Retracing steps

You know those management personality quizzes? Every time I take one, it tells me that I’m the kind of person who likes to “get things done”. It also tells me that this trait, while valuable in a manager/leader, may also backfire. And I can tell you from experience, it does. I have gotten into trouble, on more than one occasion, for wanting to “move on” or, more subtly, not paying enough attention to the steps that came before.

While I like to think I am right in wanting forward motion, there’s no doubt that, to be successful in a job – well, the kind of success that I want, at least, which is results AND relationships; I have no desire to have everyone hate me while we hit our goals – a leader has to pay attention to the past while looking to the future. Easily said. Not so easily done.

Today was Marathon Monday…er…Patriots Day…a holiday that I’m pretty sure only Bostonians take off from work. It was a particularly poignant Marathon, as more than 30,000 runners took to the 26.2 mile course to honor, remember, or banish the ghosts of bombs at last year’s marathon. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm, and though the route was peppered with security, it was the most positive, festive and friendly environment I’ve ever encountered in a large scale event.

I couldn’t help but wonder at the people who have run the race before; why do they keep doing it? Those folks who crossed the finish line moments before the bombs went off, or never made it? Why did they come back? Why did they retrace those steps?

Retracing steps has been valuable for me, recently. When I lost my license at EPCOT, I went back to where I’d been and eventually found it. In Miami Beach, I left my favorite sunglasses at a restaurant and when I went back, they were still there.

And tonight, as I was walking Sadie in the waning sun, she stopped, squatted and did her business in the middle of a beautiful garden in the Arboretum. I reached into my pocket for the doggie bag, and…drat…it wasn’t there. It had fallen out of my pocket somewhere between there and here.

Any dog owner knows this conundrum. Go back and try to find the bag? Or walk on, vowing to pay it forward by picking up TWO deposits the next time you’re out, knowing that those who follow will judge you for being an irresponsible human?

In this case, I did both. I walked on, vaguely thinking that maybe a trashcan nearby would have an extra bag…and then something told me to go back. So I did.

I retraced my steps almost by half, and experienced that little thrill when I saw the flash of the blue plastic bag against the brownish-bronze of woods that haven’t sprung into spring yet. I grabbed it, and we retraced our steps yet again, found the incriminating evidence, and resumed our loop.

Now, if my life were the romantic novel I wish I was, this decision would have led to me meeting a cute boy with a dog of his own, who just happens to love chubby women and would become smitten with my sunburned nose, wind-crazed hair and makeup-free skin.

Well, we all know just how far from a romantic novel my life is, but I did encounter some lovely little moments that, I think, I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t retraced my steps and altered my path. Here they are:

Glorious yellow blooms

FLowers below a brown treeSo what’s the moral of all this pondering? Nothing much, other than to acknowledge that retracing steps is a necessary part of life. Sometimes, it’s beautiful, sometimes it’s painful, and more often than not it’s not what you planned to do. But there’s always something good to be taken from it…and eventually, you will have to move on to get to the end of the race, back to your apartment, or through your workday.

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