If you’re old enough, you recognize the blog post title as the hit song recorded by Karen Carpenter and written by Paul Williams and Roger Nichols.
I wonder idly, on the evening of my 33rd wedding anniversary, how many millions of couples danced to that for their first dance.
The cover photo is me and my Dad just a few minutes after I got married. He had a lot to teach me, and so much more that I was too oblivious to learn while he was alive and I think about a lot now, especially about kindness and empathy, and taking the time to listen.
How often do we begin again?
If we’re wise, at least every day, if not many times a day.
I met my friend Glen Bullard when I was working at the Canadian Embassy. He was there long before I arrived in 1988, and he was there long after, retiring just a couple of years ago. He was a latecomer to Facebook: he only set up an account as he was getting ready to retire, urged on by people who told him it’d be a good was to stay in touch with people.
Over the last few days, he’s been posting selections from his archive of thousands of pictures taken over nearly five decades. Seeing the pictures, and the people, from that part of my life opened up a lot of emotions that I realized I had stuffed under a trapdoor for nearly twenty years.
In the days before photos became primarily digital, these albums of 15 years of my own life, lived largely at or centered on the Embassy are filled with pictures that are all too frequently missing his face but are replete with his work and his skill, his generosity, and his patience.
He was one of hundreds of people who wrote kind words in a farewell album that Helen Getka compiled for me when I left the Embassy in 2003.￼
Glen had many titles over the years, but was always at the helm of managing the facilities and resources of the building for the literally hundreds of events my team and I worked on between 1988 and 2003 to introduce thousands of people to each other, and open what they later told me were life-changing chapters in their lives.
At the same time I was musing about that this morning, I was still reverberating with echoes from a book my friend Emily Harman recommended to me called Positive Intelligence.
As the old emotions and new emotional intelligence crashed into each other, I felt walloped by waves of realization of how much I didn’t know while I was there.
I was extremely un-self-aware, and was a fizzling pinwheel of all kinds difficult traits that I now realize made me really challenging to get along with, particularly as I repeatedly put output ahead of everything else. The system rewarded that. But it was hard on everyone around me.
I will always be grateful for the loving kindness and generosity of hundreds of colleagues I worked with there over the years, particularly on the many, many, times, on matters large and small, that despite good intentions, I got stuff wrong or got the words wrong, and hurt people’s feelings or trampled their plans or words or ideas (or all three along with their spirits). They gave me the chance to apologize and work together to find a way forward.
There was so much I didn’t know I didn’t know about life and people (and how to be a better person) that I needed to learn.
I am grateful to all of the friends including but not limited to Marianne Haslund Rude Lynda Watson Astrid Pregel Chantal Briere Betsy Chaly Pauline Walsh Denis Comeau Natalie Cornell Mike Flaherty Richard Malloy Manuel Ellenbogen Bob Rutherford Anna Gibbs Christine Briscoe Carl Hartill David Devine David Plunkett who helped me grow up during those years, had faith in me, and gave me second and third chances as I rumbled and bumbled my way through, and eventually even learned how to make a proper apology (a skill I needed a lot and one I wish I had learned a lot sooner, and a story that deserves to stand on its own).
I have always loved to travel. I’m also not an inspired researcher. For many years, I’d be more likely to go someplace and then look up afterwhere where I’d been, and realized how much I’d missed.
I’m 61 years old.
On the journey into emotional intelligence, I feel like I’m just beginning.
There’s so much I wish I’d known when I was in a position to have been so much better a person to the people around me.
But I have the chance to be that person now.