I took today off. Yes, I know it’s Saturday and I typically don’t work weekends, but I rarely take the day off. I run errands; I read things for work; I do laundry; I straighten up around the house; I catch up on emails. I don’t just sit and rest.
Today, I sat and rested. It was a beautiful day here in Pennsylvania. Partly sunny, low humidity, nice breeze and only about 75 degrees. I did go for a walk earlier and sat out in the sun a bit. But, mostly I sat on my screened-in porch with my feet propped up and read a book. And, I watched birds, butterflies, squirrels and the trees swaying in the breeze. My goodness it was lovely, and I think I may have to make a point of choosing to do it more often.
“We are always at choice,” is something my Georgetown mentor said to me again and again. How true and also how hard to remember. But, I received an interesting little message about this “we’re-always-at-choice” thing today, and it came in the form of a passage in the book I’m reading.
A couple weeks ago, there was an author on CBS Sunday Morning named Louise Penny who lives in a small village south of Montreal. She writes crime novels and apparently has quite a following. I had never heard of her before but I enjoy that genre of books so I decided to purchase one of the first in her “Chief Inspector Armand Gamache” series. Coincidentally, this one is called, Still Life. I chose to write this blog post because of something I just read in the book, not because of the title, but now I see the serendipity in the title and how I chose to spend my day.
Chief Inspector Gamache was asking this new agent who was assigned to his case how she learns. She was as any of us have been in those early stages of our careers–eager to prove ourselves and to look good; we’re horrified if we do or saying anything embarrassing. The Chief Inspector had witnessed her doing just that–trying to demonstrate her knowledge and her savvy–only to step on toes and annoy other, more senior veterans, on the team. Anyway, here’s an excerpt from the book:
‘Think about it. Tonight you can tell me what you’ve came up with. For now, though, let me tell you how I work and what my expectations of you are.’
‘Yes, sir’ (she answers)
‘I watch. I’m very good at observing. Noticing things. And listening. Actively listening to what people are saying, their choice of words, their tone. What they aren’t saying. And this, Agent, is the key. It’s choice.’
‘We choose our thoughts. We choose our perceptions. We choose our attitudes. We may not think so. We may not believe it, but we do. I absolutely know we do. I’ve seen enough evidence, time after time, tragedy after tragedy. Triumph after triumph. It’s about choice.’
‘Like choice of schools? Or dinner?’
‘Clothes, hairstyle, friends. Yes. It starts there. Life is choice. All day, everyday. Who we talk to, where we sit, what we say, how we say it. And our lives become defined by our choices. It’s as simple and as complex as that. And as powerful. So when I’m observing, that’s what I’m watching for. The choices people make.’
‘What can I do, sir?’
‘You can learn. You can watch and listen, and do as you’re told. You’re a trainee. Nobody expects you to know anything. If you pretend to know you aren’t going to actually learn.’
‘…You need to learn that you have choices. There are four things that lead to wisdom. You ready for them?’
‘They are four sentences we learn to say, and mean.’ Gamache held up his hand as a fist and raised a finger with each point. ‘I don’t know. I need help. I’m sorry. And,…’ And he couldn’t remember the fourth and said, ‘I forget.’
I haven’t gotten far enough in the book to see what the fourth one is. Any guesses? I am curious and I’m interested in my reader’s input on this!
Anyway, I am working on better choices. Choosing where I spend my energy and on whom. Choosing what I eat. Choosing how much I sleep. Choosing where I work and with whom. Choosing boundaries. Choosing experiences over stuff (although I still get too much stuff!). Choosing rest over constant movement. Choosing to listen instead of speak. Choosing to be curious over being “right.” Choosing self-compassion over berating myself for mistakes. Am I consistent at all these? Are you kidding? That would be a big, fat, “NO!” So, I’m working on choosing forgiveness instead of perfectionism! 🙂
What choices would you like to change?