Yesterday morning, Emily and I were sitting in the living room messing around on our new laptops. (YAY!) She and I spent most of the day lounging around. I have been plagued this past week with a recurring (and I believe stress-related) backache. Emily was more than happy to spend a lazy Saturday keeping me company. From time to time, our conversation broke the silence of our fingers clicking on the keyboards.
On one such occasion, T was walking through the living room during the middle of a discussion Emily and I were having about one of my Bucket List items. I have recently created a written version of the Bucket List on my iPad. If something strikes me, I can quickly write it down, because the iPad is usually nearby. The items on my Bucket List range from things that I could easily do today or tomorrow to items which may or may not ever happen or certainly would take some time and planning to occur. The Bucket List item she and I were discussing yesterday was item #6 “Drive a car inside of a mall.” T stopped walking and looked at us. He said, “Why would you want to drive a car in a mall, Pam?” I replied that the cars got in there somehow, and someday I hoped to be one of the people who drove one to its spot. He said, “Now how in the hell do you think that’s going to happen?” He went on to tell me that he thought that Bucket List items should be “Realistic and Attainable Goals,” things that a person can actually accomplish. Emily and I looked at him with our mouths hanging open. “Realistic and Attainable Goals???” I said, “Should I also wear sensible shoes and a fanny pack with a bottle of water?” He laughed. T and I are such different types of people. Realistic, reasonable, sensible, attainable, achievable, those words all drip with a sense of caution and forethought. Yep, that’s T…not me.
T sat down in a chair and asked me to explain how I thought I might accomplish this goal of driving a car through a mall. Did I have a plan? Yes, thank you very much, I do have a plan. I told him that my plan was not to “wildly” whip around in the mall while driving a sports car. The cars you so often see in the mall have to get in there somehow, right? My plan was that hopefully, through networking and business connections, I might someday meet someone involved with these car displays and express my interest in helping them out with things. My plan seemed plausible and realistic to me. T just shook his head.
This conversation with T made me think about another conversation just a day earlier with a friend. After a neighborhood group meeting on Thursday night (the long, long days at work continue!) I called a friend and business colleague. Earlier this year, I had hired his consulting firm to assist with goal setting for this group. The meeting with the neighborhood group that evening had been great, so I wanted to give him an update. Since it was late when I thought of calling him, I decided to text first.
Me: Can you talk?
Him: Since I was about 2 years old.
I dialed his number, and when he answered, I said, “If I didn’t like you so much, I’d think you were an asshole.”
He said, “I tell everyone that I’m an asshole.”
I said, “So do I!”
After the initial banter, I told him about this fantastic meeting I had just had with a group of engaged, concerned citizens. I told him about their plans and next steps. I was excited and optimistic about how things were going to eventually turn out. This group, and their public initiative, had faced a major setback at City Council, but I felt that the troops were ready to rally. I was bound and determined that the good guys were going to triumph over the absentee property owners and slum lords. I was excited as I told my friend about the “good guys” and their plans for next steps. He was quick to remind me that the opposition was probably organizing, too. He talked about worst case scenarios and warned me not to get too excited yet. I listened to his attempt to bring me back down to more Realistic, Attainable Goals just enough to be polite, but I knew that I wouldn’t heed his advice. I was going to push and push this group until their dreams were reality.
After talking with my friend, I plugged in my phone and went downstairs to unwind with a little mindless TV viewing. I didn’t give our phone conversation any further thought. Later when I went back upstairs to go to bed, I checked my phone. I had a missed call and several text messages from my friend. He felt that he had been to negative and rough on me when we had been discussing the potential outcome of this project. His message said that he “wasn’t going to massage things into telling me what I wanted to hear.” He reminded me that he hadn’t been hired to tell me what I wanted to hear. I laughed when I listened to and read his messages. Obviously, he was concerned that his realistic (aka – negative) advice had offended me. It hadn’t. I have grown immune to those around me who’d like to bring me down to earth, those who advise me to have more Realistic, Attainable Goals.
I sent him back a text to let him know that I had not been offended. I told him that I understood that he was a realist and that he would always be honest with me and would point out the potential pitfalls. That’s why we had chosen to hire him. His caution and prudence had allowed us to set Realistic, Attainable Goals for the group. The goals had been set. What the group needs now, though, is someone who believes beyond what seems realistic. They need to know that their goals can be achieved, even in the face of hurdles and negativity that look a lot like defeat. I told him that maybe we should consider working together someday in our own consulting firm: The Asshole and Pollyanna.
“When you look for the bad, expecting it, you will get it.
When you know you will find the good—you will get that…”
~ Eleanor H. Porter, Pollyanna