Friday, September 21, 2012

Accountability and pumpkin lattes (my day)

This is the first image that came up under a google images search for 'accountability.' Interestingly appropriate, but not entirely accurate. You see, accountability isn't always about others. Sometimes, it's just about you.

Webster's defines accountability as the quality of being accountable, and accountable as capable of being accounted for or subject to giving an account. In these definitions, the word accountable can also be exchanged for answerable or explainable.

Put in layman's terms, accountability is the quality of being honest. Your yes is yes, your no is no, when you say you're going to be somewhere or do something, you can be *counted on.* In the past, the accountable people have been the ones society could rely on as "good at their word." If they said they'd do it, if they shook hands with you, there wasn't a way in hell you'd find it undone.

Personal accountability is the idea that you don't need someone else to hold you to your word. You don't need someone looking over your shoulder or checking your work to make sure you're doing what you said you'd do. You said you'd do it, and the person who's going to lose the most respect for you if you don't do it is you, and so you're darned well going to do it - not for anyone else, just for you. Personal accountability is what gets you up at six in the morning and into the gym even when you're the only one who will care whether that happens or not - and in that moment you don't actually care much.

In the past, I have had a problem with personal accountability.

Oh, sure, if someone else is depending on me to do something, to be somewhere, I'll darned right follow through. I hate being even the slightest bit late for something, or unable to attend something altogether, for whatever reason, that someone else was expecting me to be at. Especially if I was supposed to play some even minorly important role. No matter how sick I am, I tend to do my best to show up for the people who are counting on me.

However, when it's me counting on me it tends to turn into a whole different story. There's the complaining "Oh, I really don't feel well today. My tummy is a little bit queasy." Then there's the reasoning "Well, it's not like I'd really be letting anyone down if I don't go to the gym." Then there's the bargaining "Five more minutes, then we'll go."

By the way, yes, I do talk about myself in the plural form when talking to myself.

Then comes acceptance. "Okay, we're not going to go. That's cool, we'll go tomorrow." After that comes the plunge overboard "Well, I might as well have some of this cake. I didn't work out today so it's not like I'm cancelling anything out." And then, THEN comes guilt. Way too late. "Gosh, I'm such a horrible person. I ate that whole cake, and I slept in for six whole hours today. Do you know how much we could have gotten done in six hours? A LOT! And I didn't even go to the gym, so that cake is just going to sit on top of my already way too big fat rolls and ...." on and on and on until I pick a fight with my husband because I'm feeling so drattedly terrible over not making right decisions myself.

At least, this has been the pattern in the past. I've been getting better. I don't guilt trip forever. "Well, I feel bad now but it's done with. We'll do better tomorrow." After that I was able to get better about how far overboard I went; "You've already had one piece of cake sweetheart, you don't need two. It was a delicious piece of cake but two is just being greedy." Then I started taking care of going overboard at all! "Well, that cake does look good but don't you want to fit into a smaller dress for the Christmas parties? Have a protein bar, or some goldfish crackers instead. You didn't even go to the gym, so just let it be." And now I'm working on the acceptance. "Come on, there's still time. It's a 24-hour gym, you can go now if you want to. You know you want to. Come on, you'll feel better. Remember the Christmas dress? Please? Pretty please?"

Yes, I beg myself, and repremand myself, in third person. It's weird inside my head. Be grateful you don't live here. I have to be a little crazy just to cope.

Anyway, so I'm making progress. I'm doing better about realizing that I'm the most important person to be accountable to, I'm the person who deserves my accountability the most. After all, if I can't count on myself, who can honestly expect to be able to count on me?

Okay, so there's still a little bit of codependency there, but I AM getting better. That's the point. Mainly. I think.

I bet I know what you're thinking. You want to know what pumpkin spice lattes and accountability have in common, right? They don't seem to be related, do they? Well, they are.

Today, I've had two.

"Two lattes," you say, rightfully confused. "But Laura, weren't you just telling us that you were better at having control?"

