Today, as I sit down to write, I’m lucky enough to be joined by my number one son—the one who tends to push me away, then claim to need to be by my side. So when he asked if he could join me while I work, rather than going for groceries with his dad, I said yes, partially to his request, but more to my willingness to be with him in a way that he needs me to be.
The moment is serendipitous because we started our
time in a conversation that highlights his incredible knack for mindfulness. After
I came back from the washroom, he began to explain to me that he was feeling
freaked out, that he still feels freaked out when I’m not in his line of sight,
a feeling that lingers from some early experiences of his mother (yes me)
telling him I’d be right back, only to leave him waiting longer that a small
child could handle. It’s something we
talk about a lot, so when he revealed his feelings, I quickly reassured him
that he was doing the right thing by noticing his feelings in the first place. I
reminded him that it’s from this place of awareness that he had agency over his
thoughts, and he could begin to change their meaning by letting himself know
that he was indeed safe and that I would be back momentarily.
It is this aspect of mindfulness that has the power to
sustain and support us to change, both ourselves and our organizations. Fabian
(2013), Bunting (2016), and Hanson (2015) agree that you cannot solve a problem
or change a behaviour without truly experiencing it in the first place. This is
what my son was doing when he was describing his feelings to me. Noticing is
one aspect of mindfulness.
Germer (2009) explains that at the heart of
mindfulness is our ability to cultivate acceptance, which can support us
through the ambiguity of external change, while not holding too tightly to our
internal responses. Mindfulness fosters creativity,
divergent thinking, and resilience because of the prime characteristic of
accepting what is. From this place, we
can invest our energy in devising supportive solutions, rather than holding on to
and resisting the change that is required.
Fabian (2013) reminds us that there’s “no magic wand”
(p. 98), and Hanson (2015) emphasizes that “mindfulness is a kind of mental
muscle, and you can strengthen it by making it a regular part of daily life”
(p. 25). This can be accomplished through a regular meditation practice because
of the way it helps us bring a sense of calm responsiveness to our every day
lives (Fabian, 2016). However, some might find it more accessible to invest
time by simply noticing our feeling and thinking responses to the events of our
daily lives. If the thoughts breed actions that promote a sense of efficacy and
ease, we can intentionally cultivate more of these experiences. If our actions,
on the other hand, promote anxiety, rash decisions, and discontent, then we
have an opportunity. Rather than attempting to change the thoughts, we can sit
with them, feel them in our bodies, and listen to what they are telling us.
Often, we will be able to become “conscious of the core reason” (Bunting, 2016,
p. 122) why we are feeling a certain way.
From this place, we can choose a response, rather than give into a
Bunting (2016) attests that “transformational behaviour
change is so demanding … the key is to take one step at a time” (p. 121), and
Hanson (2016) encourages us to first find a sense of agency over our thoughts
because we can choose how to frame a situation and choose our response.
Remember, patience is required because changes like this do not always reveal
immediate rewards; it is the practice over time that snowballs into
“At its essence, mindful leadership is about coming home to ourselves, and then inviting, influencing, serving and supporting others to do the same” (Bunting, 2016, p. 118).
Bunting, M. (2016). The mindful leader: 7 practices
for transforming your leadership, your organisation and your life.
It is easy to argue the need for resilience in leadership in our ever-changing, complex organizations. As we continue to make difficult decisions to support our fiscal realities and respond to the needs of our work culture, we are continually called to “…start doing things that are beneficial, stop doing things that are harmful, and to keep on going day after day without getting too stressed about it” (Hanson, 2018, p. 155).
Bunting (2016) and Hanson (2018) remind us that a leader is responsible for setting the tone for an organization and modeling behaviours that will support our people to rise to the challenges we face. Additionally, Bunting (2016) attests that getting important work done by wielding authority will only be effective temporarily. He says, “You can only get people on board when you empathize with them and take them on a journey with you” (p. 6). Therefore, we need to be mindful of the fact that humans are wired with mirror neurons (Gloor, 2017, p. 26), which means that when I show up scattered, harsh or impulsive, the people around me are more likely to adopt those qualities. Luckily, mirror neurons also support my ability to light a spark of resilience, calm, and thoughtfulness in others.
The foundations of resilience are “mental resources like determination, self-worth, and kindness” (Hanson, 2018, p. 2), which are developed by promoting a sense of well-being. We become well by “recognizing what’s true, resourcing ourselves, regulating thoughts, feelings, and actions, and relating skillfully to others and the wider world” (Hanson, 2018, p. 3). Through mindfulness, leaders have an opportunity to examine their thoughts emotions, and experiences, and differentiate between what is serving their resilience and what is getting in the way. All of this is a great reminder that we need to take care of our own well-being and development before we can support others.
But how do we get there?
Hanson, (2018) explains that
we can choose one of the mental resources we want to nurture (like kindness,
compassion, or motivation) and create “lasting changes in the neural structure”
(p. 15) of our brains. For example, if we want to develop more compassion for
ourselves and our coworkers who are experiencing a difficult change, we start by
seeking out and noticing times when we are experiencing compassion. Then write
about it using descriptive language, so that our brains can fully integrate the
different aspects of compassion. With these details, we can intentionally create
repeated experiences that reflect all the nuances of compassion and lead to
lasting change in ourselves and others. Essentially, if we want to learn
something new, we need to notice it, experience it over and over again, and
reflect on how it is working in our minds and bodies.
Tabrizi (2015) explains that “we are the ones who determine our direction and who set our course through life. We are our own captains, our own CEOs” (p. 80). Combine this notion with the knowledge that our brains are willing and able to make the changes we require to become our best leader-selves, and we are well positioned to operate from a position of hope, one of the keys to remaining on a path toward resilience. For when we feel as though change is impossible, we have no reason to persevere.
