Natalie Marshall Rose – Be open to putting yourself out there

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

This second series of the Change Diaries podcast explores the ups and downs of changing locations. In this episode I speak with Natalie Marshall Rose, certified Global Mobility Expert, now based in the United States.

Natalie’s years of experience working with corporations in creating their own global programs comes to the fore in this conversation as she guides you on what to look for in a global relocation package from your employer, how to hit the ground running and what to do when it’s time to leave. Being a trailing spouse gives Natalie infinite wisdom and myriad interesting stories of ‘life on the move’. Whether you are moving or not, you’ll learn something new. So, tune in and share with anyone you know who is contemplating a change of location. Next week, I’ll dive back into my own personal family journey. Subscribe so you don’t miss an episode!

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Guest Bio

Natalie is a Jamaican born, US national who has been a trailing spouse in Canada. Not only has she worked in the Immigration space for approximately 15 years, but she has also lived it. Moving 13 times in the last 19 years, she truly understands what it means to be mobile!

A certified Global Mobility Specialist, Natalie’s experience spans from conducting case work early in her career to managing teams across the USA and Asia. 

Her focus is on helping corporations with their global programs. In collaboration with US Attorneys, she steers clients in maintaining compliance while moving their employees around the globe.

Natalie’s passion is to help and share. Her personal story provides a backdrop in immigration and sets the stage in her professional life where she is truly able to understand her clients’ needs. Her vast personal and corporate experience enables her to provide empathetic and realistic expert advice as corporations navigate the tides of global mobility.

Natalie attended the University of the West Indies and has received numerous certificates from Depaul, SMU and Cornell Universities.

Natalie’s Recommended Reading:

The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins

Grit by Angela Duckworth

Contact Natalie Marshall Rose:

LinkedIn: Natalie Marshall Rose

Instagram: @natsrose13

Clubhouse: @natsrose

Thanks for being with me and joining this second season of the Change Diaries podcast with the theme, ‘Changing your location – the ups and downs. Please comment below, follow my blog, and share with others.  Never miss an episode! Subscribe to get new episodes as they become available.

Catch up on Apple or Spotify if you missed any of the first season ‘Changing your life – Do you need a life coach?

Thank you for being here. 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.   

Changing your location – It wasn’t as hard as I expected

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

In this second series of the Change Diaries podcast, we explore the ups and downs of changing locations. It’s said that moving ranks as one of life’s biggest stressors, right up there with death and divorce. I’ll speak with the experts to lead us through the ins and outs of managing a relocation and I’ll get personal, diving into how my own family has experienced these different moves.

This short conversation with my twelve-year-old son Aris really brought home how he’s learning differently in each country and what he’s most grateful for now. Leaving Florida at age eight to head to London, U.K., was a big move for him and he started taking the public bus from Hammersmith on his own each day to head to school in Mortlake. Last year we moved to Toronto, Canada.

Ultimately each place has offered him something special and he’s forged new friendships. What has his journey been like? What’s been easy and what’s been more challenging? Listen in to find out and leave a comment after the show. Remember to subscribe!

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Thanks for being with me and joining this second season of the Change Diaries podcast under the theme, ‘Changing your location – the ups and downs. Please comment below, follow my blog and share with others. Never miss an episode! Subscribe to get new episodes as they become available.

Did you miss any of the first season ‘Changing your life – Do you need a life coach?

Catch up on Apple Podcasts

You can also listen and subscribe on Spotify

Thank you for being here. I post new content each week. Follow my blog.

The Change Diaries Podcast theme music by Ellan Neil

The Change Diaries Podcast cover design by Aris Amitirigala

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. All Rights Reserved.   

Change Can Lead to a Beautiful Discovery

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

In this first season How to Change your life – do you need a Life Coach? I chatted with professional coaches based in the USA, Canada, the UK and Jamaica who shared their infinite wisdom on embracing change, harnessing your energy and finding deeper happiness.

There were so many rich takeaways from each of them that it’s hard to do any kind of summary that covers everything. In this short episode, I share a few things that resonated with me in these conversations and put it in perspective from my own life experience. Listen in and then get ready for next season! By the way, have you subscribed yet?

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Get the Booklist

Each Coach recommended a book or two and I’ve provided the full list of books below. Happy reading! Please remember to drop a comment. What did you think of this season? Share some of your big learnings or shifts in perspective.

If you missed any of the episodes, the links are below. Catch up before the next season starts!

