I Need To Reflect And Listen

It Is Difficult For Me To Inconvenience Others

It’s 2 PM on Tuesday, and I get a text reminder from my daughter, Grace. “Don’t forget that you are picking me up after school. You need to be on time.” I respond, “I know, I’ll be there at 3:30.” I then receive a screenshot of an earlier text message with the time 3:10 circled. This level of insistent confirmation is not typical for Grace, and it signifies how important it is for me to pick her up exactly at 3:10. I respond, “I’ll be there.”

Once home she only has minutes to change into more formal attire; I drive her to a swanky benefit where she will be one of the speakers.

I return home to put on a suit coat and tie and return to the benefit about an hour later. There is my little girl, once the toddler who was afraid to go down a flight of stairs. There is my high school student standing in a receiving line smiling and talking to shakers and movers. The mayor, the superintendent of schools, the head of the park district, the list goes on. Soon she is speaking to the entire group, recounting stories and statistics on the benefits of positive role models for teens, and the intrinsic importance of connection with others. My pride in her is overflowing as she answers questions from the audience with the authority and humor of a seasoned pro.

My role is very minor, as a guest of the event. I don’t enjoy attending formal functions. As an introvert, even this limited part tends to exhaust me.

However, dear reader, you would never know that I was an introvert at the event. I am social and engaging. I go up to people I don’t know, introduced myself, and start conversations. Such behaviors are not natural for me, but long before I became a psychiatrist, I was an observer of human behavior. I know what to do, and how to do it. After many benefits, professional meetings, cocktail parties, and other such events, I can pull it off, but it is an energy draining effort.

The event brings to the forefront one of the main issues that I continue to deal with as I try to transition from my doctor position, where people came to me, to a position where I have to go to people.

My issue isn’t making superficial contact with someone; it is my inability to ask them for something. Time to talk to me, a moment to allow me to take their picture. This is difficult for me to do.

As a problem solver, I know that there are some patch fixes. Having a wingman with me makes it easier to engage someone on a deeper level. Using an intermediary person as a go-between could be useful. However, I have a way to go.

Wednesday night, Valentine’s Day, I am sitting across the table from my wife, Julie. We are at Pepe’s, an inexpensive Mexican restaurant that we like. I tell her that I’m disappointed with myself for not making the progress that I had hoped to make. “I just don’t know what to do or how to do it.” I discuss with her my difficulty with inconveniencing others. How I don’t want to bother people with my demands. She suggests that I talk to our pastor, as he is the consummate connector. It is a great idea, but it would require me asking him for help. I chuckle to myself. I put the idea on the “likely possible” list. I tell her that I still feel that I need to do something that will have a greater impact in this world. As I start to process what I’m saying we both explore my life. When I try to do grand things they are marginally successful. It is clear that I have made the biggest impact when I am interacting one to one with someone. This is the case not only in my professional life but also in my personal life. I reflect.

Saturday morning and I’m sitting in my friend’s Tom’s office working on a project. After about an hour he asks me if I want to go to Harner’s restaurant for breakfast. At the restaurant, I talk to Tom about my dilemma. “Tom, I want to change the world, but I seem to be a one on one type of guy.” Tom listens. I start to reminisce how in the early days of our friendship I tried to help him with his home remodeling website. Tom and I are great at bouncing ideas off one another, and I remember how much I enjoyed learning about the construction business as we redesigned his web pages. Another one to one interaction with someone. An interaction where both parties continue to benefit. I reflect.

Tomorrow I’ll meet with my siblings for breakfast. I have already been in contact with several of them about the get-together. We are looking forward to seeing each other and sharing our lives.

Later in the day my wife and kids have agreed to go with me on a photo road trip. We will travel to Woodstock, Illinois, about 1 hour away. They have promised to be patient with me and to not complain about my constant stops to shoot pictures. I’m am excited about the adventure and the company. I reflect.

My birthday is in a few day; it will be one of those big milestone ones. Dear reader, I am in a period of transition. I continue to wait for my “big inspiration,” but I am starting to see a different path. Perhaps my next direction will be on a smaller scale. I am trying to be still, quiet and to listen. I hope this will cause me to gain greater clarity. I’m trying to look at my past and learn from both my successes and my failures.

Life is interesting. Every day I face a new reality sculpted by the experience from the days before. Perhaps it will be my children who will be the ones with the big ideas. One foot in front of the other. I reflect.

Grace giving her talk.
I need to be quiet and listen.

6 thoughts on “I Need To Reflect And Listen”

  1. Hi Mike!

    I think it is one of life’s paradoxes that people are often constrained not by their limitations but by their freedoms. The future (your future) is pregnant with possibilities. At some point you will have to decide which boat to board and then launch yourself into the blue. Apologies for the mixed metaphors.

    I hope you will forgive my crude solecisms. I’ve never been very good at expressing myself in ways that are socially acceptable, either in writing or verbally.

    Best wishes, John

    1. Hi John,
      I like metaphors of any variety. I absolutely agree with your first sentence. When your options are limitless the possibilities can become overwhelming and limited. I enjoy your wise comments.

  2. Since I have gone through this before you, I can tell you that it is an adjustment. Your identity, your purpose, your feelings of relevance are in transition. The things that you were known for, your title, your office…all are different now. For the first year, I was enjoying the freedom, the not having to go out and drive on the ice, the ability to savor a cup of morning coffee and the desire to change the world…just like you.

    The second year, I had to adapt to having less money, to not needing the things I used to buy for entertainment and curiosity. I no longer needed professional clothing and a laptop case. My name wasn’t on any doors.

    In this third year, I am sharing my experiences with others to help them by writing. I am helping my kids more. I am downsizing my house. And, I am traveling more often.

    But, know this. Our legacy now is to prepare the younger generation to be courageous, to initiate change, and to instill values in those they meet.

    It’s time to take a second look at something, to try a new experience, and to exhale. There is a book called Buddhist Bootcamp by Timber Hawkeye. It’s small. I recommend it. I love his whole philosophy on living.

  3. Hi!
    Your blogs are always interesting & certainly thought-provoking. From an amateur’s point of view, there does seem to be a consistent theme. I keep thinking how rushed you always are in what ever you do & how you are never satisfied you are with yourself.
    You want to change the world.
    What do you want to change it to?
    Is that a realistic goal?
    Have you ever considered how many lives you’ve touched over your professional career alone?
    What makes you think you haven’t already done your part in changing the world?
    Things will settle down after you fully retire &
    “detox” from being on hyperdrive.?

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