Bunting, M. (2016).
The mindful leader: 7 practices for transforming your leadership, your organisation
and your life. https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ucalgary.ca/lib/ucalgaryebooks/reader.action?docID=4516137&ppg=20
Gloor, P. A. (2017). Swarm leadership and the collective mind. Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing.
Hanson, R. (2018). Resilient: How to grow an unshakable core of calm, strength, and happiness. New York, NY: Harmony Books.
Tabrizi, B., & Terrell, M. (2015). The inside out effect: A practical guide to transformational leadership. Ashland, OH: Evolve Publishing.
Welcome back! I know it’s been a while since I’ve written, but after some reading, studying, and experiencing, I’m ready to start sharing my learning publicly again. The more I read and do, the more I’m reminded of how entangled we all are–within the self and between our selves. Whether it’s a multi-faceted project or a or a dynamic team, when we change one piece, it has an affect on all the other pieces, either directly or indirectly. This bodes well for our role as leaders because all we can truly control is ourselves, but by making some smart choices, we can have a profound impact on our teams and how we develop resiliency through the inherent challenges of our work.
For me, this starts by leading with heart.
On the surface, leading with heart can be perceived as a softer topic, something fluffy or even unimportant. Because of these assumptions, I do not always tell people that the second year of my master’s program is focused on leading with heart, for fear that my studies won’t be taken seriously. Or worse, that I won’t be taken seriously. The reality is that studying and practising heart-based leadership has been the most rigorous and challenging work of my life, because it necessitates consistent uncovering of who I am, what I stand for, and how I will act in response to these understandings.
” … people desperately want to be part of something, and they want to experience profound connection with others, but they don’t want to sacrifice their authenticity, freedom, or power to do it.”
leadership must include continual looking inward, one cannot stop there;
leaders need to get clear about the ways that their ‘self’ engages with the
people and organizations with which they work. Brown (2018) attests that “people
desperately want to be part of something, and they want to experience profound
connection with others, but they don’t want to sacrifice their authenticity,
freedom, or power to do it” (p. 107). Therefore, a leader must
continually negotiate and understand the reciprocal relationship between their
own well-being and success to the well-being and success of the people and teams
they are leading.
But complex organizations are only made more so by the humans that bring them to life.
some heart-based practices creates a solid foundation from which to manage the
ambiguity and complexity of human beings, meeting deadlines, and completing
tough projects. This foundation starts with building connections with the
people, through good questions and conversations. For me, once I understand a
person, I am better able to coach in a way that works for both of us. At the
same time, we need to establish the right conditions for people to reveal and
be their true selves. One of the ways I do this is by being willing to be
imperfect, an inherent part of us as human beings—one that is not always
accepted or acknowledged. As leaders, our job is to support people’s
ability to improve and change by being vulnerable enough to admit our own
challenges. We are responsible for setting the stage for developing
reflective practices. Finally, a willingness to grow must come with an
acceptance of failure, and if we’re doing anything innovative—in our projects
or the development of workplace culture—we must expect and respect
failure. The more people are willing to open their hearts to the risk of
failure, the more chances of success they bring to the team.
what requires us to understand how to sustain a practice of leading with heart.
We will fail. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when. It’s never easy,
but leading with heart reminds us that failure is something we have in common, something
that should connect us, rather than drive us apart. We must learn to treat
ourselves and others with compassion in the process of getting up. It seems counterintuitive,
but developing resilience and sustainability as a requires us to focus on
success. Hanson and Hanson (2018) explain that “as you internalize
experiences of well-being, that builds inner strengths which in turn make you
more resilient. Well-being and resilience promote each other in an upward
spiral” (p. 2). Therefore, while we must prepare for failure, we must
implement practices that allow our teams to focus on our successes and invest
time discussing, documenting, and thinking about the good work we do.
leadership with heart means consistently choosing to be strong enough to be who
you are, soft enough to accept that in others, and wild enough to imagine the
“Strong back, soft front, wild heart.”
Brown, B. (2018). Dare
to lead, daring greatly and rising strong at work. Random House, New
R. (2018). Resilient: How to grow an unshakable core of calm, strength, and
happiness. New York, NY: Harmony Books.
don’t get me wrong, I love my little dudes. But
I’m really glad their dad took them to the mall to run off some of their pent-up
energy today. And we were having a pretty good day! So, if it’s hard when it’s good, what is it
saying about the not-so-good times?
this is why I’ve found myself in conversations centered around parenting nearly
every day for the past week, with different people each time. Even though
it’s easy to get judgy about the topic, all parents are clearly in the same
boat; we are entangled in this complexity – with our families, with one
another, and “…in the emotional patterns of our ancestors” (p. 166) –as Dr.
Shefali tells us in her game-changing book The Awakened Family.
The emotional patterns of our ancestors? Really? At first glance, it seems a bit much; however, my parents’ parenting is obvious in my own, and I’ve definitely had moments with my grandparents that shed some light on my parents.
The Awakened Family was instrumental in saving my relationship with my first-born son. Neither of us were able to manage the extended and consistent periods of frustration about his behaviour, whether there were complaints about how he was treating his brother or the way he was talking to me during our tension-filled mornings. Something had to give, and I needed some guidance to get us out of a joyless rut.
first glance, the book can bring forth an overwhelming feeling of guilt because
it really focuses on parents’ thoughts and behaviours, rather than the child’s.
