Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Bucket Theory and a Bit More About Turkeys

A lot of people have been mentioning this lately. I have a canned explanation of it so thought I might just share in case anyone else was interested.

The question can come in any number of forms. I have heard it as I don’t understand why one day you are so tired you can’t move and the next you are running around fine if you want to(implying that I am faking). I have heard it as you always seem to have so much energy every time I see you. I have heard it as all sorts of variations.

As a child the most common thing I heard relative to my energy level was that it was “as boundless as the ocean” which is probably why THIS version of this explanation sticks in my head. Dorid has her spoon theory, which makes perfect sense to me but I find it easier for me to describe it this way to others.

When we were young children most of us had energy levels that could only be described as almost limitless, we ran around as effortlessly as if we were drawing our energy from the ocean. We would recharge in no time flat and be back at it again. As we age, this level drops off at some point. We get to be teens and young adults and the energy source is more like a swimming pool. For most adult people the level stabilizes somewhere around “rain barrel”. Those of us who battle chronic illness (be it mental or physical), excessive stress, or any combination of these our energy source is more like a bucket.

You see when you are child, everything you need to do requires a ladle full of “water” from that source to fuel it. You have an entire ocean full so you can “dip” into over and over again with very little impact. As you age, you need longer to refill it but it still pretty much is unlimited. Those of us in the last category find that we have to be careful with how often we “dip” out of that bucket or we run the risk of running out.

You see, the reason we only have a bucket worth of energy in the first place is because your body can only generate so much energy. When you are young it generates so much it takes the ocean to hold it but when your body is working less than optimally it can only generate enough to barely fill that bucket.

There is yet another catch, that is that because your body is working less than optimally things that a normal person does on one “dip” might take you two or even three “dips” out of your bucket. You have plan carefully when and how much you “dip” or you find yourself running out. When your bucket runs dry, that is the day that you just can’t even find the energy to get out of bed. Those are the days when it hurts just to breathe.

In my case, I push the limits of my bucket pretty hard. I do this knowing that there will be a price to pay but I refuse to slow down just to conserve my bucket. I would rather live what life I have. Every little thing I do takes a “dip” out of that bucket, on top of that things like stress also take a “dip”. I find that certain things, while they take extra “dips” have a reward in that they give back more “dips” than they take. Going to the beach takes a fair amount of energy but is gives me back a lot more. Hanging out with the band costs me in terms of rest and energy but it gives me back almost a full bucket every time. The trick is to learn to balance these things.

In general I do a fair job of balancing my bucket load. Then there are days when someone comes along and tips my bucket. I get a turkey stressing me out. I get unexpected things that hit hard. Those all take a toll on my bucket and I might suddenly find myself low on reserves. I will cut back on a lot of things and try to make it through but there are things that HAVE to be done. I have to go to work, I have to take care of my pets, I have to be sure everyone including myself is fed, and things like that. I can’t cut those out so you try to adapt. Sometimes you make it and hardly anyone notices. Sometimes you can’t adapt enough and you have a day where you simply can’t get out of bed. Those are the days when people notice.

That is my bucket theory. I hope it helps understand a bit what some of us are going through. You have great days where you are on top of everything and not so great days and then there are the days where you simply appear to fall off the planet.

I want to mention too that there is an added tie in to this. This sort of came up yesterday because there is another factor. Yesterday I had one of those days that stressed my bucket. Well to be honest, it was a few days of bucket stress.

It started on Saturday. Some turkey came along and stressed me out. I knew I had to start conservation mode but I also already made promises that needed to be kept.

Sunday came and I was in full conservation mode…. You guessed it, turkey number two came along and took a big old drink out of my bucket.

Monday saw me still in full conservation mode and barely able to pull myself out of bed and off to work. I had that big meeting I talked about which should have been a bigger “dip” than it was. This was because of the effect of the guys helping me out like they did. I went home somewhat even thinking I had done good. Then along came turkey number three. He dumped my bucket over.

