Lorraine Copes – You can program your mind

The Change Diaries Podcast explores how to embrace change, spark change, or simply be the change we want to see.

In this episode I talk with Lorraine Copes, Business Coach and Procurement Consultant. Lorraine believes that to handle the inevitable changes that life throws our way, we need to stay present and look ahead. She also shares her thoughts on how to build or rebuild your confidence.

Lorraine brings her powerful and forthright coaching style to this conversation, debunking beliefs around imposter syndrome and challenging us to program our minds for greater success. You don’t want to miss this conversation.

Guest Bio

Lorraine Copes is the founder of Be Inclusive Hospitality, Procurement Consultant and Business Coach. Having spent almost two decades working within the hospitality sector successfully leading procurement teams for brands including Shake Shack, Gordon Ramsay Restaurants and Corbin & King, her experience spans new market entry, national and international leadership roles. 

Lorraine is passionate about helping others advance and has been able to do so during her career within Procurement by helping organizations to improve profitability, and as a Business Coach through helping individuals gain clarity, confidence, and courage.

In 2019, Lorraine felt compelled to form Be Inclusive Hospitality due to the consistent lack of representation of people from Black, Asian and Minority backgrounds in positions of influence, or often being invisible even if they do occupy the space. This social enterprise will now hold the prime position of accelerating racial equality and levelling the playing field for those from underrepresented backgrounds within hospitality, food and drink sectors.

Based in London, you can find Lorraine at:

LinkedIn: Lorraine Copes

Instagram: @lorrainelifecoach

Website: https://lorrainelifecoach.com/

Never miss an episode! Subscribe on Apple Podcasts to get new episodes as they become available.

You can also listen on Spotify.

Thank you for listening! Follow my blog and share. I post new content each week.

The Change Diaries Podcast theme music by Ellan Neil

The Change Diaries Podcast cover design by Aris Amitirigala

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. All Rights Reserved.   

5 things you can #choosetochallenge for gender equality

On Monday we celebrated International Women’s Day. Each year I come across one or two provocative people who ask the question – do we still need this day? 

The answer is yes. We must continue to spark conversation and recommitment to action, not only on March 8, but every single day, because there is much more to be done on a global scale to achieve gender equality. 

Only 20% of tech jobs in the US are held by women; in 2020 there were still only five women CEOs on the FTSE 100 in the UK; globally, women continue to shoulder the domestic burden. Added to that, we still have not achieved pay equity on a global scale. Women earn 77 cents for every dollar that men earn for work of equal value. Let that sink in before you say, ‘done and dusted’ and move on.  

International Women’s Day is about recognizing our progress while being honest about where we are and reaching for more.

I love this years’ theme #choosetochallenge. Challenge brings change and we certainly need to make many shifts in removing the barriers that prevent women from enjoying fulfilling lives, free from bias and deprivation.  

Here are a five things we can #choosetochallenge for change. 

#Choosetochallenge gender-coded norms

I still remember the day we went shopping as a family. My husband and my son wandered off together while Lauren stuck with me. She was about eight at the time. My eyes landed on a stack of boxes with shiny drone helicopters and I almost squealed. 

“Lauren, don’t you think this would be perfect for your brother?” I wasn’t really asking so I didn’t expect her to answer. 

She hesitated before responding, “Yes Mommy, but I want toys like these too, and no one ever buys them for me.” 

Busted.  

I bought two drone helicopters (one for each child) and went home feeling sick with guilt.  

As women, we like to think that we are at the forefront of the struggle for equality, but the truth is that we exist within a web of oppressive structures. We play into them and perpetuate them without even thinking.  

Look at the clothing, toys and books that you buy for your children. How do these reinforce gender-coded norms? Listen to the language that you use daily in your interactions. Where are you perpetuating stereotypes? Examine where and how you are reinforcing biased ways of thinking that don’t serve the journey towards progress.   

#Choosetochallenge men to share the domestic burden

Women don’t make better cleaners and carers. It’s a myth that we created. It’s time for us to change it. 

One morning I could not make it to my son’s school for a meeting with his teacher. She was holding an orientation session to introduce parents to the curriculum and answer questions. My husband said not to worry, he would attend before heading into office.  

