Articles by Jim Gainan

As published in the Billings Gazette

Growing up: Find inner peace this season by setting reasonable goals

Last week I wrote about the word ‘peace’ and its meaning to me.  As I typed each word a fear came over me, to the point that when I reached the end, I almost didn’t submit it.  What an ideal to live up to.  But, I’m glad I did because it is exactly how I was feeling at the moment and even today, over a week later. 

I was waiting for co-workers and family members to ‘call me out’ and say “What about that day you were short with me?” or “What about the day that you disassembled  a brand new front-loading washing machine apart to the point that it was metal and bolts looking for that ring? Where was your PEACE then?”

Luckily, either no one read the column or they understand that while it is an admirable goal, living up to that ideal is impossible.  I’ve finally figured out that anything to its extreme isn’t good for me.  In relationships or the garden, true satisfaction or peace comes if I set reasonable goals with ample time to achieve them, being sure to stay present to those around me during the process. 

There is one caveat.

During work-related big events, weddings on mountain tops, and huge deadlines, I reserve the right to be completely relentless in the pursuit of perfection.  Alan Anseth is one of the many people who transforms North Broadway for the Billings Clinic Classic.  I can’t work with a string of lights without thinking of him.  He regularly reminds me to this day of a time when I may have, well let’s just say, been less balanced. 

The year was 1999 and I was the chair of the street party.  We designed a complicated lighting scheme.  Alan was my go-to-guy for problems with set up.  As I raced around, I remember finding Alan at the top of a ladder, risking his life completing two of my previously-requested tasks.  When I started to yell another request up to him, it appeared that he had gone to a ‘happy place’ in his mind — any place I wasn’t! 

To snap him out of his temporary fog, I yelled, “Alan, LOOK AT ME; I need to know that you hear me!”  It got his attention. 

But his response got mine.  Most would have met me with an equally forceful “WHAT” or some other four letter word. But, he didn’t.  He just said, “Yes, we’ll do it…no problem!” 

I remember thinking “What do I do with this?” I was ready to get a little irrational, but I couldn’t because he obviously saw that nerves and variety of other things had overcome me. His decision was to just help me.

I don’t mean to make him sound like Ghandi or something.  For all I know he has a voodoo doll or a dart board in his office with my picture on it.  But, he did teach me a fast lesson — everyone is carrying some burden, whether it is visible or not and we have a choice. Do nothing, respond with equal force and let it become a division, or lend a hand and make a life-long friend.

As I look back at that I feel grateful that Alan, a gentleman and a scholar chose the high road, placated me and let the tide pass. (Pardon the pun, it was an under-the-sea theme that year!)

 He was my teacher.  However, my wiring is still the same.  I expect a lot from myself.  High expectations have served me well in many areas of life. But, the most important truth that I’ve learned is that if perfectionism begins to take over and cause distress to myself or those around me, the quicker I seek peace, the better. Especially since for nearly 10 years there hasn’t been a time that a smiley Alan Anseth hasn’t greeted me with, “Jim, LOOK at me”. What a reminder!

The next week is going to be full of opportunities to practice seeking peace quickly.  Take a rough economic year, a full work week, huge gatherings, family dynamics, years of disappointments and combine them with the idyllic expectations we all have for the holidays and there you have it — the perfect opportunity to grow.

This week I plan to work really hard, remaining keenly aware of how grateful I am to be a part of a family, extended family and community of co-workers and friends from whom I learn so much.

Jim Gainan is VP/Shareholder of Gainan’s Flower and Garden Center in Billings.