People get ready

Arrow highway, which runs right by my hours, is under construction. They are extending a rail line. This has been planned for more than a decade.

We knew it has been coming, but there are lots of meetings and some disagreement about exactly where it will be built. Some want it there; some want it in another place. But now, it’s being built.

Things have changed since the plan was first conceived.

After the lockdowns happened a year and a half ago, the downtowns in many cities are emptying. Those high-rise buildings with fancy lobbies, busy elevators and high rents are empty since people started working from home. This new situation has caused businesses to re-evaluate their office choices.

Do they need those offices? What is the right amount of space for what they need?

Businesses aren’t the only ones responding to the opportunity of the work from home revolution. What if my livelihood no longer nailed to a place?

The internet is talking about “the great reshuffle. I personally know several people who have made the choice to move from a place with expensive housing costs to a place that is more reasonable.

Things have changed since I made my plans. What am I spending my time and treasure on? Am I getting what I want?

Am I watching what is happening? Am I ready to take advantage of the opportunities that change inevitably brings? If I’m not ready I better get ready. The moment is NOW.

I can watch the construction on the rail line and wonder. I am fairly certain they didn’t change their plans when the world changed. Government projects are notoriously rigid.

The lockdown took a lot of things away. But like Pandora’s box it brought gifts. I can check my assumptions to see if they are still valid. What else is possible? If I push on old boundaries, it could be the walls fall down.

Look and See

In a wide sea of eyes
I see one pair that I recognize

And I know
That I am… the luckiest
-Ben Folds

Last week I dropped my daughter off for her first day of Jr. high. She had gone through some agony to choose her outfit.

I remember in 7th grade I was not satisfied with the choices that I had. In my mind, I could have looked so cool. But the clothes I had couldn’t keep up. I landed on a signature choice: I wore different colored socks. I might even wear double slouch socks with four different colors. That was what I did with what I had. The Costco multipack of socks was squeezed of into an expression of uniqueness.

It’s been an elusive goal my whole life. How can I be special?

Life puts out cookie cutter molds and is not polite about making me fit.

Pull back your irrational curls. Lower your voice. Wait your turn. Keep waiting.

You have your place. Stay in your lane.

Yes, it’s nice to belong. It’s scary to stand out.

And yet I want to be seen.

It’s a human need. Kids will cry “Look at me!” And grownups want to find that one person in a sea of humanity. Like the Ben Folds lyric I have at the beginning, to see and be recognized.

You can see a sea. Look at me. See me.

Being subsumed in a group can feel like drowning, but I’m still alive. I’m still here. I don’t belong in anonymity.

No one does.

As much as I want to be seen, I want to see other individuals too. I want to hear your voices. You. Your voice.

That’s the moments I want to live in, listening and sharing. And the world I want to live in. What amazing things can we create together?

Maybe it’s easy for me to lend you a hand when you are too weak.

Maybe you can give me a hug when I need it. Hugs are highly individual.

We can remind each other of our humanity. And I will thank you for it.

How Hungry

It took me forever to finish college. That was the marked-out destination on the game board after high school as far as I knew. But life had gotten in the way and I could cross it off for forever.

In my late twenties I finally got back into a university and began to finish off the required classes. One of the classes was US government or something in that area. The professor was a hundred years old as far as I could tell, but he was so enthusiastic. He loved what he was teaching.

One class, he told us how he started college. He’d gotten in by mail, but he didn’t know how he’d manage to go to college and live.

So he got a suitcase and took—a bus? A train? to the university. He had no money and no place to live, but he was going to go to college. He knew he needed a job first thing. His plan? he walked along the streets of the college and stopped at every business asking for work.

He didn’t get a job that first day. He still had no money. And night came.

The was a park nearby with a couple apricot trees. He took his suitcase to the park and ate the apricots that had fallen from the tree. He slept in the park.

Next day he got up and kept looking for work. He hit the jackpot on the third day with a job and a place to live that came with it. He said he was pretty tired of those apricots.

Hell of a story. He went all the way through to be a professor.

Society was different a hundred years ago.

This last year I’ve been giving my daughter what I call “Independence training.” She’s 12 now. I want her to be able to face whatever life brings her and get what she needs.

I’ve taught her how to do laundry and how to make her bed.

Her favorite skill in the independence category is making ramen soup. She has determined her preferred ratio of flavor packet and water, and makes her own lunch frequently.

What with laundry and ramen soup, I told her she is well on her way to being prepared for college.

College is different in the 21st century. But challenges are always with us. I should probably think about what professor suitcase had and if it can be taught.

Some things change, but some things are always the same. How hungry am I?

Had it all along

Huddling in the corner, trying to make herself as small as possible, this dog was whimpering and shuddering. The internet video shows how a veterinarian wins this dog over.

But I didn’t care about the vet. I was amazed at this dog.

