Reflections on gratitude, empathy, independent thinking, and the plight of humanity
I like to do all my writing naked. Here I am rolling around on a fluffy white rug reflecting on the ins and outs of gratitude, empathy, independent thinking, and the plight of humanity.
Not. I do not write naked. And this is not me. Surprise! You’re the feature of this piece and you’re the one who’s getting naked. (By the way, those striped holiday leggings look, ahem, fantastic on you.) Now please stand up and glide your tush to the mirror. In front of you, you see–shocker, gasp–your own reflection.
Pause. Are you blushing? Do you turn away? Where is your focus? On your nether-bits? Your dimples? The crows feet around your eyes? Your chest? Your abs? Your biceps? Your breasts?
I submit; this headline is divisive. Divisive. I like that term. It’s a term we media addicts sip these days, a tactic usurped as our own delicious brew of modern savvy.
But let’s get back to the point of this piece.
What if in this mirror you see your soul? Not just your magnetic twinkling eyes, but all of you. Would you turn away then? Would you be too distracted by your imperfections to notice? Would you lean so far inward that your vision blurs? Or would you step back so that you could see yourself wholly and holy?
What if in that mirror all you saw was a Frankenstein conglomerate of Facebook posts, Instagram shots, so-called news articles and stereotypes about the type of person you are supposed to be with nothing to connect the dots in the space between?
Tada. Now here I am. Your subconscious. I’m looking at you under the microscopic lens of Devourer of Souls and Seeker of Truth. Let’s dive into the void, into those mangy little details. No, not into your calf implants Jonny Drama, but into that part of your brain that stores memory. I grab a lotto memory ball from your medial temporal lobe and here I see you sucking down cups of electric-charged, double-shot espresso lattes day after day, week after week, and year after year so that you can endure long days for people who forge gratitude in every two-faced “Thanks” at the bottom of their emails.
You know what I am talking about; don’t you? The tornado in a teacup that somehow keeps ruling your life? The truncated “Thanks” we drop at the bottom of each demand email as though the reader will experience gratitude rather than indignation.
Let’s pull out another memory. Here you are sick, burned-out from all those days of carrying a burden alone. You confide in your confidant, the boss or teammate that you have been dutifully dedicating your time to. You receive an email that says,
“I’m sorry to hear you are sick. Do you think you can still get meaningless-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things item to me?”
You wonder, what is empathy? You look it up. Wiki says, “Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feelings with the heart of another.” You realize you’ve heard and seen people using this phrase–”I’m sorry to hear”– too often to one another. Each time you hear it, you realize it means absolutely nothing and that it is a transitional, transactional phrase. In fact, actual nothing would be better, more truthful.
You pivot.“It’s the intent that counts,” you tell yourself. “Language doesn’t matter. At least he or she said something to acknowledge my words.”
Ha! You look at yourself again. Who are you? Are you stock phrases? Are you a drone? Are you so focused on managing the illusion, the bare minimum of humanness, that you’ve stopped caring?
Your intuition appears. “Something isn’t right,” it tells you. You realize that the concept of “intent” is the justification every failed communicator uses when he or she doesn’t see the rational link between approach and outcome. You resolve never to use the phrase “I’m sorry to hear that … ” unless it is followed up with authentic empathy.
You take a breath. You pull another ball from the memory lotto. Here you are plugging away, day after day. No one sees you. Head down, you do what you’ve been asked. Head up, you’re at the whiteboard. You’re alive. You’re invigorated. You’re motivated. But you are alone. And this aloneness turns to isolation, to loneliness. You muster the courage to mention this emotion to the overseer of your work.
“Oh, it’s lonely leader syndrome,” they say to you, as you plug on day after sunny hopeful day.
Your loneliness elongates. Your intuition knocks on the door to your soul, “what does isolation have to do with leadership?” You think, sure, in some rare instances it might, but it’s more likely that loneliness has become arbitrarily assigned to leadership to stroke your ego, to ensure that you remain productive, to minimize the fact that emotionally you have been abandoned or you have abandoned yourself … all in the name of what? And for who?
You twirl. For a moment, you see the twinkle of yourself. You’re a child again. Free. Curious. Allowed to make mistakes. Allowed to connect. To love whomever you please without it being wrong. Or unprofessional. Or inappropriate.
You twirl again. The breeze is cold. You’re an adult now. Your reputation is on the line. Your fragile system of self-preservation is on the line.
You police your thoughts so that you can press on. You are an adult. You have mouths to feed. But, the question becomes, can you do it authentically? See link: http://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2015/11/10/the-true-qualities-of-authentic-leaders/#6c6059ce320a
Yes, you tell yourself, you can, but only if you don’t use the word “but” in sentences because people only want to hear you agree with them. You should use “and” so not to offend egos. See link: http://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbradberry/2016/12/08/6-tricks-to-mastering-conflict/#155ed96f72fa
If you don’t, you won’t win the game.
Now you are exhausted. “Stop the glass-half-empty mentality,” you say to your bleeding soul. “See a shrink.” But your beautiful restless mind cajoles. “For what? So a doc can prescribe you medication for using your eyes and ears together with your mind and heart?”
See link: http://www.medicaldaily.com/antidepressants-arent-taken-depressed-majority-users-have-no-disorder-327940 See link: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/03/01/opinion/sunday/medicating-womens-feelings.html?_r=0&referer=https://duckduckgo.com/
And then you snap out of it. You know it’s not all bleak. And you submit, as you often do: “There are many possible ways to solve a problem.”
And you smile. You smile because you want to smile. Because smiling is true to your nature.
And you agree. You agree that we don’t understand the problems we are trying to solve. Because we are too afraid to be naked to even our own thoughts. Because we read. We see. We regurgitate what other’s have said. But our own ideas, our own thoughts–we don’t allow ourselves the space or the freedom to form them. We are too afraid of what people will think. It would be like walking into a plastic surgeon’s office and asking, “what part of my body could use improvement?” We would see too many red lines.
But the surgeon is not them. You are the surgeon.
Can you distinguish colonizing blood cells from rogue cancer?
Without the labels, they look strikingly similar; don’t they?
Are you the illness mimicking and diluting problems the way all the big banks did with subprime mortgages? See link: http://www.economist.com/news/schoolsbrief/21584534-effects-financial-crisis-are-still-being-felt-five-years-article
They were so self-serving that it hit the world like Hiroshima and Nagasaki. See link: http://www.progressive.org/hiroshima.html
It’s the space between that counts.
My dream is that we will allow our children the freedom to see themselves as they are and not through the lens of the circus funhouse mirrors we force down our own throats.
My dream is that we remember that our most important work is self-reflection. Followed by action. Followed by more self-reflection.
Our children are watching.
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