Have another look

IMG_7414 (1280x1030)Last weekend I joined a photowalk in my own hometown Trondheim. A two hour stroll along a stretch less than a mile, the theme Contrasts.

I know those streets.

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I have shared photos from these walks for years.

My family has walked on the same cobblestones for a century.

IMG_7409 (1280x818)And yet, always something new, even when everything is old.

Always something I have never seen, even if I have seen it all.

IMG_7362 (1280x1079)Could it be that way with people too? Do we ever take the time to really look for something new in the people we love or in the people we see every day?

IMG_7425 (1280x1042)What would we find if we spent two hours concentrating on seeing another side of the persons, the conflicts, the situations, the very life that we think we know?

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Viking ways

IMG_5834 (1280x853)This is how I felt today, crowded. By things I should do, by things I would have loved to be doing, by things I have to do, by things I never will come around to do. In short, from where I stand the only calm person to be seen is the viking surveying his town, sword in hand. I have to admit, if a slashing, sword-swinging bout of action could clear my lists, I would do it. As you can see, I am not in a position to do that. I took the picture while wheeling my heavy laden bike through the market of my town Trondheim, the only way to get going was by carefully weaving my way, stopping, waiting, smiling, not hurrying. I had one item to buy at the market, my summer breakfast favorite, honey cake, and kept going.

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But wait, I had the best clutter-clearing, worry-killing, task-quitting weapon at my side. Invisible to you, I was walking with a dear, wise and kind friend, Anita. We were heading home after coffee in town. Slowly we worked and talked, shared and sorted through big and small. Halfway we stopped for another coffee with waffles, kept talking, kept laughing, and suddenly we were home. I was ready to tackle my crowd.

IMG_5842 (1280x853)Then I saw it, the crowd was not an illusion. I had tried to make lists like some of my friends do, I even had bought a sweet blue notebook for it. They just add everything as they think of it, and handle it when they get to it, one item at the time. It did not work for me at all, the tasks felt like a swarm of bees or a crowd of vendors crying for my attention.

IMG_5841 (1280x853)I had to sort, not only by talking and sharing. I still and forever is the indexy type. Admitting for the long lists, I found four bigger index cards, still honouring my thought that what I do should be the four cornerstones of my life. Still knowing  the fact that more than that is simply too much. I sorted my tasks, divided them on the cards and are on my way to conquer them. Grouped like that I see what I do as part of a bigger picture and an ongoing life, not as irritating tasks that keep me from living.

No viking way of getting it done, no way to conquer and subdue for ever. As in life, if its is worth doing, keep at it. If not, let it go! And by all means, have some waffles with a friend while deciding! By the way, I did not find my cake, so instead I’ll find my grandmothers recipe book and make one myself, even if it is not on any card.

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Saving for a rainy day

IMG_5627 (1280x765)Being inside, with an open window, listening to the patter of raindrops on green summery leaves.

Walking outside, like passing through layers of soft silk, feeling the warm rain drenching  and reviving my whole body.

Digging the garden, sensing the energy of every seed stretching to make the most of the moisture.

No need to save anything for rainy days, which are so full of their own blessings, even so I had done that. I had saved one task for the first rainy day, that was also a day off, and yesterday was it.

IMG_5701 (1280x853)As a true clutter quitter, organizer and striving to get orderly person, some of my treasures brought back from the States was red and green fabric boxes for my Christmas stuff. For ornaments, for wreaths, for strings of light, for wrappings.

I carried the old boxes, bags and what nots up from the basement and had the most lovely, sentimental, tearful, joyful, de-cluttering day, with the window open, the leaves rustling and the rain falling.

The rest of the family thought I was overdoing it, could it not wait until packing away the ornaments in january? It could not. My sorting days are my way of getting grounded, getting back on track, getting ready. Now, I am ready for summer, knowing that Christmas is ready to be taken down from the shelves in all its orderly glory, hopefully not on a rainy day. But if it rains….I’ll have another favorite task to handle that day in the coming December, and that’s my secret, making the most of any day, especially the rainy ones.

