On Sunday night, after I had walked my dear husband for over 20,000 steps according to the counters on our phones, I took him out for a nice dinner. I had the intention of walking the 90 minute coastal path from Cremyll to Cawsand, but we got lost once, adding steps. Since the path was winding, I believe it was a bit longer than advertised, and took us closer to 2.5 hours.
We headed down to the Barbican with our tired legs after a rest at our AirBnB, finding a steakhouse on the far side of the Marina (even more walking). No matter, once we were there we were treated to a feast.
The meal was delicious, but even more so, the service was excellent. Our waitress (Elizabeth) took such good care of us for the evening, and she kept calling us “my lovelies” when asking if there was anything we needed. I told my husband how much that tickled me – I enjoyed being called “my lovely.”
Just before bringing our dessert she asked us where we were from, admitting that she could not quite place our accents. We sheepishly confessed were were from Minnesota in the U.S., after saying we sometimes like others to think we are Canadian (you know the ugly American phenomenon?).
She asked if we were celebrating anything, and we mentioned our 1-year anniversary coming up, along with my husband’s 50th birthday next month. Those are the main reasons for our epic trip, of course. It’s not like we do this every year…though if I can find a way – I will return!
So for the final dessert she brought out beautiful dishes – one with “Happy Birthday” written in chocolate sauce and one with “Happy Anniversary” written on it. It was so very kind and thoughtful of her to find out why we were there and to take the special effort to make us feel so welcome. But we dearly appreciated it, and I am sure it will be one of the more memorable evenings of the trip.
It reminded me that when someone takes the time to make you feel welcome and appreciated, I respond in kind. I realize that this was her job, but she went several steps further than needed. Sometimes it may be an extra smile you give to someone, or a thoughtful and kind deed. But no gesture, in my view, is ever wasted.
Does it make your heart happy to delight others? In what way can you delight someone you love today?
This week the Saturday Share is on holiday because I am on a road trip with my sister in Canada for the weekend!
In the service of being present and enjoying the trip, I will be offline so I will skip the share this week. Or maybe I will take a photo along our journey to post here when the time comes. For now, I wish you a lovely weekend and I will return next week with a new blog share.
I asked myself this during the late afternoon when I noticed *hours* had slipped by this afternoon while I was working, and it was nearly past the time I usually leave. I suddenly realized it was a gorgeous Minnesota day, about 80F without humidity.
Immediately I realized I should not be lingering at work, and that my husband and I had the opportunity to spend time out on a lovely patio somewhere in the neighborhood. But this realization and choice came about when I considered my priorities, or rather my priority for that moment.
While I know work is important, my more important priority is my relationship with my husband. Other relationships are important too, and I reminded myself the other day to schedule some time with friends I have not yet seen this summer. We plan to see a play and spend time together next week.
Willy, my cat, just gave me a LOUD MEOW to indicate that HE is a priority too, and he did not appreciate my husband and I lingering over live music on the patio tonight. Okay buddy, point taken.
Relationships are an important priority in our lives. Several recent studies have touted the benefits of social relationships on one’s overall health status. This does not mean we are all good at prioritizing our relationships, however. I have struggled in the past with making time to nurture my friendships, sometimes getting wrapped up in personal projects or professional goals, and neglecting to reach out as often as I would like.
I start feeling “out of balance” when I do not get enough hubby time, or kitty time or time with good friends that make me laugh. There is something about spending time with people who love you, people you care about, and those who bring meaning to your life.
And if you feel lonely? Maybe you live far from friends, or do not have family in your area. Please reach out to someone to connect. Make an effort to form relationships that sustain you. If making new friends is difficult for you, realize that it can be difficult for all of us as adults. You are not alone in feeling like this.
But attempts to connect with others is almost always worth it. We may fear rejection, or believe others do not have much in common with us. But I believe it is a bigger risk NOT to connect, and not to allow ourselves to be a little vulnerable to build connection. Sure, they may reject us. But that is only a problem if we make it mean something about us. I like to think when people reject me, they don’t know what they are missing. 😉
It can be as easy as asking someone about themselves, and listening well. Or greeting someone with a smile and a friendly word can bring about a moment of connection, making us (and them) feel less alone, to feel seen and appreciated.
Human beings evolved as a social species. But we can feel lonely in our relationships sometimes, or we can feel lonely on our own. As an introvert, I enjoy being alone and seldom feel lonely. But even I have my limits in terms of “me time.” There is no substitute for being around people who accept me as I am. What a great gift. Let us not forget to be grateful for those kindred spirits when we find them, and to nurture and prioritize our relationships.
One of the most rewarding parts of my travels and of meeting international colleagues is when I encounter kindred spirits on the journey. This happened to me on Wednesday night, right after a particularly grueling day in which I was frustrated with my inability to communicate as effectively as I intended with my director.
We had gone into some planning sessions and I’d agreed to dates for our next team meeting in late September, realizing that I truly do not plan to be in that position by then. However, I had not had the time to talk with my director 1:1 to let him know my intentions for August/September, in terms of moving on or at least taking a sabbatical.
