Who are you waiting on to save you?
Superhero films are a big market and it’s not just because we would all love to be super strong, super fast or super good looking. There is the relieving part of knowing that someone is coming to save us, that we’re not on our own, that someone else will step in. But what happens when they don’t? And do we really need someone else to step in? Sometimes, sure. Sometimes, being a hero is an outside job and that is okay. But we can forget that we also have the power to be our own heroes. Who knows us better than ourselves? Who else knows our distraction tactics, the lies we tell ourselves, our biggest triggers? We can be very dangerous to ourselves, but we can also be the heroes we need, because who else knows what we love, what really motivates us, what makes us light up?
“You were taught to grow out, I was taught to grow in,” Lily Myers recites at the Wesleyan University at the 2013 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational. Her haunting poem chronicles the lessons and habits she’s picked up from her mother, passed down from the generations. Mentally she’s been conditioned to think of her self as small and that all efforts should be made to make herself smaller.
Is this a subconscious message we are sending to all young girls growing up? Is that why there’s a need for books like Lean In? It makes you take a step back and look at the messages we observe and regurgitate back out as the norm. How many times have you asked a question that started with the word sorry? More importantly, how do we empower ourselves, our sisters, our daughters and our friends to grow out instead of in?
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Dance guru Gabrielle Roth once pointed out that in tribal cultures if a person felt disheartened or depressed the tribe’s healer would ask these questions:
When did you stop dancing?
When did you stop singing?
When did you stop being enchanted by stories?
When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?
I’m not disheartened or depressed. But I am busy (hard to relate to, right?). After 25 years working as a writer I’m finally birthing my first solo book—the dream of a lifetime coming to fruition—and I’m too damn busy to enjoy the experience.
That is depressing, isn’t it?
Most of my friends are in the same pickle. They’ve spent years chasing their dreams, developing a business, inventing a product, creating a family, and when it all finally lands on their plate, life goes nuts.
Everything becomes about the baby, the book, the film, the promotion, the (fill in the blank). Suddenly the smile disappears, personal conversations get slotted to midnight, new brow lines appear, and housecleaning… well, at least the dust bunnies in my house are having fun doing-it in every available corner!
Maybe I should take the hint and have some fun too?
But then I realize I’m too busy to date. I’d have to clean the house before inviting someone over. Plus how can I have a good time if there’s this anxious subterranean thought-stream flowing beneath every conversation? I can just see it:
Mr. Right looks deeply into my eyes, reaching past the wineglasses to hold my hand across the (newly washed) tablecloth. “Have I told you how beautiful your eyes are in candlelight?” he breathes silkily.
Crap! I forgot to ask about the mailing list and I’ve got to finish that press release and order books and… My mind wanders back to Mr. Right. How did he get hold of my hand?
“Er, did you say something?” I ask.
Sheryl Sandberg of Lean In fame would be proud of me. If I “leaned in” any more my whole life would implode. Do you want to know the real joke? The book I’m sweating over is dedicated to remembering how, amongst other many other things, to let go and lean back.
What’s the old cliché? You teach best that which you need to learn the most?
No kidding! I need to stop taking my life and my endeavors so doggone seriously: to remember to turn off the computer, turn off Pandora, turn off the cellphone, turn off my anxiety, tone down the mental chatter and really reflect on what I’m doing and what really matters in life.
I need to learn to STOP!
Yeah, I know. Scary thought. I’ve been raised to believe if I stop that I’m being self-indulgent and – God forbid –unproductive. If I stop, Sheryl Sandberg won’t like me, the world will fall apart and I won’t SUCCEED.
How can I not believe this?
Humans are now called “resources.” Gross National Product is the measure of my nation’s health—never mind in America 26% of the population suffers from a diagnosable mental health disorder and 50% suffer from a chronic illness.
I’ve GOT to stop.
We’ve got to stop. It’s becoming a public health mandate. But aside from that, for God’s sake stopping is FUN, if we let it be.
Michael Grab, creator of the amazing picture at the head of this blog, leaned in and did what the world expected and graduated from college. But then he flipped the world the bird and started balancing rocks because it was fun. The practice brought what he calls “a zero point or silence within myself.” It brought him balance. Now his fun is his art-form and his life.
Writing has always been my fun. But I cannot let it own me, drive me, whip me. No no no, that would be a tragedy—my personal tragedy added to so many others in this world.
I need to lean back, to remember to dance and sing.
I need silence and the space to listen to other people’s stories.
In this week’s episode of “Perfectly Imperfect Parents” on The Chopra Well, our hosts discuss the challenges some parents face dealing with their own parents and occasionally clashing over child-rearing techniques. We interviewed host Dani Klein Modisett about her experience managing the generations and the bumps along the way.
The Chopra Well: When you became a parent, did you have a clear sense of certain things you wanted to emulate and certain things you wanted to avoid from your parents’ parenting?
Dani Modisett: Okay, let’s jump right in! Not sure the word “emulate” came to mind, but I definitely had some different ideas about parenting. My mother was a working mother; she was “leaning in” before it became a movement. It cost me a lot in terms of self-esteem, of never feeling I was interesting enough for her to hang out with. Obviously, this was not her intention, but it was an unintended consequence, and probably contributed a lot to me becoming a performer. My parents were good about making it to shows, so I made sure to keep those coming.
