Archives for posts with tag: clarifying questions

It’s come up a number of times as I transition out of this job, and certainly it has come up any number of times, an uncountable number of times, in life, generally; we don’t know what we don’t know. None of us do. I certainly don’t know what I don’t know. Demonstrably so. My colleagues don’t know what they don’t know. I can prove it.

I considered writing in detail about the painful professional reminders of this fairly predictable conundrum, but quickly tired of the mundanity of an experience I am living right now, and am also already so over. When we dismiss or diminish the hard-won experience and expertise of a friend or loved one (or colleague), we also undermine their interest in remaining emotionally invested in supporting our needs. That’s just real. Respect, consideration, listening to the answers to questions that are asked, taking time to be thoughtful and studious about information our experienced, expert, associates are willing to share with us, are great ways to demonstrate our appreciation, and to ensure their time is not wasted on us. Time is precious and limited.

Yes, it matters. We don’t know what we don’t know. We can’t. We literally can’t grasp the vastness of the information we just don’t have. Ideas we’ve never been exposed to. The potential negative consequences of the things we do not understand, or are not aware of. Showing consideration and respect for those among us who do know something more, and are willing to share that with us, is just an element of what could be called “common decency”.

Put down your opinion along with your ego for a moment, and be open to the idea that not only do you “not know everything” (easy enough to accept, generally), but also that there are others who do know more (a bit harder sometimes, perhaps). Our opinions don’t amount to knowledge. That can be so hard to accept. It’s still true. You want to be the expert? Gain the experience. Study. Gain the knowledge. Use it. Gain more experience. Fail some. Try things. Study more. Seek credentials where credentials are appropriate. Study more. Use that knowledge. Try more things. Ask new questions. Learn more things. See where this is going? You may have an opinion you feel strongly about, but unless your opinion is validated in some way, and proves to be quite correct, it has nothing whatsoever to do with “knowledge” and certainly nothing to do with expertise. Opinions, however firmly held, do not amount to facts – nor are they an assurance of understanding.

It’s okay not knowing. It predicts nothing about the future state of one’s knowledge or expertise; these are things that can be learned. We become what we practice. You want to be the expert? Gain some experience, seek knowledge. There are verbs involved. In the meantime, maybe get comfortable with the expertise of others. Ask them what they know. Listen when they tell you. Don’t assume that the appearance of ease is any indication that something is easy – maybe it is just well-practiced?

We can’t know what we don’t know – but we can pay attention, be open to learning, be willing to study. And we can begin again. 🙂

I am sipping my coffee and considering, for a moment, how strange that there are so many yesterdays, and only just this one ‘today’, only this one ‘present’ moment. I’m not sure how to count futures; are they infinite, because there are so very many potential choices and happenstances, or are they not-even-one because no one such potential moment has any substance whatever until it occurs… in the present? No great calamity or stress pushes my thinking down this pathway this morning. I think I got here because I am contemplating retirement rather earnestly, and giving thought to ‘when’, and ‘how’. I have literally no interest in continuing a tedious corporate grind for someone else’s gross margin until I am 75 or 80 years old. Some days, I barely muster the commitment to do so now. Choices, however, come at a cost, and the bills must be paid.

I’m not having any sort of crisis of self or identity here, I’m just tired. lol I’ve been working my entire adult life with the exception of some weeks between jobs now and then, and I’m ready to invest my time in my own agenda. I’ve said as much before, and I don’t make a secret of it. Hell, the one time I tried to take a serious hiatus, a breather, six months for me… someone else in the household lost her job, income we’d all counted on, and I was asked to go back to work, and did (probably a good thing for all of us, since she was not able to find work for the better part of a year). Economically, I’m fortunate to be employed. Emotionally, I could sure use a break – and realistically, I’m not going to be getting one any time soon. Still, I find value in considering my future retirement. If nothing else, I am hopeful that considering it in a practical way regularly will ensure I have one. I know, I know – there are verbs involved. 🙂

I find myself feeling cross at the recollection of a recent conversation about retiring, and wanting do so before I am 60. There seemed to be real resistance to the idea, particularly if there were going to be any chance I might be dependent on my partner’s resources in any measure to make that happen. It was a peculiar moment. I managed not to bring up the months and years of an adult lifetime during which I have reliably and encouragingly supported partners who were not employed at the time – whether between jobs, careers, or starting their own thing; the only such months and years that are relevant are the ones with this partner. The apparent lack of reciprocity caught me by surprise with such force that I couldn’t ask the needed clarifying questions, and instead I let the topic die quietly. It is fairly academic at this point, anyway. It suffices as a red flag, though, calling attention to something that is worth understanding more clearly. Where will I really be in life at 70? At 80? At 110? Is it a given that my elder years will ‘look like’ my recollections of my great-grandmother’s life from my perspective as a child, secure at home with generations of close family? I know that it is not. I don’t know what it will be, but it’s fairly certainly not going to be that.

