Terminal Days, Life-Giving Possibilities

Ted

Ted.com Image of Ricardo Semler.

Image Description: Ricardo Semler is giving a Ted Talk. He’s wearing a pink, button-up shirt, and a brown blazer. He’s holding some notes, looking up, and his right hand is gesturing.

I recommend Ricardo Semler’s TED Talk.

Ricardo Semler, CEO and majority owner of Semco Partners, is known for implementing creative reforms in the areas of workplace culture and education. He also has an intriguing personal practice:

For years, Ricardo Semler has declared Mondays and Thursdays to be his “Terminal Days.”

These two days of the week are dedicated to prioritizing what he would be doing if he were to learn that he has a terminal diagnosis. The decision to label 28.5% of the week “Terminal Days” might seem rather grim to many of us. In fact, he says that his wife does not like the term. But without question, his personal commitment to this practice has been life-giving.

He says, “On Mondays and Thursdays, I learn how to die. I call them my terminal days. . . one day I could be sitting in front of a doctor who looks at my exams and says, ‘Ricardo, things don’t look very good. You have six months or a year to live.’ And you start thinking about what you would do with this time. And you say, ‘I’m going to spend more time with the kids. I’m going to visit these places. I’m going to go up and down mountains and places, and I’m going to do the things I didn’t do when I had the time.

“But of course, we know these are very bittersweet memories we’re going to have. It’s going to be very difficult to do. You spend a good part of the time crying, probably. So I said, I’m going to do something else. Every Monday and Thursday, I’m going to use my terminal days. And I will do, during those days, whatever it is I was going to do if I received that piece of news.”

One of the things I admire about Ricardo Semler, which you will notice also if you watch the TED Talk above, is that he has spent his life working to reform systems – including the workplace culture of his own company – so that others have the freedom to prioritize their lives in similar ways.

We don’t all have the privilege or opportunity to step away from work two additional days each week, and we can’t all afford to travel the globe. But all of this makes me wonder, what can we do? What is in the realm of possibility, and which choices are ours to make?

Most importantly,

What do we want our lives to mean?

What do we want to prioritize?

What can we do with our time, so that we’re prioritizing these things now, rather than waiting for some event to wake us up to them?

Renee Roederer

Productivity is Neither Worth Nor Fullness

beach

Public Domain Image.

Image Description: A person is standing at the edge of the ocean and looking outward. This person’s back is to the viewer. There are mountains in the background.

Wealth is not synonymous with worth.

Likewise,

Productivity is not synonymous with worth.

Productivity has never been the full measure of our lives, nor what it means to be human. But I think it’s quite possible to internalize the opposite.

Our culture conveys that productivity is the highest good, yet if we chase after it — I don’t merely mean working well in a meaningful way, but if we chase after it– we are rarely satisfied.

When it becomes the totality of our time or our self-understanding, we soon find that it is chasing us. In this mindset, no matter how much time we put into our labor, it is never enough.

It’s easy to internalize cultural beliefs around productivity. Yet truly, productivity is not synonymous with worth.

We do not need to reach a certain benchmark to be worthy of love, care, and belonging. We do not need an enormous salary to convey that we matter.

Yet as human beings, we need wholeness and fullness. Sometimes, this means that we need different experiences — rest, renewal, rejuvenation. Sometimes, this means that we need different parts of our brain to be active — the creative, the playful, the intuitive. These add to our own lives, and they also add to our communities.

Productivity is neither worth nor fullness.

Renee Roederer

We Can Take Up Space (and Support Others Doing the Same)

I could make a parallel post to yesterday’s piece about having needs.

A great deal of cultural messaging says,

“Don’t speak up.”

“Keep that idea to yourself.” (or let me appropriate it…)

“Stay small.”

“Who are you to be in the room? Who are you to lead?”

These messages are sent especially to those with marginalized identities.

But shouldn’t we be suspicious? So frequently, aren’t the cultural forces and systems of greed, along with their benefactors, the loudest messengers in these directions?

Let’s take in this quote from Elaine Welteroth, shared by @bookedinsouthdakota:

“Sometimes just being yourself is the radical act. When you occupy space in systems that weren’t built for you, your authenticity is your activism.”

IMG_3410

Image from @bookedinsouthdakota

Image Description: The quote above is typed on a white page in a book with black writing.

Renee Roederer

 

We Can Need

A great deal of cultural messaging says to us,

“It’s wrong to need.”