Dr. Michael Mendribil

The Art of Impossible by Stephen Kotler

The Power of Awareness by Neville Goddard

Listen to the episode: Dr. Michael Mendribil – I am never who I think I am

Abbi Buszard

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

Listen to the episode: Abbi Buszard – Making space for people to think for themselves

Lorraine Copes

Feel the Fear And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

Listen to the episode: Lorraine Copes – You can program your mind

April Miranda

The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

Listen to the episode: April Miranda – With energy and intention you can heal

Jenny Ward

On Being Human by Jennifer Pastiloff

Listen to the episode: Jenny Ward – Know your worth

Lisa Soares Lewis

Energy Leadership by Bruce D. Schneider

No regrets, Just Lessons by Odetta Rockhead-Kerr

Listen to the episode: Lisa Soares Lewis – Be aware of your energy and manage it

Marguerite Orane

Books written by Marguerite Orane:

Free and Laughing: Spiritual Insights in Every Day Moments

Forget It! What’s the Point? Letting Go and Claiming Joy

Listen to the episode: Marguerite Orane – Lead, work and live with joy

I truly believe that change can lead to beautiful discovery. In doing the work of uncovering ourselves, we find that we are so much stronger than we think we are. Thanks for being with me and sharing in this first season of The Change Diaries Podcast. I really hope you’ve learned something new.

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 being here. 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.   

Bringing equity and inclusion to Public Relations and Communications – #Antiracismpr

I recently attended the National Summit on Antiracism in Public Relations and Communications organized by AntiracismPR and McMaster MCM in Canada.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect – so often these conversations end up being a dainty dance around difficult truths. I was pleasantly surprised from the get-go. Speakers were informative, data driven and authentic.

After two days of thought-provoking content, keynote speaker @Leo_Johnson gave a rousing rally cry – ‘act within your means’ and ‘do what you can.’

I suspect he knew that inevitably we would wander back to life as we know it now, in our homes, on marathon zoom calls, commitments fading into distant memory.

But the urgency remains, and we must find ways to take action.

My action today is amplify some of the key takeaways from the #antiracismpr summit that I tweeted last week. I hope it spurs you on to think a little harder about how you can make a difference, especially if you work in the field of communications.

There’s a short summary below and you can also see the full tweet thread on Wakelet.

Click here to see my tweet thread on the #AntiracismPR Summit https://wke.lt/w/s/lVoWTy via @wakelet

Tackle issues at the Board level

Boards need people with deep communications expertise. Comms is often overlooked as a skillset while areas such as legal, finance, marketing, engineering and strategy are favored. A communications strategist brings a unique lens – and can illuminate areas such as reputation, inclusive messaging, and ensuring that your first stakeholders (your people) understand the real value that a board brings to the company. Boards must tackle racism head-on and they need to be diverse. What does your company board look like?

Push for change and find allies

Agitating for change can be exhausting. It’s even more challenging in toxic environments. But allowing exclusion and systemic racism to slide through unchecked is not an option. You have the power to champion diversity, equity and inclusion daily, and demand leadership attention. Toxic environments don’t heal themselves. Have authentic conversations about the issues in a well-researched and respectful way. Are you confident that you can raise issues at your company especially when you see bias?

Use the DEI Continuum to measure progress

It’s worth looking up the DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) Continuum which takes a step-by-step approach towards equity and inclusion. This is the ultimate goal that organizations should strive towards.

Your company might have moved beyond level 0 which is complete denial. But hovering at level 1 – with ‘tick the box’ exercises and compliance at a minimum isn’t much progress. At level 2 companies move beyond compliance but there is no real pathway to progress and actions stop when interest fades.

Level 5 is the goal where the company achieves equity and inclusion for all and moves to influence this beyond its own boundaries. Where is your company on the continuum?

Change yourself

The close of the summit was particularly powerful. The keynote speaker was passionate and a doer, not a talker. I was struck by many of his messages, particularly when he said, “All I am asking is for you to change yourself.”

Somehow, it always lands here doesn’t it – with change? Sparking change, embracing change and being the change we want to see.

May we all be brave enough to be that change agent who helps to create a more just, equitable and inclusive world for all. What action will you take today?

Leave a comment below. Share your thoughts and let’s 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.    

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.     

Get up and dance!

Birthday Celebrations 2021. An original DruBaileyArt

“And if you get the choice to sit it out or dance…I hope you dance…”

A bestie of mine signs off all her emails with that quote from Lee Ann Womack.

