A few weeks ago I facilitated a webinar called No Blocking, one of my many favourite topics. No blocking is a principle in Improv that helps move the action along and makes the players look good, says Patricia Ryan Madson, Professor Emerita at Stanford University. Things would fall apart quickly if every time a player attempted a line he or she was blocked.
This happens in families and at work. A spouse or a colleague suggests an idea and before we even ask for more information we jump in with how it won’t work. Think of how we block ourselves: I’m too old to “do that” (learn X or go back to school or take up hiking or travel…) or I don’t know how to draw before you have tried. I can’t play the piano and you haven’t touched the keys. (a better response to the question, “do you play the piano, might be I don’t know. I’ve never tried.”
We frequently block ourselves in big and small ways by default. Naturally, there are things we aren’t able to do for a variety of reasons. Yet, there are many possibilities that we don’t try because of cultural conditioning, internal bias, and habit.
Now, back to my webinar. Two of the participants in that webinar were friends and the next day I got a call.
Trudy, we just came up with a great idea we want to tell you about.” And in the background I hear that second voice, no blocking, Trudy. “I was at your webinar yesterday, where you were
on your soapbox encouraging, “no blocking.” So, we want you to put this into practice, now.
OK. Ok. I agreed. What could go wrong? They are my dear friends.
Nothing went wrong.
On the contrary, I just returned in the middle of last night from a five-day wondrous trip to Calgary, Canmore, and Cochrane, nearby, and also in, the Rocky Mountains. The invitation was a return ticket to Calgary for Friday night, an art course on Saturday, in the mountains, with friends, and hiking in the mountains on Sunday. This was followed by dinner with my beloved grandson Jonathan and his wife Katie; a surprise afternoon gathering with old friends. another surprise visit to Wellspring to meet the new CEO and have lunch with the wonderful members of the Wellspring team. Onwards to Cochrane, for my final night with two more friends, one of them my oldest Calgary friend. Wed at noon, I was picked up and taken to the airport for my return flight home.
This was a series of firsts: the first time back to Calgary, since Covid; the first time in Calgary where I wasn’t teaching or facilitating a program; the first time not seeing a physician; the first time I was the subject of a surprise for someone, every single day; the first hike in the area of Goat Creek/Spray lakes, in the Rockies, and the first time I took an art class in public, even though it was just the six of us. It was amazing!
You can imagine how emotional, enlivening, and even enlightening an occasion like this might be. It was almost four years since I had seen all of those people, except the two tricksters. Yet, when we were together, it was like time compressed in an instant, and there was no idea of what four years even meant. We were overjoyed and it was as though no time had passed since our last visit.
I returned convinced of my conviction that it is only the people in our lives that really matter. That we need to be able to see them. (proximity is important although not a necessity) That kindness is the most important thing. And that we cannot count on tomorrow, however much we expect and desire it. And we need to put in the extra effort to stay in touch and splurge with our loving words, while we can and while they are here. And, one more thing, we have no consistent idea of our impact on others except to say we always every day have an impact. And it is so often some small thing that makes a difference.
David Dunn, a business counselor, and banker wrote an article, that later turned into a book in 1947. One of his principles resonates here: to give voice to any positive thought he had. He even did research to see who might be responsible for something he liked and contacted them with praise and recognition. I have his small book but was reminded of this today when I was looking at Patricia’s Improv Wisdom, another favourite book. And, it prompts me to write to Westjet, following this blog post. Why? To tell them about the amazing person manning Gate B 22 at the Toronto airport last night, who went way, way, way beyond the call of duty to take care of her passengers. It is easy to notice, and easy to forget to formally express appreciation.
1:) Now you know why I am a day late with my blog. A first, except for a technical problem a couple of years ago, and worth it.
2:) I hope it inspires you to say a gracious yes to an unexpected gift. This is not as easy as it sounds and I see the importance of it. It is humbling and loving, and even life-affirming.
3:) Sartre: “The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.”
4:) Mary Oliver: “If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it.”
5:) Thank you so very much for stopping by here. I hope things are as good as they can be and a reminder that we can deal with our struggles, even though we wish they didn’t exist. Very important to add: “when it’s raining, and you have an umbrella, use it.” In other words, if there is something you can do to minimize, influence, or change untenable circumstances, take action and also ask for help. Best wishes, this spring. It is now official, spring, that is. Warmly, Trudy