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Category: Thought Soup

Insights about life, useful skills, and a few about life in general

Beginnings are messy…

Beginnings are messy…

This was originally posted on Dec. 19, 2011. It deserves another read.

The farther you move through life, the more tempting it is to want to have everything under control.  Bad plan.  That strategy is a nice straight road to boredom.  Being a beginner until the day you die is an important piece of creating a good life.  And beginnings are not controlled situations.  Beginnings are messy.

Sunrise 1.28.19 M. Lloyd

When you move, things are total chaos for a while.  When you start an art project, everything you might need gets hauled out of drawers and closets.  To renovate your yard, you usually create a mud bog at some point in the process.

To make something better, most often, you need to make a total mess of what you already have.

And that’s okay.

In fact, it may be an essential piece of appreciating what you have once you’ve completed the change.  My mom’s yearly version of this process was the family camping trip.  Dad was great about getting everything needed by a family of nine packed in–and on–the car, getting us there, getting the tent set up, etc.  He was really good at making order of the inevitable chaos.

Mom, however, was better at appreciating the chaos.  “Going camping” was our vacation and that meant new adventures for us kids and the chance to break from the routine for our parents.  But “going camping” also made us all appreciate that routine when we got home and had everything put away.

The disruption and confusion of going in a new direction can be unnerving–and almost always is when you change anything significant.  But that doesn’t mean you don’t do it.  It’s just wise to realize what you’re getting into.

Beginnings involve going in the wrong direction.  When  you start something new, even if you have a full set of instructions (which most things in life don’t have), you make mistakes because the whole idea is new and a challenge to grasp.  Mistakes are every bit as much a part of getting things to go the way you want as the things you get right the first time.  Wrong turns help define the context of what you’re doing and help make it work well.  They’re most valuable if you use them–figure out what they’ve taught you and then move past them.  But if you can’t get that far about what went wrong, at least relax about the fact that they happen.  When you start something new, there are going to be mistakes.  Sometimes lots of them.

Beginnings usually involve a few restarts.  Thinking that it’s going to be smooth sailing from the get-go just invites frustration.  Redirects are inevitable. Sometimes, you don’t even know where you are trying to go when you start out.   And when you need to change course, you often need to just plain stop before you do so.  So if the project doesn’t keep going at a steady pace, don’t be surprised.  And for heaven’s sake don’t get all torqued about it.  Starting something new takes courage.  Finishing something new takes patience and tolerance–for clutter, confusion, and starting again….and sometimes again and again.

Beginnings often don’t look like beginnings.  Starting in a new direction is often disguised as something old ending.  This probably makes the messiness of a beginning even harder to endure.  When what you had worked for  you and was not something you wanted to change, it’s very hard to get on with the messiness of starting over.  That old reliable version of life was…well…yours, whether it was with a mate who died–or left, a job you lost, or health you took for granted. Pining for what was makes getting on with what’s next a lot more difficult.  Letting go of what you don’t have any more and stepping into the chaos of a new start is the only way to get on with your life.

Know that the disruption is essential and temporary. It’s easy to begin to feel like the turmoil is never going to go away, but that’s not what’s going on.  Psychologically, being able to predict what’s going to happen is as calming as being able to control it.   Reminding yourself that there’s an end point to the chaos gives you that predictability.

Beginnings are essential.   Beginnings can be intimidating simply because of the disorder and confusion they engender.  Begin anyway.  Having a good life is not a matter of having everything under control.  You need to keep your world expanding and to do that, you have to begin something new.  Again and again and again.

Life’s Little Train Wrecks

Life’s Little Train Wrecks

Over the weekend, a group for which I have written grants in the past blew up. Not literally, but in terms of the cohesion of the volunteers. One of life’s little train wrecks. Sometimes it’s a community effort, as this is. Sometimes it’s a work group. Sometimes it’s a family. What’s the lesson when it happens?

I’d like to believe that as we get older, we get better at not only staying out of the middle of this kind of stuff, but of also being peacemakers–the force that helps knit the group back together. In this case, the older ones were nowhere near that. I’m not central to this group, and my role in the weekend disaster was as a spectator. But there are positive things to learn just by watching.

