Attention

Power outlets at one time were one of the most popular wall fixtures in my house. My kid loved to take the little safety cover out of the socket. He would show it to me. He would give it to me. He would hold onto it while he walked around the house. Then he would try to put it back in the socket.

We told him in every way shape and form that this is a forbidden toy. Yet he persists to play with them. Until we ignored it.

He was never interested in the socket. He was never interested in the socket cover. He was always interested in us engaging with him.

The entire time, this was about our attention.

We are not perfect parents by any measure. But we do give our kid quite a bit of attention. We out number him. It is easy to give him a pretty decent dose of attention.

And yet, for whatever reason, he decides sometimes, he needs extra attention.

He goes to the socket.

Our ‘Spidey Senses’ go off.

And we are on it like mustard on a hotdog. And the more we “ignore” it, the more he stopped it all together. And he will get a book for us to read or bring a toy for us to play with together.

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He never wanted the outlet.

He wanted attention.

And in life, how can I be the exact same. Sometimes I get fired up over things that are not that big of a deal. Not because I actually am fired up, but because I know it will do the same goal. (Not proud of these moments even as they become less and less frequent.)

The essence of these actions are equal though, they are not about the outlet cover or the issue at hand. They are about getting a need filled through an alternative means. These needs are essential and they do need to filling. There are healthy ways of filling these needs. There are unhealthy ways of filling these needs. I am still figuring out how to fill my needs in a healthy way. My kid is also figuring out the same thing.

He is so my kid sometimes.

What needs do you fill in an unhealthy way? How can you work to fill your needs in a healthy way? Who can help you catch yourself when you are resorting to unhealthy methods? Who are you helping to catch themselves? Who is helping you process how to better fill your needs in a healthy way?

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Friends Forever

There is an older gentleman I met while I was working at Starbucks. He and his friends came in most every day we were open every year. He was a delight. He was met almost always by his friends and they sat around solving the world’s problems in the midst of our café. They were always good natured and I was glad to know them all.

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Several years have gone by since I worked there, I have aged some and he has continued to age some, and he is now reaching a point where he needs assistance in his living. He is still a delight and today, he is being taken care of by his friends who he met with every day at Starbucks.

His friends have a voice in his life because their most vibrant connection was a table covered in coffee cups, napkins, and newspapers. It brings me so much joy to know he is in good hands with his friends being the decision makers in his life as his health slowly declines.

These people are an inspiration to me to develop the friends and connections I have. These men were introduced through a coffee shop and met regularly to be friends. And now they continue to care for each other more ways than the years of theoretical conversations they had over coffee.

To know that one day I might also be cared for by my friends bring me warmth and joy. To know he is being cared for by his friends brings me peace. And I never could have guessed how far these relationships they were developing might grow.

What relationships are you investing in? Who are the people you want to take care of you as you age? Who do you want to be with you as you reach your twilight years? What steps are you taking to bring people into your life to know you well enough to know what you would want when you reach your twilight?

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Corner

Mass transit is great for getting a lot of people from here to there on the predetermined schedule. In Europe, the mass transit systems more extensive and reliable than we might be familiar with in the United States. However, most of us have at least experienced the yellow cheese wagon buses that took us to and from school during our elementary school days.

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No matter what, mass transit is a great resource with a very clear purpose and definition of what it is for.

Likewise we have many things we are for or in favor of. From washing dishes and cooking dinner to getting things done at work and running errands on the weekend. We have many things we are in favor of. We even have people we are in favor of. People we are developing relationships with or maintaining long standing relationships.

We also have people who are in favor of us. People who have helped us grow and mature. Decipher between right and wrong. And people who have helped us when things were not going so well.

These are people who have decided they were for us. They put themselves aside and chose to be for us in small and large ways. The network of people we have in our corner can be as numerous and extensive as the European transit system or as simple as a bus getting school children too and from school on any given day. Either way, the system of these people are in favor us and our success.

Who are you for? Whose corner are you in? Who are you supporting and helping? Who do you have in your corner? Who could you ask to be in your corner?

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Revolution Eyes

Other peoples’ issues are easy to fix. Formulaic really. I can answer them and help decipher the next step almost too easily. Actually, too easily indeed. I can not, however, deal with my own issues very well.