Tuesday after about 12 ours sleep I dragged myself out of bed and made my way to work. I mentioned above that days like this most people hardly notice. There are people though who DO notice. This is where that tie in comes in. I had just finished passing out those treats and thank yous to the guys and was standing in the hall outside my office. One of the guys who is not particularly close to me walked up and patted my shoulder. He gave it a small squeeze and said, “it will be alright, thanks for everything”, and then walked away. That little boost gave my bucket the few needed “dips” to get through the rest of the workday. I got home running on fumes and got hit with yet another turkey. It almost did me in. In fact, I failed to keep a promise and it was noticed. It prompted a call. The call wasn’t to demand the promise be kept but rather concern that since I ALWAYS keep promises something must be wrong. The person was quick to point out how appreciated it is that I DO but that when I don’t it is no big deal. That call helped me out a bit actually that call and the follow up to it helped me immensely. I was able to get through the night.

Today I woke somewhat better. My bucket right now is a bit below half full but I will make it through the day. What is keeping me going today though? The thought that tonight, I will throw caution and my bucket to the wind to go see that band knowing that they will refill that bucket.

This ties back to yesterday too. People made a difference in my bucket levels. They didn’t do anything huge, they just let me know that they noticed and that it mattered to them. So beyond just understanding the bucket theory…. Understand that there are times when the simple act of acknowledging someone’s distress can make a major impact on the level of their bucket. Be aware that this works the other way too…. If you stress someone by recognizing the problem AS a negative, it will further reduce their levels and make the problem worse.

It's a Karma Thing

As small children we are trained to say thank you.  Generally gently prodded by an adult until we begin to remember to say it on our own.  We can all remember a time when we said or heard someone say a very dutiful “thank you.”  Somewhere along the way, we come to understand the meaning of that word and our “thank you”s begin to have a bit of feeling behind them. 


We learn to say it like we mean it.  Most of us learn to say it like we mean it ever when we really don’t.  At some point, we reach an age where we always mean it. We might not like the thing that we are saying thank you for but we have become aware that there is underlying thing that deserves the thank you.  We appreciate the thought, the gesture, the intent, and that makes the thing itself worthy of a heartfelt and sincere thank you. 


For some reason, certain people tend to lose this over time.  They regress back through the dutiful repetition of words without meaning to needing a gentle poke, all the way back to not saying it at all.  These folks lose their ability to appreciate that which they have and that which they are given.  I don’t know what causes this but I know that it almost always goes hand in hand with a sense of entitlement or something similar.  People begin to feel like they are “OWED” something and so it loses its value and therefore the recognition of a thank you.  This can be something simple, like the husband who becomes so accustomed to having a clean house, neat children, and a nice dinner on the table that he forgets that there is an effort behind all this.  He simply is so used to something that it loses its worth….. generally until it stops.  Sometimes this is something bigger.  Some times someone has such an overwhelming estimation of their worthiness or worth that they think these things are their due. 


Both are insidious and both are dangerous.  Both can sneak up unawares on a person until you are blind to your own folly.  How many folks if asked would say “my significant other knows how much I appreciate them” but when asked the significant other would disagree?  How many people are shocked when their mates suddenly up and leave them saying “you don’t appreciate me anymore” or words to that effect? 


I think that this is also a symptom of our fast paced society.  People are so busy trying to get ahead, trying to get by, or trying to get something else that they fail to recognize what it is that they already HAVE…..


Too Busy Being Fabulous ~~ Eagles


I came home to an empty house
And I found your little note
"Don't wait up for me tonight"
And that was all she wrote

Do you think I don't know that
you're out on the town
With all of your high-rollin' friends?
What do you do when you come up empty?
Where do you go when the party ends?

And you were just too busy being fabulous
Too busy to think about us
I don't know what you were dreaming of
Somehow you forgot about love
And you were just too busy being fabulous, uh-huh

A little time in the country
A day or two to slow down
A bottle of wine and a walk in the moonlight
Maybe some foolin' around

But you think time is just a magazine
And money's just a thrill
I've waited so long for you to
change your way of livin'
Now I realize that you never will

'Cause you were just too busy being fabulous
Too busy to think about us
Lookin' for something you'll never find
You'll never know what you left behind
'Cause you were just too busy
being fabulous, uh-huh

You tell a joke and everybody's laughin'
That's something you know how to do
You've always been the life of the party
But now my baby, the joke is on you

'Cause you were just too busy being fabulous
Too busy to think about us
Running after something that never comes
What in the world are you runnin' from?

