There have been many times in my life where I’ve felt like I could not perform at an optimal level (or maybe even a functional level) due to one thing or another. Thinking back to yesterday, for example, when my work computer was getting some overdue patches and required several reboots. During that time, someone came to the door. And someone else called. But I was also using my phone to get ready for a meeting, since my laptop was unavailable. Or the time, years ago, when I was feeling so overwhelmed by the amount of work involved in moving out of our house that I could barely do anything.
It’s probably safe to say that everyone has had some experience with this sort of thing, whether it’s a health issue, or relationship issue, financial stress… I could go on. It makes me think that any given interaction could be with someone who’s in the middle of one thing or another that is keeping them from their best. It’s good to consider this, as it helps me give a little grace when the clerk is struggling with a price check. Or when the server brings the wrong entree. I once got a bit heated with a gas station attendant (in NJ, of course), who kept trying to top off the tank, which caused a series of small “bangs” inside the car where we had a sleeping baby. The poor guy was a gas station attendant; you might not get lots of good days in that job; I’m sure he could have used a kinder word from me.
Right now, much of the world is working from home while the rest of the family/household is working/playing/schooling/whatever in the same homes. Also there are dogs. And babies. I know this because there are conference calls and we hear them. Or we ask questions of someone who is on mute because there are dogs barking and babies crying because UPS is ringing the doorbell, and possibly also because they didn’t hear the question anyway, for the same reasons. Lots of folks are working under sub-optimal conditions, and their performance suffers to some degree. Whole companies and even countries could be impacted. But in the meantime, it seems that the same Internet that makes working from home possible has also helped us give less grace just when more is needed. I’m not the first to note the anti-social behavior on social media.
Some folks are pretty resilient, though, and that’s great. They are like the plants that can live perfectly well in the heavy rains of the rainy season, and the heavy drought of the dry season. Those plants are called tropophytes, by the way. But many plants have similar characteristics, since most of them can’t really get up and move to a better location or fly south for the winter. Trees have rings because they hardly grow in the winter and grow fast in the summer. Bulbs like tulips and daffodils grow in the spring and summer and look like they’ve died or disappeared when it gets cold. But when it starts to warm up (even if there’s still snow on the ground!), they pop out of the ground even more than they did the year before. It reminds me of a gravestone that I saw hundreds of times in the graveyard behind the church where I grew up. It said, “Not dead, but sleepeth.”
So, not only do I need to be gracious with the folks who are not at the top of their game (or anybody’s game, for that matter), but keep my cool when I catch some criticism on my own off days. The “success coaches” would say that we should not give others the power over us by getting triggered. But if you’re already not at your peak, it’s a little harder to also keep your head on straight. It’s a worthy goal, though. Better than having a goal to crash and burn every time somebody looks at you funny. I need to be a tropophyte: suck up the rain when it pours, and just relax when everything else dries up. And be generous with the grace, including with my own self.