We are a culture of success. We want everything to be perfect, dialed, and done right the first time.
My father ingrained it into us as kids “do it right the first time.” I do not know if that was ingrained in him as a kid or if it was after being in the military, but he was hard-core and would often yell if we did things (mostly chores) and our results were not up to his standard. Imagine over time knowing that if it was not perfect the first time — you would receive his anger and frustration. Yet, it meant that we only learned to fail with negative consequences.
When I heard about Pema Chodron’s book: “Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better: Wise Advice for Leaning into the Unknown” I knew I had to read it. It is the transcription of her 2014 commencement address at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Her granddaughter is in the graduating class. It is a quick read (a book with text on only the right side pages, and small, so it can be read in less than an hour), but a powerful message.
I love this idea she shares:
“‘Fail better’ means you being to have the ability to hold what I called in the talk ‘the rawness of vulnerability’ in your heart, and see it as your connection with other human beings and as part of humanness. Failing better means when these things happen in your life, they become a source of growth, a source of forward, a source of, as I say in the talk, ‘out of that place of rawness you can really communicate genuinely with other people’.” Page 115
To think about failing and being vulnerable — that is where we learn. There is so much I can take from this in work and home life, and especially with this ‘lil man that is going to soon join us. I vow to let my son learn in his own way, fail, and be vulnerable. Hopefully it means he will not have the message that has haunted me for years — that I always had to do it right the first time.
It has been on my mind for quite a while. I have not been able to formulate the words I feel, yet I know there are articles and blogs out there that state the facts, opinions, and emotions of countless mothers, soon-to-be mothers, and of course fathers out there that have experienced or will soon experience what it is like to bring a child into this world. I think about it in relation to when my sister had my niece, when my friends have had their babies, and when my colleagues (both men and women) have had to come back to work so quickly, either because of financial or work related reasons. What am I ranting about?
Parental leave in the United States.
A few days ago I read an article on The Huffington Post titled: “A Working Mother’s Plea to the President” that brought tears to my eyes for its authenticity, rawness, and the poignant reality to parents and families in the United States. Over time I for some reason have collected articles and personal blogs about parental leave because I am stunned and aghast that a country that is as progressive, modern, and futuristic as the US that we treat our mothers and babies as though it is 1770. How can we have pride for a country that keeps its eyes closed about this issue?
A Wikipedia search for “Parental Leave” shares a chart of all the countries in the world. Only two countries list “0” days. Papua New Guinea and the United States. How is that possible? How is it that every other country in the world has some type of paid parental leave policy and all we have is a law that means we will not lose our job (FMLA of course). What does that say about our countries support for families and the bonding that is necessary at the beginning of a child’s life? Some of the countries on the list not only give you time off before you have the baby, but an extensive amount of time after the child is born. Note: the District of Columbia does require employers to give paid time off. So does that mean that all of our politicians are covered, but regular American citizens are not? Can you believe Sweden gets 16 months off for maternity leave? What does this mean for parents and families that cannot afford to take any time off? Who is taking care of those babies in the immediate days after birth?
A search on Change.org resulted in many petitions all of which are closed. This is an issue that deserves our attention. How can we be in LAST PLACE? Read “A Working Mother’s Plea to the President.” It is time to speak up.
Vulnerability is the new black. Thanks to Brene Brown, more people are talking about vulnerability. I love the word in ways I never would have a few years ago. Why? Because it is making us more real. I dislike the dictionary definitions I found for vulnerable. Once you read Brene Brown’s book “Daring Greatly” you may just agree that we need to revise the definition. Most definitions talk about “being vulnerable to attack or harm.” Not too encouraging.
How about something about opening oneself up to the rawness and realness of life, to feel, act, and speak with openness? Ah, what would life be like if we said exactly what was on our mind all the time? We might know each other better, feel deeper, wonder what others think less. Would that be refreshing? I think so. So what holds us back from being vulnerable? Are we afraid of what others will think of us, or that we will offend another, or that we will put ourselves out there and it will not be reciprocated? All valid points, but are they enough to not make us just lay it all out there? Do we have too much to lose?
I am not going to say that it was ever easy to put my thoughts out there blunt and uncensored, but the more I have the easier it gets. Sometimes it can be messy. I can have an amazing evening with Chris and another couple and walk away thinking, “Did I say too much?” I often get a funny feeling inside that makes me revisit a conversation and I wonder what is making me circle through different moments of the night. Maybe I did say too much and maybe it was just right. Regardless, I was me in all my rawness. There is a bravery, an innocence, a transparency that comes with vulnerability. I will take that from someone any day. It means I am truly getting to see that other person. In happiness, tears, fear, you get to witness them for who they are in that moment.
By being vulnerable, we feel deeper, we form stronger connections, and we are all changed in the end. It is a risk, but I think it is worth it. Are you willing to take that risk and start being more vulnerable?