Many years ago, I interviewed for a regional management position.
I expected the pat questions.
Instead, the interview was, “Prepare your action plan and present it to our leaders.”
They gave me an hour to prepare. At minute 53, I was sweating profusely over a blank sheet of paper.
At minute 54, after a desperate prayer, I noticed their strategic vision statement on the wall.
At minute 60, I had crafted a presentation to match that statement. They offered me the job.
Often, the key to magical communication lies in understanding the audience.
In relationships, I often skip that step and my words skip over them like a well-thrown rock across a pond.
People listen when, before opening our mouth, we replace our…
point of view
“You live life forward, but understand it backward. It is only when you stop and look in the rear that you see the corpse caught under your wheel.” – Abraham Verghese
This quote craftily describes that sickening, sinking feeling that comes with the awareness (or the memory) of having made the wrong decision.
If I had only…is the plague and the gaping wound of our human condition that will not heal…unless…we grab the tourniquet of today, wrap it tightly around the bleeding past, and step with resolve into tomorrow.
I can only do that when I remember:
It is no crime to be fallible.
Redemption dwells in strange places.
Power belongs to the present, and
If I have been given breath, there is hope for tomorrow
(Initially posted in 2012. If you haven’t read the book, it is quite enlightening.)
First meeting someone
I may be impressed with their intelligence
Beauty, talent, wealth, or power
But the one quality
That grabs and holds my attention is
A persons’ quality of seeing
It is so absolutely rare
To meet someone
Who sees me
Instead of their own agenda
Who listens instead of talks
Who is open to learn
Instead of hopelessly in love
With their own thoughts
Wow, when I meet someone like this
I’m instantly in love
Outward appearances fall away
And I suddenly remember that
All the other qualities may burn me
(or dissolve away)
But this one quality of presence
Brings health, healing, hope
And heaven with it
Unfortunately, most of us have been there, and can painfully recall the desolate landscape.
Anne Lamott’s insightful quote reminds me of a story I once heard about former North Dakota Congresswoman, Rebecca Dunn. She was a powerful negotiator and public speaker, and when asked about the source of her power, she responded with this:
Her answer makes more sense when we keep in mind that everyone’s heart is breaking, or has broken, or will break.
It is good advice for any of us who want to add depth to our communications…
…with friends and foes.
Our dog thinks I’m an idiot.
When we come back from going out
He stands planted in the hall
Resisting the turn toward the elevator
Motioning me toward the door
(On the wrong floor)
“Why this unnecessary time in the box when our door is in sight?”
He says with his eyes
In an indecipherable explanation
I say, “We must go up”
And reluctantly gets in
Much like I do
When the Universe asks me to get in the lift
Before I do my work
Trying hard to remember
There’s a level of understanding
Beyond my own
That will get me to
The right door
And save me the time and inconvenience
Of the wrong
To have great interest in the lives of those who suffer, and, in how we can alleviate (by any small act) the pain they endure, will always work to our benefit. The better we relate now to those whose circumstances are less fortunate than our own, the easier it will be to cope later when the roles of loss fall to us.
And they will.
The external pillars that support our current construct of certainty and happiness will inevitably crumble, leaving us exposed, with only the pillars of strength that we have built quietly and steadily within.
Build with compassion today, because roles will ultimately, and always, flip on us.
Jack was referring to business, but the sentiment is universal.
If trees are just trees to you
And not jaw-dropping edifices that rose out of dirt
(The freakin’ dirt!)
As inconspicuous as grass
Somehow spared by mower, herbivore, and weather
If they are not high-performance landscape
Original works of art
Treasured shade and succor for myriad versions of life
Housing super-highways of nutrients
Commanding leaves of every color in the spectrum
Blossoms, both dainty and strong
Geometrically modern and traditional
Nuts, cones, burrs, berries, fruit,
And all manner of other inventive offspring
(Oh! And don’t forget the bark!)
You won’t get it when I say
You are born of magic and have power beyond your wildest imagination.
I just love this word because it perfectly describes what it feels like when I meet a person who has it.
The “gravity” of their suffering, their depth, their expanse…pulls me toward them. I effortlessly enter their orbit, drawn by open eyes that see, bent ears that hear, and knowing hands that reach out, momentarily embracing my world or revealing theirs.
I felt the gravitas last night, speaking with a man who painfully escaped death beside his not-so-lucky friend in the oil field, with a couple who had lost their business and fortune and had started over from the bottom, and with the reading of a Billy Collins poem, The First Dream.
The bonus of seeking out people with gravitas is the way we walk afterwards…our steps more firmly planted into the rich earth.
Mary Doria Russell, an anthropologist, wrote a great sci-fi book that demonstrates it wasn’t just foreign missionaries who messed up things with their intrusion into other cultures. Through the book we understand that even the most intelligent people with the best intentions screw up royally.
I love this book because it has reminded me to forgive myself and others for serious stuff.
It also reminds me to stop the self-righteous condemnation of others that often expresses itself as, “I can’t believe they did that!” or “How dare they?” etc., as if I am surprised with human nature.
Accepting the glaring fallibility of others is easier when I stop sitting in judgement, pretending that I am any better.
This dark book gives light if we aren’t afraid of owning our kinship.
Fresh Minds Matter posted this image on Facebook. I wanted to share it since I had spent my morning meditating on this concept. If we believe it, this is how it should change the way we think:
- When someone else loses, suffers, craters, etc…so do I.
- Every single one of us is connected to each other.
- “Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” – John Donne
- It is to my benefit to treat all strangers as I want my loved ones to be treated.
- Treating people like props on our stage is the essence of immaturity.
- Even someone who has hurt me requires love.
- All that is not love is a call for love.
- Mercy triumphs over judgement. More mercy. Less criticism.