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A nap in time, saves nine?

IMG_4618 (1280x418)So here’s the thing, norwegians go skiing or sailing or hiking or visiting at Easter. And then they go to church, to conserts, to exhibits. In between they do crosswords or sudoko or read ( crime novels, mostly) watch tv or eat. Except me.

Since coming home from California I have been so happy doing all kinds of things to get my business started, and did not want to slow down. First a cold, then bronchitis, then pneumonia, so instead of slowing down I had to spend the last week at full stop. IMG_4600 (1280x853)

No reading, no writing, just moping at the coach waiting for some air to get down into my lungs.

Is that not often the case? I do tell my friends to take care, I do tell others that rest is essential.

I once gave a client the task of trying to do to herself what she would do for her best friend. She knew what herself in the role as her best friend needed, she felt guilty for giving it.

IMG_4610 (1280x853)What did she need? Someone to tell her to put her feet up, while fetching her a cup of soup. Why is it, that what we give without thinking to others is so hard to give ourselves?

IMG_4625 (1280x853)Today is Easter day. My big excursion was going out in the garden, considering if I should sit on the bench, taking the  pictures for this blog, and then going inside for another nap.

IMG_4622 (1280x853)And you know? Since I was in my garden last the whole world had awakened, teeming with energy and beauty, without me writing a single list, or making even a tiny plan for it to happen. To me, an allegory of the Easter Miracle, as well a reminder, nap in time!

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What you do not find, is still there

Hidden threats

Hidden threats

After dinner I went back to the business lounge to finish my report for the day. I was very comfortable, in a red velvety wing chair, with a cup of steaming coffee and my iPad. But I was not hidden.

In comes a group of business people. They occupy the next table, get coffee and open their laptops. At first I do not listen to their strategies, they are planning how to present their added value to their client next day, which is what business is always about. Even when one of them says  to the young and aspiring one ” remember added value is not supposed to cost us anything”, I am not surprised. He does continue though,” it is all about giving them something that is understood by their customers as added value, when in truth it they are not given what they pay for.” This makes me listen.

I am still not hidden, I am not eavesdropping, as this experienced executive is sitting a yard away from me, talking loud and clear.

Rotten is rotten, even if the view is nice

Rotten is rotten, even if the view is nice

Then they compare their notes and slides and statistics, concluding that their best chance of closing the deal is to present their business client with an IT system that hides as many consumer rights as possible. The consumer that orders something through this site will then give up before discovering their legal rights. The consumer is not cheated, as the truth is still there. As an added bonus, this program could also make the order appear as it was processed at an earlier date than it was, thus giving the customer less time to file his claim. They even discussed the possibility of selling things the customer could not possibly use, as connecting flights before your first flight has landed, and then keep some of the fare. They did not go there though, not to protect the customer, but  it was not really legal, or was it?

I was still not hiding, there was no way they could not see me, smell my coffee or hear me drinking it. Even so, they did not think their plans was worth hiding.

I did not discover what firm this was, except that they were americans. I do not know who they were meeting the next day. I slowly discovered a chilling truth though, I think they did not bother to hide, because they thought every business person would think like them. They were not divulging secrets, but showing off their business acumen.They knew their client, and knew the possibility of holding truth and rights away from their customers was indeed added value.

I was not impressed, and even if I was not hiding I do not think they realized that I left. By then they were too busy toasting to the success of tomorrow.

What I do know though is that truth is still truth, even if it is hidden. I also know that no amount of that kind of added value will be worth the lack of trust in businesses that implements systems to cheat their customers.

In earlier days bakers added a roll to your order of a dozen, just to not risk the death penalty of selling less than paid for.

Rolls are easy to count,  but how do we count what we do not see, and do not know that we should be looking for? There is no use to blame the systems, they are all made by people like you and me. There is no use to blame the law, at least in Norway customers are protected, if they only know what to look  and ask for.

