Staying Well While Doing Good: A Valentine’s Day Love Letter from Me to You

Dear One,

Here at Healthy Gen, we often say “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” because creating enduring health equity is a bit of a long game. And we all need to be able to stay in it for the long haul. So we try and help each other with things like: “Time to go home now! Take a walk around the block and get some air! Don’t eat your lunch at your desk; go back to the kitchen… plus, there are some great big windows there! You can even see the sound between the buildings!“

Every now and then, it actually is a sprint, and so we run as fast as we can for a short bit. The trick is figuring out which sprints are worth doing? What if it’s a marathon disguised as a sprint, and suddenly weeks have gone by and you’re just about ready to fall apart? Or, maybe a really divisive and intense national election has you overwhelmed and freaking out and getting lost in social media feeds, whatever your affiliation? Sound maybe a tad familiar? Since you are a human being (we don’t believe we have any dogs or cats signed up yet, but we are always game) this is pretty much the daily struggle of our every waking moment. What is our YES and what is our NO and how do we decide? Are we “helpers” even allowed to say no?

We want to help. You know us, we believe in being the “help that helps.” We know YOU are the true help that helps, and we want to have your back because creating enduring health equity is beautiful and magical and inspiring and also exhausting. Thank you for all you do.

As part of offering helpful supports sustainably, we are going back to our legacy roots and launching a project that will increase our capacity to: give philanthropically, support preventive public policy, and to bring a seriously bigger megaphone to amplify community voices and the wisdom of lived experience.

Our first offering is focused on the hard task of “staying well while doing good.” So you can stay in it for the long game. Because we love you. 

We are proud to launch the Transform Your Boundaries series from the magical Sarri Gilman (therapist, author and boundaries expert), who is on a mission to invite and support us all to a) become experts on our own boundaries and b) learn how they take great care of us.

When we don’t protect our boundaries, we suffer. This is especially true for helping professionals who face a greater risk of work-related burnout and fatigue. When you recognize and protect your boundaries, you can begin the journey back from being someone who’s overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed to someone who is decisive, trusting of yourself, and committed to healthy relationships. You just need to know how.

Sarri’s boundaries work helps any person in a variety of ways, not just professional helpers. Many of you may see this as a tool to “become better” or “be a better you.” We hear a lot in mainstream culture nowadays on this topic of how to become a better self.

I suggest that who you are, right now, is exactly right and perfect.

I suggest that the work with these boundaries resources helps each of us to simply find who we are when we have been partially obscured from ourselves due to over stress, over work, too much input from the world’s events, even over compassion towards others.  And, often, not enough love to ourselves.

It's not that we need to figure out how to be some future self or some better self. It's that we already are that person now and we simply need to let that person, that true self, out. To act and to be seen. Regardless of any internal stories we have about whether we are good enough or simply “enough” at all. Your essential self is already with you. Just let it be and let it act. Let that self make the choices that will help you care for yourself in the best way. And this will help you energize your path towards your personal mission which may be to help others or something else. Your path is needed to make this world better, whatever it is.

Sarri’s work helps you find your inner voice that already knows “yes” and “no”. YES and NO are our boundaries and they take care of us. They are core power words that help us both understand and express ourselves more fully in the world. Who you are, as you are, is what we need for this work to create enduring health equity. As the Hopi Elders put it so beautifully:

"We are the ones we have been waiting for."

I have known Sarri and have been learning from her for two decades. Let me tell you just one story about that, one of many! I promise to share more in the future. When my now 17 year old daughter was very young, I didn’t have any role models that worked for me about how to parent well. I had plenty of academic knowledge about it. But, gosh, here’s this baby, your living heart outside of your body, in your arms and how do you do your VERY best by this precious soul? Sarri’s advice to me (among, oh, say, a zillion pieces of advice I received from many – any parents reading this are laughing right now because you know this is true!) was something like this:

“What you see about your child and what you put in as a parent at 3, 4 and 5 you will see back from them, TIMES SEVEN, at 13, 14, and 15.”

Let that roll around a bit. This became foundational for me. It helped me compress and distill my own parenting priorities into two areas: respect and safety. Respect and safety for yourself (the growing child) as a growing being and body and respect and safety for those around you. If I couldn’t make my decision or “rule” fit within these two principles, then it was out. It sounds simple but it wasn’t always. But it did give me critical guideposts to move ahead and parent the way I felt my daughter most needed me to parent. I know I am biased, but I would say it’s worked out pretty darn well so far.

Melanie & Emily_2.jpg

You may be thinking: but wait, then Sarri should have written a parenting book! Well, there are probably a dozen, two dozen, books Sarri could write that would serve the world well including that parenting book. In the meantime, I’ve gifted you with her key advice, so go forth and spread it!

