Sunday, September 5, 2010

Why I Only Comment on the Weather When It Rains

I had a phone call from a dear friend yesterday who confided that she's stopped reading my blog because it was too painful. What she meant was that is was hard to see me reporting on the criticism that comes my way as a one-sided conversation. She ached to see more Laird-friendly perspectives on the dynamics that others found troubling and was worried that I was beating myself up too much (which was part of her motivation to call, to see how I was doing).

While I was able to assure her that I still liked myself, I told her that no one's that interested in reading press releases about how wonderful I am. People want postings about reality, not realty listings, and reporting on my struggles is part of my commitment to transparency and makes me—and my work—more accessible. (And I assured her that I didn't hold it against our friendship that she no longer reads my blog.)

In some ways, this parallels how I work with feedback. When I get a complaint in public (an occupational hazard when you're the administrator of a national nonprofit and do consulting for groups in four time zones), my policy is to respond in private, directly with the complainant, and try to address the problem there first. Starting a pissing contest in print, or in front of microphones may be good theater, but it rarely helps build relationship or solves problems. (Reflect on the ineffectual bull elephant posturing of politicians if you're questioning that claim.)

If an FIC staff member or volunteer falls down on the job such that the organization looks bad, I may chew their ass out in private, but in front of non-FIC folks I try to take the heat as the face of the organization. It's about loyalty and grace. Throwing people under the bus promotes neither.

All of that said, if taken too far it can be become habit forming in a way that can be addictive in a self-flagellating way (thank you, sir, may I have another please). My tendency to expose the stains on my laundry can lead to a subtle martyr syndrome, where I attempt to engender sympathy through posting excoriations on a regular basis. That's not what I'm aiming for.

Rather, I see it as an attempt to witness my journey as a human experience, making sure that I chronicle the spine-jarring potholes and goddamn broken axles as well as the glorious vistas and enchanting wayside inns that I encounter in my sojourn down the yellow brick road to enlightenment (as if I'll actually ever get there). It's about having the courage to attempt the trek even knowing I have flawed equipment and holes in my umbrella. Though I am committed to trying to help others even as I help myself along the way, from time to time I get caught in a thunderstorm, and flash floods obliterate the road. I want people to know that there are hard spots (adversity tends to make for compelling narrative), yet I also want them to know that I get back up after being knocked down and get back on the road. A little sorer, to be sure, yet hopefully a little wiser. I'm writing about the adventures of an optimist, not about the woes of a masochist.

Just like Annie, I believe that the next day's weather will be better:

The sun will come out, tomorrow

Bet your bottom that tomorrow, there'll be sun
Just thinking about, tomorrow
Clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow,
Til there's none.

—the opening stanza from "Tomorrow" in the hit musical, Annie

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Laird,
I read your blog regularly for your deep insight into community and consensus, which are very relevant to my life although I don't live in an IC. I don't find your blog a downer--I appreciate your sharing your struggles. I too tend to journal my struggles and not so much my daily joys, so I assume that your entries don't reflect your whole life.