Making It Work

Break it down.

“Making it work”.

When you hear someone say, “making it work” we usually think they are trying to make something work that isn’t working; a relationship, a living situation, or a job, for example. It often has a bad connotation, like a last ditch effort to make something better before totally giving up on it. And no wonder. Break it down; making it work. If you look at in a literal sense it sounds like we are turning something that shouldn’t be work into work, we are making it into work.

When you hear people say they are struggling in a marriage or relationship, but they’re going to try to “make it work” we can be pretty certain the next time we speak to them they’ll be out of the relationship. The same is true when the phrase is applied to a living situation, a job, or some similar circumstance; it seems doomed to demise, eventually, and usually sooner than later. Is it because they are taking something less than perfect, something they desire to change, and rather than making it joy they are making it work?

Words, and their use, spoken and in thought, can be tricky. Remember Mother Teresa and her statement? She won’t go to an antiwar rally, but she’d be happy to attend a peace rally. Her belief that “fighting” against something only fortifies it through negative energy, but promoting something strengthens it through positive energy. What we think manifests. What we say manifests. So, if we are trying to improve something by “making it work”, we are making a chore, a task, or are making harder something that shouldn’t be. An interesting thought, don’t you think?

Break it down. We are struggling in some situation (pick one), and we decide to try to improve it. If we try to make it work, almost immediately our mood shifts and we begin treating the situation like Monday morning; with a bit of dread, a bit of trepidation, a melancholy feeling of loss over the joyous weekend that is now passed. We move a little more slowly, we procrastinate, we fail to find as much pleasure in whatever makes us feel this way and it further deteriorates. Seem logical? What if you approached it in a more positive mindset? I’m going to make it joyful! Whatever it is suddenly seems so much more appealing, so much more attractive. It feels more like a Friday, like something we want to embrace and savor and make last the whole weekend long. Am I right?

I had my annual review for work this evening. I won’t lie, my job is pretty taxing sometimes, usually when I’m sitting in an airport between flights, I’m tired and I just want to not have to carry all my stuff around, I just want to be vertical or horizontal, not bent in half, for an extended period of time, and preferably motionless, with my eyes closed and my mind quiet. Or when I’m setting an alarm for 6:00 AM Eastern time to get up for work when I “live” in the Pacific time zone. Traveling on weekends and working all week. Being away from home for a week, or two, or more. Living out of a suitcase. Waking up in a hotel room and having a really hard time remembering exactly where I am. But, I still love my job! Every day I work with clients I am enthusiastic, upbeat, I infuse fun and wit and humor into everything I do. The content I teach is dry, serious, and really, not much fun, we’re talking audit software, but I do my best to have fun and make fun, delivering it. I try to always be upbeat and energetic and enthusiastic when I’m working with my team on projects, it makes everyone happier, it makes the work easier, it brings joy, if to no one else, then to me. And for this, I am recognized and valued, by my clients, by my co-workers and by those who manage me. I bring joy to a job rather than “make it work”.

Part of the discussion this evening revolved around the rigors of travel. It is hard, no doubt. Some folks I work with get off the plane, go to the hotel, stay in the hotel, go to work, go back to the hotel, get on the plane and go home. They are just making it work. They are generally less joyful about their jobs and usually the first to complain about work. They make it work, though. When I travel for work, I seek out opportunities to see and do and experience and find joy. I take great pleasure in seeking out unique, local restaurants to dine in. I look for interesting local sites and attractions. Or, it may be as simple as my quest for a Whole Foods in every city I visit. I try to visit different Whole Foods Markets in larger metropolitan areas I visit regularly. I have an unofficial quest to visit every Whole Foods Market possible. I also love seeing professional sports stadiums in different cities, and I don’t even follow sports! I love university campuses, they are usually nice places to walk, have lovely gardens, lawns, trees and are festooned with art and sometimes, great architecture. Nothing major, nothing expensive, but definitely way better than the four walls of a generic, chain hotel room. You do realize that every hotel chain decorates with the same carpet, towels, bedding, and often, even wall hangings. Some hotel chains WILL actually put “local” scenes up for wall décor, but not all. So, the only way you can tell which city you’re in is Googling the art on the wall, That, my friend, is making it work.

