Wandering Through Nothingness

A Little Something from Molly Barker

The Overview Effect

This morning in one of our Red Boot Meetings, we were discussing The first Step…”We Matter.”  One of our attendees brought up something many of us had never heard of:  The overview effect.

The Overview Effect is a cognitive shift in awareness reported by some astronauts and cosmonauts during spaceflight, often while viewing the Earth from orbit or from the lunar surface.

It refers to the experience of seeing firsthand the reality of the Earth in space, which is immediately understood to be a tiny, fragile ball of life, “hanging in the void”, shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere.

From space, astronauts claim.national boundaries vanish, the conflicts that divide people become less important, and the need to create a planetary society with the united will to protect this “pale blue dot” becomes both obvious and imperative.

Pretty cool stuff.

earth

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It’s Really Not That Complicated

Many of you who find yourselves HERE…as in at http://www.mollybarker.com got here because of your connection to or interest in Girls on the Run. I started that organization nearly 19 years ago! WOW. To many of the girls in our program, 1996 was back “when the dinosaurs roamed.” As a matter of fact, many of the girls are surprised to learn that the founder (inventor in their words) of Girls on the Run is still alive!

Well…I’m here to report that I am still very much alive and thrilled to be working on a new initiative called “The Red Boot Coalition.”

Every once in a while, I will be reposting something I (or others) may have posted on the http://www.theredbootcoalition.org website OR on our Red Boot Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/RedBootCoalition?ref=hl

How I ended up with the Red Boot Coalition is a very twisty-turning kind of journey. My original interest was in “figuring out” a way we could address the hyperpolarized state of American Politics. I couldn’t understand why leaders would be encouraging, creating and sustaining a “conquer and divide” kind of climate in our “United” states…a climate that was, in my opinion, the complete opposite of what leadership is about.

What I discovered after nearly a year of research, was what has become obvious now more than ever…the “conquer and divide”, “us versus them” isn’t just in American politics, but exists within and is supported by many of our largest systems. The demonizing of “the other” exist in all facets of not just American culture, but in communities across the globe.

Today, I posted what follows, on our  Red Boot Webpage and Red Boot Facebook page and thought I would repost here…I think it sums up pretty well…the Red Boot perspective and the deep down raison d’etre of the organization. Heck I think it pretty much sums up MY perspective and the deep down reason I am here. :)

“Fear. It’s pretty much everywhere. Anger and Blame. Us versus Them. Conquer and Divide. They are not like us. They need to be different. They are evil.

They. Them. THOSE people.

Just reading and saying those words feels scary. The world feels like it’s toppling over, violent, spinning out of control.

Well, there is a group of us…who think we can do something about that. We are you. We are bankers, housekeepers, truck drivers, politicians, teenagers, black, white , Latina, Asian, African, American, Canadian, Russian, Ukrainian, Syrian, men, women, rich, poor, gay, straight, married, single, welfare recipients and CEO’s. We are Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Atheists, Agnostics, Teachers, Union Members, government administrators, children, pastors, rabbis, convenience store workers, pharmaceutical sales associates, hospitality staff, Las Vegas gamblers and parents. We are Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians, pro-lifers, pro-choicers, elected leaders and those running for office. Whatever way, shape, form, name exists…we are us.

We are Red Booters.

We live our lives with curiosity, open-minds, humility and courage. We see differences with a kind of child-like curiosity rather than a fearful “they aren’t like us.” We aren’t afraid to look fear in the face and in our courageous, loving kind of wide-eyes and curious ways say…”Tell me more. I want to understand.”

Jesus, Gandhi, Mandela, King, Jefferson, and all of our greatest leaders spoke eloquently of and lived fully into the power of love…and by doing so literally changed the course of human events.

This is really what the Red Boot Coalition is about…to fearlessly and with humility, apply loves’ power in all that we do.

It’s really not that complicated.”

village

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I’m Back!

In 1996 I started an organization called Girls on the Run. The program was originally designed to address the Girl Box…an imaginary place many girls go around middle school. The messages of the girl box vary, but the overarching theme comes from a cultural belief that girls and women must conform to a set of stereotypes in order to be “good enough.”

