Saturday, December 14, 2013

Warm Associations

What if you received a Christmas card with this line in it:
"I look forward to the warm association we will continue in the coming year."
What if it came from your neighbor? A co-worker? Your pastor? A friend? Would you be OK with the words "warm association"? What if it came from your sister? Or Mom & Dad?
Not so good. Kind of cold, huh?

This line was in a Christmas e-card I received from my workplace financial advisor. It was blasted out to hundreds of employees wishing them the joys of the season and all the best for the new year. The words "warm association" really caught my eye. Yes, we are associates. I see you a few times a year by appointment only and you tell me if I am on track with my retirement financial planning and investments. We chat about the weather outside, the conditions of the market; you recommend this or that and I nod, not being a numbers person and say, "Sure, that sounds good."  Basically, my money stays right where it is and you say you're glad to see me and I'm looking good and I return the compliment and then I walk out of your tiny temporary office at my work location while the next eager employee, just years from retirement, rushes in with her portfolio in hand. NEXT! Time for your warm association!

If I sent a Christmas card to a family member and wrote, "I look forward to our warm association in the coming year" they would think I was either joking or rude. I am known for being a jokester so they would probably look for the cheesy "Christmas letter" to go along with my card. You know the one that brags about everything the family has accomplished in the past year and conveniently leaves out all the negative?

Hello Friends, Family and Warm Associations,
Seasons Greetings! Wow, didn't 2013 go fast? We wanted to update you on all the things God blessed us with this year, or at least those few things we can fit in these fourteen single-spaced typed red and green pages! 
Our little Jimmy climbed Mount Everest! Twice! We're thankful that we sent him to those private climbing lessons in kindergarten even though we had to refinance our 6 bedroom, 5,500 square foot house in Brentwood to do it. Our eldest, Sally, graduated from high school this year (VALEDICTORIAN JUST LIKE HER MOTHER!!!) and got into Harvard, but she is just going to have to be OK with med school at Stanford because we want her close. We agreed that if she would stay close, we would allow her to use our late model (2013) Audi A8 as a "transportation car" to get from point A to point B. (Point A=Standford, Point B=Our beach house in Carmel!) 
It wasn't just the kids who had major achievements this past year! This past summer, Bruce and I took that European language tour we always dreamed about. (This trip is only for those who can speak fluent French, German, Portuguese, Spanish and of course, English with the Queen's accent.) We plan to do the Asian one this summer, so if you speak Mandarin, Japanese and Thai feel free to join us! We plan to leave in March after a short 7 1/2 week trip to the Seychelles.

May God bless you as much as he has us,
The Jones Family
PS) Would you believe won Publisher's Clearinghouse? All those subscriptions to The Smithsonian and The New Yorker really paid off!

One year, I actually did include a joke Christmas letter in with my Christmas cards to family. I don't remember all I put in the letter, but I do remember that it was quite sarcastic and good for a laugh. I didn't do that this year, nor did I write "I look forward to our warm association."
But the card from my financial advisor did make me think.
Is my life just full of warm associations?
There are so many people I love in my life and I would say I am an openly loving person, although not hugely affectionate or overly demonstrative. I know people who, do to traumatic negative love experiences (i.e. lack of love from parents in childhood, betrayal by a significant other, etc.) are not able to love fully. I am not one of those people. When I love, I love, and have no problem saying the words "I love you" and meaning it.
But I am also so busy, so driven, so independent, so happy to be left alone, that I can fail to connect in meaningful ways with important people in my life. Sure, I call, I write, I check in, I go to lunch, I hug briefly, send Christmas cards and gifts and then get back in the fast lane or disappear into my quiet cove. Part of it is my job, which keeps me quite busy, and part of it is my personality. I am like my dogs. I need attention for a little while, but then for God's sake, just cover me with a blanket and leave me alone on the couch. And give me a book or my laptop so I can write. (That last part is me, not my dogs. My dogs can't read or write, but if they did, you can bet it would be in my Christmas letter!) Don't get me wrong --I love being around people, and have a great time when I am with them, but I am one of those folks who also thoroughly enjoys being alone. I relish my quiet time. I'd trade a rockin' holiday party for a quiet night browsing at Barnes & Noble in a heartbeat. At work, I laugh, network, joke and "play well with others" but I prefer working on projects alone or in small teams. And I dread workplace lunches.
Really? We all have to eat together in the party room at Mimi's Cafe? You mean I have to spend $20 for a salad and a water and repeat, "No I haven't seen the latest episode of "The Real Housewives of Miami" for an hour?
OK, so it is not that bad, but you get my point. I would rather take that hour to munch on a home-made turkey sandwich by myself in the break room while I prop up a book with my free hand. There might be one or two other people in the room. Fine. As long as they are reading, too. Or meditating. Or humming quietly and strumming a guitar with their eyes closed.

I know I am not the only one who feels this way. There is a new book out that I just finished recently (See what can be accomplished when you just say "no" to Friday night parties!):  Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain  Get the Book for $3 Here
She shares how introverts, often overlooked, are good "barometers" of what is really going on in an organization because instead of bouncing off the walls and chatting away at the water cooler, they are paying attention, listening, observing, watching and absorbing. For this reason, they should be included in the decision making process and can be very good leaders. They are usually respected for being cool headed, sensitive and possessing good listening skills. This is a good thing, but it can also mean that introverts have few close friends and mainly just "warm associations". I guess as we get older that tends to happen anyway; we lose the junior high need to be surrounded by friends and constantly pelted with "Xs and Os", but I want to be careful that I'm not disconnecting with others because I am "too busy." I do REALLY love my friends, neighbors, family and co-workers. I am not afraid to show it. I just need to slow down a bit and let it show more often. Yeah, work will get in the way sometimes and alone time is OK. But if the people who really matter turn to mere "warm associations" then I will be really missing out on the true joys of season. LIFE is but a season after all, and there can be a chill in the air, so it's time to turn up the heat on those "warm associations."
Not with my financial advisor though. That would be weird.

-Hope A. Horner, 2013
Follow on Twitter - @HopeNote
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Contact author at hopeh1122at gmaildotcom

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