The Fix

My garbage disposal is dying. It shouldn’t be. It’s less than three years old and I’m very nice to it. I’m having difficulty discerning exactly what is wrong with it. Nothing has gotten stuck under the blades. Nothing has appeared that would explain why it sounds more like a device tasked with chewing up metal screws than with eliminating the icky residue of meal preparations.

It’s designed for vegetable peels in small quantities and occasionally something more challenging like a few bites of dinner that didn’t appeal to the human to whom they’d been served. I’ve carefully searched for any blockage, object or recent episode of overuse that might explain this status. Sadly, no such clarity has been forthcoming. I’ll be calling in someone more knowledgeable to perform the fix. Or the replacement.

Clearly, I have difficulty understanding how my poor appliance got into this sorry state, even if I have my suspicions. (If you were here with me, you’d see me giving a family member the side eye…). Since I’m unable to really see the current reality of this picture, I’ve been haphazard in how I’ve tried to rectify things. A few interventions and experiments into the process and my repertoire is exhausted.

I’ve assembled my list of things to try from similar experiences that I’ve had in the past. Finding the location of the reset button on the unit, clearing out any bit of plastic or a pebble that might have fallen into the drain, moving the blades through several cycles to make sure nothing is impeding their movement- that’s about all that I once knew to try.

Over time, I’ve observed my more mechanically inclined sister use a broom handle to nudge the blades while maneuvering the switch and use a plunger to clear a blockage in the side drainage pipe. There came a time when I needed those skills and successfully used them, too. Sis still has a few tricks up her sleeve that are more advanced than anything I’ve done to date. When she performs them, she becomes Merlin the Magician in that moment. The truth is that I could watch a few Youtube vids and figure this out, at least to the extent that I’d know whether or not professional repairs are strictly necessary.

Providing care, coaching, parenting and professional services for others requires the same basic “one, two, three” of learning through experience, observation and study. All of this occurs in the context of application rather than the contexts of the merely abstract or academic. None of us arrived in a care role having already perfectly understood the performance requirements, practical resources or procedural regimen that would be needed. Sorting out what is actually going on in any situation and deciding how to proceed is difficult whenever there’s a difference between what is knowable and what is known.

Gaps in know-how aren’t just about guides to what steps are needed to resolve a problem: gaps are also about the more holistic deficits of experience, knowledge and judgement in the use of tools. Accurately assessing the clients whom we serve is also challenging, in no small part because their way of being may have been impacted by the responses they’ve experienced. The question of fit also comes into play when working with any client and can be reduced to the need for both sides of the relational equation to have a satisfactory felt experience.

Life is, after all, about felt experience. It’s about the stories that we tell ourselves and others about the world that we see and how we impact it. Or how it impacts us. Remember Grimm’s fairy tale of the Brave Little Tailor? He was getting ready to eat some jam when some flies landed on it and he managed to kill seven of them with one blow of his fist. He commemorated this mighty deed by fashioning a belt that read “Seven at one Blow” and went out into the world to seek his fortune. Impressed with his own small success, he subsequently uses his wits to perform a number of feats ordered by the king. These gain him great wealth and half of a kingdom.

Everyone is the hero or heroine of their own narrative and the apologist for their own life’s story. That is to say- we live out our lives, narrate them to ourselves and promote them to others. When we have a felt sense of competence and believe that we can largely meet the demands the world makes on us with our resources of courage, determination, energy, focus and skill, we’re in a good place.

Gaining the cooperation of others is an important part of that endeavor because others often have the expertise or the connections that will help to move our heart’s desire forward. Often, we have a narrative about how our child’s life or how our client’s life should go. And it gets in the way of their ability to develop their own story. I’m not referring to the teaching of healthy habits that lead to physical health, professional success and relational wholeness.

Rather, the kinds of narratives that we try to impose on others that are tangled up with our own stories are where the trouble is often found. One mom wants a daughter that loves dance, dolls and dresses, but her little princess prefers cars, camoflage and chasing the latest video game app. A “Type A” dad disconnects from his more sensitive son because his interests are too academic and he doesn’t push hard enough in his career; his son’s definition of success is being at home for dinner every night. The dissonance between two narratives that seek to occupy the same space creates havoc in family systems and close networks.

Kids have narratives, too, that they push onto others. Sometimes it comes down to differences in what clothes or phones they have, as compared with their friends. There’s also that unknown person “everyone” who causes a lot of distress in the home. As in “everyone is going to this party… you HAVE to let me go!” or “Everyone in senior class is booking hotel rooms and limos for prom… WHADDA YA MEAN no?!” Sometimes the narrative is passing judgement on peers who make poor choices socially or who have special needs. There is an element of conformity that comes into play beginning in preschool and continuing through postgraduate work. Students of all ages seek to find themselves mirrored in the faces of their peers.

In all of the places and spaces of our lives, we live out our narratives. And we attempt to influence the narratives of others, sometimes to the detriment of their sense of themselves. There is a need for awareness of our own ability to choose, our own agency, as we develop our life story. Equally, there is a need for awareness of the ability of others to choose- for their agency in developing their life story. Because we are naturally drawn to see ourselves in those that share our spaces, we sometimes conflate the two stories. The self cannot thrive when enmeshed. We need to carefully untangle the threads of the two tales.

While we observe many stories unfolding around us AND we collaborate to support many lives, we’re really only here to write ONE story. Our own. The plot points that we propose for others with respect to who they should date, what career they should train for or any other material choice are damaging. It’s in discovery that we grow. So- no fixing. Listen. Learn. Lead by example. But don’t “lean” on anyone to conform to your choices. In seeking for your definition of what is best, don’t impose it on someone else’s life. Doing so truncates their growth, their maturity and their optimal outcome.

If you feel your anxiety rising as you observe the the world through the eyes of your own viewpoint and everything is out of alignment with your values, out of control with your vision of how things should be and just plain OUT there- take heart! You’re just here for your mission. You’re only responsible for your life. Nudging your anxiety lower by respecting that other people and organizations have to learn how to fulfill their own missions, roles and significant legacies is a good first step. AND- lower anxiety means better judgement. Better judgement leads to better mentoring, modeling and relating… enhanced creativity and better health markers. All of these enhance your performance in any role and are hallmarks of a great life! Managing yourself is the key to the kingdom- for almost any outcome you seek.

If your perspective feels a little bent out of shape due to stress or warped due to excessive wear and tear by your job, your kids or your concerns in any area, one of our caring coaches can help you regain your balance! Call for a consultation; we’re here to help!

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