The group is a niche historical society, tasked with maintaining and providing access to a lighthouse and related structures in a city park. They have been diligent over the last 25 years. Six of the seven buildings in the compound have been restored, and they are in planning to do the last one–the lighthouse itself.

One of their annual community events has been an afternoon tea at the lighthouse keeper’s cottage during the month of December. These folks weren’t spring chickens when they started doing that, and they’ve been at it a while. They’ve been thinking they needed to stop hosting the tea because they didn’t have the stamina anymore.

Then several new volunteers agreed to do the tea. Problem solved, right? It should have been. Instead it turned into this train wreck. Usually, something trivial triggers this kind of disaster. In this case, it was two words–“Holiday” and “Christmas”.

The email I watched spool out was to okay the flyer announcing the tea. What should have been a routine nod, turned into a major email argument over whether they were going to call it a “Christmas Tea” as they had since when they started doing it or a “Holiday Tea” as the team planning the event deemed appropriate.

At first it was civil: “Please change it back to Christmas.” Then people started to “vote” with more heated words. Then Santa (the guy who said he would BE Santa for the event) said he wouldn’t show up if it wasn’t “Christmas.” My thoughts ran in two directions as I watched: “This is so sad” and “This would be really funny in a sitcom.”

Except it wasn’t funny. I also don’t think it was political. (I live in the Pacific NW, a proud part of “the Left Coast.”) No, the problem was an inability to let go that the longtime members couldn’t even see in themselves and a frustration with that for the newcomers who had to use their energy and enthusiasm to deal with the roadblocks instead of the event.

I tried to defuse the situation by asking whether they were planning a community event for our diverse, current community or a reeneactment of what the lighthouse keeper would have celebrated in the early 20th century–aka “Christmas”. But it wasn’t a rational situation so that went nowhere. (Silly me.)

Eventually, one of the new volunteers forthrightly described how difficult it was for the team that was so ready to make it happen to have everything they suggested and planned shot down or stonewalled. That was brave. But it didn’t stop the wreck either. The oldsters involved have “hearing problems” that have nothing to do with their auditory acuity. No one stepped up to that truth from the old guard.

In her last sentence, she quit. I can’t help but wonder if the rest of the new volunteers will follow suit. It wasn’t about “Holiday” versus “Christmas.” It was that the old guard wasn’t able to do the work any more, but they weren’t able to let go of dictating exactly how it was to be done.

So….the lessons…

First, I do NOT want to do that. Ever. If I can’t do the work, how it’s done isn’t my call. No matter how many times I excelled at doing it in the past.

Second, peacemaking is a lot easier if people are willing to be rational, but that’s not the typical terrain in this kind of train wreck. You can try, but don’t be surprised if you get ignored.

Third, there will be differences of opinion when you’re part of a group. Respecting and addressing them is best done face to face, and, if possible, one on one. Also right away and bravely.

Fourth, some things cannot be fixed. This organization may end up folding because they are so inept at giving full status to new volunteers.

There’s no good lesson in having that happen.

Psst….the World is not flat. Pass it on.

Psst….the World is not flat. Pass it on.

We’ve known for centuries that those who thought the Earth ended with an abrupt edge had it wrong. Some day, our descendants will shake their heads in every bit as much disbelief that we could be so naive and clueless in how older members of society were perceived in the 21st century.

photo by Jacquie Webster-Patton

Getting older is not the catastrophe it’s assumed to be. We are not illness waiting to manifest. We are not a burden. We are not useless. It’s really stupid to expect us to just go away so that younger members of society can get on with making the world a better place. We’re still here and ready to help. Why is it so hard to find ways to do include all ages in our problem solving? And in the solutions themselves?

Older people need to be part of making the world better every bit as much as the teenagers who will eventually take their place. Why? Because they are an amazing resource. It’s absolutely insane that as a culture we’re assuming there is no value in being older. That youth is all.

Think about it.

