WordFood - how we feed or starve our realtionships

- Julia Hubbel

Julia’s ability to get this group of type-A executives to engage in true networking was incredible. She is truly skilled at motivating the group to engage and interact with each other, and her openness and honesty really come through.

— Shelley Stewart, Jr.,
Senior Vice President of Operational Excellence and Chief Procurement Officer, Tyco

June 29, 2013

A Wake of WordFood

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 8:02 pm

It was a typical summer mountain afternoon. The skies were full of clouds with darkening bellies, which erupted into periodic showers. As we gathered under the roof at the Estes Park picnic spot to celebrate my brother’s life, the beautiful mountains that he loved surrounded us,  and a swift stream ran nearby.

My big brother took his life last October. Today his friends, some new, many old, gathered to share tales. There were films and slideshows from his long climbing career, copies of his many climbing books. I brought photos of him as a youngster, pictures of his son as a baby, of Peter and me as kids.

There is nothing like a wake to wake you up to a family member.

Peter and I were estranged over stupid things: a combination of money and silence. We had disagreements over dollars as many families do.  I respected my brother’s need for privacy, and so didn’t seek him out. The last time I saw him alive was an amicable lunch nine years ago. I have no idea what changed in the interim to cause his feelings to change towards me, but what I learned today was an object lesson in the one dimensional nature of the familial lens.

As new friends like Brent and Bear, and old friends like CT and his now grown up daughter stood to tell their tales about my brother, an entirely different person than “my” Peter began to emerge. I had experienced my brother’s failed nurse training, not those whose lives he had saved because of that same training. I had heard about my brother’s inability to stay employed, not the extraordinary work he accomplished with those who stood and talked about his talented craftsmanship. I knew he was a great writer, but I had no idea how he he had touched people with his poetry.

I shared funny stories about Peter’s childhood, something many of these folks knew little to nothing about. They in turn fed me the smorgasbord of tall tales, rich history and background that only friends could provide. What was achingly clear, and a sad lesson in how much I had missed of my brother’s life, was how varied his gifts had been, and more importantly, his indelible impact on a great many people across many disciplines.

This left me deeply enriched, but also thoughtful about how easy it is to put a loved one in a box, and then put a permanent label on that box. “Yeah, Brad’s the black sheep of the family,” you say. True enough twenty years ago, but what if Brad found his way, is leading a wholly different life now, and you’re still boxing Brad in based on a familial experience? Brad has no permission to evolve. You can’t evolve either.

In some elemental ways, Peter had not changed one bit. But his friends’ stories, their love for my big brother and the great ache they felt at his choice to leave early were transforming. One line that Bear shared with us that brought the house down was, “Goddammit, Pete!” We’d all said it at one time or another, out of frustration, or love, or amusement. When Brent and Bear got the news of Peter’s passing, that was their instantaneous reaction. Classic.

As I bask in the emotion of the day, my gratitude for new friends is considerable. But more so I am grateful for the extraordinary lesson in how easy it is to think we know who someone is. I hardly knew my big brother.  Each of us today brought a different piece of him to light, and we all basked in the laughter and tears. How much more would I have shared of his story had I reached across the silence and dealt with that frustratingly stubborn man? I will never know. But I do know that it would have been well worth the try.

June 23, 2013

Change the Conversation

Everyone deals with a whiner or complainer at some point. We may have married one. Often that person is someone we hired, maybe even a boss. This is a person who finds something wrong with everything and everybody. Perhaps they feel useless, and their way of getting back at the world is to complain. The truth is that you and I aren’t privy to their inner thoughts. We just don’t know what’s really going on inside them, what pain they are feeling or what motivates their behavior. All we have is what they do. And often, it can be pretty annoying.

There are lots of choices. You can leave the room (except if it’s your boss). You can shut the person out or ignore them. You can avoid them. You can cut that person out of your life if it’s a friend or someone outside your family. Much of this is avoidance on our part. There’s a very real potential that you’re part of the problem, and it takes some courage to look at where something you’re doing- or not doing- may be causing this person to express frustration. They may need something from you, ranging from communication, affection, support, coaching. Try to listen past the whining and really hear what’s being said rather than the complaining tone.

Another approach is to call this person on their behavior. Do it gently. We’re all 100% responsible for the results we have in our lives, and we draw our circumstances to us. There are no victims here. So if this person is complaining all the time, what exactly are they unhappy about? They created their world, their circumstances. They own it. Without hitting them over the head with this,  you can point out that they have complete control over their circumstances and their world through how they feel about it. What window of perspective they choose to use. The situation doesn’t change but how they view it can shift in an instant.