At the same time, it offered me an
opportunity for grace. Naturally, my
choices will have a significant impact on my children; however, the book also
addresses the fact that each of us exists in this time, place, and
circumstance, because of the way our histories collide with our present. Much of that is out of my control, so somewhere
between this is all my fault and there’s nothing I can do lies a little
bit of permission. For me, The Awakened Family gave became the permission
slip I needed to examine my role in my kids’ behaviour, without owning the
whole damn thing.
to notice and observe the entanglement of my behaviours with those of my
children’s and consider why each of
us might be doing or saying certain things. What I observed became valuable information
on which to base decisions about my family.
For example, I experienced a bit of a revelation when I heard myself
asking my #1 son, “Why do you have to control everything!?!”
last words left my mouth, I felt the earth tilt, just a little, under my feet. All the time I’ve spent telling him what to
say, how to say it, what to eat and how to eat it came flooding back. Sure, I could have spent time complaining about
how I’d come by these tendencies honestly, but the past is out of my
control. Instead, I reflected upon how I
might be inadvertently teaching him how to be controlling. Afterall, I am a pretty good teacher …
In that moment, I made a choice to notice the times when I was overly prescriptive with my kids, and you might not be surprised to hear that there were no shortage of examples. Making a concerted effort to keep my mouth shut, unless a correction was absolutely necessary, was difficult at times. However, as I observed the kids becoming more flexible and forgiving with one another (and me), I was] empowered to continue with further noticing.
Psychologist Carl Pickhardt takes a slightly different approach to reflection. In an interview with Business Insider, he explains that instead of avoiding our parents’ mistakes, we should try to emulate those aspects of their teachings we want to instill in our own children. I like this idea because it focuses on abundance, rather than scarcity, which is an entirely more joyful way to parent.
me a long time to realize that reflections on my parenting should include the
successes, too. My kids are deeply reflective, highly emotionally
intelligent, and they know how to stand up for themselves and ask for what they
need. That didn’t happen by accident.
I get to take credit for that, too.
After spending a long time in shame about how I was wrecking my kids, I
began to actively connect their strengths with positive choices I had made
about how to support them through their joys and challenges.
I feel truly confident in my parenting, and I don’t mind saying that it’s one of my gifts. I’m not perfect, but knowing that perfection isn’t a requirement (or even an option) is the most important part] . When I acknowledge my mistakes to my kids, they learn not to expect perfection, from me or themselves.
parent I need to be. Now. In this moment.
I also know that I don’t parent alone; I work with my husband in a complex network of friends, family, and teachers. I’m not afraid to admit what I don’t know and ask my kids’ teachers for strategies or consult any number of books, websites, or worksheets. As many of you know, I will talk about parenting any chance I get. It’s how I learn, how I check myself, and how I celebrate how far I’ve come.
passion for parenting probably started when I used to watch parenting guru,
Barbara Coloroso, talk about her book Kids are WorthIt on PBS television
with my mom. Not only was I already reflecting on parenting; I observed
my own mom trying to navigate the trials and tribulations of keeping my
brothers and me on the right track.
It’s interesting to think about those parenting specials now because Bréne Brown (empathy and vulnerability expert) recently joined Lewis Howes’ podcast and offered one clear goal for parenting: the best we can hope is to raise kids who ask for help. I think that’s what I observed in my mom – the ability to accept that it’s okay to not know all the answers, and it’s even more okay to seek help. One thing I know for sure is that our kids are always watching us and listening to us, even when, and especially when, the situation doesn’t appear relevant to them.
That’s why I decided to create this post, not as a place to download all my parenting advice, but to share a bit of my journey and create a conversation that highlights the many connections we share as parents. In my experience, creating the conditions to share the reality of our experiences, rather than the imaginary versions of reality often seen on social media, allows us to lift each other up and talk about what really matters.
All things considered, I think these are the five most important practices (because they require continuous practice) of my parenting:
I make sure that my kids know that I love them unconditionally. Not when they are good because kids are inherently good, and not when they win because that doesn’t matter. I love them because they are. That’s it. In case I think they might have forgotten, I ask, “Why do I love you?” My #2 will always say, “Because I’m me.” (My #1 will make a silly joke about the whole thing. Don’t know where he gets that from).
I apologize when I make a mistake. I don’t always get it right, so pretending like I do will only create resentment in my kids. Beyond that, apologizing shows my kids how to let go and change course when they discover they are wrong. But most importantly, when I show them that I’m comfortable with imperfection, they have permission to be imperfect as well.
This one’s from Barbara Coloroso back in the day: If the situation is not life threatening or morally wrong, I let my kids choose for themselves. As hard as it is for the recovering-perfectionist in me, I let my sons make as many decisions as possible. They always know that I will help if they need it, and I will talk it out with them if they mess up, but they get to own their mistakes and successes. This also connects to point one because, in the chance they make a sideways choice, they will know that I love them anyway.
I tell my kids that I trust them and their instincts. If I’m always telling them what to do and how to think, how will they learn to listen to their own inner voice? How will they learn to manage the stress that that comes with thinking and acting for themselves and experiencing the consequences? I need to know that they can operate when I’m not around, and they need the confidence to do so.
I let my kids challenge me. This is a bit of a philosophical one. I want my kids to know that they have a sense of agency in our home, so they can carry that notion with them into their world. I think we all want our kids to be able to stand up for themselves, but we don’t really like it when they practise on us. Though it is not always an easy path, I want to show my kids how to negotiate, how to consider the impact of their actions, and how to see their voice as worthy. But when they are entering into these negotiations, they must be able to meet in the middle because they will not get their own way all the time, or ever. I want them to understand Wahkohtowin; we are all related. Whatever we choose to stand up for will affect those around us, so we need be mindful of the impact we make on one another and the world.