  • We’ve had many more years of learning about life than those who are younger. A lot of what we now know is critical to solving some of today’s biggest problems–how to get along with others, how to fight for what you believe in with integrity, how to nurture without coddling, how to confront a bully, how to not spend money you don’t have. We’ve learned a lot by living this long.
  • We had the chance to try stuff before everything became “too dangerous” to be allowed to do it. So there’s a good chance, that absent all the baloney about keeping us “safe” because we are old, we’re ready to take risks. Some of the risks we took when younger were stupid. (You cannot fly by jumping off the garage roof. Ever.) But a lot of it was both educational and confidence building. A lot of it was stuff that transferred to other endeavors and situations. The dilemma in this is that our innate tendency to take risks has been squelched by this goofy notion that we must be taken care of and kept safe above all…because we are “old” and thus un-able. The oldest among us could be such a resource as mentors for risk taking.
  • We are far more likely to have acquired wisdom than younger people. Wisdom is currently in pathetically short supply. Wisdom will get us a lot farther as a culture than this idiotic bravado and “I am the greatest and my answer is the only answer” that’s so popular right now. Authentically old people can see the folly of what seems to be “the only solution.” We don’t get as worked up about things. We have the chops and the time in grade to be more patient. And we are willing to share all of it for the greater good. For any one person’s good if they seek it.

Not using an outstanding resource isn’t even the worst of this unenlightened thinking. No, the really BIG downside to current cultural expectations is that they encourage all the bad stuff we envisions as “old”–numerous health problems…which then need expensive medical procedures (or are at least assumed to). Eventually people who could still be highly productive, caring, independent members of society require huge amounts of support just to live a semi-life in some assisted living facility where they are “safe”–and bored to death, literally. The cultural mindset plays out: If there’s nothing else to do and everyone is expecting it, then, well, “maybe I’m supposed to be sick when I’ve had this many birthdays.”

There are a lot of older adults who would be just fine until their last breath if they had a legitimate role to play.

We need to mobilize this segment of the population–to help communities, to help kids, to help each other. We need to let them shine. If you assume THAT is what is expected to happen, there will be a whole lot more of it happening.

We all cheer when we see the video of the 90-year old woman doing a sexy tango in competitive ballroom dancing. We watch the centenarian who’s still teaching yoga with awe. I remember being in absolute bliss after reading about a 100-year old woman who was still the fulltime proofreader for the local newspaper. We want that continued engagement for ourselves.

Then we go right back to assuming that “people that age can’t do those things.” This is just so inane. Let older people do all they can. Everyone will benefit if we use every single morsel of talent, skill, and passion the best we can. The world is not flat!

It’s About Time…

It’s About Time…

This is a repost from 2014. Still relevant…

I’m in a bar fight with Time right now. I’m not even sure who started it. At the moment, I’m in a big transition—moving to new space in a new area to a house that’s needed significant TLC before I moved in.

So I’ve been painting, cleaning, and  organizing storage areas, plus trying to corral all the stuff I’ve managed to accumulate in the two years I’ve been living where I am now.  All that takes time.  And I want Time to cooperate and give me enough to get it all done–to give me the sense that I have it under control. Time is not hearing a word of that. I am not in control. Nope. Not at all.

Time is not flying; it is evaporating, like needed rain that never gets all the way to the parched desert floor. There “should” be enough time. This move is certainly doable. I have good support from family and friends. I have good resources to call for paid help as needed. But still, I am in this absurd wrestling match with Time.

On the surface, it looks like it’s my own silly fault. This cleaning that I’ve been doing….I’ve gone through three toothbrushes at it…plus a bunch of bamboo skewers…untold numbers of Q-tips…a few toothpicks. I’ve been manic about getting that last bit of gunk out of whatever it is that I’m sprucing up.

There is so much to get done.  And yet I’ve been piddling around with a toothpick trying to get the dirt out of the ridges of a light switch. I’ve painted almost every wall and most of the ceilings of the new place. I’ve replaced the carpeting and refinished the hardwood floors. I’ve been absolutely anal about how I set up the kitchen.

Have I gone over the edge—to where cleanliness is no longer next to godliness but instead has moved into the marginally functional wing of a looney bin? How can I possibly get all the work done if I putz at little things? Why am I fighting with Time like this?

But as I admit this and look more closely, it’s starting to make sense. There is a lot to get done with this move. And I do like to start with things as clean as possible. (Dirt is okay but only if it’s mine.) But this move is one of a kind and involves more than getting my stuff from here to there. When I move, someone I love will remain behind—by choice, but still…. Much of what I take with me will have to be replaced if he wants to be able to cook, clean, eat off a plate, etc. (He’s a guy; he may not….) So this preoccupation with getting things clean was probably a good way to end up with the right pacing.