As we took our break for the day before dinner, I wrote for a while to process the cognitive dissonance, and then took a walk outside. As it happened, I encountered what was either a mule or a donkey (do you know the difference? I cannot tell) and two women from India who were as fascinated as I was. It turns out one of them was a person I have talked with many times on conference calls, and I had never met her in person. So a nice surprise.
After a bit of walking on the grounds of the Abbaye de La Ramee I began feeling better, and I sat next to the pond with my journal. I took off my shoes and let my bare feet touch the ground while I watched a families of ducks swimming by. I considered the privilege I have in being able to travel like this, and meet colleagues in other places, collaborate with clinical scientists and engineers to create solutions for patients.
I went to dinner with a much better attitude, and tried to keep myself open to meeting new people and making the most of my experience. As it turns out, a bit late into the meal, a Hungarian colleague sat down a bit later into the meal after we had received the appetizer. The room was noisy so it was hard to talk and hear, but I sensed we had some things in common. So I made an effort to find out, and it turns out, we had a wonderful conversation.
My team scattered to find others that they wanted to talk with that evening, and my colleague and I shared a fascinating discussion of our respective challenges in the areas we work, along with thoughts about what might be next. After dinner we went for a long walk, talked about our mutual joy in yoga and running. He shared some brilliant invention ideas, and we brainstormed ways to realize faster innovation at such a large company, and how to partner with others who can help advance the work.
All in all, I was so grateful to connect with someone who clearly was a kindred spirit and “old soul” in terms of awareness and consciousness of the ways we want to create change in the world. Sometime we are put in the right place at the right time, to meet others on our cosmic “team” to do the work we are meant to do. Amazing and incredible.
This month I was invited to participate as a guest writer in the “Making More Meaning” blog by Stephanie. I love her idea to invite several reflections from fellow bloggers on how we find meaning and I am honored to write on this topic.
The minimalists have led the way in our understanding that collecting more possessions is not what gives our lives meaning. I got a reference a few weeks ago to the book “Stuffocation: Living More with Less” from Lisa at the Simple Life Experiment podcast. James Wallman makes a compelling case for an experiential approach over materialism in the way we live our lives, and traces the history of this change in perspective.
Wallman helped me see how collecting things to show one’s status may have arisen from and evolutionary fitness marker display, which helps me have more empathy with this human impulse. At the same time, we have an ecological imperative to evolve away from this way of living, given worldwide population growth. Left unchecked, the manufacture, packaging and waste generated in making more “stuff” could lead to massive problems in the earth’s ecosystems.
I consider how I personally find meaning daily life. During my 20’s and early 30’s, my career was sometimes more about earning income to pay my bills, while I found true meaning in my volunteer activities. I am fortunate today to work for a company that has a meaningful mission to me: “alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life.” When focus on the patients we serve, and stay committed to the mission, I find a great deal of meaning in the clinical research that my team does every day in Latin America.
On the other hand, when a focus on short-term profit clouds leadership judgment on what is best for the long-term health of our department, it is much more difficult to be propelled by the mission. I believe people can profit from their work and add value to the world simultaneously. There is nothing wrong with making a fair profit. We can re-invest profit into further innovations. Profit and start-up capital are often required to develop new solutions for patients in a sustainable way.
Finding meaning and purpose is about making a contribution that aligns with our values and allows us to use our strengths and talents often. I like Brene Brown’s definition of spirituality (from her work in Rising Strong) to explain how meaning, purpose and spirituality intersect for me. She sees spirituality as something not reliant on religion, theology or dogma, but rather a belief in our interconnected-ness and in a loving force that is greater than ourselves. It is in this way we complete our connection to spirit, living as interconnected beings. We fully acknowledge everything we do has effects on other people, on animals, and on other life on our planet.
We must do some inner work on ourselves, to be sure that our intentions are not coming from a place of needing to “prove our worthiness” to anyone. We are inherently worthy of love and belonging, just by being born. But the gratitude that flows from this realization gives us generosity of spirit that feeds our energy and our commitment.
We are also wired to be in relationships with people, animals and other living organisms. Research shows that we benefit from being in nature, though there is some controversy on whether it is nature itself, or being in community with others that really boosts our well-being. Healthy relationships have been shown to decrease your chances of dying prematurely by 50%. Support offered by caring friends can buffer the effects of stress. In older adults, loneliness is a significant predictor of poor health.
Note that it is about quality and not quantity of your relationships. Even if you have 500+ facebook friends, this does not substitute for 2-3 close friends (or family) in your life that you know you can truly count on when you need support. As an introvert, I know that it takes a lot of energy to maintain many relationships, and so I cultivate them selectively, and in a deeper way.
Is it possible that the “meaning” of friendship gets diluted if you have too many friends?
I will leave you to ponder that one, while I get back to some work I must complete this week. I would love your thoughts or comments.