Uplift and Mindfulness with Michelle Obama
I had a talk with Michelle Obama the other day… Well, me and about 20,000 other people…
I had the privilege to hear Michelle Obama’s speech the other night. I was in definite need of some uplift after a hard week at work, and being present to some very painful struggles, and experiencing some community tragedies and personal sorrows.
I lacked energy; was de-motivated to keep on keeping on. I didn’t want to have to do anything. It all felt so hard and interminable.
Of course, everything I heard in the news seemed to reaffirm how hard things are right now, for so many. How more and more of the things we’ve counted on or treated as sacred, are being threatened or taken away.
The worst part about this is that it seems that there’s no real reflection, or thoughtfulness or deep consideration going on, by the leaders, as they make these broad and divisive changes.
I am happy to report that indeed Michelle Obama is a thoughtful thinker about herself and about the world we live in. It was so uplifting to hear her share her thoughts, warmth, compassion about our plight. And to hear how hopeful she is. And authentic, and true to herself. And mindful. No surprise there actually. She did not disappoint.
Here is some of the mindful wisdom I got from her, the other night when we were chatting 😊:
1) Be proud of who you are.
I was reminded by her to be proud of who I am. Accept my story; be comfortable with it. Don’t apologize for my background, even if there are things I might have been ashamed of or embarrassed about in my background (inferiority; feeling like I don’t belong; living in a neighborhood not as affluent as my peers’; being different culturally and ethnically; being on “scholarship“ so I could attend a private school, etc.).
She encouraged us to be comfortable in the story that is US, and to be proud of that struggle that helped create us. And to practice and speak that voice from early on, by being authentic.
Owning what we come from is empowering, and helps to give us a seat at the table.
2) High points in life have more to do with experiences with people than with achievements.
Michelle talked about some true highlights she’d had while being the First Lady – all of them had to do with kids and young people, and her experiences with them.
She and Barack tried to bring cultural events to the White House that ordinarily would not have been seen there. At one spoken word event in the White House, a young man showed up, ready to perform his rap about Alexander Hamilton. Her and Barack Obama said “OK“ with slightly raised eyebrows but then once they heard him, they were impressed. They asked what he was going to do next. He said “I’m going to produce a whole Broadway musical about him“. Michelle and Barack were skeptical and raised their eyebrows again and said “OK… Well good luck with that…“ His name was Lin Manuel Miranda! She had been deeply impressed and touched by his enthusiasm, commitment, and determination. This was definitely a highlight in her time at the White House.
Of course, there were some very, very low moments too, while in office, that also had to do with young people. She wept to have to console so many parents and loved ones of children or young people who had been senselessly shot. It was hard enough to be present to Gold Star families who had lost a family member in the military, but to have to console hard-working parents who had simply sent their children off to school that day, only to lose them – was beyond unbearable.
All she could do was to attempt to be there for them. She talked about taking her self out of the equation; not being there for herself, but being there completely for them. Giving a hug and trying to identify with their plight, even though she knew in her heart how impossible that task was.
3) Parenting requires consistency, stability and a lot of love.
Kids are resilient. They can smell out inauthenticity. They need to be taught how to face their struggles, and that life isn’t always fair or easy. She works with kids who are beating the odds every day. They may start out behind, but still have great capacity to thrive.
Parents help raise good kids by having common sense, a hard work ethic, being practical, sharing lessons of how to handle money, not complaining, working hard, being accountable; rather than by doing all the hard work for their kids or not letting them make mistakes, and certainly not by giving them everything. And Parents need lots of support while they raise those kids. She underlined that there is no shame in asking for help.
She repeated several times how many good decent hard-working people there are out there – not being greedy and trying to get rich, but just intent on raising their kids and enjoying their time with them, providing a good family life and caring for family members in the community we live in. She emphasized that THAT is our foundation in America.
4) Sometimes supporting your loved one is more important than doing what you want…
She didn’t want Barack to run for office because she thought it would be too hard on him and on their family, and on her. She grappled with this and decided it was actually better for her and her family, to be a supportive wife rather than resentful that he was doing something she never wanted. (She also really didn’t think he would win – couldn’t wrap her head around the idea of that – so she imagined she would be able to be a consoling and compassionate wife to him!)
Once he did win, though, she decided to embrace it and was very thoughtful about her and his position – and the position her children were in. She had remembered that knowing her husband, he was exactly the kind of person she would want in office. She looked for opportunities to be of service herself, as a way of making those eight years more tolerable for her. Being of service filled her spirit and brought her much meaningfulness, in a challenging time.
5) The best way to deal with challenge is to know yourself. Embrace your disappointments. Discover your passions.
She reminded us that women are generally very good at taking care of others but may not always do a good job of taking care of ourselves. She emphasized the importance of having a supportive community and the importance especially for professional women (of color) to support each other, so we can bring more like us to the table.
Leaning on others and supporting them, helps one to check deeply inside and know what they need. We need to admit to and live with our vulnerability, in order to build our strength. And to really come to know and appreciate who we are.
6) Be encouraged. Really be encouraged and have hope.
In this dark time, there are many many, everyday and everywhere, good people, who are working hard and speaking up, mindful of their values; taking care of themselves and their families; doing the right thing. These people are making a grand difference in the world and working on making it a better place for us all. Be of service. Be positive energy in someone’s life. Be empathic and have compassion. That’s something we can all do. And that’s something lots of people are doing.
Michelle Obama shared her warm wisdom with a Coliseum full of people. It felt like we were sitting together in my living room, being authentic, sharing stories and giving inspiration. She demonstrated her mindful presence, reflection and thoughtfulness about living life and using her self as a tool to spread kindness and good things in the world.
When we hugged and said goodbye, I felt uplifted. And I was reminded of how much I miss her soul and heart in the White House.
Thank you Michelle, for having a little chat with me – a hopeful and compassionate heart-to-heart. Thank you for all the listening and caring that you do – and for being so mindfully present and real about it all…
If you or someone you care about needs help to find the uplift in life, please contact me for a therapy appointment.
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