With these practices in my tool belt, I’m finding it more joyful way to ride the waves that parenting brings. Just the other day, as I was putting #1 to bed, and asked him, “What’s your favourite and least favourite thing about mommy?”
With a sense of steadiness I didn’t always have, I took a breath
and waited for the answers. First, he said
his favourite thing is when I let him have treats. Really kid?
You’re looking at a rockstar parent, and that’s all you’ve got? But when I tried to interpret his response, I
understood his real intention: “I like it when we throw caution to the wind and
just have fun.” That I can do.
As for his least favourite?
“Sometimes I feel like you’re on my brother’s team.”
Channeling my inner Brene Brown, I called deep on my courage and
thanked him for being honest with me. I
told him I could see how he felt that way sometimes, and we would work on that together.
Because somewhere between this is all my fault and there’s nothing I can do lies a little bit of permission.
I’m a change maker. It’s who I am, and it drives most everything I do. I love this side of myself. I love helping people through difficult times. I love pushing through a tough situation, just to celebrate how far we’ve come at the other end. It also means that I have an incredible sense of hope and agency. I actually believe I can and will change the world. I mean, I know I can because I already have (mostly for the better), otherwise, why would I bother.
But not everything is quite so … simple.
Because at the core of a changemaker is heart filled with empathy. It’s kind of a requirement for what I do (and whom I want to be), but it also means that I feel things deeply – I feel for people, peoples, events, the land, my country, my province, and this sweet, sweet earth that lets us walk all over her.
Also inherent in being a changemaker is being a person to sees the need for change (duh), which can have the tendency to bring a girl down and make the world seem heavy and hard to bear.
And that’s all I’m going to say about that for now. For after a few weeks of deep reflection about how my thinking is entangling up with my outlook on life and the actions I take, I’m making a change (because that’s what I do).
“Positive thinking is more than just a tagline. It changes the way we behave. And I firmly believe that when I am positive, it not only makes me better, but it also makes those around me better.”
This time, my change is inspired by optimism, rather than pessimism. As I sat down tonight and explored some inspiring blogs and videos, it didn’t take long for me to notice how these positive vibes were sitting in my body, my mind, my soul. Good Vibrations aren’t just for the Beach Boys or Marky Mark and his Funky Bunch! This shit is proven by science! Something I don’t feel the need to get into here.
“In order to carry a positive action we must develop here a positive vision.”
— Dalai Lama
So … for the next 28 days, I’m going to share some good vibrations with you. Each day, I’m going to add a video, blog post, music video, book title, or meme that celebrates the beauty of life and/or why/how we can and should make the best of it.
For we are all entangled.
So don’t hesitate to let us know what inspires you because it might inspire us, too!
March 20th: Day 1 – What Teachers Make by Taylor Mali (Time: about 3 min)
March 21st: Day 2 – If I should have a daughter by Sarah Kay (Time: about 3.5 min)
March 22nd: Day 3 – This. Just this.
March 23nd: Day 4 – Becoming by Michelle Obama
I didn’t get to see her in person, but her book is a beautiful tribute to hope, tenacity, resilience, and integrity. It is wildly important for non-minorities to hear stories from a minority perspective.
Last night at Roger’s Place, she finished with this: “I have a final message that I want to leave people with in the state that we’re in … Hope still matters, it’s there and present. We can’t afford to despair, we don’t have the right to sit in our upset and stay frustrated. People don’t want to be led by fear, it doesn’t feel good.”
March 24th: Day 5 – A Jewish Girl and a Muslim Girl set us straight in this bold slam poem (3 min)
March 25th: Day 6 – Boundaries with Bréne Brown (approx. 5 min)
People with the most compassion also have the clearest boundaries? It seems counter-intuitive, but Bréne Brown attests that people with the highest levels of compassion also have the greatest ability to set boundaries.
This is particularly important for women who can often feel guilty about saying no or about not doing everything that everyone expects us to do. The truth of the matter is that we can only be and do … well us. I can only do me. I often read and hear about people who feel that they need to be meaner in order to stand up for themselves. I challenge this notion. It’s good to say no. It’s great to let people know what we are willing (and not willing) to do. That way, when we say yes, we can savour it and be all in!
No meanness, bitterness, or resentment required.
March 26th: Day 7- Check out this tweet/twitter account, devoted to delivering joy to the world via the best darned dogs around. You won’t regret it!
March 27th: Day 8- The education system in Finland is an inspiration!
Education is a hot topic lately and rightly so. One need not go far to find reports that show how quality education is directly correlated with economic growth. It’s difficult, however, to consider the investment when the payoff isn’t necessarily immediate. Most of us went to school, and most of our children go (or will go) to school. Therefore, aside from economic value, we must consider the impact that school has on us as human beings because, regardless of quality, we will spent the majority of our formative years there.
Whether we place value on education or not, the reality is that it’s affecting our kids. It’s important to consider what should be the outcome of education system, then actively pursue and advocate for the proven policies and practices that will achieve those goals.
Today, I’m sharing a short clip of how Finland does it, which is just one way. I encourage all of us to actively seek out information on education from experts in the field and let your political leaders know your thoughts!
March 28th: Day 9 – This is Me!
” … the spectre of self-doubt” It’s funny how a few words from a story I haven’t read in a couple of years can surface and repeat over and over again in the record player of my mind. The line is from a novella called Flowers for Algernon, which tells the tale of men who, despite their genius, are still plagued by this dangerous ghost: self doubt.
