Sheryl Sandberg wrote this book after husband died suddenly. The book explores how Sheryl and her children recover and rebound from the horrible event while building their reslience, finding greater meaning, and gaining a greater appreciation for their lives. This is part two of a longer discussion where Indrani, Amy, Stacie, and Jeremie share their takeaways from reading the book and how you can apply Sheryl’s lessons to the daily challenges you are experiencing at work and in your personal life.
Sheryl Sandberg wrote this book after husband died suddenly. The book explores how Sheryl and her children recover and rebound from the horrible event while building their reslience, finding greater meaning, and gaining a greater appreciation for their lives. In this episode Indrani, Amy, Stacie, and Jeremie share their takeaways from reading the book and how you can apply Sheryl’s lessons to the daily challenges you are experiencing at work and in your personal life.
According to C. R. Snyder, hope is the trilogy of goals, pathways and agency.
Brene Brown says, “Hope happens when we can set goals, have the tenacity and perseverance to pursue those goals, and believe in our own abilities to act.” In other words we choose to say something, do something and be something.
Aristotle says, “To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”
Lots of people who witness abuse choose this trilogy… Do nothing, say nothing, be invisible.
The Buddhist saying, “what we resist, persists” applies here as well. When we resist naming our hurts, when we resist new pathways out of the pain, when we resist claiming our agency… the old pains and stuckness of thought and deed will persist.
Snyder says that “hope is learned.”
If we did not learn hope in our families of origin we must teach it to ourselves as we age and mature. We must, it is not an option.
Brene Brown says, “We have to resist and unlearn old habits and the tendency to give up when things get tough.”
I know I have quoted everyone here, but they say it so much better than I ever could.
I would love to know:
What old habit or hurt do you need to unlearn in your life so you can teach yourself hope?
She was only 16 or 17 years old. I had just given a short presentation to a group of students and I asked for questions.
She was brave.
She asked what she could do after she had been beaten, and still had to stay in the house.
My heart hurt for her. I knew her pain at a cellular level. I knew her well. I WAS her. I remember being beaten so badly and having welts all over my body, and having to dry my tears. I was told to “go wash your face and when you come out I better not see any crying, you asked for that beating.”
Of course, dear reader, I did not ask for any beating. I had made some childish mistake and I was whipped like I had murdered someone. I remember going to the bathroom, and I was not allowed to shut the door, the abuser needed to “see” that I was not going to have any more “crocodile tears.” I had to suck up all my pain and come out smiling like a good girl. This behavior lasted well into my 50’s.
Don’t let them see you cry those crocodile tears. “They don’t care “…was the voice in my head.
To this day, I still have a hard time owning my pure emotion and I have to fight really hard to not push them down, allow them to morph into anger or rage, or blame. It will probably be a life long lesson. Some days I win and some days I lose.
I told the young lady to try to find a place of solitude in her home and tell herself that one day, she will be out of the house and the abuse will stop.
She could not tell her parents, her parents would be angrier that she “embarrassed the family,” and she would be beaten even more. I told her to use school as a respite. I wish I had someone to tell these things to me. I did not. I had no one to tell me that the abuser was wrong, even though they were caregivers, and said they were beating me because they loved me.
They were wrong. They were telling lies.
We do not hurt what we claim to love.
I deserved love and attention and guidance, not rage and anger and beatings. I have a clear memory of being about 12 years old and kneeling at the side of my bed, praying. My abuser came into the room and asked what I was praying for, and I said for strength. The abuser was pleased.
Yes, I was praying for strength, but strength to live in my hellhole called my childhood.
If I could not get the strength, I prayed that God would take me that night because I could not go on. I was praying to die, at 12 years old. I was not taken, so I guess I got the strength …… and that strength has been parlayed into the work I do now. We are resilient beings. We can stand a lot of pain. If you are in a hellacious situation, and you are an adult, reach out to your local shelter for confidential help. Even if you don’t leave, there are services you can access. They can help you with a plan.
There are people who care that you are in pain.
If you know a child living in a hellacious home, try to be a point of comfort to that child. They need to know you will keep their confidences and that you are a safe place to lay some burdens.
Be that safe place for someone. Someone needs you.
The look of love
The look of fear
The look of contempt
Those looks you hate?
It may not be their fault.
It may be because of the choices you made, the choices WE made as parents of these incredible children we have been given.
As a child, sustaining repeated and persistent abuse, I had a significant thought…
Why did you have me?
This took many other word forms such as:
Why did you have a child?
Why did you have another child?
I am not blaming the way children turn out on their caregivers; I am reminding caregivers to make better choices so that we can say that we tried our very best when our children have the “looks” that are “cringeworthy.”
