Hang up the phone, and go get the baby. (on empathy)
I have been doing a meditation series on Anxiety through Headspace. Today's session brought empathy into the framework. How understanding that even though we feel totally and utterly alone in our anxiety (or whatever windstorm of emotions have taken over), we aren't. That realization is powerful.
Anxiety is part of the human experience. As are all emotions. As is suffering through pain on so many levels.
When we feel all alone, the power of whatever we are feeling is amplified.
When we are able to embrace the idea that we aren't alone, when we are able to "let go" of the notion that we are the ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD suffering in this way (or that no one else's suffering is as great as ours), we are able to find some relief and space and connection in a moment when we so deeply need to feel connected instead of alone.
So what does this have to do with a baby?
Well, as I began the exercise, my mind went back to a time when my son was brand new. I was still home on maternity leave--such as maternity leave exists when you are a CEO of a newly merged entity, less than one-year into the merger.
I recalled the time I was on the phone, in my closet, talking to two of my direct reports who were in a cultural power struggle with a third member of my direct reports.
Why was I in my closet with the door closed?
Because I was trying not to hear the cries of my newborn son in his crib while I was on the phone.
I don't know how long I was in the closet, but it felt like forever. And somewhere, in his crib, my newborn cried, and didn't understand why I didn't come.
We all have moments in our lives that stay with us. And let's be honest, most of the things that we carry around with us for long periods of time are not pleasant. I still feel guilt.
When my son gets really angry, he doesn't want anyone to touch him. Sometimes I wonder if he got here wired that way, or if that experience shaped him too.
In hindsight, I cannot believe that I didn't just tell the two grown ups that they were going to have to wait. That I was going to get my son. While the political and cultural crisis was important to the work I was doing as a CEO, it was not the most important thing in the world for me at that moment.
As I sat in my meditation, recalling this moment in my life that I still beat myself up for, I realized my jaw was clenched.
And then I remembered empathy. And I allowed empathy. For me. For that still newly minted CEO in the midst of a cultural war in her organization and that post-partum Mom who was doing the very best she knew how to do at the time.
And as I allowed myself to feel empathy, my jaw relaxed on its own. I was able to feel forgiveness and kindness for myself in a new way for an incident that happened almost eight years ago.
Allowing empathy, calling on empathy, allowing ourselves to be present to our own humanity and the humanity of others, to feel and seek that connection, is an incredible tool for healing us all.