Who Will Miss me? Quest 2015
Seth Godin and my inquiring mind want to know this:
Who would miss you if you were gone? If you didn’t show up to work, didn’t send out that newsletter, didn’t make that sales call, didn’t tweet that tweet…who would miss it? How does your answer shape how you’ll live out 2015?
I know who would miss me. If you are reading me here, I trust you’d notice if I folded up my laundry line and headed in to the house, never to stretch my arms out in the sun and sometimes the rain, hanging wet wash on white rope, taut between two clothespins to dry. You’d notice.
But what I did not understand until considering this question is who doesn’t miss me. Long ago, my cherished friend Joan (who for point of fact IS gone and I do miss her daily and wear her painting smock to keep her near) named me as one of the most loyal people she’d ever known.
To a tee.
I am loyal. You want me on your team, more than ever.
But, loyal, at times, to situations and people that have ebbed in interest and affection. I am the last cheerleader on the field. I am there after the parade has gone past. I still have your phone number in my book; years after you stop calling me back. As I responded to Seth Godin’s Quest2015 prompt, I began to see where tension, conflict and sorrow have risen in my life due to my unfailing attachment to a person, cause or effort that all objective observations report as being over.
Ships sail and I am still on the dock with my white hankie, waiting for a message in a bottle or returning sea bird to tell me how they miss me. I linger longer over friendships or commitments than most people. The shadow side of loyalty is resentment. I have been holding up my side of this arrangement- where the heck have you been?
This dynamic applies to many things…to churches, to organizations, to schools, to yoga studios, to boyfriends, to teachers and to family members. I think, in my grandiose way, that if I keep showing up, no matter what the conditions, that they too should want to show up. Here is my very mottled underbelly. I am driven by the desire to connect and remain loyal long past when my devotion is valued or my contribution necessary.
But, as I sat with this question, I began to ease up on the drama and recognize that relationships and arrangements more often than not have life spans that are shorter than I expect or plan for, but are natural to the vitality of that organism. If a professional or service situation is a live being and that live being comes to the end of it’s life cycle, than what have I been doing dragging all these dead bodies around with me?
I could ease myself with newly maturing self-care, to see that this necessary awareness allows a massive wave of forgiveness, toward self and toward others. Loyalty is an esteemed quality, but discernment about the vitality of the energy invested is worth recognizing. Oh- yes, disappointment is to be expected. Sadness even. But long lasting bitterness is not worth my time or my effort.
And I have a wellspring of effort to offer the world.
Apparently, so does my daughter. Last week she won first place in her high school’s Poetry Out Loud (POL) competition. Over the fall semester, students memorize poems chosen from the POL listing of over 400 selections. My girl chose Celebration for June 24 by Thomas McGrath. I helped her break the poem down only once, on an early morning drive back from the dentist. The poem ends with these lines:
Still, my dice are loaded: having had such luck,
Having your love, my life would still be whole
Though I should die tomorrow. I have lived it all.
—And love is never love, that cannot give love up.
Thomas McGrath, “Celebration for June 24” from Movie At The End of the World.
Copyright © 1972 by Thomas McGrath.
She needed help with the last line, about giving love up. This was over one month ago.
Since that time, as the date approaches for her own departure for an expedition semester away in the Rocky Mountains, and her wings are dry enough to fly away butterfly, she is feeling her heart prepare to “give love up.” She continues to live with the poem. We have talked about it with friends. She discusses it with her Philosophy teacher. And for Christmas, she presented us a hand-written copy of the poem. There is something new being acknowledged in our family as she prepares to leave home for six months. Dice loaded, we are the luckiest parents alive, to have children, butterflies, who have gained enough strength and momentum to be released in to the world.
Having had her love, I have lived it all, with certainty. I know, that I have to give her up to the world, to let her go. She knows as well as monarchs do, the very way home.
I am writing this on Friday. On Wednesday, as part of her Christmas gift, I made a vellum sleeve of photographs for her to carry in her backpack. Without an inkling of the words I am writing here, I chose a random magazine photograph of a monarch butterfly to collage on to this little sleeve. I am as filled with her leaving as she is. I know that when my visual work is mirrored unintentionally by my writing, that I have written in to necessary words. Sacred resonance sounds around the understanding that every inch of parenting is “giving love up.” (For those of you paying extra close attention, she, the girl, the monarch butterfly, will return home with her backpack for one more year of high school. This is practice semester for both of us.)
Maybe there is a little bit of dying off here. Like Nadia Bolz-Weber states about Spiritual Physics, “something has to die in order for something new to grow.” But unlike those relationships or arrangements that lived their lifespan, my relationships with my children can contain a world of space for expansion and learning. I can step back and let my children fly.
So when I look at how the relationships that count on my being here, those that would miss me if I was gone, I know that the ones that offer me room to grow, room to become my fullest self, room to witness expansion without taking it as a personal slight that I won’t remain small to maintain the original dynamic are the ones that have a longevity that is sourced from authentic inspiration and mutual devotion to loving each other right where we find ourselves. I cannot hold on to dead relationships or work arrangements or collaborations and expect anything other than a very bad smell. Neither can I hold my children back from expanding in to the world. This is what I have helped ready them for.
Kate Arms Roberts, one of my Quest mates, wrote that the people who will truly miss her are the ones who have seen her “in my full, messy, completeness.” This place of messy completeness is full of vitality.
This vitality, a quaking newness, a vigor that tugs, is exactly what will guide me as I make my plans for 2015, as I listen, contemplate, write, create, speak, teach, collaborate and produce in this coming year. It will guide me in the way I conduct myself personally and professionally.
How about you?
Who would miss you if you were gone?
And who doesn’t miss you? Isn’t it time to tuck your fluttering hankie in your pocket and get on with things that fuel your own vitality? Here is to an awe-inspiring 2015. I look forward to sharing it with you.
Thank you for reading me here, following me on Social Media or simply dropping by today. I relish your comments as tokens of resonance.
SETH GODIN is the author of 18 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything. You might be familiar with his books Linchpin, Tribes, The Dip, Purple Cow, and The Icarus Deception. His latest, What To Do When It’s Your Turn, is an urgent call to do the work we’re hiding from, a manifesto about living with things that might not work, and embracing tension when doing your art.