I’ve been trying to listen to my intuition more these days. I suppose I’m finally wise enough to know that perhaps I have a gut feeling because my brain noticed something that was right there in front of me, while my conscious self had not.
Malcolm Gladwell has an entire book devoted to what your brain ‘sees’ and how we never know half of what’s going on. The book is called Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. If you haven’t read Malcolm Gladwell’s books, they’re in a category reserved for a special group of writers; they should be on a list of books you must read before you die. Sure, Blink is a book where you’re learning something but he writes in such an entertaining way that I’ve not only read all of his books, I’ve read one of his books twice. For me, this is unheard of.
Blink is the only book where my engineer husband finally agrees that Gladwell made such a compelling case about the brain’s capacity to know something in advance of its owner that when I know something but cannot explain how I know it, all I have to do is utter “It’s a Blink moment,” Nick will back off the interrogation and accept the answer. Now, that is one powerful book!
I asked myself the question this morning about what would be on my t-shirt from the homework in the journal/book Find Your Awesome by Judy Clement Wall. It’s the Day 4 challenge I agreed to complete. I found the exercise compelling because most days I don’t know what I think of myself so summarizing me in a t-shirt slogan seemed nearly impossible. But when I asked myself this question nearly directly out of bed and prior to coffee, the answer my brain gave me was “Shaken, not stirred.” Interesting. My brain gave me the answer and now my conscious mind needs to decipher what I meant by that.
My brain knew the answer when asked because it’s been taking in all this information over the years, just waiting to regurgitate it a la Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. No hours spent pondering the question, it was simply and succinctly answered.
What I think it means is that currently I’m like a snow globe. Snow globes are one of my favorite things on this planet, next to my children. I have many of them (both children and snow globes). I won’t go so far to say that I collect them (snow globes, not children) but I have a good start if I ever choose to advance my collection. Most of my snow globes are Christmas themed so I don’t have many displayed on the limited shelf space in my house, especially since it’s no longer the holiday season. I have one small snow globe the girls just brought from their trip to Italy in my soon-to-be office on a dresser but that’s it. I also have another from Greece but it’s been packed away and left leaking in a storage unit somewhere; those are the only two examples of non-Christmas theme snow globes I have.
Every once in a while, I shake the snow globe from Italy and watch the glitter swirl around and around. When it slows down, I shake it up again. I think the swirling around glitter is a metaphor for my life right now. I’m shaken. The glitter in my brain is going all over the place and has no place to land. No two pieces move in tandem.
I lack focus and attention on any one thing, one goal. If I were properly stirred to action, then all those out-of-control glitter pieces would be together, moving in the same direction, somewhat like a school of fish. Think of a school of fish and how each move they make is amazingly choreographed from instinct. Each fish is in sync with the group. My brain is a snow globe and not a school of fish. Or at least, not yet anyway.
My t-shirt would say today, “Shaken, not stirred” because my brain is chaotic and I haven’t been able to focus. What that one thing is is beyond the scope of this homework; just know I have been relentless in my pursuit of ‘what’s next.’ I’ve taken personality tests, interviewed people, read about various options out there in the world on websites and in books, and it always comes back to the answer of “I don’t know….” Maybe I don’t want to know.
My dad is probably rolling over in his grave right now.
But that analysis is for another time. For now, I have to move on to the next work from Find Your Awesome. Today’s work is to be outrageously grateful and to commit random acts of gratefulness. I need to notice all the good things in my life. While noticing the good, it’s hard to feel bad about oneself. Ms. Wall also suggests that I write thank you notes to various people who deserve it like former teachers, or my girls’ current teachers, or write a letter to someone who might like to get some snail mail. I need to send texts telling people the world is a better place with them in it. I must spread the love. And I know it comes back.
How do I know it comes back? I’ve witnessed it firsthand recently from something I had done. I go to the same grocery store nearly every single day to buy groceries for dinner so I notice when there are new cashiers. For some reason, my Vons has gone through a lot of new cashiers lately. Last week, I was behind another customer who was behaving badly with a new guy I didn’t know. The customer’s behavior was so bad that it could be interpreted as racist. I didn’t want to believe that about this customer but see Malcolm Gladwell above. My brain told me exactly what I was witnessing from this elderly man.
I decided I was going to help the cashier get over this horrible interaction–not by saying, “Wow, what an asshole” because although that would have helped, I thought that saying something completely complimentary would put the cashier’s brain in another mode altogether.
When it was my turn, I said, “I love your name.” And then I said it, “Alistair.” I went on further, “I have 3 girls and every one of them has so many friends. Not one was named Alistair which is really cool. I named my first daughter Devon because I thought nobody had that name but I was wrong, and then my second daughter is Madison which is funny because ALL her friends are named Madison or Madelyn.”
He smiled as I blathered on. I helped bag my groceries and then I was off, still thinking about the racism I had witnessed from the white guy against Alistair.
Two days later I was back at Vons and it was a very busy time. I grabbed the first checkout line that had the fewest people with the fewest items in it. When it was my turn, it was Alistair again. I always make eye contact and say hi to the cashiers, and when he looked up from the cash box, he clearly recognized me. He gave me a big smile and asked me how I was doing in a more personal way rather than a robotic, “Hi, how are you, how’s your day, did you find everything you were looking for, have a nice day” kind of way. What I had done on that day came back to me in spades. Alistair is my new friend at Vons, and all it took was noticing what was going on and trying to make the young man feel better–I wasn’t comfortable calling out the white guy but I was ok offering some comforting words.
I can’t wait to get started on today’s homework since my experience has already been so positive. What’s one outrageously grateful thing you can do today?