Kick The Can

"Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take."

~David Whyte - River Flow: New and Selected Poems

Whenever I work with clients who are in any kind of management or leadership capacity, we often talk about the complexity of working with people. We all agree that whenever things go well, it has everything to do with people, relationships, and communication. We all agree that whenever things go poorly, it has everything to do with people, relationships,  and communication. Whether personally or professionally, we know that people, relationships, and communication make all the difference, and yet, most of our common tendencies, are to put off, avoid, dismiss, reframe, and/or ignore any and all challenging (difficult, scary, emotionally charged, conflictual, confrontational, painful, fill-in-your-own blank) situations. We'll deal with it another day. Hope it will go away. Pretend it isn't there. Leave it to the next person to deal with. Put another way, we play a grown up version of Kick The Can with everything  and everyone we'd rather not deal with, but deep down know that we should. The can gets kicked down the road, we run and hide, and hope whatever "it" is, whoever "they" are, won't seek us out and find us. 

It never works.

Think big picture, and global warming, water shortages, plastic islands in the ocean, and a crumbling infrastructure hit awfully close to home. Shrink it down, and the evidence of cans kicked down the road are as close as our own homes. Unresolved issue and unspoken words, unhealed wounds and unforgotten offenses, unasked forgiveness and untended relationships, underfunded savings accounts and maxed out credit cards, unorganized photos and unanswered phone calls and emails (you know the ones I mean).

It's taken me a long time to learn, but ignoring the issue and avoiding the hard yet sacred work of staying in conversation with and in relationship to the people that are ours to love, the inner work that is ours to do, the issues that are ours to resolve, the wounds that are ours to heal, the conversations that are ours to have, the forgiveness that is ours to ask, and the forgiveness that is ours to extend, only kicks those cans further down our road.

I know which cans are mine, and I'll bet you know which ones are yours.

Which ones would you like to be rid of? 

Which one could you focus on first?

Who can help you open your can and deal what's inside? 

Kicking a can further down the road only means finding a bigger can of worms around the next bend.

PS - I will probably kick organizing my thousands and thousands and thousands of family photos further down the road. I'll just have to go buy a much bigger can first. 

Photo: Tom Pierson

Photo: Tom Pierson