I consider myself a confident person, but sometimes the outside showing is very different from the inside story. But, as life is constantly revealing to me, it’s not just me. I’m flabbergasted by the number of people (mostly women) who are vulnerable enough to share their stories of worry, anxiety, and fear. Fear of not doing enough, being enough, not doing or saying the ‘right’ thing. I’m blown away by the sheer number of people who spend so much time in their head, ruminating and agonizing over ‘what if’ – a question that rarely yields any productive solutions.
I wasn’t always this way, of that I am sure. I suspect that it began in earnest after becoming a teacher and a mother – two professions that bear a heavy burden of high expectations and often little support.
While I’m saddened to hear these stories from people that I care about, I’m grateful that we’re talking and lifting each other up. It helps. So does blasting a song that communicates straight to your bones!
Do it! And turn it up!!!
March 29th: Day 10 – The Truth About Stories
One of the things I have been most grateful for in my work over the years is the opportunity to listen to and work with many different First Nation, Métis, and Inuit teachers, leaders, and elders. It’s amazing how working so closely with people whose worldview is so different from your own reveals so many biases and assumptions that you don’t even know you have. I’m lucky to have had the chance to open my mind to different ways to view relationships, the land, and children – lessons I’m not sure I would have learned from western teachers.
In my classroom, I made an effort to bring in voices of a variety of Indigenous people as often as I could, and if an Elder or Knowledge keeper wasn’t available, we made due with books and websites. Thomas King’s The Truth About Stories (Massey Lecture series) was always a hit with my grade 10s. It’s traditional and contemporary, funny and sad. Most of all, it’s a story of truth. I can listen to it over and over again, and I hope you can, too! Enjoy!
March 30th: Day 11 –
March 31st: Day 12 – Fresh air. A beating heart, and rosey cheeks!
April 1st: Day 13 –
In anticipation of my next full blog post in which I reflect upon my trials and tribulations of parenting, I offer you the most inspirational dad, who is no joke! Not only could I watch that little baby’s face ALL DAY, I also deeply appreciate the way this man uses his gift to love his child in his own way.
April 2nd: Day 14 –
If you spend any time at cruising around on my blog, you will find many references to Bréne Brown, either explicit or implicit. In this video, she teams up with Marie Forleo (another inspirational, powerhouse woman), to talk about Braving the Wilderness, her book about how to cultivate true belonging in our communities and culture.
I offer this video as an example of hope and possibility for how we could engage with one another, even when we disagree. It’s particularly poignant during an intense election season, in which rancor can replace respect, and party can trump people.
Bréne explains “It’s hard to hate people close up. Lean in,” and she offers some great examples about how all people can engage in more respectful, human focused dialogue. If you don’t have time to read the book, this interview is a great alternative. And if you don’t have time to watch the video, feel free to skip to the 10 minute mark.
April 3: Day 15: Check out @kerwinraefor more great ideas!
Today is another great example of a strong dad with a great message about our kids. He reminds us that our kids’ brains aren’t fully developed until they’re 25! Well, that’s hopeful! It means we have time to make the mistakes we’ll inevitably make, but we’ll also have time to show them how we adapt!
April 4: Day 16 – Today, this is all.
April 5: Day 17: From the song Hamilton in the musical of the same name
” …there’s a million thing I haven’t done But just you wait, just you wait”
By Anthony Ramos, Christopher Jackson, Daveed Diggs, Leslie Odom Jr., Lin-Manuel Miranda, Okieriete Onaodowan
April 6: Day 17 –
My boys are my inspiration, so today this post is about them and how much they teach me. Check out my post Permissions in Parenting for my lessons, thoughts, and teachers.
April 7: Day 18 – P!NK
“We don’t change; we take the gravel in the shell, and we make a pearl. We help other people to change, so that they can see more kinds of beauty.”
Last night, I had the great privilege to see Pink in concert with my best friend of 32 years. We danced, we cried, we sang at the top of our lungs. While I’ve been a Pink fan since the beginning, partially because I believe in what she says and who she is, I was struck this time by how consistently powerful her messages are.
I became highly aware of her ability to synthesize my experiences into her words and performance. I became highly aware of the power of language. And … When she sang Gwen Stefani’s song I’m Just a Girl, I became highly aware of the two young girls behind me and how thankful I was that they were there with their mommy/auntie/cousin/grandma.
This is the power of the arts. This is why we need arts in schools. Artists are the ones who remind us why we’re here, that we’re okay, and it if you want to do something good, you’re probably going to have to go out on a limb, and that can be a lonely place.
Some of you might remember Pink’s speech at the 2017 VMAs in which she tells a story about how her daughter was worried about how she looked. I was grateful to hear that speech again last night. We need to remind our kids (and ourselves) that being different isn’t a problem; being different is a gift. It may feel terrifying at times, but that’s no reason to stop shining your pearl.
Last night, Pink reminded me that each of us can do good in this world, not by complaining about what’s wrong, but by cultivating messages of hope and change. By being good, the people the world will be good, too.
April 8th: Day 19 – I had a different plan for today, but sometimes the universe has a different plan.
April 9th: Day 20 – Hard topics require tough stances, strong women, and inspirational words and sounds to push us on, remind us how far we’ve come, and remind us to keep going.
April 10th: Day 21 – This one amplifies and exemplifies a quote that Sarah Kay mentions in her commencement speech (scroll up two days). She refers to Feminista’s mantra: Comfort the disturbed, and disturb the uncomfortable. It’s a quick little story, so if you take the time to read it, you’ll see what I mean!
