If you’ve been in New England this last week or two – or indeed, most of the United States or Europe – you’ve been hot. Like, toweling off from a cool shower you are already working up a sweat hot. Just walking down the street you look like you’ve run a marathon hot. Want to sit in the air conditioning and eat popsicles all day hot.
On a familiar walk this weekend, sun blazing, it suddenly (and finally) dawned on me that I was walking by a creek! Dozens and dozens of times I’d strolled or jogged or pedaled along this path, admiring the water, but never once had I gone in. Yesterday it finally clicked, and I plunged my feet into the cool, clean, soothing water and sat still as a turtle on a rock. Within five minutes, my walk changed from chore to delight, from depleting to renewing.
Dear Honeybees, what other creeks are we walking right past, suffering while relief is in plain sight? Wherever we are today, whatever needs soothed, I hope we are quiet enough to hear the bubbling of the help that’s all around us.
Years ago, after a particularly inelegant restructuring announcement, a Very Senior Executive came to see me. He was already in his 80’s and so it had a little extra impact when he slammed his fist down on the table and shouted, “Flexibility, Katherine!”
He was right, of course, both for investing and for life.
I can’t tell you how often I hear that voice booming in my head, how often it’s needed. But more than the words of our conversation, I remember that he bothered to stop by at all. We’d only met a few times, and his scope of focus went far beyond me and my department, and surely he had a thousand things to do that day. But out of all the Very Important People at the company, he was the one who showed up in person.
Farewell, Mr. Byrnes. Like all heroes, How you lived your life was even more impressive than What you did.
Summer in New England is precious, precisely because it is fleeting. Sometimes this translates into a crazy-busy approach to the days – we have to go to the beach! the mountains! the concert! the picnic!
Yesterday my Non-Urgent morning task was to watch the butterflies in the garden for ten minutes, which was enough to inspire curiosity and joy and fascination and wonder and awe.
In that ten minutes was forever.
Dear Honeybees, wherever you are today, I hope there is a butterfly to remind you that time is fleeting. And yet there’s time enough.
This week I spent a lot of time explaining my work to other people – some interested, some puzzled, some skeptical. As my energy faded, I caught myself saying things like “it’s just common sense” or “it’s a better path to alpha.”
Maybe these statements are true, but they are not the Truth. They take something Very Big Indeed and shrink it down into something easier to accept, less dramatic, less disruptive.
But in making it easier, I was also making it smaller. The shortcut language I was using is rooted in cynicism, and fear, and exhaustion. The bigger truth of this work is so much more.
Luckily a colleague asked a more personal question during one session, which snapped me back to focus, and gave me the gracious gift of time, time to explain the More.
Dear Honeybees, if we find ourselves drifting towards the comfort of cynicism this week, I hope we all have beacons to pull us towards our More. In our cynical world, what greater strength than to stay honest and true?
Stay earnest. Don’t shrink.