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Writers read. It creates deeper thought in our brains, sparks creativity, and adds connections to our ever philosophizing minds. One of my favorite things about quarantine life is having more time to finish books and sink into articles that add more depth, challenge my beliefs and make me think.  I finished Mom & Me & Mom this week by Maya Angelou, and it left me inspired to do my best job even better.  To any mom out there feeling discouraged or unseen for the job that you do, I can’t recommend this book more. It will remind you of the importance of your efforts and the blessing of the bond that is ours to foster. These two women were utterly inspiring in the way they traveled their path of history and the mark their character left on this earth for others to emulate long after they left us. It is an incredible reminder in these times that human beings have foraged daunting paths before us with incredible success. 

Their lives reinforced my belief that when we have the courage to be ourselves and not judge people harshly, we unleash our power to make an impact and lift others at the same time. 

Here is another article that caught my eye this week.  Not only do I practice social distancing, I also practice distance from the 24/7 news cycle, and Dr. Anthony Fauci is one of my few trusted outlets for solid information.  Since I always like a good sports story, this one cut to the heart of my belief that sports develops character on the court that carries us through life. People often ask me, why do you send your son to a private school when there are good public schools just down the street.  My life experience tells me that every child is different (I’m on my third high school with three different kids). My decisions are also shaped by my own experience, having transferred to a small Catholic high school my freshman year from a bigger public high school.  It was the first great decision of my young life. The more intimate, faith based environment, changed the way I viewed myself as a person in the world, and I am grateful for and, thanks to social media, keep in touch with, the teachers and coaches who shaped this time in my life still today.  San Joaquin Memorial High School gave me an environment where I felt seen and heard, and built my confidence that I had something to contribute to the world. Before this daily experience I had a hard time finding my footing in larger schools. Although my high school was a diocesan Catholic high school, my son attends Loyola High School, a Jesuit Catholic high school, like Dr. Fauci did.  The philosophy of creating “men for others” is exemplified by Dr. Fauci’s life and confidence to speak truth to power, and was formed both on the court, and in the classroom, of St. Regis High School, a Jesuit high school in NYC. Knowing this way of thinking is infused into my son’s day at a formative age, along with try guidance, gives me hope that he will recognize his duty and the impact he can make on the world from a young age. I often worry that he won’t understand the place of privilege that he was born into in our society. Although he has certainly experienced some difficult times in his life, his path and the genetics that he was born with, including parents that love him, a roof over his head, financial resources, and God given talent and intelligence, make it easy to take a position of privilege for granted. Perspective is a trait that can take a lot of work and years to develop and I work on infusing it in small ways daily.  Loyola has done an amazing job communicating and educating their students in this difficult period of time and I’m continually grateful for his experience.

A few days later, when I read my favorite weekly column, this quote created the connection between my thoughts about his Jesuit education and the natural advantage he has come by in this life. 

“The key concept that everyone has to understand is hardship generally makes people stronger. Fear, challenge, threat, - unless they are extreme - tend to produce growth, not damage.”  -

The COVID-19 pandemic is a hardship on so many levels…social, emotional, economic to name just a few.  We are being forced to wrestle with feelings of loneliness and disconnection that cut to the heart of what matters most to the human experience. My heart hurts for the seniors out there that are missing the traditional conclusion of these formative years. But more and more, I see that they are in training for greater things, I hear it in conversations of gratitude and appreciation around the dinner table and in their ability to laugh even under difficult circumstances. The younger generation has the chance to let this hardship grow them in ways that will make them stronger, grateful and more self aware at a younger age…what a gift.   We never know all that we can gain from heartache unless we have the courage to sink into it.  The challenge in this time is have the courage to self reflect and connect the dots, and that is one of the trademarks of a Jesuit education. The lessons are here for us to come through this stronger and more united. Easter is a celebration of rebirth and resurrection. Can we know ourselves better and be inspired from within by our own sense of purpose and ability, and emerge from the time with a deeper sense of connection and purpose? If we can, our society will be a greater force for good when we emerge from the great pause.

P.S. - I realize that the WSJ requires a subscription to read these links I posted, here is the link for the introductory offer if you are interested.

