I think about things. I’m a thinker. I think about things a lot. It is one of my special skills. If I had a super power, and I truly believe we all do, I believe we all have several super powers actually, I would put my ability to think things through as mine. Behold: The Processor! No, that sounds like I am going to julienne something. I need an awesome super hero name. The Sage! Hmm, it sounds like I go well with chicken and potatoes. I do love chicken and potatoes. Thinkatron! Hmm, that sounds like a short-lived cartoon from the 80s. Okay, clearly we aren’t going to solve this right now, let’s just move on.
Here is the thing about thinking – just like with anything else, it’s important to find a balance. Too little and late night infomercials make *WAY TOO MUCH* sense. Too much and you stop yourself in your tracks, unsure of the best course of action. You can see too many options, too many possibilities.
I recently started a new job after a rewarding experience that had some disappointment. Moving into the new job I wanted to keep what was good but not repeat what was disappointing. The problem was, I wasn’t sure how I had missed the signs of disappointment before. Looking back I could see much more clearly. I could see from the first interactions that there were hints of what was to come. Maybe I misinterpreted them? I either didn’t see them, I didn’t want to see them, or I saw them and I read them as something else. So how do I avoid repeating that? How do I take the lesson and not repeat the pattern?
At first I was tempted to just beat myself up. How could I have been so stupid? Let’s review, step through it, there it is… there it is… yep, there it is again! But then I stopped and realized what I was doing. I was looking at one piece of the picture… and a piece that was only clear now that other pieces had come together. I needed to expand my view. I needed to step back and look at what else was there.
Hey, remember that excitement I felt when they talked about the program? Yeah. And remember how we did that work together? Yep. And remember how they said I could bring that cool thing to the program that had never been done there before, and I did? Alright. So yeah, what was clear was the positive, and that was real. The signs for the disappointment are clear and connected now, but they weren’t always so obvious, and it took me a minute to get there, and that is okay. So maybe moving forward I can work on how to recognize the warning signs and not get blinded by the positive, but the negative doesn’t negate the positive. Both can be true.
So back to overthinking. I started my new job with excitement and a little nervousness. I wanted to head off any possible disappointment at the pass. It sounded great… so I had to keep looking. I was determined to use my skills. I went into the interview and did the best I could to read body language and word choice, so that I was *sure* that I wasn’t just accepting the approved script that was being served to me. I felt pretty good about my selection. As my start date approached and my final paperwork was due, I *still* felt nervous. What the hell? I started, I loved it, I still felt doom. Seriously, WTF? This is a new way of working for me, but I really like it… so I questioned its fundamental theoretical underpinnings… as you do. 🙂
Then I remembered something that my Dad told me before I took a big test: “Don’t make this more difficult – it’s not as hard as you think it is. Don’t overthink this.” That’s when I decided to just try it and see how it goes. I was so worried about doing things the most appropriate way and avoiding harm that I neglected to consider that there is a whole world of knowledge and wisdom out there that comes from experiencing. And yeah, sometimes that means making mistakes and falling on my face… but I can just pick myself up again and keep moving. A big part of that is accepting that in order to truly and meaningfully connect and engage with people, I am opening up the possibility that I may harm someone along the way. Should that happen, it is my duty to own that – whether I intended harm or not – and to make amends. Knowing that has given me great peace and great freedom.
I had the wonderful experience of apologizing to someone this week. I didn’t mean to harm them – it was unintentional, and in fact they didn’t even realize that I had harmed them, but I realized it, and it required an apology. We ended up having a conversation and understood each other better at the end of it.
The idea that if I move throughout the world with authentic and honest intentions, and if I own my own part of what I contribute to the world, that any unintentional harm I may cause has the possibility of being met with openness is so powerful to me. The idea that the power of a sincere, communicated apology can heal and strengthen far beyond any unintentional wound is so beautiful to me – in part because I have witnessed it so many times. The funny thing about apologies is that people so often think of them as “all or nothing” propositions, with a clear winner and a clear loser. The truth of the matter is when apologies are done well they can serve to bring people closer together. An apology is just a way to say “I’ve just realized something I didn’t understand before, I’d like to talk with you about it” or “I’m so sorry, I didn’t see it from your perspective, I’m interested though.” An apology isn’t a defeat, it’s a doorway to an amazing room that we can explore together.
So today I am thankful for my Dad, who throughout my life has encouraged me to think things through but not to overthink things. I am thankful for the wonderful letter he wrote to me as I went off to college, telling me that college wasn’t all about the classroom and to be sure to get out there and party (I’m paraphrasing, but only a little… also achievement unlocked Dad!), and I’m thankful for him reminding me of that advice later on in life when I was AGAIN facing that same challenge. These personality traits sure run deep, don’t they?
Dad’s reminder to me to get out of my head and get back into my gut, my inner wisdom, helps me stay grounded and helps me remember to value my feelings and the feelings of others. It also helps me remember to seek and value wisdom in all of its forms, without over-privileging one, even when I just want to cling to a security blanket. Thanks Dad, this piece of wisdom/smack over the head has helped me in more ways than I can tell you. Now excuse me while I go turn on the television and watch sitcoms.