Mid-last month, while in a meeting with colleagues, I heard a distinctive voice I recognised.
A new colleague ‘Jarad’ was heading up the project. I remember thinking, ‘I’m glad he’s on staff to manage this.’ It is a project that has seen several changes of staff so far. Unfortunately, as he stood up and walked to the whiteboard to map out the flowchart, I heard that familiar voice say
‘take notes. He’s not going to be here for much longer.’
I have a fairly robust interaction with this particular Messenger, and my mind was instantly reactive (if not a little combative).
What the fuck?!! What do you mean by that? Where is he going?
Jarad’s enthusiasm about the project was obvious and I quickly became angry. If he wasn’t going to see the project through, I immediately thought he was deceiving us about his commitment to the role.
Are you saying he’s lying to us? Why would he do that?
For the remainder of the meeting I struggled to take notes, while at the same time I was firing off my questions, listening to the answers and also attempting to scan a couple of my colleagues I was sure also heard the initial voice. (I look back on this moment with amusement. Typical in these moments. Argue. Debate. Who else heard?)
By the end of the meeting I was convinced Jarad honestly didn’t know he was not going to see out the project.
Sometime over the next 24 hours, he heard from relatives overseas. He was to fly home for family reasons. Within the next 48 hours, he’d put in for a few weeks off work.
A short time later, a colleague who’d been at the meeting asked me what I thought about the project and specifically about his role in the project. I thought it was a really odd question to ask. She also asked me three times in about five minutes.
After deflecting her twice, on the third time I disclosed to her what I’d heard and what I knew to be true – he was not returning from overseas anytime soon. She sighed. Deeply. In that moment, I suspected part of her knew but perhaps not understood consciously until this moment.
I said, ‘there’s nothing you can do based on what I’ve just told you. You’re going to have to wait until you hear from him directly, before you can take any action or make any decision.’
She nodded. For the first time I understood the discomfort someone else might feel to have the experience of knowing or understanding things before they happen.
I am familiar with the time-lag. That folding-in of time. Eventually.
The waiting. Suspending action until other events, people or decisions manifest before taking action or responding to what I know, seen or heard is going to occur. We didn’t wait long. Just over two weeks later he’d resigned.
On the one hand this ‘knowing’ is an amazing privilege. It’s also a tension, sometimes unbearable. At these times, I see-saw between ‘how could they NOT realise X was going to happen?’ to ‘Let me tell you what’s going to happen if you do X, Y or Z!’
Despite the frustration, this experience is one I’m thankful to have. There’s also a part of me that asks ‘…and so?’
I’ve lost count of the times in my employment, personal interaction with friends and community where the outcome or impact of a decision, an attitude, an instruction or desire was clear. To speak up about it, would be an invitation to be maligned, ignored or worse. In the rare times I spoke up, I was ignored, maligned or worse.
That’s the reality of it.
It’s been said elsewhere, “a forth-teller is not received in his own country, among his own family or house.”
I imagine a day where we have people in our communities, boardrooms and meetings who we welcome as something a little like human-barometers. A more integrated loop of action and impact. Like human-registers of energies in the space.
In the meantime, I keep these moments of forth-telling and fore-telling to myself.
21 November 2017