Savagery to Civility – a continuum explored

 

My friend Bonnie and I had lunch with my Dad yesterday. Bonnie jokes that in order to prepare for a lunch with “Poppo”, she has to read every newspaper around and then study what he might be most interested in..then prepare to be schooled by his superior ability to gather and analyze information.

Today was no different from most days. Our discussions took us from assisted suicides to self-induced stress from our over-connection to cell phones and computers, to the similarity of political realities between the first World War and what’s happening in the Ukraine today.

Poppo getting ready to work at his computer...and become smarter than me yet again!

Poppo getting ready to work at his computer…and become smarter than me yet again!

My father eloquently explained that on the continuum between savagery and civility, humankind has not progressed very far. We have learned and seen so much, but we have not moved our positions to any great extent. 

I wholeheartedly agreed with him, quickly rising to the occasion with a story (typical of me…like father, like daughter). 

I recently received an e-mail, along with other members of the project team, about a quirk in a program I’m working on for the federal government. Something about the wording of the e-mail struck me as hilariously funny. I responded, but only to the author. The demands of this task team are huge, the stress they are all under is significant, and praise and acknowledgement is a rarity (in my experience) in the public service. I was careful in crafting my response, to note the humour, assign no personal blame or responsibility, and perhaps, create a smile and make the day better. 

I failed miserably. 

The author’s response to my e-mail was immediate, brief and, in my father’s words, savage. 

I was heartbroken. Not because I was chastised and berated for my attempt at humour. But I was saddened because the default position for this individual was so very, very negative. It hearkens back to our lunch discussion, where the default position of so many powerful political figures, when faced with a posturing or sanctions, is to strike out with negative force. Has this savagery pervaded our society so much that it has become a professionally acceptable approach to business? Or to the rest of our lives?

Honestly, this one e-mail has had a powerful impact on me. I had to stop and consider my own default position. What do I do when faced with something that I can easily misconstrue? Do I lash out, choosing to be savage and remaining on the low-end of that continuum? I hope I don’t. I believe I try to conscientiously move myself towards civility, in fact, striving to move past to a greater form of humanity and love. 

After the great e-mail episode that left me a bit bruised and confused, I took the dogs for a walk. Ball cap, lined coveralls and muddy boots are my dog walking uniform of choice, and few people take a second look as I spring along with the girls. As I was turning for home, a car slowed then stopped near me. A smiling gentleman explained that he has seen me walking with the dogs for months, and though we smile and wave, he didn’t know me. And he just wanted to say hi, meet me in person, so that the next time we pass one another, we will have something more substantive than simply a kind wave. We will have a friendship.IMG_2724

The next time someone does something that rubs you the wrong way, pause. Before you lash out, consider the intent and circumstance. Find perspective, both yours and theirs. Then proceed like my smiling gentleman and reach out with that smile. 

Move up on that continuum. Strive for something even more than civility.

There is hope, my friends. 

It is all around us. 

It is us. 

 

Change and Soccer: A retrospective

Change. It happens every day, all the time. We change our socks, change directions, change our plans. If we like change, we relish each new perspective. If we are anxious about change, we develop habits to maintain the status quo. But regardless, we live lives of change.

I’ve learned that there is more to change than meets the eye. In fact, I’ve found three key things that I bring to clients, friends and others when when they are experiencing change:

  • We can adapt!
  • Change is different for everyone.
  • The “behind the scenes” parts of change are often the greatest…and we don’t expect them.

My daughter was 5 years old when she announced she wanted to play soccer. Not only that, she wanted to be a great soccer player. Before I knew it, I was a coach for a bunch of little girls, all running in different directions, trying to chase a ball towards a net, with Jaime leading the charge. The “Red Team” was pretty good, and in time, we made the shift from House League to Rep.

The changes were all worth it...here's the Captain of the Blue Devils!

The changes were all worth it…here’s the Captain of the Blue Devils!

The changes were HUGE! More practices, more time traveling, more injuries; where do I stop? I almost run out of breath when I think of my life, let alone the girls’ lives, during those 5 years of Rep play and travel. It was a wild ride, with moments of great joy, of shock and disbelief, of exhaustion, stinky shin pads, and everything in between.

It was so very worth it.

I learned more than I bargained for being a soccer coach.

I learned that we can adapt. To anything. Shifting from House League to Rep meant meant onerous paperwork, more formality and accountability, and way more games. The change was hard, at first, but we adapted.

I learned that the change was different for everyone.

The girls had to adapt to the physical and emotional demands of playing at a higher level, 12 months year. They couldn’t stay out late, they had to get up early to do homework, they had to eat better to perform better.

Parents had to plan to travel to away games, pay for competitions in the US and England, and explain to their friends why they had no social life away from the soccer pitch.

I spent much of my waking hours designing practices, running games, traveling and trying to fit my day job around my every increasing soccer demands.

The “behind the scenes” parts of change were unexpected. Who knew that going from House league to Rep would impact my grocery bill so much? Or that my knowledge of cruciate knee injuries would become almost encyclopedic, and I would start to invite the local physiotherapist home for dinner?

Traveling with Jaime and Maddie (who is the physiotherapists daughter and now plays professionally!)

Traveling with Jaime and Maddie (who is the physiotherapist’s daughter and now plays professional soccer in England!)

Who anticipated that my entire family needed to have their passports up to date? Or the countless hours I spent reading weather forecasts? All this, just because my daughter wanted to be a great soccer player?

She became a great soccer player, by the way. Captain of her university team. The changes she made, I made, and everyone else made, were all worth it. Yup, they were hard at the time (the grocery bills were astronomical!). But we chose to accept the changes that were a result of a life of soccer.

I challenge you to stop and think about a change that you may soon be undertaking, and consider these things:

  • If you are moving, changing jobs, changing an activity at work, know that the obvious change is do-able and you can adapt. We all can.
  • Change will impact people in a different way. Your children may be affected by a move differently that you. Changing jobs will mean you will work with new people, who will be influenced by you.
  • There is residual change, or “behind the scenes” change, too. A move means getting to set your kitchen up just the way you always wanted. Learning a new software program means adding a new item to your resumé.

I believe the act of choosing to accept change makes all the difference in the world. If you accept the larger grocery bills and the long drives with exhausted (and stinky) teenagers, you will survive, and even thrive in a world of change.

One of the changes/gifts of being a coach? Gaining another daughter...the tall one!

One of the changes/gifts of being a coach? Gaining another daughter…the tall one!