Afterwards, he told me that he was the only man in a room of 30 people and the teacher was quite apologetic to him. She said that she could have sent the information home, he need not have come. 

I don’t believe she said that to any of the women present. I don’t think she would have said that to me. Is a man’s time more important than a woman’s?   

Why are women working fulltime jobs and still almost exclusively responsible for parenting, caring for aging parents, and managing domestic chores? With Covid they have also become de facto teachers and short-order cooks working round the clock to prepare meals and clean up.  

Can we just say STOP! 

Men – we need you to step up and support. You can’t say you are our biggest cheerleaders if you aren’t also doing your fair share at home. Please, relieve women of this tremendous burden so that they can lead more fulfilling lives.  

#Choosetochallenge negative behaviors towards women in the workplace

Often, in corporate environments, when a woman leans in and asks tough questions she is branded as aggressive, hostile, intense, angry. Unfortunately, it’s happened to me and to many other women I know. We need a concerted effort to end this practice of shaming women into being silent.  

Start by listening and observing what’s going on in your environment.  

  • Did someone mansplain when your female colleague made her point?  
  • Did someone ignore her point and then repeat it as if it were their original idea?  
  • Did someone say she was aggressive and emotional, so she isn’t ready for a promotion?  
  • When presenting, was she given less time on the floor and frequently interrupted? 
  • Is the salary you are about to offer her equal to or more than what you paid the last man who was in the role?  

You can break these negative patterns by interrupting bias. Speak up and challenge it when you see it in action.  

#Choosetochallenge by sponsoring women

My first job after graduating from University was at JAMPRO in Jamaica. All the way up the chain of command I worked with strong women – my colleague in the adjoining cubicle, my manager, the assistant vice president, and the president. All exceptionally talented women who guided me, coached me, mentored me, and sponsored me.  

In its 2018 report entitled Women in business and management: Gaining momentum in the Caribbean, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) revealed that Jamaica had the highest proportion of women managers in the world at 59 per cent. This is an impressive track record.  

I can tell you that the impact of being surrounded by strong female leaders is phenomenal. It is hard to be what we cannot see. Looking back on my early career, the stage was set for me to believe that no doors would be closed to me because I was a woman. But I also had the benefit of great sponsors, both male and female. 

I firmly believe that women are over-mentored and under sponsored. Mentoring is great but women also need coaching and active sponsors to nominate them for bigger roles.  

Where can you sponsor a woman today so that she can stretch into new opportunities? Is it in the workplace, or in the sporting arena, or in an extra-curricular activity? Become more intentional about using your power to make a difference.  

#Choosetochallenge yourself to think differently and uncover new dimensions

By stereotyping women, we also stereotype men. Be honest – when you think of a nursery schoolteacher does the image of a man come to mind? I bet there are men who wanted to pursue that career but were discouraged or ridiculed. 

When you think of someone staying home to take care of their baby, you think of the mother. Why not the father? Why aren’t more companies offering paternity leave so that fathers can lean in and share the bonding experience instead of sleeping in a separate room so they can be fresh for work in the morning? 

In shifting the paradigm that has existed for many years, men might temporarily feel displaced, but they can choose to think and operate in new ways which benefit everyone.  

I believe that if we work together, we can open the door to create greater balance in many professions – rebalancing where there are too few men and rebalancing where we don’t see women. It’s an exciting opportunity to build a society that works for all.  

What will you #choosetochallenge today?  

Leave a comment below. Let’s talk about it together and make change happen. 

Thank you for stopping by. Listen to my new podcast now available on Apple: The Change Diaries Podcast. And don’t forget to follow and share my blog. I post new content each week.  

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.     

Abbi Buszard – Making space for people to think for themselves

The Change Diaries Podcast explores how to better embrace change, spark change, or simply be the change we want to see.

In this episode I talk with Abbi Buszard, Life Coach and former Commercial Director. She believes that the solutions to your biggest challenges are never quite as good unless they are yours and that change means growth.

Abbi brings her insightful style to this conversation, sharing advice on how to find the right coach for you, affordable options, and examples of successful transformation. It’s a practical conversation with great advice.

