Anxious and Uncomfortable, but Not Alone

After meeting with Samuel, Jonathan’s day seemed to drag on like a flatbed trailer with a flat tire. He felt like going dark. He did not feel like talking to anyone who sat near him, and he barely answered email. The voicemail indicator on his phone was a solid red. All he could think about was his conversation with Samuel. Could Samuel be so right and Saul, his father, be so wrong?

Lunch hour came, and instead of eating or going to the gym, Jonathan went for a walk in the park near the JTS office. It was a cloudy fall day, but it was warm enough to be outside. As he neared an empty bench, he felt his phone vibrate. He checked the indicator, and it was an email from Daniel at Torch Systems, his former boss. It read, “Jonathan, we won a new contract to deploy an identity management system for the county government, and we want you to come back and lead the project. Give me a call!”

Reading the message made Jonathan’s heart beat a little faster. He had to sit down on the bench. As he sat, he stared in the direction of people walking through the park, but he did not see them. He took deep, calming breaths, and sank into his thoughts.

“I could go back to Torch Systems, and Joab would be someone else’s problem,” he thought. Then he had a realization. “The Torch Systems job requires leadership, too. Instead of having to deal with Joab, I may have to deal with an even more difficult situation. ” He pondered a bit more. “Others are thinking of me as a leader, ” Jonathan thought, “But am I ready? I’m not comfortable dealing with other people’s problems. ”

Jonathan sat for a few more minutes, and then realized he needed to go back to work. He stopped at a convenience store and picked up a sandwich and a drink, eating and thinking as he walked back to JTS.

After arriving at his desk, Jonathan logged in and checked his email. He had received a message from Samuel with the reading material he promised. “I highly recommend that you read the self-leadership material first,” Samuel wrote in the message. Jonathan spent the rest of the day reading that material. Right before he went home for the day, he finally checked his voicemail. It was not urgent; just a vendor trying to schedule a meeting. Jonathan got up from his desk to leave for the day, feeling relieved that he had not missed an important call.

It was about 6 PM, and the sun was setting as Jonathan left the parking lot. He turned off the radio so that he could hear himself think as he drove to his apartment. His car used to be his mother’s. After she and Saul divorced five years prior, she gave it to Jonathan and then took an assignment in Germany. Since she’d left, he video chatted with her about once a month. “I used to hate it when those two fought, ” Jonathan thought while waiting at a stop light. As he entered the highway, he remembered the last Thanksgiving when they were all together. In his mind’s eye, he could see Saul following her down the hall; he could hear Saul screaming at her about one thing or another. “He screamed at Joab the same way, ” he thought.

The rain started as Jonathan arrived at his apartment complex. He parked his car and went upstairs. Once inside his apartment, he decided to cook himself a stir fry dinner. He did not turn on the television as he usually did. The only light he turned on was the one over the stove. As he prepared his meal, his mobile phone buzzed, and Chrissy’s picture appeared on the device. Chrissy was his girlfriend. He cared for her deeply, yet did not feel like talking to her, so he let her call go to voicemail.

As Jonathan sat down to eat, he thought about his mother again. Light from the stove, still the only light on in the apartment, streamed over the breakfast bar onto the dining room table where he ate. “Maybe I should call her and ask her what to do, ” he thought. His mind flashed to a memory of the last time he was with his mother. It was at the airport before her flight to Germany. “Be a better man than your father, ” she had said.

All of a sudden, Jonathan felt guilty about not taking Chrissy’s call. He called her and apologized for not answering. “I have a lot on my mind and I need to think,” he said. “Everything is fine, but can we talk tomorrow?” Chrissy was concerned, but she said she understood, and they hung up.

“Be a better man than your father. ” Jonathan thought of his father as smart and successful. He considered him to be strong. But he understood what his mother said that day now more than ever. “I love my dad, ” Jonathan thought, “but Samuel was right. Dad lost

control of that project and he did not take responsibility for everything that happened. ”

Jonathan finished his dinner, went into the kitchen, and started washing the dishes. He

enjoyed washing dishes; he found the task to be therapeutic. “When I’m older, I’d rather be more like Samuel than like Saul, ” Jonathan admitted to himself. He thought about all of the conversations he had had with Samuel and the information Samuel had sent him.

After finishing the dishes, Jonathan sat down at his dining room table and opened up his laptop. He was about to connect with his mother on video chat, but he changed his mind. “I can handle this myself,” he thought.

Then he reviewed the information Samuel had sent him. “A good manager effectively coaches his team, empowers his team members, and expresses concern for their personal well-being,” Jonathan read. “That is certainly not Saul, but that’s Mom. And it’s Samuel, too. ”

Jonathan then reviewed the self-leadership material Samuel had sent him earlier in the day. “I keep telling myself that I’m not good at helping people with their issues, ” Jonathan thought. “But that’s part of leadership. Every leader, from Little League coaches to elected officials, are responsible for taking care of people. Samuel is taking care of me. No other leader in my career has taken the time to help me understand leadership like Samuel has. ”

“I can do this, ” Jonathan thought. “I’m anxious and uncomfortable, but I’m not alone. Samuel is helping me. I can do this. ”

Jonathan scrolled through the self-leadership document. “How do I change my negative self-talk?” he thought. “Ah, here it is. ‘Instead of saying the negative phrase, replace it. Think your best and not your worst. Rewrite and reframe. Choose a positive thought to record in your brain.’ So ‘I’m not comfortable helping people with their issues’ becomes ...” His mind raced as he searched for a positive self-talk phrase to replace his negative thought.

After a few minutes, he wrote this positive affirmation on a sticky note: “I’m a problem solver. I’m a good listener and everyone respects my point of view. ” He went into the bathroom and taped the note to the mirror so that he would be reminded of the new attitude he was forming every night and every morning.

Jonathan went into his living room and turned on his television and his game console. “Just what I need to take my mind off everything, ” he thought as he put on his headset. A few of his friends were online and he joined them in a game for a few hours, and then he prepared for bed. As he brushed his teeth, he read his note—“I’m a problem solver. I’m a good listener and everyone respects my point of view”—and he thought about this as he got into bed. The sound of rain on the roof of the building and on his windows was like a lullaby, and Jonathan drifted off to sleep.

The next morning, Jonathan woke up and looked out of the window. The rain had passed and the sun was coming up. He took a shower, got dressed for work, and went to the sink to brush his teeth. There was that note again, reminding him of his new attitude: “I’m a problem solver. I’m a good listener and everyone respects my point of view. ”

Jonathan went downstairs and got into his car to drive to work. “I’m going to get promoted at JTS and I’m going to buy a new car, ” he thought. “And I’m going to start saving for house. ” Before he started the car, he picked up his smart phone and replied to the email he’d received from Daniel at Torch Systems. “Th anks for thinking of me, Daniel, ” he wrote, “but I’m fine where I am. Good luck with the new project!” Then he called Chrissy and made a dinner date for Friday night.

Morning and night, Jonathan read his affirmation, “I’m a problem solver. I’m a good listener and everyone respects my point of view. ” He thought about it during the day, and found himself analyzing his own thoughts when he interacted with people. He found himself being more attentive to people around him who were having issues. He did not intervene, but he imagined how he would and he felt he could make a positive difference for some of the situations he observed.

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