So many languages and with that knowing comes the knowing that no matter what, I will never speak them all. Arabic. Arabic kinda makes my stomach do happy things, especially in songs. So does Hebrew. With a little focus I could speak fluent Italian and Spanish fairly quickly, and that would be nice. And that would still leave many, many languages out of reach. Meaning, many many people I will never be able to talk with, but more specifically: many more ways in which I will not know myself.
When I speak French, my heart and my brain connect with a Frenchness, a way of being, of thinking, of expressing myself. No matter how much I fight it, a whiff of cynicism (we call it humor) sometimes creeps in. I shrug more often, while a layer of superficiality automatically gets scrubbed off, somehow leaving things more substantial. Go figure.
When I speak Italian, everything is more beautiful and more decorative. At the edges of words hang little curlicues and shiny dots. I feel prettier, I feel sexier and I feel as though nothing could ever go terribly wrong.
When I speak Spanish, I am both 5 years old and a little more awake. The joy level goes up right away, no matter whether I am buying avocados or negotiating a taxi. I feel more alive and in some way, authentic.
And then there is English. This is the easiest one for me to close my eyes and let the words out in a specific way, even though it might hold the least specific vocabulary. It is the language of my grown up years and it is as comfortable as a pair of jeans, even though I still miss a button once in a while.
All this to say, there are many languages and we show up differently with each of them.
And here is an important point: often, while traveling, the funnest part of all is to share language, to go from one to the other depending on whom it is we are talking with. In a way, they are contagious.
Hang on to that thought.
Which brings me to this: The Other Languages. The languages that are just as varied, just as rich, just as powerful - but not as obvious - as English, Arabic, Finnish or Portuguese. We speak them, we can go from on to another, we can learn them and the more we practice them, the better we get at speaking them.
These Other Languages include Kindness, Empathy, Anger, Guilt, Jealousy, Negativity, Aloofness, Tenderness, Compassion, Levity and more.
At any given time, you and I are speaking one of these.
At any given time, someone is speaking one of these to us.
The Other Languages usually come with no accent, a simple grammar and a varied vocabulary. They inform, they threaten, they cajole, they soothe, they play … they are languages.
Just like the “regular languages,” the Other Languages are contagious.
This means that just as if you talked with me in French I would most likely answer to you in French without thinking about it much, it is very, very easy to match someone’s other Language without skipping a beat.
For instance: If you walk over to me and talk to me in Agressivity, it is going to be natural for me to adjust my body, my heart rate and my words to match your Language and respond to you in Agressivity. When that happens, the results are much less fun than when we order gelato together in Italian.
In that space between the time when I hear your Other Language and I respond is the opportunity for something I call Language Sovereignty.
Language Sovereignty is not easy and in the last couple of days, I have been dancing with it, sensing plenty of opportunities to practice it in the days to come, also.
Boy it’s hard. Harder than Spanish grammar. Harder than those darn English prepositions that have been getting me in trouble for 4 decades and maybe even harder than remembering how to say popcorn in Farsi.
Why is it so hard? I think mainly because we forget that we have a choice.
But we do.
And did I mention it was hard?
And, as a friend reminded me lately: we can do hard things; especially when they are worth it.
Learning Language Sovereignty is worth it.
Why is Learning Language Sovereignty worth it?
How do we us Language Sovereignty?
We take time outs if we need them.
The trick is to hear the other person, really hear them, while not catching a piggy back ride on their Language. Remembering that they make sense to them, that their choice of Language is just as valid as ours, too. And that it’s theirs.
Like I said, it’s not easy.
Today I invite you to consider practicing Language Sovereignty next time the local Language does not feel right for you. I invite you to remember that you have a choice. That your mouth is yours and yours only and that only by using the Language of your choice will you be able to share your truth with yourself, another person and the world.
Then, I invite you to give yourself a big, big hug for being so brave and strong and real.
Late Sunday night just a couple of weeks ago, my daughter calls and tells me that she has something big to share with me. She then hesitates and prefaces whatever is to come with: “I am going to need you to trust that I know what I am doing.”
I am pretty sure she has told me these exact words on the phone before, usually followed with the news of something which would not have been my first - or tenth - choice.
How different can this be?
When she shares with me that she has gotten married, I am temporarily unable to remember how to speak. I know I can because I do it a lot, but for a few long seconds my brain is refusing to let my mouth have a turn.
Instead, I am suddenly aware that there are three of me holding the phone, which feels all sorts of both weird and intensely present.
While my mouth catches up to my brain, I am suddenly my mother.