Delivered to just 13 girls in its first year, Girls on the Run was and continues to be deeply rooted in the belief that human interaction is the key to transformation. This year the program will directly serve nearly 180,000 girls! This direct contact is not through social media, newsletters, or webcasts…but actually through living, breathing human beings who talk to, run with and experience each other in the safe physical and emotional space created by the Girls on the Run curriculum and the amazing volunteers who deliver it.

I have personally seen, lived and come to know the power and transformation that comes from this deep and soulful human connection.

I’m currently working on a new project (www.theredbootcoalition.org) that brings that same kind of real-life human connection and safe dialogue to communities …the goal being to explore and break free from many of our culture’s other polarizing boxes…politics, race, religion and economics…so that we can all live fully into our greatest human potential.

The Red Boot Coalition is made up of courageous, joyful and heart-driven people who yearn for a richer and more compassionate approach in how we engage as a nation. Red Booters are action takers. We gather together, in person, once a week in a variety of locations to discuss and practice the Eleven Red Boot Steps. We then carry the positivity and skillsets we’ve obtained as a result of practicing these steps with each other, into all aspects of our lives; and by doing so create communities where real people and real leaders engage with respect, joy and compassion.

Ironically, since working on this project over the last couple of years, I find that I have been pulled more and more deeply into the social media frenzy.   Every morning, I wake up and before my feet have hit the floor, I’m checking to see what’s going on with my latest post, what’s trending in the world and how any of this might relate to the work that I do.

I’ve also noticed an increasing sense of both anxiety and helplessness. I am a feeler, an empath, someone who is highly sensitized to my surroundings. All the tweets, posts, breaking news stories and celebrity gossip mags –particularly those that fuel fear, mean-spiritedness, violence and a kind of hurry-up-we-better-do-something-or-else urgency– that slam into my life during what feels like every waking moment have me feeling strapped onto an emotional roller coaster that has become harder and harder to stomach.

I’m not sure I know what’s real and what isn’t anymore. Facts, opinions, stories, news and entertainment seem to be streaming together in a kind of sordid reality show that has me no longer living my life, but rather unsuccessfully and painfully trying to engage in a chaotic world that is very much outside of my control.

And so it is with a sense of relief, absolute certainty and an overwhelming abundance of joy that I’ve made a decision to put all my energy into what I believe the world desperately needs right now…human connection…face to face…real people talking with real people…listening to each other…finding that shared moment that can only come when we look each other in the eye.

So… I’ve decided to go dark, for a time anyway, on my Facebook and Twitter accounts and move my energies back to what I do best.  Writing and Connecting.  . I just know that the amount of time and energy I am currently putting into interacting with my computer screen, as well as managing the anxiety, frustration and sense of urgency associated with it, will better serve THIS woman and the world I want to live in, by getting out, reaching out and actually living in it.

My daughter wrote a paper yesterday that really hit me and is one of several factors that has brought me to this decision.

She writes, “How different would our world be if we lessened our reliance on Google and social media and instead read books, lived life and talked to people. How ironic that we know more but no longer know each other? How much bigger would our lives be if we joyfully and curiously exposed ourselves to a variety of people, places and perspectives? What might happen if we formulated opinions based on our own life experiences instead of cruising briefly on the internet for an opinion to validate the one we already have? Instead of relying on someone else to write our stories and perspectives, we should write them live them, BE them!

I’ll be silent from my Facebook pages and twitter account starting Friday, for an undisclosed period of time.

I would, however, really like a continued dialogue with you but one that is more intentional and directed so please feel free to email me anytime at mollybarker1960@gmail.com.

I mean it. Email me anytime. I want to know your joy, your fears, your hopes. Maybe we’ll even share a cup of coffee sometime. I might rather like that.

I will also be writing more in depth wanderings and telling more stories over here. I will continue to keep the http://www.theredbootcoalition.org website and Red Boot Coalition Facebook page up to date.

So Ciao ya’ll. I’m going in…or out…depending on how you look at it. Can’t wait to find each other HERE again.

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One More Time

Hiya folks!

I’m going to be departing tomorrow on a month-long journey that will be captured on the website wwww.theRedBootCoalition.org. I invite you to join me for this excursion by checking in over there. I will not be checking in over here. :)

Molly

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The Red Boot Coalition: An Invitation

Hi ya. Molly here.

If you are dropping in and wanting to get a feel for who I am…peek around a bit on the blog for a number of varied pieces of writing.

