Tuesday, March 22

Refresh, reboot, reset: The new year cometh

In 10 days my company will celebrate its new fiscal year.  Yes, on April 1.  When I first started here, I thought it was an amusingly perverse day to start a fiscal new year.  To some extent, I still do.  April Fool's Day?  Well, it's the day after the quarter and there's not much anyone can do about that.

I don't have any history on why our fiscal year ends on March 31.  I'm quite certain there's a rationale.  It makes this time of year really crazy for us and differently so than for others.  But I've decided I like this April 1 New Year.

By this time, if I've made any resolutions, they are in shambles and tatters by this time of year.  So this gives me a way to refresh, reboot, and reset yet again.

Here in the Chicagoland area, March is an unpredictable weather month.  Warm, cold, wet, snowy.  April, while it may not yet be more predictably springlike, is that much closer to spring.  And yes, it's hard not to consider the Easter-like metaphor of renewal while I'm thinking about refreshing, rebooting, and resetting.

I readily acknowledge I may need another "new year" or two throughout the calendar year and even this fiscal year.  It's just that having a new year state of mind at this time of year is that much more energizing and, yes, hopeful.

Hope.  We know there are plenty of morality tales or fables about hope, but hope is what helps keep us going no matter how large or small, how tragic or seemingly inconsequential our situations.  My desire to have a new year's fresh start feeling cannot be equated to those who are emerging from tragedy and forced to start anew.  Yet their resilience and determination, while putting my situation in perspective, also reminds me that I have no excuse.

I cannot and will not compare my situation to those in Japan and elsewhere.  But they remind me that if they can refresh, reboot, and reset in the midst of their incredibly difficult situations, then I have no reason not to be more optimistic about my own potential to refresh, reboot, and reset, and to strive to do and be better, not just on April 1 when I mark a symbolic new year, but every day.

So I was going to say that hope enables us to move forward after we have refreshed, rebooted, and reset. . . and yes, I do hope we learn from our mistakes.  But then I realized I don't want to move forward.  Moving forward is making some sort of progress so that I move from where I am to somewhere else along life's number line, perhaps an inch, perhaps a few feet.  No, I want to say that hope enables us to grow in  a variety of ways.  In that sense, refreshing, rebooting, and resetting is like pruning.  Perhaps painful, but necessary if there is to be new growth, hopeful, bursting with energy and determination.

While you may not celebrate a new year on April 1, I hope you will realize that if your resolutions are shattered and crumpled, all is not lost.  If your determination to do whatever seems to have faltered, there is yet hope.  Think of your refreshing, rebooting, resetting as a sort of pruning and allow yourself the hope and opportunity to bloom afresh and anew.

Saturday, March 19

Retuning to compassion

I had a moment of personal revelation while I was vacuuming this morning.  I like to vacuum, by the way; it has an odd rhythmic quality to it and the noise of the vacuum is like white noise so helps me just drift and ponder.

This morning I was thinking about something that happened yesterday at the office that really peeved me, and that led me to start thinking about a variety of options.  But then a thought slammed into my brain so hard I stopped vacuuming for a moment so I could concentrate entirely on that thought.

The thought?  Compassion.  I've lost my grasp on compassion.  Tunisia, Libya, political mean kids, Japan, and so much more.  The cover of the Mar 7 issue of Newsweek has the title "Brain Freeze: How the deluge of information paralyzes our ability to make good decisions."  I haven't had time to read the article yet, but I thought about that cover title as some sort of connection, maybe reason or excuse?

This hasn't happened overnight.  I started thinking about when it might have started, but I can't really be sure.  I have a sense of when I started being crankier and more impatient with people about their flaws and ineptitudes, real or imagined.  When I started being more judgmental and less inclined to try to help or coach.  I would like to say, a la Wordsworth, that the world is too much with us.

Written in 1806, this particular poem was long before the frenetic, chaotic pace of our time.  I'm not going to try to summarize or analyze this poem, but the first four lines resonate with me.
The world is too much with us; late and soon, 
            Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
            Little we see in Nature that is ours;
            We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
As do the lines
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
            It moves us not.

I realized how little time I really make for myself to withdraw and regroup, to think about things other than work, to connect with family and friends, to enjoy something as simple as fresh air and sunshine.

Too often I turn on the TV when I get home from work. It's an escape, but it's not a "good" escape. Sometimes I read, but a lot of times I'm still working--making connections between what I see and hear and read with what I'm thinking about or trying to do at work.

So this morning I realized that along the way I've lost my compassion. Not completely, but the reservoir of empathy and sympathy is rather empty. And I also realized that, at least for me, compassion is what helps me listen well and think through options and possibilities. Without compassion, I'm more irritable and less patient; yes, more judgmental.

The irony is that I have to work a lot of this weekend.  But this revelatory moment of self-awareness is a good thing.  People joke about something being all about them and there are times in some situations when it might be "all about me."  But that's a weird trap and part of what helps drain the reservoir of compassion.

I'm not sure how to refill that reservoir except to practice compassion, except to be more mindful on a day-to-day basis how I'm reacting to others and why I'm reacting that way, but also to spend some time, even if it's only a short period of time, stepping away from the world and retuning myself to that which moves me, to that which moves my heart.