Monday, November 20, 2017

The center will not hold

Happy to have enjoyed this fantastic documentary over the weekend.   I found myself enamored by Joan Didion, her brilliance, her charm, her unapologetic interpretation of the world.    

I was surprised to see that the reviews were not as great as I thought the film was.  A reminder, I suppose, that we all go to the theater or turn on the tv for a different reason.  For me, it was beautiful.  I thought the direction - combining interviews, old photographs and video clips, her writing - was just right.  She didn't claim to be a perfect mother and the grief and reflection surrounding the death of her daughter felt raw and real to me.   I wanted more.... it prompted a trip to the bookstore and a Sunday morning coffee date with her 1970 classic, Play it as it lays. 

I don't know what Griffin Dunne's goal was in producing this film. If it was to prompt an interest from a reader who was otherwise not very informed about the life and work of Joan Didion to dive deeper, he was successful. 

A few lines worth remembering:

“Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life — is the source from which self-respect springs.”   

“I'm not telling you to make the world better, because I don't think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I'm just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave's a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that's what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.”   

“Although I have felt compelled to write things down since I was five years old, I doubt that my daughter ever will, for she is a singularly blessed and accepting child, delighted with life exactly as life presents itself to her, unafraid to go to sleep and unafraid to wake up. Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.”   

On Trump:  There's no subtext or subtlety in what's going on politically. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Helping Hands

Happily supported the Holiday Helping Hands project organized by Together Rising this week.  Glennon Doyle Menton has been a mentor to me as I have navigated my divorce and the rebuilding of our family unit.  For me, participating in her foundation, is a way to say Thank You for the wisdom she generously shares.

700 families were supported through thr Holiday Helping Hands program.  Simple wishes: $100 was the maximum that a family could ask for, just enough to buy some toys for Christmas, a winter jacket... 

I emailed my Amazon gift card directly to a fellow mom, going through a divorce and trying to give her three kids a special Christmas.  No overhead, no administrative cut, just a way to help a fellow mother who may just need a boost this season.  I've been lifted and I've needed lifting.  I'm reminded of this:

It is among the most basic human truths: Every one of us, some day, will be brought to our knees.  By a diagnosis we didn't expect, a phone call we can't imagine, or a loss we cannot endure.  That common humanity inspires our mercy.  It fortifies our compassion. It drives us to look out for the sick, the elderly, the poor and the most vulnerable among us. 

We must decide, instead, to take care of each other -- because, but for the grace of God, we will all one day wake up in need of a little mercy.  This nation's character has never been defined by the power we give the already strong -- but by the strength we give the weak.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Drive: Daniel Pink

Finished this one last week.   I thought it was a worthwhile read if you have an interest in social psychology.  About 60% through I felt that Pink had made his point and did not have much more to say but still an interesting book with a strong case to make.

What do we lose as we move towards more compliance, more regulation, more perceived control?  My intuitive response has long been - we lose everything.  This book gives scientific rational to support that.   Like Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Pink argues that Motivation 1.0 is about satisfying basic needs - food, security and sex.  Motivation 2.0 is based upon reward and punishment.  Motivation 3.0, where many of us currently reside, is about a human need to learn, create and better the world.

  “People use rewards expecting to gain the benefit of increasing another person’s motivation and behavior, but in so doing, they often incur the unintentional and hidden cost of undermining that person’s intrinsic motivation toward the activity.”

“Management isn’t about walking around and seeing if people are in their offices,” he told me. It’s about creating conditions for people to do their best work.”

“Greatness and nearsightedness are incompatible. Meaningful achievement depends on lifting one's sights and pushing toward the horizon.”

"While complying can be an effective strategy for physical survival, it's a lousy one for personal fulfillment. Living a satisfying life requires more than simply meeting the demands of those in
control. Yet in our offices and our classrooms we have way too much compliance and way too little engagement."

“children who are praised for “being smart” often believe that every encounter is a test of whether they really are. So to avoid looking dumb, they resist new challenges and choose the easiest path. By contrast, kids who understand that effort and hard work lead to mastery and growth are more willing to take on new, difficult tasks.”   
Image result for drive daniel pink

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

One year

I haven't written much about my divorce on this site.  I suppose I was waiting to feel more clear about it.

My ex moved out of our house this week, last year.  I remember relief.  There was uncertainty, angst, sadness, anger and just about every other embodiment of fear that any person could feel, but there was relief.  I knew it had to be done.  I knew I had lost the will it takes to keep our marriage moving forward.

