I have a desk in my bedroom. It’s not much—a tiny workspace—but it’s all mine. I plug in my computer next to a red coffee cup crammed full of sharpened, yellow pencils. I also have a stack of lined, yellow paper, just waiting for me to scratch out ideas I consider worthy of further exploration. Between bookends made of polished rock stands an old dictionary my mother used 60 years ago while she was a secretary at the Ames Trust and Savings Bank. On one side of this Webster’s Unabridged is a little Peter Drucker book with daily business tips, and on the other side is a tattered book about John Adams that’s full of blue sticky tabs that mark episodes in his life I find courageous or inspiring.
This is a comforting space. If my life were a game of tag, this would be my home base.
Of course, my life is made up of many other spaces, lots of them not as cozy and predictable as my desk. Whether I’m sitting in a dentist’s chair, waiting in line at the not-so-super market or pacing within an airport terminal, the actions of other people and the evolving circumstances often control what will happen to me next. Typically, the further I venture out in these other spaces, the more power and control I give up. Let’s face it, there are people out there with their own personalities, agendas and expectations. And often, they don’t match with mine.
On good days, when I’m thinking clearly, I fully understand and accept this fact. On super days, I enjoy dreaming up what’s going through these other people’s minds, appreciating the complexities of their lives and wishing them all happy outcomes.
Unfortunately, there are other days when my insecurities kick in. I feel victimized or sorry for myself for being stuck. My self-talk complains about how others are confining my freedoms, how little corners of my life are disappointing, challenging or unfulfilled. I try to figure out who I can blame for my own messes. I hide out from taking personal responsibility. In short, my thinking really stinks in these gloomy moments.
That’s why it is so important for me, on these cloudy days, to rush back to my desk, my little workspace. There, I can grasp my red coffee cup and caress each yellow pencil. I can reaffirm that I am the creator of each of my days, that my beliefs, feelings and actions are the drivers of my life, no matter what space I have entered. I can write whatever I wish on my lined, yellow paper. And my mother’s dictionary can provide me the spelling of words like auspicious, propitious and felicitous to describe this marvelous world of mine.