The client could refuse of course, which I hope they did. The customers could be more wary, investigating their rights and insisiting on truths, as I do. Not only for my own sake, but to stir up routines on behalf of those who do not know they may. We all could be more wary, not trusting each other. We could demand more government control, compliance systems and ethical regulations.

Or we could encourage each other to voice our concern, to make heard the stories of companies doing success by being fair, we could dare to challenge each other and hold each other accountable. Not only to a legal framework, but to the ethical choices we need to take to make the world better for everyone. It is still all about doing as you would be done to, isn’t it?

Roots in a bottle

IMG_4026I was on my way to a meeting in the charming old part of Bergen. Even as I was running late, I had my camera. Coming towards me was this old woman. Leaning heavily on her cane, labouring her way uphill.

We met midway. She paused, and of course I stopped, to see if there was anything I could do for her. Was she exhausted, was she ill?

She barely threw me a glance and bent down, poked her cane in the bushes and found a hamburger wrapping and a squashed bottle. She picked them up, went over to the trash-can outside the nearest house and threw it in.

Then she walked on.

I once had great grandparents and grandparents like that. They all taught by example how the tiny deeds always adds up to more that big thoughts. I just had forgotten. With my head in the clouds and my mind in my plans I had walked straight by a chance to keep this tiny street beautiful.

I trust I will be given more chances, and I know it is not only about trash in the bushes, but in all our doings. The one step taken is more important than the thousands just planned.

What about you? What is your tiny step today?

The crooked path to truth

IMG_3781We arrive at the mall, and head for the entrance.

For some reason I am always there first, my friend last, and every time she is just as surprised as last time. And no, it is not because I want to go there most. The secret is that I am easily distracted by small things, though never from my goal. She is never distracted by anything, she just waits for it to pass. So I dart here and there, avoid cars and people and weave my way towards my goal. While she stops and waits when somebody gets in her way, never wavering a yard from her true path.

It does not really matter of course, who comes first to a mall. I do try to apply my whimsical walks to other paths of life though.

What if I, discussing truth, life, death, the big questions, am so sure of the right path and just forces my way to my chosen solution?

What if I, not heeding any hinders, just insists on what the best course is?

Or, what happens in real life, when we stop the considering other people as hindering us from our set path, and see each other as our only way of discovering our true path?

 

What do you hold on to?

IMG_3617 one valueTwo and a half years ago a man was facing the world press, holding on to his integrity and a yellow post-it-note.

Last Tuesday this note  brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart.
A yellow piece of paper, crumpled, with three words:

dignified, calm, honest

I was listening, as the norwegian attorney of law, Geir Lippestad, shared how this note helped him through the hardest task any defender has had in Norway since the second world war. He defended the killer in the massacres on the 22nd of July 2011.

He told us how he did not want to.

The police called early in the morning of the 23rd and told him that the suspect had asked for Lippestad as his defender, that more bombs and more assassins were ready for action, and that the suspect would not explain  himself until he had a defender.

But why should and how could anyone defend a person that in cold blood had killed 77 people? Who would be able to listen to a person that had assassinated 69 youths? Lippestad did not see himself as that person. His decision was made in spite of what he wanted to do. Until then,his reason for being a lawyer was his belief that democracy depended on equality for the law. Until then,his core belief as a man was the dignity and intrinsic value of every human being.
It still had to be, it still was, it still is, this belief made him say yes.

After hours talking to the offender he made a break and was asked to meet the world press gathering outside the police station.

This is when he tells us about the yellow note.
“Before facing them I had to collect myself,” he said. Then he went on to tell how he sat down outside the interrogation room, trying to sort out how to present the case to the press, reassessing to himself what values he wanted to come through.

His challenge: to convey the why of his defense without condoning the why of the act.

He knew this was the start of a long process where everything he would do had the purpose of making sure that equality for the law was true in our society. He could not give in, neither to his own nor the nation’s despair.

How should he present the case, how should he answer to make that stay true? This is when he knew that whatever he said and did he had to stay calm, that what he said should be honest and true, and most of all that he should front the dignity belonging to every human being.

