I spent a fair amount of time over the last month with my 2-year old grandson and while he is quite verbal, he is often less than completely clear. To catch his meaning, I had to listen, both to the context and to the sounds, piecing together his special language of enunciation and words. With patience I came to understand. All it took was to really listen; his meaning was there all the time for me to hear.
Imagine my surprise then when at a recent library event featuring the journalist and prolific author Tom Friedman, he spoke about his love of, and interest in, people. In fact, he told us he especially loves listening. Not only do you get to learn, but he explained that listening shows an overt sign of respect. In his experience once others know you respect them, they become willing to hear what you have to say, even when your message may be something they don't want to hear. It's no shock that listening is essential to facilitate open communication. It's what we do with children: simple, and yet profound.
A few days later, I had, as Oprah would say, another "Aha" moment. As the only participant at a strength-training class, the hour became far more than an opportunity to exercise my physical self. The instructor had experienced a health crisis with a beloved parent and needed not only to debrief, but to find the space to take a breath. The result of our conversation was to accept that we all need help at different times in our lives. Whether it is to aid with aged parents or to cope with kids or illness or changing circumstances, it doesn't matter. Our natural inclination is to resist thinking we need help. We are reticent to ask for assistance. We try to handle everything on our own and don't want to burden others. And yet, when we are actually allowed to help each other it is a gift. We feel satisfied, worthy and compassionate. To rob others of this experience is a double blow; it's unfair to both you and those who care about you.
This is another of the things children teach us. When kids look up with eyes wide and pleading, it takes only one word, "Help," or perhaps it's just an outstretched hand. We know what it means. It is a call to action. We do what we can to respond to their plea. Either we "fix" it ourselves or figure out how to make the situation right. In doing so we feel happiness alongside satisfaction, self-worth and compassion. It brings joy to our heart and fulfillment to our soul.
There is one other word that anyone who has been around a 2-year old knows well. It's the ability to say "No" without worry of losing love, or respect or one's place in the universe. It's direct and conveys exactly how they are feeling. And we love them just the same. Yes, out of the mouths of babes comes the honesty and the tools we need every day to survive. All we have to do is to listen, ask for help and learn when it's best to say no. (Joan)
To capture photographic evidence of a black hole billions of times more massive than our sun, in a giant galaxy 55 million light years away sounds too fantastical to be real. A black hole gobbles up anything that gets too close to its edge, sometimes, ominously enough, called the point of no return. Not even light can escape, meaning the laws of physics also collapse into this cavernous mysterious, stellar-charged denseness. "It is a smoke ring framing a one-way portal to eternity" as one NYT reporter put it. Until this month, black holes were only theoretically known to exist because they were thought to be un-seeable.
Miracles are all about seeing the un-seeable. Sometimes it is as simple as seeing something more in the beauty that crosses our path - a flowering burst of spring, or a baby's smile, or our own ability to love. Other times, it's not so simple as there is no evidence of what lies behind or beyond; there is no tangible evidence at all. A leap of faith is required after hearing a story or experiencing our own odd coincidence. In pursuit of the black hole's cameo, a telescope the size of earth was assembled to find it. In finding the miracle, we puny humans have a wing and a prayer and a feeling. But many of us know it's there to be found.
For the better part of a century, modern physics has proven that uncertainty is an integral part of the physical world and that as observers you and I can alter what might have been. I've always had a particular affinity for finding science, especially physics, a breeding ground for miracles and I have to say this visual evidence of Constellation Virgo called M87 where the black hole lives, beats all. Maybe other dimensions and eternities live inside black holes. We don't know and have no way of knowing at present. Anything is possible. And, the possibility of miracles lives inside the ambiguity built into the universe; miracles are the part where the light escapes. (Katie)
When people would say, “Be the Miracle,” I was always intimidated. After all, I was brought up back in the day when Divine Intervention was at the root of all miracles. At the time, the concept that any of us could be a miracle for someone else eluded me. Now that I am older, I have a different feeling.
In thinking about Women’s History Month and the women we celebrate, the notion of being the miracle for someone else has become a lot more understandable. As we commemorate the accomplishments of women in history, it seems that so many of these women were miracles of their time. It is important to applaud their contributions and how they impact us still today.
As I consider the other women who have impacted my life, I think back to my 29-year old self, when I was applying for a job that was lots bigger than I was. Not to worry, the woman who interviewed me said. “I think you can do it.” Over the last 35 years this woman has been a mentor, a friend, a confidant and huge supporter. In essence, she is a miracle in my life.