As soon as someone  sees where they own the problem, the circumstance, they can take responsibility. This is powerful WordFood. This changes them from being a victim to being the owner of their situation. They can see that what they created is actually teaching them important lessons, even making them stronger. And that they have choices, which we all have, in any situation, the choice to see and feel differently about what is going on in our lives.

When you invite your whiner to step outside themselves and see differently, you are feeding them powerful WordFood. It allows them to make a fundamental choice about how to be proactive instead of reactive. And for you, it’s a reminder of how positive WordFood reinforces these concepts for yourself. Not everyone will listen, but your inner self will hear, and respond. And sometimes, that is enough.

June 16, 2013

The Power of SelfTalk

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 8:05 am

Most of us have read or heard about how powerful self talk is. How the voices in our head can affect our performance, our attitude, the quality of our daily life. Yet so often it may not be obvious how these voices are having an effect until something signficant changes, and we can see those effects first hand. This happened to me just this past week when I decided to take on a challenge.

About two years ago, I suffered a knee injury while working with a trainer doing cross fit. It was a pretty significant one, and it ultimately led to surgery last June. While I’ve since rehabbed, I continue to live with the occasional sharp stabbing pain in my left knee, especially on uneven surfaces, such as on the side of a mountain. As a result, I’ve gotten in the habit of telling people that I can’t hike. In the meantime, I do pretty much everything else from cycle to scuba to train on Red Rocks.

Last week I mentioned to a good friend that I was spending a month in Tanzania in November. He said quite bluntly that I simply HAD to climb Kilimanjaro because in twenty years, the snows would be gone. I started the litany about my knee and he cut me off. “Just do it,” he said, “You’ll never forgive yourself for being that close and not giving it a shot.”

The next morning I called my tour operator and booked the Rongai Route, the easiest of approaches.

What has happened since then has been nothing short of remarkable.

The conversation of “oh my knee” in my head has stopped. I joined the Colorado Mountain club that same day and am starting to book training hikes. I increased the intensity of my workouts at Red Rocks. Yes my knee might be annoyed or sore, but I am going up that mountain and I am reaching the summit, come hell or high water. And because of that decision, my hiking days are back.

This past weekend I went back into my basement with glee and dug through gear bags and pulled out all my camping gear, including mitts and gloves that were perfect for Mt Kili. I forgot I had them. Suddenly standing at Uhuru Peak is almost imminent. It’s not just an idea, it’s doable.

My friend’s push to make the decision changed the self-talk literally overnight. Having made the decision to climb Kili changed the conversation in my head. Will I need trekking poles? Yep. Will my knee yell at me? Probably. But the limiting self talk about how my knee means I can’t hike any more is over and done.

Right after I signed up for Kili I wrote my friend, who works in Abu Dhabi, and thanked him. He said, “Any time.”

I am lucky to have that man in my life. May you have people like that in yours who challenge your self limiting language.

You may not want to take on Kilimanjaro, but you may be too scared to go after that big job opportunity. Or ask that pretty girl out. Or learn how to ride horses. Or take scuba lessons. Or go back to college for your master’s degree. I’m telling you right now YES YOU CAN. There are people in wheelchairs who have to use a breath tube who are writing novels. Folks, if they are doing that, then you can, with all your faculties, get past your limiting self talk and take on the world. Get out there and find your Mt. Kilimanjaro and do it.

June 13, 2013

Don’t Wait until It’s Too Late

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 10:57 am

Down in Florida is a lovely woman, my cousin, who allows me to write my books at her kitchen table. At the end of the day when she comes home from work, we head out for dinner. After a margarita, or a special chocolate martini, my cuz will regale me with tales that often end up in my books. One of them comes to mind.

This wonderful woman, we’ll call her Ellen, had a second husband, whom we’ll call Danny. They had a volatile relationship, largely because of Danny’s son from a previous marriage. This son was a pathological liar and a sociopath. Danny couldn’t see this, and the child pit the two against each other. Danny was also under considerable stress on his job.

For ten years, despite the great love they had for each other, this relationship was marred by toxic WordFood and hurtful battles that left them exhausted. Ellen found herself so emotionally damaged that she would curl up into a fetal position on the couch. At one point she demanded, and got, a separation. Danny went mad with grief and went overboard with flowers and gifts. For a while Ellen recuperated, even had an affair.

