the search for lost things

I’ve lost my job.

I’ve looked in all the usual places … gone through my trouser pockets, scanned the mantelpiece, looked under the car seat, been through the ‘man drawer’, checked the bedside table, looked on the kitchen shelf where the important stuff resides.  I’ve methodically been through my jackets, looked down the back of the sofa, searched behind the fridge where things have a habit of falling. I’ve shaken some boxes at the back of the garage. I’ve asked my wife to go through her handbag, I’ve re-traced my steps around the house, drive and garden, I’ve looked on the table in the hall and felt the lining of my coat.

No joy.

Strange we say we’ve ‘lost a job’. Like we’ve lost a pen, or our car keys or our favourite sunglasses.

Actually I haven’t lost my job at all. It wasn’t ever mine really.  Not mine to lose.

The reality is that my employer decided to reorganise the work which constituted the role I was paid to do.  Some work was stopped, some new work added and the way in which my former employer set out to carry out that work no longer included a package of work previously called ‘my job’.  I haven’t lost it, the organisation has removed it.

Time to find another path, another ‘thing’ to occupy my time, feed my interests and my family.

So where do I look? Not under the car seat seemingly. Not in my coat lining. More a case of looking inside? Under my skin, in my gut or in my heart perhaps?  Searching there is not as straightforward though as looking behind the fridge or in the loft.

A search more rewarding perhaps?

So, it turns out, the removal of my job isn’t a loss, it’s a gift. An opportunity. A chance to reconnect with what matters to me. A chance to get closer to myself. A chance to be more me.

Maybe having a job all this time has been masking the true loss – the (temporary) loss of my connection to self? A temporary blindness to what drives me and why I am here.

Well I’ve found that again now, so all is good.

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“oh I’m nobody…” she said


Looking to validate the time slot for our tickets to the ‘Journey behind the falls’ in Niagara, we approached the ticket desk. Two ladies were busy with customers. We wandered around the large circular installation, meandering through the maze of unecesssary, queue guiding, crowd controlling barriers. We passed a couple of unmanned service points, to a lady perched on a stool, in front of a screen.

“Hello.” she greeted us. Lovely big smile. We responded likewise, and made our request.

“Oh I’m nothing.” she said. “You need to wait, or go upstairs.” She gesticulated, with a noncholent wave of a hand.

I enquired as to her dismissal of herself, of her role, of her existence, of her identity, of her right to be. Not in those words, although it struck me she was doing just that.

Turns out she was ‘guest services’. There to help with anything general rather than provide a specific service.

That seemed like something. More than something. To me at least.

We smiled and departed.

What a shame she didn’t value herself. We should all value ourselves.

disconnected histories from somewhere or elsewhere…

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I’ve been there before… or have I?

Leaving Massachusetts, travelling through New Hampshire and up into Vermont the other day, we passed some familiar places. Familiar in another land, found in an unfamiliar sequence here. Winchester, Reading, Andover, Londonderry, Manchester, Grantham, Lebanon…

So what’s in a name I wonder?

If you are from Andover in Hampshire in the UK, I guess that particular Andover might have meaning, history, personality even. We didn’t stop, but I imagine the Andover in Massachusetts might be  very different. As indeed might the Andover we saw a sign for in New Hampshire. Andovers, born in many places, descended from one perhaps?

And if we say, “I’m from Andover,” what does that really mean? Especially if the Andover in New Hampshire was once born from the Andover in Hampshire?

Many of us get names given to us which are that of a grandparent, or great grandparent. Family names handed down.

But names are not only a throw back to the past, to a previous generation, and a remembering of someone long lost. They are also a means of handing down history to a future generation. An acknowledgement and a gift for safe keeping. A way to continue existence on into the future.

I wonder if the residents of Andover NH are even aware of the British town? Just like many of us given an old family name from a generation past; never met, never known.

History is weird like that. Gone, but desperately remembered. We somehow need the roots of a past, even when it is a past never experienced or indeed long lost to us.

It’s as if we need to be reassured we came from somewhere. And when we know what that somewhere was called, we call ourselves, today, now, the same thing. Thereby connected, thereby grounded, thereby real. We exist.

the personality of language, with added chocolate chips

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“How are you today?” seems to be the standard opening gambit here in the USA. Whether it be the local shopkeeper, Alvin at Starbucks, or the unnamed lady in magenta trying to sell me tour tickets.

I have already learned the expected response. It is, “I’m good thank you, how are you?” The ‘good’ in “I’m good…” is presumably a veiled message to Father Christmas, should he be hiding in the bushes? An overly keen attempt to get on to the right list; the list that provides a full stocking, not a sparsely filled alternative in just a few months time?

