(Gladstone, OR) – How does one stay focused on the real priorities of life, when everything and everyone around you is trying to push in another direction? It is like trying to walk upstream in floodwaters. Yesterday, I had to fight to stay focused on my family and their needs. Now I know how to fight, but to fight and still make it a good day for the family, well that’s another story.
Last week I was told that I’ll be on the hospitality team for this conference. A few days later, I was asked (told?) to be here at 7:15am on Sunday morning. After a few phone calls and e-mails, I helped the organizers realize that getting my whole family out the door, for a week away, at 5:00 o’clock Sunday morning – well, let’s just say it might be easier to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
It was finally agreed that I should aim for 9:00am (which I knew was a fantasy, but I said we’d try). Then, Friday afternoon, I received an e-mail from my boss’s boss’s boss, telling (asking?) me how important it was to be here early Sunday morning and that they’d even pay for an extra night of motel so we could come down Saturday night. I sent a nice reply back, explaining that because we hadn’t planned on this, it wouldn’t fit our schedule.
We finally got out of the house at 10:22am yesterday morning and began the hour drive to Gladstone. I called the hospitality team supervisor to let him know we were running late. He was a bit incredulous, but I was relaxed.
Now this is the cool thing. I wasn’t stressed. My wife gave me one of those sideways, up and down looks and smiled, “I love that you’re not stressed,” she said.
“Why should I be,” I asked? It isn’t my problem.
The reason I’m not stressed is because I’m clear on my priorities. My family comes before my career and/or my job. If I’m going to uproot my family for a week, cram them into a 250 square foot motel room, and ask my wife to take on sole childcare responsibilities in an alien environment – well, the least I can do is make their ride as comfortable as possible. And the first place to start this is by not pushing, pushing, pushing to get out the door at some unfathomable, arbitrary time.
Even I was amazed at myself yesterday. I remember my parents being in similar situations. There was usually a lot of stress, yelling, and confusion. My brother and I just tried to avoid the shrapnel. But yesterday, my daughter was so excited about this excursion, it was fun to build on her anticipation and to make it fun for everyone.
We arrived here just before noon and ate lunch with other participants. Then I went to the hospitality office and got the stuff I’d need to do my job here. I was taken to my team and they explained what I needed to do and when. Then I excused myself to take my family to the motel and get checked in. Unfortunately, the motel was overwhelmed with conference participants and was running about an hour behind in getting rooms ready for us.
The kids were already asleep in their car seats, and the best way to manage that is to drive. So, off we went – before long even my wife had drifted into what looked like a delightful, coveted nap.
My random path led me to Sellwood Park. I knew by the time I arrived there, my daughter would be waking up and we could play in the playgound, while the rest of the family continued their blissful rest. Just before leaving, I bought snowcones and off we went to get into our motel room.
The phone call couldn’t have had better timing. It was the director of the hospitality teams wanting to know where I was and why I wasn’t at my station. In his defense, I’d said I would try to be there at 9:00am, and here it was almost 5:00pm. He ended the call with a, “we’ll talk when you get here!”
I hung up with a smile on my face. Once again, my wife looked me up and down with a “who are you” look in her eyes. Once again she said, “I love that you’re not stressed.” To tell the truth, I was pretty amazed too. I have a natural strength for being responsible (check out the about page here) and it doesn’t come naturally for me to not be responsible. Normally, I wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure of being told I was screwing up.
However, it’s all a matter of perspective. If my #1 priority was to my employer, this director who thinks he owns my soul this week, or my assigned tasks, I would be stressed. I would be pushing my family to “go, go, GO!”
That’s not the deal though. My family is first, before my career, other relationships, or even my own selfish ambitions (I’m still working on this one). It was easy to put them first yesterday. I was not only NOT stressed, I was riding a wave of elation. I felt like I’d won the lottery! I was practicing what I’ve been preaching (to myself) for several years. It was an awesome feeling!
I got back to the hotel about 8:30pm. My wife and kids were in the pool. They were having an awesome time – making friends and enjoying the amenities. They were happy – and that’s what yesterday was all about.
[Follow-up: the person giving me a hard time about being late, pulled me aside and apologized for getting stressed. He then asked to meet my wife and he apologized to her. That was cool!]