I have been absent for a bit. Sometimes I wonder how people can blog every day, tweet every 5 minutes and read everyone else’s articles to blog and tweet about too. I sigh and begin to compare. How do they do that? You’re not good enough, the voice I am familiar with so quickly jumps in.
I compare myself.
I compare myself to fellow teachers, to my peers, to other drivers, to my parents, my friends, and the list keeps going.
I wonder if this ever ends.
As I head back to school, the voice is getting louder once again. It can be debilitating, unless I welcome it and ask it why the volume is so loud?
I think of roosters and the reason why they caw. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not to remind us of another dawn rising. They are claiming their territory, and trying to dominate their area. Anyone who has been around these annoying birds knows they are staking their claims all.day.long. not just in the morning.
Higher education is full of roosters experts; full of people trying to stake their claim to certain arguments, ideas, theories. So is the world. Take what is yours and then work really hard to keep it. But higher education is what it is because people share.
It is a different mentality and an extremely difficult paradigm shift to try to give away what you have. As I write that, I wonder if I have the courage to even explore what it looks like for my own life. I like my stuff, my ideas, my home; I like what I have claimed as my own.
But taking out the word “mine” is the only way to heal the comparing voice in my head.
If I do compare and realize someone has something I do not, it creates a need for it to be my own; it addresses my inadequacies. It names desires I have. It can turn into a feverish competition that devours me, one where I feel less than because I am not, well, that person or I don’t have that thing or that knowledge. I have to “be better;” I have to get ahead. But why?
Why has it become about comparing apples and oranges instead of sharing the bounty? In sharing, it then becomes an opportunity to learn from and work with them instead of competing and taking. Suddenly the world opens to me instead of closes.
As a leadership studies professor, this is what good leadership does and something I am trying to affect to my students: Looks for ways to heal the world by sharing, by breaking down walls, by realizing one does not have all of the answers.
For one entity to have everything is not leadership.
I recently watched a documentary which pointed out how ancient tribes used to identify members who took more than their share as people with mental illness. It was considered crazy to kill a huge animal and not share it with the tribe. It made me think of hoarders who are now starring in their own reality shows – their disease on display. But why do I think I am exempt from this just because my closet isn’t bursting or the surfaces of my kitchen are clean?
We don’t live in tribes anymore. And somehow we’ve lost something with the size of the world around us.
When Cissy Brady Rogers and I started our retreats, we wanted to build a tribe. We wanted to host a community of women who could be honest with God, self and others about where they were at. We wanted to create a place where degrading competition and cattiness didn’t reign.
It hasn’t been perfect, but in growing slowly, something has shifted in me. I have to keep giving A Beautiful Mess away too. If I hoard it and only try to shape it alone, it will become something collecting dust in a storage locker instead of a story to pass around hand to hand, memory to memory.
I didn’t and don’t come up with many ideas on my own; I stand on the shoulders of my professors, mentors, authors and my friends and in turn, I cannot exploit them by not realizing as a teacher, supervisor, friend, and student that I must continue to pass on the stories and experiences of our tribe. I must be willing to let it, whether that is my life or my work, be shaped by other people.
And it has. People like you have written, taken photos, painted and planted and shared your vulnerable posts on the ABM website. You have also changed the landscape of my soul. I love that my life is not solely black and white anymore. There are so many other colors present because of you.
It is now time for it to be reshaped again – it meaning my life and A Beautiful Mess. More announcements will follow, but I wanted to encourage you today to see who your tribe is? Who has shared their victories with you and their experiences? Who is in your life to build you up and not compete with you? Who can you extend a hand to in order to shape something to be so much more than you ever thought it could be? Are you will to be wrong so others can be right? Can we share what have?
I am writing these questions to myself first and foremost as a reminder in going back to school that this will not be a solitary event – it needs to be tribal so I don’t become mentally ill. It will involve patience and grace as much as ideation and fortitude, but namely it will involve other people who for once in my life, I am eager to see how they will shape my own narrative instead of being threatened by it. It’s time to enter another tribe.