December 29, 2018
It all came about so suddenly, this opportunity to work for a friend. I was not actively seeking out employment at the time, but a friend, who needed a pair of unskilled hands just to help out on a large job, ended up becoming a bit of a mentor in areas of practical home maintenance skills and the learning I received, in just a few days, I have been able to offer to my extended family. So, how did this all come about?
1. Sometimes opportunities seek you out. I was not actively seeking to do the work that was offered to me. I was merrily occupied with other interests. As Christmas approached, my attention was toward hosting the family gathering over the holidays and I had invited my mother-in-law over to help me with some baking. Instead of purchasing gifts, the family (older, adult kids) agreed to re-purpose something they were no longer in need of, or to make something that they could share. I was about to learn to bake some butter-tarts in order to give them away as gifts at Christmas (I may write about learning my mother-in-law's butter-tart and cookie recipes in a future blog, but it is sufficient to say that she is a fantastic baker and her pastry for butter-tarts is the best I've ever tasted, and the gifts would have been well-received as the yummiest gifts ever ;) My point is that I was already engaged in something, and I had already planned the baking class and gathered the materials (ingredients). I was ready to bake when a different opportunity came knocking. Sometimes opportunities seek you out.
This is not usually a strong point for me. I like to plan ahead, mark my calendar up, write notes on sticky paper to keep myself forward thinking and moving through steps in plans I had made. I like to establish routines that work for me too. A change of plans is a monkey wrench in the well-oiled machinery of my life. Well, not quite, but it does add a little jolt to my sense of planning and disturbs the equilibrium I try to maintain in my life. What I am learning, by doing, is to breathe, and scope out the change in order to find ways that I can re-frame it, so it is not perceived as a personal assault that I need to vigorously defend myself against, but rather as an opportunity to embrace. Sometimes that may take a little while but, usually, I can come around to seeing the opportunity as a positive thing for me.
3. Just Do It. At some point, I had to just let go and move into the flow of whatever the new task was going to be. In this case, I had to shift from my expectations and plans regarding baking, to the see the new opportunity as worthwhile and not a threat. This was easy to do since it was a friend who needed some help. I can easily adjust to see the merit in dropping my own plans to help others. That is the essence of who I am. A helper. I may not be the greatest in the leadership department, but I can support a plan that I believe in. Helping others is a cause I will always try to engage, and often it is just a matter of setting a new course and moving in that direction. You have to start, and move, in order to so whatever it is. You can't just talk about it in theory. You have to start.
4. Embrace the Change. I learned a lot by spending a few days lending a hand on some work that I had little practical experience in doing. It helped that my friend was a good mentor. Sure there were some hiccups. I didn't always do the task as well as my mentor had hoped but, overall, I did get the gist of the ideas, and by and large large it was a positive learning experience.(and we're still friends ;)
5. Pay It Forward. Armed with new experience and knowledge I was able to see an opportunity to share my newly acquired skills to help a family member. My daughter-in-law's parents took great pride in showing off their home to us on a recent visit during the holidays. They had done most of the work themselves and shared a lot of the struggles and fun they enjoyed as they worked on their home over the years. One thing stopped my daughter-in-law's father from completing a project: oddly cut angles of baseboards. Fortunately, I had just spent a few days observing the careful measuring approach of my friend and witnessed how he approached odd angles. Learning from a master empowered me to offer my new learning to a family member who could use the support I could bring. Sometimes, we just need a little encouragement, as a helping hand to get something unstuck. I will write about the paying-it-forward part of this learning when I actually do the job I offered to assist with. Hopefully, at the end of that process, my daugher-in-law's parents and I will still be friends ;)
P.S. the right tools sure help too: a sliding compound miter saw and a pneumatic brad-nail gun.