On success

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

Ernest Hemingway

I check my heart on this as often as I can; I need to. There is this thing that spiritual practitioners get caught up in, and that’s spiritual superiority. Like we are more evolved than those who “haven’t done the work”.
We act like we are neutral, kind, and compassionate.
This doesn’t mean I don’t work on loving myself more, nor does it mean I don’t trust myself. This is not to say I dismiss myself either. It just means I need to check myself. I’m in this to feel good, and to find success, through connection, not through upward lateral movement.

Parenting, making mistakes, and leadership

I got married when I was 21, and I had my first child at 29. Up until I decided to have them, I absolutely didn’t want children, case closed. Partially, I think, I didn’t want them because I didn’t know how to relate to them; I was that awkward-with-kids “adult”.
Partially it was because I witnessed so many children acting like “monsters” (my experience at the time, anyway), and their parents looked like they were often at their wits end, completely exhausted.
Partially, I thought this world was an unjust one that I didn’t want to bring more kids into.
But I think mostly it was because I didn’t believe I could be a good parent.

So as I became a mother, there was a question that continually ran through my head (and still does).

What does it mean to be a good parent, and how can I be one?

I’m human, and I make mistakes, many of them. So pretending I don’t make them probably wouldn’t work. Children see through everything, even when we are confident we did a great up job covering things up or diverting.

I can’t project my desires, or force a perfect public image on them… like for them to become doctors, or to get straight As, or to be perfect children who sit still and quietly during dinners out. My parents tried all of that and their efforts didn’t help the relationship.

So maybe I can show them that I can cry when I am sad or hurt, and I can also be upset. Instead of lashing out and name calling, I can exemplify trying to put things into words and actions, and when I don’t get my desired result, I am still better for it.

I can show them that when I make mistakes, I own them. I can show them that justification doesn’t have to be the reaction.

I don’t have to speak to them in baby language. Instead, I can relate to them like respected adults, rated G/ PG.

When they achieve or fail at something, instead of throwing automatic compliments or distractions, I can first see how they feel about it, because they may feel something different. I don’t have to send a message that pleasing me supersedes authentically pleasing themselves.

I don’t have to pressure them to hug and kiss their extended family members, or even their immediate ones, because that should be on their own terms.

I can exercise boundaries around my personal time and space. They don’t need to see me dropping everything for them all the time.

I can have my questions direct them inward to see if their desires are coming from within, or from somewhere else. Rebellion comes from somewhere else; it’s the same thing as a tantrum.
And I can remind myself that tantrums aren’t there to make me miserable or to inconvenience me. They are there to let me know that someone needs something, is in discomfort, or doesn’t feel represented, seen, or heard.

I was thinking about this for leaders at every level.

We expect them to be perfect, yet they are human. Just on higher pedestals and with greater expectations perhaps… and with larger (mis)stakes. I hope that my children – for whom I am the first leader in their lives -don’t ever write me off for the errors of my ways.

Leaders can benefit greatly from owning their mistakes. Turn them into opportunities to demonstrate good leadership by creating better understanding and compassion. We are continuously learning, and so are they. They can show us how to change course, be transparent, and work with others when that happens. They can talk to us like respected adults. They don’t need to lie, spin, blame, and justify; it creates a breeding ground for wild tantrums, and when grownups have them, well, let your imagination fly on that one. The fact that tantrums are happening globally.. even the earth is having them.. tells us that groups aren’t being fairly respected, heard, represented.

Leaders don’t have to get caught up in the big race to the bottom. Instead they can exemplify good discourse and courage. To stand up for things they believe in. And we can listen without agreeing, and also without polarizing. We don’t have to be shocked at their mistakes. We don’t have to write them off. Nor do we have to condone their behaviors. And we don’t have to say, them first. Because we are all parents and leaders, and each of our actions ripple loudly. Arguably more than public leaders because we have the luxury of the private life that affords more flexibility in changing course.

I love you

I love you because you exist. In physical form, in thought, as an idea, you exist.

I get to relate to myself through my experience of you.

You give me the chance to evolve. Whether you give me strength, challenge my tolerance, make me question myself, cause me to experience a great sense of loss, or remind me that I am indeed lovable and loved, it is through you.

