BY MARY-ELIZABETH HARMON
Founding Mother, Chard & Stripes
Before I stopped working on my book to launch Chard & Stripes, I’d give my mother rambling sermons about things I was writing.
I know she listened because when I’d voice something getting me out of sorts, more than once she said back in that special Mom way, “Well, it sounds like you should read your own book.”
Though annoying, she was right, and this weekend I gave myself my mother’s treatment:
Lately, I’ve been amazed and dismayed at how things I’d planned on doing months ago (like returning to my book) are still wanting—NEEDING!!!—my attention. That feeling reminded me to read my own work: a blog post I wrote in 2017, at a time when I was feeling stagnant.
The post is below, which I’ve improved now that I’m smarter. 🙂
“It is what we are and not what we do
that represents our greatest work in the world.”
I saw a mail carrier doing her rounds wearing shorts while I was taking my daily power walk.
Damn, I thought passing her on the sidewalk, she has some nice ass legs.
After seeing her more and getting the feeling she wouldn’t be alarmed, I called out to her:
“You know you’re my leg inspiration, right?”
“It’s funny you should say that,” she answered, “because I thought about you last night.”
I couldn’t imagine why. I’d been looking disheveled on top of feeling like I wasn’t doing much besides caregiving for my parents.
Do you feel like you’re not doing much?
The mail carrier was named Vicky, and she explained that she’d thought about me when debating whether to walk a mile the evening before; she decided that she would.
Resuming my own walk after stopping to chat, I thought about how easy it is for us to live unaware of the positive ways that we impact people—had I not spoken to Vicky, I wouldn’t have known I had an effect on her.
Perhaps I didn’t prompt her to climb Everest but I did prompt her to walk by setting an example.
And there’s something bigger to note:
Caregiving for my parents hasn’t won me awards, but helping my father have a good death at home was the most meaningful thing I’ve done. As well as the most mentally, physically, and spiritually taxing. Yet…I mostly worked with peace and grace and maintained a good home atmosphere—the “old” me wouldn’t have been able to pull that off.
If you feel like you’re not doing much, remember to take credit for setting good examples, handling uncelebrated but important things, and growing as a person.
I learned that I’d inspired Vicky to exercise on a Wednesday.
That Thursday, I got a message from someone thanking me for helping her manage a big personal matter. I also heard from a friend saying that she was “still floating high” from a branding session with me that was “sooooo valuable.”
That Saturday, a friend thanked me for helping her make her dreams come true.
Just because I didn’t think I’d done much didn’t mean I hadn’t done special things for the women.
If you feel like you’re not doing much, remember to take credit for things you don’t think twice about doing—what’s no big deal to you is special to someone else.
Also, try taking your eyes off the prize sometimes.
I dream about improving lives and have a multipronged vision about how.
Though a vision is an asset, having one been a liability for me:
I was once so intent on reaching my goals that I tended to devalue—and more importantly not feel satisfied by—things I did that weren’t actively moving me toward some future ideal. If that’s your trap, understand that a satisfying life is a string of satisfying moments. Thus, it’s wise to divorce satisfaction from what you accomplish.
And always remember this: Being joyful is the best thing you can do.
If that’s news to you, read “Try this instead of hustling or fighting.”
But here’s a surface explanation using my leading guiding principle:
AS WITHIN, SO WITHOUT.
Or we reap what we deeply feel. Or joy on earth begins with joyful people.
But fear on earth begins with fearful people is also true.
Our moods and emotions can go viral with good or grave global consequences.
The cure for viral fear is joy.
Meaning, the world needs you to enjoy life now more than ever. Your other work can get done later.
Dr. Mary-Elizabeth Harmon is a scientist turned storyteller and Founding Mother of Chard & Stripes, a “school” of prosperity making and word-of-mouth marketing platform for businesses in food, fashion and more. Subscribe to her weekly newsletter here.