In this piece, I reference people that I have come to know through this platform and elsewhere. Upon re-reading this, I realize that it might sound a bit like Thomas Jackson. Look him up, too.
Being ticked off is rarely the answer. I know this. I walk around with the voice inside my head “You have so much to be thankful for.
Then sometimes I hear Susan Rooks (the Grammar Goddess) say “You have so much for which to be thankful.”
Then I tell myself, “You can end that sentence with the word ‘for’ if you want, and I think Susan would be ok with it.”
Then I counter with “Stop having multiple conversations and just think about one thing, ok?”
At this point, my dog has stopped to linger somewhere on an especially strong scent, and I have to pull him away by saying “Come on…” and yank at his leash with firmness punctuated by frustration. And it reminds me that I am ticked off.
I am ticked off at myself. For being ticked off.
We all have stuff in our lives. (I now realize that I am channeling Kimberly Davis.) Realizing that I have conjured up remembrances of two very good friends from LinkedIn, I smile, and my anger fades a little bit. And then I realize that I have affection and admiration for two beings who have come to me through the ether of cyberspace, on a social media platform. And I have never met them in person. And that makes me sad, somewhat, but it also gives me inspiration that the great day of actually meeting them is yet to be enjoyed. And I am thankful for that.
Walking the streets of Grand Chute, WI (if you are not familiar with Grand Chute, it’s just a few miles west of Little Chute, WI) early in the morning can accentuate any mood that you are in. Last night I slept thinly, waking often, grumbling because I was awake, and then allowing my addled brain to keep going over the same thing. This is some of the stuff which would qualify as the “stuff” to which Kimberly refers: My aging parents, 92 and 91, aren’t behaving in a way that gives any of us, their descendants, any joy. My angst is piling up. My parents’ situation rebooted in my brain. Deep breaths, yank the dog’s leash, one foot in front of the other.
My parents’ actions are causing dissent amongst my siblings and me; some sharp words are being exchanged, fatigue, exasperation, and all the things that caring for aged parents can cause. They are in relatively good health and living on their own independently. I had originally written that last sentence to be a list, with “relatively good health” and “living on their own independently” to be the first two in a series of things that they have going for them. I changed the structure of the sentence because I couldn’t think of anything more to add to the list. I am thankful that they are still here among us. I thought about various ways to write that last sentence, too.
Yada yada yada. I could go on about my stuff. It’s my stuff. You have your stuff. We could sit on adjacent bar stools, which I would really like, and swap stories about each other’s stuff. We will always have stuff. Right, Kimberly? This pandemic is compounding everyone’s stuff. Ticked off is our default setting. A guy had tailgated me and then passed me about 500 feet before we got to a stop sign the other day… it was like he had declared war on me. Two miles later it was totally forgotten, but in that moment, I was so ticked off. Because, yes, ticked off is right there below the surface, locked, loaded, and ready to spring forth, with little or no provocation.
I am told that at this point my document is some 600 + words long. Almost all of those words have been spent inside my own head, in my own world, pacing back and forth to make sure that I have listed all the things that are making my life so suckful at the moment. Except that it’s not.
When we wallow in our stuff we give it too much importance. We magnify its place and give it way too much bandwidth. As I walked around those darkened streets this morning, my dog Oliver kept his usual pace, turning back to look at me periodically to see if he could coax a treat out of me with his sad, longing eyes. And I realized that he’s a great dog, my faithful friend, and the reason that I get out of bed so stinking early in the day to walk those streets. If I’d bother to lift my eyes, I would see the sky being painted in a thousand hues of pink and orange and colors that haven’t been assigned yet, but a few of them certainly have something to do with the promise of another day.
Somewhere in the 7,497 steps that I take, a few hundred of those will take me back home. A warm place, a comfortable place, where my wife and breakfast await. And this day, our granddaughter Naomi is here, as we had shuttled her to our hearth last night to allow our daughter the opportunity to sleep in after a 12 hour night shift as a nurse in a local hospital. If I can’t give thanks for Naomi’s rosy little cheeks busting out in a toothless grin when she sees me walk in, I might as well quit suckin’ air and move on to the afterlife.
Am I suggesting that we forget about our stuff and just plaster a silly grin on our face and make-believe that everything is peachy? Not at all. I am offering an option: give yourself space to grieve, and be vexed about stuff, and to wish and pray that things were different. Fix what can be fixed, and leave the rest. But we dasn’t (channeling my late Aunt Ruthie with that word…) live our lives as all one thing and not a host of others.
If we focus on the crapstorms, our lives will seem like unending ones. If we pause and give thanks for people like my wife, and Naomi, or Susan Rooks, Kimberly Davis, Jeff Ikler, Rich Gassen, Sarah Elkins or Mark O’Brien or any number of others – who give us reasons to smile, to think, to be better, to be smarter… we become a vessel of gratitude instead of being a deep hole of despair, disappointment, and regret. And yes, it did occur to me to use a different word in front of “hole” in that last sentence.
Naomi and my wife don’t have any social media profiles yet, but the rest of the people named in the preceding paragraph do. Look them up, and you can share my affection for them and their presence on the planet at the same time as you. And be thankful for them, Good Gracious, I certainly am grateful for the ways that they give me to be off the charts thankful with every single post, comment, or interaction that I have with them.
