Do you ever wonder if the little things in your life that seem to be so mundane, so insignificant, so repetitive matter much? Reflections make me slowly, thoughtfully nod yes to those questions. And that the answer occurred in such a simple, quiet, fleeting moment in my day – it sped past me at an alarming blip of time. Mere fractions of a second, really. In the amount of time it took me to pass him on the road as he walked to work.
Decades ago I made a new friend. She and I were not very much alike in most ways that new friends are. Most new friendships are built on our similarities – our interests, our talents, our families, our line of work and the like. And none of these things fit us at all. Our backgrounds were polar opposites. Our lives only intersected in one tiny place, yet that was enough to make a life-long friend and one that still breezes through my mind every now and again. You know – a sound, a scent, a flavor, a memory.
I’m a people watcher. Well, I like to be a tad more gracious about myself and use the label observer instead. People are so intriguing when they do not know that you are watching. Sometimes we may cringe at what we put out there. Sometimes we have absolutely no idea what we said or did or shared made the slightest difference to anybody. But I loved watching her. I learned so much about where she came from, how far that truly was, what she had endured, what made her laugh with her whole body. What made her frustrated, what made her cry in that silent, no one knows I am crying kind of way.
I loved watching her with her children. She was single mother who had her work cut out for her. Any single parent does, but when that package comes with special needs that require a mother’s love and nurturing, more especially so. She was an incredibly hard worker, driven to optimism by necessity rather than by choice. As the years ticked by, we bumped lives here and there. Can I just say that I think I loved her with such a deep affection, but I do not even know if I ever told her that. I would have if I could have.
In a quick instant she was gone. Swept away from this life on to the next. I was stunned. I grieved, I worked hard to grasp the why and why now that unsuspecting death often leaves in its wake. And what of her adolescent children? But mostly, how would he manage without his guiding light, his sweet mother, the one who cheered him on, the one who talked him down, the one who talked him through. The voice that said you are enough, you’ve got this?
He is an adult nowadays. I have seen him here and there. Sometimes I say hello and stop to chat, other times I don’t. He doesn’t know me, really. To him I am just a nice stranger. Does everybody treat him with that tenderness that I do when I say hello and ask how he is? Probably not. I wish that they would.
The other day I passed him when I was out scurrying from errand to errand in my overly busy day. He was walking alongside a very busy road. The day was a sunny bright one. He was walking to where he works – a distance of over 5 miles one way, I might add. In that split second of passing him, I saw the contented smile, the cheerful demeanor, an echo of that small troublesome boy that his mother worried so over – how would he manage when her grew up? How would he be safe?
And then it hit me. It hit me hard. All that she had hoped for, had prayed over, had worried so about – it all was right there in beautiful living color walking along with a determination in his step, a swing in his gait, the cheer in his eyes – all when he did not know that someone was watching. Maybe no one really was.
But I was.
And I am certain that she still is.
In 1519 Hernán Cortés and 600 men arrived in Mexico, on a mission from Spain to conquer the people and claim the magnificent treasures said to be found there. The Aztec inhabitants were obviously concerned about these invaders, and a battle was imminent. Before his men could comprehend the situation, Cortés gave a rather interesting order:
“BURN THE BOATS!”
Obviously, no boats meant no going home, so the men had to commit completely to their mission. The result was a stunningly successful battle, and Aztec empire’s riches soon belonged to Spain, something that armies of thousands had failed to accomplish for centuries prior.
At its heart, “burning boats” represents a point of no return, a psychological commitment where we recognize that we cross a line and move only forward. Every effort is focused only on success.
Mark Twain is quoted as saying “There are a thousand excuses for failure, but never a good reason.” Cortés did what no one else had for one primary reason: He and his men were 100% committed to their cause. His small army became unstoppable because they only had one direction to go: forward.
When we want to achieve great things, in business, in our personal lives, or in both, we must approach our decisions with a level of commitment that will drive us definitively forward. When we truly commit to a cause, our perspective changes — and then nothing else needs to change, because we do, and that’s enough. Instead of seeing obstacles, we see opportunities. Rather than look for excuses, we look for solutions.
I don’t pretend that every decision we make will be good, and we obviously shouldn’t commit to bad decisions. But if we want to be wildly successful in life, this formula works:
• Gather as many facts as possible
• Measure the risks
• Use the best judgment and the insights of others to guide us
Once you make your decision, be willing to stick with it, and don’t allow fear and second-guessing to derail you.
It is time to burn your boats and lock arms with what you want to succeed in.
The art of being wise is the art of…
…knowing WHAT to overlook.
~ OR ~
…knowing WHEN to overlook.
…knowing WHY to overlook.
…knowing HOW to overlook.
All of these things are so close that it could be misleading. You might ask, “Isn’t it all one and the same”? Well, let’s see what life has to say for the answer.
Laundry. Oh, the bane of my existence. It takes TLC, believe it or not. Maybe I just overthink the task – like waaayyy too much but on the other hand – we all have our own style, right? My delightful husband is all about helping me out – truly. He is a gem, a layer of perfection in my life and a complete and definite keeper. He is also a Marine. Marines seem to run (literally) on the principle that you see a need, hop on it NOW and get it done. Check it off. Keep on moving. And so for Tad, doing laundry falls squarely under these Marine life guidelines. I am not a Marine. I am a Marine’s wife. Therefore, I am a creature of carefulness, dedicated to stain spotting, prone to sort and sort again – details, details, details. But with all this odd information about our life at my house – let’s just shift this little discussion to hair.
