"What if the world was already good?
What if what you seek, you find?
What if everything wasn’t an emergency?
What if we cared more about stories and less about labels?
What if we stopped shouting so we could listen?"
-Chrissy Kelly greatest mom, friend and writer
Her words put a lump in my throat. Our conversation helped me connect the dots today. So often on many issues, I feel like a fish out of water. I have friends that will join the protests, I have friends that are unabashedly pro life, and the thing I know most about all of them is that they are strong women with fierce value systems that rose out of their stories. The last thing I would do is judge or base our friendship on what they think about a woman’s right to choose. But why am I afraid to open my mouth and say what I think? The evolved me answers that question that real issues deserve thought and care, not instant outrage.
If you judge by social media, which I wouldn’t suggest, the masses are not muffled. They are loud and angry on one side and virtuously gloating on the other. They recite strawman arguments and incite fear on both sides. There isn’t a leader in sight who is tempered, compassionate, and direct about what happened with this ruling. This ruling did not make abortion illegal. It denied that abortion is a Constitutional right and turned it back to the states to decide on a state by state basis what the law will be. I live in California, I’m confident that nothing will change as far as access to abortion where I live.
I am a Catholic mom of four who has been a mom since I was 25. Being a mom was the first thing I knew without a doubt I was good at. Today, I can confidently say I wouldn’t have an abortion. That’s not saying a lot given I have a roof over my head, know myself on a deep level, and understand what it feels like to be a mom. It’s the most deeply held love in my world. I can’t say that had I ended up pregnant in my teens or early twenties I would have been so strong. I only had one time when I had to contemplate that thought, sitting at Stanford Medical Center at 21, sick with a kidney infection and waiting for the ER staff to return with my routine pregnancy test, scared out of my perfectionist mind and deeply ashamed. I have never forgotten that hour that felt like an eternity. The relief I felt when it came back negative was overwhelming, I wasn’t ready, but I was human and I’m grateful that I wasn’t faced with that choice at that point in my life. I’ve talked to friends of mine who were in that position and had abortions, others who had the baby and put her up for adoption, and more that had the baby and kept her. When I hear their stories, I feel nothing but compassion and love for the human condition and the choices that they were faced with at that pivotal and tender time in their lives. None of them were rich, all of them were scared, and whatever their choice was has become a part of the fabric of their life and who they are. For me, it only took that one time to learn where I didn’t want to be. I also know that when we have a deep wound, we will seek connection with other people in ways that aren’t born from real love. How can we connect and care for others before we reach these moments of desperation? If we don’t, will they happen over and over again.
Last weekend in Nashville, where I met more new friends that don’t think exactly like I do, I picked up a Maya Angelou book, Letters to My Daughter and read the whole thing on the flight home. Her books are things I can never resist. She was a rebel, an intellectual, artist, and above all, the greatest example I have seen of someone that transcended suffering and mere survival with grace to realize her fullest potential in her lifetime. She passed her generational wisdom on to others with the gift of her writing. Her only son, who recently passed in February, was born after one encounter with a man she didn't love. She stood for the human race and against injustice but was never a victim confined by her circumstances. I’m sure that if the world had the grace and courage of Maya, this country would be different from the place we find ourselves today. She had the courage to speak to transcend power structures and reach people in a way the government never can. I don’t think she would yell and kick and scream and wear shirts with the word vagina on them. But I do think she would smile at the woman who did, and listen to her story with the calm dignity of a woman who knows the power she wields in this world. She is my answer to the question:
“If you could have dinner with anyone throughout history who would it be?”
More than her writing, which is flat out genius, her life story is the epitome of resilience.
As I wrap my head around where we find ourselves today, everything in me says that we can create a society that connects with kindness and empathy instead of fear and judgment. We would raise stronger, happier, more well adjusted humans who know how to care and connect, not just in the moments when our foundations are shaken, but in the simple quiet moments that unite our hearts and minds instead of focusing on what makes worldly power and profit. With our culture today, we can’t see those moments, or our own resilience and strength, when we work from our own place of lack and insecurity. No matter what side, that is what I saw all over the news and social media after this verdict and I wrestled with my thoughts and words all day long.
When a women is faced with the choice to have an abortion, which is still possible in America this morning, whatever she chooses will leave it’s imprint. I’m not upset that it isn’t so available that it can happen without careful thought about the implications of what it means to both the mother’s and baby's lives. It’s not just the body, but her mind and spirit that needs to be cared for. As a woman, I will always be available to listen with love and lack of judgment. Ultimately only she can find peace with her choice. In that spirit, my hope is that she is met with compassion from all women who have walked the road before her so that she can embrace the power she has within her, which is far greater than anything the government can ever give or take away. That is the real sisterhood, and no matter what you believe as a woman, you are part of it.
With love & optimism,
I saw Top Gun this week. It’s so weird to see the actors of my youth get older. Like so many of us, it took me back to 1986, getting dropped off at the movie theater at least 3 different times to see it. Although I loved the story and cinematography, what struck me most was what a foreign storyline this movie was for my kids generation. I couldn’t remember the last time I had been in a movie theatre and had the feeling of American pride that I grew up feeling everyday. And although the movies we watch on the big screen are usually fictional stories like Top Gun was, they communicate a message about who we are as a culture and what we are made of that allows us to rise from the ashes of our darkest places. What we hear in so many places in America these days are about our faults, our division and the place of lack that will never allows us to connect to our greatness and create anything good. I shudder to think that my kids have heard that message for so long, they don’t believe in the America I do. They live in a world of more content and less connection. Short form messages that when tied together create a mentality of victimhood that creates wounds not warriors. And again I started to think about how we as an American society can inspire each other to BE BETTER.
