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Reality has its hard edges.

We surround ourselves with people who tend to agree with our point of view. If they didn’t, we’d argue, and the friendship would terminate; it’s as natural as water flowing downhill.

As a result, it’s harder to see our mistakes. Our friends don’t usually upbraid us when we do something for them only halfway, since halfway is better than no way. They also don’t talk to as, say, an reporter might – with tough questions, follow-up questions targeting the weak spots of our answers, and a general lack of smiles and sympathy when we trip up.

Our friends are really not in a position to scold us, or argue at length with excuses, or really upset the delicate power dynamics of a friendship too much.  So when we do get placed in that position, it’s a shock, even though, in many ways, the default position of the world is rejection. It’s just that we don’t see it, because situations reach an equilibrium that shields us from it.

I was wondering this morning how I could be so careless. I said I’d do a favor, then got caught up in other things, then got a call, naturally enough, about that favor, and why I hadn’t done it. When explaining myself out loud, I realized my excuse didn’t hold up. I called back later and apologized, but the damage was done – I said I’d do the favor, and my not doing it was a tacit admission that I didn’t care that much.

It’s important to care, not just about work, duty, and responsibility, but about the people you know, too. It’s very easy to slip into default mode; by contrast, it’s harder to rouse yourself out of it to pay attention to the details.

I am a detail-oriented person.

For a long time I think I thought I was doing OK, and that was enough. I’ve come around to thinking that the standard was too lax, and I needed to hold myself to a higher one. So now, in various forms – a diary, a planner, and to-do list, regular review of new material –  I’m becoming more capable, more professional. I’m backsliding, here and there – it’s a lot to do, and sometimes, something’s got to give – but overall I’ve been heading in one direction, forward.

But as positive as that is, I don’t want the people I care about to think they’re expendable. That means reaching out, being a little harried sometimes, doing things I don’t especially want do right that moment when it’s more helpful to carry them out.

It’s a balancing act, taking all of this, at the same time, and implementing it, all at once, but it has to be done. And when it is, when I have enough time for the people in my life and the responsibilities I have too, I’ll know I’m doing it right.


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