WHAT?? That’s right – and the fact that I have massive amounts of the stuff and he has very (and I mean very) little of it. So, in the wide wonderful world of laundry – this is the crux of the matter: To soften or not to soften. For the quick and responder type – fabric softener is superfluous. It is a trendy way that detergent manufacturers have invented to garner more $$ out of you. It may make your stuff smell more flowery, but it makes towels not dry you off as good either. So, for Tad – forgetting to add fabric softener to our laundry day is a way of life. It just makes perfect sense to him. For me? Fabric softener is CRITICAL! I can tell you that static electricity and my massive mane (see the Photo Gallery to your right for physical proof!!) do battle for an entire week on a minute-to-minute basis when that teeny little step is neglected. And I do like that fluffy towel that smells all girly and feminine. And sheets that turn to a buttery smoothness that makes Monday Night Sheets a much-anticipated pleasure for my skin at the end of historically formidable day. So how does all of this apply to laundry day at my house? This art of being wise and overlooking concept – What do I overlook on this one? The battleground lines are definitely drawn, but how can I work through this and still love the help and the helper as much as I do?
The Overlook List:
What – I choose to embrace the beautiful fact that my charming groom wants to and actually does pitch in to help me do our laundry on a regular basis. Our styles are different, but I can pre-sort the baskets to my delight and he is very grateful to have the simple – one basket – one load concept to run with.
When – I try to stay on top of the task so that he doesn’t feel compelled to assist, but when he does, I have helped him to understand the static electricity assault / strife / crusade (note the military terms there?? LOL!) between me and my hair. Since he gets tangled up in the unruly stuff at night due to the close proximity of my pillow to his ~ and can I just say that sparks of static in the dark are quite the point maker(!) – he and I have agreed that one dryer sheet stashed in the waiting dryer resolves a lot of that conflict. So, I make it a point to get out ahead of the fray by making sure that the empty dryer has a softener sheet lying in wait for the next onslaught.
Why – Why do I overlook an errant load of non-softened laundry? Because I love him more than I love smooth sheets and fluffy towels. And if worse came to worse, is there a lot of harm in misting the load with a water bottle for a few squirts, tossing in a softener sheet and running it for 10 more minutes? Not to me. 10 minutes vs a moody wife with wildish hair for the entire week?? I’ll take the 10-minute detour. Every time.
How – This one is the trickiest of them all. This is where the rubber meets to road, where the battle of wills gets real and the sage advice goes through the ring of fire. Remember our initial topic? The ART of being wise is the ART of…
Art isn’t perfect at the first brush stroke. And even then, any artist will tell you that layering new brush strokes over older brush strokes can cover a multitude of artistic sins. So, it is an art form. A practice it over and over until it looks right, feels right, becomes right sort of endeavor. And it isn’t just laundry. It can be anything and everything – raising kids, disciplining the dog, what we eat, what we buy for groceries > you get it.
Isn’t this just a lecture on how to surrender? Not to me. My husband and I are engaged in living in a peaceful and happy way. We are committed to not creating battles for the sheer sport of it. We love the feeling of “I am helping make things better” for each other. And the art that we are co-creating is a masterpiece if I do say so myself.
I’m a huge believer that you should always bring your whole self to work. You should bring your interests and your passions. You should bring your authenticity. Being real is the only way to be. Otherwise work would be boring, filled with phony stiffs and fake conversations. Can you imagine that – 40 or 50 hours a week? Horrible. Like holding your breath until you get home.
But what about when you DO get home? Should you continue to hold your breath?? Many of us feel like home is where we are safest, where we can truly let our hair down and be who we are, the “me, unplugged” sort of thing. But are you really? Is there a side of you that you keep hidden from your home occupants? Maybe it is your deep-set fears, or your biggest dreams, who you want to be, what you want to become, why you do what you do. Maybe you hide those things, too.
What is so wrong with being real anyway? What are you afraid of? Will someone laugh at your dreams, your goals, how YOU see yourself on the inside?
Perhaps they will.
Is that so crushing, so bad? Will that sting? It absolutely will. Will it kill you – probably not. Will it deaden your relationships? It may, but then again, it may just help them grow stronger, become more purposeful.
So ~ work, home, play ~ take a deep breath, blow it out along with all those doubts, those fears and that stress. Then breathe back in, fill those lungs of yours. And do it. Here’s what I think:
Wood has knots. Lots of them. In fact, it is impossible to make something out of wood without having to deal with the knots. Unless you intend on making toothpicks – then you are probably safe… So where did this come from?? Life has knots, too. And they are hard, and they are awkward, and they don’t fit in well with our plans and they make it really, really tough to get around sometimes. Who gets to live without knots in their life? Certainly not you. Nor your neighbor, or your sister, or that really well put together guy that you know who never seems to struggle guy. Or the homeless gal that waits on a corner with a sign and a hope that you will help. But…
Knots are strength in disguise. They add a richness to the design, a beauty to the soul, those flaws actually make something quite pleasing to the eye. They add color changes and depth, character and personality. They are the trial and the end result is the overcoming personified.
They are Being Real ~ Really.