Last weekend, my friend Shannan and I shared our respective stories with the beautiful community of Flourish, and during the Q&A portion, the conversation naturally veered toward boundaries. How do you set them? What are your own? Where do you draw the line?
Shannan’s answer was flawless, and it was simply this: we do not need help in this department. In all of our human selfishness, we will so often veer toward more boundaries rather than less, toward comfort and control over curiosity and chance. We will forever be inching time/space in our own favor.
I think she’s right, and I am continually practicing the fine art of leaving my own door ajar. Of making myself available, of stretching myself beyond my perceived, introverted capacity to say Yes – Come in. Come over. Come what may.
Still, there is a distinction. Leaving your door ajar for your actual community is strikingly different than leaving every window wide open to your online community, to the welcome strangers you’re lucky enough to brush keyboards with near and far. In real life, you have but one very manageable front door. In pixels, there are multiple windows, innumerable tabs. (Best to find a way to close a few.)
One window I’m often closing is this one: Can I pick your brain?
It’s a question I’ve asked of those in my own life, and it’s a question I welcome. Yet it is not an answer I have, or one that I am fully capable of offering, in this capacity, in this season. With small children underfoot, an un-distracted phone call is a tricky thing to muster, let alone a Skype session. Sure, stickers can buy me an easy five minutes, and I’ve had good luck with old jigsaw puzzles for another seven or so. Anything longer? All bets are off.
And so, if you find yourself in a similar predicament in which you would love to make yourself available for these types of requests, but the calendar is fuller than full and you’re a believer in real-life, down-and-dirty mentorship rather than one-off quickies? Here’s a small step in the right direction:
(1) Say yes. (2) Say but.
Yes, I would love to help, but I am currently only available from 4-4:30am EST on Tuesday AM.
It’s a simple enough revision on traditional office hours: offer one carved-out hour (or half) a week when it’s 100% convenient for you-and-yours, even if that means it’s 30% convenient for someone else. And then, the not-so-simple part: sticking to it, despite requests to shift the timing to a more decent hour.
(For a fun take on how this conversation sometimes plays out over email, this gal’s Friday morning solution made me laugh.)
Here’s to keeping your sanity and your soul (mildly) in tact – and helping someone else do the same.
Tell me: what small steps are you exploring these days? I’d love to hear!
p.s. These are a series of small steps that will (hopefully) provide one giant leap to greater things. Not for mankind, but for me, and perhaps for you, which will always be good enough in my book. More here.