Monday, August 27, 2012

emotional kryptonite

Yesterday we had cartoons on the TV, and there was a Batman/Superman/Spiderman thing the children were watching.  My daughter commented she likes Superman - but also Hulk.  It seemed to be about being strong and brave.  So it got me to wondering about how I could relate these ''superhero'' qualities to the values and characteristics I have been trying to work on with my kids.

As I have mentioned over at my other blog as well, there's been a lot of talk at my house of late about hurt and forgiveness.  These are big concepts to grasp, especially for children. And so I had been trying to work out how to get these ideas into practical terms for my 9 year old (in particular) to understand.  We've talked about how being angry is like letting someone mean live in your head.  We've talked about how forgiving someone makes your heart feel lighter.

The superhero thing suddenly made a whole lot more sense.  And in particular I was thinking about what super-qualities might apply to anger.  There it was:  Forgiveness is like kryptonite to conquer anger.   I talked about this with my daughter last night, as she is currently wrestling with the idea of having to forgive someone who hurt her deeply as a very young child.  She says she's almost afraid to do it -  I think perhaps she feels that the anger gives her some power over her thoughts and reactions to that person.

I left the ideas with her, reassuring her that it was not something that might happen easily, and nor would the feelings magically disappear - but that by applying her ''kryptonite of forgiveness'' to the angry feelings, she could take some of the sting out of them.  She understood and promised to think about it.

Keep you posted

Sunday, August 12, 2012

a right to life vs a right to death

When I was a little girl we would often go to visit some relatives who lived a couple of hours north of us, in a beautiful house filled with beautiful things.  We would hear about their latest overseas holiday (a cruise around Alaska perhaps, or a trip to Ascot to the races, or an opera in Italy).  One year my Uncle bought my Aunt a new car and it was put in the garage, completely wrapped in Christmas paper, topped with a gigantic bow.  These people had bowls of cashew nuts about for visitors - no chips and dip in this house  - and a percolator and dishwasher before anyone else we knew.  My Aunt wore gorgeous clothes, fabulous shoes and extraordinary jewellery - including a pearl necklace she had purchased in Japan, having watched a diver choose her pearls for her.  They were extraordinary hosts, holding parties and dinners for friends and family and having open homes at both their beach house and city dwelling.   As a child this life enthralled me and I loved to go and visit and soak up this excitement that was rather foreign to my own normality.

Through it all they were generous and kind relatives and when my Uncle died about 12 years ago at 80, there was much grieving.  Last year, despite vociferous complaints and heel digging, my Aunt had to concede to moving to a rest home.  The family fortune is largely gone (a long and sad story) and so she now lives in a beach side home for the infirm and elderly.  At 96 she remains medication free and incredibly healthy, although her eyesight and hearing are failing and there are times when she is less than lucid.  She remembers little from the immediate past (visitors, what was for lunch) but still has a fairly sharp mind - which is a continual frustration to her due to the eye and ear issues.

Yesterday I went to visit her.  I was, frankly, quite nervous about it.  Rest homes are not the most pleasant of places at the best of times, and so I was bracing myself for what I might find.  As I expected, the place had a kind of fading gentility about it at first glance, but was in fact quite shabby on closer look - and home to mainly infirm and largely uncommunicative geriatrics who spend their days shuffling between dining room and lounge with little conversation or activity.  The staff are mainly young, and ESL speakers, who are efficient enough but not particularly warm or nurturing.

Fortunately it was a good day for my Aunt and although there were moments when she cried and her ''timeline''was rather muddled, on the whole she seemed quite settled there (actually, perhaps RESIGNED would be a better description...).  We reminisced about some of the things I remembered from my childhood visits to her.  Like the first time I ever went to a restaurant was with her.  The gold lipstick case brought back from Japan,  I have used everyday since she gave it to me with my first lipstick at age 13.  The beach holidays.  The year my mother got horribly sunburned.  My children, my job, my house.  Her grandchildren, the business she ran with my uncle, their holidays and experiences. She admired my new shoes.  Looked closely at my iphone with fascination and had a go taking a photo with it.  We laughed and cried.