Guest Bio

Abbi Buszard is the founder of Grow Your Own Organic Learning. She is a qualified coach and former Commercial Director with a love of creative problem solving. She is also known as ‘mum, stepmum and wife/reluctant cycling buddy’. 

With extensive experience in all aspects of helping people to grow and develop, by challenging, supporting, managing, leading and mentoring, Abbi works with large organisations and ambitious individuals alike. With a postgraduate certificate in coaching from Henley Business School, Abbi believes making space for growth is both the hardest and most important thing for everyone to do to succeed. 

Before starting Grow Your Own, she spent fifteen years at Cadbury, Kraft and Diageo, working across sales, customer marketing and transformation and change. These days, Abbi works with a network of partners across a variety of specialisms, who enable Grow Your Own to deliver programmes to any scale, from large corporates to boutique brands. Grow Your Own has a social enterprise heart- every commercial programme is matched with pro-bono work for a charity partner.

Abbi considers her nosiness a superpower that can be used on self or others. Find her on LinkedIn or Instagram and you can join in the reflection by following her daily questions and learning to change your world by building a growth habit in just 2 minutes a day!

Find her at:

LinkedIn: Abbi Buszard

Instagram: @AbbiBuszard

Website: www.growyourownlearning.com

Never miss an episode. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts to get new episodes as they become available.

You can also listen on Spotify.

Follow my blog and share with others! I post new content each week.

The Change Diaries Podcast theme music by Ellan Neil

The Change Diaries Podcast cover design by Aris Amitirigala

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. All Rights Reserved.    

Dr. Michael Mendribil: I am never who I think I am

The Change Diaries Podcast explores how to better embrace change, spark change or simply be the change we want to see.  

Listen

Introduction 

In this episode I talk with Dr. Michael Mendribil, Transformative Life Coach. Dr. M. brings a warm and personal touch as he shares important insights on the challenges that men face in today’s world and how he discovered the gift of meditation. He also gives us a peek into the coaching world, offers advice on how we can better cope with the changes that this challenging time has brought and two great book recommendations for your reading list.   

Guest Bio 

Michael is the founder, chief guide and coach of Bonfire Society, a coaching community for men. He also leads Mendribil Wellness, where for over 30 years he has been helping people optimize their metabolism, fortify their health and master their mindset so that they can have everything they want in life.  

He is a Transformative Life Coach, a practicing Naturopathic Physician, a Functional Medicine Practitioner, and ongoing student and teacher of life. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and daughter.  

You can find him at:  

BonfireSociety.com 

MendribilWellness.com 

Instagram: BonfireSocietyNOW  

Thank you for listening. Let me know your thoughts, comments, and what other topics you would like to explore during this first season as I chat with various coaches. What are some of the questions on your mind as you navigate change? What question would you like the coaches to answer?

Never miss an episode! Subscribe on Apple Podcasts to get new episodes as they become available.

You can also listen on Spotify.

Follow my blog and share with others! I post new content each week.

Acknowledgements:

The Change Diaries Podcast theme music by Ellan Neil  

The Change Diaries Podcast cover design by Aris Amitirigala 

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. All Rights Reserved.     

The Change Diaries Podcast is Here!

I’m excited to launch The Change Diaries Podcast: Conversations to change your mind. Each season, different guests will explore themes related to embracing change, sparking change or simply being the change we want to see. My hope is that you will fill your backpack with knowledge and gain inspiration to try something new. 

It’s been a long time coming. I’ve wanted to start a podcast for many years but there was always a reason to put it off. Like for instance today. I didn’t think it was perfect and I started second guessing myself.

And then I read a quote that Greg Monaco of letsgomonaco.com shared this morning. It was from film director, George Lucas: Anybody that makes films knows the film is never finished. It’s abandoned or it’s ripped out of your hands, and it’s thrown into the marketplace, never finished. It’s a very rare experience where you find a filmmaker who says, “That’s exactly what I wanted. I got everything I needed. I made it just perfect. I’m going to put it out there.”

So here it is!

Check out this launch episode where I introduce you to The Change Diaries and share a short story of how I am navigating change and absorbing the lessons.