And you were just too busy being fabulous
Too busy to think about us
To drink the wine from your winner's cup
To notice the children were growin' up

And you were just too busy being fabulous
Too busy, too busy
Too busy
Aw, baby


I have talked about the need to appreciate what it is that you have.  While some men have what they want, it is a lucky man indeed who wants what he has. 


Simple appreciation. 


Want what you have.


I would like to think that everyone special in my life who has ever done anything that I appreciated knows how much it means.  I would like to think that I have always thanked the stranger who held a door for me.  I would really like to think that I did but I am sure that there are times that I was distracted, busy, or too self-involved to be bothered but I meant to.  I did appreciate it.  I can’t count the number of times that someone has rushed ahead or slowed down simply to hold a door for me.  But I can say that every single time it happens, I appreciate it.  It makes me feel nice that someone does that for you.  Because your hands are full, because they are polite, or just because; it is nice to have someone think about you.  I would like to think that everyone who ever did that for me (or anything else) knew exactly how it made me feel and how much I appreciated it.  I doubt I have always been as thankful as I should have been but I do know that I have tried. 


I have a few friends who are the masters at Thank you. 


I have a friend who sends a thank you card for everything.  Send her an e-mail, she sends you a thank you note.  Call her, she sends a note…..


I have a friend who will call up out of the blue and thank me for something from eons ago that they have thanked me for already just because they were thinking about it again. 


I have another friend who just is very attentive to everything and says thank you as constantly as some folks clear their throat.  She will even thank you for having good weather if she thinks of it.  She may not know it but she really makes it nice and easy to be nice to her. 


I have a friend who makes it a point to take people aside and thank them for everything.  That same friend will thank me for something then at some point in the next day or so they will also leave a voicemail thanking me.  It will also be mentioned in an e-mail in a day or so.  It isn’t any great feat that prompts this thanks.  It is all the little things, any little thing will merit a thank you like this.  It makes one very aware of how your actions impact others. 


Does any of this CHANGE your actions?  Not consciously or at least it shouldn’t but on some level it DOES make you aware.  It brings a smile to your face to think you brought a smile to someone else’s and on some level it does influence you to do it again or do it more.  Not for the THANKS but for the thought of doing something that makes someone happy. 


Two of the most powerful small acts that we can do to influence the world around us, in my opinion, are to smile and say thank you.   Seriously.  Have you ever been having a bad day and someone smiles at you in a way that just sort of make s you feel better even if only a tiny bit?  Likewise have you ever been having a bad day and someone says thank you for something and it just somehow makes you feel better?  You can do the reverse too.  Have a crappy day and walk around with a snarl and soon even those happy folks around you are starting to get a bit snarly….  Fail to recognize something someone did and they feel unappreciated which makes them a bit snarly too. 


This is on my mind today.  Yesterday I needed to have a meeting.  These are rare for me to schedule a full on official meeting rather than catch, question, and release as I normally do but I needed a group.  In fact I needed the entire development team.  I have only been working half days so I needed to do it in the morning.  They had travel scheduled which forced the meeting to HAVE to be Monday.  I found this fact out at 10:45 Monday.  I raced around and invited everyone then gathered the necessary items for everyone.  I had these massive 2 page spreadsheets (22 by 44 inches per page) that had to be plotted.  It was slow going and I finished and raced to the back at 11 on the dot.  The guys were there ready to go.  We dove in but it was slow going.  There were lots of issues that needed discussed.  We stayed on course with very minimal distractions.  We had to run off a few gate crashers and pull some one back into focus time (two people once each) but we forged ahead.  The lunch bell rang and the guys simply said let’s get this done.  They struggled through and we got it done by 12:30.  I stood and thanked them.  I mentioned that if they had any problems they should let me know and we could revisit.  Then they all left to get their now shortened lunch. 