The challenge, then, is to change our thought patterns, change our choice of words and watch our resulting attitude change. The next time you feel the need to “make something work”, stop yourself. Rephrase it. Make it joy, instead. Approach whatever task or situation ahead of you with joy and enthusiasm, with energy and the thought of opportunity, and I’m quite sure you’ll garner a better result. Whether your challenge is, indeed, a relationship that is faltering, a job that is tedious, a living situation that is strained, a lifestyle that is stagnant, health that is deteriorating, fitness that is languishing, or just a feeling that there must be something more, use a different tone of voice inside and out, select words that are more positive in your thoughts and in your speech and I’m sure you’ll find the outcome to be much easier and more rewarding than something that you turn into hard work.

Make it joy.

 

Making it joy, a week at work, strolling the streets in the evenings and finding begonias everywhere!
Making it joy, a week at work, strolling the streets in the evenings and finding begonias everywhere!

 

Numbers or Words

I have always sucked at math.

For as long as I can remember, I have sucked at math. I have always been sort of an over achiever and a wee bit competitive. And I have always loved school, the idea of school and of learning. I’d still be in school, if I could, but at some point I had to stop, and get a job, so my kids could go to school, and love it too.

I remember way back before kindergarten, driving by the school down the street and looking at the building with the weird curvy roof, the multipurpose room, and thinking, since it was the room at the far end, that must be where kindergarten was. All I wanted in the whole wide world was to be in kindergarten so I could learn to read. I was four years old. When I finally turned five, you remember, I’m sure, the eternity a year was when you were that age, I got to GO TO SCHOOL! I was only mildly disappointed that kindergarten wasn’t held in the big room on the far end with the curvy roof. Kindergarten totally rocked, except we didn’t get to read. First grade was way better because Mrs. Wells was our teacher and we got to learn to read! I remember learning to sound out the letters posted on the wall over the chalkboard. Game on! I was determined to finish the “Sullivan Reading Series” before anyone else at Browns Valley Elementary School, and I had until some time in second grade to do it. There were thirteen modules with stories about Sam and Ann and their cat Tab, how random is that?

I remember, by half way through first grade, I was way ahead of most of the other kids in the reading program, there were really only a couple of kids I was in competition with. Two girls and one boy. I was so going to finish the thirteenth module before the rest. Game on. I loved my first grade teacher and prospered under her compassionate instruction. I was definitely in the running entering second grade. My mom was one of those moms, much as I was, that requested one teacher over the other for her child’s special, accelerated, and extraordinary educational needs. And, being a woman of well chosen words, in both cases, always got what we asked for, the “best” teacher in that grade level. Unfortunately, the “best” second grade teacher at Browns Valley that year didn’t think I was the best student. Sad face.  For my super-human efforts in completing the Sullivan Reading program, I came in second, after the other girl, but before the boy. But, on the bright side, I was reading a few grade levels ahead of second grade.

Math, on the other hand, not so good. I got addition. I got subtraction. Multiplication and division were a bit harder, but with concerted effort, I memorized the tables sufficiently. Word problems were the devil. And anything that even resembled solving for “x’” was an automatic “huh?’ “X” was a letter, it belonged in words, and only a few words, at that, it had no place in arithmetic!

Junior high is a dark memory. Actually, academically, other than English, French, Physical Education and Band, I remember nothing; math and science, to be exact, were a black hole. By the time high school rolled around, and college was on the horizon, my parents employed mathematically gifted family acquaintances to try to nurture me through Algebra and Geometry. It was a dismal attempt. When I applied for college, way back when, for a “state” college, all you needed for “guaranteed” admission was a 3.25 GPA. I had all A’s in my English, foreign language, physical education, arts and other electives. My perfect 4.0 was lowered to 3.27 by my consistent underachievement in mathematics, but, nonetheless, I had a red carpet entry into college.

