Prompt #4:

That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. Where is the master who could have taught Shakespeare? Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? . . . Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare. Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Identify one of your biggest challenges at the moment (ie I don’t feel passionate about my work) and turn it into a question (ie How can I do work I’m passionate about?) Write it on a post-it and put it up on your bathroom mirror or the back of your front door. After 48-hours, journal what answers came up for you and be sure to evaluate them.

Bonus: tweet or blog a photo of your post-it.

(Prompt author: Jenny Blake)

My Response:

In a favorite book of mine, The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran writes “On Children”:

“They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls…”

Ownership of oneself versus ownership of others is a recurring theme in my life at the moment. My friend Sana Johnson-Quijada (Dr. Q) writes of this precept often on her blog Friend to Yourself. One of her fundamental tenets, as I see it, is essentially this: when we claim our authentic selfhood, we move toward a more enlightened form of companionship with everyone else around us. As we strive to sit inside of accountability for our triumphs and our flaws, we are able to look at the emotions and behaviors of others with what I would term objective empathy. The more we work on self-discovery and authenticity, the more we have to offer of compassion, grace, and encouragement to others—the best parts of ourselves. Sounds a bit like a Transcendentalist concept, yes?

At the last workshop in her series on Tuesday night, Sana explored the biology of self and prompted the audience in Socratic seminar format to look at the perils and tools of self-discovery and self-care. One of the most beautiful commentaries that has reverberated like a bell in my mind came from a lady named Michelle. She reminded us all that, even in the quest for perfect self-knowledge, we must “allow ourselves to know that we are always still working on it.” In other words, we’re never done or finished, and that is okay. Sana elaborated on this thought, and we pondered what it means to begin and end the life journey with a flawed self.

The Transcendentalist philosophy, like that of the German Idealists, emphasizes a quest for perfection. Yet this perfection, I think, consists of knowing our authentic selves and loving ourselves for the miracles we are—flaws and all.

We are best at being our true selves. Authenticity. I would live and die on its sword.

As a mother my greatest challenge is guiding my children, Katie and Eric, toward their authentic selves while still placing parameters, standards, and rules on their behavior. I’d even go so far as to say that these high expectations also include standards of productivity, decision-making, and manners. “Authentic self” here cannot mean primitive behavior, and it cannot mean behavior unchecked by the glorious frontal lobe. In essence, there are some behaviors to which I need/want to require them to conform—and yet, paradoxically, I highly value nonconformity to social norms…well, as long as that nonconformity is productive and safe. (Qualify much around here?)

So here is my question, taped now to the back of my front door:

How can I inspire my children to find and embrace their authentic selves while still setting high standards for their behavior?

I underlined in red the words I feel are most important to my reflection on this question the next couple of days.

While I was at it putting things on doors, I also made something for the other side of the front door:

I have to confess that this wreath is a shameless copy of a design I found online (I browse so many different design and craft blogs right before bed that I cannot remember where I saw it—sorry!). The styling and colors were so gorgeous and summery-Junelike I just had to make one for myself. It was extremely simple to make, and Michael’s happened to be having a sale on some of its florals. After I painted the “M”  (it is a deep robin’s egg blue, but it is difficult to tell in this picture) and let it dry, the wreath seriously only took about ten minutes to assemble.

The reflection/evaluation piece of this prompt will be rattling around in my mind for a couple of days at least…