Apart from breaking into a smile every time I read it, I am urged to live courageously and fully in every single moment. I barely need a reminder though as I have always lived with a sense of my own mortality. Call it a side effect of losing my parents as a child.

Each time I celebrate my birthday, as I did this past Sunday, I am acutely aware of how many years I have outlived them both and I think of how they left this earth so young. My father drowned at the beach in his early twenties. Compromised in childhood, my mother’s heart gave way before she turned thirty.

My reflections on mortality are not with a sense of foreboding, or sadness, or mourning; they are accompanied by an indescribable joy. The fact that I am still here, that I am alive and that I am surrounded by love is cause enough for celebration on my part.

How can I talk about celebrating at a time like this when we are grieving over lives and livelihoods lost in this lingering pandemic?

Honestly, I’d be the last person to tell you that life isn’t often gritty. You won’t find me donning rose-colored glasses or burying my head in the sand. No, I’ve been in the trenches, hung out in valleys, felt hot tears of despair on my cheeks.

But I also know there is always light in the darkness, even if it’s just a glimmer as we stumble through long tunnels purely by faith.

I recognize that living life fully means that there are times when we will be disappointed. Sometimes things do not go the way we want them to. There may be heartbreak and loss. Or a devastating failure. But each time we gather the strength to find our feet or get a trusted guide to help us rise again.

I think of it like dancing, one of my favorite things to do – at times our steps may falter until we catch the rhythm and hit our stride. Gradually we improve our technique, gain confidence, and continue mastering new routines.  

Dr. Wayne Dyer wrote, “When you dance your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.”

What I have decided is that whether the music is fast or slow I’ll just move to the beat, song after song. No matter what, as long as I have breath, I plan on dancing.

Today, if you are sitting it out, why not find your space on the floor? Life is too short to not get up and dance.

Thank you for stopping by. Please share your comments below and visit again soon. Check out The Change Diaries Podcast here. And don’t forget to follow and share. I post new content each week.

© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.    

The new superpowers that you need right now

What’s your superpower? Perhaps you have more than one. Maybe you have a long list of them.

But somewhere in the mix there are a couple must-haves. If you don’t know what they are, I’ll give you a hint: speaking well is not one of them.

I listened to a conversation this Monday between Van Jones, CNN political commentator and veritable change-maker and Wes Hall, entrepreneur, and founder of Canada’s Black North Initiative.

Van Jones was on fire. He shared political insights, his views on race relations and dispensed advice on the new, necessary superpowers that will not only change the way you lead but improve your life.

Apparently, being able to speak well or present well is the old superpower. No panic if you are a super orator, it’s still useful, but it’s just not a superpower.

What’s the new one? The one that unlocks the door to great partnerships, innovation, mega-deals, marketing campaigns and more?

Being Able to Listen Well.

According to Van Jones, given the diversity around us with different voices, cultures and perspectives, any leader who wants to grow their business must be able to listen well to all. If they don’t, they may be missing out and leaving money on the table.

We especially need to listen to the voices that have been stifled or unheard. Also, listening is a skill that needs to trickle all the way throughout and be part of the culture. Show me any breakdown in any system or relationship and we can trace it back to the point where someone stopped listening.

That system or relationship could be in the home, the classroom, or the boardroom. Listening is an act of love – see my blog post on this subject.

But he said that listening is not enough. You also need the new superpower mindset:

Empathy.

Empathy is essential to building more inclusive communities and workplaces. Especially in this pandemic, it is perhaps the most important leadership skill to hone. To understand different people and collaborate successfully with them, you must be able to see things from their perspective. Read here for more on what empathy does for you and how to cultivate it.

For good measure, here’s a bonus superpower:

Knowing when to ask for help.

My son Aris drops nuggets of wisdom on me all the time. Last week he said, “Mom, it’s great to be independent but sometimes you should be dependent and let others help you.” Good for him. He’s helping with the laundry today. Maybe he will cook dinner too.

On a serious note. Asking for help is a valuable skill. Playing hero isn’t smart. It’s lonely, and you either get less done or you burn yourself out. Letting others help you is key to being able to do more and do it better.

Early in my career while was I working in Jamaica, I landed a new role where I was assigned to lead a project. My manager asked me to include a risk assessment. I wasn’t sure which template to use but I hesitated to ask. I mean, isn’t this why they hired me? Because I know stuff?