Is there anything in this insight that’s useful for life in general?

Yeah, I think so.  I’ve always been an exceptionally well-organized person. I have not been like that on this move. Instead of making list after list, I’ve been blindly doing whatever seems to need to get done next. It turns out I have been letting my heart lead instead of my General-Manager-of-the-Universe mind.

Sometimes a list is not the answer. Sometimes, you just have to trust it’s going to work out and keep trudging along, even if what you’re working on seems to be getting a higher priority than it deserves. Sometimes, your hands have a better sense of what must be done than your mind does.

And that’s a good thing to realize at the start of a new year. “Because I’ve always done it this way” is a weak reason not to grow. By now I would be a raving lunatic if I’d have tried to manage this move the way I’ve done them in the past. I would also probably be heartsick and depressed. There are too many layers, too many extenuating circumstances, too much room to cause emotional hurt–to myself or someone else–by steamrollering through this move. What a blessing that I had the chance to piddle around with a toothbrush cleaning up someone else’s microscopic messes.

I haven’t been wrestling with Time after all. We were dancing, and I just didn’t know it.

Livin’ in Fast Times

Livin’ in Fast Times

So much of what we do in our lives now is “fast.” Fast food, of course. We don’t have to buy the ingredients, make the dish, put it on the table, or sit down to eat it like our grandparents did. We just order it without ever getting out of the car and eat it as we drive out of the parking lot. Done.

author in 1981

Last week, I watched a news article about “fast fashion.” We can buy so much for so little–because of cheap labor in China and other developing countries–that we no longer focus on those “few good pieces” like we used to. Forget the classic blazer and the “great pair of jeans.” We buy and buy and buy–ten pair of jeans and that cute little jacket that will be out of date by next spring–because our money goes far enough to do that with what the world economy offers.

We’re also ingesting way too many “fast facts.” We get our information via quick paragraphs and video snippets posted on the internet and consumed in less that a minute. The “facts” are not in context. The validity of the source is rarely questioned. And the selection is curated “just for you” via the artificial intelligence used by Google and others to guess at what you want to see. “Just bits of the facts, m’am. Nothing but the bits.” Most of us could not knit a comprehensive statement of what’s going on in the world together to save our lives (which it could….).

What is said about fast food is true of all this other fast stuff. It’s JUNK. Our big, uber-sophisticated society is trying to live on junk, junk, and more junk. Usually, consumers vote with their wallets. They decide not to buy junk so it stops getting offered. But we’ve become anesthetized. Like zombies, we just keep buying–food, clothes, facts–that simply aren’t worth being consumed.

It’s time to give some thought to why we buy all this “fast” stuff. We all know that eating real food gives you a much better nutritional bang. But what about the rest? What do we gain by owning ten pair of jeans? What do we get from slurping up the garbage that’s presented as “news” rather than seeking out a longer, more thoughtful presentation of what’s going on so we can truly understand the situation?

A counterfeit sense of having nourished ourselves? A bulging closet that confirms our ability to buy things? A false sense that we know what’s going on?

We need to slow down. On all of this stuff. This fast-paced world is not doing us any favors. Going too fast can get you killed–from a traffic accident, a heart attack, or a stressed out coworker (or the collapse of your closet because you had too much in it!).

As the older members of society, we could be the ones to lead the way on this. We are wise enough to know that getting there first usually means you wait longer for whatever is going to happen. Getting there with nine pair of jeans in your suitcase just means it’s heavier to carry. Eating something from a drive thru that you gulped in four bites will leave you feeling like you haven’t eaten. Those strategies don’t serve us–or the world

“Fast” is good in racing. In saving a life. In stepping up to a priceless opportunity. But in day to day decision-making, perhaps not so much.

Age Is a Really Useless Number

Age Is a Really Useless Number

This article originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of Barbara Morris’s online newsletter, Put Old on Hold.

Last month, Barbara proposed that we initiate the option of using “perceived age” where chronologic age is currently expected.  That way, people could say they were the age they felt instead of what a document prepared decades before professed to be the case.  Barbara and I agree on a lot of things.  This is not one of them.  It’s a waste of effort to try to find a better version of a really bad idea. 

