Thursday, September 22, 2016

Why We Work

Most of us work because we need the money. We have families and obligations and plans and hopes for a better life. But when work is just about money it can suck the life out of you because you start to feel like a widget in a big grinding machine. This is what we've inherited from the Industrial Age.
Trouble is we are no longer in the Industrial Age. We are now living in a Service Economy and the structure and methodology of that past is no longer adequate. What we've lost as a result is the importance of work that has intrinsic value and meaning.
So who's job is it to give us jobs that have meaning? Jobs we can feel proud of where we have the opportunity to make the world better place?
Well, if you're waiting for Corporate America to do it then your going to be waiting a long time . . . like forever! Truth is they can't and never could do this. Sure they can run job pride up the flag pole, hand out t-shirts, and have rah-rah sessions until you think you're going to throw up, but it's not going to happen. It's not going to happen because it's not coming from the place it really needs to come from . . . the actual worker bees. You and me.
I was in a Staff Meeting once and the Operations Manager asked us who the most important person in the company was. People looked around like it was a trick question. I raised my hand, "Erma", I said. Erma was the older lady who cleaned the bathrooms and lunch area. The Manager looked at me and said, "Your absolutely right. If it wasn't for Erma you wouldn't want to work here." She wasn't the brightest person. She wasn't the prettiest person. She did her job to the best of her ability and never complained, because she knew. She knew everything she did made our work lives better.
So the truth is it's not so much what you do, but how you do it. It's something that comes from inside of you. There isn't a company in the world that can make that happen if you don't have it in you all ready. Not Google, not Apple, not Microsoft or any other company.
There isn't a position out there with any company where you can't find meaning and purpose in your work - whether it's solving an internal problem, helping a customer, or simply being kind to a co-worker. You're the only one who can discover the intrinsic value in what you do. Oh, sure, you're representing a company, but more than that you're representing YOU. Who you are. The quality of your character.
You might even end up being the brightest light in another persons life today. Like that cranky old lady who just called because she doesn't understand her bill? She may never hear from her children and be sadder than you know. She might just need a kind and understanding voice on the other end of the phone right now. And you know what? I can't think of a higher purpose than that.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Rule # 62

It was one of my lowest points. At the time I had three years sobriety. I had just quit the most stressful job I'd ever had because I was having anxiety attacks. I was afraid and uncertain what would happen next, but I was willing to protect my sobriety at any cost.
So, after giving my notice, I drove down to my home town Dunkin' Donuts for an iced coffee and hopefully to run into a fellow recovering drunk there. I wasn't disappointed. There alone at a pink table was one of the crustiest most hard core old timers I had ever known.
I sat down and he immediately knew I was in trouble.
"What's going on?" he asked.
I cried as I explained the situation and how I wondered what I'd do. I had rent, a car loan, and other expenses.
"Well, do you have enough money for today?" he asked.
I figured he was going to offer me money, but I didn't need any so I said, "Yes."
"Then what the hell are you crying about?!" he replied. "Listen, when you get home pick up the '12 & 12'*, go to the middle of page 149 and read what it says. I guarantee the next time you see me you'll be smiling."
"The hell I will old man!" I thought to myself.
But I'm no fool, so I did what he said, and there as plain as day in the middle of page 149 it said - "Don't take yourself too damn seriously."
I'm sure you can guess what I had on my face the next time I saw him.
* The "12 & 12" is the name commonly used for the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions published by Alcoholics Anonymous

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Feels Like Home

Sometimes, before I fall asleep, I lie in bed and let my thoughts ramble. Sometimes I get ideas, sometimes I get a feeling, and sometimes I just lie there and listen to the house.

When we moved into our first house in Massachusetts I was surprised how long it took me to feel like it was home. I remember going out to the back yard that fall and lying under a maple trying to feel grounded in the place. A few winters later I remember standing on the deck listening to the trees cracking under an ice storm wondering what would be left. Over time that little house in that starter neighborhood became our home.

When we moved to South Carolina the new house was a totally different style. A beachy open floor plan, lots of light reflecting off the lake with plenty of sunshine and Palm trees. We painted her insides bright colors and kept things airy. For the first couple years I felt like I was living in someone else's vacation home. A mile from the Intracoastal and five miles from the beach . . . I had to pinch myself to think we actually lived there. But eventually it became home.

When we sold that house and built yet another I was excited about the Craftsman design we picked off a website. We made modifications that eventually turned it into a neo-Craftsman meets Low-Country style. We extended the left side to create an in-law suite where Mary's father now lives. I love the layout, the large front porch where we sit for coffee on weekend mornings, the bricked back patio where you can watch the birds take turns at the feeder, the wooden slat fence in the backyard, and the traditional winding neighborhood. At first it felt like we were little kids dropped into a grown-up's house. But it's starting to feel like home now. It may end up being my favorite yet, but I'll let you know.

We live in these structures. They become us and we become them as our lives unfold and change within these walls. We open them to our friends, we hide in them when we feel less social, and hopefully we create memories that will last long after. And sometimes, just sometimes, we have to lay in the backyard under the trees smelling the fall leaves to ground ourselves and feel we are truly home.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Grab the Hoe!

This morning while I was walking Zoey Mary called me on my cell telling me she had killed a snake that was on the back patio with the hoe and she didn't know what kind it was. Later in the afternoon Mary's Dad was out hanging clothes and saw something he had never seen before and killed it (what ever it was) with the hoe. Tonight while I was getting all the loose items on the back patio put away for the storm I moved a chair and the tiniest of bats fell onto the pavers. Mary wanted me to poke it with the hoe, but I told her to leave it alone. A few minutes later it flew off. After that I went to the front porch to take down the rest of the hummingbird feeders and there was a giant dead bee belly up on the hood of my car. He was beyond any usefulness a hoe could bring.

Don't know what to tell you. It sure was a creature filled day at the house. Looks like I might have to start hiding the hoe.

In case you're wondering the creatures were as follows:

Banded Water Snake
Five-Lined Skink
Brown Bat
Wood-Warping Carpenter Bee