A far too common condition: putting my foot in my mouth while giving my forehead a slap with my palm. I may not be able to lift my foot to my mouth like I did in college days (was I really that flexible? Yep.) but I can do something more impressive – socially. Last week I finally managed to deliver a long-delayed compliment; and then added one extra sentence that made the compliment sound like the prelude to a sales pitch. Groan. Gag. Slap. Doh! Sad to say, but another downside to the protracted busy-ness we are experiencing is the skepticism created as ulterior motives are assumed, and generosity and sincerity are challenged. I’ve decided to not let that stop me, even if it means a social sock in the mouth.
Part of living a frugal life is appreciating every part of the day, every part of the world. For me, frugality means valuing what I have, what’s around me, what’s in the world. I may want a better financial situation, but I am glad for where and how I live even while knowing that something much better is possible. I may want a better world, but am glad for the greater awareness that is now available. Ignorance of the rest of the world’s troubles was a version of bliss we no longer have, but the greatest hope for resolving those troubles is awareness that leads to action. I may want a better community, but am glad for the community I feel a part of – and that’s where I got into trouble.
Discretion recommends that I skip the details, but I’ll at least describe a familiar situation. As well as my local community communicates, Facebook has made it easier to see what’s happening in others lives. One Facebook friend and real world acquaintance has operated a successful business for years. That’s a tough enough trick anywhere, particularly on an island. A but of luck gave me the opportunity to pass along a compliment about the business. The compliment stumbled out of my mouth, was received graciously – and then I said one more thing. I mentioned how it would all make a good story. Locally, I’m somewhat known for being a writer, and even I thought my follow up sounded like a sales pitch for a paid writing gig. Foot in mouth. Palm to forehead. Compliment potentially minimized.
People are scrambling. Large portions of the populace are well and conventionally employed. Large portions are financially stable enough to not have to worry about money (though many do because they fear losing it.) An equally large population is actively striving to get by, and maybe, just maybe, get ahead. About 40% of Americans have shifted their economic dream to one of stability rather than advancement. People are increasingly drawn to entrepreneurship because they are seeing lower probabilities of attaining even modest goals through conventional careers and jobs. They start businesses for weight loss supplements, alternative health care treatments, spiritual awakenings, and financial counseling which can be offered sincerely; but, it is too easy to question each when there are more than one in each category. Is the motivation the presenter’s profits, or the recipient’s improvement? How many of your defense mechanisms just kicked in?
Compliment too often, and each message can be diluted. Compliment too often, and be seen as insincere and a suck-up. Compliment too often, and others may feel obliged to compliment in return.
If everyone complimented everyone else for everything positive they’ve done, we’d rarely get anything done and would generate some of the most ridiculous dialog human language ever produced.
If we say nothing, however, the results are even worse. Complimenting a person, appreciating the world around us, being thankful for the good parts of the lives we’ve led – and doing it all vocally and sincerely – reinforce and confirm the value we’ve felt. If we say nothing, we may feel that there is nothing to value. It becomes easier to overlook and under-appreciate basic, vital things like air, water, land, food, life, and each other. Politicians and pundits are more likely to emphasize the fears, doubts, and divides. The media passes it along. I wonder what public debate would sound like if they placed more emphasis on amplifying positives rather than embellishing negatives. Would they be more likely to defend the basics? Maybe they think they’re already doing that, though their results suggest a lack of success.
Some folks have asked how I manage to maintain a positive attitude despite my situation. (Others, by the way, chastise me for my negativity, but they’re no longer reading this blog.) It is easier to be positive when you know how impressive the world is and how much our civilization has accomplished. We may be in the midst of some epic mistakes, but it hasn’t been because we haven’t tried to make things better. We are an imperfect and adaptable species that may yet figure things out in time. It is tricky balancing the positive and the negative; but, solar is kicking coal’s butt, social injustice anywhere in the world has a tougher time hiding than every before, human compassion and beauty have an easier time being noticed and acknowledge. We’re simultaneously learning how scary the universe can be while beginning to realize the vast potential that exists off this planet which will make it easier to preserve this planet.
A week or so ago started with one or two business meetings planned every day, in addition to my regular clients and assignments. That was encouraging. If even half of the meetings occurred on a regular basis I could finally pay all my bills and begin working my way out of debt, and maybe even start working on the long repair list. Every meeting except one cancelled. And yet, I felt better about the week. More than a half dozen new clients had sought me out. None of the new work was from cold-calls or ads. All was from people familiar with my work (consulting, writing, program planning, etc.). I appreciate that progress from a year or two ago. Fortunately, most of the meetings were subsequently postponed rather than cancelled, as I’d originally feared.
The following week one of the rescheduled meetings was at a local coffee shop. I was there early. My friend and client was there a bit late. Until they arrived I considered the possibility that they forgot. Rather than worry, I looked around. The coffee shop is in a garden center. The day was gorgeous. I had my cup of tea and an excuse to do nothing (the wi-fi was a bit dodgy outdoors). Sure, I needed the money. Sure, I want to see the project completed. And sure, sitting there in the sun, surrounded by beautiful displays was pretty nice. I should compliment them on the arrangements.
Nah. I’d probably just put my foot in my mouth.