Sarri has honed in on her own life’s purpose and path to help people with the foundational work of discerning and acting upon our inner boundaries. Two core words. Yes. No. How do we hear them inside ourselves? How do we act on them in helpful ways?

She wants each of you to become experts in your own boundaries and her work has shown her over and over and over again that you absolutely can become that expert.

These two words, yes and no, are helping me now, in fact. Last year, I participated in one of Sarri’s live workshops. It blew my mind. I thought I had a lot of this stuff already pretty well handled, to be honest. This was a humbling experience, but in a truly joyful way. I identify with several of the seven patterns Sarri teaches in her Transform Your Boundaries bookworkshop and our first eCourse.

One of them is “workaholic.” I’ve been working on this one for years. You too? I feel ya. In the workshop, she said, “think about the opposite of the pattern. And figure out some small baby steps you can do in that opposite area.” So what’s the opposite of work? She said that even for herself it took awhile to understand that “the opposite of work is not play. The opposite of work is rest.” Well, basically my head exploded with that sentence. Later I cried a lot about it, in such helpful ways. For about a month I kept that sentence up on the wall in my office.

"The opposite of work is not play. The opposite of work is REST."

You’ll be seeing more from us in the coming weeks and months as we bring you new elements in the Transform Your Boundaries series and other magical concoctions. These are being brought to you by a new team in our agency: Healthy Gen Media, which is led by the fabulous Bennie Soto. He’s assembled an amazing team, all cooking up more of the help that helps in the Healthy Gen kitchen. Remember, the one with the big windows that let in the light? That one. Come by sometime and have lunch with us! 

Love,

Malala Yousafzai: The Power of Kindness in Activism

Last Sunday, my daughter, Emily, and I went to see Malala Yousafzai speak. You probably recall that Malala is a young Pakistani woman who was shot in the head by the Taliban for speaking out in support of education rights for girls in her community. She has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and is also the youngest recipient ever of the Nobel Peace Prize.

She has 5 public speaking engagements in the US this summer, while she’s on school break (remember, she’s very pro-education, including her own!) and Seattle was one of her stops. Emily and I were giddy with anticipation. I was officially dubbed “best mom ever” for getting us the tickets earlier in the year. (That never fails her; she can get whatever she wants with that line… she’s my favorite human after all!) We waited in a crazy long line due to heightened security, which made us both really sad, because we know that she needs that and what is wrong with some aspects of this world anyway? Ugh.

Shuffling forward in small fits and starts gave us an excellent time to chat about Malala. Her book, that great movie about her, her general awesomeness and how we couldn’t really believe we were going to SEE HER LIVE AND IN PERSON. Mind you, this was us and 10,000 other folks as well. We weren’t exactly in a cozy personal seminar or anything. There is something undeniably magical and mysterious about the effect of being in the same vicinity with someone we have come to feel we know and care about, someone we see as a teacher, a mentor, a friend despite having never met.

We knew of at least four groups of folks also attending, through our local community, through my professional community. It was feeling a bit like old home week. I was regretting not having bothered with attention to clothes. Or make up. Or hair. Oh well! It was Sunday night for the love of Mike!

Things got started very late due to the security lines. Malala graciously insisted on waiting until everyone got inside. 

When she finally came on stage, it was electric. It would not be an exaggeration to say that both Emily and I found ourselves weeping, overcome by pretty much the simple fact of her existence and presence here. The awareness of all she has been through and what she continues to do was so affecting. One might become dark and embittered as a result of those experiences. Malala simply radiates love and positive energy. I believe that in some measure, we also wept with relief, given the weeks’ prior roll calls of death and violence and fear mongering in our own country as well as beyond.

And she was funny and charming and lighthearted too once she started speaking. I admire this specific thing: her ability to be funny and charming and light while laser focused on her message which she provides with consistency and calm and humility and lack of judgment. She is fierce and loving at the same time. I kept thinking: and she’s just turned 19. Who knows what will come in the future?

The things she spoke about that have stayed with me and really remained powerful to me started out with why she is so passionate about education for girls. She described education as the path to having an identity of her own, as a woman, not to be exclusively identified as a mother, a daughter, a wife. Anticipating the main question people ask her: aren’t you afraid to be speaking out like this, she had a series of simply remarkable statements.

She said “it is more risky to not to speak out” because the alternative is living with the undesirable situation for the rest of her life. In her fight for peace and education:

"All I had was my voice. All I had was my pen.
I did not know that this is what the terrorists would be most afraid of: the voice of a young girl. 
This is when I realized my voice really had power; it really had strength. 
It scared them the most. 
They were not scared of any guns. 
They were scared of one single girl speaking out for her right to go to school.”

