Rise and Shine

I woke up crying, and for a moment or two, couldn’t figure out why.

The last time I woke up choking back tears was the morning after my grandmother died in a small Upstate New York hospital bed surrounded by family. Years ago, now. How strange to experience profound sadness as the first emotion of the day. And these are not two isolated, unconnected incidents.  Because my grandmother — my inspiration for starting this little blog — taught me how to make lemonade from lemons.  Hence, “The Lemonade Chronicles.”  So, good people, it’s time to make some lemonade.  Here, squeeze this lemon, stir it up, and maybe even drink some along with me….

It would be easier to lash out. Point fingers. Assign blame.  Cry foul. Demean and malign. I admit to giving expression to those base instincts in the last 24 hours.  I am angry, for sure. But I would like to think that I am better than that.  That we are better than that.

So my family and I are not going to choose that path. Instead, this is what we’re going to do —

Practice Resilience.

My most important job is “Dad.”  And my wife’s is “Mom.” In those roles, for years we have preached to our kids the importance of resilience — bouncing back after a setback.  And there have been setbacks: Birthday parties not invited to. Little League all star teams not made.  Schools not admitted to.  Grandparents diagnosed with cancer.   Great grandmother passing away unexpectedly.  And now, a difficult and unexpected general election result.  Every setback, every disappointment, every loss, offers an opportunity to practice resilience. We’re going to pick our heads up off the canvas, get our legs under us, and stand back up.  And we’ll appreciate every knockdown, because that’s just one more chance to get right back up.  Resilience.

Be Grateful.

I’ve always been drawn to a legend of ancient martial arts masters who willed themselves to dream of being dispatched by enemies wielding sharp swords; that way, when they awoke the next morning, alive, they would be elated at the possibility of one more day.  Even one more breath.  Especially in tough times, I have tried to remember and conjure this parable.  I’m grateful that I woke up this morning.  Many people didn’t.  And I’m grateful for the next breath I take, and for the fact that it probably won’t be my last.  Nope, it wasn’t my last. Because there are plenty who at this moment, will not take another breath. My family and I have so many things for which to be grateful.  And I’m not talking about surfboards, and bicycles, and flat screen televisions and wifi.  I’m talking about love.  I’m talking about our health (even knowing that one day will be our last, and at some point there will be only one more breath). I’m talking about our family and friends. We are grateful for you.  Thank you.

Build Empathy.

We have some work to do here.  We are going to need to double down on empathy.  In our San Francisco bubble, this election result is unfathomable and completely unexpected.  I haven’t seen many Trump bumper stickers.  I can count the friends of ours who are Republican on the fingers of one hand.  So I must acknowledge, now, that I am raising my boys in an echo chamber. Our family has not experienced the isolation and frustration felt by 40 million-plus of our fellow countrymen and countrywomen. Plenty of women apparently voted for Trump last night, for example.  Can you imagine how much pain they must be experiencing to cast that vote, despite the sexist behavior and words of their chosen candidate?  Similarly, I don’t believe that everyone who voted for Trump is a bigot.  Clearly, millions are not, and millions do not support those toxic values.  Their pain drove them to the only choice they felt they had.  I suppose my family and I are “privileged” and “elite,” though I don’t think of ourselves that way.  But clearly, I need to get to fathoming what had previously seemed unfathomable.  People are in terrible pain, and we need to appreciate, respect, and address that.

It’s Cool to Be Kind.

We are also going to be kind.  Kinder, perhaps, because I would like to think that we have been behaving in a kind way.  “Be kind” has been a dinner table mantra for quite some time around here. Easy to say, harder to do.  And even harder to do, as of this morning. Raising a high school sophomore son, we are in the belly of the beast. Even in supposedly “progressive” and right-thinking secondary schools, it is not cool to be kind.  It is cool to demean, to objectify, to criticize, to marginalize.  We are going to have to keep pulling the rope, hard, from the opposite end. Probably need to pull harder than ever before. We are going to keep working on being who we are — authentic and vulnerable with all of our warts.  And we’re going to be savvy consumers of others’ warts.  We’ll look for the warts, everyone has them, that is the real world, and we’ll embrace them.  Yep, we will fancy ourselves as “Wart Embracers.” There is a new premium on kindness now, in my view, and we’re going to give it as much currency as we can.

Do Important, Meaningful Stuff.

None of this means we will be complacent. We will refocus on what is important and on doing meaningful work. I am embarking on a new role with a startup focused on eliminating single use plastic bottles.  This morning, that mission seems even more important.  Too, we have talked as a family for years about finding a single charitable cause on which to focus our efforts, rather than writing myriad modest checks here and there without contributing sweat.  I suspect we’ll be more serious and purposeful about this important work now. Same goes for being more actively involved with the democratic process. And hopefully our kids will discover what drives them, and will be inspired to do something with their lives that leaves the world the better for it.

So these are the thoughts filling my head as my family and I tackle this difficult day.

Wake up, America.  It’s time to rise and shine.

Thanks for reading.

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