I think the mission of being a miracle for others calls us to be a mentor, a teacher, a supporter and cheerleader for those around us. Not just for our family and friends, but for those we meet along the way. We are called to be leaders, friends and advisers. The Old Boys Network has been around forever. What we women are called to do is to create our own empowering network. I am inspired by the Chinese Proverb, “When sleeping women wake, mountains move.”
Women can relate to each other. We understand the many balls we have in the air at any one time. We are called to find our similarities, not only our differences. Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies as we tend to be hard on one another. We must also remember that we are called to celebrate our successes with one another. While we don’t need to agree all the time, we do need to be willing to listen and to take seriously the thoughts and aspirations of those women we champion as well as those who cross our path.
When I think about the women who have been instrumental in my own life, my mother, mother-in-law, special aunts, a sister, daughter and my co-author friends, I am challenged to think about how to have an impact on other women. It will require time and effort. It will also require openness and vulnerability. Women’s History Month reminds us it is time to be the miracle for someone else. It’s time to move mountains.
"The heart has its reasons that the mind does not know." 17th century mathematician, physicist and theologian, Blaise Pascal, was a defender of the scientific method. Yet, it is his realization that we come to know things, even truth, in ways that transcend reason that resonates hundreds of years later. The "heart" for him, then, and for us, now, is at the center of what gives the human race it's humanity. It is the intersection where each human being connects with others because we can all understand love and loss, and the many virtues that flow from love and loss - compassion, sacrifice, forgiveness, trustworthiness and faith to name a few.
The metaphorical heart is the powerhouse of our very existence. We can wear it on our sleeve, or choose not to. The heart can bleed and it can break. And mend, thank god, always leaving behind the remnants of what was lost and a scar to remind us that we have earned the lines on our face and the wisdom in our soul. The heart can ache for someone else's difficulty, or it can ache when missing someone so much we feel a hurt that won't go away. And, when we have a heart-to-heart conversation, it means we have allowed ourselves to be vulnerable and authentic, whole-hearted, in truly connecting with someone else.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote that, "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." This is how we fall in love with one person and not another, why we follow our intuition or take a chance on our dreams. It is how we are able to read the spiritual signposts that light our way. No wonder the heart gets its own holiday. With origins in an ancient Roman fertility festival and named for a real St. Valentine, a Christian martyr from the 3rd century, Valentines Day in some iteration has been around for millennia. Though the holiday is associated with romantic love, it is good to remember that the heart works its magic in a broader sense all year long, if we but follow. (Katie)
I may have been a matchmaker in a former life. As 2018 came to a close and I was thinking about my New Year's Resolutions, one word kept coming to mind: connection. I love connecting with people, like the elderly gentleman at the pre-Christmas Lessons and Carols who made room for us in his already crowded pew. Once the service was over the hug we shared after talking about his far flung family and recently deceased wife was meaningful to me and I hope to him.
We connect with others in many ways like my California workout "tribe" with whom I actually look forward to exercising. When the manager of the health club suggested we were doing far too much talking over spinning, we took matters into our own hands and developed our own SpinChat session three times a week.
Connection is obviously behind the huge international meetings I've attended, whether it is health care like JP Morgan in San Francisco this month, or other professional groups like the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. And it's not just business that brings people together, the prevalence and number of online dating apps suggest I am not alone in both seeking and relishing connection.
Connection is cathartic; an emotional release that is rewarding. It is a gift you give yourself. And like most meaningful gifts, it requires some degree of effort, not only to reach out to others, but also to become vulnerable by sharing a part of yourself. As we have moved around the country, I've found connection to be an important part of fitting in, a way of finding a sense of belonging.
When I reflect on those friends that I've had that somehow have faded away, the gratefulness I feel for having had them in my life is tinged with a sense of loss. And when suddenly there is a message out of the blue and a lost friend returns again to my life as happened this Christmas Eve the joy is real, a sense of wonder in the rekindling of a friendship and a profound relief that they have emerged out of the silence intact.
Connection allows me to make sense out of my past, to recognize where I am in the present, and to provide guidance of how I will cope with whatever the future may have in store. It is a way to acknowledge who I am, how I engage with others and learn about myself - both my strengths and my weaknesses. Connection teaches openness, gratitude and compassion.
I suspect 2019 will be another landmark year of travel to see family and friends, for work and for play, and I look forward to making new connections along the way. For me, it's the only way to fly. (Joan)