It is through you that I get to check my own beliefs, attitudes, generosity, reactions, boundaries, compassion, gratitude, forgiveness, patience, depth of service, and I am sure there’s more.

The word Valentine was derived from valens, which means worthy, strong, powerful. In that we exist to remind each other of our light, our humanity, our worth, our strength, our power, you are my Valentine. Thank you. No matter what is happening, I will always try to remember our service to each other. And even when I have trouble remembering, I am certain that, at some level, I know I love you.

When I am wrong

it’s really difficult to be open about it, or to change, when

you roll your eyes at me.
you make me feel stupid about it.
you yell at me.
you categorize me negatively, even though you say it’s not negative.
you try to school or fix me.
you tell me I don’t get it.
you decide I’m not worth the time.
you avoid me.
you make me out to be the villain in your (or someone else’s) life.

An apology can’t happen because you are asking me to apologize for being out of integrity when I really truly felt that I acted in integrity, and that I did my best.

Wait.

Is this how I make you feel?

I think I need to turn this around for a moment. Please bear with me.
I’ve been open to change, and I know that I have made big changes a number of times in my life, and even small changes along the way.
What external forces helped me to change to assist my inner courage to emerge and rise above the need to defend my ego?

I didn’t feel stripped of my humanity, feeling the need to defend the value of my very existence. Thank you.
I was given the benefit of the doubt that I had my reasons that seemed reasonable to me based on contexts that may never be revealed to you, and possibly even to me, because we humans sometimes act from our unconsciousness. Thank you.
Our disagreement did not put our relationship on the line. You showed me that things don’t always iron out in one or two conversations or even in this lifetime, and that that was okay, you still saw me as worthwhile even though you didn’t agree with me or condone my behavior. Thank you!

Okay.

I need to work on treating you better when I feel polarized.

No one prepares us to step into the unknown

Yet it seems like it’s those that do that experience all the breakthroughs.

With loving intention, we teach our children to play it safe. Because safe gets them a guaranteed paycheck, health benefits, and people that nod and smile with approval. It’s not to say that taking a job that would offer our parents a great sigh of relief is bad. In fact, we feel blessed when what we choose in our lives can give them that peace of mind. The question is, do we know why we are choosing it? Are we doing it for them or, does it come from our own real choice? And once we are there, does the way we do our work, or live our life resonate with us? There is integrity in fiscal responsibility and consideration for others, but do we feel like we are selling our soul for it? Is there another way?

School (hopefully) makes us literate in reading, writing, and math. It does not prepare us to take risks, break rules, think for ourselves, and be okay with ourselves when other’s aren’t. We aren’t taught to be literate in ourselves. Yet, these are the qualities necessary for true, all-around success and good mental and physical health.

While we hope that one day schools can find a way to teach our children these softer, critical skills, we can’t wait for it. We need to become self literate, and we need to show our children by example. It’s not about feeling good by just reading about it. This literacy requires continuous life practice stepping into the unknown and risking the rejection and failure that we are so afraid of. Otherwise we fail ourselves by rejecting who we are and the inner voice that seems to be creating the conflict through our denial. Let’s understand that it’s hard, and it’s scary, because we weren’t prepped for this at all. Let’s decide to prep for it now, and start breaking through the invisible cage into the open world of infinite potential that we are.

Hope vs Understanding

I was listening to an interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates this morning, and he was asked about giving hope to people. He essentially rejects the idea of taking on that role. He is a poet, and poets are not expected to offer hope; in fact they often deep dive into the realm of questions, and of pain and suffering. He is a historian and journalist, and they aren’t there to give hope but to write about what happened.

On a similar note, someone asked how we can give hope to our children, to which he rejects accepting any credibility he could have on the matter of working with or teaching children; he is a writer, which means, his experience is in the quiet world and solace of writing. A teacher or activist, on the other hand, works with people, and the most experienced of them are still in a quandary on how to effectively engage, so how would he know? But he did make an attempt to answer this question.

He thinks that kids aren’t looking for hope. They are looking for understanding. They want to understand why they can’t cross to the other side without feeling like they are in danger while the other can go anywhere and feel safe. He looks at hope, not in the way of saying that everything will be okay, but rather, in offering an understanding of what is happening, and how might we derive personal power in that understanding.