When you debate a person about something that affects them more than it affects you, remember that it will take a much greater emotional toll on them than on you. For you it may feel like an academic exercise. For them, it feels like revealing their pain only to have you dismiss their experience and sometimes their humanity. — Sarah Maddux
When we make space to be present to the moment before us, When we create intention to notice the surroundings around us, We are soon reminded of people.
Isn’t that true?
We walk around the grocery store and see a food item that someone especially likes.
We cross an email off our to-do list and remember someone we’d like to check in with later.
We smell a comforting scent and remember the people present in a long-ago memory.
The remembrances of people are around us all the time. This means we are invited into community all the time.
I find myself thinking about the word ‘remember.’ Though we don’t typically think about it this way, in English, the word is literally phrased as ‘member again.’ This is a way to express belonging. In community, we are members of one another. We belong.
Over the weekend, I attended a Fundraising Gala for the Interfaith Round Table of Washtenaw County. La’Ron Williams, a community leader and professional storyteller, was one of the featured speakers. I was moved by what he had to share at that event. Afterward, I discovered he has an excellent TedTalk. I thought I’d share that today.
If we change the stories we’re telling — stories we tell ourselves, stories we tell about neighbors, stories we tell about the world and reality itself — we can change the nature of our relationships, and we can change the world.
When I find myself driving and jamming to a song on the radio, it’s usually because I love that particular song, or it perfectly syncs with my mood. But yesterday, I found myself beaming with smiles for a whole different reason. A song brought me to a quirky, funny memory.
Did you ever have an imaginary friend when you were a kid?
I did, when I was four. But my friend was not from any typical, imaginary friend category.
A friend my age…? No.
An animal…? No.
A toy come to life…? No.
My imaginary friend was…. wait for it…
My imaginary friend was Davy Jones of the band The Monkees.
I am literally laughing aloud right now as I type this blog post. Such an overly-specific imaginary friend!
Davy became my bud because as a four year old, I loved watching The Monkees on their exceedingly cheesy Nick at Nite television show. Davy and I would play games, and for a brief period of time that I remember, I would buckle a seat belt for him in the car.
Yesterday, while driving, the Monkees’ song, “I’m a Believer” came on the radio. I smiled at my childhood memory and laughed. I also like the song though I’m no longer a believer that Davy Jones is buckled in next to me in my car. (And, you know… thankfully. Though I suppose I could then ask him directly, “Davy, what were you and your boys thinking when you recorded this song?”)
I didn’t ask Davy anything yesterday in my car. But to myself, I thought, “This is funny. I should blog about this. Or maybe put it in a future comedy set.”
But then I thought, “Wait… but is this also kind of embarrassing?”
It’s a quirk.
It’s both funny and embarrassing. And also endearing. And also, as I’ve already said, super overly-specific in a delightful way.
So I share.
But mostly, I share the invitation to love your quirks today.
“There are as many atoms in each molecule of your DNA as there are stars in the typical galaxy. This is true for dogs, and bears, and every living thing. We are, each of us, a little universe.” – The Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Episode 2
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?
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?