We need to stop using age as a legitimate piece of information for all but official things like starting kindergarten, getting a driver’s license, and signing up for Medicare and Social Security (and those last two might become suspect eventually).

As a measure of a specific person’s potential, “age” is a pathetic loser.  Individuals vary widely on what they do when in the trajectory of their lives.  Some are late bloomers, suddenly catching fire on something they’re passionate about after being total flakes for five decades or more.  Some can play Mozart piano concertos flawlessly at age 3.  You can become a permanent couch potato at age 28 or run a marathon in your 90’s.  It depends on the person—NOT the number in the blank that says “age”—or its cousin “date of birth.”

We put an incredible amount of weight on age with how we use it now.  We decide people are “too old” to hire.  We decide that being a certain age means you personally…individually…are in a body that can’t do certain things, even if you are doing them every day.  We decide whether we want to get to know someone as a friend or romantic partner.  We decide what a person’s healthcare needs should be.  The date you were born does not have the correlation to life skills, competence, OR needs that we give it. It’s almost as useless as birth weight for assessing a specific individual’s potential.

Often, we are trying to determine one or more of the following:

  • Vitality
  • Thinking ability
  • Appetite for assorted things
  • Ability to do a job/contribute to society
  • Physical stamina
  • Attractiveness

We need to start working with these parameters themselves instead of using age as a universal key on who can do what.  AGE JUST CAN’T TELL US THAT.  I do more complex quilting projects now than 30 years ago.  I also do more complex computer work now. Even my practical jokes are getting more complicated.  I have friends who are the same way about physical strength (often because they now have the time to work on it).  Look at the person in terms of whether they can do, not his or her date of birth.

When we think in terms of “how old” someone else is, we deny much of what they truly ARE.  There’s nothing in that number that holds an accurate accounting of what that person is able to accomplish and how he/she lives life. 

It’s normal human behavior to take shortcuts in processing information.  If we can assume something instead of sorting through a lot of data points, we can make more decisions and take action faster.  The problem arises when what we assume doesn’t come anywhere close to reality.  Judging people by their age is definitely in that category.  It’s a lazy substitute for the legitimate information gained by actually watching that person DO what you are interested in having them do. 

Why “the News” Isn’t News Anymore

Why “the News” Isn’t News Anymore

Why has “the news” acquired a political flavor? When did describing what’s happening in the world become a war in and of itself? The problem has deep roots, and it’s likely they do not grow from competing ideologies. A big piece of the problem started from something that seems pretty plain vanilla and safe–the desire to sell stuff.

Remember when sports stadiums were named for the team? And when buses just looked like buses, not mobile billboards? There were ads on TV, but mostly before and after the show. Now the ads take more air time than the content. You only needed one hour, at most, to get the news and that quite likely included the farm report. “News” was curated locally and offered as a community service to those in that viewing area.

Now, “information” is global and available 24/7. There are a gazillion cable channels–all of which and more are available on your computer or phone as well as your TV. News is everywhere. And it is rarely happy news. It definitely isn’t balanced news. And often, it’s hard to tell the difference between a real thing and reflections.

From the beginning, television has been for profit. They provided programming that people liked and watched. That wasn’t to please their viewers. The way to media profits is ads. They wanted (and still want) to get more money for their ads by showing their advertisers that they had a lot of viewers. So this isn’t about us as viewers. It’s about keeping us looking at what they’re offering. We–as the TV audience–have been “eyeballs for hire” since the start.

When it was curated locally, TV stations gave the local viewing audience the information they needed. But when cable channels entered the picture, programming stopped being regional. News was recruited for the war for eyeballs, and each channel had to find a way to stand out.

There isn’t much room for that in factual reporting. So “the News” became part of the “entertainment” aspect of TV. Entertainment requires conflict. In a good story, something goes wrong and creates tension again and again. To approach the News this way, the sense of conflict is amped up. Recently, we’ve moved beyond even that to generating conflict by challenging the facts themselves–and proposing “alternate facts.”

Our President likes a fight. He likes to get other people fighting with each other. He’s an entertainer. He loves conflict. Others in the public view have jumped in to do the same. So there is plenty of conflict to be showcased. But is it what we need? Valid information that people can use to be informed is not part of this perview.