I, of course, have much to learn colloquially. I have made the apparent mistake of responding, “Cheers!” when given my purchases. I did it to the lady who served me cinnamon scone for breakfast and she looked a little bewildered. I’m told that “cheers” isn’t used in that way here.

Some words have raised importance. Some reduced. I hadn’t expected, for example, my ‘Peachy Pistachio Greek Yogurt’ to contain chocolate chips. But it does. More chocolate chips in fact than peachiness. Sure enough though, a browse of the ingredient list confirms their right to be. Odd not to mention them?

Thankfully, I am yet to be offered a “have a nice day…” as a departing command. Surely, after all, it’s my choice if I wish my day to be nice or not?

I don’t wish to knock America. Merely to point out how language use is very local. The patterns and rituals of language are different. The same words mean different things. Some words are common, some important, some tossed away like chocolate chips at a yogurt factory.

This isn’t just about geography though. Each of us has our own dialect. Favourite words or phrases for us. Words and phrases which cause a shudder, or recoil, when used freely by someone else. Or, words which draw us in, because they resonate with our own sense making and thereby connect us.

Language has personality. It takes on the persona of unique individuals. The persona of family histories. The persona of local dialects. The persona of nation states. The persona of tribes, of cultures, of religions.

We speak who we are.

reflections on reflections

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One of the most necessary liberations comes when you discover that what other people think of you is not the same as who you are.

When you can stop identifying yourself with the stories, mistruths and assessments of others, you can also free yourself from a constant inner pressure to appear as you think people want, or expect you to.

But once you know this, another wisdom must be taken on.

You have to understand that other people are not the same as your stories, perspectives or assessments either. That means that whatever you think you know about them can only ever be partial; one aspect, a single angle on a situation way more complex than you’ve allowed for. Whatever you see, know you are blind.

Once these truths are mastered, know also that the story you tell yourself about you, about your own limitations, your acceptance in the world, your abilities or inabilities, is also not who you are. They too are a judgement, blind to the whole you; distorted tales from long distant memories or unintended fabrications from your past. Knowing this allows you to silence your inner critic. It relieves you from the self imposed weight of expectation, the burden of disappointment, the constant sniping at your capability, your value, your contribution, how you come to this world.

This awareness makes space for compassion. Compassion for others and compassion for self.

That’s liberating.

clap……..clap….clap

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We love a ritual, don’t we?

The Icelandic football celebration, arms aloft, slow clapping in unison with ever increasing speed, seems to be being adopted globally and I’m sure as the new football season approaches we will see it on many league terraces.

Rituals are important because they provide a sense of identity and a sense of belonging. They signify our tribe, and by taking part we signal our membership of the tribe.

We have rituals in our families. When I was a child we always had Saturday tea watching early evening television. Tea was always bread rolls, often with beef burgers or sausages in. Dripping with ketchup. Christmas and birthdays often offer up family rituals. Mince pie and a carrot for Santa’s reindeer. Christmas breakfast. Birthday meals. We pass these rituals down too. Sometimes the things we did as children we carry forward into our own families. Some pass down from granny or great granny.

There are rituals at work too. We see them as the culture. In my organisation we ‘go for tea’. Rather than grabbing something you drink at your desk, there is a ritual of going for tea or coffee with someone. Taking time away from our desks.

Towns and counties have rituals too. Like cheese rolling, or fell running, or the whole town engaging in a tomato fight.

Countries, culture and societies have rituals too. Like hunting a lion to prove your coming of age, or baby throwing, or tooth filing.

I’m not Icelandic, but I may well clap, if the opportunity arises. I sense this may become a football ritual, and I am, after all, a football supporter.

Clap ………. clap ….. clap .. clap

 

is it really all in the numbers?

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There seems a relatively new phenomena in our media to describe things through the medium of numbers. Newspaper articles are written around small colour panels, gleefully pronouncing ‘In numbers…’; these are summaries to draw in those who seemingly cannot be bothered to read and understand the depth of the article. It’s as if by providing a statistic, plucked from the vast expanse of a complicated subject, we can understand. Examples in the newspaper today include…

422 million people have diabetes;
1 in 5 people say social media makes them depressed;
124 refugees were taken to Turkey from Lesbos yesterday;

It mirrors the growth in need to know small snippets of many people’s lives in social media – glimpses on Facebook, 144 characters on Twitter. We are time poor, so we’re told, and so we need to pack a lot in. Scan rather then delve. Skim rather than comprehend.

The world seems to have developed into a place of ‘know a little, about a lot’.

This crosses over into what we know about ourselves.  Small amounts of knowledge used as labels to describe extraordinarily complex unique human beings. “I’m a completer finisher”, “my type is INTP”,  “I’m a big picture person”…

Let’s start reading the entire article.  Let’s start taking a deep dive into who we are.  Let’s be curious about other people and their glorious uniqueness…

You are not just a number.