Tuesday, August 03, 2010


"Here," Sibling said, placing a small book between us where we sat at the back of the conference room. I raised an eyebrow and used the tip of my finger to tilt the text toward me.

"Maybe I like sweating the small stuff," I told her, picking it up nonetheless and selecting a chapter to read. I paused when I finished the few pages on the random topic, thinking for a moment before neatly placing the book back where she'd put it.

"I think the guy is on something," I decided, "or way more zen than I am. Still, he has a point." I had, for example, read the 'accept the 80/20 rule' section and pondered it while (mostly) paying attention to the meeting that soon started. The chapter basically said that 80% of the work would be done by 20% of the people and that some of that 20% would be bitter over it.

I am, in my current state, doing a hell of a lot of work and understand that's a choice I've made. I'm building my career and doing something I love so being constantly attached to my Blackberry and taking conference calls before 7AM and after 11PM strikes me, for now, as being worthwhile. So while I'm not actively bitter, I am easily annoyed when colleagues aren't as responsive as I am - as quick or thorough or somehow good. But, Richard Carlson, Ph.D., states that others have different working styles and priorities, stresses and skills.

True story, I decided easily, knowing on some superficial level that colleagues have spouses and children, interests and needs. One in particular made me pause when she said her cat died - I stopped to give her a cuddle and sympathetic murmur, then asked her if she could get to that email I'd sent two days ago. She did, and I reminded myself to take her to lunch - find out what's going on and if I could help. It's been weeks and I've ignored the hints that she's struggling and feeling that I need to stop and make time for her. Today, uninterested in my work and seriously coming home for a nap, I instead walked over to her cubicle and invited her out.

We chatted about work - promotions and new hires and the flurry of movement that was happening between vacations for our bosses. I talked about what she wanted to do next, knowing she was smart and skilled, but seeing her as a more maternal, loving presence than anything else.

"So," I said cheerfully as our salads were delivered and I poked eagerly at the avocado slices, "how's your daughter?"

My face fell as she began to talk and I watched with sympathetic horror as she described a series of catastrophic events in her family. It is rare when I can think of no advice - no story to tell or insight to offer. But I sat and listened, head cocked and eyes steady on the ones that blinked back tears across the table.

I said a prayer for her and her family as I drove us back to campus. I included a brief thought of gratitude for giving me the time and multiple cues to reach out to her. To remember that, while life other than work for me consists of books to read, naps to take and Big Bang Theory DVDs to watch, it can often include sick parents, suicidal teenagers, abusive relationships, new romances, consuming hobbies and all other sorts of meaningful distractions.

So while I may rub my hands together gleefully over how my retirement fund did in the first half of 2010 and plan what to do with my latest bonus (pay off credit cards), and start to plan my next trip to Japan, I'm remembering it is rather small stuff. I think I'll pick up flowers for my friend before work tomorrow. And I'm going home this weekend to visit my family and will go so far as to leave the Blackberry alone. At least for small stretches of time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous photos, Katie! Glad to hear that things are going so well for you, yet sad for your colleague. I hope things get better for her.


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