It's late and I need to get to bed. Okay it's not really late but it is creeping up near midnight (in two hours). I have an early flight tomorrow and will be leading a team through some strategic planning. I love strategic planning.
When I was young, maybe 12 or so, my dad used to leave me at the Rollie The Mechanic's house. We lived in a small town and everybody knew everybody. I went to school with Rollie's kids and even though we weren't in the same grade, we knew each other. After all, there we only about 200 of us in the whole school. It's not hard to keep track.
It wasn't uncommon for us to have car problems. When we did - we'd jump in the truck and head over to Rollie's. When we would pull up, I'd jump out and run inside to see if Melanie was home. Dad would head to the barn to ask Rollie a question. Some time later, usually around dinner, Rollie would come inside and ask if I was spending the night. I'd say no, I was leaving with my dad. He'd say that's funny, he left a couple of hours ago. Then someone would call someone and pretty soon my dad would turn in the driveway of Rollie's and cart me home.
This happened more than once. By the third or fourth time, I said on the way over "Are you going to leave me?" and he laughed. No, of course not! he said and I jumped out and ran inside. Later when he got home Mom happened to ask him a question that reminded him that he had a second daughter. He was heading out the door to come back and pick me up when Rollie and I turned up our lane. "I'll fix your car," Rollie yelled out the truck window, "but I ain't raising your kid!"
It was a little embarrassing.
How can you forget me? I asked over and over again - not without a few tears. "I lost track." he said with a shrug and followed it with a hug. I forgave him but I never understood that (and I never went back to Rollie's with him). How can you lose track of a whole daughter? It's not like we were a litter of puppies or catholics, after all. There was only two of us! How can you lose track when there is only two?
When The Hub and I first got married we used to keep a simple chart hanging on the refrigerator. The chart had our values on it - those things that we want to stand for, stand up for and can be counted on to defend. It also had a place where we could rate how well we lived that value each day. 5 meant we couldn't have done better. 1 meant we probably should have stayed in bed. This is an exercise I've done on and off for many years. It's amazing the impact simply rating yourself each day can have. For example, one of my values is encouragement. If I was rating myself today on how well I lived that value, I'd have to give myself a 2, maybe a 3. Not that I did anything that actively Discouraged people, but I didn't really spend much of my energy today being an encouragement to others. Well just saying that and rating myself honestly will put that in the front of my mind tomorrow. I guarantee it. And tomorrow night, you can bet I'll be putting a 4 or 5 in that slot. It is that DAILY awareness and intention that makes a difference.
Anyway - I got sidetracked there - the BIGGEST impact that chart on the fridge had was not having to do with our values. Although that was really neat to see and talk about. The best was a single question at the bottom of the chart that said, "What is your contentment level today?" and each of us would rate our day. No explanation. No judgment. Just rated on a scale of 1 - 10 what our contentment level was.
It did wonders for us. Somehow just seeing that number every day keyed me in on how my husband was doing. Sometimes (if the day rated at a 6 or so) I would bring it up directly. Most times, I just adjusted. Here's the thing, more often than not, I was surprised by his number. I would check it before I went to bed and I'd see he'd put an 7 there or maybe a 6 and here I thought he was having a 9 or 10 day. Or sometimes I'd think, based on little cues I thought I was picking up, I'd see a 4 or 5 and low and behold, there would be a big fat 8 on that chart.
It wasn't like we didn't see each other all day. We woke up beside each other. We had breakfast together. At that time, we drove to work together, had lunch together, worked out together and drove home together. There was a lot of together going on and still I'd often be wrong. Here we were, only two people, living two halves of the same life and just like that, we could lose track of each other.
Turns out it's not so hard after all.