Poem for a Sunday Morning

February 16

                                              An early morning fog.

In fair weather, the shy past keeps its distance.
Old loves, old regrets, old humiliations
look on from afar. They stand back under the trees.
No one would think to look for them there.

But in fog they come closer. You can feel them
there by the road as you slowly walk past.
Still as fence posts they wait, dark and reproachful,
each stepping forward in turn.

{by Ted Kooser, from “Winter Morning Walks: One Hundred Postcards to Jim Harrison”}


I’m the first person up in my house. I have ample time to sit undisturbed in the quiet of the early morning to read, to write and to make plans for the day ahead.

This time of year, I pour a cup of coffee and take it outside where I can feel the cool air and hear the endless chitter of birds as they construct their small regretless lives in the surrounding trees.

I have no problem with regret. I like that, sometimes, I allow myself to remember my smaller, more vulnerable self. I shudder with the memory of being embarrassed in that particular way, in front of those particular people when I had so longed for their approval.

I ache a little in the heart when I think of how I turned my back on someone in pain or worse, when I caused that pain for no better reason than the very best I could do in that moment was not nearly good enough.

I laugh…a small, incredulous laugh when I remember how naive, how self-righteous, how self-important, how certain, only to discover that I was cleverly defended against the truth of my ignorance.

But I don’t stay there – I do not brood – not even for the length of a cup of a coffee. A sip maybe, that is all. Just a moment in that old place, those old feelings of not enough.

And then the morning lengthens, and the coffee is gone. And, like the birds, I get back to  constructing – to living – my life.

I wonder if the birds know that they are free.


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#27 – Mature Idealism

This is #27 in the series, “50 Ideas Worth Fighting For.” Here’s another, just for fun.


The summer after my sophomore year of college I stayed on campus to work on the conferences and events team. We made beds, hauled supplies and were continuously “on call” for the many groups who used the university’s facilities between May and August.

One large group proved to be especially challenging for our team. Between their ever-increasing demands and our inability to meet them, frustration mounted quickly on both sides. As we approached the boiling point our boss called an emergency meeting to determine next steps. We were worn out, frustrated and short on ideas about how to meet this client’s demands.

The boss asked us for our ideas and I blurted out, “They just never should have come.”

I’ve seen some withering stares in my life but the one I received that day tops them all. Incredulous, he moved on to someone else, someone with something useful to say.

The danger of youthful idealism is that when things don’t work out as you believe they should, an immature response seems all there is to offer. It’s a place of victimization rather than agency, one of stagnation rather than creativity.

A mature idealism suggests that our highest aspirations are always tempered with the acceptance of reality, with respect for the vicissitudes of change. From that place we can responsibly say, “We knew this was possible. It’s not what we wanted, but we knew it was possible. What’s the best we can do in this moment?”

That perspective allows us to open up to what the moment has to teach us and gives us a chance to practice the resilience necessary to make the most of it.

As the saying goes, the only way to survive keeping your head in the clouds is to have your feet firmly planted on the ground.


autumn close up color daylight

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Delight of Solitude

“Solitude is painful when one is young but delightful when one is more mature”
— Albert Einstein


For years now I’ve been contemplating why it is that I am increasingly comfortable with and even possessive of my time alone. It’s unknown territory for me, a long way from where I started.

Between the ages of 18 and 35, I could fairly be described as an “insecure extrovert.” I didn’t want to be around other people, I needed it in an unhealthy way.

I didn’t know how to be alone and it made me restless, anxious and uncertain when I had to be. Since this was still the pre-Smartphone era I didn’t have an easy form of escapism to dull the pain. I just had to feel it. And I hated it.

Other people served as a distraction from the unresolved questions in my heart and mind and the difficult feelings that accompanied them. In many cases I used other people to escape those feelings leading to unhealthy and short-lived relationships. It was a pattern broken by marriage but not resolved by it. In fact, had I not sought help in reconciling my inner life I’m sure my marriage would have suffered great damage, becoming an even more painful casualty.

Doing the work on myself not only made me a better friend, colleague, husband and father but it gave me the peace of mind and heart to be better with and to myself. That made it easier to be with myself and allowed me to transform from an “insecure extrovert” to a thoughtful and even loving one.

This is possible now because the time I spend in solitude refreshes me and heals me. It equips me to be more positive with and more generous to those I care about, instead of requiring them to feed my insatiable insecurity.

