For the past two years, I have devoted a substantial amount of energy to a project—and I had high hopes for this work. Nevertheless, so far, the outcome has not matched my expectation. I am, in a word, disappointed.
I sat in this place for a few weeks and noticed how this feeling darkened my heart. Then I read something that turned me around in a different direction. “When depressed (disappointed) pause and kiss the ground.” I took this to heart and kissed what is present in my life right now—where I might focus some heart-filled attention: our daughter is graduating from college in a month; my husband is considering shifting from one kind of work to another; my friend just got a diagnosis of cancer (again).
Instead of wallowing in the gap between my high (maybe overblown?) expectation of something that is not happening, I am invited to “kiss” what is actually happening in my life right now.
When we make authentic hairpin turns in our lives, often we are brought back to the amazing aliveness of this present moment. What do you do with disappointment?
About a year ago, several of us got together and wrote a grant proposal for a project we were very interested in bringing to our community. When we took some movement toward doing this work together we found resistance to any change in some unexpected places. We were very discouraged and dropped any hope for this situation. However, this small group kept meeting occasionally and kept talking about the possibility of change for that environment.
Now over one year later, a request came “out of the blue” to take another look at this proposal. We gave this person the same exact document we had thrown away one year earlier. She read it and said: “Yes—this is exactly what needs to happen!” We have a new respect for “right timing” and are grateful for this renewed interest in bringing positive change.
Sometimes we “have to wait on the Lord” (as my Grandmother use to say) and expect miracles. Hairpin turns are full of waiting, surprises and miracles—in spite of our feeble doubts.
Early Saturday morning, I was walking in the rain on a street in our neighborhood.
I heard our newspaper carrier’s car–he needs a muffler. I saw this young man stop
his car, jump out into the rain, and take the newspaper to the front door
of three houses. He paused as he handed the newspaper to the three elderly
people waiting for their morning news. As he handed over the newspaper, he
said a few upbeat words and wished them a great day. He jumped into his car
and putt-putted down the street.
I took down his license plate number and wrote the paper and asked if newspaper carriers ever got raises. This act of kindness warmed my rain-soaked heart on the day before Palm Sunday.
We had an emergency meeting because nonprofits were not signing up for a conference on how nonprofits and universities can collaborate. There is an unfortunate divide between the university and nonprofits—another “us versus them.”
The nonprofits think that academics have their head in the clouds and the academics wonder why nonprofits are not using best practices based on solid research. These two attitudes do not allow for true engagement with one another. So in our emergency meeting, we used our imaginations and kept asking questions: What would meet the needs of both? How might we structure a conference that allows for space to really dialogue and develop more trust for one another? How might we encourage positive conversation rather than the cynical dead-end sighing?
We talked honestly and we kept using the positive intelligence available to us. We refused to cave in to “this is just the way it is with these two sectors” (“same old, same old”) and we came up with several ideas that we will try out. We left the room excited about some new possibilities.
When we start to notice an “us versus them” mentality in the room, or in our own heads, we have the choice to move in another direction The question then becomes: “what might we do together that meets and respects both parties needs?”
Last week we had a visitor—from four states over—who came to our school for three days. He was looking for “best practices” and heard about some of the work we are doing through our school. Each time I took him to a class or to a nonprofit affiliated with our work, he looked at me and said: “This is extraordinary.” For example, when I took him to a nonprofit that works with homeless people in our community, the chaplain told him that we had collaborated together for over two decades on numerous projects. When we left that meeting our visitor said: “Never underestimate the spirit of collaboration.
In our community we have two separate nonprofit agencies that work with the homeless—because they cannot agree—and as a result they duplicate services and waste resources.” When he left I had a renewed sense of gratefulness for our team, our work and all that the school has contributed to this community in the past two decades.
He helped me make a shift from what I ordinarily see as “ordinary” to “extraordinary.” This seems to be the journey of gratefulness—to see with new eyes the unique gifts all around us—and to appreciate anew.
I was asked to speak to a group of moms—all of whom had young children. I asked them to tell us what question they were holding about being a parent. They said things like: “How to get my child to do his homework?” and “How can I get the siblings to play nicely with one another?”
They seemed to want strategies to “control” the situation. I told them that the most important parenting strategy was to learn to be present to their own communication and to recognize how their own communication influences everything. I told them about the time our 4th grade daughter came into a room and I said something to her. She was silent for a minute and then said quietly: “Every time I walk into a room you boss me around.” She left and I was stunned. I started to notice my communication and much to my surprise, she was correct.
I was a busy executive and my communication was all about “getting stuff done” and as quickly as possible. I started to notice when I was present to her—in the moment—and when I was checked out. Often I was not “with her” although I was physically standing right next to her. Instead I was “onto” the next activity in my mind.
My parenting took a radical hairpin turn when I vowed to be as present as possible to my child—and to eliminate as much as possible bossing her around. Letting go, listening and being present to our children is one parenting strategy that will change the life of our family.