Yes, yes I did. And it's true. I've had two lattes today for a very specific reason. You see, having a latte is usually a great way to meet people. Good people, who have goals and dreams and ambitions, tend to also want lattes. So today, in a determined attempt to find one of these people with goals and dreams and ambitions, I had two lattes.

It was a process. I started off in the morning, at the starbucks where I met one such person just yesterday. I ordered myself a venti. Technically it wasn't a latte. It technically was a mocha with pumpkin in it. I like them better that way. I looked around the busy starbucks and saw...

Well, a whole lot of not impressive. No smiles, no interesting books, no ways to start a conversation, everyone was tightly enclosed in their own little worlds.

No problem, I thought, not the least bit conquered. I'll get around this! I'll go let them know there are other worlds out here, exciting ones! And then they won't have to look so gloomy over their little world being the only one they can see!

So I stated the obvious. The weather can be a fantastic conversation starter sometimes, even when not everyone considers it fantastic weather. Dearest was just commenting the other day on how talking about the weather is a subconscious way of determining with the other person what the parameters of your conversation are going to be, and if you can recognize this, you can use it to make excellent conversation.

Well, today the morning crowd at the starbucks were not talkers. My conversation options ended quickly and I went outside to enjoy my coffee and my book alone.

Not entirely deterred, I was not about to give up! I went to my gym (regrettably not to work out, there was an accounting issue that needed fixing). From there I ran a few errands, looking the whole time for some good people with goals and dreams and ambitions who would want to have a conversation. I found a few, but they were already drunk and buying more beer at the local convenience store, so I decided against asking them to go to coffee with me for a longer chat.

A little disheartened, I went home. I made dinner, did some chores, and then headed out for a few more errands. These errands were with people I already knew, at their homes, so there wasn't much chance to make new friends.

But then, on my way home, my accountability kicked in. I had told myself that I was going to make a new friend today, someone with dreams and goals and ambitions. I hadn't done that yet, and there were still starbucks shops open. It was late, not many people are out and still sober at 8:40 on a Friday night, but some of them had to be out there somewhere, and I was willing to bet they'd be at the nearest Starbucks!

Except then I got lost. Sometimes, life throws you a curveball, or maybe God just has other things in mind. I got myself very lost. It started with taking the wrong part of the exit into Southcenter, and somehow I ended up on West Valley Highway. And then, the next thing that looked even remotely familiar was the "welcome to Kent" sign. Too bad it was on the wrong side of Kent and nothing else looked like anything I'd ever seen before.

Then I found it, the one street I actually know in that part of Kent, 212th! This happens to be the street my grocery store is on and I knew that if I just followed it in the right direction long enough, I'd find my way home!

But there, in the opposite direction from the right direction, was another starbucks. It was closed, except in the drive through, and I normally don't consider the drive through of any establishment to be a good place to meet ambitious, goal-minded, dreaming people. But for some reason I decided that tonight, maybe, I just might.

Well, I didn't. But God had other plans. When I was talking to the young man in the drive through he seemed distressed, like life just wasn't going his way today and he was doing his best to just get done with work so he could go home and go to sleep and maybe in the morning all the crap would have gone away. I asked him if there was anything I could pray for him about, and he told me no, but I think he meant that he just didn't want to tell me what it was. So tonight, with my second latte in hand, I drove home thinking about how interesting it is that God can use my desire for greater personal accountability to put me in the path of a boy who really needs someone to pray for him. I will pray for him tonight, even though I don't know what to pray for, because there's really no other reason I can think of for me to have so beautifully botched an attempt to get to a Starbucks and make a friend.

So that's the story of my day, and how my recent decision to be more accountable to myself led me on a  little adventure.

The moral of the story: Sometimes you don't accomplish what you set out to accomplish. But if you stay accountable to yourself and give it your very best shot, you'll usually end up accomplishing something pretty cool.

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