Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Vulnerability & Safety

Parents yearn for children to be safe. Safe in a world where uncertainty hides under every bed and evil crouches behind each and every closet door. We teach our kids how to manage volumes of information, how to embrace diversity, how to extend empathy and compassion to others. But we equip our children little to fight the invisible monster that is the truest threat--their own thoughts. The incessant bombardment of  thoughts in our heads which measure us as lacking or adequate, weak or powerful, broken or brilliant attack us or fortify us. It is our thoughts which rule us and our place in the world more certainly than any learning we might aquire.

I have been working on the Maverick Project, assembling the stories of people who have crafted original lives for themselves, because I believed that they could be talismans of what is possible for those just starting to carve their trail through the forest of possibilities. But maybe I am wrong. Maybe mavericks' tales don't illuminate the way through darkness, but rather obfuscate the truth. 

Our kids are most vulnerable when they leave school "ready" to take on the world. In fact, each of us is most vulnerable when one foot is in the old world, and one in the new. Transitions are where we need to watch that the flying monkeys of doubt don't come and smother our babies in the night. Our thoughts can give us wings or paralyze us. Our thoughts can be seeds or graves.
Julian Barnes photo by Luke MacGregor/Reuters

On CBC's  Writers & Company (at @43:05min),  Man Booker Prize winner, Julian Barnes, recalled his time at Oxford, "There is a vulnerability at that age when you go out into life for the first time, when you leave behind the institutions where rules and companionship and everything protect you...I remember when I was a student, there was always one or two students a year who would kill themselves and it always came as a surprise. And yet,  it shouldn't have done."

Our kids walk a slackline strung between worlds. Have they hope, confidence and helpful self talk as their companions? Or have they doubt, rampant fear, and self blame or loathing? We are all "students" transitioning through different stages. We've never been exactly "here" before with this set of experiences, skills, knowledge and awareness What do we believe to be true? What ruts have our thoughts worn into the road ahead? I have to be constantly vigilant that my thoughts are creative and buoyant, focused on possibility finding rather than doubting and sinking. As they say, "Think you can or think you can't and either way you'll be right". We each need to teach and model possibility thinking. How do you do that?

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