Anytime we put a lot of time, money, skill or energy into something, we naturally want to reap the rewards and satisfaction of our efforts. We want our work to be noticed, appreciated, or admired. We lose 20 pounds, we are thrilled when someone notices. We do a major renovation on the house, or a new paint job in a room, we hope someone will ooh and ahh. We buy a new fabulous outfit or shoes, we wear them with pride and wait for someone to notice. Get a new hair cut or style, and someone is bound to toss out a compliment. We toil through a major project at work or school or in a community group, and we love to see it all come together or hear a “nice job” or thank you. Even if we are doing some anonymous community or charity work, it still feels great to see our efforts benefit someone else.
But what of the things that go totally unnoticed? What about the projects or expenses that are totally necessary but are virtually invisible? There are plenty of these if you are a homeowner. Get a new HVAC system? Yeah, you’ll be happy when it works, but it’s not like anyone is going to go into your basement and say “wow, that’s a beauty.” (Well, ok, my Dad would have, he was an HVAC engineer… but probably no one else). Invest in a new roof? Yup, beats having leaks, which someone would notice, but it’s not like you are going to have a celebratory backyard party and ask everyone to stand back, crane their necks, and bask in the beauty of new shingles. (You COULD of course do this, but it will likely be the last party invitation anyone would accept.) You may feel like you accomplished something major (which you did) yet there isn’t anything fun or exciting to show for it. Just an emptier bank account or higher credit balance. Where’s the celebration? Where’s the “yay me”? Where’s the “wow, good for you?”
I had that same feeling today. After two months, multiple visits, pain and plenty of expense, I finished up a root-canal-tooth-buildup-new crown procedure with my dentist. My dentist, a great guy who somehow finds joy in what he does, was excited to hand me a small mirror so I could see the final result. He explained how they had matched the color to my other teeth, it is good and strong, and doesn’t it look great, etc. The tooth is the last one on my bottom right. And as I peered in at it with the bright dental overhead light reflecting on its shiny newness, I realized that no one except my dentist, and me when I brush and floss, will ever see it. But there it is, in all its glory. If anything, it now makes the other side of my mouth less attractive because there’s a hole towards the back on that side where a problem tooth had to be extracted and I can’t afford the suggested implant. So I suppose Mr. Nifty New Crown could be getting compliments, or jealousy, from my other teeth. And yes, it will help me eat. Yes, it probably will help keep things aligned. But after literally much pain, time, and expense, I’ve got nothin’ to show. Similar to the failed backyard roof party, if I opened wide and told friends and family to “check this out!” they’d awkwardly turn down any similar requests in the future.
What else do we have in our lives that we work hard for and have nothing to show? A healed pulled muscle? An organized file drawer? A defrosted freezer? A simplified email inbox? Cleaned and re-hung curtains? Lost 5 pounds? All awesome accomplishments that no one else will notice.
So I have an idea. I think every time we have an unnoticeable accomplishment, we should do something simple and noticeable to commemorate it. Like plant a bunch of daisies in a pot by your front door after the HVAC system is done. Put down a new rug in your foyer when the roof is completed. Wear a fabulous scarf when you lost 5 pounds. Hang a favorite photograph on the wall next to the newly cleaned curtains. And enjoy responding to the compliments:
“Cool new rug!” “Thanks, isn’t my new roof beautiful?”
“Wow, pretty flowers!” “Yeah, my new HVAC system really is awesome.”
“Great shoes?” “Thanks, yes, my knee is feeling better.”
Sure, we’ll get confused looks, but we will have gotten noticed.
And trust me, complimenting my soon-to-be-purchased fabulous new earrings will be a whole lot less awkward than looking into my mouth.