In 2008, I got up at the crack of dawn to have my 4 little ones ready to be at the polls at 7:00am and then off to start their days at school. They were 4, 6, 9, and 10. I wanted them to see the process, even though they wouldn’t understand it for years to come. And I knew we were electing our first Black president. It was important to me.
Having said that, it occurred to me today, under the backdrop of the impeachment proceedings, that this president is the only president my younger two have really known and frankly, my older two, as well. Just at the time when they were coming into an awareness about government, leadership at the national level, or understanding what it means to live in a democracy, this administration took office. It has put some things about their perspective into context for me.
Despite what you might think about, or how you might feel about, our current president, he is the identified leader of our country. But he is definitely not providing leadership. All too often, people in my practice are expressing a sense that they’ve lost their tether to anything they previously relied on for grounding. Young people are confused. Their parents are afraid. And others are just living in their “happy place,” immersed in work or Netflix or online cocktail hours.
That loss of outer guidance has made some of us question our inner guidance, too.
How do we support each other ~ especially those who look to us for direction ~ when it feels like we cannot depend on anything right now?
Here are a few places to start.
- Spend some time with your own thoughts and feelings. Check in with yourself. What is true for you? Without judgment or rationalization, get curious about your own response without changing it or even resisting it. Just notice it.
- You don’t need to fix anything. Your job is not to change someone else’s response, but to be present to it. To witness someone who is struggling, with kindness and curiosity, is a gift to both of you.
- Check back in with yourself. Anything different?
- Invite them back to talk again. Be an ear. But the only way you can be an ear, is to continue to practice being present to your own truth. Self-observing, so that you are aware of your own ongoing response, will allow you to listen to the other without the veil of your own emotions clouding what you hear. They don’t need you to hop on their bandwagon or even to dispute it or “correct” it. They need you to hear it. Acknowledge it. Be present to it.
In Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about how doing one simple thing, over and over, can have monumental impact on a company. He calls the process a “flywheel.” We can apply that same strategy when we attend to ourselves and others.
You don’t need to prove your value as a friend, colleague, or parent. You simply have to show up, know what’s your stuff, and listen, without attachment, to theirs.
Repeat. Again, and again.
Showing up for yourself and others in this way will absolutely have impact; and when even just one person shows up for another with presence, like throwing a stone into a pond, the whole world starts to change.