This past weekend I presented a workshop titled Working With Your Labels. At it's core, it was about creating, embracing, and nurturing one's sense of Identity. As important as that is to explore, in light of the current political and social climate, it seems more appropriate and relevant to write about the large-scale collective identities confronting us every day – some of which are intensely heartening, and some of which are deeply disturbing.
Identity, on both large and small scales, pulls the numerous and sometimes contradictory threads of experience, environment, belief, and personal character together into a cohesive sense of self. As an American citizen, I have always taken it as an article of faith that, woven proudly into the fabric of American Identity, is our nation's desire and ability (though flawed) to integrate diverse peoples into a cohesive population. The vehicle by which this has been accomplished is a precious reverence for the freedom to Be and Act as individual and equal pieces of the dazzling mosaic that is this country.
Over the last year and a half, I have witnessed what, in the darkest of moments, feels like the fracturing of our American Identity. I have witnessed large fragments of our population galvanize around polarized and seemingly skewed positions on Economy, National Security, Climate Change, Health Care, Civil Liberties, Women's Rights, Education, Immigration, and more. The political and social issues of our time are indeed worthy and demanding of strong opinions, discourse, and debate. I feel strongly about many of these issues and voted accordingly. Yet, in the midst of loud rallying cries (and tweets) for 'Making America Great Again', I find myself endeavoring to make sense of what feels like an angry, reckless and alarming attempt to reorder our mosaic to the extent that it is no longer easily recognizable to me as American.
Perhaps I, and many others, grossly underestimate the durability of the glue holding our mosaic together. Perhaps the noble principles of freedom and equality, along with a widespread practice of attempting to choose right over wrong will prove more resilient in the hearts of some of our politicians and citizenry than they appear to be at this moment. But, in the face of what appears to be the rapid diminution of these principles – no more strongly evident than in the actions and comportment of our highest elected official – I, along with many others, raise my voice in dismay. We are gravely concerned. None of us truly knows the tensile strength of our republic. We do not know our own breaking point. There is no measuring stick, save for hindsight after it is already broken. Make no mistake. Our greatness is being tested.
We have been gravely tested before, multiple times. Our American Identity has survived those trials thanks, in part, to the sagacity of the authors of our Constitution and thanks, also, to its conscientious custodians from all walks of life. Our nation's past is undeniably checkered, but perhaps Winston Churchill said it best:
"You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried
We, the present-day custodians of this republic, are being tested in unprecedented ways. Wise men and women who have lived through previous times of unrest, fear that, for the first time in our history, we may possibly break before we come around to doing the right thing. As the custodians of our great American Ideals, we are stubbornly, contentiously divided. We are crippled in our capacity to protect these ideals as a result. It becomes all the more alarming when, in the face of egregious, illegal, and unconstitutional Executive overreach, so many of our elected officials – the people to whom we've entrusted our Voice – remain silent.
Yet my heart swells to see the spontaneous and repeated outpouring of resistance by so many - most recently, the unwillingness to stand idly by as safe, productive, decent, legal and long-term residents of the US are turned away at their very own doorstep. I am heartened by the Federal Judges and lawyers who, by perfectly legal means, curtailed some of the injustice being doled out by the Presidential Pen. I am deeply moved to recall the unparalleled harmonious demonstrations at the Women's March on Washington (and the solidarity of all the sister marches across the globe) as protesters swarmed the streets surrounding the official residence of our unashamed and unapologetic Objectifier in Chief. I am grateful for the numerous voices in political power beyond the halls of Congress who are speaking out when the line of reason has been clearly crossed.
Fortified as I am by these acts of decency, I believe we must remain vigilant in these uncertain times. It is with loyalty to and belief in the American Identity I so love that I will strive to speak and act with integrity, wisdom, and courage. I entreat you to join me in choosing your words and actions wisely, not merely reactively or dismissively. We must work deliberately and persistently as exemplary advocates for the highest American ideals of freedom, justice, equality, democratic rule of law, fair representation, and innocence until proven guilty. We must exhort our elected officials on both sides of the aisle to rise to the challenge of these difficult times, just as we hold ourselves to that same expectation. We must act in a way that future generations will not praise our economic brilliance while making an example of our moral implosion. Let us restore ourselves to the greatness that made the United States a beacon of hope for millions of people around the world. This American mosaic we have so painstakingly crafted together, for which so many have sacrificed life and limb, is too precious to risk losing.
Happy New Year and Welcome to 2017! As I write this, I welcome the familiar mix of excitement and relief at the notion of being able to start again with a clean slate – of being able to put the past behind me and look to a future "fresh, with no mistakes in it". (Wink to all the L.M. Montgomery fans out there!)
With so many of us making obligatory New Year's Resolutions, I know I am not alone in connecting to the special energy of that clean slate feeling. I also know that it doesn't take long for the slate to suffer it's first handful of scuffs and dings, marring our resolve to hold on to that "make a change for the better" mentality!
It is easy to get derailed, distracted, and discouraged. Getting off track is so common that we make bets about who in our circle of family and friends will either fall first or hold out the longest (where one month is setting the bar high)!
But our intentions are so good! When was the last time you heard someone make a resolution with the desire to make his or her life worse? We make resolutions from a place deep within that knows what changes need to happen in order to feel more secure, happy, or fulfilled. This is noble! How dare we give up on this so easily?!
With that in mind, my goal for this post is to help you meet those resolutions so that on New Year's Eve 2017, you're celebrating not just the arrival of a new blank slate, but the incredible, successful story you've written all over the old slate – scuffs, dings and all!
Building A Framework for Success - 5 Ways to Help Yourself
Hi! I'm Jennifer
I’m a professional life coach and business owner in the Washington, DC area living my dream of helping purpose-driven people experience deeper fulfillment and personal transformation. I'm also an active professional violinist who thrives on connecting with people of all ages and backgrounds through the power and beauty of music.