead of skimming to find the answers. I’m not saying I will do that for all courses but I am happy I can do that for this one. I’m going to get as much out of it that I can while still counting the days until there are no more assignments due.

There are still lots of times things go wrong or life is just plowing me with lemons but I will either find or make peace in the chaos. I will play my piano. I will go to the gym. I will cuddle my youngers or listen to my olders share what is important to them. I will let the sunshine fall on my face and soak through to my soul. I will surf the waves and ride them as far as I can, sometimes falling, but every time getting back up on my board.

surfing

That’s Not My Experience

Society is built by relationships. We enter the world and build relationships with our family or people around us. We grow and our network expands to people at school and eventually our workplace. We develop social interests and connect with others there as well. There is a level of social trust that happens with each relationship. It can be gained and lost but it also can be rebuilt. Relationships are built on whom we know someone to be. We will have closer relationships with those you trust more and distance from those you don’t.

We build a narrative about someone based on our observations and experiences. If you ask me about my friends I will tell you my perception of them and whom I know them to be. I will believe my perception of that person to be true. So what happens when your perception of someone and mine do not align? I will deny your perception to be true and default to what I believe to be true, BUT does that actually mean that my perception is true? This is a critical question we have to ask ourselves rather than automatically defaulting to our truth because not asking the question is destroying people and allowing predators to continue to consume at will.

I just watched the Netflix documentary on Bikram Choudhury and he is a perfect example of someone whom people perceive to be one way, but the truth is contrary. He’s far from being the only one. I recently read about Jerry Sandusky who was given awards and accolades for his work with young people as well as Larry Nassar. All three of these people were well known and respected in their fields but behind closed doors they are predators. This truth contradicts how many people knew them to be.

I walked alongside a young woman who was assaulted. I saw the bruises on her body. Her predator was a friend of the family she was living with and when confronted by police they chose to hinder the police investigation because their perception of him was contrary to someone who would hurt a teenage girl, but that didn’t make it less true. Another book I read gave the story of a teenage girl who was preyed upon by her high school teacher. When it went to trial the prosecution put girls on the stand who were more popular and prettier than she was as if to present an argument that if he had not preyed on these girls then why would he prey on one less pretty and less popular? He too had won awards for his teaching efforts with young people. Very few believed her story that their perceptions of his capabilities were wrong.

When I was raped as a teenager one of the reasons I did not come forward at that time was because I did not think anyone would believe me. My rapist was popular and social. Prettier and more popular girls than me voluntarily slept with him and I believed that no one would believe me if I said I hadn’t wanted to.  I did not have enough power or position to influence their perceptions of him.

We have to remember that our perceptions are ONLY what the other person lets us see. It may not be the whole truth. We do not want to think someone we know is capable of horrible things, but sometimes they are. A man whom our community believed to be a caring and loving father murdered his own wife and children. It was not until we were confronted with cold hard facts in our face that we would budge on our perception of whom we believed him to be and what he was capable of.

This is why organizations like UN Women are tweeting “Believe Her”

Believing her doesn’t mean we forgo a proper judicial system, but it means we are open to our perceptions being wrong and entering into that process to determine the truth.

 

My Manifesto

I’ve been struggling with my blog. It’s very personal but I had made it public with the intent to share my journey and maybe give hope or encouragement to others.

This could cause some issues with the professional world I am looking to enter so as I pondered this situation I changed my privacy settings to closed.

A little while ago I listened to a leader who I greatly respect and has a lot of knowledge in the area of mental health, who publicly said that he takes medication for depression and sees a counsellor every week. He also said he wishes that these things could be talked about openly. It was then that I knew what my decision had to be.

I want to make the world better. I want to be the change I want to see, and that means that even if it costs me a job then I have to be true to who I am and vulnerable about the difficult times on my journey. Recently a close friend said that I was set up to fail. In a lot of ways, I think he is right. I scrolled back and realized that I suffered significant trauma; multiple sexual abuses, rape, the loss of close friends by murder, testifying at the trial, dysfunctional family; all before I hit 17 years of age and it hasn’t been all roses and daisies since. Some people don’t recover from just one of those issues but I had all of them happen before my brain was even fully developed.

I had all the reasons to fail, but I didn’t, and I’m not done. The future is so bright for where I am going and the difference I know I am going to make because all those things that happened to me are drivers for me to make life better for others. I want people to know their value and worth regardless of their circumstances or choices. Every single person on this planet matters. So as I move forward I am publicly declaring my personal manifesto.

Manifesto of Amanda Carrasco

I will be true to who I am and who God has called me to be: embracing all of my strengths and recognizing that I am in process to work on my weaknesses.

I will never call myself “just” anything.

 I am not just a mom, just a teacher, just an entrepreneur,

just a student, or just ANYTHING!

I AM Amanda Carrasco

I will use my voice to amplify and support the voices of the hurting, the oppressed, and suffering so we can all engage the world from a place or worthiness. NAKUONA

I will ask the hard questions to myself and others

I will not back down from something because it is hard, I will take calculated risks.

I will lead from a place of humble gratitude.

I will own my story, ALL of it, but it will not define me because I am the author.

It is a story of struggle and strength, but it is my story.

 

She overcame and changed the world.