After being shot, Malala had to consider if she would stop speaking up now. She told us that night “What I realized was that the worst thing that could ever happen to me has already happened. What else can they do?” 

“And now it has been proven that nothing can stop me. Not even a bullet.”

How did this happen, that this amazing young woman became a global icon? What in her journey compelled her from this playful little girl to commanding a sold out stadium at 19?

I think about my own journey from that age.

(this is me!)

(this is me!)

What was I doing at 19? Fumbling through college with no idea what I wanted to do with my life, frankly. This doesn’t make me feel ashamed, it simply augments my wonder at the idea of a personal trajectory like Malala’s.

Malala speaks with great love and affection for her whole family as the crucial element in her development, particularly her father, a teacher and activist in service of education rights for girls from Malala’s early days. As the Taliban took control, this became an increasingly dangerous activity in their community and many people were killed for it. As Malala shared with us that evening, her father did not tell her as a young budding activist that his name had been put on the death rolls. As she expressed it, it was unthinkable at that time that a child could be in direct danger. How quickly norms shift…

In 2012, the year Malala was shot, there were 3,600 documented attacks on education, including violence, torture and intimidation against children and teachers, resulting in death or serious injuries, the shelling and bombing of schools and the recruitment of school-age children by armed groups.

Education reduces hunger, child marriages, early births and death in childbirth. Roughly 65 million girls around the world are currently denied education. If you haven’t seen Malala’s speech as recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, I heartily recommend it.

In the talk that Emily and I were at, Malala spoke with great humility about the idea that she is not special. That any number of her old school friends were just as, if not more, smart, brave, dedicated to education than she is. They had to deal with fathers and brothers who would not let them speak out, who prevented them from attending school in later years.

After all she is been through, the thing that stood out so starkly to me and stayed in my heart after the event with the deepest impact was her kindness, her lovingness. She says she forgives the boys who shot her and you can see that she is genuine. She clearly isn’t condoning the behavior but she understands already the corrosive power of hatred upon the hater and she has rejected this for herself. It made me think of this amazing poem: Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye

 

One aspect of Malala’s story that stayed with me as one of her great sorrows, that seemed to me to have brought her far greater sadness than having been shot, is the fact that she has never been able to go back home again to the Swat Valley in Pakistan, a place she described with great tenderness and love as a beautiful and bountiful place to grow up. She lives now in the UK. Fortunately her family is with her. Her early days in the hospital in London sounded by her telling to be most marked by their absence for 10 days.

I wonder how hard this displacement has been on her. She is relentlessly positive in her story telling, one of the amazing gifts of hearing her speak. After time reflecting though, I wonder about the cost? Perhaps the cost for her personally isn’t too awful, she has her family and she sounds as though she has found a clear role and place for herself and sees a future path. We know from our learning about the science of hope that these are critical things: the ability to see a future, the steps to get there and the internal means to walk those steps. 

In this vein of thought, a friend and colleague shared with me the TEDx talk from documentary filmmaker, Amy Benson, on Girls Education in the Developing World, a precursor to her documentary on the same topic, Drawing the Tiger, which highlights the story of one talented girl from Nepal who gains access to education, referred to by the filmmakers as the “globalization jackpot: a charity scholarship for their daughter to go to school in the capital city.” The girl in the film committed suicide and the documentary explores her story.

What lessons are there for us to learn from this documentary and other similar stories as we in the West seek to bring community development resources to the rest of the globe? I’m no international development expert but I think maybe one important element is something we at Healthy Gen make a priority in our work here: the voice and experience of the person and people one is hoping to create benefit for must be held at the center and the core of whatever story we are telling. The “nothing about us without us” principle. Doing ”with” or “as,” not “to.” 

Malala has been able to tell her own story and, indeed, her story has in many ways become her path. She was very clear in her talk the other night to highlight that her goal is to lift up the stories of other girls like her. I wish I had thought to email in a question about this topic ahead of time. She did a Q & A after her talk based on presubmitted questions. Maybe I’ll find another way to ask her about this.

In the meantime, I am so glad that Emily and I got to share the evening with Malala and 10,000 of her closest Seattle pals. In all seriousness, there was something deeply moving about simply being in one large space filled with so many people who shared the same respect and love for this young woman and her cause. For her call that we all help to lift up the voices of young girls everywhere. What a mighty chorus that will become!

