Just Happy to Be Here….Still

June 2020: I wrote this blog draft in August of 2019. This was before terms like “coronavirus”, “N-95”, “ventilator” and “lockdown” were common place. Before most of the world learned that they were not washing their hands properly. Before my partner of 20 years and I decided to split up. Before the entire world knew the tragic circumstances of George Floyd’s death (and so many others before him).

But the sentiment still carries with me. I can still feel the feeling behind this post. I’m still just happy to be here. Even among all the messiness, the tragedy, the frustration, the confusion, I’m still getting as much out of the Agile Best Self mindset, principles and self-created practices as I did on that day.

I’m still just happy to be here. Sometimes I’m also frustrated, confused and need my own time to reflect. Pulling up this draft from almost 9 months ago helps me see how our Agile Best Self mindset and framework has helped us move forward and add value to our families and our communities. My ‘current me’ wants to have a conversation with my ‘9 month-ago me’ and say:

Honey, you got no idea what kind of s*)! is going to hit the fan. You better double down on seeking clarity and purpose and knowing your North Star because things are going to get out of control soon.

I’m grateful that I had already built the habit of coming back to our cornerstone principle on a daily basis.

Agile Best Self Principle #1: Our highest priority is to be our best self and enable others to be their best selves.

The tricky part is that it takes constant questioning and redirection to move toward my best self. When asked questions like: “What does your dream job feel like?” or “What does a great day look like?” I’m frequently at a loss for an answer. I still struggle with “being more over doing more”, but that is another blog post. I learned that if I pay attention to what I like to do, and intentionally do more of that, I am slowly building out my template for a great day or a dream job. To feed my “connector” – I like to connect different domains to solve problems. Hello working with cross-functional teams or facilitating an alignment session. To energize my “catalyst” – I like helping others find their own epiphanies to mix things up: “Bring it on, let’s GSD (get stuff done)!”

Agile Best Self Principle #6: The most effective way to be your best self is to be mindful and intentional.

The flip side is to pay attention to what I don’t like to do, and do less of that. Yes, Agile Best Self work is not rocket science! This summer, I spent two months on a project that was horrible. Everything went wrong. Everything that needed to be fixed was non-standard. Worse yet, this was a project for a company I own; there was no passing it off to anyone else, there was no way to bring in help beyond a couple of hours here and there from friends and vendors. Eighteen hour days and missed deadlines were the norm. Being on the job was not the problem, the problem was getting up and getting to the site. The good news is that after this project wrapped up, I was a much happier person (again, this is not rocket science).

I was not happier just because the stupid, exhausting, soul-sucking project was over (I had two more similar projects to complete in the next two months). I was happier because my mindset had changed. I put duct tape over the mouth of my inner trickster and just kept going. I worried when I needed to, but otherwise didn’t let the project take over my life.

I was happier because I had learned to limit the impact of being a small business owner in my day-to-day life. I know of others with similar situations who have decided to shutter their doors and close up shop because of the stress involved. Working full time and having a ‘part time gig’ can be exhausting. The only way I have been able to make it work is to learn to focus on what I can control and let other things drop, or just get out the checkbook and hire others. Yes, my operational costs went up, but so did my happiness index. Sunsets became a little more colorful. Time with family was more enjoyable because I learned to focus on the present. No good lesson should happen without reflection (ahem, do I hear a principle sneaking up….)

Agile Best Self Principle #12: At regular intervals, reflect on how to become your best self, then tune and adjust.

Ultimately I learned two lessons:

  • I am the only one who can put mental boundaries in place. And that inner critic/trickster is really good at weaseling back into my thoughts.
  • Happiness may increase in small, sneaky steps. So pay attention!!!

Pay attention to these tiny steps forward, otherwise residual frustration will overshadow the progress.

I almost missed that moment when I discovered one answer to the question: “What does a great day look like?” Sometimes being a connector is just making space to feel connected.

One day I was sitting on the deck at my parents’ 40 acre farm. Days of feeding horses, cows, chickens and pigs are long gone. Now the main inhabitants of the farm are things well suited for roaming through the pastures: golf carts, four wheelers, the Willys, a jeep, etc.

It was a quiet day. Nothing was going on. This was my first chance to sit down and chill after two months of working 7 days a week. It was just refreshing to sit outside. My mom was on some familiar rant. Same story for the past 10 years, slightly different details this time – I think my stubborn 97 year old grandma had refused to do something or had demanded something or ordered the same thing 3 times from Target.com. Grandma orders 3 reams of paper, and my mom has to return 2 of the reams. Grandma’s room at the assisted living facility can’t support her triplicate shopping habit. There is a constant stream of ordered, re-ordered and returned items. Anyway, my mother’s voice became softer and further away. It became more of a soothing background noise. Life was good.

Instead of trying to “do” anything or make anything better, or really even listen to the details, I just sat there watching the clouds wander across the sky. Every so often, the sun shone through just long enough to warm me up, the resident pair of cardinals flitted through the pine trees – him a flash of red and her a trailing whisper of brown. The light breeze brought a whiff of dust and grass clippings. I was just happy to be here, absently listening to my mom, and mostly just being connected and part of it all.

Nine months later, the feeling still resonates. And I’m happy to be here….still.

Gardner Farm: Driveway

Copyright © 2018 – 2023 Michaele Gardner and Brian Hackerson

Published by MichaeleBestSelf

Connector, Catalyst.

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