I’ll be honest with you, this weeks blog almost didn’t happen, not because I didn’t write, but because I was beating myself up over the struggle to maintain my optimists lens at many points throughout the week. I had to coach myself to remember that optimism isn’t about blindly trusting everything will be the way we think it’s best, it’s about having the courage to dig deep and trust in our skills to know we can handle whatever comes at us, whether that brings immediate joy or continued growth. At many points this week, this wasn’t easy for me. From school being done for the year, to the boys volleyball season being officially cancelled, to missing the beach, the water, and volleyball, I definitely faced some challenges in the reframe. But early this morning, it came to me from a simple quote from the indomitable Maya Angelou and the conversation that became my church last Sunday as I walked my dog: 

“Faith Trembles.”

Simple wisdom that brought tears to my eyes.  In two words she reminded me that it is human to doubt, to lose your center and your grounding, but that we have everything we need already within us to acknowledge it and get back to our foundation, our true self. It is our human duty when we are in this place, to circle back and find our footing, because when we do, all things are possible.  Listen to her story, Part 1 and Part 2, and tell me that human potential is not utterly awe inspiring. 

So, being that daily normal is going through a major adjustment right now, I woke with some simple steps to manage the struggle and the household when it gets real, hope they help:

  1. Admit When You Struggle - Let it out.  This week I felt alone, a lot.  Even with the kids around me, who I know are exactly who they are supposed to be, who make me laugh and bring me joy, silliness, dancing, and laughter, it’s hard not to have another adult, to talk to in the evenings. I remember what it was like, and in my saddest moments, it leaves me wanting someone else to BBQ, listen, and rub my shoulders when I’m tired…my dad is so good at this. When I talk to my parents on the phone, I’m so grateful for their experience together, there is no one on earth they would rather be sheltered in place with, and that is going on 50 years this summer.  They are the greatest example of selfless love. Loneliness has been my greatest struggle and reframe this week, but just letting it out makes it feel so much better. I do have people who have my back, listen, and encourage, who make my life rich, deep, and meaningful. So I say thank you for that to them, trust that I am where I’m supposed to be, and keep moving. 

  2. Experience, Don’t Manage - With all of this togetherness, it can seem like a tentative place to express our feelings, but something that I realize I became good at as I got older, was managing life for a certain result that I believed had to happen, instead of experiencing life, expressing my feelings, and trusting that I would be ok no matter what the result. We are all strong, resilient, and have everything within us to thrive, even under difficult conditions. But management over experience looks like controlling the pace and topic of conversations, and carefully steering uncomfortable feelings away, back under the surface where they have a chance to grow roots in lower vibrations of shame and guilt, rather than bringing them to the surface so we can experience love and acceptance. Self management hesitates to speak for fear of the response or rejection. When I look back, I can see in my minds eye, and feel it as the muscles in my neck start to tense, that I was an excellent manager.  I’ve changed that. From a parents perspective, and especially in these uncertain times, I want to help them figure out their feelings. Loving them best is to sit and listen to whatever arises within them and letting them know it’s ok to let it out. It’s not my job to figure out how to get it neatly tucked back in, like a freshly made bed with hospital corners…I hate it when my feet can’t get out of the sheets! 

  3. Do Your Own Dishes - Half the time, I’m living under a roof with 5 teenagers (ok, one of them is a month shy of 13, but he’s 5’11, about to pass me in size, and definitely capable, and I love having an extra one of Lauren’s teammate who is waiting to get back to Spain). I would love to say that from my earliest parenting days I have been the driver who had the patience to sit back and teach and watch as they learned. But in the earlier days, I saw serving as loving and did way too many things for them. I also saw my way as the fastest and most efficient to get things done. When it comes to kids, house work, and life skills, teaching is loving, so the dishes…and a lot more daily chores are shifting to them, so that we emerge from this struggle as a more cohesive, able bodied team. 

  4. Nap - Not feeling guilty about this! The days are giving us time to rest from traffic, from duties outside our homes, and our usual running around business. Try the power nap and see if it works for your biology.  Set a timer on your phone and let yourself drift off for 20 minutes.  It a game changer for active recovery and helps us manage stress and build our immune systems…two things that are on the front burner right now. 

  5. Focus on what you have, not what you don’t - Here is the reframe…this one brings my first point full circle. Say thank you out loud a lot (another tip from the Maya podcast). I’m grateful for quiet mornings and early light, my health, my kids who make me laugh until I cry, my animals who sit with me in the quiet, my tight circle of people who do, in fact, get me, the roof over my head, and the food in my fridge. There is no perfect life, but gratitude makes the present moment perfect. I’m going to do my best to stay there…and when my faith trembles, I know how to bring it back.

As I sit here this morning with the pink light rising in my backyard, my own quote is coming to mind.

“Sometimes you just need another sunrise.” 

Morning is best.  It’s going to be a good day. 

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