The first season is about How to spark a change in your life – do you need a life coach? I’m thrilled to have lined up some great guests from various corners of the globe for each episode. These life coaches will share stories about their own lives, and how they guide people in defining their goals and getting past what’s blocking them. You don’t want miss these thought-provoking conversations.

The first episode drops next week. Stay tuned!

Thank you for stopping by and listening in. Please share your comments below, like, and hit ‘subscribe’. I update content each week.

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. All Rights Reserved.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

The Unexpected Gifts of Driving Through Snow

Lake Simcoe, Ontario, Canada, February 2021

It’s funny how memories come back to you when you’re the one in the driver’s seat.

Last night I thought about the first time I saw snow. It was in Chile when my brother and I visited our aunt in Santiago. It was summer for us in Jamaica, but it was winter in the Southern Hemisphere and my aunt drove us up into the mountains to a ski resort. We were freezing but I remember our glee at seeing the piles of what looked like bright, white, fluffy cotton candy.

There’s something else I remember about that day – how nervous my aunt was driving up that winding mountain road in the snow. In fact, she stopped the car at one point to breathe and said she didn’t think she could continue. My brother was crestfallen, and I think it was sheer willpower that made her keep going…all the way to the top.

Years ago, I told my Canadian friend Heather that I would never move to Canada, because I could not see myself navigating the snow and cold. Famous last words.

When I moved here last year, Heather patiently stood in line with me to get my Canadian drivers’ licence and told me to make sure I booked a snow driving lesson. I’m infinitely glad I did, because last night was my turn to step into my aunt’s shoes and learn two important lessons.

Here’s how it unfolded.

Yesterday evening I spent a few hours away from home. I was indoors (observing strict Covid protocols), mostly on my own and I even got some writing done. By the time I rose to leave it was after 9:00pm. I gasped in horror when I opened the door – it had snowed considerably in the three and a half hours. It was also still snowing, and my car was covered with snow!

I used my snow brush to clear the windshield and windows but honestly, that was the least of my concerns. I was thinking of the drive back home. I was petrified.

I called my husband. He said, “You’ll be fine. Drive carefully.” That was it.

Channeling Sharon, my yoga teacher, I focused on inhaling and exhaling. I swallowed hard and whispered silent prayers when I hit the deserted highway. I was gripping the steering wheel so tightly that I had to periodically remind myself to relax. Each time the huge trucks with snowplows barrelled past me my heart raced. Literally, my head started to hurt.

I struggled to see the lanes as the snow swirled and I slowed to a crawl in the slow lane, hovering at 40-50km/h, half the speed limit.

Gradually I became aware of a car on my tail. It was steadily following me at the same speed. I peered into my rear-view mirror to check if it was the police, but it wasn’t. It was just another driver on this lonely highway, and they stayed behind me all the way until their exit.

The moment I got home I bowed my head in prayer. What was the lesson in all of this? Apart from making sure I read the weather report in the future I had two big takeaways:

Just keep on going

Remember Dory from Nemo “just keep swimming”? Through the nervousness I told myself, just keep going – as far as you can see in front of you, go that distance and just keep going. I took it one kilometer at a time, at a pace I could sustain. Life is like that sometimes. Quitting isn’t an option. Take it one day at a time and you will get where you are meant to be. This works whether you are growing your business, building your blog (reminder to self), or driving in snow on the highway for the first time. You feel stronger and braver when you push through.

You are a beacon of light

Remember that car behind me on the highway? I realized that I was their beacon of light. It’s a heck of a thing when you are out of your comfort zone. You might think you are not doing well; you may be scared out of your mind and want to give up. What you don’t realize is that there is someone for whom you are a beacon of light. You represent the way forward and they are following in your path. They are silently cheering you on.

If you are in doubt today, grappling with a big problem or even a small one, remember to ‘just keep going’. Never underestimate the influence you have on others when you live by example. You are a beacon of light.

Thank you for stopping by. Please share your comments below and visit again soon. Don’t forget to subscribe and share. I post new content each week.

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Engage, Tolerate or Disconnect Respectfully?

