Alas…the week-long vacation I had waited for. No, I hadn’t planned a trip to the islands or to an exotic place out of the country. My week of rest was going to be done in good old Atlanta, Georgia…mostly in the quiet section of the Metropolitan area…Marietta Square. Of course, some of my relaxation time would be spent with my daughter who has a psychological counseling practice in the Square. But, for the most part… I was determined to be selfish…relishing in eating alone…taking long walks alone…and just sitting alone in front of the beautiful waterfall in the center of the Square. The goal…planning the next chapter of my life.
My daughter (42 yrs old) and I were seated in a popular little dining café waiting for our entrees. We were chatting about our dreams and goals for the future. Both of us…Type A personalities and constantly remaking ourselves…were diving deeply into our conversations about steps we would take moving our professional brands to the next level.
Out of nowhere…a nice looking gentleman…all white hair pulled back into a ponytail accompanied by a younger guy…graced our table and struck up a conversation with my daughter. Oddly enough, it didn’t appear that either man was going to leave our table…at least not the older gentleman, anyway. In my mind I’m thinking…how crazy is this? Two women…both African American…are sitting here engrossed in a conversation and two guys…both White…just inserted themselves into our space. Couldn’t they see we were in a whole goal-setting mood…and they were interrupting the flow? Obviously not…so I pretended to be interested in the chitchat assuming it would be over as quickly as it began.
And…then…came the teachable moment. My daughter, being the gracious lady she was raised to be, mentioned that she is a licensed professional counselor. The older gentleman’s eyes lit up because it turns out that he is in the psychology field as well. No…this guy isn’t just any old consultant…he is a world renowned sports psychologist, consultant, author, motivational speaker, professor, and business coach. This guy, who had so nicely interrupted my goal-setting conversation with my daughter was the founder of The Center for Winning Performance, Jack Llewellyn, Ph.D.
Um…once I found the strength to close my mouth and swallow hard from embarrassment of how self-absorbed I had been just moments earlier, I opened my ears and benefited from the wonderful nuggets Jack…not Dr. Llewellyn dropped at our table. He actually dropped more than life nuggets; Jack left three of his most recent books with us, autographed…and at NO charge! The books’ titles surely got my attention: “Get the Mud Out of the Water,” Winning Sure Beats Losing,” and “tools for life’s spiritual journey.” That’s when I learned about Dr. Jack Llewellyn.
Jack is credited with making the Atlanta Braves one the most successful franchises in baseball during the ‘90’s. He is referred to as the “Mental Development Coach” and later in his career developed a practice transferring those skills and techniques he’s used with athletes to coaching executives in the workplace. And…Jack is now facing one of his most challenging battles…coping with multiple sclerosis. But, is that stopping him? Not at all…he’s still teaching, coaching, authoring new books…and interrupting Type A personality folks like me who could learn a thing or two from a “pro”…like Dr. Jack Llewellyn. THANK you, Sir.
My late preacher Mom, Evangelist Susie Frisby, would always spread nuggets throughout our lives. Ironically, during the times she inserted her pearls of wisdom, we didn’t appreciate them nor sometimes even understand them. But, as time goes on…Mom’s words resonate more and more as inevitable truths I’m embarrassed not to have recognized early on in my young adult life.
A “truth” I’ve come to understand more deeply everyday than I did forty-some years ago is,, “You can’t pick your family.” I would look at Mom back in the day and think, “How silly…of course, you can’t pick your family. Everyone knows that!” But, I totally missed the point. Because the point that Mom was making was that some days we would WANT to pick our families…or unpick our families…however one would choose to look at it.
Once the lesson of this particular nugget had penetrated through the layers of the white mass in my brain, it triggered thoughts about how I could be a better sister. Being raised with a bunch of girls…aka “sisters” can often be a chaotic “hot mess” and not all the joys of giggles some might have others believe. Whose boyfriend got fresh with the other sister or why is my blouse missing from the closet or how does she always get her hair to do what it’s supposed to do? And…then sometimes…there is the cattiness when one sister might make a comment to another sister about another sister. Ugh…real uncool.
And…then…the nuggets of Mom began to kick in…”You can’t pick your family…and that means sisters, too! Then…Mom would take it one step further…YOU are responsible for your sister’s happiness! You must be there for her…no matter what. Admittedly, those words rang hollow for a few decades because I just couldn’t understand why I should be responsible for my sisters’ happiness…well-being…or even be expected to love them unconditionally.
But…then something happened along way…over the course of decades…it’s called “life.” I watched two sets of grandparents grow old and pass away. Then…unexpectedly…both of my parents died from brief illnesses. It wouldn’t be long before two brothers and a sister would also make the transition from life to the afterlife without the time for a proper farewell.
Ironically, even though I’ve buried tons of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances….it’s the deaths of my immediate family members that have affected me the most…irrespective of how close or estranged we were…and regardless of how old or young they were at the time of death. It was the circumstance and the trait of not being able to pick the individual…the bond called “family” that set the passing of these individuals apart from the others.
While I pride myself in being an awesome sister, the truth is…I could have been a better sister. And…I wish I had learned this lesson years ago. But, I didn’t and refuse to spend the days I have left fretting over that point. The good news is that I learned it before I left this Planet…and will spend the rest of my days being a better sister to those who are left. And…why should I have all the fun? I plan to pass this lesson on to others…compliments of my Mom!
By Jeannine LaRue
I love delivering keynote addresses…and not for the reason that many folks would suspect. It’s not the limelight of standing before hundreds of people that turns me on during these 17 – 55 minutes worth of words and gestures. And…no…it’s not about hearing the inflated and often self-serving introductions that sometimes precede my carefully researched and prepared addresses that get me hyped! And…it’s not even about impressing the audience to the point of prolonged and well-meaning standing ovations that keep me seeking one more invitation to walk behind a podium and to hold that mike…repeating the same exercise again and again and again…delivering a keynote address.
The thrill is the journey that has shaped my life motto: “There are only two days important in one’s life…the day you are born and the day you know why.” Yes…it is the recognition…the homage I pay to the collective stories that have defined my “why” throughout the years that drives me to find venues…reasons…opportunities to stand before crowds of 10, 50, 100, thousands of people and just tell it. The retelling of these stories are healing…soothing…comforting…and affirming of the fact that tragedies and painful events need not define us. The retelling of these collective stories remind me the absolute power of forgiveness and how liberating the act of forgiving can be to one’s future existence.
And…oh…the retelling of my stories…my high’s and low’s…my failures and victories…often serve as a catalyst for my audiences to tell THEIR stories…their marvelous stories of redemption, pain, successes…tears and laughter…all while adding to my own personal healing while being an active spectator for someone else who is experiencing what I feel every time I step up to the podium and pick up that mike.
Hmmm….those two important days…the day I was born and the day I knew why…drive me to tell and retell my stories. One day…the story will no longer have to be told because the day I was born and the day I knew why will belong to the Universe…as will I. But, for now….I’ll continue to seek out the venues and reasons and opportunities to draw out the “why” from others. May the cycle of self-renewal and forgiveness and affirmation continue.