He scribbled three words on his post-it-note, “verdig, rolig, ærlig.” He clutched it in his hand and held on to his principles. The note stayed in his pockets for six months. Again and again he had to remind himself. Again and again he and his partners held each other accountable to these values, to this note.

IMG_3831LippestadI would not have been moved to tears if this man had told us that holding on to truth was easy. It was not and it is not. Even profiled lawyers need to keep themselves accountable to their values. Even grown men may need something to hold on to. What fills my heart with joy is that they did.

What fills my heart with strength and hope is that if someone could do this when weak and afraid, so can I, so can we.

What would you hold on to?

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Rotten fish and black stars

January in Trondheim

January in Trondheim, the river is frozen

Did you ever go to sunday school? I did. Every time we brought our attendance card, either with a picture of a nativity scene or the disciples trying to catch fish. At the end we got a golden star in the blue sky or a silver fish in the empty net. Just for showing up, listening to exciting stories, doing crafts and having buns and lemonade, I loved it.

We did not get stickers in school, as my kids did, but I was blessed with teachers that wrote encouraging comments for the slightest effort. Which made me want to do better, to improve.
I am on Instagram and on Facebook, and of course I “like” most pictures my friends post, if I see them. I praise and comment, and love it when someone remarks on my doings or postings.
I hand out verbal golden stars to friends and family, just because it makes life nicer to be nice.

I know that. I have known that since I was a small girl, jumping along the road in the early sunday morning with my card in the red song book. I do better when I get praised. I do not do better if somebody yells at me or is disappointed. I would have stopped going at once if the sunday school teacher for instance put stickers of rotten fish for every no- show, or blackened a star for every giggle or joke.

The thing is they did not,  I do that to my self. Peter Drucker wrote a lovely little book called “Managing yourself”, which is all about understanding your own mode of learning and achieving. I know that I sometimes act contrary to my own knowledge. Instead of giving myself credit for what I have done, I let the undone “smell” like a rotten fish. Instead of allowing myself a small dance in the glow of a star of accomplishment, I diminish my achievement by comparing to others.

I know it is not wise, I know it drains energy and actually is quite silly.

So, as I like to consider myself wise, energetic and just a little bit silly I have devised my own “attendance card” for this year. First I have to tell you that I am experimenting with going back to paper calendars and that we have numerous trivial chores waiting for us. Upkeep, maintenance, chores that did not go away when we went away for a year.

This is how my calendar is filled with stars. After some worrying I discovered that four categories were most crucial; paper, clothes, things, garden. January became the “show up for paper” month. Every day  I have been clearing, shredding, filing for an hour, I jot a mark in the calendar. I am not done, but as of today I have seven golden hours of attending my papers. I am going there! And then there is all the small goals of exercise, eating healthy, going to bed early and so on, I thrive when I pat my self on the shoulder and comment on the good works done.

As it is the 26th I could also blame myself for 19 days of no attendance, but who could concentrate with nineteen rotten fish on their desk?

How ten makes three

IMG_3032I do lists, that is no secret.
The secret trick to my lists is that I don’t write a “to do” list, it normally turns out as a “do not do” list.

I make a list of all and every thought that bothers me and cries for attention, like: remember, call, fetch, buy, arrange, cancel, repair this and that and who and where.

Then I look at my list, regroup, cross out and rethink and cut it down to what really has to be done. Not to get through the day, but in a longer perspective. Suzy Welch  uses the 10-10-10 rule when cutting. What happens in 10 minutes, 10 months, 10 years, if I do this or if I don’t do that? It calms me down and help me focus. I thought there was an insurmountable pile of tasks that had to be done, and then, it really wasn’t.

Then I got another idea from reading Deborah’s blog, write only three things on your list, the three things you have to do that day. All three methods end up with a short, to the point list, that has to be done. Perhaps a mixture of the three approaches is best?

What do you think?

By the way, check Deborahs homepage and her awardwinning book, Into the wilderness!