But I thought I would invite you to also visit me at http://www.theredbootcoalition.org. That whether I like it or not…seems to be turning into an idea that is big, bold and powerful.

Come on over, won’t you?

Slide1

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Words…Poland…Love…Silence.

The impact of today will not settle within these bones o’ mine for weeks. But I didn’t want this day to end without at least sharing something about one of the most powerful days of my life.

Today I had the opportunity…no wait a minute…I had the PRIVILEGE to speak with fifteen 16 to 18 year old girls. These brave girls traveled anywhere from 3 to 5 hours to be at the workshop. They hail from some of Poland’s poorest communities and frankly…these girls know poverty in ways that I have only read about in books.

The media was there in full force. Two newspapers including the Warsaw Times (their version of the New York Times) and Good Morning Poland…their version of…Good Morning America were all present. This was a surprise to me. Workshops such as this occur frequently in the US and are certainly not covered by such intense media.

molly shoot2

I began with a humorous and poignant story about my own daughter Helen and then moved into some very simple introductions.

Next. I told my story…the story of founding Girls on the Run. I introduced them to the concept of the Girl Box, but now (as opposed to how I discussed it in the early days) I suggested that there is also a boy box, a leader box, a mother box, a professional athlete box, a celebrity box. Heck there is a cultural box we use to define just about everything in our lives. This in and of itself isn’t a bad or good thing…it’s a way we humans bring order to our physical environment. It is easier…it allows us to make sense of a world that at times can be overwhelming.

Gender is just one of those boxes and when I was a young girl, trying to make my way from childhood into adulthood, GENDER was the box I spent most of my time trying to figure out and make sense for myself. I mean after all, gender is a pretty obvious box, first because usually we can just look at someone and immediately size them up by their gender. (Others may struggle with other boxes that define us: ethnicity, economics, religion or political party.) Mine, though was all about GIRL.

I shared a little bit of this concept with them and then we listed off some of the messages that come from the “Girl Box” as they know it.

“Women should be married and stay at home with their children.”
“Women should remain quiet and if they speak up they should be careful because it is very likely they will be seen as aggressive or unattractive.”
“Women are discouraged from pursuing professional careers.”
“Women who are divorced are not respected.”

I then went on to suggest that my experience has been…that the most effective way to eliminate the negative side of these “boxes” that confine us is to shift our focus from the box and focus on who we are and bring THAT into the world…bring those traits into our reality. Start there, in small ways first and then when we are ready, go for it a little more boldy.

I asked for a volunteer. One brave young woman stepped up.
I asked her to wiggle her index finger…in a “come here” kind of way.

She did.

I then asked her if she could possibly do that funny gesture any “bigger.”

She added her whole hand to the movement.

“I think she can bring even more of herself into this…Do you?”

The girls all laughed. “Yes! Yes!”

Eventually Shaka was pretty much doing a disco dance, arms moving, feet moving and a booty shake that was absolutely stellar…all the while that finger doing it’s thang.

The girls clapped for her.

“So imagine that this (signaling the come here gesture) is a talent that you have…something you do really well and that you really enjoy.

Do you want to do that just a little bit? Heck no! The world needs and yearns for your talents. Focus there! Bring them on. Utilize your talents. Start small if you must or if you want, but know that the more you bring your attention to your talents, the more the Girl Box slips away.”

I then asked the group to share some of their talents. Only two girls responded…

I asked for a second volunteer.

Patricia volunteered.

I whispered to her what her assignment would be. “Whisper your name.”

So, on the count of three, Patricia whispered, “Patricia” to the room full of girls.
“I’m not sure everyone heard you,” I kidded her. “Could you do that a little bit louder?”

Patricia obliged. Now a barely audible “Patricia.”

“Ahhh,” I said. “I’ll bet you can do that even louder. Give it a shot, girl!”
Patricia stated her name.

Slowly but surely, Patricia’s voice grew…and with a final count of three by all of her friends, Patricia yelled her name as loud as you can imagine!

I asked the girls. “What did Patricia have to use for you to hear her name.”

One of the girls responded quickly and quite enthusiastically. “Her voice.”

“Right,” I clapped. “Her voice! It’s so very important to share our voice…to find one soul sister…you know…that one heart friend…that girlfriend with whom you can be your biggest, brightest, boldest and most vulnerable self. To begin there…to practice being your true and honest self with her and once you’ve found her and you are both certain of your voice, invite another girl into your circle. Listen, share, be! Invite another and another…and before you know it, the Girl Box in your world has completely disappeared.”

