Sunday, June 19, 2011

Whippits, Rainbow Feathers and The Groan Zone

A couple times a week (ideally) I take Georgia for a walk on the levee just off Poland st, the crux of the Industrial Canal and the River. Because of the character of a land levee Georgia gets to roll down a nice grassy bank while chasing imaginary butterflies or whatever it is that gets her running and pins her ears back. This morning around 630am I was barely awake for our walk and stumbled upon a large pile of rainbow feathers, firecrackers, roasted corn left overs and whippits. Not completely out of the ordinary for my town, where every afternoon I see a street artist cycle homeward fully dressed as a Japanese inspired painting complete with oversized wooden frame, white face paint, and long Kimono.

This was one tough week. I'll try to give you the unromantic basics. The coalition I've been working with for the past six months broke down, with several members telling me they were walking out, a hostile email exchange that ended with someone replying instead of forwarding nasty comments going public while cc'ing Executive Directors and board members, being told I'm terrible at my job on a conference call while trying to deescalate someone who wants to be my new office bully, pain medication that made me hold on to my bed because the world started spinning, having to stand next to my ex and his new girlfriend (not cute) at my favorite Lafayette local band's concert and a hairline fracture that my doctor told me there is nothing he can do to help. That does not include my desk breaking, my futon breaking, my dog getting a bloody nose and beat up at the dog park (how do i get the only non-aggressive pitbull?), the forest that has suddenly sprouted in my backyard, and an incredibly messy house that I just can't think about cleaning because I'm writing a framing document that lays out participatory decision making options for my next blow up of a coalition meeting in Chicago on Wednesday or Thursday, but maybe Friday if we can juggle somethings around and people decide that they actually want to be in the same room with each other. Oh and its been 105 everyday since last weekend and my aircon . . . not so good.

Even given all that within 5 days, it was pretty great to have one of my best friends in town (even though I wouldn't have this hairline fracture is she hadn't come to town) to laugh instead of cry after every one of those things happened, without her I probably would have quit and bought a one way plane ticket to a country I've never been to before. And I got to share my favorite spots in New Orleans and New Iberia and my lovely family with her. We even made crawfish and scrambled eggs from my aunt and uncles chickens they are raising in their backyard. I also mastered peeling crawfish and typing with one hand. In the end though, having a good friend who hands you a glass of rose champagne and pain meds at the same time and learning new skills beats it all. My mom even happened to be in a town several hours across state and hopped over to help make fruit salad, fill my fridge and be the receipent instead of me of excited muddy wet dog jumping.

As I'm writing this framing document and ignoring phone calls from the most obnoxious of co-workers on a Sunday morning, I'm reading through this book called "Facilitator's Guide to Participatory Decision-Making". It's pretty helpful in what our coalition is facing right now. There is this entire section dedicated to the groan zone. This is what it says,"A period of confusion and frustration is a natural part of group decision-making. Once a group crosses the line from airing familiar opinions to exploring diverse perspectives, group members have to struggle in order to integrate new and different ways of thinking with their own. Struggling to understand a wide range of foreign or opposing ideas is not a pleasant experience. Group members can be repetitious, insensitive, defensive, short tempered, and more! At such times most people don't have the slightest notion of what's happening. Sometimes the mere act of acknowledging the existence of the Groan Zone can be a signficant step for a group to take."

Either way, after a good 'is this the zombie apocalypse' freak outs with myself, some This American Life podcast listening, and a visit to the Hi Ho to watch the latest Treme episode, I think I'm ready for next week. I would also like to know if the time that I spend with this coalition will qualify me for a psychology degree or a job with the state department. I think it should.

In other news, the head of Greenpeace International is occupying an oil rig in the Arctic and he's kind of awesome.

And now I will search through my favorite fashion blogs to remind me that there are pretty things out there somewhere while procrastinating returning calls to ugly people (ugly in spirit not appearance). There is this sign in most bars and cafes in town, it says "be nice or leave", I like it and it sums up this sweet darling eccentric town. I will also silently call those ugly people weak tot sauce in my head and listen to T.I. and Lost Bayou Ramblers before my next meeting. Thanks CH!

Ready for the next round!
Renee Claire

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