Sunday, October 12, 2014

Retired but still thinking. Not humble yet, though.

When I worked for money, I thought all the time. Once I stopped working for money, I wanted to stay busy and I wanted to be useful, but I wasn't sure I wanted to think.

Four years later, I'm still thinking a lot. Here's what happened this week.

1. I'm working in the early stages of a project to build tiny homes for the homeless. I was assigned to talk to Chris, the influential pastor of a church who also serves on the city council - to find out what Chris knew, who he knew, and who could help us. I sent him an email one Friday telling him briefly what we were up to and asked if he'd have time the following week to meet me for coffee. We got together last Monday - he had only half an hour open on his calendar - and talked for 45 minutes anyway. I asked a couple of open-ended questions and took pages of notes. I got a few names from Chris and gave him one of my own. I wrote up a report. The coordinator of the project trusts me and has asked me to interview another organization.

Now that I'm older, my instincts are better. I'm not trying to prove anything - just get the job done. If people trust me, they'll be more open. And the more I listen, the better.

2. I had a tough mediation on Wednesday. A divorcing couple needed to work out a dissolution agreement but they could not be in the same room with each other, so the two mediators had to shuttle from room to room to communicate the negotiation points. We had to listen carefully - past the anger and frustration and disappointment the two people felt - and extract the meaning in addition to the feelings. The mediation was scheduled for three hours and we were there nearly five, with a second session scheduled for this week. 

These mediations are very tiring. They require patience, good listening, an intuitive give-and-take relationship between the co-mediators. Mediators must remain neutral and nonjudgmental. If the parties trust the mediators they'll be more open. 

I trained to be a mediator after I stopped working, but I'd acquired many of the skills required in my work life and in the 12-step program I've been in for a couple of decades. It's mostly about the listening, and trusting the process.

3. My Unitarian church community is putting together a member photo book. A photography company is spending eight days at the church and the members' photo sessions are carefully scheduled. I offered to work with the church administrator to schedule the appointments and also the hosts for the sessions - community members to greet arriving people and get them set up for their photos. I probably spent 15 hours on this project in the last week. I sat in the church narthex for two hours each of the past three Sundays, sent emails and made phone calls and listened to people in person and on the phone. So far the sessions are going well and my work is nearly done. I joined this church in June, and the church administrator trusts me. I'm good with details, so I know I can be useful in my new community. 

4. I attended a couple of meetings this week where people with diverse opinions were trying to reach consensus. I have opinions of my own, but I didn't talk nearly as much as I did when I was working. I was mostly listening and then reflecting back what I heard. I think this way of participating is more useful than advocating for a particular position. This is another advantage of being a mediator. It doesn't so much matter what my point of view is if I can help a group coalesce around a common understanding.

I have an old friend I met when we were both teenagers. We lost touch about 40 years ago, but through the miracle of Facebook we made contact again last year. We've chatted several times online. I knew my friend had worked for Apple and is now at Facebook, and she told me she travels a lot for her work. The night before last she posted on Facebook from India. As we chatted I realized that my friend plays a significant role at Facebook. She said, "Mark is fun so different from Steve." I realized she was talking about Mark Zuckerberg who started Facebook and Steve Jobs who started Apple. She has been working directly with these world changers for over twelve years. I told her I was astonished she hadn't mentioned it before and commented on her humility. She said, "Well, I try to leave my ego at the door and be open to what I can learn." I said, "I'll bet you give your team all the credit." She said, "Well, I'm nothing without my team." 

I hope that on my deathbed I will be able to make statements like that. I'm not there yet. So far I can think and I can listen, but I like to take credit for those things I do well. I hope I'll move past that.


Leslie Alpen said...

Hello from Australia = I have been reading your blog for some time and thought u would be interested in this web site It is a charity that advertises on TV and supports the homeless....Homeless people seem to be world wide and in this day & age it is hard to understand...Like you I have recently retired after 37 years working at local High School Library and am trying to organise the rest of my life....cheers for now......Hope u find the web site interesting

Grandmother (Mary) said...

You might want to google Utah's many year process of providing free homes for the homeless (and saving themselves significant money). It's such a good idea and good for you for being part of it. Do you have a link to the homes you're using?

Olga Hebert said...

I think it takes more than one lifetime to learn that kind of humility.
I remember once having to conduct an IEP meeting with the parents needing to be kept in separate rooms--and quite honestly, the local police on alert. Not hard to figure out why that kid was acting out. I had actually thought about mediation training, but decided it would not be a good thing for me. I don't think I could protect myself enough from other peoples' energy.

DJan said...

Not to mention you are an organizer. This weekend six of us will come together, all because of you, Linda. I'm so looking forward to spending time chatting and laughing and eating together! :-)

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Your awesome friend gets some recognition simply by her status at the company, and she has a whole team of people through whom she gets things done. You are a party of one, setting out to earn the trust of people you would like to help. You need to know what you're good at, and you need them to know, too. So I believe you will always need to temper your humility with a willingness to claim your talents!

Retired English Teacher said...

Your skill base is so useful in so many settings. I admire all you do so much. You are the organizer. That is for sure. I love what your friend had to say. That is good advice for us all,

soy gatitos said...

Thanks for the good words, Linda. I needed to be reminded that I get further in my dealings with people by listening and putting myself in their shoes than by relying on an airtight case against [them or something they do/did]. It also is better for my mental health. Good read, and timely. Thank you.
~ Cynthia

Arkansas Patti said...

I admire all you do and the energy with which you do it. Mediating angry couples full of hurt and wanting to hurt would put me in a hospital.
Your friend has had some amazing bosses.

Linda Reeder said...

I retired nine years ago. I am not thinking nearly so much any more. I am still doing and learning
And I still like to take credit for my achievements. Maybe humility is over rated?
You are a remarkable person, Linda, and so is your friend

Madeline Kasian said...

Some days, in this, my first year of retirement, I miss having a "team." I managed a busy health care office, I was also once a Nurse, the good days were so much fun, but the stressful days began to outnumber the happy ones.. one of those clues it's time to move on...

I enjoyed leading teams,I always got a lot of satisfaction from seeing others succeed, and it made ME feel successful.

Now, most of my activities don't require me to be a leader of anyone but myself! I volunteer to deliver meals with Meals on Wheels, I love visiting "my people" every Monday.I am in an art class in which I am the boss of ME, and it's my own progress I monitor, not anyone else's. At home, I can't seem to be a "team" in my kitchen!!! I don't WANT a team member! My husband is wanting to bake bread, make soup, and he misplaces my tools..another adjustment to retirement living.

It's a journey, that's for sure!!!

Madeline Kasian said...

P.S. I am so impressed with your mediation skills..that takes an incredible amount of patience, self control, non-judgement.You are offering an incredible service to your community!!!!!!