In memory of my mother’s passing, I’m paraphrasing a passage from a book by Parker Palmer. It expresses exactly what I experienced. I share this as a way to reach out to other people who are dealing with loss and grief.
A few years ago, my mother died. She was more than a good person, and the months and years following her death were a long, hard winter for me. But in the midst of that ice and loss, I came into a certain clarity that I lacked when she was alive. I saw something that had been concealed when the abundance of her love surrounded me. I saw how I had relied on her to help me cushion life’s harsher blows.
When she could no longer do that, my first thought was, “Now I must do it for myself.” But as time went on, I saw a deeper truth: it never was my mother absorbing those blows but a larger and deeper grace that she taught me to rely on.
When my mother was alive, I confused the teaching with the teacher.
My teacher is gone now, but the grace is still there. And my clarity about that fact has allowed her teaching to take deeper root in me. Winter clears the landscape, however brutally, giving us a chance to see ourselves and each other more clearly, to see the very ground of our being.
I hope the irony is not lost on you that after years of living in a foreign land under the tutelage of a stranger whose language you’ve had to learn, your words of wisdom for us are: “you can find everything you need inside of you.”
Note: For some reason (probably human error, that is, me) this entry did not post at the determined time, which was weeks ago now. I’m not saying anything new, but I am speaking my mind. I’m sure I will come back to this in later posts.
We witnessed the lynching of a black man. We all did.
And we were reminded of other similarly barbaric and despicable acts taking place in the recent past. Enough instances to lead one to conclude that this also is a pandemic.
Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.
Personally, taking sides consists not only in not being racist but, rather, in being anti-racist. Reading and reflecting on this hand-out from the Racial Healing Handbook: Practical Activities to Help You Challenge Privilege, Confront Systemic Racism, and Engage in Collective Healing by Anneliese A. Singh, PhD, LPC is a good place to start.
For corporations, statements are a modest start but clearly not enough.
I don’t know who decided that being professional was loosely defined as being divorced of total humanity, but whoever did they’ve aided, unintentionally maybe, in a unique form of suffocation.
If I am to perform my duties for 40 hours a week, it’s asinine to assume that the life I live outside of those 40 hours won’t rear its head. Whether I’m a sleep deprived single mother of two or a struggling college student who really needs this internship to graduate, the belief that only the part of me that fattens your bottom line is allowed in the workplace, is stifling.
This is magnified for young black professionals who are recruited for their culture, but told, in so many words, that their blackness and the struggles that come with it are to be left at the door.
A black man went for a run only to be ambushed by two white men, shot and then killed. A black female essential worker was asleep inside her home when police serving a “no-knock” warrant shot her eight times. A white woman, enraged that a black man asked her to follow the park rules lied to cops about being threatened. And a black man died face down on the ground because a white cop suffocated him.
But yeah, I can totally have that presentation for you by end of day, Ted. No problem.
We’re biting our tongues, swallowing our rage and fighting back tears to remain professional because expressing that hurt caused by witnessing black death is considered more unprofessional, than black men and women actually being killed.
So if you can, please, be mindful. Your black employees are dealing with a lot.
I am a fan of keeping a journal. I keep one myself and I encourage the leaders I work with to do the same.
The format does not really matter (what you thought, what you did, what you said, how you felt, etc.) as long as you record it. By recording it you’re acknowledging that it mattered at the time and you’re making it matter now.
You don’t keep a journal to revisit it. You keep a journal to make a record, to state that your day mattered.
to notice and record the moments and experiences in life that bring you joy, or that energise and fulfil you. This one thing will help you appreciate what really matters, and to do more of them. It’s simple to do, and you need nothing more than a pen and paper.
It’s another form of “counting your blessings”. And it will help you keep track of what really matters.
On the last day of class, Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, asks his students to turn those theoretical lenses on themselves to find cogent answers to three questions:
First, how can I be sure that I’ll be happy in my career?
Second, how can I be sure that my relationships with my spouse and my family become an enduring source of happiness?
Third, how can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail?
Though the last question sounds lighthearted, it’s not. Two of the 32 people in my Rhodes scholar class spent time in jail. Jeff Skilling of Enron fame was a classmate of mine at HBS. These were good guys—but something in their lives sent them off in the wrong direction.
As the students discuss the answers to these questions, I open my own life to them as a case study of sorts, to illustrate how they can use the theories from our course to guide their life decisions.