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From Passionate Process to Poetic and Playful Puzzle – Part I: The Art of Reviving and Writing “The Reorg Rag” ™

As I open this essay, please forgive an immodest turn. Upon reading or hearing one of my edgy or catchy phrasings, for example, the title of my book, Practice Safe Stress, or a motivational mantra, such as, “Do know your limits and don’t limit your ‘No’s,” I often receive some verbal or nonverbal sign of appreciation. This may then be followed by, “How did you come up with that?” or “Is that just how your mind works?” In my estimation, imaginative phrases, concepts or creative pieces are less the product of spontaneous combustion and more a journey-like process of swirling cogitation and personal passion within some informational or cultural context. That is, something has aroused my mind, heart and spirit and the ignition has caught my attention though, with hindsight, I may already have been subconsciously percolating and chewing on a related or background issue. The initial bubbling, boiling, gnashing and colliding of impressions and images, notions and emotions constitute the search for neuronal connections and novel associations. As a “Motivational Psychohumorist” ™ (and I’ll let you decide where the emphasis on the second word should go), I subscribe to the bond between wit and originality noted by the great American writer and humorist, Mark Twain. According to Twain, “Wit is the sudden marriage of ideas which before their union were not perceived to have any relation.” Of course, the preceding conceptual courtship and subsequent union have been known to be drawn out and edgy if not stormy. However, alongside the state of confusion, seeming contradiction and challenge is a sense of intuition: that the proverbial blood, sweat and tears, i.e., the risk of jumping into this mental cacophony will, over time, be worth the reward – the joy (and relief) of discovering unexpected relations or diverse perspectives and designing an uncommon and meaningful harmony. And audience affirmation helps keep the virtuous cycle going.

The latest imaginative arena-adventure involved writing a dark yet witty and wicked lyric about being caught in the web of workplace change in today’s uncertain and unstable climate – from reorganizations and downsizings to regime transfers and mergers. Let me outline the social-psychological musings, interactions and working processes of a mind in creative heat, one skewering both convention and dysfunction, and also looking to construct unusual or unexpected yet pointed analogies and meaningful connections. While the gestation and actual birth seemed only weeks in the making, the genesis involves a previous Stress Doc ™ lyric also written during a period of economic trouble (the early 1990s recession). So an outdated yet relevant verse has been lying fallow. Or perhaps more accurately, a template has been in dynamic hibernation for over a decade-and-a-half, just waiting for the right moment – the confluence of head and heart, gut and soul along with past, present and future experience and perspective – to emerge from the shadows of the creative closet.

Two final motivating thoughts: 1) that the developmental analysis of the lyric’s birth stimulates and supports your own creative undertakings and 2) that this contemporary poetic message can lighten and enlighten our hearts and minds as well as raise the spirit during troubling times. Hopefully, “The Reorg Rag” ™ brings to life the words and wisdom of the pioneering visionary, Helen Keller:

The world is so full of care and sorrow; it is a gracious debt we owe one another to

discover the bright crystals of delight hidden in somber circumstances and irksome tasks.

First, here’s the brightly dark and daring ditty:

The Reorg Rag (with apologies to no one)

By Mark Gorkin, LICSW, “The Stress Doc” ™
[email protected]; www.stressdoc.com

It can’t happen here, I have too much to do…
Who took my desk and chair, my computer, too?
They can’t replace me — the Branch Techno-file
What do you mean I’m still in denial?

Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
Why does it feel I’ve been fragged?
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
Maybe I’m just on a jag.
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
I’m still on the Reorg Rag!

Rejoice, you’re employed…so they’ve frozen your pay
And put on your backs the recovery.
Two free weeks furlough to re-“leave” your stress
What a friend you have in the 112th Congress!

Work’s now a casino, a high tech RIF** RAFFle:
When will we know? Why does management waffle?
Buddha-Computah…who’s pink slipping away?
Here’s your ticket to ride; uh, shopping’s good in Bombay.

Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag
Why do I just want to gag?
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
Whatever happened to my swag?
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag
I’m still on the Reorg Rag!

You’ll “Do more with less,” when “There’s no ‘I’ in team”
So “Dress for Success,” then become “lean-and-Mean.”
Keep reading those posters, your glass is half full
Though, beware “going postal” in the face of this bull.

Ignore the slacker; just take up his load
Put in for a transfer; oops, no off ramp for this road.
The boss is a bully; the “Old Boys” turn an eye
You’re getting an ulcer — such a “nice gal or guy.”

Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag
Why has life become a drag?
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag
Should I raise that white flag?
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag
I’m still on the Reorg Rag!

