When my kids were very little, I was told repeatedly that if I did not put them down, they would never learn to walk.
But I did not put them down, not until they asked (twice) to come down from my hip.
And they sure learned to walk.
They learned to run.
And they learned to fly.
During the course of few weeks, one flew to Brazil, one jumped out of an airplane and one ... flew an airplane.
They are not the scared, dependent little people that I was warned about. They are curious and they are confident enough to converse with their curiosity, to dance with it. They walk the world feeling safe.
It reminds me of a line I read once, many years ago before I even had children. It is from Bryce Courtenay's character, Peekay. Peekay, recalling his childhood, says: "in giving me independence of thought, they had given me the greatest gift and adult can give to a child besides love. And they had given me that, also."
It is hard to feel true independence of thought when we are "needing," when our basic needs are not met. Sometimes, this takes sitting on a loving hip for a couple of years.
Yesterday morning was my oldest son's 16th birthday.
I woke up excited at the idea of celebrating this special day in the way that he had asked: I was taking him and his friend skydiving.
I knew that from the moment I opened my eyes until the moment we were all in car, ready to go, a lot had to happen: the dog wanted breakfast, so did all the kids. Chris and I wanted "green smoothies" - and he wanted his without bananas. Sandwiches needed to be made and packed, the birthday cake needed to find its way into the back of the car. Emmett needed a ride from the ferry. There was some tie dye stuff left over from last night to clean up and I had a few emails to answer.
As I went from one thing to the next, I had my eye on the clock, knowing that we had to leave by 10. At 9:30, all the stuff was done and it was now time to get ME ready.
As I closed the bathroom door, after announcing that I was "just going to jump in and have a quick shower," I realized that I did not want a quick shower. Actually, I wanted a nice, long and fragrant one. I wanted to take my time and take care of me, for the next little while.
So I did.
Instead of a 5 minute shower, I spent 20 minutes in the bathroom. I savored the solitude, I savored the whole process. I made a conscious choice not to rush and to give to ME.
And while we did leave 10 minutes later than we would have had if I had "just jumped in real quick," those 10 extra minutes made me feel so taken care of, so "well" that as I emerged, I was fully ready to give.
Give my time, my attention, my love - and be "well" enough to watch my kid jump out of an airplane and hoot as he opened his big green parachute.
This morning, I think back about a particular speaking engagement.
It was a big one. A room full of counselors and a whole day of training/sharing/questioning/exploring with many brilliant minds who have been "in the field" for decades.
At the end of the day, as I often do, I asked them to fill out an evaluation form.
A few minutes after leaving the event (I have not yet learned to wait until the next day as most speakers do), I am in the car, reviewing the forms.
Out of 30 forms, 28 are ecstatic. They feel that their day was well spent, that they have gained new and important tools and that they are looking forward to us spending more time together in the future as well as to spreading the wealth of what they have learned with their own clients.
One form is ambivalent, not convinced that this was what she was looking for at this time.
One form is unhappy. The material was too general.
I am crushed.
I am crushed and just like that - very possibly because I am tired and have very little resources left - I take it in way deep inside of me.
I allow it to fade the other words of praise. It becomes mostly all I remember about this presentation.
The "big girl" part of me knows that I cannot reach every person in the audience; it knows that even if I make a big difference in only one person's life, my days was well spent. A part of me knows to remain in my own business and trust others to navigate theirs.
The "business person" in me wants to know more, to improve. What could I have done better? After all, this is why I ask for those evaluations.
And the tired part of me wants to cry. Very specifically because I am tired.
From now on, I will take the advice of generations of well seasoned speakers and wait.
A few weeks ago, I was in bed reading Don Aslett's famous "Clutter's Last Stand" when it occurred to me that I would love to connect with Don and hear more about this empire he has built around clutter busting and smart house cleaning. A few phone calls lead me to him and yesterday, a box came in the mail.
I received an email, this morning, from a speaker's bureau offering to list me in their directory - along with a link to their website.
Seemed interesting enough that I picked up the phone to find out more.
The first thing the man on the other line (the owner of the company) asked me was if I had looked at their website.
I hadn't. Their email was compelling enough that I had wanted to talk to someone. Thus the phone call.
He did not feel the same way.
Every time I asked a question to try and understand how they operated, I would be told to "look at the website."
After being told to look at the website four times in lieu of actually communicating, I thanked the man for his time and hung up.
Websites are great. Especially at 3 in the morning. But - I feel - their purpose is to get you to want MORE. To pick up the phone and connect.
To reverse the flow and see your website as a substitute for human interaction and thus tell a live person who was interested enough to pick up the phone to "go back to my website and call me if you have any question" is fully missing the point.
(Uncharacteristically long for him, but darn good.)
The places you go
"Over the weekend I visited one of my favorite places. It didn't matter that I hadn't been there in a while, or didn't know most of the people I encountered. The second I walked in, heard the noise, saw the walls... even the way it smelled... I was transported.
It’s incredible to think about--a room could magically change the way I felt. A physical room with the right memories can do this in just a heartbeat. So can a metaphorical one, even a brand.
The states of your emotions (your moods and passions) are like rooms in a house.
Anxiety, flow, joy, fear, exhaustion, connection, contemplation, emotional labor... each one can be visited at will if we choose. Sometimes by entering a real room, but more often in metaphor...
Do you have a friend you can have an intimate, tearful conversation with anytime you pick up the phone? Is there a topic that if you bring it up with your boss, it will quickly lead to contention? Is there a place or a memory that never fails to bring melancholy along with it?
