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Love? Seriously?

I am far from calling myself enlightened. There’s so much work, the journey is long and there’s so much to do, before you can say you are done. And I am so far from being “done” and I am pretty sure it’s not going to get easier, but I have learned some things that are certainties for me.

What I am writing about, in my experience, absolute TRUTH.

I talk about Love a lot. Because that’s the only explanation I can give for much of the success I can now claim.

How did you get here? Love!

LOVE? Seriously, come on, Chrissanne. There’s more to it than that! What about all of the hard work it took?

Work? It wasn’t work, it was LOVE.

Holding on tight to the only certain thing in my life has been the answer to EVERYTHING.

What if I fail? What if this is the wrong path? What if I am not good enough?What if they think I am a fool? What if I can’t get past this point? What about when I’ve been rejected, and no one seems to love me?

LOVE is the only answer that makes sense. Love is there, even when we don’t want it, and it’s there even if we can’t see it. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be alive. There’s love, it just might not fit “our” personal definition, desire or expectation of what love “should” be.

Maybe there’s another explanation, and maybe you might call it something else, and indeed, in your life it might be something else, because you didn’t have the same experiences that I have, but if I trace my survival back to when things were at their worst, I just find LOVE.

Let me explain a little bit.

When I was a 17-year-old runaway (oh, the book I will write someday), I stood in front of a juvenile judge at the Polk County courthouse and tried to explain what was wrong, why had I run away from home?

I am pretty sure he was not expecting the words that I blurted from my defiant mouth as I looked at him with anger and frustration.

“Your Honor,” I said, in my orange shirt and green pants, “They love me too much!”

With those words, I turned around to point accusingly at an entire bench which was taken up by my entire family. My mother sat next to my step-father, who sat next to my father. He was accompanied by my step-mother, and then there was my aunt and uncle, my grandmother and, of course, my shrink. “They won’t let me LIVE my life!” I shrieked, as the tears spilled from my eyes.

I was too distraught to notice, but I am pretty sure there were some stifled laughs in the courthouse.

I was the only person that judge saw that day that probably had so many people caring about her. So many teenagers who are in trouble have no one. Maybe a caseworker, or a mother or grandmother, but not an entire baseball team! (My brother was away at college in Montana, otherwise he would have definitely been there too!)

There is so much to learn in this life, and as I think back on these experiences, I realize that LOVE was what I was rejecting. I resented it. I pushed away from it. It was not them that had it wrong. (duh!)

It was me that was keeping me from the success that was waiting for me — if only I would let it in.

I was not allowing love to play the role it was designed to play. I was suffocating on the very thing that was keeping me alive. I had convinced myself, in my adolescent mind, that I wasn’t good enough for that (or any love) and yet, I was craving more love from other sources.

Love isn’t perfect.

Let’s get that straight!

There was definitely some suffocating going on, which might not have been the healthiest. But, dysfunctional or not, when love is pure, it’s there for the long haul. And it doesn’t go away, even if we reject it.

And even if it takes us 20+ years to realize it!

Today, it’s obviously different. The love of my family has been constant. But along the way, I have added the love of myself, and the love of my partner, Craig, and the love of my team, my community, my friends. The real kind of love that refuses to allow the judgement, comparisons and pettiness get in the way, but really truly embraces what is possible with the gift of love. The love that sees through the smile, and knows what’s behind the work being done, and the sacrifices being made and the challenges being overcome. The love that appreciates every single effort that is made to create life worth living. Because when love is present, we all know what is at stake, even if we can’t talk about it. We know. Love knows.

That has been my life, and the only thing I can point to when I think of how far I have come.

Heck, I was just born — like anyone else — to create something beautiful, as I believe I have with the businesses I have been designing, and this blog that I have been writing, and the heart that I have been growing.  There’s nothing special about it – everyone has access to it, but maybe we all get stuck trying to make it more complicated. But no matter how I try to look at it, the only thing that I can tell you, is that Love is what has made it all possible.

And, love is also what makes it all worthwhile. 

Something I’ve Never Seen

Bringing Different Perspectives Together for the Greater Good

How we look at the world will never be complete. Individuals can only see a fragmented view, based on a very limited scope of the world, based on our own experiences.

