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Better Together


Now that I’m back working, I find myself frequently immersed in brain-twisting projects. But even when I was still retired, I perseverated over trying to accomplish difficult tasks in limited time frames. When Jodi and I were selling the house we’d lived in for a decade and were buying the one we live in now, I spent several evenings hunched over the calculator, my calendar, and my check book, trying to make it all work out. When I would sigh loudly, she would ask me what she could do to help. Almost without thinking I would say, “Oh nothing. I’m just trying to figure this all out. It’s really stressful.”

The words would not even be out of my mouth before I would realize what I was doing and saying. This was OUR project. We needed to be working on it TOGETHER. Given my backstory, I want to control all potentially chaotic situations. In my past—long, long ago—I couldn’t trust the adults in the room to help me feel safer. Fortunately, Jodi knows me well enough to simply step in, take on part of the work, and help me feel better. And the best lesson always is that the truly important work being done is not packing boxes or paying for new carpet, but working with another person to make those things happen.

What I’m discovering is that the only way to actually get it all done AND make it really work is to truly engage with other humans.

These days, when I’m out in the world working again, I have to remind myself that it’s really the relationships that bring everything to life. Wherever we do it, the world of work is filled with initiatives, policies, regulations, and new procedures that can consume us as we sit behind our desks and stare at computer screens. We fret about how to implement plans, meet deadlines, save money, and maintain our energy. But what I’m discovering is that the only way to actually get it all done AND make it really work is to truly engage with other humans.

Like most people, relationships are the most important part of my life. But I think I’ve had a tendency to keep them in a separate category from doing the things I need to do at work or as a person. My sense of worth has always seemed tied to “doing it myself.” Part of me has believed that I’m supposed to be able to accomplish my life tasks alone. The other part of me has harbored a certain kind of mistrust. I have halfway believed that I am the only one I can count on to do the job the way I want it done. That lives at the core of me—whether it’s folding laundry or completing some bureaucratic form.

I’m sure it’s easy to see the problems in this kind of logic, but I’ve held tightly to it for so long. I am only now realizing the power of working with other people on whatever I do. Not only do these relationships actually make it easier to do what needs to be done, but the result is about 10 times greater—even if the result is not what I imagined it would be. And this holds true whether I’m seeking an opinion about a personal decision or building a team of people to make a big change at work.

Recently, Jodi and I have been working hard together to figure out a few big life decisions. On some level, it's just easier to set my own goal and meet it, or not, but I'm not the only one here. So we slogged through it, put up walls, raised our voices and admitted being afraid. By the end of it, we both felt so much better and so much richer than if we’d remained as separate as we could.

It’s not easy to honestly and purely share our lives and our work with other people. It requires listening and compromising and sometimes giving up something we really wanted. Working together authentically asks us to hear some other ways to do things and some new takes on ideas we might hold very dear. This opportunity to go deeper and further with other people is something for which I’m eternally grateful. I’m so much better if I open my mind and my heart to those who live and work around me, and I’m so happy to be reminded of that regularly.