Occasionally we encounter emotions at random. More often, we have no choice, because there’s something that needs to be done, or an event that impinges itself on us. But most often, we seek emotions out, find refuge in them, just as we walk into the living room or the den.
Stop for a second and reread that sentence, because it’s certainly controversial. I’m arguing that more often than not, we encounter fear or aggravation or delight because we seek it out, not because it’s thrust on us.
Why check your email every twenty minutes? It’s not because it needs checking. It’s because the checking puts us into a state we seek out. Why yell at the parking attendant with such gusto? Teaching him a lesson isn’t the point--no, in that moment, it’s what we want to do, it’s a room we choose to hang out in. It could be something as prosaic as getting involved in a flame war online every day, or checking your feeds at midnight or taking a shot or two before dinner. It’s not something you have to do, it’s something you choose to do, because going there takes your emotions to a place you’ve gotten used to, a place where you feel comfortable, even if it makes you unhappy.
There’s a metaphorical room I can go to where I’m likely to experience flow--a sense of being in the moment and getting an enormous amount done. Down the hall is the room where there’s a lot of anxiety about something I can’t change. I can visit that room if I choose, but I don’t. And yes, it’s a choice.
Great brands figure out how to supply a ‘room’ to anyone who chooses to visit. Soap opera fans, for example, can count on being put into a certain state anytime they tune in. The Apple store is carefully calibrated as an architectural and retail room that will change how you feel when you enter it. Chiat Day built offices in New York and LA that triggered huge waves of creativity. And there's nothing like the face of a kid eating a Hershey's bar... YouTube isn't just video. It's a room. Not everyone uses it the same way, but most people use it the same way every time they use it. If it's the site people go to see stupid pet tricks and write stupider comments, then they know why they're going and it's going to be hard for it to become something else... Is your brand providing the right room to the right people at the right time? Most products, most services--they provide a thing, a list of features, but not a room for my emotions.
This insight about our moods and your brand is all well and good, but it becomes essential once you realize that there are some rooms you’re spending way too much time in, that these choices are taking away from your productivity or your happiness.
Why are you going there again?
Every time you go to that room, you get unhappy, and so do we. Every time you go that room, you spend more time than you expected, and it stresses out the rest of your day. Every time you go to that room you short-circuit the gifts you give to the rest of the team.
Once your habit becomes an addiction, it’s time to question why you get up from a room that was productive and happy, a place you were engaged, and walk down the hall to a room that does no one any good (least of all, you). Tracking your day and your emotions is a first step, but it takes more than that. It takes the guts to break some ingrained habits, ones that the people around you might even be depending on."
So there I was, on a rainy August Monday, juggling numbers to figure out how I was going to pay for the new printing of my book.
As always, the figuring out got figured out but not until I spent a few minutes cursing this unemployable streak of mine: Laura, why can't you just work for someone? Do you know how nice a regular paycheck could be? Do you know how amazing "benefits" are? Do you?
Truthfully, I don't. But many parts of it (the regular paycheck being waaay on top of the list) do sound pretty nice.
And then it was the middle of the afternoon. And the figuring out had left me a just a little tired. The rain falling softly on the deck was lulling me to a slower pace.
So, just like that,without even having to tell a soul, I ran myself a nice hot bath and got ready for a great, luxurious, decadent post-soak nap.
If I am up in the middle of the night, it seems that I could just get my work done right then and when I get tired, the next day, just go to sleep.
Doesn't that make sense? Who cares if my writing was done at 3AM or 3PM?
That's what I tell myself on those rare occasions when sleep dodges me. Like today.
So I grab my Mac and we snuggle in bed. It's dark outside, the cat is confused and I am filled with good, fully sensible intentions.
Only, darn it, it does not work that way.
My mind, at 3 in the morning, is only sharp enough for a trip down Facebook avenue. I tell myself that any second now, I will be able to flip flop my daily work into this strange, velvety world of dark, silence and peace. I tell myself that for plenty of writers, this is the perfect time.
"You have today's meal before you on the table and sit and fret over what will be tomorrow -- and you claim you are "just being practical."
This is not being practical -- this is confusion.
Every day you are nourished straight from His full, open and overflowing hand. Everything in between -- all your work and accounts and bills and receivables and clientele and prospects and investments -- all is but a cloud of interface between His giving hand and your soul, an interface of no real substance which He bends and flexes at whim.
If so, if He is feeding you today, and He has fed you and provided all you need and more all these days, what concerns could you have about tomorrow? Is there then something that could stand in His way? Could He possibly have run out of means to provide for you?"
Take your focus off the measured channels by which you receive and place your eyes on the Infinite Source of Giving. The Source has no lack of channels."
It had happened many times before but for some reason, even though it bugged me, I had never asked.
Chris, at the stove, preparing some saucy delight and setting the saucy delight spoon right on top of the delightfully white enamel of the stove. One inch away from the perfectly suited, "spoon holder thingy."
Yesterday was no different:
I had just cleaned the kitchen, including wiping down the stove.
He was reheating one of his amazing BBQ sauces.
The saucy spoon was right next to the holder. Rich brown sauce smeared all over pristine white stove.
So I asked.
Feeling more curious than annoyed, I asked.
"Babe, why do you lay the spoon right on the stove instead of on the spoon holder?"
Then, his answer:
"Well, I did not want to get that thingy on the stove dirty."
There we have it.
Al Turtle would smile and say "you see? we all make sense, all the time."