I have never experienced poverty, although it exists.
I have never been the target of racism, but it’s a real threat for many.
I have never been a man, because I was born a woman.
I have never been homeless, but there are people who need shelter.
I have never been a politician, a news reporter, a millionaire.
I have never been abused, neglected, arrested, or evicted.

My tender heart has become stronger as I have learned how ugly the world can be, even when your heart is in the right place. Even when you have the facts to support your beliefs, or an opinion that contradicts what others are saying, your expertise can only be based on the realities you’ve lived yourself, or the data that is gathered from others, who also can only report based on the realities they have lived themselves.

It’s a flawed system, because we are all flawed humans.

There’s an ongoing struggle in my heart, and maybe in the hearts of others. The conflict that challenges me the most in the work I do, is between the Status Quo and the Greater Good.

The Greater Good

The Greater Good endeavors to see beyond the world as we know it. To see things that “Could be” and address more than just one group, category or sector of the population in every consideration. This requires that we take off our myopic lens, and try to see beyond our own scope and limited interpretation. It requires that we do not accept our understanding of the world as absolute.

This is where consensus comes in. Not one person’s view, but a diverse and possibly opposing group of people, coming together to find a way forward, for the greater good.

Egos must be checked at the door, and an understanding that we’re not here for ourselves, or for what might be best for me (or those that I represent), but for what might be best —  or as close to best for the most — and especially for widest reach.

The Status Quo

The Status Quo doesn’t always consider themselves as the status quo, which makes it harder to acknowledge, and more challenging to overcome. What we might see as a conversation about “what is best for all” actually is “what is best for me, or for those I am defending or protecting.

What we fail to recognize most of the time is that we’re basing our desire to keep things as they are, solely on our own experiences, ignoring, or disregarding that there are other players, other needs to be met and a bigger picture than just our slice of the world.

We defend our position when we’re feeling that a change might usurp all of the work we’re doing, or have done, or are planning to do.

How do we find a way forward, when there are conflicting agendas and opposing views? How do we balance power, with what’s best for everyone, including the powerful? Does “leadership” require that we place our agendas to the side and work to raise the bar? Or, could it be that our role as leaders is to see and hear others, do our share of the work, and together, find a way to be the bar?

Being the Bar

Being the bar, means walking the walk. It means leading from within, and throughout. Not standing in the front, or behind, not looking on from the sidelines, not keeping our ideas separate, but bringing our knowledge and experience, and perspectives into one place. But, most of all, it means realizing, and admitting that, even as experts, as people who have the means to achieve what we need, for our business, or organization, we’re still on the hook as a member of the community — and we’re all working for the same goals.

An individual wants a family, a family wants a neighborhood, a neighborhood wants good schools, good schools want good businesses, good businesses want good communities, good communities want good leaders, and good leaders want good individuals.

Top down doesn’t work as well as it used to, and we’re all still getting familiar with the new rules of engagement. But there’s one thing that will never change — being part of a community isn’t just for people with a title.

In the past, raising the bar was all we talked about. And, that job fell on the shoulders of the people with the titles, power, influence and leadership.

Today, being the bar means we’re all in this together. Creating the future, painting the vision and then, staying in the game to achieve the greatness we all believe is within our reach. It is not just in some of us, it really is in — and up to — all of us. We simply need to make the effort to see from beyond our own experiences.

What Lies Beneath

Reading Time: 3 minutes

What Lies Beneath by Chrissanne Long

And other Hidden Secrets

The surface. What does it tell you about a structure? For example, the axiom “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” suggests that what’s inside matters more than what is on the outside.

And yet.

We spend most of the time we share with others avoiding depth.

I had a conversation with a dear dear friend the other day. It was safe, so we shared deep. We were talking about a change we want to see in the community, and in that dialogue, she said, “We won’t go this deep in the discussion, but we can talk about it on the surface levels.” I nodded in agreement, and yet, my deeper self asked “Why?”

The Case Against Depth

I get it, we can’t engage 100% of the time with 100% of the people on a deeper level. Because…. that would make people uncomfortable. Right? Could we maybe try for 1% to start?

Yes, we’re all uncomfortable about being put in uncomfortable situations, we avoid them…. but eventually,

It all comes to the surface. 