April 11: Day 22 – Everything is Figureoutable
Marie Forleo’s life mantra, everything is figureoutable, is foundational for maintaining a sense of hope, and she has used it to get through life and help us all to build businesses and lives we love. In the first video (short version), she explains how she’s using her mantra to increase educational outcomes for girls around the world. In the second version, she’s on stage at an Oprah Supersoul Session giving us some entertaining examples.
Either way, I Marie has been one of my ‘online mentors’ who’s helped me figure my out things out! She’s a great storyteller, so check her out!
April 12: Day 23 – There’s nothing more inspirational than a great leader. They will push you when you need to be pushed and give you a soft place to land when you feel like you’re falling. Perhaps most importantly, the conditions they create and how they make you feel will have a significant impact on how much you can physically/mentally/spiritually give to your craft.
This letter is to school administrators (penned by Jennifer Gonzolez of Cult of Pedagogy), but the messages can be applied to many contexts. Be sure to have empathy for leaders; it’s a tough job. At the same time, don’t forget to ask for what you need because your job is tough too, and you can only do it well in collaboration, with leaders and others around you to lean on and hold up, depending on the call of the moment.
April 13th: Day 24
Today’s episode comes from date night, friends who take my kids for sleepovers, and restaurant owners who believe in supporting minimum wage and those people who need the most help.
There is hope in this world, this province, this city.
Please, make this world a better place. That’s all I ask.
April 14: Day 25
“The media can affect our imagination. It can change our stories.”
I was introduced to Tracy Lindberg through her first novel called Birdie, which follows a young, Cree woman and her sister-auntie-cousins on a journey of healing. I was blown away by her amazing gift to use language not only to tell the story but to show us who she is and how she thinks.
“There’s a lot of double entendre in Cree. You have to be able to play with words a lot.”
– Tracy Lindberg
As an English-speaking person in a predominantly English-speaking world, I think I took for granted how much language influences/reveals who I am. When I began to understand a little bit about the Cree language, it truly deepened my understanding of why colonial policies would have such an impact on our Indigenous friends.
In this interview on CBC’s q, Tracy Lindberg tells some lovely stories about language, humour, perspectives, and healing. It’s another footprint to follow on the path to reconciliation.
“Everybody gets to make kind mistakes.”
April 15: Day 26 – Jann Arden
Jann Arden has been my inspiration since I can remember. I turn to her when I need to calm down, complain, or call on my power to take control of things. Not Your Little Girl does all of these things for me. And … depending on how you listen, it represents our election season in all kinds of ways. Turn it up and let it be what it means to you!
My father in law is famous for saying that he only cries at weddings, funerals, and garage sales. It seems funny, but no one I know takes a bargain as seriously as he does, and it was no different when he discovered an old house being offered up in the newspaper by an elderly lady.
Even though we’d hired a realtor, my (then) fiancé Derek and I knew better than to miss an opportunity to capitalize on Marvin’s frugality. Having spent no time in the Prince Rupert/Kingsway area, we experienced the typical, navigational challenges of finding our future home situated between regular north/south roads, irregularly diagonal Kingsway Avenue, a landing field of runways, and a lot of addresses whose street numbers were the same as their coordinating avenue numbers. It was enough for my usually confident navigator to proclaim, “This house does NOT exist!”
In fact, it did. It does. Nestled on the east end of tiny Prince Rupert Community, north of 111 Avenue, and not far from the airplane on a stick. The place we’ve come to call home.
When Elsie, the 82 year old also known in the community as Todd, invited us in, we were in for a bit of a shock. I joked that the house was 60 years old, and so was the dirt it hosted. Still, there was something about it. Elsie had already moved into a lovely assisted living apartment because the home that she’d raised her family in since 1954 had finally become too much for her. She knew she was ready to allow another family to make it their own. So confident she was that she asked us to rip up the carpet before we’d even made an offer!
But in all the disarray, all of the boxes, the overcrowded kitchen, the smashed in walls, I vividly remember standing in the hallway and telling Derek that this was, in fact, the one.
At least for the time being … I mean, I never really saw our family living here long term. It was a stop over. A leap pad that would launch us into something … better. We rapidly renovated, often choosing the cheaper options with fear that it wouldn’t be worth the investment into a house we were going to flip.
Then the housing prices skyrocketed and the home we’d created for ourselves and our two little boys seemed to be the best we could get. It would take time for us to realize that we weren’t actually settling; we’d landed the jackpot. We began to appreciate our home and community for what it was – quaint, quiet, sandwiched between three parks, minutes from downtown and each of our jobs. Our house was big enough for us to enjoy, but small enough that we wouldn’t have the luxury of amassing superfluous material goods. Spacious enough for multi-family potlucks, but too small to host turkey dinner at Thanksgiving!
“I want to take the time to get to know our community,” was my constant plea to Derek who still wanted to move on to our next place.
It dawns on me now that the first several years living in our home in Prince Rupert were focused on ourselves. Getting renovations done. Making the yard livable. Working and taking care of our family.
Then, a turning point happened during a conversation over weeds. Anyone who knows me (or my oldest boy) knows that we love to talk to strangers, so when I took off for a neighbourhood walk, I didn’t hesitate to stop an inquire with a lovely woman actually digging weeds out by the roots! Ashley explained that she’d wanted a long term, sustainable solution to keeping up the curb appeal of her home, not a quick fix that Round-up (and its side effects) would offer.
What a lovely metaphor, one that speaks to the tireless patience that I’ve come to appreciate about my community and its members.
