I recently commented on how the crazy is getting cranked up out there. The holidays often seem to bring out the worst in us, but it’s a total game on already.
Too many people are out there with too much to say about…nothing. It’s verbal static-o-rama. You may know what I mean. These are the people who share every high and low of their lives and it just seems to be getting even more amped up.
Eating pizza somewhere? Take a picture and show us how those extra toppings have enhanced your evening.
Stressful schedule? Here’s a 20-minute response in Kohl’s to the question-vortex known as “how are you?”
Angry with someone? Time to make some passive aggressive comments in their presence because That Will Really Show Them. Or better yet, broadcast your insecurities by posting passive aggressive foolishness on FB. Because, again, That Will Really Show Them and maybe even Hurt Their Feelings.
And then there are my people: the “shut up and get to it” folks.
When I was in my doctoral program years ago, I became very good friends with two of my classmates, Mara and Esther. We liked each other because a) we were smart and fabulous and b) we were all business. Get the work done. Don’t moan about it. Work smart. Don’t argue with your adviser about whatever hoops need jumping. You want me to read three books that are vaguely related to my dissertation’s topic? Okay. You want for me to do group presentations every semester with folks who live fifty miles away? You got it. I am choosing to be here and I am going to nail it. Every time.
We got our s**t done and we excelled.
Early on in this journey, I remember Mara telling us a story about her mother, who was also a smart and fabulous educator. I believe she worked with the Family and Consumer Sciences department. She went through a doctoral program years before, back in the days when the leadership ranks were light on women. Mara’s mother told a colleague that she was working on her doctorate and he replied, “Why? So you can learn how to boil a better egg?”
The simple ending to Dr. ______’s story was that, yes, she did finish the program and she became a strong and well-respected leader in the field.
The more complicated ending was that she figured out how to shut up, get through the rough days, and still get her s**t done. She didn’t complain about how hard it was to be a full-time everything: wife, mother, educator, student, instructional leader.
And I would guess that she was gracious to the yahoo who asked her if she was going to learn how to boil a better egg…and who was probably now her subordinate.
After Mara shared this story with me and Esther, it became our touchstone for when we encountered personal or professional obstacles. During the dark times, we would remind each other that we were “boiling a better egg” and that we would make it through. We didn’t moan endlessly about our troubles – primarily because we didn’t want or need that static in our heads.
The only way we could get through those times would be to…literally get through them. Put one foot in front of the other. Shut up and keep moving.
Boil some better eggs.
I have a few special people in my personal life who are fighting hard, silent battles. They have been for years, and you would never know it. They’re not putting the “poor me” status updates out there, either on FB or while talking to you on their driveways. They’re just getting out of bed and doing what they need to do to get through one more day. It has been tough to walk this path with them. I have to remind myself to keep the faith, to remember that these challenges will eventually lessen. We quietly carry these burdens and we manage. Yet it is still a heavy darkness.
Also, to be clear, I do agree with the counter argument: “Wait – I think it’s healthy to tell your trusted circle about what is happening in your life because it may help you process things.” Yes, certainly, it is. I’m with you on that. But if you need to constantly broadcast your troubles or anger through complaining or passive aggressive nonsense, then be ready for nothing to move forward in your life. And be prepared for your circle to stop listening. The sky can fall only so many times.
Finally, I will concede that, to a limited degree, I do some thinking-out-loud processing in my stories. However, most of the time, I walk in silence until all of the knots have unraveled in my head.
During our first or second Christmas in the doctoral program, Mara gave me and Esther beautiful silver lockets that were shaped like eggs. It was one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received and it has a special place in my jewelry armoire. On the challenging days, I wear my locket to remind myself that I know how to boil a better egg.
My silver egg opens, but I have chosen to leave it empty. I am grateful for the extra space inside that holds what you might not see: my strength and my perseverance. Quietly and steadily, I am boiling some better eggs.