I dropped my stuff in my office and headed home.  I kept thinking about how nice it was that they had skipped their lunch to help me out.  It wasn’t one guy, it was a group consensus, they ALL chose to stay as one.  I don’t even think one guy came out first and said it, I think they all said it at the same time.  So I was running late myself but I stopped on my way home.  I darted into the store and bought a box of cookies (bakery not factory) and Klondike bars.  Today when the break bell rang, I was there in their area passing those out with a heartfelt thank you to everyone of the guys.  Most said the same thing…

“It was nothing”

To which my reply was always the same:

“It meant a lot to me that you were willing to see it through”


There is more to it than that as to why it was on my mind today.  While I did stop and get the cookies and ice cream on my way home yesterday, by the time I got to my meeting it was no longer on my mind.  I was focused on the task at hand.  I was focused on getting my paperwork scofflaw client on track and finishing his taxes so his business did not have to pay a fine and file for an extension.  This guy is always behind on paperwork.  He always is my last appointment of the tax season because he is never ready.  By the end of the appointment, my mind was miles away from my day job.  I finished tallying him up and looked at the result.  It felt odd but it didn’t quite register.  I walked away to get a drink of water and use the restroom.  I was refilling my glass a second time when it hit me. 


I walked back in and sat down.  He said everything looked right and signed where directed.  Then I asked if he had a second for friendly conversation.  He said eh did.  I have known this guy for years and years.  We are friends in our way so the remark was not out of line at all.  I said this was a personal statement and just my view but that I felt it was important to say.  I mentioned that he had been complaining all year that he was not making as much as the previous years.  I pointed out that he is down to only one full time employee, a guy that has been with him since day one.  He has been telling this guy for years to stick with him, they are building something, and someday it will pay off.  He agreed with that.  Then I pointed out that his “not making as much” was actually more than previous years.  In fact his nets were up OMFG from the previous year.  His profits were $Rediculous….  Why? Because his labor had dropped by five employees.  This one guy had been carrying the load right along with him.  That faithful and loyal employee was making just barely over poverty level.  He promptly gave me twenty seven reasons why this guy could not be paid more all of which are viable but I pointed out that this was not my point.  It wasn’t about the money per se.  I stumbled around a bit then caught my footing and ran with it.  He never quite understood what I was getting at.  He kept asking me if he should give the guy an under the table raise.  I kept countering with appreciate him and show him he makes a difference.  He never did quite get it but we ran out of time and he said he would come back to me this week because he WANTED to understand. 


This is what has been bothering me.  How does one get to this place where you are in a fortuitous position assisted by the grace of others and yet you just can’t see it?  This same guy had a partner who helped him to get to where he is in life who he rewarded by trading her in on the newer model who he almost immediately began to complain about.  How does that happen?  He had a spouse put her life on hold while she shoved him to success that he didn’t appreciate and threw her over for something supposedly better that he STILL didn’t appreciate.  He has a long term loyal employee who is underpaid by contract but STILL isn’t appreciated.  I don’t think this guy is a bad guy or I wouldn’t be friends with him but I don’t understand this bit of him.  How he can be where he is and not SEE the path that took him there.  He honestly DOESN’T see it….but he seems to want to.  SO I set about thinking on how I might better explain it to him. 


These two songs sort of came along for the ride today because I heard them and they seemed to fit. 



Hangin’ Around Here ~~ John Hiatt

If I could go back to love's first blush
Oh my lordy it would be a big rush
But I know you can't go back
You gotta keep moving that's a natural fact

So here we are still in love
I swear to you honey by the stars above
It's an old man's dreams that a young man fears
Well I learned that honey just hangin' round here

I'm proud of my mistakes
And all the love and the trouble that I ever did make
I never mean to hurt no one
And when I did it wasn't any fun

But all the roads lead me straight to you
It's all good every little thing that you do
It gets me going just to have you near
Well I learned that honey just hangin' around here

Round here a man has to stand up tall
Round here a man has gotta learn to crawl
Got to go to the bottom to see the top
It's a one way ticket and it never does stop

If I could go back I'd be alone
Cause there's nothing back there just dust and bones
I guess it's you and me
Stumbling to the twenty-first century

My mind's half gone but I don't care
Ain't thinking ahead I'm just getting there
And if you want you can help me steer

Well I learned that honey just hangin' round here
Well I learned that baby just hangin' round here
Well I learned that honey just hangin' round here