My mother who incidentally might have been doing that funny thing she used to do with her legs when she laughed so hard she thought she might pee. If she was indeed watching me from somewhere up above, there is no doubt she was loving this special family moment. So, yes - I am suddenly my mother. My mother who 31 years ago received the same phone call from me. I think I had started mine with: “Hey mom, remember that sailor I told you about?” To which she answered that no, she did not remember me telling her about any sailor - and what about him? This made sense because really, I probably had not had time to tell her about the sailor, having only known him a very (very) short time. The conversation progressed painstakingly from there and I announced that well … I had married him the night before. I remember her sharing the news with my dad while I was still on the phone. This was the first time that I had experienced silence as an actual tactile thing. She later told me that I broke his heart with that one call.
At the same time, I am my daughter.
When I made my call, I was a couple of years younger than she, and drunk with the fullness of having made a huge life decision on my own. Part rebellion, part overinflated self-confidence, I never mentioned that I had woken up that morning suggesting an annulment. This was about me, about a new us that I knew little about, and no part of me was oriented towards my parents’ feelings nor imagining that this could concern them a whole lot.
And then, I was me.
Me who was trying to catch pieces of words and thoughts to make them play nicely with each other. Me who wants to champion my kids always and foremost and me whose heart (or was it my ego?) was developing a little purple bruise at not having been included in the event. Finally me who really, was in shock. At first glance this would qualify as one of these “not my first choice” ideas. Thank god life sometimes gives up opportunities for many glances and this is one of these times.
My voice came back, we talked a bit longer and then she was gone. All three characters suddenly melded tidily into one woman who looked a lot like me.
A few days later, I found myself experiencing this “Three of Me” thing again. Talking with a young and cherished member of my team, for a moment I felt one part life coach, one part mom and one part business owner. They all had different things to say.
It’s weird, this ability (is that what it is??) to see things from a couple of different people’s eyeballs and hearts at the same time. It’s inconvenient. It’s messy and it makes things much less black and white. It can be painful, too. Whether my mom was laughing from wherever she is now or not, I welcome the sobering opportunity to glimpse at the impact my decision may have had on her life, three decades ago. I also welcome a bit of re-living the thrill of eloping. Finally I welcome the invitation to show up at my most loving, most humble version of myself as my daughter’s mom.
Life ain’t for sissies and living it wide awake tends to add an extra bit of brightness to the flavors.
Today, I invite you to pay attention to however many of you decide to show up uninvited to the big moments of your life. And to consider making them all a little place at the table, no matter how noisy it might get in there. Then to delight at the richness of it all.
Finally, I invite all of us to consider that whenever big stuff shows up our way, the kind of big stuff where our opinions like to make themselves known, Love is probably the best Essence to Declare and partner with.
When my daughter was learning to be with horses (note: not really ride, but more be), I heard the extraordinary lady who was mentoring her repeat a particular sentence often. She would say: Trust in Natural Timing. Once, she explained to me that her horses were always true to their Natural Timing, and that she encouraged that. Some days they wanted to interact, some days they didn’t. No story was made about any of it. It was all Natural Timing.
It has been a long time since I have been around my daughter's mentor for a significant amount of time, but her words pop up in my mind often.
I had a rough night. I tossed and I turned for most of it and whether it had to do with Mercury retrograding, the Chinese Herbs I am taking or god knows what, I “woke up” exhausted. And super cranky.
I wrote, walked around for a bit, talked on the phone and still, could not seem to get the motor purring happily. I just wanted to go back to bed and complain to my comforter.
So I did.
I grabbed my laptop on the way to my room and climbed back in bed with a cup of tea. Having given myself permission to “be lazy and feel sorry for myself,” it wasn’t long before I started to get some work done from the safety of my bed.
At noon, I was still up there and had gotten a bunch of work done.
Then my daughter called and darn it, it’s hard for me to be in bad mood too long when I hear her voice. But I tried. I did. I could actually watch myself trying to stay in a bad mood.
Fifteen minutes later, there was no way to fake it. I was ready to be in the world again. The veil had lifted and with it the pity party had moved on.
It all happened in Natural Timing.
Not all mornings are sunny, even when our natural disposition is - which is a heck of a blessing. And when that happens, when we can’t quite connect with our joy, I think that there is some wisdom in not beating ourselves up for it. After all, it really does not serve to feel bad about feeling bad.
So instead, let’s trust in Natural Timing. Let’s trust that the sun is still shining way above the cloud even if don’t feel it, and that it will come back - as soon as it’s time.
Meanwhile, if we are able, a good book, a hot bath, a big cry, extra beautiful music on our way to work and more than anything a good dose of kindness might be just what’s needed.
I wish you a very kind, very Natural Timing kind of day.