The Wanderer

J.R.R. Tolkien – “Not all those who wander are lost.”

I love that quote! It gives me permission to be me – to accept my natural ability to avoid structure, embrace chaos, and be creative in the midst of pain, problems, and uncertainty! I can see it clearly, most of the time. Today, not so much.

Today, I am looking at OPL (other people’s lives) and secretly envying their stability, their childhood with both parents, a normal career, and a husband and kids that never misbehave. I see them as well-dressed, well-coiffed, well-positioned… well, everything that I am not. My path and their paths are so divergent that I wonder if I am lost. Then, I ask, “Is that okay?”

In response, my mind wanders to something I heard from my friend, Lydia, who commented on my Water Always Wins post. Lydia said that she’d been moved by speaker who was advising followers to live one year based on the question: “What would a person who loves themselves do?”

Man, talk about a challenge! It comes at a good time for me, because I’m struggling with looking at myself not as one whole (or even all that lovable) person, but as a person of extremes. How so?

I build creative solutions to big problems that disrupt, engage, and move the masses (and garner a lot of criticism from others.) At the same time, I need hours of silence to think so that I have the energy to push innovation forward. This is my cycle. But, it isn’t a well-oiled machine because there is a lot of “resistance” or “gravity” to overcome.

Earlier this year, I had a conversation with my new leader. Quelling the nervousness in my voice, I tried to explain a series of “unfortunate events” that had brought some serious pain into my work life over the past year.

“I’m a little like Inspector Clouseau,” I said. “Are you familiar with him?”   Half-way across the world, over the phone, he offered up a small, uncertain laugh. Feeling like I was jumping into an ice bath, I plunged forward with additional helpful information.

“Inspector Clouseau has this special ability to create chaos where none existed before. And he’s totally clueless to the fact that he is totally clueless…Well, that same thing happens to me at work … every once in a while.” I paused, waiting for feedback. Silence.

“It seems to aggravate some people,” I added, trying to make it sound positive. (Aggravate was an understatement.)

I wanted to share some of my favorite Inspector Clouseau movie clips with him but I was afraid he’d give up on me before we’d even started. To his credit, my leader said that while Inspector Clouseau may “step on a few toes,” at least he’s out there trying to solve the problem.

As I look at my success list (do you have one? Start by when you felt happiest with what you were doing!) I notice a pattern. I do have a gift of seeing opportunity where others see chaos, and generating off the beaten path (but effective!) ideas. To maximize this gift, I need time to think and sort through the moving parts.  One moment I’m frolicking in the chaos and even encouraging it (“Let’s go play!”)  Later, I need quiet thinking time to polish the emerging pearl (“Leave me alone!”)  This makes it hard for people to understand me.

In addition, this journey may make others uncomfortable because in between those two divergent points, there is thick fog, wrong turns, unpaved roads, detours, a wee bit of trespassing, and a variety of other consequences associated with disruptive innovation.

Some people would prefer to skip the journey altogether, to shove the chaos into a closet and lock the door.  That would be a missed opportunity.  Indeed, sometimes in the hubbub, glass gets broken.  But, given enough time and support, and a good group of folks all focused on the same desired outcome, a work of art emerges.

I don’t take credit for the art; I take credit for seeing what was possible in the midst of the storm, building a winning team to harness the opportunity, and communicating the benefits of wandering away from the business-as-usual road map.  I can see the success, but still judge myself with a critical eye.

How do I embrace the “Inspector Clouseau within” who finds excitement and joy and creativity while bumbling about in unexplored territory? And, at the same time, love the quiet, thinking, solo traveler enjoying a space bereft of sound so that I can ideate, write, shoot? (click here to see my photography) They are, after all, very different!

My “dichotomy dilemma” was further revealed in two gifts I received this weekend. The links below are gifts because I can see myself in both circumstances, and each offers great experience for the reader / viewer.

For the “me” who creates chaos where none existed before, I hugely enjoyed this hilarious blog by Pioneer Woman.  She is a gifted story teller who writes about her life on a real ranch.  This piece is a glimpse into our (my?) humanity.  Click here to read it.

For the “me” who finds solutions in a fountain of silence, here is a marvelous short video that reveals the solitary but awesome journey of a talented shoemaker in London. Beautifully filmed, inspirational, and indicative of what can come from the blend of isolation and excellence (a big thanks to blogger David Kanigan for sharing this with me).  Click here to go to Barbora Vesela’s website.  Press the play button.  Then sit back, relax, and marvel at her creative process.

I admire both women!  I see a little of me in both. Can I learn to accept both “me’s” in one body, without eternal angst or constant apologies to the universe?  Can I authentically own the idea that just because I wander on two very different but parallel paths, it doesn’t mean that I am lost or weird.  Can I embrace both sides of my own coin?

What would a person that loves themselves do?

Onward!

12 thoughts on “The Wanderer

  1. Maureen, Don’t look at other people’s lives from the outside and think that you see the whole picture. How many times do you get taken by surprise by a divorce, or a total career change brought on by unhappiness with the status quo?
    You are who you are, and not everyone will love you for it – the same goes for all of us. If you want unconditional, pure love then get a dog. The dog will love you whichever of your two extremes is in control.
    As for being lost or weird; we are all a little weird in our own way, and who hasn’t been at least unsure of where they are if not actually lost. Lost and weird are a part of the human condition, acceptance is the hard part. As a Strengths coach I have heard you tell many people that they are awesome, or special, or a Rock Star, and you say it with sincerity. I have also heard people say that they are much more at ease with an aspect of their personality once they understand that it is a strength and not a weakness.

