Monday, December 31, 2007

Waiting for the New Year

Technically, it is practically the new year already. A few more hours and 2008 will be upon us. And yet, tomorrow morning, not much will have changed. The new year will not feel very new.

It seems to me that we spend much of our lives waiting for a year that will feel new, a year when real, significant change will make our lives better or brighter or more exciting. In those years, we make connections that change us so much we are sure the world has changed too. We meet lifelong friends; we have babies; we begin new careers. Sometimes we realize, on that very day, that a new era has started for us. Sometimes we can only tell when we look back.

In the rest of the time, the time marked by calendars and clocks, we celebrate for all the times that were significant and passed by without a party. We celebrate for the truly new times that we hope are coming - times of adventure and fulfillment and laughter.

We celebrate because, for at least one evening, it helps us to be patient while we wait.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Stepping Back into the Flow

It has been a while since my last post. As I tell my students, sometimes life happens. We've been making exciting plans for our business; a term ended at the college; Christmas came and went, but the holidays go on. Depending on one's point of view, I have either been caught up in the flow of my life or I have stepped outside it for a few days. What is incontrovertible is that the life of which this blog is part moves to a different rhythm than the life that has been claiming my energy and attention.

There are always points of connection. At a party recently, I spoke with a music student and an English student about the way rhythm defines relationships. As you move through the next few days, watch the people who are having an impact. Notice the way they change the rhythm when they enter a group or leave it. Notice that the flow is different because of them. Notice that the flow of our own day or thoughts changes in their presence.

Masters of rhythm guide without directing. We are aware of their impact on us before we are aware of them. They speed us up or slow us down; they keep us steady or slightly off-beat. In their presence, we are more aware of pattern, of motif, of connection. They may be leaders by virtue of what they think. They are certainly leaders by the way they make us think.

This week, you may find yourself coasting or just a little out of step. Whatever your work or your celebrations, your rhythm will be adjusting to the adjustments all around you. Your sense of time will shift. With awareness and with luck, you will find mastery within you. You will move to different rhythms as surfers move with different waves. With awareness and with luck, you will find mastery around you and allow someone else's rhythm to move you to different activity or new perspective.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mixed messages

As I look out my window, I am struck by the mixed up nature of December. The weather is dreadful: cranky and dull and generally in a bad mood. It is not majestic or powerful or brutal: it is just ugly outside today.

But. Tonight there will be lights - small and bright and tacky and lovely. Excitement.

Somewhere in its soul, the world knows that the darkest night is coming and we will need a little light to fight it off.

Somewhere in it soul, the world knows that the energy of bright growing things is just below the surface, waiting.

The winter is coming. It will be cold and it will be dark and it will be discouraging. We will need the silliness of lights and moderately tacky decorations. We will need to look at the ground and know that the energy that runs underground is growing, slowly, inexorably.

We will need to look at the mixed message and let ourselves be pleased by its promise.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Tough decisions

I used to tell my first year university students that writing would always be hard. They would get better. They would get faster. Their standards would rise. They would seek more effectiveness. They would become more precise. Writing would not get easier. Writing would always be hard.

Decision making is like writing. It is always hard. We learn competence only to find our edge, again and again. We get better at some decisions. These become the easy decisions. The tough decisions do not become easy. The better we get at making decisions, the tougher the decisions we are called to make.

There are two kinds of tough decisions. In one, you know the right thing to decide and you know that someone will pay a price for your decision. This kind is tough because it is hard to pay the price - or hard to ask the price of someone else. The more you know about consequences, the more likely you are to find these kinds of decisions tough. Some people can only make tough decisions by refusing to count the cost. Some can only make tough decisions by pushing themselves to count the costs more accurately.

In the other kind of tough decision, you are presented with choices without knowing how to distinguish among them. You are compelled to make a decision knowing that you do not know. If you have experience, you know that sometimes you will be wrong in making these decisions. If you have experience, you will quite often be right about the decision, sometimes for the wrong reasons. This will be of little comfort in your next tough decision. You will know that you do not know.

The only thing worse than making tough decisions is refusing to make them.