The media is drawn to these fights; they are “good entertainment” because of the conflict level. “News sources” replay inane, unfounded accusations again and again without any embarassment. As a nation, we are beleaguered day after day with people fighting–as “News.” Even though most of America is going about its business in peace and harmony, we are served up enough discord to believe that we are all at each other’s throats.

Add to that the “news personalities.” The pundits. The talk show hosts. Instead of just the actual conflicts that have occurred being shown a disproportionate amount of the time, the talking heads fan the flames, “interpret” so as to magnify them, and generally create an even higher sense of conflict.

It’s all about entertainment–and eyeballs. And that means it’s all about conflict. The entire world hasn’t broken out in a high school cafeteria brawl, but it seems like it. A significant source of our national stress is probably coming from all this fake fighting in the news.

A democracy encourages differences of opinion. But it also recognizes that the will of the people is in synthesizing them. No one wins if all we do is fight. Except in the eyeball war. Advertisers get to pitch their stuff. The media companies get to take the resulting revenue to the bank. We don’t even get paid to rent our eyeballs.

It’s time for a quiet rebellion on all this. We can take our eyeballs elsewhere. As consumers, we need to get wise to the distinction between entertainment and information and stop accepting the former as the latter. If you decide to watch “the news”, ask yourself “Do I need to know this?” with every article that’s dished up. With everything offered in a news feed, ask “Is this a fake fight? Who gains by frothing this up?”

When they are building angst, they don’t deserve our attention. Take your eyeballs and go home.

Testing Assumptions

Testing Assumptions

It’s way too easy to assume you know what’s going on. And then to take action based on that “knowledge.” Quite often, what we think to be true isn’t the case. Maybe it’s a small thing, like assuming your friend is coming for dinner when they don’t know anything about it. Sometimes it’s a big thing, like assuming someone else is picking up a major client (or grandma) at the airport. Or assuming that you can trust a financial advisor because they have a sophisticated online presence.

In the current political environment, this tactical shortcoming has reached fever pitch. But just pointing a finger at “those people” who are assuming something about you that isn’t true, doesn’t get you what you could have in working with this idea. It’s far more useful to look at how you’re doing it yourself. Then you can benefit from correcting it in everything you do, all day, every day.

“Testing assumptions” is not all that sophisticated. It is mostly a case of asking yourself “How do I know this is true?” whenever you’re using a piece of information to act/make a decision.

What is it that makes you think this is the right thing to do? Why is THAT true? What are the assumptions that provide the base for that underlying assumption? Why is THAT true?

Most likely, you assumed that I screwed up–that the above photo is upside down. The main element is a mountain shape. Mountain tops go UP.

It IS the shape of a mountain–Mount Rainier to be exact. If you’re assuming the photo was taken in Mount Rainier National Park, my favorite playground, you would be correct. But it’s actually the picture of a LAKE. Reflection Lake–with Mount Rainier reflected in it.

Once you look carefully at the photo, there are clues. The reeds don’t make sense as a photo of a mountain. The focus is weird. But you have to LOOK to notice these things. It’s just a fun exercise when you’re looking at this photo. How you make sure what you’re assuming is true as you live your life is far more important. And we want to believe that as we get older we get better at “knowing.” But that’s not always the case.

Don’t assume it’s true. No matter what “it” is. If it’s the basis of a decision check it out. How do you know it’s true?

Thanksgiving 2018

Thanksgiving 2018

This is a repost of what I said on Nov. 21, 2012.  It’s still on target, and I could see no reason to rewrite it.  Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate it.

**********

And thanks for the not so sunny things in life….

And now, for a non-political, non-denominational nod to the value of gratitude…

Thanksgiving Day is upon us–at least for those of us who live in the United States.  What Mom or Dad or Grandma used to say is true.  We do have a lot to be thankful for. Even when things aren’t going so very well at all, a lot of stuff is going right that we often don’t take the time to acknowledge.

This year I’m being thankful for the very act of being thankful.  It’s like a wonder drug.  When I take the time to look at all the good things in my life and utter a prayer of gratitude, I raise my happiness index into the ozone.  Yep.  Be thankful; be happy.

So what am I thankful for this soggy Wednesday-before-Thanksgiving?

