the better angels of our nature…

Being in opposition is easy, but stating what we believe in is often challenging.  We’re living in strange times, there’s way too much stress in the system.  It doesn’t matter what side (or center) of the American political spectrum you fall on—division and absolute certainty are not the products of a civil society.  I find myself longing for a time when we agreed on some basic truths and then engaged in respectful policy discussions about how to achieve those shared goals.

After having my coffee and reading the news, I wanted to write about things I believe in—not what I’m opposed to.

HERE GOES (this is actually harder than you think, try it):

EDUCATION: 

I believe our schools should teach rigorous courses in the following areas:

1. How to have healthy relationships: familial, personal, societal and self 

2. Financial literacy

3. Digital life/footprint realities & cyber security information

4. Personal health: nutrition, exercise & sexuality 

5. Stress management: I read in Psychology Today that the average high school student in America has the level of stress of the average psychiatric patient in 1950. Horrifying huh? 

6. Home Economics & Shop courses mandatory starting in 1st grade: If we taught kids how to cook, clean, mend/repair things, lots of hacks for living, it would be powerful and empowering.  The more we know, well, the more self esteem grows.  I know many believe these things should happen at home, however, my children listen better to others than me (or at least it seems that way).

I want to operate in reality, not the romanticized ideal.

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LEADERSHIP: 

Congress should be filled with teachers, coaches, caregivers, engineers, small business owners, artists, writers, factory workers, farmers and so on.  We need to take dark money out of the system and let congress reflect “we the people”.  If the election cycle was much shorter and a defined amount of money is what could be spent, it would level the playing field considerably.

END CITIZEN UNITED!

“The Citizens United ruling, released in January 2010, tossed out the corporate and union ban on making independent expenditures and financing electioneering communications. It gave corporations and unions the green light to spend unlimited sums on ads and other political tools, calling for the election or defeat of individual candidates.

In a nutshell, the high court’s 5-4 decision said that it is OK for corporations and labor unions to spend as much as they want to convince people to vote for or against a candidate.”

SOURCE: https://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/10/18/11527/citizens-united-decision-and-why-it-matters

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PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY: 

I believe we need to try to “MIND THE GAP” between our stated values and how we behave…and this is sooooooooo hard sometimes.

I know for me, when my values/behavior are out of step, I feel like crap and the people I love suffer.  This is a muscle to be exercised like any other. 

I started trying to pay more attention to when my values were out of alignment with my actions.  It sucked at first to do this because it’s quite painful.  We don’t want to see ourselves that way.  However, the more I started noticing, the more quickly I could correct the behavior (most of the time).  I’m hardly batting 1000%, but I’ve made slight improvements and that’s something to build upon.

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I wholeheartedly believe in the Bohemian Creed made famous by Baz Luhrmann’s “MOULIN ROUGE”!

TRUTH • BEAUTY • FREEDOM & LOVE

truth beauty freedom and love lisa lillibridge

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BETTER ANGELS (Abraham Lincoln):

“I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Abraham Lincoln‘s first inaugural address was delivered on Monday, March 4, 1861, as part of his taking of the oath of office for his first term as the sixteenth President of the United States.

 

Fee-fi-fo-fum

Close your eyes.

Think of yourself as a GIANT looking down on your life.

What do you see?

Do things you stress over seem smaller from this vantage point?

We can all access our giant anytime…Fee-fi-fo-fum.

I haven’t named my giant yet…but I have a few ideas.

 

anxious OR hopeful?

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Do you want extreme uneasiness of mind OR to cherish a desire with anticipation?  When I read these definitions out loud they prompted remarkably different feelings in me.

I was once was told that worrying is a prayer for something bad to happen.

If that’s true, than hope is a prayer for something good to happen, right?

—Author Edwin H. Friedman in “A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of a Quick Fix” wrote:

“…the climate of contemporary America has become so chronically anxious that our society has gone into emotional regression that is toxic to well-defined leadership.”

“…chronic anxiety that characterizes the emotional processes of contemporary American civilization influences our thoughts and our leaders toward safety and certainty rather than boldness and adventure.”

This book is a remarkable read about leadership in contemporary America—Business‚ Government, Coaching, Teaching, Clergy & Parenting.  The central idea is that any system requiring leadership with way too much anxiety becomes static, lacks innovation and is unable to seek out creative solutions.  In my heart I desire boldness and adventure over safety and certainty.  In my life I get racked with worry and anxiety, but I have a choice as to what I hold closer to my heart.  We always have a choice.

Holding onto our anxiety is easy right now, it’s being spoon fed to us 24 hours a day.

