Tuesday, August 28, 2007

SMOG Is Back

It may be a perfectly sunny late-summer day in Seattle today, however I learned over the weekend that I was SMOG. Oh, and Tall Person was FOG. As a former meteorologist, I found this rather disconcerting at first, because even though we were in Spokane at the time, the weather was great there too.

It turns out, this was just Rev. Mary's way of identifying Step-Mother of (the) Groom and Father of (the) Groom. Today I am no longer SMOG; today I am simply a Mother-In-Law. While that news hasn't really quite sunk in with me just yet, the weekend of wedding festivities gave it a good start and I was reminded of how important ritual can be at times like this.

It was explained to me once that all the major rites of passage in one's life - births, coming of age, marriages, and deaths among the most important ones - typically involve ritual as a way of making the mental shift from one way of being (and relating to others) into another way. Understanding what I do about change management these days, this makes sense to me and this weekend, I had a chance to see this process up close and personal.

It wasn't just a weekend full of partying. My son and his new wife will have an easier time embracing the notion of starting a new life together as a couple because of having taken the time to mark the passage of their old ways of being. These same rituals also help family and friends to stop seeing them as they had been and begin seeing and relating to them in new ways.

My son is now grown-up in ways I hadn't really thought about before. I have a daughter now in addition to my two sons. I myself am now a Mother-in-law. And on top of all that, there are new people in my life to think about and perhaps bond with as a result of this marriage. These are strange new concepts for me and yet they have more sticking power because the wedding and all the trappings of the weekend help me get my mind around all the changes this marriage means.

My experience is that it is no different in corporate life, especially in the fast-paced world of high-tech. People come and go, managers change, new products are added while others are dropped, processes are added, improved, or eliminated, companies are created and then they grow, shrink, merge, move or fold altogether. All of these changes impact us to some degree or another just like weddings change our relationships in some way, even when we're not the ones getting married.

All the best materials I've seen about change management say that no matter what the change is, it helps to identify what is going away as well as what is new... and to properly grieve that loss first as a necessary step in the process of moving forward. Seen now in the context of a parent of a child who has just gotten married, I have to say it makes even more sense now than ever before.

It seems I've been pretty successful at one challenging role - that of a stepmother - so I'm hoping that I can learn from that and be an even better mother-in-law. The idea is starting to grow on me at least.

If you've got good advice about making that shift, I'm open to hearing whatever you feel like sharing with me at techsurvivor@soaringmountain.com and I'm sure you'll hear more about my experiences and progress as I go along. As always, I'll try to keep it relevant. After all, the connections between the ideas is as important to me as the connections between people.

In the meantime, I'll probably still laugh from time to time at the coincidence that of all the people on Rev. Mary's map, we should be the two to end up with the meteorologically-inclined acronyms.

What do I have to give up in my life or work now, in order to make space for what's new?