January 2013

The woman who felt free to forget

I opened my computer to find a Skype message from Angela asking me what we had decided she should bring with her for our meeting today, She listed the things she remembered, and followed the list with  …and?

Wow. I know there’s something else too, but can’t remember what. I’m reviewing our recent conversations to see if any of it triggers the memory.

But the beauty, real beauty, is in having the freedom to admit to having forgotten. If you have it, you probably don’t think anything of it. If you don’t have it, you probably don’t even notice that you don’t ask or admit. There are so many ways we hide normal human limitations, when admitting them, not only is no big deal, but is a natural step forward. 

Now, what was that other thing she was going to bring to show me?

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The man who made friends with fear to rise out of anxiety

“That’s not fear that’s plaguing you. It’s anxiety. Fear is an E-motion. It energizes. Anxiety is a thief. It zaps your resources.”

The lights went on and while this was just a beginning, the man felt a life-changing liberation. He still had a mess to clean up in his metaphorical basement, but he had the clarity now to move toward life and away from being frozen by anxiety. 

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The woman who honored me by applying my phrasing

chair“Are you at your computer?” I asked.

“No”, she said. “I’m curled up in a comfortable chair. My candle’s lit.” 

Her phrase referred to a blog post from two days ago, where I wrote about a candle being lit as a metaphor for being completely focused on the other person.

The fact that her “candle was lit” for me was an honor in itself. But this phrase showed how attentive she is. She doesn’t just read my words. She lets them influence her. (I let her words inspire me, too. We’re both better for it.)

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The girl who asked backwards

queston maark-sm“Would you mind if I keep the oil warmer in my bathroom? And will you get it for me?”

As soon as I finished my sentence, I wondered, “What am I really asking here?”  I knew he’d be happy for me to keep it in my bathroom. I just wanted him to get it for me, since it was beyond my reach. So why didn’t I just ask?

He laughed a little at the question and happily fetched it for me. Not a big deal in this case, but communication habits are tenacious—and fascinating.


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The man whose candle was lit and was completely there

candleRecently a friend called me for a conversation while waiting for a doctor’s appointment. That wouldn’t have been a problem if the call was to relay information. But the purpose of the call was to discuss how we could understand each other better. Some defensiveness had crept into our conversations, and we had planned to talk about how we could change that. 

I wasn’t sure whether to attempt to have this delicate discussion under these circumstances, but after a few preliminaries, I dove in to what I had been struggling to say to her. About 45 seconds after I started, she interrupted me to tell me she needed to go because the doctor was ready.

This is not the way to have an intimate conversation. Fortunatley, we spoke later in the week under better circumstances, and it went well.

More recently yet, a group of my friends and I planned a New Year’s visioning discussion. One of the members scheduled a handy man at the same time. She was texting, couldn’t get where she could receive a strong signal, and clearly was distracted. This is not the way to have an intimate conversation either. 

I once had a mentor who multi-tasked when we spoke. I asked him what the noise I heard was, and he explained he was sortng poetry.

When I spoke with my current mentor about conversations in uncondusive situations, he remarked:

  • When you call me, my candle is lit and I’m all yours.

I like the metaphor. Lighting a candle invokes a tone—a mood—that is condusive to tender feeling, safety, and a lack of defensiveness. It sends a signal that you are giving yourself to whatever activity or conversation you are embarking on.

So next time you have a valued conversation, you may not need to light an actual candle, but light a metaphorical one. Create a situation where if you said,

  • My candle is lit and I’m all yours

they would feel it. 

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The man who thought the alternative to being opinionated was to be wimpy

He’s talented, dedicated, smart, charming and skilled. He is a man of conviction. There is much to admire. But he has a near-fatal flaw. He likes to be the one with all the answers. He has an opinion on just about everything, which he will share whether you indicate interest or not. 

For a few of my friends, this flaw is a deal-breaker. They like him—they like his work—but they stopped using his services because he hard-sells his ideas.

When one more friend told me she wasn’t going back to him, and why, I had to say something. I consider him a friend, and friends don’t let friends sabotage themselves without input.

So I raised the issue with him, told him why some people I know stopped coming to him, and told him how I sometimes don’t share my thoughts with him because I don’t want to be lectured.

To his credit, he heard me. He did ask if it would be better to be wimpy. I replied,

  • There are alternatives.

The same black-and-white thinking that fuels the intensity of his opinions limits his idea of options. Many people think that way: “If you’re not overbearing, you’re wimpy.”

It takes a while to strike any kind of balance between the opposites of life. I find it helps a lot to know you have more communication choices than being passive or being aggressive. While you attempt to strike the balance, I suggest you let yourself err in the direction that is the opposite of your normal imbalance. If you’ve been hard-selling your ideas, balance will probably seem wimpy, even if it’s perfect. 

Yesterday I posted about Jodi Foster’s award acceptance speech. She spoke about her plans to “move people by being moved.”

The one with all the answers doesn’t do that. 

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Jodi Foster expressess real

Jodi FosterHow do celebrities manage to stay sane and genuine in a world where people project their delusions and fantasies on them? It’s hard enough to be sane and genuine living a normal life without the scrutiny of the public eye.

Jodi Foster shared some of her challenges with being a public figure, some of her strategies, and some of her heart in her Golden Globe lifetime achievement award speech. She noted:

“If you were a public figure since you were a toddler, if you had to fight for a life that felt real and normal against all odds, perhaps you too would value privacy above all else.”

“A few secrets to keeping your psyche in tact over such a long career. The first, love people and stay beside them.”

Then she made a touching tribute to her mother. She said:

“Evelyn. Mom, I know you’re inside those blue eyes somewhere and that there are so many things that you won’t understand tonight.

But this is the only important one to take in: I love you, I love you, I love you. And I hope that if I say this three times, it will magically and perfectly enter into your soul, fill you with grace and the joy of knowing that you did good in this life. You’re a great mom. Please take that with you when you’re finally OK to go.”

Looking ahead, she talked about how she planned to

“Move people by being moved.”

Think about that one for a moment. Powerful words from a powerful woman.

I’m saying a similar thing to my parents in their final years—not on national TV and not in such direct wording. I pick my words to fill their hearts with grace and to let them know they did good in this world.

Thanks, Jodi, for not being seduced by the inflations of your profession, and for winning the fight to be real and normal. And thanks for sharing your heart with us.

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A funny thing happened nine months after Bob and I married

We got married, and nine months later… I’m going through every closet and drawer and shelf and organizing and sorting and straightening and shining and adding sparkle everywhere.

Spice beforeFunny how that happened all of a sudden. Kind of a nesting thing. Hmm. 

Okay, it’s also true that after so many years of being so overbooked and also learning and teaching lean administration, I’ve been itching to “lean out” my home and my life. I was almost bursting in November when I led an online admin training and we talked about flow. I felt an urgency to live lean at a deeper level. 

after spices

And now I’m creating space and flow and systems that work for me. 

My assistant Angela and I fed each other’s yearning for space. We also shared before and after pictures. Hers were stunning to me. I’ll share my spice cabinet. I see her pictures and am ready for the next organizational challenge. She sees mine and is ready to take on another area, or “zone” of her organizational projects. Pictures communicate powerfully. 

It’s a beautiful thing!

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