I generally feel like I look at my own issues and see nothing but haze, fog, and confusion. It is almost as if I am at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and I cannot see my own hand in front of my face. Truly, unnerving to say the least.

I recently unearthed a tool to use for these situations. Detatchment. Not a way to live life. Simply, a way to stop, take a breath, reassess, and then move forward. I have been using this tool more and more. I struggle with getting too connected. I am too willing to get emotionally tied up in the outcome of my work. I will get tied up not only mentally but more dangerously emotionally. I will lock into the outcome as if my life depended on it.

99.99 % of the time…
…my life does not depend on the outcome.

All it takes is a breath. Really, almost a few moments. Count to five then look at my problem again through new eyes. Revolution–eyesed. [#pungroan].

After taking these moments, I am able to comprehend my issue, step away from the problem, assess the facts (as best as I can see them. I am still only one person.) And I can move forward with confidence and clarity as to what will make the best outcome. Most importantly, I can talk myself down off a ledge and not make an angry mistake.

What happens when you get too tied into the outcome of your problems? How can you better engage your problems? How can you better interface with people who are causing you problems?

Detatching,

–JT

Balancing Act

I have been looking at the reality of relationships in connection with authenticity, engagement, and depth. How people engage one another, dig deeper, and build truly long lasting relationships. Relationships sharing the deepest parts of our lives. The parts we put in the corner and hide from ourselves and each other.

I have found a measuring system. A measuring system I am sure is true for me and is possibly true for you too. I put my relationships on a scale. When I sit down with someone for the first time or the one millionth time, I have our time together on a scale. The scale has weights on it with names such as time, authenticity, intentionality, and trustworthiness. 

How long have I known this person?

How authentic have they been with me in our relationship?

How intentional are they with me and knowing me?

How trustworthy have they proven themselves? 

I put all these things on a scale and thus I have a relationship with someone. I work to keep this scale balanced. Never putting too much time into them, as to seem needy. Never be too authentic, as I might seem more messed up than they are. Never be too intentional with them, as I might seem stalker-ish or creepy. Never share what we talk about and err on the side of saying nothing rather than anything at all. Confidentiality is king.

However, I cannot decide if this system of weights and counterweights is healthy. Then again, I am asking myself, is it actually worthwhile to keep this scale system? As a matter of fact, would it be best to skip the scale system all together, drop something heavy on my end and see what happens? 

What would happen then? Would they run? Would they respond in kind? Would it improve the relationship altogether? Would I have better friends? Would I be a better person? Would they be better for the relationship we have now? The opportunities seem limitless. It truly seems as if talking more freely about myself would not only deepen the relationships I have but also keep me from the relationships that have no future to begin with. 

How do you measure your relationships? Do you tip the scales or do you wait for others?

Tipping the scales,

–JT

Phones

Phones. Let's be real. Most all of us have one. We use them. According to some people, credible or not, 1 out of 8 of us are probably addicted to our phones or need to take some time, specifically 6&7March, to unplug. 

I cannot vouch for this or not. But I can vouch for what I see and my struggle. 

What I struggle with is the text message or tweet that comes in during dinner with my wife. The Facebook messenger notification that comes up during a work meeting. Or maybe even the push notification coming in from my podcast app of choice about the new episode of my favorite episode that became available. Then I do not control myself. I look over and see my phone has lit up with a notification and read it. I know I shouldn't. My wife will tell you that I struggle to not read it. And I aspire to be better about not reading these notifications with her and with others. I struggle to be more present in the conversations I am apart of so I am not tied to other people interjecting into my life. People who may or may not have a right to do so. 

I have a friend who once described the struggle something like this:

Imagine you're sitting down with someone whom you care about. Your spouse, a long lost friend, or someone you care deeply for. 

They have their phone on the table, not in their hand or anything. You are talking along and you are really enjoying your time together when suddenly their phone makes chimes in with a notification. 

Someone has texted them. 

They look down.

They pick up their phone and say, “Sorry, just a second."

They quickly reply to the text.

And then resume the conversation. 

Except now, there are three of you in the room, and you don't know who the third person is and you did not invite them into the time you are sharing with your loved one. However, they are sitting with you now and they might interrupt again at any moment. 