It was hard to believe that Ashley and her husband Dave had been living four doors down from us for three years by this point, but it didn’t take long to get caught up. It was like we’d been friends all along. Ashley and Dave introduced us to many other community members who participated in community events that she, her husband, and a few other volunteers were leading from the Prince Rupert Community League Board. I was grateful to finally see that our community was growing more and more connected, and I was grateful to know that someone was willing to take on this important work. People and families are busy, and diving into community league work has the potential to become a burden.
This was the dilemma that I squared off against about two years ago when I circled around the idea of joining the board myself. Could I really spare the time? Did I really want to add another thing to my already-full plate? These were tough questions (and still are), but we are a small community of only about 1400 residents, so garnering support for taking on board positions is very difficult.
Fortunately, this was also a time in my life when I was exploring the power of entanglement in my life. In an effort to curb a growing anxiety of not having enough time and energy to spare, I found myself saying no to a great many opportunities. While I believe strongly in the power of a good no, I was starting to wonder whether my no’s were truly impacting my quality of life in a negative way.
Nothing happens in isolation; everything is connected to everything else.
My decision to join the board as the secretary is a product of a new kind of yes I was embracing. It was a bit of a paradigm shift, one that I often preached when I was teaching and leading at school. Rather than saying no to things we don’t want, what if we said yes to things that we do want, trusting that the good will squeeze out the not-so-super-good? This is entanglement in action.
I needed to start practicing what I was preaching.
In June of 2017, I won the nomination of secretary of the Prince Rupert Community League by acclamation. An organizer at heart, I felt good to be fueling that side of my soul. I also wanted my kids to witness the spirit of volunteerism, as I did when my dad was running the Boy Scouts of Saskatchewan when I was a kid.
In giving a little bit of myself and my time away from my family, I could not have imagined what I would receive in return: powerful connections to the people and the place in which we live.
I always craved connecting to young people with families like my own, so this was a no brainer. Although we are busy, and we don’t get together enough, I take comfort in knowing a handful of families who can descend on my house for pizza and wine, without expectations of a clean house or any pomp and circumstance. My kids can play with their kids, but even more importantly, the parents can act on my behalf when I’m not in the room. We can help with pick ups and drop offs from school when needed.
We can drop our kids of at one another’s houses when we need a date night or just time without kids. This connection is great for convenience, but the greater power lies in our ability to support one another in maintaining strong, healthy relationships. We need to be in this together.
Recently, I’ve met other neighbours who’ve hosted multi-family parties, bringing all walks of life together in one house. Another neighbour offered his business to support the distribution of our newsletter. Still others are carrying on the tradition of service that their parents have offered this community for the last 30 years.
This connection to the past and the older members of our community is the one that’s surprised me the most. Sure, I know that older people carry much wisdom, and we need to slow down and listen to their stories; however, their importance in my life was an unexpected one. While the younger generation have a stronger ability to keep our community growing into the future, our older friends help us to remember where we’ve been, so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. They are also selfless with the time they’ve earned as retirees. We could not do the work that we’re doing without the Tonys (president) and Ralphs (vice president) of the world.
Though it’s been a long time coming, and we sometimes feel like the forgotten community, we are finally set to redesign our (mostly empty) park space! Tyson has taken such an amazing lead on this project that new people are coming out of the woodwork to help out, too! People want to be involved. They want to have a say in what’s happening, and they want to be connected.
This is the power of entanglement. Community and place. Young and old.
While it can be stressful to find the time to answer emails, write up minutes, and advertise what’s going on, I’m filled up by the passion and care of the people around me. I love meeting new people at our Christmas party, Winter Family Fun Day, or May Day events. I love the appreciation people share at board meetings for the work being done.
But mostly …
Mostly, I love it when my kids run to the door to wave when a neighbour walks by. Or when I can take care of a baby as a last minute favour. Or when I watch my kid talk a senior’s ear off when I welcome him in to help him with his computer.
In Prince Rupert Community, we have each other’s backs.
Now, 14 years later, our main floor renovations are needing updates, and there is much to be done in the yard. However, rather than exploring the possibilities of another neighbourhood, we are excited about the ways we can make our home and community better. The basement, updated five years after we moved in, remains light, open, and modern, probably because we invested in the best for that space, a testament to our shifting perspective on our home’s staying power.
The fact of the matter is that in all the times we’ve looked elsewhere, nothing could offer us what was truly important: a large yard, connected community, a house with a solid foundation, playgrounds within walking distance, a walkable and bikeable neighbourhood.
“It doesn’t matter whether you talk to people who work in social justice mental health and abuse and neglect, what we know is that connection, the ability to feel connected, is — neurobiologically … how we’re wired — it’s why we’re here.” — Brené Brown, in the TED talk, The Power of Vulnerability
“…[the] Aboriginal perspective … reflects the view that survival is dependent upon respectful and spiritual relationships with oneself, other people, and the natural world …” —The Common Curriculum Framework for Aboriginal Language and Culture Programs, Alberta Education
“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.” ― Martin Luther King Jr., in his Christmas sermon in 1967
The notion of connectedness has been wandering through my consciousness for several years now, beginning around the time that I was trying to figure out how to mend what I perceived as holes in the garment of my own destiny. My life felt like a quilt, a patchwork of hand-me-down fabric loosely sewn together with a variety of strings and yarn. It was familiar in places, worn in ways that had the history of family and friends woven in. In other places, newly discovered, bright patches were layered on top, wondering whether or not they were covering up (or revealing) true parts of myself.
It did the job, but it didn’t wrap me up and create a feeling of contentment and joy that that proper blanket should.
