Wednesday, December 10, 2008

graduation address

Since February, I have been taking a supervisory skills course put on by the city where I work. Yesterday, we had our graduation ceremony. All of our instructors and mentors were there, along with the people from HR who organized the course.

Each student had to make a short presentation. There were speeches and power point presentations and even a rock song singalong. I wrote and performed this spoken word piece:

Just Show Up – a poem about dread
for my friends in the graduating class of
Leading from the Front Line 2008 – City of Burnaby

People ask me if I like my job.
I always say, “YES.”
Most days, that’s the truth.
But some days….uhhhh, not so much.
Even fewer days – rare but real – I like it not at all.
Because, some day’s there’s dread.

The kind of dread that squishes my head
makes me see red
tells me, “Don’t even put one baby toe out of bed,”
the stop-you-flat-in-your-tracks

Sometimes, when I’m lying there, paralyzed,
I ask myself, “Why am I feeling dread today?”
And I think I’ve narrowed it down to two things:
1) the pile
2) the people

Let’s talk about the pile.
It begins with, “I’ll get to that tomorrow.”
Then I add “When you have some time…”
Throw in a few layers of “sort this out later”
Pretty soon, it’s a tilting tower of unmet obligations
A guilt-inducing commitment list
The product of my paralyzing procrastination.
There’s not a hope in Honolulu I will get all of that work cleared away.
I am overwhelmed with dread.

I try to sort, purge, assign, containerize (forget about equalize!)
All I get is a bigger mess
Spread out more thinly all over my desk.
I tell myself, “It’s because of the yellow.
With barely a drop of blue strength or preference,
I am not a detail person
I am not equipped to conquer this pile of individual tasks.”

So I sit, stare at the wall
as the pile grows higher and higher and higher…

Then, there are the people.
Everyone says I’m great with people.
Most days I feel that way about myself.
I’m so together, I’m balancing on the Apex of Maslow’s hierarchy.
But there are days when I feel like
I just took the express elevator all the way down
And I’m crouched in the basement, barely functioning.

You see, people are great when they agree with me
and behave in ways that serve me well.
But some days – most day – there’s conflict
recurring issues that refuse to be fixed,
the friction that erupts between alternating personalities.
And while it’s not like I need Meyers Briggs to tell me
I like to live out loud while
You like to think things over
And we just need to appreciate each other, and get along
Sometimes I feel
like I’m spending my days herding gremlins through hula hoops
and for that, I feel dread.

I remind myself to
seek first to understand.
I try my best to achieve level four listening
heck, I’d settle for level 3.5.
But in my panicked state, I discover
my intuition and compassion have flown the coop
and I’m left with a sorely misaligned form
of D4 feedback that goes like this:
Don’t you understand?
Do what I’m telling you NOW!
You Dum-head

Some days, I want to be anywhere but work.
So I picture myself in a make-your-own-adventure story.
I’m in the basket of a big, old fashioned hot air balloon.
I expel all of this dread.
It fills up the bag and I rise.
I drift at a leisurely pace
over the Whine River Valley
past the Sea of Discouragement.

from far above the land mass
I can see the white space on the organizational chart.
Up, where the air is clear, I find myself clearing.
Down on earth, I may be stuck in a rut
but up here I am not married to the misery.
While I may not be ready to develop
a whole new relationship with failure
I know for sure
when the going gets tough
the same thing that didn’t work yesterday
is pretty sure not to work again today.

I convince myself to bottom-line my own story
and just show up.
I begin with the pile
I sort again, and find
that most of what’s in it can be
discarded, delegated or dealt with before break time tomorrow.
I jot down a list of things to do.
Suddenly, they’re doable.
Just show up, and not matter how much or little I get done
it breaks the dread.

Now the people…
Even when I’m feeling dread
I take the first step and just show up
I optimize my curiosity
allow myself to be a cautious tryer
and go looking for clues in what the people
are saying, and how they behave
if the answer is anywhere, that’s where I’ll find it.
I remind myself, in the face of adversity
that I have the most to learn from the people who see
things from an opposite perspective.

Then there are the wonderful people
on this same path with me
I never feel dread about you guys.
You always show up
with help and support.
We’ve taken this journey together.
While the instructors have been excellent
I have learned the most from you.
You are my teachers, my mentors, my friends.
Together, we reflect and magnify the positive
filling in the blank spots in each others’ mirrors.
If I’m guilty of halo error
I think it’s because now I have 20 guardian angels
all showing up too.

And the dread?
I know I can call on any of you, any time.
I’ll bring my dread, you bring yours too.
We’ll take them out for a gallop around the pond
watch them run
laugh at their antics and let them go.

People ask me if I like my job.
I tell them I love it.
Sure there are days.
There will always be dread.
But I know, no matter what, I am equipped and supported

Just show up, with a focused mind and a willing heart
Sometimes I’m stopped in my tracks
But most times things go pretty well
The pile is a pile – it will grow and shrink but it doesn’t define me
The people are people, the reason I’m here
On bad days, it’s actually pretty funny
On good days, there is joy
And I remember again why I love my job.


yusufyusuf said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Muhd Imran said...

That is a pretty long speech, but you told them honestly why you do what you do. Why you love you job.


Lazy Daisy said...

Wow, girlfriend, you continually blow me away. I love the repeating lines "if you just show up. "

I know all about the you suppose we are from the same tribe and the same clan?

Most excellent as usual.