They Looked at me with an eager yearning…eyes wide…hearts open.

“I need one more volunteer.”

Not sure what was next, the girls were hesitant to volunteer. Everyone smiled…a few giggled.

I chose Veronica. She and I had talked before the workshop had begun.

I whispered to Veronica her assignment.

And on the count of three, she began.

Tall, full of the brightest light you can imagine, Veronica stood there, with her doe-like, brilliant blue eyes and a smile that was authentic not only because of its joy, but the bitter and often sad hardships tucked in beneath the corners there on her beautiful, hopeful face.

She stood there, tall, wise and vulnerable for all of her friends to see.

“What do you think Veronica is doing?” I asked the group.

“She’s standing!”

“Yes,” I said. She is definitely standing, but that’s not what I asked her to do.
“Smiling,” another said.

“Yep…but not what I’m looking for.”

“Being herself,” Patricia shouted, the joy singing out from under the space between her words

“Bingo!” I high-fived Patricia. “That’s it! Good Job!”

“Think about it.” I said. “There are hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of Veronicas in the world, but is there one Veronica in all the world who is this one?”

They smiled.

“I mean think about that. There are trillions and trillions of possible combinations and this Veronica, got this body, this smile, this light, this spirit, this awesome, fantastic combination of so many amazing traits and cells and emotions and all of these we call VERONICA. Think about that!!! Like really. This rare and wonderful combination could not possibly be by accident. YOU, ME, all of us were put together in such a way that the world celebrates, rejoices…yearns for what and who we are. How we ended up simply, at least the way I see it, cannot be a coincidence. It’s too perfect! “in fact it is so unique and perfect that no box can contain it!!!”

Veronica sat down.

“So, let’s talk a bit. Does anybody have any questions, thoughts, remarks they would like to share?”

The room was dead silent. NOT the usual response I get when I am working with girls in the United States.

“Anything? Any impressions? What do you think about what I’ve shared here today?”

Nothing, nada, nil.

I sat in the silence. WE sat in the silence. The discomfort growing.

“I can sit with this…it’s uncomfortable, but it’s okay. Sometimes our silence says as much as our words.”

We sat there together in the room for what felt like a very, very long time.

Every eye in the room was looking at me. Every face directed toward me. Every heart open, spirit willing, soul present and yet…no words.

And then it hit me, as it hits me again all over now as I write.

No one…no one had ever spoken such as this to these girls. Not because they didn’t feel it or know it or believe it…but because the words, THESE words, had just never been said.

This doesn’t make it right or wrong or good or bad; but I realized in that moment that words can be our way out of the box, as powerfully as they can be the way in…that the words we choose to use can contain us or set us free.

And for the first time…the first time I realized how powerful…I, you, we really are.

Molly girl power with EFC

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The Red Boot Ride is Fast Approaching!

So…the Red Boot Ride is shaping up.

50 50 boot

As many of you know I’m heading out on a month-long journey in August. Details to follow, but I’ve made a decision to pinpoint particular cities along the way. In addition to meeting with fabulous folks who “chance” happens to bring onto my path…I’d like to engage small groups of folks in dialogue around co-creating a paradigm shift in how we view political leadership….in other words introduce a new conversation into politics that recognizes what I see as a real yearning, by the American Public, for political leaders who are driven not to win, but to impact.

These “new” candidates are the innovators, the social entrepreneurs, the changemakers, the open-hearted and the vulnerable…a set of very brave and very dedicated individuals who are committed to finding solutions not by holding firm to any particular agenda, party platform or ideology, but by engaging diverse groups of individuals (basically the people they serve) to explore and create new solutions to age-old problems…people to whom we can all relate because of their willingness to be human, humble and transparent.

I believe that change begins first with a vision, but in order to bring any vision to reality, we must bring it from the mind’s eye into form through words.

If you are reading this and something in it resonates with you and you’d be interested in pulling together a small (or large) group of folks to help “craft” the words for this American Leadership Vision, please message or comment here. I will be determining my route along with stops…in the next four weeks.

