The Devil is in the Details

The Devil is in the Details

Today we all had to read our outlines for the term paper. I was pretty excited about mine. I felt like I took some of the ideas from our readings and found a way to apply them to my current work in a new way. Once I read it out to the class, the professor responded (as she did to many others) “Wow, that’s really big. How about you take on just the first part?”

She was right, the proposal was too big for a 10 page term paper, and I am grateful that she helped me narrow down my focus to something I can get done more easily. What is emerging in my mind is how i interpreted the assignment – I had thought that I needed to not only do research on the course topic but ALSO create an original project applying the research.

I went back and checked. NOWHERE in the syllabus did it say we needed to do this extra work. Why did I feel the need to go way beyond what was required? So often I get stuck in a perfectionism loop where I feel like I need to do things to a super level of competency or detail.

“The devil is in the details” usually means that we need to pay attention to details so the work is good quality. I’m starting to think that perhaps the devil is in the need to go to the detail level even when it is not healthy, efficient, or even good process. The need to go above and beyond has served me well in many ways, but sometimes at great cost.

“Discernment” is the motto I am going to try. Discern when details need attention and when a broad overview is more suitable.

Looking for deer ticks after a day in the woods? Detail attitude for the win!

Enjoying a student production of a famous musical? Take that perfectionism down a few notches.

What if I told you you're overthinking this

Find a Stillness

SO MUCH is happening. Some is good, some is really startlingly horrible. This “both true at once” and everything in between is …well, I suppose it’s what being human is about.

Today, after a particularly energizing meeting, when I agreed to be part of a new RBP*, I stopped to take a quick internal inventory:

  • Heart racing
  • Brain buzzing
  • Skin lightly tingling

I was either super excited about the Work, or having a panic attack. Sometimes they feel similar, you know?

I mentioned to my colleague that it must be hard to fall asleep at night when so much growth and vibrancy is happening now in our organization. “It’s like you can feel the seeds about to sprout!” I said. She smiled, nodded, and I thought she was going to agree with me, but then she replied, “Yes, but I also know that seeds don’t grow unless they have some dark and quiet, too.”

yup.

A lot of time we use the metaphor “cultivating ideas” to mean helping ideas come to fruition, but any farmer will tell you that a cultivator is the tool you use to stir up the soil near your precious plants to keep the weed seeds from growing. Frequent cultivating is what you do to prevent seeds from growing by drying out the soil and keep roots from taking hold.

Friends, colleagues, dear ones, we are already in constant motion. Whether because the deadline looms or because our neurons are firing with glee, I urge us put down the “Garden Weasel“. When the work day is done, it’s time to let the idea seeds rest.

Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.

Valued Added Extras:

That reminds me of an art installation happening now in London called Empty Lot. Artist Abraham Cruzvillegas, filled wooden planters with soil from all over different parts of the city. Nothing has been planted in them but anything could grow, depending on what seeds are already in the soil.

Also here’s a lovely hymn, “Find A Stillness” by the UU Congregation of Atlanta arranged by Donald Milton III

*Really Big Project

Working Title

Like many folks in the world, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to get out of this stuck place and into the Next Great Place (NGP). In the NGP, we will have figured out all the worrysome issues of now. The NGP will have integrated, relevant, faith formation in people’s regular lives. The NGP will empower a justice filled, mulitcultural society. In the NGP, bacon will be back on the good food list.

I jest, but the pain and fear is real. We are at a point of frustration in so many areas of life and the size of the problems seems unmanageable – too complicated to know how to begin. We have named the struggles, and even have come up with quite a few possible solutions- so what keeps us immobilized and having the same conversations year upon year?

We are afraid to be messy.

With some admirable exceptions, most of us are really hesitant to fail in public. Heck- we are even afraid to fail in private! I write “we” because I am part of the group of folks who want to look more together than I feel.

I have this blog. I like writing. There have been no posts for two years. I could say I’ve been kind of busy…sure that’s true, but mostly I have been full of doubt and fear. Concerned that my ideas are not ready for reading. That I will be misunderstood or mocked for poor word choice or just plain getting it wrong the first time I express myself.

Yesterday I committed to writing just a bit every day until Dec 14. At the time, I had just read a really cool book and had all sorts of Big Thoughts and Sparkly Connections that I thought would seem exciting. Yes! I will write! It will be Glorious!

Today I woke up and thought, “Oh, I didn’t sleep too well…..there’s some personal stuff happening that is hard…..I need coffee…..”

So, I’m sorry and welcome, Reader, this is what I’ve got for today. It’s messy. It’s disjointed, and the “k” key doesn’t work on my laptop. I looked back and saw that I wrote a tiny bit years ago about failing in the congregational context, and somehow haven’t really been willing to apply that lens to my creative and professional writing.

The stars have aligned I suppose. My friend, Tim, isn’t the first to say it, but he did make a handy graphic for me to use:

If you are afraid of failure, you will never succeed.

Bring On The Hot Mess

Last week, I was lucky enough to be in conversation with many talented, creative, connected Religious Educators. The conversations flowed, and ideas sparked as we moved from naming problems to designing projects to meet the many needs of our world.

This is one of my favorite aspects of professional conferences- the time and space for trust to develop, friendships to bud, and just sit and talk or play together.

There was one especially fruitful conversation, where I was able to overcome my hesitance to share a new project idea with someone who is actually in the position to help make it a reality. I left the circle feeling hopeful and elated. So much so that when I later bumped into this person in passing, I shared my excitement: how energized I felt! That my brain was operating on all cylinders! That the collaboration we were beginning was going to be great because, “I like messes!”

Wait…. What?

mess

“I like messes.” As soon as I walked away, I felt really silly. The person would certainly rethink the wisdom of working with me, an inarticulate moron. The demons of insecurity, never far from me, leapt in like hyenas on a wildebeest carcass.

But after some reflection, and a generous reframe from a close friend who heard my story, I am able to see that exclamation as an asset. I do like messes. Messes are a huge part of any complex project. My work as a Religious Educator involves sorting through innumerable messes, both physical, systemic, and emotional.

I am experienced with untangling mess. I can hold many parts of project at once. I attend to strong personalities in a working group without running away or being intimidated. Complexity and contradictions intrigue me. I am not really thwarted easily. A gift of stubbornness, I guess.

I write this not to pat myself on the shoulder, but to lift up that sometimes we need to see the blessing in the odd parts of our functioning. Also that sometimes, when our thinky brains are busy working on big thoughts, bits of pure heart truth can slip out of our mouth. “I like messes” was a piece of my heart’s truth.

Hearing and understanding this message is helping me discern what sort of work is next for me. While I am not yet ready to proclaim a next move, I do now know that it will be something that uses my gifts – all of them. I will embrace messes with the confidence that I enjoy making order from chaos, finding commonalities in groups of people, and seeing the hope in complicated situations.

And there are plenty of messes for me to work on in this world.