I spoke to a social worker when I was in Trinidad in October, and I heard about a child who was brought to her office by her guardian with a bag of clothing. The guardian is the legal guardian and a very close family member. The social worker was told that the child was stealing food. The child was a very young teenager and was emaciated and clearly hungry. There was no place for the child to go so the child was sent back to the house with the guardian.
A few weeks later, the whole scene repeated itself. The social worker again sent the child back.
This story really left me feeling helpless.
Often times I am talking about past abuses and guiding the teller of the abuse story through the pain, and into a deeper understanding of their present power instead of a powerless past.
This was so very different.
This is clear and present danger and pain that was being experienced by a young person that I could meet. I could make a significant difference here. Yet, I choose to keep working at the global level and to use my time and energy to try to make changes at a different level.
I will reach out to that social worker to see how I can contribute to the care and feeding of that child, but I must do this from a safe distance. If I get too personally involved I stand the chance of derailing my whole path because I will get way too deep in the problem, and can potentially make the situation very much worse. This is very hard to accept.
Unless I am willing to step in to legally adopt this young teenager in a different country and devote my life to her future, I can only help in different ways.
When we face situations like this in life, we can only really do what we can do. If we need to work from a safe distance, that is the decision we must make.
If we can do something deeper and significantly contribute to the situation we can choose that path. The option is NEVER to beat yourself up about what we “could” have done or “should” have done. To be this centered in difficult decisions like this we must practice this centeredness in other less difficult aspects of life.
Luckily for us, life gives us many opportunities to practice centeredness …. from ordering from a menu, to choosing an internet provider, to dealing with the technical advisor of said internet provider who has such a thick accent, we just want to bang our heads with the device we are trying to trouble shoot. You get the picture.
Look around you and attempt to deal with the next small irritant with a deeper level of groundedness and presence.
Maybe it requires you to use your ears more than your mouth. Maybe you get to use your mouth but in the complete opposite way, like whispering instead of yelling, or smiling in the face of the instigator instead of scowling, pouting. Maybe you decide to use your feet and leave a hostile situation instead of staying and begging the others to please, please, please see it your way.
Only you can decide what to do.
Expect to make mistakes and expect pushback. Pushback is really good because it tells you that you are making waves in the status quo. If you want to quick start this practice, look at the status quo of your life and see what you would like to change then start there.
In my case, the status quo of my life was that of a “stay at home mom,” very little travel and a very confined, albeit very comfortable, world. These days, my status quo is a far cry from yesteryear.
This is part five of the TEDx Talk blog series, as we countdown to the public release of Indrani’s TEDxPortofSpain Talk.
“When we speak up against violence to women and children we are faced with the undertow of the status quo. A status quo that CLAIMS the RIGHT to beat our women and children.
We hear comments like:
This is MY woman and I can do whatever I want
This is MY child and I can do whatever I want
This is MY house and I control everybody here.
A recent survey of 800 households was done here in Trinidad and the majority of children interviewed held the belief that their parents had the RIGHT to beat them and that they expected to be beaten.
When one of us DARES to speak up about child abuse, we are faced with swimming against the tides of IGNORANCE AND THE STATUS QUO of raising children.
When we continue to speak up and against child abuse we are faced with ferocious undertows called
These THREE silent killers are at work every minute of every day across the globe.”
CALL TO ACTION
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Almost a year has passed since I wrote the original “Female Avatar” post, and I have been waiting, and waiting, to write a victorious follow up. A post where I could tell you that using a female character in that video game, and the conversations that followed, made a difference in how my son views gender.
The problem being, there were no earth shattering changes for me to report from that original conversation.
Sure, there were little signs of change. My son would get excited and cheer on the female contestants in America Ninja Warrior competitions, but he would also comment that “the girls never make it as far as the boys” (which is true, but still made me wonder if his view was changing).
We read, Wings of Fire, a series of books with some female main characters. However, these characters were also dragons, and my son LOVES everything dragon. So, I wasn’t sure if he was accepting the female characters completely, or if he was accepting them because of their dragon status.
My son has also become more accepting of the colour purple, which may seem unimportant, but for years purple has fallen into the category of “princess colour” and “boys don’t like princesses”. Unfortunately, pink, is still a colour that forms a grimace on his now 8-year-old face, and a disgusted comment of “pink is for girls.”
Now, to give the poor little guy a break, he is only 8 years old, so I am not expecting him to approach me and ask to have an in-depth discussion about gender norms and how he can work towards behaving in a manner that supports equality (to be honest, if that DID happen I would be a bit wigged out). But, I have been hoping that something “8-year-old big” would happen, showing that he was starting to see that boys and girls are equals.
That 8-year-old-big event happened last week.
We were in Kids Books, an amazing bookstore in Vancouver BC, shopping with Fionn’s cousins for some books for his birthday the following day. I was looking through some 7 to 10-year-old book series when I felt a poke. Looking down I saw Fionn, three books precariously clutched in his arms, looking up at me.
