“I am thinking about how I was great in high school Marching Band. I could play my instrument and do all kinds of tricks on the football field. But if I had to march today, I’d be more than rusty. I’d be petrified … in several meanings of that word!”
~ Kimberly Chatak-Nelson

Used by as a distinction

What does it mean to be “used by” something, when the something becomes so much a part of you that you don’t even have to think about it any more–the way Heidegger says you don’t use a language so much as the language uses you?
You don’t think it; it thinks you.

Talking about this with our office manager, Kimberly, I said I’m completely “used by” not only English but English grammar as well. The correct usage for lie/lay, that/which, the “if clauses”–no thought necessary. It can’t have always been that way for me, but, at 73 years of age, I can’t remember when it was any other way.  French is another matter.

Kimberly said she remembers when motherhood was one of those somethings she was not “used by,” when she was terrified of making a mistake: “I was so intense you could have peeled me off a wall! I cried the first time I had to give Taylor meds, because the enormous responsibility was overwhelming.” Now, she says, she has motherhood “down pat.”

She said that in high school she was so “used by” the distinction marching band that she could do all sorts of tricks on the football field at halftime without even worrying about missing a beat on her Glockenspiel.  And she also remembers when that was not the case, when trying to do two things at once when she couldn’t even count on knowing a flank left from a flank right was paralyzing.

That was when I realized that if we are committed to being lifelong learners, as we at Dorrier Underwood say we are, then messing up and marching the wrong way down the field is going to be part of that. We are going to look foolish and feel foolish from time to time. I can see that that is guaranteed. It’s part of the package. Otherwise, how can there be any opportunities for growth, for development, or for creating something new?

I once embarrassed myself at a butcher shop in the Rhone Valley by forgetting the phrase for “leg of lamb” and having to order “un jambe de baaaa” (much to the amusement of a couple of French housewives). You can bet that le gigot d’agneau became a permanent part of my vocabulary after that.

Since we support people in business to develop their capacity for resilience, for creativity and for meeting new problems powerfully head-on, part of our job is to demonstrate that the fear of looking foolish only holds us all back.

Just to offset the reference to Heidegger with a more down-home quote: The late great Jerry Garcia once said, “Impromptu improvisation depends on not being afraid to be wrong.”