Now you’ve had enough, playing Raggedy Ann
Start calling their bluff; draw a line in the sand.
You are a survivor; just never forget
To bring out your “Inner Rambo or Rambette!”

So “Do know your limits; don’t limit your ‘No’s”
There’s life beyond widgets; you’ve taken their blows.
Break away from the mob, you’ve surpassed your quota
And have won your job…but now in North Dakota!

Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
Once again in a trick bag.
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
Back into the old gulag
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag,
I’m still on the Reorg Rag
Reorg Rag, Reorg Rag
Forever on the Reorg Rag!

**RIF = Reduction In Force

© Mark Gorkin 2010
Shrink Rap ™ Productions

Now here’s “A Step-by-Step Developmental Analysis of the Creation of ‘The Reorg Rag’”:

1. Compelling Process and Challenging Puzzle. This creative process, like many others, was triggered by an emotionally charged event or experience, more specifically, facilitating workshops with employees in organizations anticipating or undergoing tumultuous transition. And it helps if the experience was extra-ordinary; four highly charged workshops with three groups in four days qualify. The atmosphere with one group, in particular, was pretty electric; they had experienced multiple Reduction In Force (RIF) cuts. (That’s not just downsizing or “rightsizing”…That’s downright “Frightsizing!”) According to Gregory Berns, author of Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently, “To see things differently than other people the most effective solution is to bombard the brain with things it has never encountered before. Novelty releases the perceptual process from the shackles of past experience and forces the brain to make new judgments.” (Alas, sometimes overdosing on “novelty” leaves the mind-body oscillating between burning out and burning up.)

For me, the above experience while hardly novel was still uncommon. In such circumstances, five things frequently happen: a) the absorption of a good deal of intense energy and emotion, b) a reliving of and reflecting upon similar life experiences and/or emotions both during and after the program. For example, the acclaimed 20th century English author, John Fowles, calls emotional memories his “electric current”; he needs to be plugged into this power source for his creative juices to flow, c) an enhanced sense of empathy (including a heightened concern about any injustice along with compassionate anger) for all caught in the proverbial web, d) an obsessive-like need to find a touch of the humorous or some absurdity in the serious or in tragedy; such a discovery not only heightens personal meaning but, even if only in retrospect, helps me feel I’ve defeated another of my daemons, akin to those depression-inducing “dementors” from the world of Harry Potter – the dark, swirling furies that suck the life and soul out of their targets and the surrounding environs, and e) the intention to provide concepts, tools and skills to help participants, 1) better understand their personal-situational dilemma, 2) be less fearful of and more objective about the prevailing authority-power structure, and 3) become more effective “transitional stress-crisis” problem solvers.

Sometimes, though, a sixth phase occurs: I attempt to transform the uncommon experience, energy, emotion and empathy into a written framework – either essay or poetry – for designing and integrating the above “e”-pieces into a puzzle of my own creation. Though as I have noted in a previous article, “Creative Risk-Taking: The Art of Designing Disorder,” my mantra for imaginative or innovative start-up is: “Aware-ily Jump in Over Your Head.” And I suppose one way of trying to manage the angst is to look at myself and the experience through a humorous frame, especially by tweaking the old ego and laughing at my own (okay, and others’) flaws and foibles. As the psychiatrist and student of humor, Ernst Kris, observed: “What was once feared and is now mastered, is laughed at.” And as the Stress Doc inverted: “What was once feared and is now laughed at is no longer a master!” So “The Reorg Rag” is a product of transforming a passionate process into a poetic and playful puzzle. And Part II will proceed with more of the pieces and the process. Until then…Practice Safe Stress!

Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, “The Stress Doc” ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is an acclaimed keynote and kickoff speaker as well as “Motivational Humorist & Team Communication Catalyst” known for his interactive, inspiring and FUN programs for both government agencies and major corporations. In addition, the “Doc” is a team building and organizational development consultant. He is providing “Stress and Communication, as well as Managing Change, Leadership and Team Building” programs for the 1st Cavalry Division and 13th Expeditionary Support Command, Ft. Hood, Texas and for Army Community Services and Family Advocacy Programs at Ft. Meade, MD and Ft. Belvoir, VA. Mark has also had a rotation as Military & Family Life Consultant (MFLC) at Ft. Campbell, KY. A former Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service, The Stress Doc is the author of Practice Safe Stress and of The Four Faces of Anger. See his award-winning, USA Today Online “HotSite”www.stressdoc.com — called a “workplace resource” by National Public Radio (NPR). For more info on the Doc’s “Practice Safe Stress” programs or to receive his free e-newsletter, email [email protected] or call 301-875-2567.

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