Kimberly Davis used a phrase this week in her weekly “Musings” (her e-newsletter) that stopped me dead in my tracks. She said, “Hurt people hurt people.” Oh bingo, why yes. I had only heard that phrase recently and it resonates big time. If we define ourselves as hurt and do nothing to remedy it, we become weapons in the world. What if we became lights, balm, or refuges, instead? Wouldn’t it be better being that shining light that benefits others?
When I chose the name for this little corner of BizCatalyst 360°, I did it with intention. “Nuance with Me” is how I write, trying to see both sides of a lot of things. (Hats off to Dennis Pitocco for the gift that BC360° is!) We all have stuff. But we dasn’t let that stuff define us. If we don’t treat our stuff as the stuff we need to overcome to help us be better, we end up in those holes, cursing the darkness. There is darkness, no question. There is also plenty of light. I named some of them. Add your name to the list.
It took me a while to get here, Tom, and I’m so glad I did!
It’s part of what makes you such an important part of many of our lives – your ability and vulnerability in looking at multiple sides of situations, seeing things for the complexity they are, while simplifying them when necessary. Case in point: “If I can’t give thanks for Naomi’s rosy little cheeks busting out in a toothless grin when she sees me walk in, I might as well quit suckin’ air and move on to the afterlife.”
It would be easy to allow myself to stay grumpy at the slightest provocation, like getting cut off in traffic, and in some ways I’d prefer to use that as my excuse, rather than dig deeper into the real current of frustration and anxiety below the surface. But wow, what a sad and meaningless place to stay. My walks, even in cold weather, are perfect reminders of gratitude and solace in these times, as are my opportunities for interactions with you and the others you tagged in this post.
Snuggle that baby for me, please? And I’ll give Toby a nice pat on the head.
There is darkness, no question. There is also plenty of light. I named some of them. Add your name to the list.. Tom powerful message, Strong Ink Indeed
I appreciate your reminder that there are these cranky moments, bristling-panties in a bunch, the jar won’t open no mater how hard I squeeze and rotate my hand-that we can give energy to or flow through as they happen with deep breaths of life energy-inhale, exhale. I’m grateful for you, your writing, the honesty in which you write, the love you have for your parents and siblings-that relationships and interactions can get messy because we’re all wanting something, yearning for something that’s right in front of us when we widen the lens. Living in gratitude became a heartfelt practice-yes, a practice-after I almost lost my son twice-there’s been only brief, fleeting moments of itchy, scratchy (as Shelley Brown) would describe it, many buckets of tears over the death of my dog and parents, and an unshakeable growing gratitude inside of me that no one and nothing can alter. Thank you for being you. Happy Thanksgiving, my friend.
You’re right Tom! People here on BizCatalyst 360 are inspiring. Including right here, right now, with you. Yes, it’s helpful to learn from insights others are using in their lives. Kind of cool to climb into your mind in this reflection. Meeting you right in your mind and in your stuff and appreciating your warm welcome. Thanks.
This line had me cracking up Tom. “If I can’t give thanks for Naomi’s rosy little cheeks busting out in a toothless grin when she sees me walk in, I might as well quit suckin’ air and move on to the afterlife.”
And you are absolutely right. We all have stuff. That stuff can be defined as the things that float around in our heads and keep us up at night. As my yoga teacher quoted this morning, as pianist Artur Schnabel is quoted saying, “The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes – ah, that is where the art resides!” And it is the same in our life. When we pause our brain from cycling the “stuff” that is where life resides.
And yes, if you were wondering, while I was practicing this morning, I had a gleeful two-year-old boy climbing on my back and laying underneath me during each downward dog pose. Then when he sat in front of the TV and it was time for shavasana, my 180-pound Great Dane opted to rest his stinky head on my face. Don’t worry, they are both considered my pauses, not the stuff.
Tom, so much here I can relate to, not the least of which is waking up in the middle of the night. A semi-regular routine, which I understand afflicts seniors. But mine is a bad habit I picked up during my corporate days, when “to do” items would show up in my dreams.
We have no dog, Our co-op doesn’t allow them, but honestly the incessant traffic honking outside my window makes more noise than our version of Oliver ever could. Honk away, but God-forbid if you bark. So I walk alone in our neighborhood except for someone’s latest podcast episode as my companion. Those conversations always make me think and get me away from the spinning plates in my head. Garry Turner’s Value Through Vulnerability is often my companion.
With the “official” days of gratitude just ahead, I was happy to read your piece. It reminds me that we can and should be grateful for the big and small – even a toothless grin and especially the sunrise. “Still on the right side of the lawn,” as a friend of mine used to note.
Keep writing, my friend, and I’ll keep reading.
I love this response, Jeff. Getting away from those spinning plates in my head takes a good long walk these days, so I can totally relate. Tom is right, you’re definitely one of the important parts of my life for which to be grateful.
I will be forever thankful for Sarah and the NLV family that took me as one of theirs long before I had actually attended NLV. You are my family, Tom. Forever.