Why this matters? I guess to many folks it doesn’t matter and that’s totally cool. But it matters to me because inevitably I believe, deep down in my heart, that the leaders of any nation, represent the soul of it’s people. And based on the many beautiful and truly empowered people in my life, who, with love, strength, compassion and humility, bring about transformative and action-oriented solutions to many of our world’s most pressing challenges, I do not believe the current leadership represents this kind of “soul.”

This is not a right or a wrong “thing.” I just think things have gotten very lopsided and I believe that “righting” the balance is not only necessary, but a journey I find highly intriguing and if truth be told, downright fun.

Imagine…Joy! Innovation! Courage! Humility! Love! Leadership!

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It’s All Good

I’m struggling to find the words. I’ve been struggling for some time…my whole life I think.

The first of the words came when I gave birth…to my son. Hank is almost 19 years old. I’ve watched, struggled, cried, laughed, loved, liked and worried more than I ever thought possible raising this highly spirited and out of the box thinker. He has, as of late, magically become one of my best friends. We talk for long hours into the black of night…dreaming, scheming and creating words from thought. He is my kin, both by birth and by spirit. We are wonderfully and frighteningly similar.

fooling around

A couple of weeks ago, he and I took a short road trip to my sister’s house. We were each captive to the other on the two and a half hour car ride. I shared with him how fascinating it seemed to me that “my story” changes with each year that passes…how my levels of awareness increase and hence the story that explains my life does as well.

“Hank, when did your story begin…the story you currently claim as your life story?”

He thought for a minute or two. “That’s a hard question,” he said.

And then the words flowed. “I’d have to say it started the day you and Dad divorced.”

My initial gut reaction felt like knife to heart.

“Tell me more,” I asked.

“I remember our pulling out of the driveway. And I knew that my relationship with my Dad would be different. It had to be. I was only five, but I knew even then that my whole life was changing.

My whole life since then has been trying to find the man in me…to define the man I want to be. That’s why I’ve been through a lot of what I’ve been through…sometimes trying to find that man. Sometimes it feels lonely and sometimes I’ve made unhealthy decisions trying to mold myself into how the world defines man…but now I know, it’s all good.”

I didn’t say a word. We drove a few more minutes.

“Actually,” he continued. I think it’s less about finding the man I am…and defining the PERSON, I want to be.”

hank with vinnie

I’ve learned so much from Hank. He has so beautifully integrated the feminine I live into with such ease, with the man he has become. He is both strong and vulnerable…loving and firm…compassionate and protective.

And he got me thinkin’…I wonder how things might be different if we stepped outside the gender box and allowed people, regardless of gender, to bring their full selves forward in whatever way and capacity that revealed itself.

Because I think, if we get really honest with ourselves, beneath the gender dialogue is the continuing belief and unspoken reality that those who continue “devaluing women” either consciously or unconsciously, at the highest levels of leadership (and in certain cultures, do not value them at all), has more to do with devaluing those traits we typically label as feminine…compassion, love, tenderness, empathy and understanding. In spite of the fact that nearly every spiritual teacher, across all religions and centuries has shouted from the mountain top, the transformative power of love, compassion and acceptance…the expression of these, are for many, still seen as signs of weakness.

As a matter of fact, these “softer” sides of our humanity can be scary…threatening even…especially to those of our brothers and sisters who haven’t experienced or actually lived into the power and strength that comes when we allow love, compassion, vulnerability and tenderness to fully integrate into all facets of our lives. It is a blessed and beautiful day when the breakthroughs occur for folks, but the build-up or prelude to our breakthroughs often require breakdowns that are soul-wrenching, humbling and certainly not “fun.”

Hank is one of the most compassionate, loving and tender folks I know…and has struggled immensely trying to be heard, seen and understood in a world that values the man, but not the “feminine” qualities a man such as he, possesses.hank and macie

I’m not satisfied with these words yet, but they are coming…

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Batman Bill

I met Batman Bill (Caloviras) several years ago. He emailed me with an incredibly eloquent essay about coaching Girls on the Run. (His nickname was given to him by his team of girls.) This was years ago, when his now teenaged daughter, was in the program. Male Coaches for Girls on the Run continue to be far and few between, but I gotta tell ya…the men who DO coach are incredible role models for the girls and are, just as we all are, on their own journeys to break free from societal stereotypes.

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Girls on the Run 5k in Lancaster, PA, where Batman Bill lives.

