As the rain falls this afternoon I was thinking about a new project I just completed. It’s been something on my mind for over two years. It was clear I needed to collaborate with someone who would possess the required skills that were beyond what I could easily learn. I had a few false starts. The project just felt too big for me. I had settled for a lesser version of it.
I am known to often say, ”It is fine.” And the settled-for-project was fine, but not the extraordinary project that I had dreamed about. Saying things are fine is the way I soothe myself when I feel disappointed.
This summer my 17-year-old daughter was looking for a part-time job. It’s that tricky summer in between her junior and senior year of high school. We are visiting colleges and beginning the applications. Her summer is broken up with time traveling and time at home. Perhaps there was work she could do with me this summer? Perhaps I could add to her skills and her bank account?
Then I remembered my settled-for-project. There were some creative elements that might keep my daughter engaged and she might just have the technical skills that the project required. We sat down and I shared my vision. Working with family can be challenging. Especially our children. How do we transition from the overly protective and sometimes critical parent to the even-handed supervisor and collaborator?
I’ve thought a lot about the transition of your child going from needing to be protected and cared for in your nest to having the skills, confidence and courage to fly on their own. My daughter will leave the nest within the next year. This fact is never far from my mind or my heart. It is both a transition for her and for me, both of us learning how to relate to one another in a new way as we both move toward more independence.
There were many possibilities for how working together could be a disaster, my own attachment to her and the project as starters. I could detect my need to control and yet with some awareness and my own soothing, I also thought this might be a new way for us to enjoy some time together. I was able to stay open to the equally possible outcome of tremendous success.
Within just a few hours of our conversation, we had created a test to see what we’d need to make it work. We made some revisions and got some new equipment. Within a few days, we had completed the first piece of the project. When I reviewed what we had done I was stunned. It was even better than I had imagined. Her skills were beyond what I had understood and we’d had a fantastic time collaborating. The project had evolved with ease.
I used to think going with the flow meant giving up, having no conviction or intention. With this project and many other circumstances in my life the past few months I’ve shifted that view. I can see going with the flow means allowing what is not working to sit for a while. I have realized I never know if an idea will come to fruition in a few days, weeks or ever. There is no way to know. At any moment, the story of future success and celebration is as equally viable as assured failure and disappointment.
What I have realized is this. The key seems to be not getting too attached to either story.
When things fall apart or fall through then the time is not right. I can fuss and cry and have a tantrum, press harder and try and control more things. Or I can stop and just breathe.
This is not giving up. This is accepting what is. It is trusting that right now is not the right time for those actions. This is trusting that what needs my attention will appear in front of me, with ease, when the time is right. This kind of going with the flow takes much less effort and reveals so much more.
What might you be pressing or trying to control in your own life that perhaps needs to be released for now? What has fallen at your feet that may be ready for you to embrace and take action towards?
ps. Take a peek at our project.