So, I pulled something together. When I sat in the room with the Exec going through the presentation, they drew a blank when they looked at the slide with my risk assessment. Clearly it wasn’t what they had expected.

My manager asked me right there, “Who helped you with this?”

“No-one,” I said.

“But why didn’t you ask for help? I would never have expected you to tackle this on your own.”

I called the lead Risk manager. He popped into the session and led a comprehensive risk assessment.

Boy, did I ever learn a lot.

I had pressured myself to have all the answers and do everything on my own to make an impression in my new role – pull together a kick-ass plan with all the research and a comprehensive risk assessment too. How ridiculous was that!

No-one expects you to know everything. But they do expect you to know when to ask for help. People aren’t waiting to trip you up and you won’t be ‘found out’ as lacking. That’s your imposter syndrome having a party with your inner critic. Disinvite yourself.

Instead, believe that help is always out there ready and waiting for you if you simply ask.

Is it time to step back and check your superpowers to ensure these are on your list?

  1. Listen well
  2. Have empathy
  3. Know when to ask for help

No sweat if you are missing any; start building that muscle today.

Thank you for stopping by. Leave a comment and let me know what’s your superpower! Visit again soon, subscribe and share. I post new 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.

Five Ways to Ease Worrying

photo credit: Arlene Amitirigala

How many of us are worried about something right now? Genuinely worried. Couldn’t sleep last night kind of worried. Ate the whole tub of Häagen-Dazs kind of worried.

Worrying is part of the human condition. One of the oldest books in the world, the Holy Bible, talks about worrying. Jesus asked his disciples, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” (New International Version, Luke 12. 25)

It’s a good question. But it seems as if humans are wired for worry. And it makes us do strange things.

About a decade ago I was convinced I was going to lose my job. Weirdly, my first instinct was to book a dental appointment. As luck would have it, I didn’t lose my job, but in my panic, I managed to find a dentist who damaged my tooth and busted my lip.

I had to pay a hefty sum out of pocket to reverse the mess he made. After that, I vowed to never worry about losing my job again.

A few years later, I had another experience that brought me face to face with worry and forced me to put it in perspective.

One December, during a routine exam, my doctor discovered I had an internal mass. I was concerned but I took it in stride. In fact, I was rather blasé about following up even after he promptly sent me off to do an Ultrasound and then a CT Scan. My assumption was that invariably all these exams point to nothing.

So, I did what any sensible person would do. I went on vacation. And not one but two. The first was immediately after the CT Scan. I spent two glorious weeks in Jamaica celebrating Christmas. And then in March we gladly accepted an invitation to hang out at a time share in Orlando with friends.

My husband’s nagging finally got the better of me and I called my doctor’s office upon my return from an exhilarating but exhausting Spring Break at Disney.

Suddenly, I was plunged into a world of blood tests, MRI and an appointment with a specialist who reassured me that the mass looked benign. He said he could remove it laparoscopically.

But, he said, and there’s always a but, if it was something else, or if it tested positive for that unmentionable word … you can fill in the blanks here.

I took the news calmly yet when I looked at the faces of my children that night, the panic started to surface. I like to devour my worry with a healthy serving of Häagen-Dazs but, since we didn’t have any, I turned to eating slice after slice of brioche dripping with vanilla honey butter.

I tossed and turned at night. I fretted about the future. I became distracted and had a minor accident on the highway that week.

And then, I said, get a grip.

I decided to put my worry into perspective and move to a place of acceptance and surrender. I was at peace.

But I hadn’t taken my husband along that journey. A couple days before my surgery he sat across from me insisting that we should prepare the kids for the worst.

I realized that he was doing all the worrying for me, the kids and then some. I became more compassionate and explained my newfound wisdom to him:  worrying wastes our energy because we are not going to change the course of action that we agreed upon, worrying will not change the outcome and finally, your worrying does not help me.

Uttering those words, I felt centered and relaxed. I had unmasked worry for what it is: a time-consuming, exhausting, distracting and utterly useless exercise.

Worry causes lack of sleep, elevates stress levels, affects performance on the job, ruins relationships and our health. Yet, we continue to worry when there is no proven benefit.