One of my kids said to me this week:
“Most kids aren’t nice because they haven’t learned to care, not because they are choosing to be mean.”
Her words struck me hard and made me sad. We have to choose and inspire care in this world. When we stop trying to figure out where we fit in, we learn how we fit together. Enough with the labels and separation, kindness is inclusive, so let’s embody it and see where it gets us. Greatness comes through our own healing, it takes courage to do it and it is the only way to BE BETTER with each passing day.
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there making a difference for the next generation. I was blessed to have a good one that inspired my optimist’s lens.
With love & optimism,
Kate turned 17 on Thursday. For anyone who hasn't followed her story, she's the one who stopped playing volleyball to be a theatre kid. And man does she blow my mind on that stage. It's so fun to see her risk, I would have been terrified of that at her age. Maybe she is, but she does it anyway. Thursday night, I looked around my family room, and they are all so big they fill up the entire space. Lauren cooked the dinner (Matthew handled the steaks) and all I had to do was do the dishes. What a shift of energy and life.
For the last five years birthday’s had a sad tinge in them, but I think we are coming out of that. I remembered that I had written some words of wisdom on The Optimists Journal on Lauren’s 17th birthday and I thought I would review and see what I have learned or would add with five more years experience. The things I said still ring true…but I’ve learned to be more direct and succinct. Over the last five years I’ve learned less is more, that it’s ok to let your words sit and be open to others interpretation of them. No more over-explaining. So I took the 17 things and brought them down to a Top 10:
I give these to you Kate on your 17th birthday, but they are for all of you. I can’t believe I have four that fill up a room. Birthday’s will always take you back to the first time you held them, and now so often they hold me in ways they don’t even know. Not because I’m not strong enough to hold myself, but because we are connected. And nothing feels better than that. Time marches on, and life feels normal. So much different than it did when Lauren turned 17. Whatever you are moving through, slow down and breathe, and day by day a lighter and wiser version of yourself will be revealed.
With love & optimism,
As a writer, I am thankful that I have a good memory of my early life. So many of my thoughts take me back to places and days from long ago. When I am able to feel those feelings of the younger me, it gives me perspective for what I’ve learned and fills me with gratitude. Even if life doesn’t look like you thought it would, there is always something to learn about yourself and why you are here.
This week I visualized the playground for the kindergarten that had a fence around it to keep the youngest kids at my elementary school separated on their own small playground from the vast expanse of field and jungle gyms that was meant for the grade schoolers. I’m not saying it wasn’t a good idea for the little guys at the time, but it was only for that one year. I was young for my grade and I remember the scary feeling of the wide open space of that bigger playground. To me it felt like millions of kids and loud bells that would ring just when I got comfortable enough to start to have fun.
I think about these different playgrounds today…at 47, because it reminds me that we evolve to a point in our lives where we choose which playground we want to play on, and as long as we are willing to put the work in, so much of that choice has to do with our mindset and the way we feel about ourselves. For a long time, and without making a conscious choice, I saw myself on that small playground, I could see through the chain link fence and watch all the things that caught my eye, but I was a spectator. Whether it’s personality, life experience, or conditioning, in the end we have a choice to make. Whether you are an athlete, student, parent, or entrepreneur, the way you view competition plays a huge role in the choices you make and the way that you feel about getting where you want to go in life and we pass this view on to the next generation. Maybe you don’t even allow yourself to admit where you want to go. For much of my life, I know I didn’t, and it left me, even at 6’0 tall, feeling small.
The cool thing about life is that if we are willing to keep our eyes up and hearts open, there is no point of arrival and we can always learn new ways to BE BETTER.
One of my quotes that I channel frequently is:
“Compete with yourself, collaborate with your community.”
The places we go in life align us with people of the same interests and pursuits. Most of my closest friends have been made through sports - in the locker room, standing on the beach or pool deck, or in the gym. They have become my community, people who I want to support and see succeed. In sports and life, sometimes it can feel like we compete against those very same people we love to hang with off the court or out of the office. Sometimes they are even in our own family. But an abundance mindset helps us realize that we each have unique gifts and all we have to do is be more of ourselves, and perhaps less of who we think others expect us to be, and that abundant feeling starts to flow. This is where our true nature and talents are unleashed and we get to play on the big playground.
If you haven’t heard of abundance mindset before, you are in for a treat because it is the most freeing place to be in this world. It gives you the freedom to compete and evolve with more ease than you could have ever imagined. To put it in a nutshell it’s precepts go something like this:
It will help you battle and more often than not free you from:
So wherever you are along this road of life, whatever you work on that you want to achieve, you will have moments where you feel you don’t belong, like the challenge is too big, your vision out of your reach. You may feel paralyzed with fear that you won’t make the team, create the business, get the promotion, or ultimately have the life you want to live. Come back to the present moment, breathe and identify what you are scared of. Then embrace an abundance mindset and feel the energy flow freely toward your wildest dreams and biggest goals. Don’t let your mindset get in the way of you and your best life. Take down the fences, do the work, compete with yourself, and collaborate with your community. Welcome to the bigger playground of life. It’s fun out here, I promise.
With Love & Optimism,