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Don’t Cry Over Spilled Coffee

May 20, 2022

Dear colleagues and friends, 

It’s 8:56 a.m. I’m supposed to be logging into Zoom to host a nine a.m. meeting with dozens of professionals. Coffee sits next to me, ready for sipping as I begin my Monday morning. All of the sudden: Zoom. Zip. Clatter. My dogs run into my office to save me from a “threatening sound” that has alarmed them. Coffee spills everywhere, drips down my desk, pens and papers soaked. My laptop barely escapes the sticky, cream-filled start to my day as I yell at my dogs to leave my office. They look at me, wondering with their eyes why I’m not more grateful for intrusion. 

It’s 8:59. I have two choices – allow the coffee to continue to run all over my desk, smile at the camera and proceed. Pretend like nothing is happening. Ignore the chaos. Or, what I did: I started the zoom meeting, humbly requested another professional to begin morning greetings, and let people know what was happening. Many times since this shift to online learning/teaching/telehealth began, I’ve been faced with this decision – pretend this isn’t completely new and overwhelming at times, or simply offer some humanity with a dose of humility. I learned early on that folks appreciate the humanity. 

Sharing our humanity allows us to help others feel less alone. Sharing overwhelm and imperfections don’t make us less professional, it makes us human. It makes us relatable. When we show up professionally and allow others to feel seen by offering stories of mutual connection, it provides solace in an otherwise overly harsh space. 

The bonus: When we show up more authentically, it takes less energy than putting on airs of “having it all together.” And right now, with multiple stressors competing for our energy, we need as much reserves as possible. 

How can you show humanity and model imperfections today? In what way can you reassure a colleague? How might you show more authenticity and less perfection? Here are some ways to begin:

  • I’m not quite myself today. Please give me some grace. 
  • The last few weeks have been hard. I wonder if anyone else is feeling this way?
  • You’re not quite yourself today, what’s up?
  • I’ve been in a place where I’ve been overwhelmed too. Is that you today?
  • Sometimes we just need a space to vent. I’m here for you. 
  • Oh, that looked rough, wanna talk?
  • I’m a mess about _____. 
  • Today didn’t begin well for me. Anyone else?
  • How do you really feel about being here? Me? Not so great. 
  • Tell me more about what’s going on. I’m curious.
  • I didn’t understand that the first time either. Let’s work on it together. 

Regardless of how you choose to offer yourself to another person, know that any act of compassion is appreciated. It will not go unnoticed. Until then, if you get a note or letter from me with sticky coffee rings, just know we’re battling these mornings together. 

How about you? Are you a morning coffee person? Tea? Kombucha? 

With compassion,

Dr. Amy

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