My mother patch was stretched and frayed. My leader patch seemed to almost glow, when it wasn’t flickering and fizzling out. My teacher patch was wound so tightly that it couldn’t connect to the other patches. The patch that represented me as wife was a little busy holding the other parts together. As a whole, my quilt seemed … disconnected.
In creating my quilt I invested so much energy attempting to perfect each patch that none of them seemed good enough or truly complete. I yearned to be able weave a beautiful quilt that represented the parts of my being that mattered most – a wife, mother, teacher, leader, friend, daughter, sister. A whole person made with care and joy.
But it was overwhelming. It didn’t seem possible.
Except it was.
Just not all at once.
I’m starting to realize that if I practise just a little bit of patience and focus on one aspect, opportunities to improve the other aspects reveal themselves. But this is where the quilt analogy takes an unexpected turn. In making small changes in one patch, the others, seemingly on their own, straighten their stitches, loosen their weave, and appear to knit together as one, without my having to attend to them directly.
Now Martin Luther King Junior and Brené Brown spoke about people being able to affect each other’s destiny because of our inherent connectedness, and I believe deeply that this true. But what I love about the quotation from an indigenous perspective is the notion of connection within ourselves, and with animals, nature and the universe. It’s a holistic philosophy of relatedness.
All aspects of our universe are intricately woven together, and the notion is supported by science, too. In physics, the term is entanglement, the name I’ve chosen to represent my blog:
The Art of Entanglement
I came across the term while completing the first year of my Master’s of Education, which focuses on Collaborative Creativity and Design Thinking for Innovation (another bunch of things that are intricately connected).
I found it in Peter Gloor’s book, Swarm Leadership and the Collective Mind: Using Collaborative Innovation Networks to Build a Better Business. He first explains it in terms of quantum physics:
“ … if two geographically separated particles are entangled, [and] one particle changes, for example, its spin angle, the other will change in the same way at the same time, independent of location” (p. 7).
Crazy. How do those little particles know what to do?!?
Gloor further explains:
“…one particle of an entangled pair ‘knows’ what action has been performed on the other, even though there is no known means for such information to be communicated between particles, which may be separated by large distances. The same happens between two connected people, for example, between mother and child, or between spouses” (p. 62).
For me, it’s the way changing jobs changed my behaviour at home (There’s probably a blog post from the POV of my husband here somewhere). Or the way that investing more time with my family increased appreciation of my job. Or the way that finally starting this blog post relieved enough of my stress to allow my back to finally release. This will save me a trip to the chiropractor!
Perhaps you’ve noticed this phenomenon, too.
For a long time, Western medicine didn’t fully acknowledge the mind, body, spirit connection; however, it is now commonly understood that physical exercise and meditation can support our mental health.
Or, consider the way conversations with a challenging person seem to go much more smoothly once you adjust your thinking about that person. They don’t know your thoughts, but they are certainly affected by them.
What about that old advice given to new mothers: Feed yourself first, or you can’t feed your baby. Baby doesn’t know you’ve eaten, but she certainly benefits if you do!
There is no getting away from it: our lives are interconnected; everything we do and all of the choices we make affect other aspects of our lives, the lives of the people around us, and the environment in which we live. Gloor (and many others) describe this as collective consciousness: “…the individual ability to recognize oneself as part of a collective identity” (p. 52).
Knowing this has the potential to add much anxiety and pressure to our lives, but I don’t see it that way.
Entanglement offers us the opportunity to make small changes, knowing that each has far-reaching impact. Rather than looking at the quilt of our destiny as a daunting whole, I have confidence in knowing that the small changes I am making are supporting the whole. It’s also an understanding that, rather than dwelling on the parts that don’t fit, I can instead focus on the parts that I love and trust that making changes in one place will impact the rest.
And focusing on growing love, joy, and passion, instead of fixing hate, frustration, and stress has already affected my outlook and how I entangle with myself, my family, and my work.
Intuitively, I’ve always known the power of connection; however, exploring the theory of entanglement has given me the gift of attention. I can bring awareness and love to little parts of me and watch them weave their magic into all parts of me – my family, my friendships, my work, my learning, and my life as a whole.
These are the notions that have converged and led me to the blog you see before you, and my intentions are two-fold.
In life, I want to be of service. I want to serve people and help them bring happiness and gratification to their world. This blog is no different.
My hope is that my discoveries can help others create an entangled life, whatever that looks for them. Let’s be honest. We can’t do this alone, and we need to disrupt this narrative that our society commonly promotes: Pull up your bootstraps. Fix your life. Stop relying on other people.
The notion of individualism is not necessary or even natural. As my opening quotations suggest, human beings are social, connected beings, and we would do well to accept this inherent truth and lean into entanglement, rather than rally against it.
I also want to serve myself, and the theory of entanglement would support the notion that when I’ve got a few more things figured out, I will be of better service to others. As my husband is oft heard saying, “When my wife is in pain, I’m in pain.” Of course this is his funny way of making my well-being about him, but in truth, it is. Obviously, the opposite is true as well. In this way, my blog offers me the opportunity to explore, deepen, challenge my thoughts about my world.
How will I embrace the challenges that entanglement presents?
What does an entangled life really look like?
What or who are the best examples of entanglement?
Is an entangled life really worth it?
How does personal reflection that fosters connections with others affect my efforts to build an entangled life?
I’ve decided to share my stories of success and struggle, connection and division, work and play, family and friends, leadership and learning in the hopes that we can all take small steps that lead us closer to a life filled with passion, fulfillment, and love.
This is not to say that I’m an authority, that my quilted life is somehow more complete or more artfully woven than yours. It’s just that in sharing the story of my creation, I remind myself that we are all creating, and we don’t have to do it alone.