I felt very tired this morning and found the church service a little difficult to follow. The passages from the bible were the most involved aspects of the sermon but in the end it is all about interpretation. That is where the church’s power has always been – interpreting complicated texts for their own means, while the rest of us are grateful for the explanations. This is the cynical part of me (which is still present), and it was with me in the church as I wondered how much of the Pastor’s reading was inspirational and how much was propaganda. However sceptical I may be, and it is undoubtedly increased by tiredness, there is always something I can take away with me. The main learning point today was that whatever I do it should be inspired by God and not done for my own gain or to boost my ego or reputation.
Back in the office I made a start on my appraisal while everyone else worked outside on the conservatory. Sunil and Dev worked together putting the large brackets on the wall and Robert paired up with Kuldip to dig the holes for the metal uprights. Karaj was superfluous and not feeling very well so he took his negativity away from the productive space and went with me to the hardware shop to get some bolts. When we returned, work on both projects was well under way and, having abandoned my appraisal, I worked with Karaj on cutting the beams for the roof.
We had lunch with Shona and afterwards I could barely stay awake. All I wanted to do was lie down and sleep, but we went straight out into the garden and picked up where we had left off. Work on the wooden beams was dropped in favour of erecting the metal frame. This was a tricky job, made easier by Robert’s swift and skilled work on the two holes for the uprights. My job was to drill the bolt holes in the uprights to fit the horizontal bar. By this time my tiredness was long gone and I was energised.
Robert assisted me and towards the end he told me to slow down. I was not in any rush and did not feel particularly frustrated, but I was anxious about the holes being accurate because any mistakes would be time-consuming and very awkward. Robert’s comment was unnecessary as far as the speed of my work was concerned but I really appreciated it because it was a reassuring contact – he was there and he let me know it. I felt much more a ease after hearing those words and in a way it opened the doors for Robert and I to relate with each other for the rest of the day.
The more I think about what happened between us when clearing out Sunil’s garage, the more I realise the significance of that day for both of us. My behaviour may have been inappropriate at the time but I have learned a lot from it about myself, about Robert and about how to relate to people. The learning from that day continues. Ironically, after telling me to slow down, Robert rushed to get me a towel once we had finished, and fell into the hole he himself had dug.
[Karaj: That is when you know someone is scoring a point.]
As the afternoon and evening wore on I spent my time making sure that everybody had everything they needed to complete their work. This was an easy task because of the cohesion between us – although we were working in groups, it seemed everybody knew what everyone else was doing (with the exception, perhaps, of Kuldip – he was his usual tentative and disengaged self). Because of the teamwork, communication was very effective. I noticed that my communication was not only kept to a minimum, which is the norm when working among men, it was also clear and calm and straight. My job was made even more effective because I knew almost instinctively what was happening, what people required and what needed to be done. I felt tuned in.
Seeing The Process
In the feedback session, once everyone had talked briefly about their day, Karaj went through the events of the past few days with us, so that we fully understood what had happened with us. The conservatory project is a big undertaking and for the first day nothing really happened. Sunil and Karaj discussed at length how they were going to approach the job. They changed their minds time and again – a sign of their reluctance to make a start. Dev and I stood on the periphery of these discussions – we too were reluctant.
On Friday evening Sunil decided he would take part of the toilet roof off to at least prepare the work which needed to be done to move the soil pipe. This small effort drew Karaj in, who took Dev with him. During my break I became involved and when Robert arrived he also played a vital role in our efforts to finish on time. So, from one small initiative on Sunil’s part, the whole project started up. Suddenly there was energy, and from nowhere we achieved so much in only two hours on Friday evening.
The creative discussions returned on Saturday during the men’s group as, once again, Sunil and Karaj exchanged ideas. This gave them time to come up with new ideas and work resumed today. There was encouragement and excitement from Sunil and Karaj, both of which were a considerable help in overcoming our reluctance and procrastination, but the truly effective ingredient has been our commitment. It is our commitment to everything we do which provides us with our successes. We are committed to sorting ourselves out and we are producing positive results. That same commitment has spurred us on to today’s success with the conservatory. It is a complex project, calling for design and re-design on site as the job evolves. Karaj calculated that nine phases of work have been brought together today. We have achieved a great deal and produced excellent work.
Putting Our Feedback Into Perspective
When we went round again with our feedback for the day Karaj put each of our comments into perspective. Every one of Dev’s comments became a leadership quality and when I talked about the cohesion between us all, Karaj told me that I created that cohesion 20 months ago by my desire for people to take the opportunities they have here. The fact that I know that everyone is aware what is going on, means that I am in charge. I am supportive and a team player, and it is my job to make sure that all visions – individual and group visions – are realised.
The issue with my back is a blessing because it allows me to take a step back from the front line and oversee what is going on. I hold the space and I am responsible for it. I also support Karaj. I need to own what I have achieved here and accept the acknowledgement. Karaj continued, saying that my search for the truth has led me to all of this because this is the truth. He added that if I hadn’t returned after my operation then the Sundays would not exist as they do now because people simply would not come – they would be too preoccupied with wondering who is next to go.
Robert commended my courage. It is only a matter of weeks since a serious back operation yet I am very involved in all that happens here. I have not let my pain get me down and I have not moaned about it.
Sunil was told in his feedback that he is a genuine helper and that with the other men he has finally found people who can give him genuine feedback. He is learning to receive and he is seeing that when he gives a little of himself he receives a lot in return. With the support he has, he is slowly being released from his caution with the world and will be free to pursue his visions.
Robert expressed joy, release, ownership and power at the day’s work. He was told to open up and share his intellect with Karaj and with the group. That way he can be himself completely with us and will have no need to interact the way he does with people at work which is precisely where he fucks himself up.