But the two of you resume the conversation and you engage your friend. They wouldn't let a conversation drag out on their phone and they would tell you if it is important. 

You trust them.

However, shortly there after, their phone chimes in again. Actually it chimes in three times. You notice the green bubbles on their lit up screen and recognize the sound from before.

They're texts.

At a glance you can't read the names, you're not being nosy, but you can tell the messages are from three different people. 

Your person apologizes again and picks up their phone. They quickly flick the toggle to silence it and unlock it. They say, "Oh, I'm in a group message now. They're party planning and I need to respond really quick."

You say, "It's ok." And excuse yourself to the bathroom, grab fresh some fresh snacks, and refill your beverages. 

Convenient timing. 

Then you sit down a few minutes later and this person of meaning locks their phone, and you resume talking. 

Unfortuneately, now there are several more people in the room. 

They weren't invited either. 

They're vocal. You still don't know these people and they’re interrupting. Your friends phone continues to vibrate infrequently. They're good not to check it. But it is sitting on their lap and your person is talking, you can hear it going off. 

Sometimes, this person that means so much to you, looks down and checks their phone while you're talking or they're talking or in those moments when you're laughing together. 

These people are here though. 

You can't get them out of the conversation and you've lost a part of this person sitting across the table from you.

You can not force these other people out. 

You. Are. Stuck.

Like I said before. I’m guilty of this. I’m not perfect at all. I’ve done this and I’m not proud of it. I’ve done this with people who I care deeply about and I’ve done this with people I am barely getting to know. I’ve done this. I’m not saying the phone is evil. I’m simply trying to point out how rude it is to invite people into a place where they do not belong. How hard I can make it on other people by inviting outsiders into a place that should be private, professional, or free of distractions.

I've taken steps in my life to minimize these opportunities. The first step I’ve taken is ‘silent mode.’ When my phone is on silent. My phone is silent. It does not vibrate, jiggle, or make a single noise. As a matter of fact, if I set my phone on my desk face down in ‘silent mode,’ my friends could start a four hour group message about whether Episode IV or Episode VI is better or if they like Picard or Kirk better and I would never know. Nobody sitting near my phone would know. The phone would simply sit there. Unmoving. Inanimate. It would be simply a phone on a desk. 

The second thing I’ve done to minimize my phone’s ability to interject into my life is I am picky about what does and does not get to light up my phone’s screen or make a noise (in the event my phone is not in ‘silent mode’.) I’ve gone through my notification settings and decided who does and does not get to light up my screen. Do I really need to get notifications from Dropbox on my phone’s screen because somebody invited me to share a folder full of pictures of their latest trip to Hell’s Gate State Park? How about from Starbucks, do I really need to know that they are having half priced scones? Or can these things wait for me to check them? 

Is my phone about instant notifications about everything going on in the world? Or is my phone about notifications that are relevant to me and what I need to know. And only the things that are most important get to cut through to me. Only when a notification truly matters and makes a difference in my relationship with someone else do I let the notification through.

Really, I have been trying to minimize distractions. I am trying to maximize the time I have with the people I am with. So they are more valued and I am more present. 

How many people are you letting into your conversations? Could anyone with your phone number interrupt you? Could anyone you’re friends with on Facebook interrupt you at any moment by commenting on the meme you posted last night or by liking the picture of beef stroganoff you posted on Instagram? 

How intentional are you about protecting the time you have with real people sitting in the room with you right now?

Focused,

–JT

Friendzone

I have people in my life who know me pretty well. These are people I can be genuine, open, honest, and they just know me. These are people who I’ve known a long time. A really long time. We've been friends/family for the better part of 20 years. We’ve all seen each other at some really high points and some really low points. We know each other. These are a couple guys I would call brothers and a girl I would call a sister. 

I get to be with these people now as I have the time to spend with them. I came to their place and told them where I am at, and they take me into their lives with open arms. I am blessed by these people. This family of mine. They bring me in and love me and support me. This is the best reminder that I am loved. And whether I think I am or not, I have people in my life who want the best for me, here in Seattle, Moscow, and Pullman. I have people who care. The question for me is am I going to let them care? 

Am I going to let them in on what is going on or hold them out at a distance?