Why did she shudder? Why did she make herself so small?

She was a healthy German Shepherd. What could it possibly be so scared of? Didn’t she know she was one of the fiercest animals on earth?

Stand up! Don’t be scared. You are the one that is scary.

I’ve been that dog. I’ve cowered from things that I could have easily resisted. I want to show that dog that she has weapons she could use.

What big teeth you have! What strong muscles you have!

Look how fast you are!

What a loud bark! Such a big voice!

All the better to fight for what I want.

That dog was so scared. But she had everything she needed to defend herself.

I’ve got so many resources to draw from. When I feel overwhelmed with fear, I have a hard time remembering what I have learned.

What do I already have to make my desires real? How can I use my voice and my strength to get where I want to go?

Remember Dorothy in Oz? She spent the whole adventure trying to find her way back home. But she’d had the magic shoes all along.

It was an accident that she killed the wicked witch. She hadn’t intended her house to land on her. Nevertheless, she walked out of that house and took the accidental magic.

All the tools, whatever I can find are fair game. Accidental, on purpose or found object I can use whatever I need to get safe.

I’d like to tell that doggie all the things I wish I could always remember:

You are so strong. You have so much to offer. You are not trapped. You can do this.

Selling

“Everything is sales!”

My colleague was certain he was right. Sales was everything and everything is sales.

Except…I hate selling. I have always felt like selling is manipulation, and it requires lying. I don’t want to lie.

When the internet is trying to sell me things, there is this tendency to push it so hard it’s impossible to live up to.

The Best!
The Greatest!
The Most!

Even that early acronym BFF—Best Friends Forever

Categorically, this can’t be true. How do I call someone a best friend? There are a lot of friends, hard to say who is best. And forever?

ForEVER ever?

These are promises impossible to live up to. And I shudder and refuse to participate.

But if my colleague is to be believed, I am missing out. THIS kind of overpromise is sales.

And I am missing out. If I knew more about psychology, I might be able to talk about this kind of developmental milestone—and ability to suspend disbelief in an approximate feeling.

Can “best” also mean ‘really good’? best for the present moment?

Or even good enough and that feels really good?

I’m trapped in my own logic. The people who know sales tell me that it’s the emotion that sells. That the logic can help but the gut is what makes the difference.

I don’t think anyone believes that the one choice is the best of all possible solutions. But finding a choice that solves the problem sufficiently in that moment is really fantastic—dare I say the best ever?

It could be like riding a bike. I have to learn the ride of the sales story. If what I have to offer will be sufficient, and even a little better than enough, it could be indeed the best thing ever for right now. That glorious perfection of motion and balance like when I get the bike moving forward just right.

I have to sell myself first, and then let the other person in on how great and perfect this solution will be.

Then we can both celebrate. Right here, right now, this is the best it will ever get, and that’s really good.

So I have to make sure that I have my story straight so I can show it—sell it—to the next guy.

Story I can carry

It is a familiar story. Under a hot, dry blazing noon sun, the hero comes. This western hero, we don’t usually know much about why he is the way he is.

But we really hope he won’t disappoint us. There are so many reasons he might.

The shop owners and the townspeople hide in their doorways. Some danger has come. Something that could destroy their plans and their future, and it must be stopped.

They don’t have the courage. They have desperate need for a rescuer to come.

And here he comes on a beautiful horse. Or maybe with a brave word spoken at the right moment. All heads swivel to the one. It will be he who takes care of everything.

All hopes rest on him. No one else can do it. Maybe even he will fail.

This is the start of almost every Western.

These have been an American story that has caught on. There are familiar parts to the story that can change a bit, but this story is very comforting. We know what to expect. We don’t exactly know what will happen but we know what should happen.

There are some rules.

There are laws of the frontier that keep everyone safe.

Much is unsafe on the frontier. But things have to be protected. Life and property have to be protected. Where would we be without those essentials?

On the frontier, it is all stripped down. The street is not busy.

On the audience side of the performance each person has their world they need to keep together.

It will take courage and a big action. Who will take it?

I am not in that town. I have my seat and my bowl of popcorn. But I need the courage too. When the hero makes the choice, walks into the town ready to take a bullet to keep everyone safe—then things are right with the world again.

With my soft seat and popcorn bucket I know for sure I don’t want to take a bullet. I am the townspeople—“Save me!”

But when I contemplate the story, filled with admiration for that hero on his horse—and I find deep in my stomach there is a big action I need to take. There is courage available to me that I hadn’t realized.

I am seeing someone do what I’ve been afraid to do.

A time comes in everyone’s life that courage is needed to take the big action. When it’s my turn to helps to remember the stories of others who have done it. I can imagine myself in those boots as I take the stop forward.

Heroes are required. I must be the hero. But I don’t have to be the only one.