Sharing Lessons From Stories We Can’t Tell

"looose HIM! LOOOSE..."
Credit: flickr / icedsoul photography .:teymur madjderey

Last week, I wrote that things have been a little bonkers lately. I have not spent seven days straight in Ottawa since the start of August and I’m stressed, discombobulated, and overwhelmed.

Normally, I figure things about by writing about them. Lots of work on? How can I be more organized/better at delegating/manage my time most effectively? Screwed something up? How can I do better next time? Working something out? What can I share as I go?

However, lately there’s been a number of things on my mind that I can’t write about – either because I’m not ready, or I don’t want to share someone else’s business, or because my writing about the situation would make something difficult and stressful worse. So the other day, Sacha and I had a long mentoring chat – which was great. I opened up about a bunch of things that had been bothering me and she was really helpful.

Something that we both touched on, though, was in these situations, you want to share what you’re learning but for whatever reason it’s hard. Sacha doesn’t publish everything she writes, but I don’t journal – I write to share. This is good because it motivates me to find a way to tell the story in such a way that I can share it, but in some situations that’s not possible – what then?

Perhaps we can share some high level observations, and the story – retell that later, when it’s less close to home. Here are some things I’ve been learning.

People will think what they want to think. If someone has made up their mind, it’s hard to change it. I’ve been in a situation lately where someone has made up their mind that I’m the bad guy and in doing so they’ve almost proved themselves right. I’ve been working very hard to be reasonable and not to react, but their determination that I must be against them means that anything I do – or don’t do – is inserted in the picture of “evil Cate”. I don’t understand why someone would live like that – it’s exhausting.

Don’t beat yourself up for your priorities at the time. I was stressing that I wasn’t living by my values – being truly “outside the box” (Leadership and Self-Deception, The Anatomy of Peace – both Amazon). Sacha asked me what more I could have done to make the situation better, and obviously some things sprang to mind – there’s always more you can do to make any situation better. However we talked about my priorities at the time where me doing something would have been helpful and I had more important things going on than this person’s drama. My priorities then have influenced this outcome – I can’t change that, and wouldn’t want to.

Other people have no concept of what your priorities are, or what your schedule looks like. One of my friends had been part of the situation and I was a little upset because I felt that he was buying into this person’s perception of me and my actions. Once we had a chance to talk and I had started explaining the separation between my actions as a facilitator and my personal views and he also realized just how much I’d had going on the last couple of months, his attitude changed and things are better between us now.

I’ve not been to the chiropractor since I got back from the UK because she will tell me I should come in 3 times a week and I just can’t do that when I’m flitting about so much! Meanwhile, Goodlife forced me to buy 60 training sessions and promised to sell any I had over because the assumption was that like other people I was exaggerating about how much I was flitting about. In fact, it ended up being an underestimate because new things came up and so I’m calling that promise in!

You can say “I haven’t spent seven straight days at home for the last two months”, but unless someone has/does live like that they have no clue what that means in terms of living. For me, going to the chiropractor is useful, but it’s not my number 1 priority. And when number 1 priority stuff isn’t happening, stuff that isn’t a number 1 priority sure isn’t.

Make a plan. Sacha quickly picked up on the fact that a big part of what was stressing me was the uncertainty. If X is happening, OK – I’ll take care of that. If Y – sure, I can work with that. Not knowing, though, is way more difficult.

So much of what we stress about doesn’t really matter. In the big picture, it doesn’t really matter if your sheets clash with your wall for a couple of weeks. A thesis is a big project – a couple of days in the midst of rushing probably won’t make a big difference. It’s sad that some friendships end, but hardly the end of the world. It’s horrible to be discussed behind your back, but the people who know who you really are won’t buy the stuff that isn’t true for more than a moment, if that. People disagree – and mostly we manage to rub along anyway.

And the final, biggest thing I’m realizing – you always think there is more time, until there is not. Are you living by your values, investing in the relationships that matter and living your life today? Because eventually, everything ends and everyone leaves. And the things we did not do… we better hope and work so that they are not the truly important things, that we never got around to making room for in our lives.

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