We had been together for 15 years when we split.  We would have celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary and our perfect son's 4th birthday later that month.   There was a lot to lose but we were in a free fall towards disaster.   We both agreed.  If we got off the train now, before it collided into a concrete wall, there would be a relationship left to salvage.  We would have the stamina needed to co-parent and do it as well as J deserved.

So, we held our breath and let go.  We told each other that there was no rule to divorce and like everything we had done in our nontraditional love story, we could do this by our rules, too.  Sure, there were bumps along the way - when people are threatened, scared and the foundation of everything they had built their adult life upon is uprooted, no sane person is going to act with complete composure.  But there were proud moments, too. We cooperated. We kept J first. We did well.

Divorce doesn't only affect a nuclear family.  The lives of our parents, family and friends were also challenged by our decision.   I witnessed raw bravery from someone I had known my entire life but had never shown me his true strength.  I saw my childhood girlfriends stand by my side despite not knowing "what to do" as we waded into uncharted territory together, yet again.  I was on the receiving end of weakness and cowardliness - reminding me where I'm coming from and where I'm proudly not going.  A lighthouse emerged in the darkest of days and gave me strength and hope - gifted me with a compass of which I will never lose.  Perhaps what makes me most proud is simply that I kept going.... 

I wanted out of the house and back to the city.  I wanted my beautiful boy to feel loved and happy and safe.  I refused to be anything for him but a role model of strength - we can do hard things.  I refused to raise him in a world where home is dysfunctional and the centers of his universe are not in harmony.   Baby J was born of a dream....  he came true.... and we would not fail him.  Never.  If separating was what it would take to give him the best chance of peace and stability and a model of courage - that is what we'd do.  R and I shared mutual values when we brought our child into this world - we believed in pursuit of dreams, challenging the status quo, goodness and bravery.  The best way to honor those values was to live them.   When the question inevitably comes, the answers for  my beloved boy, is that he has freedom to live his best life. I will love you the same way you loved me.  At 4 years old, my truest partner, J, never doubted that I knew what I was doing and that we would be ok - he loved me like a rock through each and every easy day and hard day.  That is our bond - trust, unconditional love and support to be the greatest version of yourself that you can be.

And a year later, we are becoming a fixed family.  I will not accept the "broken family" verbiage.  J is not growing up in a broken family.  His parents don't live together but they are not broken.  He is not a child of a brokenness.  He is a child born into love and living every day in love.  He is our angel, first and always.  I see pictures and videos and hear the day to day stories from his dad - standing on the podium with him at a BJJ event, laughing with "the guys" at a house party, eating Brazilian food and taking care of the yard.  With me, we do as many fun things as we can - singing, dancing, parties - his joy is undeniable.  We are fixing ourselves and our family, day by day, year by year.


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Belonging via Brene Brown

Via Brene Brown's September Forbes article.

Schawbel: How do you define “true belonging” and how is this different from “fitting in?”

Brown: The quest for true belonging begins with this definition that I crafted from the data:
True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging does not require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.
True belonging is not passive. It’s not the belonging that comes with just joining a group. It’s not fitting in or pretending or selling out because it’s safer. It’s a practice that requires us to be vulnerable, get uncomfortable, and learn how to be present with people without sacrificing who we are. If we are going to change what is happening in a meaningful way we’re going to need to intentionally be with people who are different from us. We’re going to have to sign up and join, and take a seat at the table. We’re going to have to learn how to listen, have hard conversations, look for joy, share pain, and be more curious than defensive, all while seeking moments of togetherness.
Its counterintuitive, but our belief in the inextricable human connection is one of our most renewable sources of courage in the wilderness. I can stand up for what I believe is right when I know that regardless of the pushback and criticism, I’m connected to myself and others in a way that can’t be severed. When we don’t believe in an unbreakable connection, the isolation of the wilderness is too daunting so we stay in our factions and echo chambers.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Halloween 2017

Our first Halloween in the city and what fun we had!  .

We made our way to Dudley Street - A little time on the bike path, some houses were lit and others weren't - it made no difference.  By the time we got to Dudley Street we realized this year's theme was "science".  There were houses with front porches decked as mad science labs, plinko games and so many friendly faces and fun costumes all around.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

True North

Sometimes, when we're lost, we refuse a map, even when offered.
Because the map reminds us that we made a mistake. That we were wrong.
But without a map, we're not just wrong, we're also still lost.
A map doesn't automatically get you home, but it will probably make you less lost.
(When dealing with the unknown, it's difficult to admit that there might not be a map. In those cases, a compass is essential, a way to remind yourself of your true north...)  - Seth Godin