Love,
 

“This is the sound of all of us
Singing with love and the will to trust
Leave the rest behind it will turn to dust
This is the sound of all of us”

Credit: “One Voice” by The Wailin’ Jennys

Comment

Superman, Jupiter and White Privilege

Superman, Jupiter and White Privilege

In which Melanie reflects on white privilege.

Read More

Scaling Hope and Love

Scaling Hope and Love

In which Melanie dreams big about H.O.P.E. and love. 

Read More
Comment

People Who Rock & People Caught Not (Naught?) Being Naughty

In which Melanie gets downright “gritty” about grit research, Nathan Gibbs-Bowling, and the Presidential campaign and also learns a thing or two from john a. powell (which she generously shares!) and offers at least two guaranteed laughs and hug-worthy moments.

Read More
Comment

Getting Onto the Balcony for Health Equity

Getting Onto the Balcony for Health Equity

In which Melanie gets off the dance floor and up onto the balcony, recommends sending poets into space, shares about the amazing Frontiers of Health Equity plenary discussion coming to Science of HOPE with 6 amazing leaders, and shares a gift to help out the 5 people still not yet registered for it.

Read More
Comment

Mel's Blog Gets Co-Opted: “Here Be Dragons!”

Mel's Blog Gets Co-Opted: “Here Be Dragons!”

In which Melanie skips her blog post in order to ask for your help in creating a comprehensive map of ACE & Resilience initiatives happening throughout the state and nationwide. Join us in The Mapping Room at Science of HOPE!

Read More
Comment

What IS Hope?

What IS Hope?

In which Melanie shares what hope is to a NASA engineer, a penguin and what it could be to you and health equity. She also offers a dance it out option and a special gift just for the dedicated readers.

Read More
Comment

Rocket Man Returns Home

Rocket Man Returns Home

In which Melanie celebrates the return of space gardener, ahem, astronaut, Scott Kelly, and considers how getting some distance from the human species might provoke a different take on how we might address the widespread disease of trauma by the choices to join up together and let the light in.

Read More
Comment

The Relationship Between LIGO and Health Equity

The Relationship Between LIGO and Health Equity

In which Melanie leverages the recent LIGO detection of gravitational waves to at last connect her love of all things space and her passion for creating enduring health equity. All is finally revealed!

Read More
Comment

Trees Are People Too

Trees Are People Too

As we get closer to our Science of HOPE conference, I am thinking tactically about this community of people who will come together for two days and an evening. In honor of Random Acts of Kindness Week, we are extending our early bird registration just a smidge, until 2/24/16. We are also creating some fun and useful tools to support the conference attendee community, but this is not my topic for today. Today I’m thinking about the interplay between individual and community. The way each individual is unique and uniquely contributes to the make up of the community, however that is defined, and how interdependent the individual and the community are.

Read More
Comment

Tooth Fairies, Dogs, and Teens Building Tiny Houses...

Leadership Is Everywhere

Leadership Is Everywhere

In the past week, we’ve seen compelling and impassioned leadership from an 18 year and a state agency head both desiring to protect children from the faulty products of e-cigarettes, vaping and tobacco. The facts as we know them on these products are, of course, very important.

Read More
Comment

Science of HOPE Conference Early Bird Prices Closing Soon!

Science of HOPE Conference Early Bird Prices Closing Soon!

We are only 2½ months away from the Science of HOPE conference but February 15th brings the end of “early bird” priced tickets! Now is the time to make sure you have a spot that this year’s Science of HOPE. 

Read More

Stories We Love - The Man And The Dog

Stories We Love - The Man And The Dog

Today we want to share not a story, but an ad we love. We promise – you will love this ad and love the message behind it! 

Read More

Paving the Path to Walkable Communities – Go Feet First!

Paving the Path to Walkable Communities – Go Feet First!

Our friends at the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice (NWCPHP) brought us this great story on Feet First!

Read More

Sawhorse Revolution Mobilizes Teen Volunteers AND Helps the Homeless

 Sawhorse Revolution Mobilizes Teen Volunteers AND Helps the Homeless

Check out this great story about Sawhorse Revolution featured in Seattle Child. This group teaches building skills to kids and puts them to work on meaningful projects in the process. 

Read More

HOPEtivist Edie Higby

HOPEtivist Edie Higby

February is National Dental Health Month and so we are kicking off the month by honoring one of the great tooth fairies of Washington state – Edie Higby!

Read More

Hope Happens Volume 10, January 21 2016

Comment

The Massive Perturbers are Here!!

The Massive Perturbers are Here!!

My birthday was this week. The Healthy Gen team gave me some great birthday gifts and one of them is the ability for you to now share comments at the end of this blog so that we can be in an interactive conversation! I am so excited! Please say hi and share some thoughts when you are done reading!

Read More
Comment