Working Together

"We shape our self
to fit this world

and by the world
are shaped again..."

Excerpt from "Working Together" © David Whyte
in The House of Belonging

Many Rivers Press

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Jeezus Don't Want Me For a Sunbeam - Summer Solstice, Part I

I've been giving considerable thought this last month to my word of the year. I'm at the six month Summer Solstice with that. My word this year is clarity. The original post is here.

Picking a word of the year is a bit like spitting into the wind. Not only do you have to be somewhat stupid but you have to be game for getting a bit wet. All you really have to do in any life for answers is position yourself clearly within the posing of the question and develop an eye for some sort of response...sort of like MacGyver. A spiritual quest is not half as difficult as it is made out to be. It is only hard because few people REALLY want to know much of anything beyond what they already know. The concept of mission is intriguing and perceiving oneself as inquiring is admirable. However, when the answer to the question shows up, nine times out of ten, it is not welcome or it is recognized as someone ELSE'S answer. I know this because nine times out of ten, it has been that way for me. The universe seems to love a spirited question on the whole...or so I've discovered.

I was annoyed with a student a few weeks ago. He wasn't doing his job. He usually does his job gingerly but he was spending the last few weeks being seriously distracted - like for HOURS. I'm no longer a supervisor but I have to co-work with students so a little prodding is in order when things begin to fall apart on my watch. I arched an eyebrow made a small joke to bring the subject of tasking to the forefront of the conversation and then indicated non-verbally that there was an expectation by a nod in the direction of said neglected job. At this point the student began toying with me a bit. He and I both knew what I was referring to and he seemed to take umbrage over being 'bossed'. My lack of clarity became a game to him. I thought I was being respectful by not saying "OK enough. Get up and do your job, Buckwheat". He retaliated by dissing me. I got angry and snapped at him and we both basked a steely silence until it was time for him to leave.

Like I said, I'm no longer supervising students so I needed to bring in a third party on this annoying scenario. The student's supervisor (who is also MY supervisor) when I laid out what had happened, asked me what I wanted. I said I want him to talk to the student and I wanted all three of us to talk after that because I needed to kiss and make up with my student co-worker to close the issue. This took my supervisor out of his comfort zone, clearly, but he was admirably heroic and acquiesced . The student was talked to and we all three met and I promised not to mince words, emotionally negotiate and give hints (to be clear) and he admitted he was being stubborn about doing his job. Everyone owned up. As a bonus, I got to tell the student how much I liked him with his boss as a witness and things went swimmingly on their way sans long drawn out resentments to the end of the quarter. Transparency at work is a bit like having meetings with all members naked and dressed only in saran wrap. Not exactly a welcome assemblage for the feint of heart but it sure evens the playing field in a hurry.

The reason I bring this up is that the incident booted up the clarity issue. I enjoy straight forward people as long as they are not mean and unwilling to be open minded. What I do not like is other people not being able to understand my meaning but assuming they do. This incident made me realize that being clear, when it involves communicating with others sometimes requires more than one shot - even when the first shot is near perfect. Now I realize that I was clear enough, however, what I have to say seems to scare people; how I say it (often candidly) is considered off color or unprofessional; and the ones that are not put off or reacting unfavorably to what I say or do require some kind of translation from me and, for my part, I rarely remember that. I speak social as a second language and, it seems, miss a lot of the conversation going on around me. I have probably placed myself in a totally erroneous environment for personal growth in this way, it occurs to me just now...but I have what I work with and I work with what I have. Amen.

...more on clarity in part II.

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