I invite you this week to write a letter to an Elder Leader figure from your life who has at times been less than fully encouraging or supportive of your ambitions. An example is a high school guidance counselor who once told a friend of mine, Barbara—the best artist in our high school class—that she was “not college material.” This affected my friend’s life considerably. She did not go to college but she did go on to become a very successful artist who apprenticed at Toussaud’s Wax Museum in Niagara Falls and eventually became a wax figure artist herself. Barbara peopled several full wax museums in the US and one in Ireland, and she created a line of period historical wax dolls!
I remember that at one point Barb decided to take a college course just to see how she would do with that, based on the disparaging remark of our high school guidance counselor. Well, she aced the course, but she also realized how grateful she was for not having gone on right to college after high school; her real life experience brought her many more opportunities and allowed her to develop her artistic talent in her own ways.
Elder Leader figures like the high school guidance counselor serve as “gatekeepers;” in fact many elder leaders fill that role. Elder leaders are also by their very nature or position role models. Most parental figures can be considered Elder Leaders in their children’s eyes at least. For example, the other day while I was writing the previous blog at a local café, I overheard a conversation between two young children (a boy around 8 and a younger girl) and their mother. The boy repeated several times to his mom that: “Dad is my Hero!”
What might my friend Barb like to have said to that gatekeeping guidance counselor, either at the stage she was discouraged from going to college or later, after she had achieved far more than that counselor could have ever foreseen?
I invite you to think of an Elder Leader figure from your life who has influenced you either very positively as a role model or who may have inhibited you in some manner as a gatekeeper; or, both. I invite you to write a letter to this Elder Leader figure, and then I also invite you to write a RESPONSE to your letter from that person in return to you.
I will provide a brief example just to illustrate the process. Then I encourage you to practice this dialogue on your own. I welcome any sharing of your practice!
First let me thank you for how you encouraged all of your children to find and then to follow their own path in life. Also I thank you for demonstrating the values of fortitude, perseverance and self-discipline. My own leadership abilities follow in many ways from your example. At the same time, I needed to overcome a lot of inhibition because of how demanding and critical you could be. I always wanted to please you, yet it was difficult to earn that positive encouragement.
I do thank you especially for how in the late stages of your life, Dad, you were there to LISTEN and to honestly communicate with all of us about the difficulties you underwent as a young man. You were toughened and hardened by your experiences, and you tried to help us to develop a “tough skin” too, to survive in what you perceived as a harsh world.
I will never forget the day you taught me to swim by standing a few feet away in shallow waters, asking me just to go that far, then gradually establishing further distance so I could expand my reach! That lesson applies to my whole life, so I thank you for the independence of spirit you invoked and for the idea I could attain my goals.
Maybe in the end there are no accidents. From the bigger perspective, we all find our way. I am glad that you are following your path. Know that you are never alone!
images from pixabay.com
I welcome YOUR insights and stories!