All day meeting yesterday for my job that plays peekaboo. Mostly boo at this point. Another meeting today. I’m stiff from sitting for hours. Listening to business stories. Still tough times.
We’re well-run. Tightly run. We have a great strategy. And were surprised by the extent of the economic events of last fall. Our strategy won’t change. But I am hearing how we have dealt with what can politely be called adversity. It turns out that being able to deal with adversity is just as important as having a great strategy in the first place.
I’ve been thinking similar thoughts about advice to my kids. No, I didn’t go to a business meeting and come back with family wisdom. Sometimes things just happen at the same time. A confluence. Here is what I know. I have spent the last 22.5 years dedicated to my children’s success. And it was the advanced course, informed by god knows how much reading and sighing and soldiering on. Trying to let success mean happiness, trying to let them define their own terms for success. Clearing space for who they will become rather than training them like rats in a maze. Oh, I know I’m not perfect. I admit to my agendas. I have liked having high-achieving kids. Like shiny pearls, you wear them around and say, oh, these old things? But mostly I believe, when I ease off the relentless self-examination attendant on my desire to do a good job, that I have done as much as I was capable of to support their capacity for happiness and success. Even as I say that I think, but wait, could I have been capable of more? Enough.
As I get older and watch the course of people’s lives over 20, 30, 40, 50 years, I am starting to wonder. Listen. I know no one who escapes difficult. Sorrow befalls us all, in one way or another. We imagine our lives, a vision of our future, and we will almost certainly get it wrong. We can’t afford smug. The runner has a heart attack. The dramatic teenager turns out to be maniac depressive. The husband is infertile.
These things happen and with luck life doesn’t end. Which means you have to know how to absorb pain. If you don’t know how you have to do it anyway. You have to do it anyway. I hope I have reared my children so that they can live a life that will by necessity include the difficult. The problem is that I love them too much to have planned to cause them sorrow in preparation. I love them too much to have tried to give them any experience of unforeseen pain. I am not even sure that unforeseen pain should come from a mother. By intent and and by instinct I have loved them, seen them, held them. Acted predictably, kept my own needs separate, used whatever intelligence, competence, and physical stamina I had in their service all the while doing it because it felt so good. Not from virtue. How could I have taught them to cope with the surprises of loss and sorrow? My whole self was focused on their happiness and success.
I kiss their hair and hope. Drama doesn’t serve anyone. You just go home at night and cook dinner.