“It’s shameful to need.”

“It’s selfish to have needs.”

“It’s embarrassing to need other people.”

But shouldn’t we be suspicious? So frequently, aren’t the cultural forces and systems of greed, along with their benefactors, the loudest messengers in these directions?

Let’s take in this quote from Allyson Dineen (@notesfromyourtherapist on Instagram):

“Growing up with the message that ‘you’re not supposed to need other people’ is going to require a ton of shame to maintain — since it’s going against millions of years of human evolution in a species with a nervous system built exactly FOR: safety, connection, and relationship.”

IMG_3372

Image from @notesfromyourtherapist on Instagram.

Image Description: The quote above is written on a sheet of white paper with black writing.

Renee Roederer

Selves-Care

people

Public Domain Image.

Image Description: Paper cut outs of people are standing in a line and holding hands. The image has different shades of orange with light shining through at the top.

We need care.

We all need nourishment, rest, play, connection, love, relaxation, personal growth, and the meeting of daily needs. These take time and intention.

These days, we hear a lot about self-care, but we need community-care too. I follow the lead here of BIPOC and disability justice activists who remind us that our relationships are intended to be interdependent, and that we can practice care toward one another, meeting each other’s needs with love, consent, respect, and empowerment.

When it comes to cultivating care for ourselves, both in our practices toward ourselves and in our making requests from others… some of us were socialized to feel as though care for ourselves is somehow selfish… that it is self-centered or that the prioritizing of time for our care somehow ‘takes’ from others.

Of course, when we seek to live toward an interdependent vision for our relationships, care for ourselves creates more vitality, resilience, and energy for our loved ones and the community as a whole. It aids more than ourselves alone.

But still, even if we know that, and even if we believe that, that old socialization can run deep.

So here’s a question I find myself thinking about…

When we cultivate care for ourselves, in our practices toward ourselves and in our asking for needs to be met by others,

what if we also thought about it as “selves-care”?

Does this framing help?

After all,

Don’t we find that we are meeting needs of our younger selves?

Don’t we find that we are creating more vitality for our future selves?

Doesn’t care do that for ourselves? Reach backward and forward?

Selves-Care: Loving and aiding our past and future selves. Loving and aiding our relationships and wider community. Is this helpful?

Renee Roederer

 

That Deplorable ‘No Such Thing As a Free Lunch’ Argument

School Lunch

Public Domain Image.

Image Description: A school lunch with a chicken salad sandwich, carrots, a pear, and a red and white carton of low-fat milk.

A public school district in Pennsylvania recently threatened parents with the possibility sending their children into foster care if they did not pay their school lunch debt. In the wake of this, multiple people have offered to pay the debt on behalf of all the families, but the school district has refused those offers.

Sometimes, greed isn’t about money. Sometimes, it’s about power, domination, and intimidation:

Offers Pour in to Pay Students’ Meal Debt, But School Officials Not Interested

We do so much harm to children when we refuse to care for their needs, isolate them, or threaten their support structures.

That Deplorable ‘No Such Thing As a Free Lunch’ Argument

Renee Roederer

Jesus Talked About Money Almost More Than Anything Else

money

Public Domain Image.

Image Description: $5, $10, $20, and $50 bills laid on top of one another.

Jesus talked a lot about money and material possessions. Like, a lot. Almost more than anything else. The most frequent topic in his teachings is the Kin(g)dom of God. But right after that, it’s money.

He taught about money all the time.

And contrary to what the 1% and today’s prosperity gospel leaders might teach, Jesus did not discuss how to get wealth and hoard it. He did not tell people that their personal worth was dependent upon particular possessions. He did not advocate that people give money in order to get much more in return.

And he did not uphold or promote an economy of extraction. In his day, the Roman Empire occupied his land, taxed the people exorbitantly, and marginalized the poor. Wealth moved from the masses to the few.

No, in his very first sermon, Jesus spoke about his calling through these words of Isaiah:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
   because he has anointed me
     to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
   and recovery of sight to the blind,
     to let the oppressed go free, 
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

Then he included marginalized and oppressed people in everything he did. He empowered their leadership. Alongside them, he walked on foot around Galilee and Judea and taught quite a bit about greed and wealth.

It seems that part of our collective liberation involves freedom from greed and the trappings of wealth. Perhaps we need to talk more about this too. . .

Renee Roederer