As far as being a parent myself, I vowed that I would be there with my children, even when it wasn’t all that fun or fancy. Just life. I feel very lucky that I have been able to do this. Except between 5-6:30 pm most days when one of them is kicking the other yelling, “Penishead!” Then I think Marissa Mayer (Yahoo CEO) is really on to something with the importance of working outside the home…
CW: What sort of relationship do your children have with their grandparents? How does it compare to the relationship you had with your grandparents growing up?
DM: I didn’t know my grandparents well at all. My maternal grandfather had Alzheimer’s so I had very little exposure to him, and then I think my maternal grandmother also lost her mind in the end. Although hers was more from isolation. I mostly remember her apartment with chocolate covered coconut patties in a mirrored cabinet that I used to sneak, and that her furniture was covered in plastic. On my father’s side, his mother was very sweet, a tiny woman who baked delicious cookies, spoke slowly peering out from behind coke-bottle glasses, and always seemed serene. Apparently she was nuts too, though, and used to walk around Philadelphia in a nightgown. (This does not bode well for my future, I know).
My paternal grandfather was the original faux French Dude. He had a pencil mustache and wore an Ascot and used to tell people he was from France even though no one was sure when or if he ever lived there. He left my father and my Aunt Thelma (still kicking at 87) when they were very small in search of a more glamorous life. He found himself a second wife who I did know, Minerva. Minerva was the opposite of glamorous and the first funny woman I knew personally. A fireplug with dyed red hair and a wonderful sense of irony that she lived basically in servitude to her much more attractive husband. I think they babysat us once, but that may have just been a dream.
By contrast, my boys LOVE their grandmother. Part of that is the sad fact that they only have one and she lives 3,000 miles away. My husband’s mother died when he was in his early 20’s. When they see my mother then, it’s always a treat.Also, and we were just laughing about this on Saturday during her visit here from New York City, they just simply love her. They love playing games with her, and showing her their art work and sitting in her frail lap. It’s very sweet.
CW: Can you describe a time you and your parents (or your husband’s parents) clashed over how to raise your kids?
DM: Only one big one. Grandpa, my husband’s father, was raised in the midwest on ranch or a feedlot or a farm, I can never remember it exactly right. But the guy is no pansy. He also happens to be brilliant, with a Master’s and a PhD, so he’s an interesting character. I don’t think it’s telling tales out of school to say he’s not a warm and fuzzy kind of man.
Now, from the time he was three, Gabriel (my older son who is now 10) has loved the treacherous “slip n’ slide” contraption. One summer, several years ago, Grandpa was throwing him down the slide to give him some momentum and he threw him too hard and Gabriel got hurt and burst into tears. I happened to be outside to witness this, and I lost my mind. I admit it. Do not f*&k with the safety of my child, even if you’re Grandpa. I screamed, “Are you kidding, what is wrong with you? He’s a baby!!!” To which he replied, looking down at the grass, “Ah, he’s fine.” It was a very bad moment that can still bring tears to my eyes. Other than that, we actually get along fine. He’s very hands off, never tells me what to do, and I do feel he appreciates the time and care I take with the boys.
With my mother, we had one knock down, drag out fight where she accused me of not having enough shirts for Gabriel and again, I lost my mind. I threw open his drawers and pulled out the tens of shirts in there and laid them all on the bed screaming, “Really? Really? He doesn’t have clothes? Really? I don’t take care of my son?” Pretty sure I went on Wellbutrin for a while after that.
CW: What kind of grandmother do you imagine/hope you’ll be someday?
DM: I hope I stuff them with gooey chocolate cookies and laugh at their jokes and say wise things when they ask me questions and get to watch them dance and hear them laugh. But I’m an older mom, so just getting to meet them will be a gift.
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Sheryl Sandberg’s “lean in” theme has fired up debate regarding how women can get more ambitious in the workplace. And debate is a wonderful stimulus for cultural and personal change. Jody Greenstone Miller in her article in the Wall Street Journal, “The Real Women’s Issue: Time” responds that time is the problem for women, not their lack of ambition. Companies have to change the clock for women. The problem is not the long hours of face time, but bite-sized projects. However, I wouldn’t hold my breath for companies to undergo a rapid transformation unless you believe in time travel.
Thankfully and a bit magically, every woman holds her own stop watch for work /life balance.
Women are preoccupied with time not only in the workplace, but regarding their biological clock for childbearing and at the other end of the spectrum the fear of aging – a wrinkle in time! How many women undergo youth enhancing procedures from pricey facelifts to collagen and Botox injections to look younger at the workplace (Men are quickly catching up in this aesthetics arena too). Recently, a powerful portfolio manager who underwent a facelift blew up at her husband who let it slip during an office function that they had a grandchild.
Women need to stop trying to beat the clock, but rather get along with it. Instead of fearing aging, I have taken a random sample of interviewed women and realized that many women emerge more empowered, experienced and successful when the children are grown. Their men retire while these older women are out there in the office climbing the ladder chanting this mantra, “It’s my time now!”
Work/life balance means:
Focusing on quality work, not quantity – working smarter, not longer hours.
Time away from the job makes you more creative, giving you the ability to percolate ideas.
Whatever you do at work, home or play, cultivate a laser focus to be in the moment. Work gives you a break from problems at home while household concerns and tasks give you break from work.
If you have a problem with self-confidence and self-suppression, build it up with exercise: Aerobics and strength training. Men have learned this secret in the gym. You will tap into your core while you clear your head from stress.