‘Delete toxic people’. ‘Remove the haters from your life’. ‘Stay away from those who don’t appreciate your value’. Is it my imagination or has the message to cut people off proliferated? If you use social media, you will likely see it pop up in some form or other on various channels. There seems to be an urgency to create boundaries, say ‘no’ and close your circles.

Confirmed trolls aside, whenever we contemplate disconnecting, we should ask ourselves ‘why’. Are these people in our lives who express themselves differently or friends who simply have a different way of looking at things? Is there space for us to lean in with curiosity?

Qualifier here: no-one should tolerate verbal abuse, that is non-negotiable. And yes, sometimes there are harmful relationships that must end. There is power in recognizing this and taking the necessary steps. My question is whether we are open to listening to other views without labelling and closing conversation.

Here’s something else to ponder. What if you are the hater? Surely, we have all expressed unfavorable opinions or been obnoxiously self-righteous, in the hope that there is enough trust for a relationship to continue. There are moments when we have fallen short of being Positive Polly cheering on our friends and could use some grace.

Joshua Coleman stated in an article published recently in The Atlantic, “We are all flawed. We should have that at the forefront of our minds when deciding who to keep in or out of our lives—and how to respond to those who no longer want us in theirs.”

In my travels I have experienced many situations with people where, instead of disconnecting, through listening and trusting someone to listen to me, we bridged a gap. The healing that came from those moments was profound and enhanced trust, enabling us to achieve more together.

I have also found that there are seasons to relationships; our circles will contract and expand over time as people navigate in and out of our lives. This is the nature of change and renewal. There is no need to rush the end. It will come naturally, or you may find there are relationships you can save through discussion, debate, and a willingness to find the point on which you both agree. Or, you could accept that you neither need to agree nor disagree. You can shrug and say, ‘that’s an interesting viewpoint that I have never considered.’ 

Perhaps, next time, before you brand someone a hater and hit the delete button, check the list: engage, tolerate or disconnect respectfully. You just might find something worth salvaging.

Thanks for stopping by. Please share your comments and visit again soon. I post articles each week so don’t forget to subscribe.

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Moving Countries? Self-care is a must

Relocation is stressful. Even if you are simply moving to a townhouse in the same complex, it’s still stressful. We’ve done that by the way. We thought we could just load up the car and drive back and forth 300 meters between places. Worst plan ever. 

Planning the moving logistics kicks off anxiety. Packing boxes ramps up the stress. Throw in ‘global mobility’ and ‘international movers’ and you wonder how you will survive. 

In 2020, during the global coronavirus pandemic, I packed up my family and moved from the United Kingdom to Canada. I was still working while doing everything on my own. I had a to-do list longer than my arm. Everything that should have been easy had an added complication. Our original flights were cancelled, the hotels near to us in London weren’t taking guests, we required government permission to land in Toronto during Covid…and I could go on. Summary – I was juggling a lot and at risk of burnout. 

So how did I end up making those months of moving and settling into a new country the most pleasant, relaxed and smoothest experience I’ve ever had?  

Simple – by maintaining a self-care program that included reading, exercise, meditation, yoga, aromatherapy, and consuming high-vitality foods. 

Here’s how it played out. 

During the first weeks of lockdown in the U.K., the kids and I exercised in the mornings with Joe Wicks on YouTube and went walking in Barnes Common in the evenings. Check out my #Coviddiaries blogpost series  for more on how we managed.  

An agency partner started offering daily yoga classes via Zoom and a small, grateful group of colleagues would log in each morning or lunchtime. She also gifted me with two specially blended aromatherapy oils – Sage and Basil was one, the other was a Ginger, Turmeric, Orange, and Fir Needle blend. I used them daily and added Frankincense and Lavender to manage the insidious insomnia. 

On arrival in Toronto, we quarantined together in a one-bedroom apartment for two weeks. Four of us. One bathroom. Enough said. Miraculously I kept up a daily self-care regimen, joining fitness and yoga classes via Zoom, meditating, drinking tons of water and reading voraciously to nourish my mind and to feed my imagination. 

