When it seemed like everybody I knew was doing decade retrospectives for the new year, I was scowling and feeling resistant to doing that much reflection. I always chafe a bit at the resolution thing; expecting to change ourselves all at once is, after all, a lot to ask of a single midnight, and frankly I reserve the right to change my goals whenever I darn well please, thank you very much.
Running a small business that works primarily with other small businesses means we're always going back and forth, counting our pennies. Priorities are always shifting, and more often than not, something has to go, at least temporarily. It's constant negotiating on every front, including with ourselves.
All that negotiating gets U N C O M F O R T A B L E. It's uncomfortable to tell somebody you can't prioritize them right now, and it's uncomfortable when other people tell you that, too. It feels personal, and when we're all operating in a space where our work and our identities are deeply intertwined, everything is a little bit personal. We identify with our work because we care about it, and it's hard to have part of yourself fall down somebody else's priorities list. It's uncomfortable and it's hard.
It's ok to feel it. It's ok to understand that it's part of doing business sometimes while still feeling the hurt and guilt when the shift is going one way or the other. It's ok to take a little bit of space to process those feelings before you react.
The respect comes in when you are able to hear "hey, I know this sucks, but I just can't make it work right now," and respond with "that does suck" and step away a minute. It comes in when you're able to say "hey, your work is amazing but right now I just can't afford it and I'm sorry," and then give other people the space they need to recover from that message--and know that needing space doesn't mean that you did it wrong, just that it sucks. Respect their discomfort enough that you don't expect them to absolve you immediately.
It sucks. It's hard. We're all doing our best. We can respect one another by making space for each other's needs and for our own feelings, both at once. Space before speaking, always.
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