Bill was there with his family…each of them were volunteering. His wife, Jessica; his daughter Lianna; and his son Josh were all working diligently with the film crew there to document the experience on video.

Bill is…I shall I say it. A man’s man. He is not a small man…strong in stature…right now a bit on the as he says “I need to run more” size.

Bill and Jessica

Bill and Jessica

Bill and I have communicated over the years. He and his family stopped by the Girls on the Run office a while back, on their way through Charlotte. He and I have emailed and “Facebooked.” Jessica, his fantastic wife and Lianna, his GOTR alum daughter are always posting awesome links on my Facebook page!

So spending time with him and his family in Lancaster was just like hanging out with ole’ friends. We talked, laughed, snapped some photos.

bill and molly

So, it was no surprise when a text from him, showed up on my phone several days later. It was the CONTENT of it that made me laugh, out loud and it goes exactly like this.

Batman Bill: Zoe (his youngest daughter) asked if she cold paint my nails. Every family member in unison said no way. I surprised them all by letting her do her artwork. Even she was surprised, but she will remember it all her life…

Molly: Love this! Send me a pic of you and Zoe with your beautiful painted nails. Makes me smile.

Batman Bill: I will. It was funny. At first when she asked I was thinking to myself “No way in hell.” Then I thought, “What the Hell!” She had a blast. Then in walks Josh (his son) and he says, “Dad I am taking your man card away.” Even at age 10 society has created this machismo thought pattern. Amazing how we are brought up in this macho homophobic way of thinking. I am sick of it and glad I let Zoe paint my nails. And you know what? I am wearing flip flops to the neighborhood Memorial Day barbecue and when I get weird quizzical looks, I can’t wait to explain how much I love my kids and this simple silly thing made a memory on my kid’s brain to last a lifetime. #soworthit.

Molly: YES!!!!!YES!!!! YOU GET IT!!!!

Aren't these awesome?

Aren’t these awesome?

Molly: You Rock. You were already pretty close to the top of my cool dad list. Now you are at the top! Lol

Batman Bill: I just figured you would appreciate a funny story about livin’ outside of our box. You know what really made me let go and let Zoe do this? About three months ago I called on a plant manager of a large manufacturing company. I had met this guy before so we have a good relationship. I walked into his office and his fingernails were painted bright orange. At the end of our meeting I had to ask why. He had acted totally normal, not explaining it when I first walked in or apologized. He had no embarrassment whatsoever. Keep in mind, he worked in a plant with over 100 men and women who answered to him. Talk about gutsy. He said he lost a bet to his 8 year old daughter and so she decided to paint his nails. Now Zoe asked to do my toenails. And wear shoes to work so I am not sure what I would have done if she asked to paint my fingernails. But I did wear flip flops to the cookout so my neighbors could see them! Lol.

There really is not a whole more I can add to this. Perhaps there is a little something trending here? And I’m not talking about painted nails on men. I’m talking about the tenderness of men and a new and inviting world opening up for them. I’m excited to see that the Boy Box is beginning to crack.

That's Bill in the middle.  He coaches his son football team.

That’s Bill in the middle. He coaches his son football team.

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Lucy Can Drop It LIke It’s Hot

So, my mom used to embarrass me.

A lot.

Mary Wilmer was a beautiful woman, charismatic and charming. She had a humble yet humorous energy about her that included talking pretty much to anybody within a mile of her airspace. Her smile was that big!

Going shopping with her was, at least when I was a teenager, torture.

We would walk into the department store and it didn’t matter who or what the FIRST person she saw was doing, she would march right up to them and ask, “Excuse me, but which floor is the lingerie on?”

department store

Yep. That’s right. It didn’t matter if this particular person worked at the store or not. She would just ask.

Well…I’m afraid (although secretly I’m very excited) I am just like my mother. I will pretty much give the googly eye to anyone who is willing to make eye contact and then if they are so inclined, I will hone in on a conversation that, if I’m lucky, leads to that BAM moment when a brief but powerful connection is made.

It kinda hit me yesterday when my fifteen year old daughter and I were out. A four year old girl was marching through the grocery store, with red cowboy boots on, and we all know my fascination with Red Boots. (If you don’t please check out http://www.theredbootrevolution.com) I practically chased her through the aisles, wanted to chat with her and her mom, and query her about those darn red boots.

