Dwayne the bathtub, I'm dwowning.
We used to laugh out loud at this silly joke. But there is so much good sense in its wisdom, a reminder that we need to keep things from overflowing, festering or drowning us. We have to release the drain. We need to remember to not let the tea kettle boil over. After all, that's what the whistle is for---to keep the tea kettle from blowing it's top. If only we humans came with a whistle---a warning that we are about done. Unfortunately, what happens instead, is we keep dwowning in our own bath water.
When talking with educational leaders and teachers, I hear people say things like "That's just the way he is" or "Things are never going to change" or "I can't say anything or I will just blow up". The common theme seems to be the need to talk about something but a belief that talk will not solve things. My analogy is the drain that continues to clog up with built up residue. Day after day, the "gunk" continues to grow until there is no longer a hole large enough for water to flow through the pipes. What do we need? A good dose of drain clog remover.
When anger and resentments build up with people with whom we work, we must tackle the clog before we can end up with clean pipes. But how? Here are my top three suggestions:
1. Tackle it before it gets worse: Any problem is better dealt with at its early stages. Have you ever heard people say, "We've been fighting so long, I can't even remember what started the whole thing." My book club has just finished reading "A Man Called Ove" by Fredrik Backman. While it is an amazingly poignant and funny read, one of the hallmarks of the story is a chasm that develops between two friends and continues until neither can quite remember what precipitated the fight in the first place. A teacher recently told me, "I don't mind being observed, but I am just lucky my principal likes me." Yikes!!
2. Tackle it yourself, or it will require a costly plumber to come in and repair it. I've heard teachers and school leaders talk about how they have to have outside mediation every time they try to work out a problem. While there isn't anything inherently wrong with needing professional help or mediation to help resolve a conflict, the very nature of having another person involved in our problem reflects the fact that we can't resolve it ourselves. I recently talked with teachers in a school who said, "We don't feel comfortable talking to our administration without our union representation there with us." As Stephen M. R. Covey says, trust impacts everything but can be grown if we work at it.
3. Be reasonable. Most folks who have ever worked any sort of 12-step program have heard the saying, "Resenting someone is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die." In other words, we have to think reasonably if we are going to tackle any sort of problem we have with someone else. It just makes sense to try to work out issues we have with those people with whom we work, but we have to do it with reason and a sensible nature. We need to take responsibility for our part in whatever the problem is, and allow others to do the same.
Just for today, perhaps we can examine our built-up resentments and frustrations. We can refrain from resentments and unclog our drains of anger for the greater good.
Have you ever had one of those days in which everything seems to go askew? Wait a minute. I meant to say: when was the last time you had one of those days...
Everyone has them. When I have a day like that, it seems like it is usually when I am traveling. One such day that comes to mind was a few years ago (do not assume one hasn't happened since then) when Dave and I were traveling back home from a two-week trip to Europe right before we were to be moving from Florida to Arizona. We arrived to Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, checked in then went to the gate. As we stood there, waiting to board, a notification appeared saying the flight was delayed, then just as quickly changed to "Flight cancelled". Uh-oh! No, no, no. Our flight from Paris to Atlanta couldn't be cancelled because Dave had to get back to Florida to meet the movers who would soon be packing our entire house for our move to Arizona. And I was supposed to be flying to a school district in Florida to do a keynote and break-out sessions for them. Dave and I quickly scurried to find a gate agent who could help us. I ended up changing my flight that would end up getting me to my training location the night before my training. Dave ended up not getting home until extremely late the night before the movers arrived early the next morning. It seems that all would be fine. But wait! There's more! (like a Ginsu knife commercial without the knives)
The next morning, I am preparing for my keynote and I notice that my powerpoint is missing slides. A bunch of them. I was about two hours away from presenting and I have very little to present. My heart was pounding and I started sweating. Some might mistake these signs for being in love, but no. If you have lost something big from your computer, you know the wave of panic I felt.
I was experiencing conflicting messages: one that said, "Freak out and take everybody with you!" and one that said, "This, too, shall pass." I chose to listen to the first message for several minutes until a still, small voice said, "Take this opportunity to re-do your presentation." After all, I knew the message I wanted to present, I had some of the slides, and I had the printed material the participants would have. I took a deep (read: enormous) breath, and got to work. One hour later (with minutes to spare before I was "on"), I had a new powerpoint presentation which, admittedly, was rushed but a better product than I had before.
The keys for me were:
1. not getting bogged down in self-pity (for too long, anyway)
2. taking some action
3. using the experience as a learning opportunity (have I mentioned I now have Carbonite on my computer?)
I am extremely grateful for the re-do opportunities I have been given in my life. Yes, I have often had to be tapped on the shoulder in order to jumpstart the re-do, but the choices were mine to take or ignore. Some of them include:
*Choosing to move into an educational leadership position 13 years ago
*Dave and I chose to move to Tucson four years ago to "do something new"
*I chose to quit drinking and become more "present" in my life almost 19 years ago
What have been yours?
I would love to hear your stories and the lessons you've learned!
Check out this great song by Francesca Battistelli that pretty much sums up life to me:
Happy Communicating!! (and now I am going to save my work) :)