It's 7 AM on a Sunday morning and I am a fat, pimply, awkward dork in the basement kitchen of Community Bible Church in Brighton, Michigan. You find me standing next to the row of commercial-grade coffee machines, churning out pot after pot of coffee that tastes like somebody put out their cigarette butts in it. I'm having a conversation with my boss, the Director of Facilities at the church, Jennifer Villemonte, about cleaning out the in-line water filter so we can speed the process up when the senior pastor, Darrell Holden, walks through the door. With a sour look on his face, like he's just realized how bad this coffee really is, he's holding a mass-produced Bible that sits in the back of the chairs for the church. It's been shredded to high hell. The covers are torn, the pages are ripped, and there are missing chunks from the middle of the book. It's like a hellhound broke into the church and decided to take out its eternal fury on this particular book.
With big puppy dog eyes, Darrell looks up at us and says, "In seminary, they teach us reverence and respect for this book. But they never taught us what to do with it when it's time to let it go."
We stand there in silence for a moment and it's clear that Darrell's having a difficult morning figuring out what to do with this problem. In two quick steps, Jennifer walks across the room in her tennis shoes, which she always wears, and snags the book out of Darrell's hands.
This is quite entertaining as Jennifer is 5'5" on a good day and Darrell's a former football player who is at least 6'4". "I've got this," Jennifer snaps in the definition of an emphatic statement, without any level of doubt she picked up from being a bartender in Boston for a decade, driving a lifted Mack truck, and chain-smoking cigarettes.
Darrell hands over the Bible, without another word, retreats from the kitchen to prepare for the service. Jennifer looks up to the cinderblock ceiling of the kitchen and basement and says something like, 'Thank you, Lord, for your good words and your provisions,' and then merrily tosses the Bible halfway across the room into a 55-gallon black trash bag full of wet coffee grounds and tells me to take out the trash before Darrell sees it. She then wheels her cleaning cart out of the kitchen to finish checking that the setup crew didn't mess up the tables in room 108, like they've done for the last three weeks in a row.
When I think back on that moment, I'm reminded of how tied in knots we can get about something so simple. It's not that we can't do something because I can assure you the 6'4" football player was perfectly capable of placing a 15-ounce Bible in a trashcan halfway across the room, especially because he coached the high school basketball team, but because there's some inner blockage that stops us.
Sometimes we do need to sit in a dark room with a notepad and fight the inner blockage. To talk it through with a therapist, to journal about it, to set it as our intention of clearing in a hot Vinyasa yoga class. But sometimes we just need to ask the retired Bostonian bartender, Jennifer, for help at 7 AM on a Sunday morning. Sometimes the right answer isn't to fight through the blockage. It's to hand the keys of the car to somebody else who will accomplish what needs to be done using 3% of the energy that it would take you.
That's becoming more and more the case these days. There are things that I know I need to get done and there's some massive internal blockage. Things like balancing my personal budget, updating my résumé, responding to reviews on Google, and often times the little mundane tasks that I just avoid indefinitely because they're somewhat awkward and I can easily justify doing something else.
So the Jennifer Villemonte method is this – decide where you need to go and then show up to a Zoom call or to a dining room table and turn over the keys for the next hour to a trusted friend and have them tell you what to do for the next 60 minutes. You just sit and type on the computer and click the buttons they tell you to click. Your input is welcome but you're not driving this car.
I have a friend who's good with money. Her name is Kate and she's got her MBA and is fearless when it comes to money management, especially when it's not her money. Personal budget, tax preparation, credit scores, and retirement strategies are all effortless for her, but they're like pulling teeth for me when it's my money. So once every two weeks, Kate and I sit down at the dining room table with a cup of sumptuous coffee, which puts the cigarette butt coffee at Community Bible Church to shame, and I do what Kate tells me to do. It's not scary because all I need to do is click the buttons that Kate is telling me to click and things work out for the best. Sometimes I pipe up and turn the plan a little bit but mostly I just follow Kate's pointer finger on my screen.
Yes – maybe one day I'll work through my scarcity mindset and childhood trauma around money and systemic family systems. Perspectives around what constitutes enough. But until I get that done, I'm going to use the Jennifer Villemonte method and hand the keys to somebody else that I trust and just do what they tell me to do.