It has been a while since I have put my fingers to the keyboard in a way that was not a means to the end. There is not enough time in the day to allow my mind to slow down and ponder life, to let the mantra in my head release and allow the clickity clack of the keys bring forth the words in my mind to share with you. There have been many days when I have written a blog in my head and when the few free moments at the end of the day graced me, my eyes melded shut while the now comfortable whoosh whoosh sound of the pump surrounds me as I drain the last milk of the day out of my boobs. That or I am finishing the necessary work to prep for my next day, because when I get home at the end of the day I want to spend every moment with my growing little boy. Did I mention that I am back in the office?
I will tell you I have missed you. I have missed my daily rants and release of ideas that I come across in the day in hopes that it brings a smile to your face, pause to your day, or a WTF moment. Last week a colleague shared an article that just got my wheels turning and I had to share. This article is about the saltbox. A bit random I know but the author just hit at so many ideas that resonate with me. Her story of the Saltbox titled: “Lessons according to salt.”
“The saltbox itself as an object is unremarkable. Alone, it communicates nothing. Says nothing about its role. Its intention. Its history as a gift born out of a romance between my maternal grandparents. Says nothing of its possibilities.
But add people, and it becomes a central iterative device. The license to change, to iterate, to test, to add, to make, to make over, to create (clearly, with food). It gives license and latitude to stray from what has been written (recipes) for those too shy to do. Therefore, it gives strength. It gives iterative powers to those not comfortable with version control. With its subtlety comes comfort in change. One might say the saltbox, and access to it, is magic.”
Later the author says:
“What separates a leader from a manager is the quality of an editor. The role of a good editor is not to be seen, in fact, but to make an author’s words come forward. A good editor dissolves into the background. It’s not unlike typography. Focus too much on the type, and you’ve lost the story. Whether as editor, director, or head of department, my role is not to be seen, but to create a space to make the stories of those I work with come forward.”
I manage a team of ten amazing souls that make it worth coming to work each day. Is it always fun? No. Is it always easy? No. But damn we have fun trying. I hope that I keep focusing on the story and that I create a space to make the stories come forward.
Maybe it resonates with me because I write, or maybe it is because I am a new mom and I think that, much like leading a team, as a momma I really am here to love the crap out of this little bugger, but also to create the space for his stories to come to life. My role is to let him shine and be seen. Momma, manager, editor.
I encourage you to read Liz’s full article on the saltbox. Maybe it will inspire you too.
I remember back in the days of cassette tapes, my mom would often play stories of healing for us. Sometimes she played them when we were sick, and other times when we could not fall asleep at night. I cannot remember 95% of the stories, but I do know that after you listened to them over and over again, you almost had them memorized. One of the ones that continues to come to me to this day was the quote: “Go to give a good time, not get a good time.”
I was reminded of this quote last night while spending a little time catching up on Facebook, where I saw this quote posted on Marianne Williamson’s timeline:
Where ego asks “What am I not getting?” in a relationship, Spirit asks “What am I not giving?”
It made me think about how often we get upset, angry, frustrated when we do not get what we want, or things do not turn out as we expected. At times in my life when I have been more aware and taken the focus off myself and really focused on “giving” to the situation, I have found I am calmer, cooler, and more collected. Sometimes though, life throws us curveballs and we are not prepared for how fast they come at us. We may feel injustice that someone is not treating us right, or we feel left out and not included in a project, whatever the reason deep down the feeling that irks us is that we do not feel loved.
I can remember many times where I have gotten upset with Chris and as we discussed it later, the reason I might have reacted was because the situation (example: he did not follow through with something) makes me feel unheard. When I don’t feel heard, I don’t feel loved. At the end of it all, the matter up for discussion is mostly irrelevant. What matters most is how we feel. We act out, react, and get angry because we want to or even need to feel loved.
So my question is: why is it so hard for us to say to another – I need more love today – can you give that to me?
Why am I a nitpick? I make quick decisions often based on my intuition, but also based on the facts I have. I completely relate to the very first line of this article, the only difference is 9 times out of 10 Chris and I both believe that if it is worth doing it is worth doing right. A house project, a work initiative, a trip, whatever it might be, we focus on the plan, and put time into selecting the right options.
“My wife and I live by two different schools of thought. I believe that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right, and put lots of time, energy and resources into things I plan.”
