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  • Writer's picturemaggiehsmith07

Competent & Kind


Years ago, a senior executive of a company I worked for said something like, “...and I don’t want to hear how nice someone is! I want to know that they can do their job.” I understand that this person was likely not inferring that the two were mutually exclusive. Even so, I sent up an unspoken, “Why can’t they be both? Both competent and kind? This isn’t too much to ask. To expect.” I’m grateful to have returned to my former company. This morning, I sat on my bed and paused to pet the cat and my mom’s voice rang in my head, “I would have walked home by that point.” A phrase my mom most always includes when recounting the three and a half years we spent in southern Illinois due to my dad’s (voluntary) job transfer. Southern Illinois wasn’t like anything we were used to. Much like me working at a software company. Metaphorically speaking, I too could have walked back to my old company. And, in a way, I did. This week felt like the end of a half marathon. I’ve run two. For me, there is always a point in almost any race where I am thinking, “Why did I do this? Voluntarily! I thought this would be a good idea.” Maybe you walk or falter a bit. Hopefully, you meet an ally on the course and you provide moral support to one another to get one another across the finish line. You finally cross (and if you’re slow like me, you’ve been at it a while) and you fall, exhausted and relieved, into the arms of someone who’s been waiting for you. That’s what this week was like - falling onto people who waited and believed I’d make it back even when I wasn’t at all sure what was next for me. Rest assured, naïveté has not overcome me. I realize there are probably unkind or incompetent, or worse, unkind AND incompetent, people employed by by current company. But this doesn’t seem to be the rule - but rather the exception. I had a long weekend before (re)joining my company. And, as I’d mentioned, got swept up in the Kondo craze which is to say I began reorganizing drawers. So much chaos and mess - it seemed like a metaphor for what life had spiraled into during 2018. “When did this happen?!” I asked Andrea. “When we got Georgie.” Andrea said, referencing our October rescue pup addition. It seemed like it had happened much earlier in the year than October so I asked Andrea again a few days later. “Mmmm....well when did you start the software implementation at work? Oh. Then I started a new job and was traveling - we weren’t in a routine. Then there was the situation with...” January. January 2018. That’s when the slow slide, the unspooling, began. So I’m working to put it back together - order from disorder. I’m moving onto books this weekend and am disregarding Marie Kondo’s guideline that you cap your book collection at 30. Having said that, I am hoping this frees up some room on some shelves because some books are towering on a pile near my side of the bed.  I like the idea of considering if an object sparks joy, or if we want to carry it forward in life, when we think about retaining something.  To permit that object to continue to take up space in our home.  I think it’s a refreshing and worthy consideration as we move through life to consider what or whom brings us joy & to spend our time accordingly.

This week, poet Mary Oliver died at age 83.  Oliver’s instructions for living a life were to pay attention, be astonished and tell about it.  Of joy, Oliver wrote:

“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happened better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.” (Don't Hesitate) Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems 

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