Increased comfort with solitude as we age makes sense because our experience of life is simplified. We’ve found our place and way in the world and the comfort of that leads to a quiet sense of security within the known certainties of change.

In my personal experience that increased comfort is also the equity earned from an investment in reconciliation; binding old wounds and enlarging my heart.

That’s something to be thankful for, today and every day.


alone autumn branch cold

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Mature Idealism

The summer after my sophomore year of college I stayed on campus to work on the conferences and events team. We made beds, hauled supplies and were continuously “on call” for the many groups who used the university’s facilities between May and August.

One large group proved to be especially challenging for our team. Between their ever-increasing demands and our inability to meet them, frustration mounted quickly on both sides. As we approached the boiling point our boss called an emergency meeting to determine next steps. We were worn out, frustrated and short on ideas about how to meet this client’s demands.

The boss asked us for our ideas and I blurted out, “They just never should have come.”

I’ve seen some withering stares in my life but the one I received from my boss that day tops them all. Incredulous, he moved on to someone else, someone with something useful to say.

The danger of youthful idealism is that when things don’t work out as you believe they should, an immature response seems all there is to offer. It’s a place of victimization rather than agency, one of stagnation rather than creativity.

A mature idealism suggests that our highest aspirations are always tempered with the acceptance of reality, with respect for the vicissitudes of change. From that place we can responsibly say, “”We knew this was possible. It’s not what we wanted, but we knew it was possible. What’s the best we can do in this moment?”

That’s a position of possibility, an opening up to what the moment has to teach us and a chance to practice the resilience necessary to make the most of it.

As the saying goes, the only way to survive keeping your head in the clouds is to have your feet firmly planted on the ground.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

 

 

A Week of Thanks: Day 1

fullsizeoutput_1848I am thankful for the many “edge” experiences I have had in my life – some chosen on purpose, some chosen accidentally, and some thrust upon me. These are moments and commitments that shaped my experience, my perspective and my confidence. I can still feel the fear, anticipation and anxiety of each one. And I can still feel the blessed relief of coming out the other side in one (vastly improved) piece.

In high school, during our production of the musical “Camelot,” I strode out onto an extension of the stage – between the audience and the orchestra pit – that had me nearly standing in the front row. In the middle of the song I forgot the words and spun backwards as if doing so would make me disappear. It’s right there on film.

Driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco to Chicago after college graduation to start my first job. From the edge of the country to the middle. Unknown, vast, foreign. Friends along the way. New friends and experiences waiting for me.

Standing in front of a group of admirals and generals gathered for an executive education program on leadership and culture at which I was a featured speaker. Actually, the night before the speech when I was hyperventilating to my wife over the phone that I had no business being there, none whatsoever, and that I had no idea what I was going to say. But it wasn’t that, it was the fear that what I had to say wouldn’t be good enough.

Sitting across from a therapist because “this will make me a better coach.” Learning, over hundreds of conversations that the work was about becoming a whole person.

Standing on a bluff above the ocean, strapped into a harness and parasail, contemplating the stated fact that the only to go up was to step off the edge. And then, stepping.

Thank you God, family, colleagues and life itself. Thank you for the invitation and the push. Please keep inviting and please keep pushing. I will do my best to meet you there with a full and willing heart.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

 

 

 

Small Voice / Big Voice

Small voice: There’s not enough.
Big voice: There’s plenty, and there’s more on the way.

Small voice: I’m pretty sure they owe me something.
Big voice: What can I do for them?

Small voice: I’m keeping score.
Big voice: I learn something new every time I play this game.

Small voice: I deserve better.
Big voice: I will keep working hard. The right things will come my way.

Small voice: Nobody cares.
Big voice: Somebody cares. I’m going to find them.

Small voice: I wasted my time.
Big voice: I made a choice.

Small voice: It has to be perfect.
Big voice: It has to be the very best that I can do.

Small voice: I’ll do it myself.
Big voice: Do you want to learn this?

Small voice: I’m embarrassed that I can’t do this.
Big voice: Will you please help me?


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

Ambivalence

Pinned to my bulletin board is a card received from a friend during a professional transition that significantly impacted us both. She wrote:

“Here’s to the next chapter! I say it with a pit in my stomach and eyes forward to the new.”

To acknowledge our discomfort with change while holding onto our belief in the possibility of what’s to come seems like a good description of maturity.

The last of the finches fledged on our patio has flown the nest. I will miss the daily, sometimes hourly, opportunity to see them grow before my eyes. I am also glad they’re gone.

DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.