I have hope in the innovation of the next generation.  I have hope in science to spark cures for disease, find unique ways to educate our children, protect our climate and invent really cool new ways to do things.  I have hope that we can listen to each other.  I have hope that we don’t constantly fear those who are different than us.  I have hope that our better angels will emerge.

We actually do have a choice to make between being ANXIOUS or HOPEFUL.

My bet is on HOPE.  Without it, we’re screwed.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/151881.A_Failure_of_Nerve

Seeking Middle Ground

I think our civilization clearly depends upon finding some middle ground.  I know my own family isn’t talking as much because of the polarized political climate.  We may be reaching a tipping point of sorts, at least that’s what it feels like to me.  I’m hopeful that we can shift course.  I believe in the goodness of our shared humanity.

MIDDLE GROUND; a standpoint or area midway between extreme or opposing positions, options, or objectives (Merriam Webster)

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We are living in unprecedented times.  A time of chaotic polarity in our civic lives. The lack of middle ground is causing stress to the many systems we all operate in; family, community, government and work.  My husband and I are trying to hold some middle ground and manage the stress and anxiety in our home.  We’re listening to our children and trying to offer counterpoints to the dizzying array of sound bites & headlines out there fighting for our attention every minute of every day. 

I don’t think I’ve hidden my politics from anyone, however, my moderation might be surprising.  Labels are easier for all of us than asking questions or being curious about the WHY of someone’s beliefs.  We’re ALL guilty of not asking questions and making too many assumptions about others.

I grew up in a very conservative family in the South Dakota.  I have deep knowledge of how political beliefs are shaped from both sides of the political aisle.  My paternal Grandfather, Louis Lillibridge was an intellectual and a moderate—in my estimation anyway.  Grandpa could consider a lot of competing ideasHe studied other religions and ideologies.  He read constantly.  I adored him for many reasons, but mostly I felt heard by him.  Don’t we all want to be heard even if people don’t agree with us?

We can’t really be heard if we aren’t willing to listen too.

My politics were left leaning before I left conservative Sioux Falls College (now the University of Sioux Falls) in 1988.  For my family it was easier to blame my democratic husband who hailed from Massachusetts than to believe I was an outlier.  My first experience out of college was to move to New Zealand and work at a non-denominational Christian Radio Station (Radio Rhema) http://www.rhema.co.nz/.  My friends were from all over the world and it was fascinating.  I actually met the King of Tonga.  I heard stories from so many unique perspectives and experiences.  This time in my life greatly shaped my personal beliefs.  Travel made the world seem quite small in some ways, completely accessible and ready for exploration.

I consider myself proudly American AND a global citizen.  My early travel opportunites had a big affect on my choices.  It eventually led me to Burlington, Vermont, where I’ve lived since New Year’s Day 1990.  Our community is rich with diversity and I feel it’s been quite an education for myself and my family.

My daughters have friends from all over the world (including Muslim kids, many who spent time in refuge camps).  They’ve heard interesting stories since early elementary school from their classmates.  This is simply our family’s circumstance of living in Burlington, Vermont.  I acknowledge that not having contact with people of various nationalities, who dress, speak, and worship differently can make people more fearful.  I do understand this from growing up in rural South Dakota AND I don’t pretend to understand what other people feel about this issue.  I’m only speaking from my own experience.

When I wrote and asked about the opposite of FEAR last week there were so many thoughtful responses; acceptance, curiosity, love, hope, community and Mark P. wrote; “ACTIONABLE FAITH is the opposite of fear.”   I love the idea of actionable faith and that sounds a lot like curiosity to me.

 

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Right now in American life, it’s seems convenient to align ourselves with our political teams and operate in MOB MENTALITY.  Reciting talking points from the side we’ve taken without listening isn’t real dialogue and won’t ever promote deeper understanding. 

The significantly more challenging and intellectually exhausting space is to take a breath, listen to your own thought and those of others and try to find some middle ground.  It’s really uncomfortable to differentiate ourselves and our views when it puts us at odds with our team or the people we care about.  Uncomfortable, but really necessary.

America, our democracy is calling.

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Let’s get curious about each other.

This is staggering.

According to Psychology Today, “The average high school kid has the same anxiety level of the average psychiatric patient of the early 1950s”. I just can’t stop thinking about this. As parents we all want the best for our kids but is what we’re doing working if our kids have this much stress and anxiety?  There have always been shifts in parenting styles.  Each generation wants to correct the perceived “wrongs” from how they were parented and it seems like we are at a crucial point of correction…the pendulum in my estimation swung way too far from how we were parented.

lisa lillibridge kindness cooperation

If anxiety is looking forward…what does this say about our generation’s parenting style? Have we modeled adult lives that look appealing?  Are the daunting questions of our day too much for our kids—the environment, money, health, authenticity, meaning and relevance?

