I retrospect regularly. Retrospectives are done during Agile software development, which is how I learned about them. They are exercises that create cohesiveness and self-governance in teams. They also create cohesiveness among my family. For example, we always retrospect on the way home from vacations.
Retros (as they are commonly called) have three customary questions:
- What went well?
- What went less well?
- What actions can we take to improve the process going forward?
This morning in my journal, I wrote a ten year retrospective. My intention was to focus on one year, 2019, put it behind me and kick off 2020. But 2020 is a nice round number, it enticed me to go deeper. Also, the 2010s were intense, career wise especially, and I am at a turning point. Now seemed a good time to pause and reflect.
The retro revealed insights I didn’t anticipate, in areas I didn’t expect. This post is not about those insights, specifically. (Maybe later!) The exercise did give me an idea though:
What would an “enough” retrospective look like? I came up with this:
During the last [time period], I have experienced enough …? I have not experienced enough …? I have experienced too much …? I can improve my experience of enough by (taking these actions) …?
I decided to do the exercise here, spontaneously. Live Retro! Risky! Gah! I worry I’ll expose more than I want to expose. To you? To myself? Dunnoh. Here goes:
During the last ten years, I have experienced enough …
- career opportunities with meaningful clients doing interesting technology work
- travel, beyond anything I ever anticipated (learn to code, see the world)
- being known (enough) for what I do professionally
During the last ten years, I have not experienced enough …
- true friendship sustained through the vicissitudes of our life (especially with other women)
- time to recover from setbacks
During the last ten years, I have experienced too much …
- betrayal and duplicity
- uncertainty about who others really are and whether or not they are trustworthy
- confusion about what to trust in myself (I’m delusional sometimes too)
- loss of things I treasured when I didn’t submit to circumstances that were shitty for me
During the next ten years, I can improve my experience of enough by …
- writing and reading and exercising first (prioritizing inner strength over outer control)
- Walking in nature and being close to other people
- Generally trusting myself a lot more and others a lot less
The last needs some explanation. A hallmark of my 2010s was trusting people who turned out to be, well, really super awful and not trustworthy in ways that matter. People who gutted me. Sometimes other people, who I believed supported me, piled on or were distantly ambivalent. (Later, some saw the harm, especially after it happened to someone else, but by then, I didn’t need their support anymore.)
I’ve struggled to understand my role in those situations. Clearly, I have fallen down and my failures are my teachers. I am weak in, for example, staying committed to deeper work when drama stirs up and distracts. So I didn’t set boundaries that others who are wiser would have set. I confess, sometimes I am the stirrer of the drama when deeper work scares me.
I’ve also struggled to accept that I don’t necessarily have a role in controlling or preventing those situations. If someone wants to hurt you, they usually can.
I relate to others primarily through empathy, which makes me vulnerable to and blindsided by people who draw on empathy but are not experiencers of empathy themselves. People who say and do the right things but are hiding their true selves. My openness attracts people but I do the lion’s share of being open, which makes me even more vulnerable. I trust too soon and try to understand when I’d be better letting go and moving on.
This relationship pattern began long before I learned to build the internet. It’s not surprising that I choose the technology field, where the pattern flourishes. In tech, we talk openly about sexism and it exists. My personal view is that the pattern arises from a lack of relational maturity rather than gender. Men are also my biggest allies. More essentially, wisdom is not a leadership prerequisite. The lack of relational maturity and wisdom harms everyone (not just women).
Facebook. Nuff said.
My experience over the last ten years has been, by absolutely every measure, more than enough. Beyond my wildest ambitions. My heartbreak has been profound. In two cases, I worried that my wellbeing was unrecoverable. It wasn’t. It never is. Trust that.
My one-year enough retro was gentler and rosier than my ten year list. An excellent trend. Going forward, my deepest commitment is …
Love many. Trust Few. Always paddle your own canoe.