“Daddy, how about these books, they sound awesome”
“You’ve read the backs?” I asked, taking the books from his hands.
“Yes, they sound really cool.”
“For you to read, or for me to read to you?”
“I think I can read them, but I want you to read them to me.”
I looked down at the first book and the 8-year-old-big moment happened when I saw the cover:
Let’s break this down from the view of a Dad, trying to teach his son about gender equality, and see that boys are not better than girls:
The picture on the front of the book is clearly a girl, and he still chose to pick up the book and read more.
The subtitle of the book has the word “witch” (a “girl” word) in it.
Most importantly, and amazing for me:
The subtitle has the word “princess” in it. A word that my son, and all of his friends usually have an allergic reaction to, with much frowning and spitting, followed by “princesses are dumb.”
All right, as earth shattering as this book selection already was for me, it might not be convincing for you. Totally understandable.
I smiled down at Fionn as I turned the book over to read the back, which read:
“Silk tells stories. It sings of secrets long forgotten. It sings of fire. Maia dreams of being a Story Teller, or a Weaver, like her father, Tareth. But when the Watcher names her Sun Catcher, she must face a destiny that Tareth has kept hidden from her. For Maia is more powerful than she knows, and she is about to discover that though the sun’s fire may be dangerous…so is she.”
The back of the book makes it clear that the protagonist is female, and, from the sounds of it, a female that will be kicking some serious butt. Looking at the backs of the other two books, each book is clearly about girls leading the way and being the focus of the story. Not just a side character in the book, but a female protagonist.
For me, after just a year ago when my son refused to even think about reading Tamora Pierce’s “Song of the Lioness Quartet” because the main character was a girl, this is a big sign that our conversation around gender equality has shifted.
Whether it was switching my video game avatar to a female character, or the follow up conversations we have had, or the changes I have made in my own behaviors that has brought about this shift I cannot say.
To be honest I don’t care what has made the difference, but I cannot explain how much pride I felt in this simple moment in the bookstore when my son chose Sheila Rance’s trilogy of books to be our next “Dad and Son” reading project.
I looked up from the backs of the books and smiled, “you bet buddy. Let’s get them all, they sound awesome.”
Fionn smiled, turned, and ran off down one of the aisles to look for more books.
Some of you will have read the title of this blog and have no earthly idea where I will be going.
Others of you will say, “But of course, everyone knows this!”
Still others may just be amused that the title may seem trite.
Let me tell you a story to make this topic come alive. A few years ago, at a business conference I heard a CEO of a large company recall an instance of how this manifested in the C suite.
He was sitting and engaged in his work when he was interrupted by his personal secretary to say that someone from Marketing had a very serious issue.
Being a benevolent CEO, he stopped his work and took the unscheduled meeting.
The Marketing employee came to to tell the CEO that EVERYONE in the Marketing department hated the manager. She listed (painfully) a long string of names of those who had been wronged and how they were wronged and just how affronted she was at the whole state of affairs in the Marketing dept.
The CEO, leaned back in his chair (sure fire behavior that she had lost his attention) and asked her ONE question.
This was it…”Were you appointed by the WHOLE department to bring these atrocities to my attention?”
The answer was a halting and faltering “no.”
He continued, “No one asked you to come to me with this litany of complaints.”
She said, “no.”
He said, leaning forward, “What is YOUR specific problem with your job?”
She blurted out that someone who did less work than she did was making more money than she was.
The CEO, then simply told us these words, “If she had come in with ONLY her problem, we would have looked at it and made a correction. The fact that she was in everyone’s business was so unprofessional that she threw herself under a bus.”
I heard that story many years ago.
I really had not assimilated it to other life incidents as efficiently as I did a few days ago while I was mediating between a home owner and a domestic helper.
I started with the domestic helper first and I asked what her concernS were and she began a litany of past ills NOT against herself but against others she had heard about.
She told me about “Mary” who was underpaid and about “Janice” who was put upon and “had” to ignore her own family and on and on.
I could NOT find a way into this woman’s issues and her individual problems.
Every time I tried to speak she blocked me with another litany.
I then asked her to STOP.
I said I am going to tell you a story. I told her the story from the CEO, the story above. She was enthralled.
I asked her, at the end of the story, to tell me what the CEO was disappointed about and why.
She was able to identify that the employee was in everyone’s business but her own!
Then, I said “Are you in other people’s business with all the stories you were telling me and not able to identify your own issues?”
She agreed that she was indeed NOT in her business.
I had been observing her facial expressions and body language as she retold the stories that were not hers to tell. She was agitated and closed in and contracted.
When she began to be in her business she was open and her face was not contorted. She was actually able to smile and laugh at some of the humor that I was pointing out.
The moral of this story is:
When we stay in our business we practice self care at its finest.
Byron Katie has a great worksheet for understanding whose business you are in.
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