But the reality of her surroundings were that her tiny single room with barely a treasure or significant memory was a depressing place and I could feel her frustration at being one of the most active and lucid residents with hardly anyone to talk to.  This amazing woman was used to bridge, and golf, and cryptic crosswords, and intricate handicrafts.  Now she is unable to read, or listen to the radio, and can just manage a walker-assisted shuffle around the garden, and yet remains almost as sharp on the inside as she has ever been.  She talked of this, and how hard it is to feel young inside but know that your body is failing.  She told me how she wonders if God has forgotten her.  

And so when I left, promising to return, and leaving a note in her visitors book outlining my visit and what we had talked about, although I was happy to have seen her and had such a lovely time I also had an overwhelming sense of sadness.  I really am not sure that it IS fair that the amazing human body has to go through this.  I am not convinced that we should have to live out the last years of our lives without dignity, or in frustration, or simply being miserable.  It seems incredibly unfair to me that a life so well lived should have to end this way.   And that applies to aging, illness and anything else that leaves our bodies at a disconnect to our minds.

And so that of course led me to one of those ''big questions''.  How can it be that abortion is legal but euthanasia is not? That we preserve life at all costs even if the ''liv-er'' doesn't want it.  That we end up having to fill soulless old buildings with what become soul-less old people who would (in my view and often their own) be rather happier in heaven.

I think that by the time I am old and decrepit, we will be able to choose our exit place and method.  Some would say this is playing God.  I'd say it's just making a decision for our soul to meet Him sooner than our bodies might have otherwise allowed.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

what's the story!?

Today I hosted a lunch for 23 business owners.  Over fantastic food (thanks to Fahrenheit Restaurant) we had the privilege of hearing the stories of 4 different entrepreneurs.

 I'd booked a Banker, a Jeweller, a personal assistant and a school principal.  The brief I had given them was to share their ''why and who'' rather than the ''what, where, and when'' of their business life.  And so the audience heard about a person who understands and is passionate about finding financial solutions, a woman who creates precious memories, someone who frees up time for others, and a man with a vision for creating a voice for young people in our community.

It was inspiring!  The ''back stories'' of how each of these people had come to their chosen professions, what motivated them, the most unusual or memorable experiences they had had, the people who influenced and challenged them - this was what made them real.  No more were these names - worse still, email addresses - on a mailing list, or a business card on the table.

This process can be applied to anyone in just about any situation, but is particularly relevant to a career, or business, or investment in social enterprise.  Understanding what makes you ''tick''  - and being able to confidently share that, in person, with others - adds an element of personality that no blog, website  or vibrant facebook page can ever match.

So what is your story? Why do you do what you do? How does this impact on what you do?  Who have you told about it?

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Go ahead: make my day

After all the stress and late nights, at last the Business Awards have been and gone.  The process took, all up, abut 9 months, and culminated in a very fancy night at a very fancy venue, for 300 guests in very fancy dresses.

I didn't know any of the winners - or even the finalists - until they were announced on the night and so it was a nailbiting and exciting couple of hours - and great elation when many of the businesses I work closely with were given awards.

And, as always there were a number of businesses and individuals who didn't make it into the top two or three.  For them I was disappointed - partly because every one wants to win on the night don't they? - and also because there were a few that I felt were extremely deserving.  To those businesses I offer both condolences and encouragement that they will enter again next year.

I a society, do we do well at recognising excellence? Are we good at celebrating success?
Sure, there are amazing events like the Olympics, and grand ceremonies such as these Business Awards held all over the country - but I would suggest that on a day to day kind of basis, we are not so good at giving praise or honouring those that excel.

When was the last time you offered positive feedback to someone?  When did you last send a letter - an email or text even - to a business that gave you great service?  Do you make a habit of thanking people for what they do for you?

We are pretty good at telling our kids that they are terrific.  Most of us do an 'okay'' job at giving positive feedback to friends and partners.  But in the wider community, I'd suggest not so much.  Sometimes it can take a whole lot of of your own effort to acknowledge someone Else's effort.  But a simple 'well done'', especially if its in writing can really make a persons day.  Given to someones boss or their colleague, can have a real impact on a persons performance.

My challenge to you is this:  next time you receive great service in a store, or notice an educator going the extra mile for your child, or see a friend go ''above and beyond'', tell them.  Write it down.  Buy them a card.    Make their day.