I began composing my last post, The Question that Always Delivers, on Friday of last week. I put myself as best I could into my mindset from nearly 15 years earlier, from before and after asking myself that profoundly insightful question: “What am I avoiding being responsible for?” In asking that question, even in memory, the question started to work on me again…
I’ve been struggling in my relationship with a colleague over the last couple years in ways that I’ve never struggled with a colleague before. It’s really felt like I’ve been doing the right thing, putting in my best effort, and making the best of the situation. Yet I’ve continued to feel alone, untrusted, and harassed in this relationship.
Initially I was in a state of self-doubt about it: what am I doing wrong here? But over time, after conversations with this person that didn’t seem to make a difference, and from talking with people I trust, the more clear it had become to me that again, the problem is over there with them. I still mostly did my best to foster a positive relationship, but I’ve certainly felt that something is still missing. Missing, that is, until last Friday.
Closing off authentic communication really made sense. When my shields went up to protect me from being vulnerable, my mouth closed and I separated myself. I wasn't talking directly with them about my experience. I wasn't expressing myself clearly, completely, or often at all.
Yes, my reasons were good, and my guardedness was 100% justified.
Yet the parallel was embarrassingly obvious: just as I had so naturally, easily, and justifiably blamed those 14-year-olds for my experience as a teacher, I was sure that I had done everything I could with this colleague and that they were so obviously at fault here. Just like with my freshmen, in this case I also had the opinions and perspectives of other people to support me.
And yet on Friday, the magic started working on me in this relationship. Surprisingly, the words just fell out of my mouth and it felt really good to say them: “I’m sorry. This isn’t your fault. This problem isn’t over there on you. It’s just taken me a while to find my grounding, find my voice, and find the willingness to start speaking honestly in every single conversation with you. And now that I’m doing that, here’s what my experience has been like.”
I didn’t even plan to go there in my conversation with my colleague on Friday. All I had done in preparation for the conversation was listed out on a sticky note in front of me a few words that I intended to have guide me in the conversation:
I didn't have to use the power of the question that always delivers in this situation. Instead, it used me. And it felt good to be used by something so insightful, freeing, and grounding.
It starts with a willingness to be responsible.
Thanks for reading ❤️.
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