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I spent last weekend in Michigan moving my father from one independent living house to another. I unpacked upwards of one hundred boxes of books, photos, dishes, and tchotchkes. I arranged his recliner and sofa for an optimum TV-watching experience. I made his bed, filled his sock drawer, and organized his linen closet. If this sounds familiar, it’s because this is the third–yes third–time I have moved him in the past year and a half.
Spending an uninterrupted weekend with him is challenging. It was hard work, both physically and emotionally. Not only do we have baggage that many parents and adult children carry, but we also disagree on a lot. Mostly about politics and social issues, and so too, of course, nearly everything about our current moment. Online I can write-off the people who have views that are offensive and threatening to me as “them.” “They” are just small-minded. “Their” values are misguided. But unlike the people I come across on social media who disagree with me, I can’t “other” my dad. So we argue. Well, I argue at him…which isn’t really arguing. It’s more like preaching. It’s exhausting.
Among all that pointless preaching, I asked him why he wanted to move to this new apartment. See, we had found him a lovely stand-alone house within an independent living community where he felt free, not like an 85-year-old rat waiting to die with other aging rats. Grim, I know, but it’s how he felt at the first apartment I moved him into. It turns out that when he lived in that house, he didn’t interact with anyone. The other old folks stayed in their respective houses. There was no hanging out, no casual conversation about the weather or the mail. Nothing. He liked this new apartment because a group of old men sat in the lobby each day, drinking weak coffee and commiserating. So there we were.
After I put away the final items and hung his TV on the wall, I headed home. Mid-route, my partner called. We chatted for a bit, then, suddenly, I burst into tears. I was so raw and so tired. I was sad about so much: my dad, my dad’s worldview, how it affects our relationship, and all the people who agree with my dad and who I just can’t seem to understand.
My dad would never use these words, but he moved to that apartment because he wanted connection; he wanted to feel seen and heard, even if only through banal chit-chat. Despite all our arguing and the ways we can’t understand each other, he wanted what I want and what so many humans want: to be part of a community and feel he has a place and meaning.
I don’t know how to feel better about the state of our country and our communities. I know I’ll find my way with my dad, I always do, but what about everything and everyone else? It seems that everyone is on edge right now. “Them” and me; people who vehemently disagree with me and those who are aligned with me. We’re all tired, and at different times, we all might be crying in the car while talking to our partners. I don’t have answers, but these are the questions I’m asking myself:
How are you finding humanity in others? How are you navigating the extreme world we’re living in now? I’d love to hear from you. No really, send me an email. How do you do it?
If you decide to share with me, I’d love to put together some of your thoughts and share them with subscribers next month. Let’s help each other get through this weird moment in time.
Because we are living in such a complex and nuanced time, in the same moments that I’m feeling raw, emotional, and exhausted, I’m also still basking in the glow of the celebration of Clockwork’s 20th year. In some ways, mentioning this feels like a complete about-face in the context of this newsletter. I have to tell you, it would have been easy for us to avoid celebrating. It would have been easy for us to chalk up this milestone to one more thing among our busyness, but I am so glad we didn’t.
Staff flew in from all over the country, and we gathered for lunches, meetings, and activities. (No trust falls.) We got to see each other and hug each other and laugh and do things other than work, and it was amazing. I think we all left feeling energized and grateful for our little company. Our party was the culmination of a truly delightful week where, even just for a few moments, we all felt a little normal. Some of us met, for the first time, face to face. And we certainly met clients for the first time in person. It was amazing.
The energy, since our gathering, is absolutely renewed. Work is a little more exciting again. Collaboration is fun again. We’re moving into our 20th year better, more focused, and full of gratitude.
I guess the lesson is, don’t skip the joyful opportunities. Whatever celebration looks like for whatever you have to celebrate, do it. Take the time to be grateful and joyful and enjoy the victories. Beauty and joy are where you find them. And God knows we need them.