We like to make sure we are both on the same page. If one of us researches, then we show the other our findings, sharing pricing, timing, likes/dislikes, and what we think the next steps are for the project. Yes, in essence we project manage our life, but it means there is no miscommunication. Take a weekend. Yes, this might sound sterile, but often I will coordinate all the different errands we need to do (and the list is usually long) and orchestrate where we need to go and when. It feels slightly militaristic, and yet what it actually does is allow for us to get shit done and the rest of the time is for relaxing. If we did not coordinate, we would probably not get what we needed done, and potentially never find any downtime.
I love the ending of the article too:
“As a person on the receiving end of this constant oversight, I can tell you the drip drip drip of disapproval is eroding your wife’s affection for you. I can appreciate my husband’s careful ways (we got a great mortgage rate!), but he has no appreciation for someone like me who knows when it’s just time to pull the trigger and buy some damn sheets instead of endlessly researching thread count. You’ve been warned, husband. Find a way to appreciate her ability to get things done or someday she will leave you.”
I agree with the author. I would never leave Chris and often I want him to decide on the damn sheets, but that is just a little conversation we have to move the decision along. We need someone in the marriage that reads the fine print, watches out for where we might be screwed, and keeps us on our toes. Maybe we are both nitpicks. Either way, I like us just the way we are.
Oh how we always sweat the small stuff. At times we are drenched. We are soaked with all the little things we have to do. Like a marathon, we have so many details to keep track of each day. Whether it is shuttling a kid from school to events each day, to all the work details, to our home repairs and upkeep, it all adds up and it is all a lot to sweat. As a runner I sweat profusely. You know I will have come back from a long run, because I am dripping. There is not a part of my running clothes that are not drenched in my sweat. I also stink like no one can imagine (well Chris can because he OFTEN mentions how bad I reek.)
I also often sweat the small stuff. It is hard not to as all the small stuff rolls up into the big stuff. I care about it all. I care about how someone is treated. I care about project outcomes. I care about how individuals feel. I care about how I make others feel. I care about being blunt, transparent, and real. I care too much. I sweat it all, and yet, there are so many things that I do not care about one bit.
So – how do I differentiate what to sweat and not to sweat? I do not have a formula. I trust my intuition. I think about my audience. I talk to myself. I talk to Chris. I fail. I succeed. I work too hard. I lose sleep. I try to do too much. I care. Is that a strength or a weakness? I am passionate about each and every aspect. How individuals are treated. How a project is tracking. How things could be improved. It all matters. It is all important.
Yet, so often the very issue that we are sweating is not what we should focus on at all. Maybe we care too much about one individual and they are not even paying attention at all. Maybe our focus should be more on our own world, life, and needs and yet we neglect them completely. Maybe we are completely ignoring what we should truly be focusing on it, but we cannot see it because we have blinders on. We are sweating in all the wrong places.
Do you sweat at all? Or is life cool and chill for you?
We all want to be and feel heard. Right? Is that so much to ask? If that is what you want, then I ask you, are you a good listener? How often do you truly listen? You know what I mean. The times when you are already thinking about what you want to say next. How often do you focus on the needs, words, and emotions of the other individual(s) in the conversation?
Listening. It is an idea that continues to loop in my thought. Whether it is that quiet voice inside my head that tells me to slow down and listen more, or the voice that wants me to scream to someone else: “Stop. Slow down and just listen to me!” We see it all the time. The mom that is going too fast and has too much happening that she forgets to really look into her child’s eyes and listen to what they have to say. Or the dad that has a child that never stops talking, do you think he sometimes stops listening? The co-worker, boss, or employee that like to talk, but do not return the favor and actively listen to you.
It is tough. You have to stop all the interconnected wires in your head, the questions you might need to ask, the tasks you might need to accomplish, and just be present for the other individual(s). When we do it, when we truly are present and actively listening the other individual knows it. They feel it, see it, and appreciate it. (Well we hope they do). It might not be obvious, but listening is a win-win situation. You learn more about others and yourself.
I had an ah-ha moment yesterday. During a conversation at work, I stopped my head from going fast and I really focused and listened. Instead of letting what was on my mind spew out of my mouth, I focused first. When I really listened I found good questions came to the surface. Questions that hopefully helped the person I was talking to get to the answers they needed. It is better to listen, engage, and ask questions, rather than listen and tell someone just what you think they should do. Let them figure it out for themselves.
My goal is to try to listen more each day. Even if it is one conversation, then two, then three a day. I know the moment I am present. I know when I am consciously listening. You will too. Try it, and let me know if you notice a difference.