Sunday, December 30, 2018

If I Could Sum Up 2018 In A Single Sentence, It Would Be...

The other day I posted a blog column about what Lisa and I won't be doing in 2019. You can read that here. A friend of mine sent me an email to let me know she read that particular blog column. She's the same friend that asked me a while ago, "If you could sum up 2018 in a single sentence, what would it be?"

At the time of her previous email, I could not sum up 2018 in a single sentence. However, after a few brief email exchanges about the stuff that will not be happening in 2019 on our end, she asked me that same question over again.

"Oh, come on. I read your blog column twice. I've been reading this blog since you made it public. This year, you and Lisa have gone through quite the transformation. You've learned a lot of lessons. I'm confident that you can answer my initial question now..."

I'll be the first to admit I had to read that blog column over a few times before the proverbial light bulb went off.

My friend was right.

I was able to answer the question she had asked me initially.

If I could sum up 2018 in a single sentence, it would be...

What you allow is what will continue.

After reading my blog column over a few times, I realized that all the stuff that we won't be doing in 2019 stems from stuff that we allowed to happen and/or get out of control over the past year.

I'll even go so far as to say, it's stuff we've allowed to happen and/or get out of control over the past few years.

By "allow" I mean that no one forced us to do it. No one held a gun to our heads or threatened us. We did not feel obligated to do anything. There was no hidden intent or agenda.

What we did was out of the kindness of our hearts and our own free will.

What we discovered in 2018 and beyond are a few things...

Some people take and take and take and take until you're almost on empty.

Some people "promise you a rose garden" but don't follow through.

Some people don't value your time, effort, and/or determination.

Some people will treat you like you're a dime a dozen. Disposable. Replaceable.

Some people will disrespect what little free time you have.

Some people will distance themselves from you all the way around because they don't want to hear the truth or you see through their smoke and mirrors charade.

The list goes on...

Over the years, and especially in 2018, we allowed a lot of that to continue.

In 2019, we're not.

As I'm writing this, a memory surfaced in my brain.

Over 20 years ago, I worked at a convenience store full time. Out of my 5 shifts, 2 of those were 3rd shifts.

I spent the entire overnight stocking the coolers and cleaning the store. When the manager came in at 6:00 a.m. the store was fully stocked and immaculate. She would compliment me up and down about how incredible the store looked when she walked in, especially the large coffee bar.

On the 2 overnights that I worked, a gentleman would show up about a half hour before my boss arrived for a large coffee and pastry. He was a regular. He was your average Joe. He wore a blue factory uniform. Wedding band on his finger. Polite. Always greeted me with a friendly hello when he walked into the store.

But, by the time he got to the counter, I had to bite my tongue. My nerves were shot. It took every ounce of my being to plaster a smile on my face when I said, "Thank you. Have a good day."


When this man made his coffee, I had to spend about 10 minutes cleaning up after him.

He used 6 packets of sugar in his large coffee. About 2 of those packets landed on the pristine coffee bar that I had cleaned and kept cleaned on the overnight.

He allowed the coffee and the light cream to be on full pour mode. Lots and lots of splashes and drips.

Then, he'd use about 6 coffee sticks to stir his coffee. I'm guessing he lost a quarter cup of coffee during his stir sessions.

I know this because I had to clean it up.

I can remember standing at the register watching him. Grinding my teeth. Biting my tongue. Trying to put on my best poker face.

Fighting the urge to jump over the counter and beating him with wet, soapy dish towels. 

After a few months, I was sick and tired of it.

I was fed up with allowing his sloppy mannerisms to stress me out and irritate me.

One morning, he walked in to make his regular large coffee. Instead of being behind the counter by the register, I greeted him at the coffee counter.

I leaned on the coffee counter and watched his every move.

As he went to secure the lid on his coffee cup and walk to the counter, I said, "Red light..."

He turned around a bit confused.

"Before I make my way to the register to cash you out, we need to have a little chat about something..."

"Um...okay. What?"

"I see there is a wedding band on your finger. I'm going to assume you are or were married..."

"Yes, I'm married. For over 10 years now."

"Do you drink coffee at home?"

"Yes I do."

"Do you make your coffee or does your wife make it for you?"

"I usually make it because my wife is busy with the kids."

"When you make your coffee at home, do you leave THIS mess for your wife to clean up?"

I pointed to the mess he had always left me at the coffee bar.

His face turned a bit red.


"Then, why do you make a mess for me to clean up every morning when you come in for coffee. I take pride in my work. I work hard to keep this store cleaned on the overnight."

There was a long silence.

The man put his coffee on the counter and cleaned up his mess.

While he was cleaning, I made my way to the register.

He cleaned up his mess.

As he made his way to the counter, I could tell he was a little ashamed.

In a shaky voice, he apologized.

I spoke up.

"I appreciate you coming in for coffee every morning. You're always friendly. We appreciate our regulars here. I make sure there is fresh coffee on and everything is cleaned and stocked. All I ask in return is that you be more aware of what the coffee bar looks like before and after you make your coffee."

He gave me a shy smile.

"I can do that..."

When he took his wallet out to pay for the coffee, I told him it was on the house.

From that point on, the man left the coffee bar spotless when he was done making his coffee. I no longer dreaded when I saw his car pull up. No stress. No irritation.

That's the approach we're taking as 2018 ends and 2019 begins.

A lot of stuff will not continue because we're not going to allow it.

I'll be the first to admit, it won't be easy, but...

It has become necessary.

We are looking forward to 2019.

After many discussions, we've accepted that we didn't reach a lot of goals in 2018, but instead of being disappointed, we're grateful for all of the lessons we've learned.

Much needed in order to reach our goals.

We're grateful.


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