After some time away, Ellen realized that she really loved Danny, and wanted to try again. So they reconciled.

One month later Danny was diagnosed with terminal cancer. This news was devastating to the newly reunited couple. Suddenly they found the WordFood of love that had been missing for the previous eleven years of their marriage. In the final months of their time together, they were able to spend the kind of loving hours Ellen had dreamed of spending with Danny.

Why had it taken cancer and imminent loss to free these two loving people to find the kindness and care that had always existed? Are you trapped in a cycle of blame for what isn’t right in your life? So often, only a disaster can force determined people to see what they are about to lose, and the damage that being right causes in relationship.

Ellen is still sad that she wasn’t able to share more quality years with Danny. But her very true story serves as a reminder that now is the best time for gentility, courtesy, kindness, regard, and for expressing the love we feel for the ones we have married, given birth to, or call our significant other. For we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. We have now. And it’s time to call them and use the WordFood of love to brighten their day.

June 3, 2013

Cultural WordFood

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Julia Hubbel @ 12:16 pm

This May was an immersion in Argentinean culture, and while most relate Argentina to great beef, Mendozan wine and the tango, my focus was on the traditional gaucho experience. In my backpack were a brand new pair of tall riding boots, a riding helmet and all the paraphernalia for as many rides as possible, especially in the high country around Bariloche and Mendoza.

In a country where mostly men are the riders and girls are not as encouraged to become horse experts, tourists are taken on group rides that are mostly walking tours on very docile horses. Great, unless you’re a serious rider, which I am. So the trip was a series of often funny moments when there was a bit of a translation between “soy experiencia”- which gauchos often heard and frankly didn’t believe, and then actually seeing you ride, which often meant you scored a better horse.  These guys have seen it all- the fat tourist whose last ride was for five cents on a circus pony being led around a circle and he’s saying he can ride, and he falls off at the trot. You can’t blame them for taking “experience” with a jaundiced ear.

So one gaucho I hired for a two-day solo excursion over a high mountain pass did what I wish they’d all do. Five minutes into our ride, we hit an open patch and before I knew it he was off like a bat out of hell. So was I, right on his heels. At the quarter mile he slid to stop, then turned to watch me handle the stop at a dead run. What I got was a head nod, and a curt “bueno,” which was exceedingly high praise from this man, and I count it as a high point on the trip. From then on, he was gracious, helpful, trained me on tack and saddlery and all aspects of my horse. And I respected him for testing me.

On my final stop, an estancia on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, a lovely family hosted me for nearly five days. Their young daughter Ro rode with me, and at the end of the first day I asked to switch horses with her, not knowing what I was requesting. She hesitated, then agreed. I’d been invited to help herd the horses from the far pastures into the other far pastures. Once I passed through the final gate and gave my animal its head, the next thing I knew my helmet was nearly blown off and I was gripping this plunging creature with all my strength, grinning like a banshee, as we ran flat out for the far stragglers. As they wheeled, we shot right, moving the herd towards the gate.

In an instant, the work was done and all the animals were where they were supposed to be. Delighted, I asked permission to ride this horse for the rest of my time. Ro nodded. The next four days, this smart, agile, lightning fast animal was saddled and ready to go every day, up to almost moments before my ride to the airport.

What I had not known, and found out on my last day, was that this magnificent creature had belonged to the long standing gaucho Don Juan, who had died just the year before. Don Juan was much loved, much revered and respected. His horse was part of the family and the only tie they had to his memory. And he was not available for tourists. For this family to have allowed me to sit on him, much less ride and work him for four days, was a gift of the highest order. Argentina respects history, its traditions and its gaucho ways of riding. Ro apparently had made a case for me and the family had agreed. I had been riding gaucho history, and it moved me to tears.

My Spanish still needs work, but between my pidgin Spanish and their pidgin English we patched together this wonderful story, and it became the single greatest moment for me in Argentina. Their kind words and trust, their gift, reminds me of the generosity of spirit that exists everywhere. Behind all things there is a story, and we cannot take what we experience for granted. Sometimes we don’t always understand what we are being given, and it serves to find out, especially when in another country. And when we do, it might just bring us to our knees- like when a very poor family gives you its only bed, or last bowl of food, out of courtesy. Often cultural WoodFood isn’t spoken outright, but it is there.

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