The travels of a stray ant wandering past remind me how little substance thoughts of the future really have. There is this ‘now’, really, and that’s all I have to work with. I can do my best now. Treat my loves well now. Treat myself well now. Live this moment right here, and make of it what I can, understanding that today’s resources may also have to pay for a tomorrow I can’t see a price tag for. I feel a little cross over the vagueness of the future. I feel fortunate, content, and warmed by love in this current finite present moment. I get to choose where to spend my time.

Planning for my future, surely, but not living there. 🙂

I sit back from my words and wonder what I can do to meet the underlying need begging to be addressed. “I need a break.” Okay, that’s a practical matter isn’t it? So… from what, exactly? Is it really about hours of work each week, or the nature of the job, or any of those details? Is it about an emotional experience that could be addressed quite without disrupting the work week? Is it simply a byproduct of a busy week on the calendar, on top of uncertainty about the future just weighing me down a bit? Questions. Maybe it is time to head to the trees for answers? Taking some time off for a long weekend would probably do me some good.

…Is what I want to say. I hear the echo of the intent in my thoughts any time life or love go sideways, even for a moment. I’m not so good at getting the words out there… soon enough? Calmly enough? Sufficiently lacking in any expression of emotional intensity that might tend to cause skepticism about my intentions? Yeah. Probably all of that. More. Other stuff I don’t think to manage, to deal with, to minimize, limit, regulate, scale down… I’m right here, every bit of me. Ferociously human. You too?

It’s a very quiet solo evening. I do need this time, he’s right about that. I miss him anyway. I manage to miss his scent, his voice, his hugs, his laughter – everything about his presence that is easy I miss with a fierceness akin to physical pain, as though something I need has been taken from me. I sometimes miss the harder stuff too, the qualities that challenge me to be the very best human I can, the very best lover, the most well-intentioned, authentic, supportive, affectionate and gracious being I could ever craft from the raw materials I’ve got… He’s every bit as human as I am myself, so there’s plenty to challenge me to grow. We fail each other regularly in small ways, rarely in any big ones.

Love matters most.

Love matters most.

The week together has been an interesting mix of easy and challenging. I find myself thinking over the things that worked so well, the things that didn’t work as easily, even taking time to tenderly consider the moment or two that went poorly; it’s nice to notice how few of those there really were. I know that in our human hearts those can sometimes weigh most heavily in our thoughts. I’m no expert, but I’m definitely done with treating myself badly when I fall short of my own expectations – and those are hard enough to keep up with – I am done, too, with beating myself up when I fall short of someone else’s expectations. I’ve a long journey ahead as a human being. One step at a time is fast enough, and slow progress is still progress. For him, too; love can afford to be patient, to be kind.

I still struggle with interrupting people, especially if I am especially passionate, engaged, or excited about the topic being discussed. Listening deeply doesn’t come naturally to me. I practice. I do my best. I let it go when I don’t get it right, and I begin again. It matters enough that practice is worth it, and incremental change over time is enough. ‘The interrupting thing’ is especially difficult for people to take. I get it. I get interrupted a lot, and even by people who ‘don’t do that’ – because I don’t limit my speech to short phrases, very simple language,  and don’t do brevity with any ease… or even staying entirely on topic, I suppose. I speak very much the way I write. Whatever this is. Wordy. Verbose? Too much sometimes. I know – I accept it because it’s who I am, and I don’t mind it. I like the poetry of language, and the connection of good communication. I have time to listen, the interest, the intent, the desire to be sufficiently considerate and dialed in to the person I am talking with to really make a great conversation… only… I also interrupt. I’ll keep working on that, World, if you’ll just keep showing up so I can practice.

Tonight is easy. At long last, at least being alone with the woman in the mirror is easy. It wasn’t always. Tonight, this is enough.