My truth is that I was raised in a family where the word potential was honored. Not completed. I don’t know why. Here is what I do know:
At one time, I would have said that the two smartest siblings in our family never fulfilled their potential. But five years after Mom’s death, I came across information that dealt that long-held assumption a serious blow. Oh, it does still look like neither Peter nor Mim fulfilled their potential to the degree others had hoped. But maybe they weren’t the two smartest Lockhart kids. Hmmm….
The first thing I came across was a copy of a letter Mom wrote to my middle brother’s high school principal explaining that while Peter – my oldest – worked hard for his good grades, easy-going Mike had a natural intelligence she couldn’t get him to recognize because he’d gotten the message that hard work = intelligent. She talked about her frustration that Mike did himself in because he believed things picked up easily had zip value.
My 55-year old jaw dropped, reading that letter. I’d been sold the same bill of damaged goods, only with me it was my older sister who worked hard for good grades, who gave the impression that knowledge acquired easily was piffle.
The folder that held the illuminating letter also included my sibs’ high school report cards. Both did very well, mostly upper 80s, some low 90s. But exceptional? No. It was a shock to my belief system to learn that neither had graduated with honors.
I bring up this ancient history as background on the word for the coming week – COMPLETED – and it’s funky place, or lack of place, in our family.
Having potential was honored in my family, NOT actually completing things. So it seemed unusual to me that the two people I’ve admired since my college days (individually & as a couple, personally & professionally) above all others exemplify COMPLETED.
They have the discernment to know the difference between the many things that catch their eye, the few that capture their interest, the one or two worth engaging their energies. They’re energized when a worthy challenge presents itself (I am enervated). They passed on to their children the value of picking goals carefully & following them through to completion. In countless ways, they demonstrate that they value family faith friends over position prestige power. They weigh carefully what they set out to do & complete what they start.
Completing what I start goes against my nurture, which makes life very difficult. I was a lot like Mike – even when I achieved a big goal, my accomplishment didn’t seem like a big deal because it came so easily to me. It’s HARD to shake off that self-denigrating response, even now. But – finally – am DONE with it! Was going to write that if a fairy appeared in front of me at this very second with the promise of granting one wish, it would be a two-parter: to know what I truly want to do ~and~ to apply myself to complete it effectively & efficiently in a reasonable amount of time. Forget the fairy – JUST MAKE IT SO!
As challenging as it is to be 65 & still fighting against bad info & wretched habits instilled from my youngest days & etched deeper over the years, am luckier than most people ~ ~ for some reason, through three mega moves (from Alden Road to Cherry Lane, from Cherry Lane to Woodland, from Woodland to Pheasant Run), Mom kept report cards that told an aha story, kept a letter that spoke revealing volumes. Most people don’t get to revisit their origin story, let alone see how reality clashes with family myth.
The myth has been around far too long – time it’s banished for good! Let COMPLETED be the magic word that gives it the boot, replacing it with a life that embraces what’s waited impatiently hopefully eagerly to BE.
11/27/17 ~ That was where I left this yesterday. More needs to be shared.
It feels like we are plagued by a general acceptance that we gain core knowledges in our youth & early adulthood, the next bit of our life is about gaining competencies, followed by a period of mastering what we know, with the final portion of our earthly visit being a harvesting of what’s been learned & mastered, capped with a “life review” & appreciation of where we’ve been & are.
Not so fast. Or so straightforward.
According to Wikipedia, lifelong learning is the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons.” The only part of that definition that I totally agree with is “ongoing.” The rest may be true about accumulating KNOWLEDGE – facts & figures – but gaining deeper UNDERSTANDING is, in my experience, neither voluntary nor self-motivated. A lot of my lifelong learning has come from lines in books, movies (“Instead, we should tell our children, ‘Be prepared to be surprised.‘ “), TV; from casual conversations with friends acquaintances strangers, an inadvertently overheard snatch of conversation at a local cafe; from something on Radio Times or You Bet Your Garden or Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me. Serendipitous more than strategic.
Learning from cassettes & cds was intentional on my part, but not on my mother’s, so hearing a life-shifting bit of wisdom from Stephen Covey as we drove down to DisneyWorld in November 1997 was neither voluntary nor self-motivated on her part. She was stuck with me in a car driving down I-95, I believe through the Carolinas. But one sentence from a cd rocked her world.
She was 87 years old. Once heard processed embraced, Mom never turned back.
I am sure there were countless nuggets of fresh perspective & bright aha moments long before then in her life, but – per Mom – that one sentence heard on a long drive to a dream holiday brought them all together.
My version of her “Come to Covey” moment was reading her letter to Dick Gladish about Mike. Ten years after she described how she felt hearing those relatively few words from Stephen Covey, six after her death, I fully grasped how it felt to have all the little bits & pieces picked up before swiftly coalesce into a cohesive whole.
We don’t know where we’ll pick up the vital information that illuminates our understanding, stirs our compassion, fires up our resolve. Mom was 87, I was 55. For both of us, it wasn’t a single piece of aha info that brought understanding, but a crucial piece that ultimately sparked it.
Life is a puzzle, every moment a crucial piece; sometimes what’s first experienced as inconsequential can turn out to be the missing bit of sky that’s kept us from seeing the whole picture.
No one bit of our life is more important than any other – we learn more info over our youth & early adulthood, but we only begin to more fully understand as we trip ever upward in years.