I have been plagued by this challenge for as long as I can remember. I know, it’s idealistic, not everyone wants to be honest, up front, direct. That’s not how it’s done in this world, Chrissanne. Come back to reality. 

But isn’t that what seems to be the biggest problem we’re dealing with today? We crave leaders that we can trust, but we won’t tell them we disagree with them, until it is something we feel personally about, and we still want objectivity, neutrality, justice, fairness, impartiality — unless it’s our personal agenda?

Special Agendas Abound.

This is NOT a political post, but I understand that it spills into that arena, and this challenges our safe zones. We want to be protected by our right to our opinion, and yet, we only share that opinion when something violates our own personal beliefs, and not sharing it means we’re not standing up for something we feel strongly about. Why do we need to feel strongly about what’s right? Isn’t that worth standing up for? Simply because it’s the right thing to do?

Step into my Utopian “pretend” world and imagine (just for a minute — you can go back to the other way in just a second). What challenges wouldn’t we be dealing with if we were able to be direct and straightforward about what lies beneath, instead of chatting about the weather, or how the Bucs are doing this season, and what the chances are of the Cubs going back to back again in the World Series this year?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that all we talk about is the deeper stuff, I am just suggesting that we stop avoiding it. 

We need to fix the economy, education, social unrest, prejudice, inequality, violence, mental illness, terrorism.

This isn’t something our “elected officials” can do on their own.

This isn’t just the responsibility of a chosen few.

This requires that we start leaning in. Having real conversations at the dinner table — heck are we even having dinner at the dinner table enough anymore? No worries, if there’s not a dinner table in your life today, but let’s just start talking — and listening. Maybe more listening first.

When is the last time you reached out to someone who disagrees with you and asked them to share their position? What brings them to this place? What makes them believe what they believe? It’s not about changing your mind. It’s about understanding theirs.

And, if we offer this beautiful gift to those in our circles, maybe we can ignite that in their circles. And eventually, we’re having conversations about the things that matter. Ripples, ya know?!

Aw, come on that’s such a buzz kill, Chrissanne. 

Yes, this isn’t fun. It’s not easy. It’s not even realistic at this point, but hey, this is my post, and I was dreaming for a minute.

I read a post today about a fellow altMBA alumnus being an Impresario, in which someone pointed out that his gift at connecting people is who he is. I related with this so much, and realized that we have to give ourselves permission to reach beyond the limitations of what we perceive we’re “supposed to do” and stop waiting to be invited. We have to invite ourselves. And, that is precisely why I am writing this post today.

It’s risky. You might not like it. You might not agree. But that isn’t what matters most. Today, I am acknowledging that what lies beneath the surface of the conversations is what matters the most.

So, what now?

Here’s a simple (not so simple) challenge — in the next 24 hours, talk to someone about something — anything uncomfortable. Don’t skirt away from the conversation, just this once. It might not work — but, then again….

What you Find in the Space Between

 

We tend to think about the world the way it is reported — in the extreme edges. But this leaves out much of the story. This is the “Broad Brush.” In times after disasters, we forget about how much we can do, in between the edges.

When you look between the extremes, you find what really powers the world — the place where agencies that are created and funded to serve those in extreme need leave off, and where everything else comes together to fill the gaps.

These are the stories mainstream media misses, because they are so focused on the edges. Telling the extreme stories. (And, sometimes making stories seem extreme).

In between these extremes, everything else exists.

What actually happens, in between the stories of horrific floods, gaping holes and destruction?

People take care of themselves and then, they take care of their neighbors. We share the load, and we come together to help make everything better.

Yes, sometimes, we are on the edges, but most of the time, we’re in the space between, getting things figured out, while those that really need help are being taken care of.

The space between is filled with capable, caring people — who fly under the radar, and make it possible for those needing care to receive it. This is the space where neighbors work to clear debris from the street, to make it possible for everyone to return home after the storm has subsided. It’s the space where families and friends come together to “make it through.” There’s no light needed to shine on the space between — this is the space that just is.

And, when you think about it, this is the space the makes our communities the strongest. It’s the space where resilient, self-sufficient and caring people live. It’s where you find kindness, patience, and love.

The space between is where we thrive, even when no one is looking.