I’m enjoying Sarah’s posts. I have three or four comments I want to make about each of them, a good sign in a blog, don’t you think? But that’s not MY job, it’s YOUR job, readers, so I’ll post something of my own instead.
I’m returning from a week on the road, a couple of days in Columbus for my grandson’s fourth birthday and some quick visits with friends, and then a week working out-of-town. The visit with the grandsons has resulted in a mild case of pneumonia. Apparently I will return from every visit with a bug of some kind. So far they’re worth the trouble, but I haven’t contracted anything awful yet. Thanks, kids.
The working environment was primitive — no Internet access. I had also decided to take only the car charger for my phone, so even if I had had the time to chat, I couldn’t because my phone flashed “low battery” for the entire week.
A couple of things happened as a result of my being disconnected for a week. I was very much present, as Sarah would say. So available to my clients, an organization that provides services to disadvantaged children, that some of them were offended. I suppose that when you work day after day in an environment where there’s so much despair and failure, you settle into a quiet detachment. I am writing grants, not working with the kids, but I had a group of them around me the whole time, asking questions, showing me their report cards, borrowing my mechanical pencil.
If you know me, you know that I approach work with a scary sense of urgency, full of ideas, let’s get on with it, go, go, go. The new executive director of the organization was happy, but the weary employees were not. They don’t want a bite of this hope thing, because all they taste is disappointment. We seemed to be friends when I left yesterday afternoon, but maybe they were just glad to see me go.
Several of my friends became concerned because I wasn’t responding to calls and emails. Or not responding quickly or often enough. They knew where I was, but something seemed wrong, because I wasn’t on the wire. The other side of taking time to talk to the person in front of you instead of the person sending you emails is that the one on the wire can become more demanding. (Not talking about you, Sarah.) And all the chatter! How many junk emails does one person need to send me in a day? Part of being present is reducing the number and increasing the quality of interactions. Please stop forwarding Internet junk mail to me!
It wasn’t just friends sending emails and texts and calling. It was a local city official, to discuss a proposal he intended to make at an upcoming meeting. It was someone asking me to convert a document and print it so someone else could take it to a different city meeting. It was someone asking me to write a press release. Help with a newsletter. Talk to someone about a presentation. Good grief.
Remember the old Tarzan movies? There was one in which a “native” was strapped by the bad guys to a couple of saplings — one leg to one tree, the other to a different tree. Then the ropes holding the trees to the ground were cut, and the poor fella, screaming, was pulled apart?
It’s clear that if I’m going to embark upon my big adventure, I’m going to have to cut back. I have no time in my schedule to get my own stuff done. Yes, I know this is a self-help cliché, and common (Oprah variety) wisdom would say I’m using all of this activity to avoid doing things for myself. Bullshit. The truth is that there are very real problems in the world, and if you aren’t doing anything to help, then you’re suffering from a poverty of character. You’re part of the problem, and you’re taking up space that could be occupied by a person who has something to offer.
In a earlier post I talked about all the things I want to do, for me. Somehow I have to find a balance between those things and the things I feel I must do to help, the things that are pulling me apart. And that’s not as easy as the self-help books produced by the psychobabble community would have you believe it is.