I grew up in a small town in South Dakota in the 1970s and 80s.  I could drive at fourteen.  I started working summer jobs at the age of eleven.  I had a lot of independence. My husband and I both grew up in small towns and we had young parents.  I think it had a big impact on our parenting choices.  We wanted to do some things “old school” and not get caught in the trappings of our generation.  However, this is really challenging.

I have made lots and lots of parenting mistakes (as my teenagers will happily discuss with anyone). However, there is a big difference between how we parented our son who is 4.3 years older than his twin sisters.  We hovered more.  We took care of things and pushed about homework, often at the detriment of family life and the harmony of our home.  Sorry Ellis.  We chose not to do this to our girls (at least not as much) and thankfully even in a four year time span there is a lot more being studied about: too much homework, the need for more downtime, the opportunity to daydream, decompress and relax.

I want my children happy AND I believe in pushing them to develop new skills.

It’s those COMPETING COMMITMENTS that trip me up constantly.

I don’t think these things have to be mutually exclusive.

I want to be attentive to the way I push my kids. 

Am I encouraging my kids to do things that make me look good?  YIKES!

Our world needs innovation, kindness, generosity & curiosity.

How do we nurture those skills in a hyper-virtual connectedness, competitive, highly structured environment? 

It can be done. 

We just have to get creative.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/anxiety-files/200804/how-big-problem-is-anxiety

What are we teaching our kids?

This week has been thematic for me and it started with an On Point/NPR show Monday morning while I was working in my studio.  The show was dedicated to depression, anxiety and suicide clusters among teens in America.  It highlighted the unbelievable pressure put on our teens now.  We’ve created a culture of expectation that we don’t even come close to as the standard for ourselves. We’re also living in a time when we are medicating kids at an alarming rate just to get them through all of these crazy demands. It’s unsustainable and time for a major paradigm shift.

The show highlighted both the pressure of affluent areas with a highly educated population and it discussed the suicide rate on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota (I’m a South Dakota native).  I found it quite interesting that these two populations on either side of the spectrum share something quite alarming.  Extreme pressure on one end and lack of academic pressure, rigor and opportunity on the other.  The suicide rate on the reservation among teens is 4 times the national statistic.  Devastating.

Here’s the link to the show:

http://onpoint.wbur.org/2015/05/04/teen-suicides-palo-alto-south-dakota-pressure

This got me thinking about my three teenagers (ages 19 and 15 year-old-twins) and my expectations of them. If I was held to the standard that is out there culturally for them I don’t think I would get out of bed.  I want to create an environment that allows a lot of time for discussion about character…there will be resistance but they just might thank me later…maybe in their late 20s.  This photo was the day my girls said goodbye to their college bound big brother.

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Here’s what we’re expecting of our teens:

• Have perfect grades in every subject (not just the classes that really interest them or what courses they possess natural ability).  I basically majored in English in High School.

• Be good athletes (often whether they enjoy the sport or not).

• Be fit and attractive (to take gorgeous selfies).

• Be so passionate about something and develop expertise—distinguishing themselves among their peers.  (This is rare and why we hear these stores on 60 minutes.)

• Play an instrument, a talented vocalist or an actor.

• Volunteer and be dedicated community servants (looks great on college applications).

• Know what career they want (this is crazy to be asking kids—they don’t know about all possibilities out there, let alone should they be expected to share with the world their intentions).

In sixth grade we were suppose to draw a picture of the profession we desired and cut the face out inserting one of our wallet-sized school photos.  I thought it was crazy then and much to my mother and teacher’s chagrin I drew a Skid Row sort of bum.  Sorry, Mrs. Tolstedt and Mom.  My drawing did, however exhibit my artistic ability and smart-ass inclinations (which have mostly served me quite well in my adult life). My drawing was my image in fingerless gloves, a black bowler hat and a bottle in a brown paper bag.  I wish I had it to show you.

I am oddly proud of that drawing because I didn’t know then and still don’t entirely know now what I want to “BE”…and it’s OK.

This morning the other information that popped onto my radar is New York columnist/author, David Brooks’ new book, “The Road to Character”.  His book is about development of our inner lives in a era of heightened competition, sound bites & selfies.

What if our expectations & conversations with our teens focused on their inner lives, manners, kindness, generosity, purpose & empathy?

You can subscribe to David Brooks’ website and become a part of the discussion.

http://theroadtocharacter.com/

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Here is an excerpt from the book.

the road to character

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.  Please leave comments.

Best,

Lisa sig