I’m thankful for where I live–in a warm house in a place that hasn’t been ravaged by hurricanes or wildfires or horrendous snow storms.  But I’m also thankful that I live in a culture that helps when those bad things happen.  And that gets itself up, dusts itself off, and gets on with getting back on its collective feet when it does.  Generosity and grit build a pretty solid community, and I am lucky indeed to be in a country like that.

I am thankful for what I get to do with my time.  I love what I do.  It doesn’t always go the way I want, but it’s the right path and I can feel that to the bottom of my soul.  But I’m also thankful for the years (yes, years!) that I’ve spent wandering around in the emotional dark trying to figure it out.  That painful time was an important step in assuring that where I walk so happily now is solid ground.  I’m also thankful that I already know I will likely circle back around through that trying territory again at some point in the future.  That is okay–because the trip will come with reconfirmation of all I value and how to best use my time in this life.

I’m thankful for family and friends.    Loving and being loved is the glue of a good life.  But I’m also thankful for the times I’ve been in that space of “alone.”  Connection keeps my world warm, but sometimes, I need a splash of solitary “cold water” to help me get back on track with how I am treating the people in my life–and myself.

I am thankful for sunshine, blue skies, lovely warm weather, and the chance to hike high in the mountains of this beautiful place I’m blessed to live when the weather allows.  But I am also grateful for these truncated days of late fall when it’s dark before dinner and the rain just keeps coming.  The short days remind me that one of the greatest gifts of being human is the need to believe when things are dark and slow.  We live “not knowing” and have to learn to trust that the sun will bring the long days back, that all is well, and that we can get through the hard times if we just keep going.

Yes, I am thankful.  And that makes me happier than anything else I can think of to do.  An attitude of gratitude cuts a clear path to enjoying life–regardless of whether what’s coming down at the moment is wonderful or not-so-grand.

As you prep the turkey or sit down to the feast, wind your way to Grandmother’s house in bumper to bumper traffic or wait in line for TSA at the airport, give thanks.  And be thankful most especially for the times and things in your life that don’t seem like pluses.  They’re there for a reason, and the reason is good.  You  just have to understand it.

To those of you with an official holiday for giving thanks in the offing, Happy Thanksgiving!  To those of you who don’t have it on your calendar, give thanks anyway.  It will make you happy.  (And then you have one more thing to give thanks for.)

 

The Power of “Letting People Know”

The Power of “Letting People Know”

When you let people know–what you need, what you have, what you would like to do–you increase your chances of getting what you are trying to accomplish done exponentially.

I’m writing this just after doing some volunteer work at the local library–where I didn’t work much because no one knew about what I was there to do.  Not promoting my availability to do one-on-one job search counseling was a conscious decision.  They were worried too many people would want help and that many wouldn’t get it because I was only there for two hours.  But not telling anyone before the period when I was actually there meant I had a lot of time to read magazines I don’t ordinarily get to see.

It also made me stop and think about how many ways there are to benefit from “letting people know.”

The obvious one is if you are job hunting.  Letting every person who knows your name know what you are looking for is essential.  There really are only a few steps between you and what you need–just as the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon party game suggests.  (Microsoft actually tested the premise–that any two people  in the world are connected by way of no more than six intermediate people–and found it to be very close to that.)  So “let people know” if you are looking for work, projects, internship opportunities, whatever.

Last week, my brother called asking if I needed a new dishwasher.  He had just purchased one he could not return, and it didn’t work in his kitchen.  I did (need a new dishwasher).  Desperately.  One friend described mine as sounding like I was washing bowling balls.  But I had just purchased one as part of a major kitchen remodel and was within days of getting it installed.  I did, however, know of someone else who needed a new dishwasher.  So I called him…and now his family has a nice new dishwasher.

I have a wonderful hiking group that I go out with on Wednesday mornings.  I would still be yearning for the chance to get up in the mountains if I hadn’t “let someone know” that I was looking for a way to hike.

Three very different examples of the same principle:  Good things happen when you “let people know.”  This isn’t a case of “expecting” people to give you what you need.  It’s more like getting your name on the list for the Universe to work with.

Let people know…if you’d like to meet some new members of the opposite sex…if you need a handyman….if you want to wallpaper your dining room with tinfoil and are wondering just how to do that.

The power of community is one of the sweetest things about being human.  You tap into it by “letting people know.”