And then came the biggest shift – I joined a twelve-week program called Shakti at Home. It included HIIT classes, yoga, strength training, daily meditation, journaling, breathwork, wellness webinars, and practical guides to maintaining a diet of high vitality food along with recipes. It was a transformative experience.  

Moving brings up all kinds of emotions. It is also physically and mentally taxing, so you need to actively renew your energy. And if you are a parent, your family’s wellbeing depends hugely on your state of mind during the move. Your own self-care is essential to how you cope with each hurdle during the transition and support others around you.  

Investing in my wellbeing helped me meet challenges with equanimity and remain centered when our shipment was stuck at the Port in Montreal for several weeks and my work permit was delayed for months because of Covid.  

Whether you have a move coming up or not, safe guard your mental health and make self-care a must. It doesn’t have to be costly; here are some simple ideas: 

  • Take a daily walk or ride in nature. 
  • Do some yoga stretching each day. 
  • Download a free app for meditation or mindfulness
  • Drink plenty water, you will feel the difference. 
  • Get more sleep. Write your list of things to do, get tasks done daily and what you can’t finish, leave for the next day, there is no point in exhausting yourself. 
  • Prepare healthy, nourishing meals, even in the madness of moving. I use the Live Fit Kitchen Cookbook which has great recipes.  
  • Plan a mental escape – read a novel.

Don’t wait another minute! Make your self-care a priority and master your next move.  

Thanks for stopping by. Leave a comment below and share your favorite self-care habit. Remember to hit ‘subscribe’, I post new articles each week.

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Becoming American

Touring D.C.

When my husband and I got engaged, I realized it was a possibility that we would end up living in the United States. But I didn’t believe we would really pack up and leave home. I didn’t imagine one day I would vote in a U.S. election and I certainly never thought one day I’d write a blog about becoming American and standing for democracy. But here we are, and this is my story.   

A few years after becoming US permanent residents, we grew tired of traveling back and forth to Jamaica. We decided to migrate to the United States of America, destination Tamarac, Florida, where our in-laws lived. We moved in faith thinking that we would be able to find jobs. But it was November 2008, and we were in the middle of the worst recession this country had known for decades. People we knew were losing their jobs and their homes. Stores and restaurants were closing at a rapid pace. I was in the doldrums for weeks. I retreated to Jamaica for a few weeks to regroup.  

I had our son a couple months after I returned. Things didn’t get better. They got worse. The recession wasn’t receding, and we hadn’t yet found viable jobs to sustain us and two children. There were no stimulus checks for us, we didn’t have health insurance, our son needed surgery at 12 weeks; everything felt like a mess. I contemplated throwing in the towel and leaving. 

My father-in-law was like a stuck record. He said, ‘Wait five years. Don’t give up. Wait five years.’ That felt like an eternity to wait to get our lives back on track. Was this country all that it was cracked up to be? What would make me think differently after five years? 

Over the next half a decade I watched Americans claw back from a recession, the likes of which most people had never seen before. I came to understand the grit that lies within them and their indomitable spirit. I experienced first-hand their belief that if you work hard and apply yourself you can reap success. I benefited from the kindness of many who had walked our path and who helped us settle in. 

Over time I came to appreciate all the amenities that were not readily available in my homeland. Excellent facilities in our towns – well-maintained parks, free activities for children put on by the City, attractively priced extracurricular activities, bike lanes, fantastic public libraries with free activities, well-maintained public buildings and roads, solid infrastructure and reliable water, electricity supply and garbage collection. 

My husband and I resumed our careers and we valued what America had to offer. We bought a home; the children were happy in school, we made friends and we were adjusting. 

One day I stepped outside, and saw squirrels running up the Oak tree on our front lawn. ‘That should be a mongoose in the mango tree’ I thought to myself. I still wondered if I should truly make this country my home. In some ways, South Florida was perfect. It was a diverse melting pot, there was a lot that was familiar, and we were close enough to the Caribbean. I didn’t need to own the history and struggles of America.  

In my fourth year, I flew to Washington D.C. on a business trip where I took advantage of the weekend to do some sightseeing with my cousin. 

At the Lincoln memorial I internalized the Gettysburg address, then I soaked up the utterances of Martin Luther King before I moved on to the FDR memorial. Lastly, I pondered on the writings of Jefferson.  

