Do Not Throw Away Your Friends

*deep breath*

Let’s all slow down and sink into this moment, shall we?  I mean really get settled. Be here only, right now.   *deep*   *breath*

How are you feeling, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and relationally?  I think I will live more peacefully if I ask myself this more often, and take the time to answer and reflect, before I speak or act.

I had finally walked out of some heavy darkness after a truly regenerative vacation.  I started two and finished three books after Christmas.  I wrote all of our family New Year greetings in one sitting, got a better handle on stress eating, and made inroads on social media moderation.  I even worked out four days in a row—2021 was off to an awesome start!

And then this week happened.  I followed peripherally through the workday as our Capitol was besieged by rioters seeking to overthrow the government, then proceeded to doom scroll and [out]rage post into the wee hours of night.  I felt agitated, like most, and also weirdly vindicated.  Thinking back to the dread and despair I experienced this time four years ago, and my conservative friends telling me I was overreacting, I thought, “See?  I was right to worry.” 

“I was right.”  Such a delicious and potentially toxic sentiment.  How does it make anything better?

I saw so many people on January 6th telling their Facebook friends to unfriend if they still support 45.  Another classmate, a Trump supporter, announced she was deactivating her account due to the hostility and blanket dismissals of her as a person.  “You’re dead to me,” my liberal friends announced.  How is a person supposed to respond to that in any kind of productive way?  The title of this post came to me that evening, as I left the office.

In 2016 I friended a high school classmate for the express purpose of conducting civil political discourse on social media.  At that time I did not quite understand what an exercise in futility this can be (mostly is).  I’m proud to say that our exchanges have always, indeed, exemplified civility.  Over the years we also bonded over hiking, shared nerdhood, and not much else.  He asked me occasionally for general medical information and challenged me with math problems he presented to his high school students (I solved them with authority).  But the political interactions became tiresome as the current administration continued.  Last year I requested to cease our political conversations; he graciously agreed.  It was just too unsatisfying, and I felt relieved to just be friendly.  I look forward to when we can meet in person to engage, because I’m so much better at that now.

In face to face political conversations, I have learned to define and hew to clear and simple objectives in any interaction, and it’s almost never to persuade anyone of my rightness.  Most of the time it can only be to understand the other person’s perspective; I’m almost always the one asking more questions and listening more.  I’ve had to accept that and practice patience.  I’ve also had to muzzle my inner rage monster whenever I hear sweeping, oversimplified generalizations like “Democrats’ policies will make everything worse for America,” or “Democrats have no soul.”  I’m not a Democrat, but right now that is the party that more often advances causes and policies that I support.  Conservative and progressive ideals are never all good or all bad.  Rather, they are complex and intricate polarities to be managed in the infinite game of democracy.  Adherents to each side are not mutually demonic and subhuman, monolithic enemies to be vanquished.  They are our neighbors, colleagues, family, and friends.  Nothing will get better if we go around cutting ties left and right (hey! Pun!), especially not in the heat of a moment when the country most needs our collective composure, despite our most agitated emotions.  This is why we must breathe deeply and settle in to our best selves, before we open our mouths or type another word online.

My friend has renounced Trump, saying it took a fair amount of rationalization to vote for him this time, which he regrets.  Welcome to humanity, sir, where we all rationalize most of our decisions, more than we know and much more than we’d like to admit.  He has also declared steadfast commitment to his conservative principles, which I wholeheartedly support.  I’m so hopeful that we may continue to practice our discourse skills on and with each other.  I still may not engage on Facebook, and he has yet to accept a Zoom invitation, but I feel progress coming on (as Progressives often do). 

Do What You Can

NaBloPoMo 2020 – Today’s Lesson

I thank my friend for re-introducing me to Dax Shepard’s podcast, Armchair Expert.  He conducts long form interviews with people who dig into important topics, but with some lightheartednesss. 

Jon Bon Jovi appeared on Episode 251 this fall. I’m reminded why I so admire this pop culture icon, philanthropist, and all around good human. From 44:24 they discuss his new album, 2020. As a rock star also known for his strong give-back ethos, he discusses the risk he takes by making a topical album in a year of remarkable political turmoil. He describes his perspective as a witness to history with an opinion, but without taking sides. He addresses gun violence from the perspective of how it feels for those affected, without stepping in the fray of “guns are bad” or “they’re coming for our guns.” He acknowledges the reality of white privilege, without shaming anyone for it. He recognizes how simply trying to open a conversation may alienate some. He owns his positions and convictions, and earnestly invites discourse from any other perspective. This is what I admire and aspire to myself—to engage by coming alongside rather than coming at.

Do What You Can” is my new favorite rock anthem.  It’s an uplifting balm for all we’re going through, and reminds us that we can be okay, if we stick together: 

Although I’ll keep my social distance
What this world needs is a hug
Until we find the vaccination
There’s no substitute for love
So love yourself and love your family
Love your neighbor and your friend
Ain’t it time we loved the stranger
They’re just a friend you ain’t met yet

What risks are we each willing to take, to make our world better?

Credentials and Credibility

NaBloPoMo 2020 – Today’s Lesson

Who do you trust?  Why? 

Margo and I were friends.  So when she recommended Christine as a life coach, I trusted enough to make the call.  I had no idea what a life coach was; “CPCC” was meaningless to me.  But after the intake call, her credibility and expertise were well-established, and she has been my coach ever since.  That was 2005.

I spent $900 and a weekend on Zoom last month for Ozan Varol’s Moonshot Academy.  I trusted in the value of the experience based on my interaction with Ozan’s Inner Circle to date—for two days I would give and receive peer coaching in a creative and challenging environment.  And bonus, I met Andrew, Kes, and Nicole.  Each of us aims to learn, share, expand our horizons, and do more good, hallelujah!

Kes’s last blog post goaded me to differentiate between credentials and credibility—my own and others’ alike.  Do I deserve your trust in clinic just by virtue of my MD?  What about when I speak and write on communication and leadership?  Why should you trust me?  Why should I trust you?

What are credentials?  My list includes education, work/life experience, recommendations/references, and body of work (eg peer reviewed publications). 

What establishes credibility?  My list: Attitude (humility, honesty, curiosity, reciprocity); consistency and integrity; purpose; quality of relationships (and thus references).  Christine’s credentials are solid.  Like any good professional she expands her expertise with continuous study.  But her credibility stems from her honesty and integrity—who she is.  It’s why I refer patients and friends.  Their feedback glows, and Christine’s credibility expands.

So perhaps credentials are superficial—what we’ve done, what’s immediately visible…  And credibility is deep—who we are, what we’re about.  I know which is more important to me.