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?