When I read the words of Martin Luther King Jr., ‘True peace is not merely the absence of tension it’s the presence of justice,” I wanted to stand for a just and orderly society where all are treated fairly.  

When I read the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “the test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little” I wanted to fight for a country with a social conscience. 

And when I read Thomas Jefferson’s words “Laws and Institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind…institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times.” I wanted to believe in an America that could reinvent itself in the best way possible.  

During the week of meetings, a small group of us had the remarkable opportunity to take a private guided tour of the U.S. Capitol building, the seat of power.  

I called my husband from my hotel room and said, ‘it is time’. I was ready to become an American citizen. I told him I had felt the weight of the Capital, I was part of something important and I wanted to have a say. Months later, I was selected to stand at the podium and lead the packed hall in reciting the pledge of allegiance at our swearing in ceremony.  

I have since voted in two U.S. general elections. I take pride in exercising my franchise to determine how this country should be governed. Did things go the way I wanted each time? No, they didn’t.

Election results will always be deemed unfair by the loser and their followers will be bitterly disappointed. But this is the nature of democracy – you get a say, your vote is counted, and you accept the outcome.  

On January 6, 2021, along with the rest of the world, I watched the Capitol under siege, in utter disbelief. It was a sobering day for me for many reasons that I’m still processing. My head literally hurt. 

Today, I believe that we can rise from this. But we need to shift our attitude. Repeatedly, throughout history, democracy has proven itself to be a fragile privilege that can be taken away by Machiavellian despots and their sycophants. America is not insulated from this. We must learn to heed warning signs and remove from power those who are willing to sink to the depths of corruption in blind ambition.

We must reject anyone who encourages us to mistrust free and fair elections and asks us to seize power through violence.  

If anything, I hope that Americans are now more convinced than ever that they must VOTE at every opportunity. We must know the names of our representatives and what they stand for. We must vote at municipal elections, vote at US general elections, vote at school board meetings, vote at shareholder meetings. Vote, vote, vote. And we must hold ALL elected leaders accountable. If we are willing to do this, then I believe that this great democracy, wracked as it currently is by inequity, inequality and racial injustice, can slowly right its wrongs. 

Ultimately, I believe that becoming and being American means I have a say in determining our future. I cannot afford to squander it, and neither can you.  

Keep voting. 

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© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Adieu 2020

There have been many clever memes about this year. You’ve likely seen dozens. And you are probably as eager as everyone else to see the back of 2020…with a swift kick. To a large extent it has been bizarre, painful and just plain crappy. This year I mourned the passing of people I had never met, was gripped by the terror of being felled by an invisible assailant floating in the air and surfed some incredibly difficult waves. But somehow, I haven’t hated it at all. In many ways, 2020 has been exceptionally kind to me. It was a year in which I:

1.   Ended an eleven-year career journey that had given me unforgettable experiences and unlimited growth and opened myself to new possibilities

2.   Packed up my family and moved countries during a global pandemic

3.   Found greater stillness, compassion, and clarity

4.   Rekindled and deepened my connection with dear friends around the globe

5.   Accepted the kindness of strangers

6.   Grew my awareness and engagement with charities, academics, and sources actively working to address systemic oppression and racial inequality

7.   Created more room for quality time with my husband and children to make meaningful memories

8.   Rebooted my love of writing simply for pleasure

9.   Participated in several fantastic online courses including Guardian Masterclasses on ‘how to build your own WordPress website and blog’

10. Designed and built my first website and started a personal blog!

There’s much more but this is a starter for ten. The funny thing is that I hadn’t planned for half the list, yet I am deeply grateful for it all. The wiser I get the more I realize that we need to plan but we must leave room for the unexpected. The ground beneath us is never still, we may be thrust into holding uncomfortable poses, we will always be called to navigate change in unexpected ways. Yet, we can always find joy, freedom and growth. So, as I plan for 2021 with big dreams, I’m also staying open, flexible and curious to receive whatever gifts it may bring. Happy New Year!

Thanks for stopping by. How are you going into this New Year?

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© Arlene Amitirigala 2020. All Rights Reserved.