    • Hi Hazel! Thanks so much for your awesome remarks and observations…. very true on all levels. And yes, the dog analogy is also a helpful reminder! And Acceptance is the hard part of the equation!! Self-acceptance… and yes, this is a point where I need to drink my own champagne. :-) Appreciate the reminders!!

  2. Maureen, Those who you look at so enviously may have so much chaos or unhappiness that you can’t see. In fact, they may be pressing their noses against their windows, looking at people like you who are so creative and so intent on following your own muse. You just never know.

    It just does no good to compare ourselves to others. I’ve tried really hard to just compare myself to myself. I count it as a good day when I’ve done a good job of being a little better me today than I was yesterday.

    From my perspective, you have a lot to love about yourself!

    Thanks for sharing the video of the shoemaker. I’m a real shoe-aholic. I’d kill for a pair of those!

    • Hi Barbara! I did NOT know you were a shoe-aholic! Love that about you!!

      Thank you for your encouragement. Even as I was writing, I was thinking, “You know better than this.” Our feelings are our feelings – but it doesn’t make them facts. It also helps to get the perspective of folks like you who have known me a long time and have supported me on my own crazy journey! :-) So we will have lunch soon and talk about how wonderful we are! :-) Thanks for your insight!!

  3. Hi Maureen
    Your post reminds me of this talk from Brene Brown at TED : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCvmsMzlF7o .
    I have one question or my impression about your post and that is : Why is antagonism a “bad” thing? Feels to me like a judgement ( and believe me I judge myself a lot :-D ). Coming back to the previous post about the water it makes me think whether is water less valuable in form of ice than in form of a steam :-). It’s still a same water. Just different conditions and water adapts :-). I believe you are very flexible.
    One more thing which comes to my mind is what my uncle used to tell me, and as a coach I am sure you know it: There are no bad qualities, just qualities manifested in wrong situations ;-). You are wonderful and I admire you.

    • Hi Lydia! How did you know that I love Dr. Brene Brown! I think we have the same link – see my post on Becoming Vulnerable. This is one of those circumstances where I just need to put myself out there without worry or judgment, just as you said! (You are very wise!)

      Antagonism is not itself a bad thing, but it can be less effective than being non-antagonistic. And it’s worse for me when I don’t start out with the goal of being antagonistic, in fact, the opposite may be true. Then when fury rains down upon me, I’m thinking, “Never saw that coming!” :-)

      To your point, water’s “state” may determine its usefulness in the moment – kind of like what you concluded – if you have ice when you need steam, or vice versa… well, it just won’t work! :-) Thank you for sharing your two cents.

  4. Maureen, it feels like wandering sometimes in the here and now but that’s only because we can’t always see where we are ultimately going. Your amazing combination of strengths and personal qualities are creating beauty and light in this moment and in all those dissatisfying ones that trouble you. Any wandering you do is creative energy fuel, most definitely. We need disruptors, people who invite change, who embrace chaos and ambiguity, who make sparks where other people just want quiet darkness – we need YOU! (Did you know that when I was part of the consulting organization, I felt like a misfit, that I some times called myself a ‘weirdo’ because I didn’t fit the typical mold, that it was painful sometimes being a square peg pushed into a round hole?)

    Sending you a boatload of maitri…maybe it’s time for a little Pema? :)

    P.S. Stunning photo!

    • Hi Vicki! What? you felt like a misfit?? Oh my goodness!! That square peg thing is hard, and I feel like I fact that a lot – it is comforting to know that you’ve been down that hole as well! Weirdo? NEVER!

      And you know, I didn’t make the connection between maitri until you made it for me. For those who are reading this, who haven’t heard the word, it’s about unconditional friendship with one’s self. Click here to watch a 5 minute video on it… by the awesome Pema Chodron, a female buddhist monk. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7s-rRMUl04I

      I think you’re right, Vicki! It is Pema time! :-) Thanks so much for coming to play with us.

  5. Maureen, these are great posts — very thoughtful, open, and positively provocative. Thank you for the experience and journey that you share. I quietly take something from every post; which makes me purely a consumer not a contributor. (I know, I know – we all grow more from practice and dialogue than from idly absorbing the lecture). I just wanted to say thanks.

    And, that while Clouseau may have aggravated the establishment and decorum around him, he always prevailed, solved the crime, and served justice. The audience went home happy.

    • Hi Jeff! I am so glad you came out to join us!! I appreciate your kind remarks. You don’t have to apologize for being a consumer – it’s a circle, a cycle. You learn, you live, you learn, you live, you learn, you give! It is all okay.

      Yes, the audience went home happy (god, I think he is so funny!) and he usually won the day, but there was a lot of collateral damage!

      I am so excited to see you for lunch! (note to self: stop mentioning eating in most of your comments! ) ;-) We will dive deeper into this topic and others, my friend. Thanks again for your kindness and support.

  6. Hey Maureen.., another lovely post. I dare not write on such a personal level (yet).

    Anyhoo.., I always (or occasionally) look at other and think, “they’ve got it made” or “he’s having the best live”, and sometimes envy sneaks in. But then I check myself and realize that everybody has their cross to bear. Nobody moves through live unscathed.

    Some may look smooth on the surface, but most peddle like the devil under water.

    • Hi Rogier! I love your point about the peddling like the devil underneath – isn’t that the truth! I have a new favorite song (every week or so) and one of the lines is, ‘Put out the fire in your head…’ Every time I hear it, I think, “that means, you, girl!”

      As for writing on a personal level, well, I can’t separate the two. It rolls out of me that way. But, I love YOUR writing which is professional and helpful with all kinds of social business tips!!

      And, you’re right, everyone is fighting some sort of battle, whether it is obvious or not. I guess that’s why I want to be a kinder person – there is no easy life. Period.
      Thanks for your insight, my friend, it helps me.

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