Helen in that tone all mothers know well said, “Moooooom. You are scaring the poor child. Stop, PLEASE!”

All of this to say that this August, I’ve decided to go on a journey where I can put my “joy-in-connecting” skillsets to real-life use…I’m calling it “The Joy Ride: In Pursuit of Happiness.”

fluffy dice

I’ve been toying, as many of you know, over the last couple of years, with what we…heck I…can do to bring balance back to our nation’s political leadership. For me this is a very intriguing question and leads me to believe that our system is basically all outta whack.

After spending nearly a year in DC I’ve observed that the people in elected office mostly live on the left side of their brains. We seem to be missing the right-brained people who ask the deeper questions, like “Why?” “What for?” and “How come?”

The innovators, question-askers, creative-types, artists, social entrepreneurs…they just don’t sign up for the political game. They don’t WANT to sign up. These people don’t enjoy competition, agendas and strategizing how to BEAT someone. They aren’t opposed to these concepts, (because we need both the right and the left brain to make a whole and sustainable system) but they are not attracted to games that are ruled by these concepts. These concepts are simply not in alignment with how they see or live their lives.

Nope! These folks find joy in: uniting, exploring the solution that lies several layers beneath the presenting problem, connection, systems change thinking, connecting dots and exploring the determinants of human nature.

So…in August, I thought it might be interesting to set off on a journey that explores “the pursuit of happiness” (as so eloquently outlined by our Founding Fathers) but come at it from the social entrepreneur, innovator, creative-type, right brain and see if we couldn’t get below the surface “what makes us happy” to the deeper “what makes us happy.”

Not too long ago, I thought I would put this question to its first test. I was getting dressed, after an awesome workout, at or local Y when I just felt so inclined, to for no reason other than I loved the fact that she was putting the coolest wig on her head that you can possibly imagine, ask the awesome 60-something year old woman getting ready for work next to me, “So, what makes you happy?”

She paused for a moment, hands atop her head moving bobby pins here and there.

“Church.” She stated with conviction.

“That’s cool.” I said.

We continued in silence for a minute or two. I thought we were at a dead-end. Clearly my enthusiasm for the question didn’t intrigue her in the least. I’m putting on what little makeup I wear and she is continuing to mess with her wig.

“And cookouts.”

cookout

She smiled at me. I smiled back.

“Cookouts? What do you mean by cookouts.”

Well, that was all I needed to ask. Lucy (that isn’t her real name, but it is the name her family calls her. Her real name never suited her and so everybody just started callin’ her Lucy) simply began.

“Cookouts are when we all get together. I’ve got a big family. We all get together. Eat. Drink. Spend time together. Usually on Sundays after church. You know you gotta pray hard and play hard.” She continued for several minutes. All about her kids, her husband for 40-some years, her grandkids, her job, her church, her best cookout foods. She was totally delightful.

There was a slight pause. She glanced at me in the mirror. I glanced back.

“And of course,” she said almost nonchalantly. “I can still drop it like it’s hot.”

I laughed, as in OUT LOUD.

She chuckled. “My grandkids thinks it’s hilarious and are always asking me, ‘Grandmama, Drop it like it’s hot. Drop it like it’s hot.'”

To be clear, up to this point, I wasn’t sure what she meant by “drop it like it’s hot.” There are a number of references to that expression and there was, of course, that one song by Snoop Dog.

So I asked her, because if her grandkids asked her I knew it had to be G-rated, to “drop it like It’s hot.”

Well, what happened next was truly a miracle. Lucy, (I have now learned is 62 years old) broke into some of the most amazing dance moves I’ve ever seen. I mean…AMAZING. And then it came…what I would assume is the “Drop it Like It’s Hot” move that would, if I attempted it, keep me on the injured list for weeks.

She dropped down to the floor…knees bent WAY past (and I mean WAY past) 90 degrees, to where her derriere was only millimeters from the floor and then popped back up.

I think I said something like “Whoa…I would hurt myself if I did that.”

She did it a couple more times, dusted off her hands and then said with the most beautiful mischievous grin on her face, “See? I can still drop it like it’s hot.”

We bantered back and forth. She finished up before I did. We both looked forward to seeing the other again.

In pursuit of happiness…I definitely found mine that morning at the Y and I’m pretty darn sure Lucy found hers too.

happiness road

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