Years ago, I made my worry-busting short list:

  1. Immerse yourself in Mother Nature. I like to head to the beach to listen to the waves or I go for a walk in a beautifully landscaped park. These days, I take a short shuffle through the snow.
  2. Practice surrender. I accept how I am feeling without judging myself. I observe my thoughts without hanging on to them, especially those that cause me distress, and then I consciously make the effort to shift my thinking. Mindfulness and meditation apps are particularly helpful. My favorites are the Chopra App and Insight Timer.
  3. Express gratitude. It’s a proven fact that people who express appreciation are happier. Each morning, I write at least three things that I am grateful for in my gratitude journal.  
  4. Call a friend. Very often our fears are unfounded but when adrenaline kicks in we cannot decipher if a threat is real or not. A trusted friend can pull you back from what a mentor of mine calls “‘stinkin’ thinkin’”, help you uncover a fresh perspective, and decide on the right actions to take.
  5. Draw upon the words of  The Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. There is something soothing about those words which acknowledge that we are strong, wise beings who can rise from adversity.

These five actions still work for me. Tell me, what’s on your list? How do you chase away worry and change your state of mind?

Do leave a comment below to share your thoughts. It’s a challenging time across the globe and your tip just might help this community of readers.

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© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Allyship Matters: Seven Words to ponder during Black History Month

A couple years ago, Aris and I were in the back of an Uber crawling along Upper Richmond Road in Southwest London. Gazing out the window, I spotted someone whom I thought was dressed strangely and I made a comment. My son didn’t waste a moment in responding sharply, “Not everyone dresses like you Mom. People are different and that’s ok.”  

I had just been schooled by a nine-year-old. 

Me… The champion for inclusion and diversity… The one who preached acceptance and embracing difference… The global communicator. Not to mention that I am a black woman. Raising my voice in advocacy for the marginalized had made me believe I had rooted out any bias lurking in the crevices of my brain. Yet there I was, suddenly feeling as if my allyship had been examined and found wanting. I suppose the only consolation was that Aris was aware enough to call me out! 

As we kick off Black History Month in Canada and the USA to celebrate the contribution and legacy of people with African heritage, I believe it’s the right time to double down on the commitment to challenging the unjust structures that hold us back. This is where we need allies with a strong commitment. If you want to build your allyship, here are the seven words that I believe matter most:   

Seven Ways to Be a Strong Ally: 

  1. Authenticity – There must be a genuine shift in your thinking and desire to transform the structures that limit others. If you are doing it for kudos it becomes performative allyship. To create lasting change or communicate with depth, we must go beyond surface actions or a pre-occupation with image. 
  1. Listening – Listen with the intent to learn and understand someone else’s world. We need to be willing to lean into a conversation that scares us especially if we are afraid of saying the wrong thing.  
  1. Empathy/Respect –Showing empathy is a willingness to show up and sit with people through the darkness and honor their perspective as truth because it is their lived experience. Systems of oppression remove people’s dignity; by showing respect you can play a role in restoring it.  
  1. Validate – Instead of gaslighting, bear witness and refrain from judging. People want to be heard; acknowledge their experience. And do your own research to relieve already disadvantaged people of the burden of educating you fully.  
  1. Risk – Gather your courage to speak out, make your position known and stand for marginalized, minoritized and oppressed groups in tangible ways. It is difficult whether you do it individually, through an organization or from within government. It’s especially hard when you feel as if there is no personal reward but remember the words of Martin Luther King Jr. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  
  1. Active – Allyship means moving from intention to impact. This requires action. Governments and organizations have a huge role to play in dismantling oppressive structures and creating inclusive environments. At an individual level we also must take action. Not everyone has to march at a protest rally; we can make a hiring decision, approve a loan, donate to causes, read and inform ourselves, have complex conversations with others, and take daily actions that address inequity.  
  1. Lifestyle – This is not a 28-day diet. It is a conscious decision made with a critical mind and willing heart. It is a choice to show up as an ally daily regardless of how inconvenient it may be. Allyship is not occasional or transactional. It doesn’t demand perfection; we all make mistakes. But it does require ongoing commitment to use our privilege and power to change things for others.   

I am infinitely grateful that my life learning journey has been made richer through various allies like Hanna Naima McCloskey, CEO of FearlessFutures.org and one of the greatest truth tellers I am blessed to know. Ultimately, I am grateful for the challenge that my children bring to me every day to consciously speak a language of inclusion and to model the change that I so desperately want to see.  

By the way, if you haven’t heard of Fearless Futures check out their website and sign up for one of their workshops or listen to the recently launched podcast series 

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© Arlene Amitirigala 2021. All Rights Reserved.