Saturday, January 09, 2010

Motivations and aspirations

This picture is so awesomely bad that I needed to share it with you.We are at the home of Jacob's extended family for a 90th birthday party on the day after Thanksgiving. It was actually a very lovely party because it was pretty much just a laid-back day for everyone to hang out in this giant house and at some point there was a cake and singing. I dig that vibe.

However, I was still pretty sick and I was on the emotional defensive because these were all pretty much strangers and Thanksgiving the day before had been a little prickly (I admit that my expectation that Thanksgiving would be hard probably contributed to the weirdness.)

I am glad that Jacob also looks tired and maybe a little angry. Then, the picture is not a reflection of my conflicted insides but of the fact that we were listening to a story and so our faces are just slack.

Aren't pictures like these just so interesting? I am amazed when the face I see in the mirror is not the face I see in pictures. My face is so pale and my nose is so long. My hair is much longer than I remember it being. The big crease under my eyes makes me look so much older than I think I look.

Pictures like this remind me of the giant gap between how I think the world sees me and the way the world actually does see me much of the time. I have 32 years of experience knowing my most intimate motivations and aspirations to color my self-image. The world only has light and shapes and observed actions and possibly a history of talking about my motivations and aspirations with words. Words are such paltry replacements for the complexity of how motivations and aspirations feel on the inside. So ephemeral and powerful at the same time. So apparent and so hidden. Words. Not enough.

But how else do we get to know each other? Yesterday, I spent the day with several people who actually implement the programs that I am replicating by designing a framework for other organizations to implement. Up to this point, I have spent most of my time listening to the founder, who is a really effective vision-caster. I am inspired daily by him. By the reality of every social service organization is that on-the-ground service delivery is often chaotic and messy both because people are involved and people never fit into a organizational model perfectly AND there is frequently a gap between the vision of the founder that requires constant fund-raising to maintain and the amount of time and effort the founder can spend on setting up infrastructure. This is very normal and I was expecting that my high-flying delight at being given the opportunity to change the world would be brought down eventually by the reality of how hard it will be to scale up when I have no control over how stable the foundation is. This is good thing. Remember what happened to Icarus when he flew too high?

So, I spent the day being very deliberate about the words that I chose to communicate my motivations and aspirations. I spent the day listening very carefully to the motivations and aspirations that my co-workers were expressing through the words they did and didn't say. I want to know the complexity of the institutional and interpersonal dynamics of my program before I go out and tell other people they should take it on as a means to better help the under-resourced folks that they love.

It was a hard day. I was exhausted by the end. But like almost every experience that I've had at work up to this point, I feel like I have the life experience that enables me to live up to the challenge. How often does that happen in life? How often do we feel like we are in exactly the right place at exactly the right time because all of our life experiences to date are useful in some way to the experience at hand?

I feel pretty lucky to be here. Lucky. And tired.


Jessica Young said...

That pic is awesome. And yes, awesomely bad. But nice tights, tho. ;)

Rachel said...

I think you just look a bit tired. Beautiful and tired!