Yesterday, I wrote my Executive Director’s report for our upcoming board meeting. I do this once a month, as part of the prep materials, so that folks can read it ahead of time. And in the meeting, we just need time for me to answer any questions. Way less time than for me to report and answer questions.
When I finished yesterday, that sucker was four pages long. It’s not narrative, mostly. We’re not talking paragraphs. We’re talking bullet points with a little explanation here and there.
Four pages of making good things happen. Four pages of moving forward. Four pages with a few sticky spots where things are not quite flowing.
Shit, man. That’s a lot in one month for a small but mighty group that often feels like it’s not doing enough, not keeping up, not taking advantage of all the opportunity.
I think part of that feeling is this: Once we’ve done a thing for a while, even if it’s a big thing, it stops feeling like an accomplishment. The shine wears off, and it’s part of what’s expected. It becomes an Of Course We Did That, almost not worth mentioning, even if it takes a lot of time, takes a lot of money, takes a lot of intention.
It’s not very glamorous to report to the board that we entered every transaction this month into Quickbooks, did a mail merge, and printed letters to thank all our end-of-year donors either. That stuff is far too Of Course We Did That to make it into the report. But those things do give me a small wave of relief every time. I know the amount of time it takes our bookkeeper, the time we spend at the screen together double-checking accounting codes, the hand cramp I get after I write personal notes on all those letters. And I also know the pit in the stomach when the books are behind, or when an organization realizes it never said thank you.
And then I had a thought.
Because so many times I catch myself feeling that feeling in my personal life: I’m not doing enough, not keeping up, not taking advantage of all the opportunity. I’ll notice over and over again that I forgot to call my brother to ask about something important in his life, that the Christmas lights are still on the front of our house, that we didn’t take our kid to this thing at the museum or that thing at the park or this other thing at the Scrap Exchange and she hasn’t been on a train ever and she’s not doing anything after school like gymnastics or robotics or dance.
If I had to write down all our successes and challenges over the past month, if I had to make a report, that sucker would be long, too. Three people ate food at least three times a day every day—and about two-thirds of them were around the table together, which means we also got to the grocery store a lot. We got the trash and the recycling down to curb on the right days, and I called some people I love on their birthdays and told my mother I love her. We got our daughter to school and back home again and we took her to one birthday party and we read together most nights and finished the fifteenth and final book in the Wizard of Oz series.
Of Course We Did That.
I mean, it’s not very glamorous to tell you that we got the trash down to the curb on Monday night. Of Course We Did That. But I do feel a surge of relief, of gratitude, every time we manage it. I know the exact feeling of sliding on my clogs, maneuvering that thing through the tight space between the car and the light pole, pulling it down the driveway while I try not to slip on the pine straw, picking up speed so I have to run near the bottom, and three-point-turning it into its spot. And I also know the exact feeling—and the unpleasant consequences—when we hear the garbage truck roll past our house and realize we forgot to put that can out.
I don’t need to see a report to know that you are doing a lot of things beautifully.
Congratulations on the things that Of Course You Did—whatever those things are for you in your life and in your work. The next time you take your trash out to the curb, I hope you enjoy it just a little bit. I will be over here sliding down the driveway with my own trash and sending love your way.