I hope you have the time to see this sweet and somewhat historic snapshot.
This week end I spoke at length with a client. She is aspiring to a more artful, creative life. She feels restricted by her limited education. She loves learning. She adores adding new words to her vocabulary but is embarrassed when she pronounces them and has someone correct her.
She was (at first) surprised to learn that President Bill Clinton mispronounces words all the time. He, in fact, invited the press corps to correct him. “It’s how I expand my vocabularly.” I explained to her that President Clinton understands that the smartest people are willing to make mistakes for the sake of learning. They are willing to allow others to correct them, actually INVITE others to correct them, for the sake of becoming better, smarter and stronger. I shared that the capacity to do something that is new or uncomfortable – and be willing to not do it perfectly in order to learn and honor the experience – is a model of courage that President Clinton provides for her.
Learning this about someone as smart as Bill Clinton empowered this young woman.
Imagine being a guest at an event to honor someone. Thousands of people are gathered. And YOU are surprised to be asked, in front of the entire group, to come up to the stage and sing a song with a popular singer and a choir. You don’t know what song. You are not a professional singer…and this is something you had absolutey NO IDEA would be asked of you.
THAT is exactly what happened to Bill Clinton at Shimon Peres’s 80 birthday fete in Israel. Did Bill Clinton object? Did he qualify the moment? Did he explain that he’s a competent musician, but not a singer? No, he did not. He rose up. He walked tall. Yes, he did express visual discomfort. Wouldn’t you? This elder statesmen of the world put his hands to his face at what was being asked of him. But HE DID IT. In front of a choir made up of 40 Israeli children and 40 Arab children, he joined a pop star named Liel singing IMAGINE by John Lennon.
IMAGINE. He picked up steam as the song progressed. As he left his embarrassment behind him and understood the significance and power of the moment, he accepted a microphone and found his voice. And he sang it out strong. HE DID IT.
The same animating, courageous principle that allows Bill Clinton to have his vocabulary corrected, that enables him to rise up and sing in front of thousands, is available to me. To you. The motivation is that the long term result is more significant, more desirable that the short term discomfort. How might this inspiration impact the way you walk through your day? I hope you will allow it to inspire you as it has inspired me.
It’s a common question after reading the headlines or listening to the news. Piece after personal piece of information regarding the lives of our elected officials and out of office celebrities. The media is abuzz with news of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s love child, Maria Shriver’s succinct and personal plea to respect the privacy of her and her family as they work through the trauma and tangle of their family issues.
The Reverend Bill Graham has thankfully been released from the hospital and is at home recovering from the impact of his bout with pneumonia. It is a balancing element that I remember something he said when headlines were again evoking a “can you BELIEVE it” response. Rev. Graham has been a treasured advisor to many a public figure, including numbers of Presidents. And in the midst of the news, speculation and judgements about President Nixon, Billy Graham gently reminded, “Everybody has a little bit of Watergate in him.”
Just this morning a friend of mine who lives in Iowa was expressing a lesson she is in her fifth decade of trying to learn…overtly passing judgement on the path of another hardly ever leads to a positive end. Learn. Take a lesson. Use the news to become more responsible and reflective about the specific and immediate events of your life. Recognize the tenants and guiding principles that direct the path of your own life – and celebrate them. And in all this, amidst the buzz of the latest news flash, hear the grace that Rev. Graham was able to express. We all carry challenge, burden and the results of less than stellar decisions. Every human faces their humanity in the mirror, daily. And some humans, those who live with the companion of international celebrity, look in that mirror with thousands of others looking over their shoulders.
For me, in this day, I am being circumspect in my assessments toward the lives of others. It is not my place to join the fray and cast my stones against the back of another. Today, I will choose to look in the mirror of my own choices, with grace and forgiveness…knowing that my road is my own. Compassion in my own mirror allows for a little more compassion as I glance at the lives of others.
If a friend is in trouble, don’t annoy him by asking if there is anything you can do. Think up something appropriate and do it. – Edgar Watson Howe –
If a man wants to be of the greatest possible value to his fellow-creatures, let him begin the long, solitary task of perfecting himself. – Robertson Davies –
Though familiarity may not breed contempt, it takes off the edge of admiration. – William Hazlitt –
Fame is the sum of the misunderstanding that gathers about a new name. – Rainer Maria Rilke –
The world, like an accomplished hostess, pays the most attention to those whom it will soonest forget. – John Churton Collins –
Thirty nine years ago today my mother died. I was thirteen years old. I heard things around the house like, “The doctor said I needed to take a higher dose of my blood pressure medication.” I had no real concept of what high blood pressure actually was. I knew enough to associate it with limited patience and a short temper. That’s about it.
The last year of my mother’s life a family friend cared enough to alert me to the signs of a stroke. I remember I was supposed to look for a crooked smile. Perhaps if, at thirteen, I’d been near the “information highway” I would have known the acronym FAST –
Face: Ask the person to smile. Is one side dropping? (Crooked smile)
Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms…is one arm drifting downward?
Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Are the words difficult to understand?
Time: Is of the utmost importance…if any of these signs are present, call 9-1-1. Immediately.
The heart is a complex and amazing instrument. It does so many crucial functions in our system and, of course, there are so many things that could go wrong. I was on the look out for the signs of a stroke…but not the signs of a heart attack. In the 39 years since my Mother’s death I’ve learned that heart attack symptoms can appear very differently in women than men. And, just as my mother did, many women discount their symptoms of pain and discomfort and march on – assuming they will just get through it. Those signs are less apparent than the signs of a stroke…
- shortness of breath
- unusual fatigue
Women also have these symptoms:
- Lower chest discomfort
- Upper abdominal pressure or discomfort that may feel like indigestion
- Back pain
An author whose work I follow posted an experience that has haunted me. She had to cancel some of her appearances because she was hospitalized. She thought she was having a heart attack. Turns out she wasn’t! Good news. But the part of her story that has stayed with me is this…she was very proud of the fact that before she went to the hospital she took a shower and put on clean underwear. She delightedly reported that she thought her mother would be especially proud of the clean underwear part. In treating issues related to our one and only heart, TIME is of the essence. Time, TIME is far more significant than clean underwear. Am I being bossy on this? Yes. I am.
In the month ( a whole month) set aside to paying attention to two traumatic maladies, high blood pressure and strokes, let me underscore the whole notion of Self Care. Every day we each invest in the legacy of our health by the choices we make on behalf of our bodies. Paying attention to the signs our bodies provide is an important element. Too often we over ride the clear and purposeful signals our bodies are sending. This is a great day to pause, observe and ask yourself, “What might my body be telling me about my own health matters this moment?”