In college, I was only required to take one math class for my chosen field of study. I had to successfully pass college algebra. Somehow, I totally lucked out and got a coke fiend for a teacher. I showed up for the first day of class and , tweaking, with a mustached encrusted with white powder, he explained his grading scheme; hand in homework, pass the tests and pass the class. Done. I think I showed up two more times all semester, to hand in homework (and the answers were in the back of the book) and to take the tests. He managed to show up for a few classes, and I showed up for even fewer. I got a C, an A on the homework portion and a strong D- on the tests. But, I passed, and never had to worry about math again.

Flash forward ten years and I, miraculously, unwittingly, graduated from college, because, if I had anything to say about it, I’d still be there! “Here’s your degree, now get out!”

I got a bachelors degree in criminal justice, but life is weird and somehow, I’m an accountant, which, you would think is all math. Luckily for me, Excel does the math and I just learned how to build a really wicked formula!

I’ve been in the accounting profession for twenty some years, and it has been good to me. My goal in life, for whatever reason, is to reach six figures by the time I’m fifty. Abstract, I know, and, additionally, I am well aware that money doesn’t buy happiness. It’s just a competitive thing. I will be fifty in July, this year. If I add up my salary and potential bonuses, etc., I will fall shy of my goal. I’m looking for things to sell, up to, but not including, my body, in order to meet my goal. I am extremely goal oriented and this is killing me, for whatever reason. I thought about adding a PayPal button to this post, but didn’t. Ugh.

So, what do I really want to do when I “grow up”, which, really, according to my personal philosophy is NEVER? I want to write. All I have ever wanted to do is write. I was first published in the second grade. I wrote a whole, well worded paragraph on being Amish and it was published in the Browns Valley School annual essay publication. I still have it, in case you doubt me. But, when my GPA was suffering in junior high and I almost got dismissed from the GAT (gifted and talented) program, I wrote an awesome, extra credit project and it cured the problem. In high school, I was published not once, but twice, in the annual essay collection. When I’d been in college for nine years and was still trying to finish up my general education requirements, I wrote an awesome plea to the dean and got the final twenty one units of general eduction requirements waived. Other than writing legendary Christmas family newsletters the kind most folks cringe to receive, and rarely read, and the occasional letter, blogging has been my only literary outlet since college. Sad face.

A way with words is a gift, and if you have it, you can rule the world, unless you’re really, really good at math, then you can rule the universe. At least that’s what I believe, and that’s what I’ve taught my kids. My son was born speaking in four syllable words. My daughter is an English major and a grammar nazi, bar none. I’m a little embarrassed to let her read what I write! From day one, I spoke to them as if they were adults, I never spoke baby talk to them, I spared no five dollar words. In our home, the dictionary was on the pedestal, the Bible was on the shelf. Sorry, God, at least the good book was in the house. I’ll be writing an admission essay to heaven, if necessary, and Saint Peter will cave at my eloquently worded plea for entry.

So, while numbers are currently what pay my bills, I endeavor to swap them for words. I know that none of us will ever be truly fulfilled until we are doing, in life, what we are truly passionate about. I have passion and respect for the job I do now, for the products I support, for the people I work with, and for, and for the company I am employed by. But, when all is said and done, I want to make my living as a wordsmith, not as a bean counter. Writing, and helping people evolve towards their own fulfillment, is what I am most passionate about. The progression is slow, but eventual, if for no other reason, because I am determined. And because I have bills to pay. And I have two kids in college. And even if writing is what I end up doing for a living for the last moments of my life, when I am too old and decrepit to do what I do now, I will still have succeeded in my goal. Simply this, I choose words over numbers. Count on it!