It happens all the time, but twice this week I stopped and paid attention, because it unnerved me.
Meetings: I have them every day, all week long. Project management, people management, checking in, reporting. Our ‘business’, such as it is, centers on people and God, and so we interact with both throughout our work week. I’m a creative person, and that’s primarily what I bring to the table, but the nature of my role makes me a people person, too. So that’s where much of my attention goes during my work day.
Creative, yes; but my work style is a ‘Director/Motivator’, based on my Insights Profile, so when we get down to business, I often function in a ‘Be Bold, Be Brief, Be Gone’ manner. Here’s a direct quote from my profile:
She is bored by facts, details, and repetitive activities, especially those not relevant to her current areas of interest…only when a strongly held value is at risk will she willingly attend to important facts and details.
We use Insights Profiles to aid in communication and leadership development with our teams. The profiles are amazingly insightful (hence the name!) and helpful as we interact with others, but can I just confess that I’m most fascinated by my own profile? What does that say about me? I’m a horribly selfish, self-absorbed person.
Yes, I am. I’m human. I think we all are fascinated by ourselves to some degree, and maybe that’s a good thing; remember that old adage about an unexamined life not being worth living? Today, I make no claim on humility or putting others first. Today, I’m thinking about me. But, oddly enough, that’s what set me on edge this week.
Several times this week, I started meetings with a general How’s it going? What’s happening with your family / project / relationship / etc? From my supervisory / leadership position, it’s a sincere question; I really want to know. It matters. My colleagues answered and the conversation was flowing easily, but then the tables turned.
How are YOU doing? they asked, and I bristled. I hemmed and hawed…but then I started talking. Or, more accurately, verbally vomiting.
I’m good it’s all good had a long week driving to Florida with my parents but it was great to see family lots of transitions we are planning right now school is almost out kids are fine summer is finally here vacation in just a few weeks lots to juggle wearing lots of hats simultaneously but it’s all good…..
All the while, as the words are tumbling out, internally there are red lights flashing DANGER! DANGER! STOP TALKING! DANGER ZONE! and I found myself irritated by the question.
I don’t want to talk about myself.
(And yet I am fascinated by myself…)
It was unnerving, and in the moment I told myself that I didn’t have time to talk about myself, that we had more important things to do, that my attitude or situation or current state of wellness had nothing to do with the task at hand. Annoyed, I even projected that on the person across the table from me (Why are you derailing this conversation? WE HAVE WORK TO DO! Stop deflecting my attention!!!)
I’ve been thinking about that this morning, because of a card that came in the mail yesterday. One of the people who sat across from me as I was engaged in these internal somersaults sent me a card, and only the Divine Creator of the Universe could have orchestrated its arrival at the most opportune time. Just hours earlier, I was stumbling over my words trying to not talk about myself while simultaneously talking about myself anyway; then I got home and opened the mail and sort of crumbled.
The eagle has become a powerful metaphor for our team. You can read the back story in this blog post from Miles Welch; suffice it to say that we have been captivated and encouraged by the challenge to Be an Eagle. It’s become an axiom for us, and a way to encourage one another. Don’t be a duck; be an eagle!
“Never doubt the eagle that God has placed within you and you are able to soar….”
It appears that I’m working like an eagle, I think. But in another powerful metaphor, the truth is that I’m crippled. I’m struggling with broken wings, and grief that is just now catching up with me; internal assessments of my changing role as I parent adult children and one remaining teen. A challenging cultural climate and changes that push me out of my comfort zone. Changing relationships and the inescapable impact that the passing of time brings to all of us. Changes at work, changes at home…
The key word is change, and for someone who rearranges the living room furniture constantly because I need change, irony reigns here.
Too much change.
And what really happens when people I love and respect and trust say And how are YOU doing? It’s not that we have too much work to get done; it’s not that I doubt their sincerity. It’s that in that brief, honest moment I begin to answer the question and see that the right answer might be, quite simply, Not so well…. Panic sets in and the present tense swirls all around and what needs to simply be an expression of grief turns into me trying to control and explain and manage and sound like I’ve got it together.
I learned something new today; let’s add it on the irony pile. Tradition and the movies have taught us that the cry of an eagle is a loud, piercing, majestic screech. But it’s not true. The sound we associated with an eagle is actually the overdubbed cry of a red-tailed hawk. A real eagle sounds…well, pretty wimpy, actually. It doesn’t quite meet up to expectations.
But it’s true.
And it’s a gift to me, in a bizarre sort of unmasking of assumptions. On this Sabbath day, it is well for me to drop the pretense and slow down and ask myself How are YOU doing? and answer truthfully, even if the reply is nothing but a waterfall of questions and confessions.
Our Insights profiles offer Suggestions For Development that I find especially helpful today.
Beth may benefit from: Slowing down and thinking things through; A week’s private meditation alone; Being left alone to work quietly…
Don’t mind me today; I’m just over here developing. And thankful that all the time, things are working together for good.
And especially grateful for those people who sit across from me and ask How are YOU doing?, even if I’m a bit dodgy with my answers.