The Space Between – Revisited
Photo credit: Sharon Cauthen
Prelude by Sharon Cauthen
In the year before the pandemic upended the world, my husband and I visited Alaska, a place of breathtaking sights and sounds where flora and fauna abound. It was a trip I dreamed of for most of my life. You see, my grandfather helped to build the first railroad in Alaska. The work was brutal, manual, and dangerous in below-freezing temperatures. The conditions are almost unimaginable today, but without the labor of Sam Callihan and his peers, reaching the northern land with any assurance of safety was a poor bet as best. I recall one story about a man who fell ill, and the nearest medical help was 30 miles away. In the winter. In Alaska. My grandfather volunteered to take the man out because he knew how to handle a team of sled dogs. He delivered his sick colleague to safety and walked the rest of the way back – in ONE DAY. For his trouble, he was granted by the Boss-man one day off before getting back to work.
As I read this early Multifamily Collective edition titled, “The Space Between”, I was reminded of my grandfather’s story, his legacy, and of how the railroad tracks are a metaphor for the space between. They are limiting, and critically important – and the space between is rife with choice. If the engineer fails to remain vigilant, many unforeseen things can derail the train causing certain death to those on board and anyone else in the immediate area. If he allows the tedium of the tracks to bore him into losing focus, catastrophe awaits.
I encourage you to stay awake, dear friends, in the space between, and make alert life-affirming choices while you’re there.
The Space Between by Mike Brewer
When I was a younger human, I found much in my small world that made me angry and there were times when I allowed that anger to dictate my words or actions. I’m not proud of those moments and truthfully, I’ve worked hard to reform my thoughts and deeds in my quest to become a servant leader worth my salt. Even so, every day offers its stumbling blocks, and it provides me the opportunity to hold myself accountable to the man and leader that I desire to become. Some days, I feel good about my choices, and others, not so much. Nevertheless, the quest continues.
Many years ago, Viktor Frankl, a very wise man whose life and writings I admire, penned a statement in his memoir Man’s Search For Meaning that resonates with me still today.
“Between stimulus and response, there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Viktor survived the Holocaust, internment in four concentration camps including Auschwitz, and the loss of his parents, brother, and pregnant wife while enduring monstrous personal abuse at the hands of the Nazis. If a man who walked in those impossible shoes says there is power in the space between, then that is a concept I can easily buy into.
When everything else is stripped away – choice remains. Whatever stimulus acts upon you such that your feelings become the driver of your response, the space between is invaluable. When a customer seems irrationally upset about an issue – the choice of how to listen and how to respond endures. When a family member, friend, co-worker, or boss is demonstrating heightened emotions – the space between their words and your response is available to you as valuable fertile soil to create an elevated, reasoned, and more loving reply.
I encourage you to seize the space between and allow it to manifest as growth in you.
Image source: Sharon Cauthen
By: Sharon Cauthen
Recently, I was clearing out a box of old photos and papers when I came across two pages of childish script. I knew instantly what it was, and I felt transported to a moment in time – the emotions of the day flooding back in an instant. The truth is, I’ve never forgotten what happened and how it made me feel. It was a simple story that went something like this…
When I was in fourth grade, our teacher assigned a creative writing assignment. I loved writing and spent much of my no-frills home life tuned in to my internal fanciful thinking or reading anything I could get my hands on. For the assignment, I wrote a story called Lifecycle describing in youthful detail, the beginning, middle, and the predetermined end. There was a special gotcha at the end of the story, of which I was particularly proud. I turned in my paper, eager for a good grade and some recognition from a teacher who never quite seemed to like me very much.
The paper was returned to me with a notation in bright red across the top – “Was this plagiarized?” and a score of F! The shock of embarrassment ran through my body as my face flamed red and my heart pounded loudly enough to drown out the sound of anything but its beat in my ears. Students sitting in nearby desks could see the terrible grade and the angry red writing scrawled on my paper. Having my clever idea and hard work dismissed as something I wasn’t capable of stung, and I felt tears threatening to spill over.
I had to take a note home to my parents who were none too pleased. They were the kind of parents who always stood behind the teacher whenever there was an issue, but on this one (and one other story I’ll save for another day), they stood up for me. You see, I had written the story at home, sitting at the kitchen table and I read it out loud to my family because I felt so giddy with the preciousness of my story idea and its surprise ending. There were a thousand things they would have believed the teacher about – but my ability to craft this story wasn’t one of them. Their faith in my storytelling skills gave me the runway and confidence to continue writing to this day.
I learned a lesson that day that superseded one young girl’s paper. It serves me still today.
Anyone in a position of authority can leave a scar with one ill-conceived or short-tempered remark, the pain of which may never be forgotten. Building up the confidence of others and recognizing their talents pays back and forwards.
Lift people up whenever you can. A simple acknowledgment that you see them and appreciate their contributions is important but taking the time to learn about their interests and passion projects beyond their daily job duties is heady stuff. It’s magical. The people who fill our teams are whole multifaceted humans who possess untapped potential.
One final thought. Believe people until there is a real reason not to. It’s been almost half a century and I still remember my creative writing assignment, and I vividly recall the feeling of knowing how it felt to be denied – and who believed in me.
TANGLED by Sharon Cauthen
I woke up with a cold, a stuffy head, and a nose that had somehow forgotten how to do its essential job – air in/ air out. My car is in the shop, leaving me homebound today. I lost my glasses and frantically looked from room to room before finding them on the side table where they definitely do not belong. I needed to prep for a video meeting beginning in fifteen minutes when the dog started doing the potty dance. I quickly took him for a walk – but he needed more than a quick walk. He had business to do (have you ever successfully rushed a dog doing its business?). I required coffee to help me defy the cold medication and remain alert for the meeting, but the water reservoir was low, and I felt resentful that my spouse didn’t refill it.
Trying not to spill the hot coffee, I raced (walked briskly) to my desk for the meeting. I saw that most annoying message on my screen – the multi-factor authenticator blockade. Ugh. Text was the fastest way to get the code that obstructed my way. Fine. But my phone was playing a Daily Stoic meditation which I dumped unceremoniously on behalf of the code. I wasn’t feeling very stoic anyway.
Finally, I have access, glasses, and coffee, and I sit up in my chair with seconds to spare. Once I jumped through the hoops and could access my system, I saw a message from earlier that morning. “I’m sorry, I need to reschedule our meeting. I have an unavoidable conflict disrupting my calendar. Very frustrating.”
A few deep breaths and some introspection later found me reframing my morning. The cold is annoying but not debilitating. It will pass. I have a car and the funds to pay for its maintenance. I found my glasses and was reminded that no one puts them anywhere except me. I am grateful to have a furry companion and his need for regular walks is not a surprise. Moving his walk even fifteen minutes earlier would have made for a more enjoyable experience for us both. I have a nice coffee maker and access to clean filtered water for it. The Daily Stoic will wait for me. Patiently, because the Stoics are like that.
Two or three last thoughts.
My morning was irritating but not traumatic. There is a difference. Trauma should not be spackled over with platitudes. It deserves light and air for healing. This was not that. This was a series of slightly annoying events.
The meeting cancellation message was sent in plenty of time, but my messy morning disrupted its receipt. Just a wee bit more organization would have prevented the frantic race – after which I planned to look into the camera as though I had it all together all along. (I see my people nodding their heads at this.)
Finally, multi-factor authentication messages are ALWAYS annoying. I stand my ground on this one.