This week, I share the surprising story of how I found a new client, and learned (again!) to sit with my emotions.
These weekly updates share life with OCD as part of my Mental Work Health project to reduce stigma around mental health, especially at work.
A few weeks ago, I left on a sailing trip with my daughter. I shared about the experience in update #85: I’m a sailor.
When I came home from that trip, I discovered that a glass pane in one of our living room windows had been broken. Some of the kids were playing, and something hit the window and broke the glass. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
With a pane still remaining, there was no immediate disaster. But it was still annoying. We needed to get it replaced.
As I came in the house one evening after work, I found my wife chatting with a friend of our oldest daughter. She was newly hired at a local, family-run window replacement company and we asked her to take a look at our broken window. She told us she could get someone there that very evening to talk with us about getting it replaced—she would get her favorite director to come.
We realized something was off in our expectations when my wife asked how long we should expect for the visit. “Oh, it’ll be quick. He’ll just look at things and talk you through it. Probably just 45 minutes to an hour or so.”
Ah. We weren’t getting a quote for a broken window replacement. We were getting a full sales pitch for new windows.
And sure enough, when he came, he brought an example window to show us how great the new ones are, and talked through the importance of replacing all the windows in our house. There were a few times when I noticed a textbook sales technique being thrown at us, and just chuckled. We don’t actually care if some of our neighbors have used their services.
But in the end, we knew that we needed new windows, and they were reasonably priced, and we decided to just get them.
As he was closing the deal and filling out the forms, like a good sales person, he chatted me up a bit and asked about what I do for work. I talked about being a newly independent mobile app consultant and the kinds of things that I do.
A couple days later, we called to finalize the order and financing. After completing our business, he asked if I had another few minutes, and described some of the technology challenges they are having as a company. He asked if I have experience doing anything like what they need.
As a matter of fact, I do!
I described some of the work that I had been doing for Factor connecting different systems, and making it possible for non-technical people to interact with the data in easy ways that still provided for robust reporting.
He got me in touch with their Chief Operating Officer, who was responsible for their current systems, but didn’t have a technical background. We talked through their situation and needs, and I was confident that I would be able to set up some nice automations that would improve their lives and simplify their processes. We still need to iron out details, but it looks like they will be a great client, and I will be able to help them with a huge pain point they are having.
At the very end of the week, I met with someone else who owns a mobile app development shop. We felt similarly on nearly all our approaches to working with clients, and I felt an instant connection. He is the kind of person that I want to be working with. We struck an agreement to try out a month of me helping them across all their different projects, providing design and product roadmap guidance.
So just like that, I went from being worried about not having enough work to being solidly booked for the next month.
Last week, I shared about processing the complex mix of emotions I was feeling about work and the uncertainty I was facing in update #88: Disallowed emotions.
Part of having OCD is struggling with uncertainty to a pathological degree. But I have become convinced that sitting with uncertainty is difficult for all of us. We all feel distress.
I wanted to know exactly how things were going to go. I wanted to be able to predict how my time would be spent, and where the work would come from. I wanted to have steady and stable income.
At the same time, I knew that the efforts I was putting forward were good. Enough even. I was happy with my actions, and knew that they had a good likelihood of bringing success.
I just didn’t know what it would look like.
When things finally came together to provide a bit of stability for the next little bit, it was nothing like what I had imagined. But it feels great. I am excited about the work that I have, and confident that I will be able to continue to find new projects to take on over the coming months.
One of the DBT skills1 that I learned in my intensive outpatient program for OCD was called “Ride the wave.” When powerful emotions come, our instinct is to shut them down. They are uncomfortable, and we want to push them away. But as we learn to sit with them, to experience them, to let them wash over us and carry us up and down a bit, they lose some of their power over us. We can remember that emotions have a natural flow to them.
As I look to the coming week, I am struck with the importance of sitting in complex emotions. I wrote about this almost a year ago in update #51: A piece of peace pizza.
It can be hard to find the patience and distress tolerance to allow so many things to co-exist inside our body. But when we do, we open ourselves to opportunities that might not have been possible otherwise.
The challenge I give to myself, and to you if you’ll accept it, is to be on the lookout for strong emotions. When we notice them, let’s take a few minutes to pause and explore them. Immediately on noticing them if we can, or at least soon after. Wonder about their shape, their color, their consistency. Where do they show up in our body?
It has been my experience that taking some extra time for mindfulness always improves my ability to respond in ways that I look back on with satisfaction.
As always, let’s be kind. Exercise an extra dose of compassion for ourselves and those in our lives who are experiencing difficult emotions. (Pro tip: that’s everyone!) We’re all in this together.
DBT stands for dialectical behavioral therapy, a form of treatment developed by Marsha M. Linehan. While originally developed to aid with borderline personality disorder, it has been found to be effective with many different mental illnesses, including my very own OCD. ↩