This is a deeply personal story, the most personal I have written, the most revealing. I want to share an aspect of who I am that I've discovered relatively recently, that goes very, very deep.
I'm the mother of a gay child.
Lily, my beautiful and talented 18-year-old, declared her homosexuality when she was 14. So my family was thrilled when the great State of New York passed a law last week that allows same-sex marriage. I'm NY Metro born and bred, lived in the city for many years (still live very close) and I conduct much of my business there. Lily will start college there in August. I love the place. We all do.
As we watched the live stream of the New York legislature debate and vote and it became clear the bill would become law, Lily fell into my arms, her relief palpable, and broke down in tears.
"The world is changing, Mommy."
Yes, it is.
As you might imagine, the journey so far has been taxing -- more so for Lily than me or the rest of the family, that much is certain. But it has also been extraordinary. In particular, I have been forced to dig very deep to explore my true feelings. I knew I couldn't be my authentic self unless I did. And that, in turn, would mean my clients and customers -- as well as everyone else in my life -- would be served less well.
I constantly urge clients and politicians to be authentic speakers and communicators. Being who you are is powerful and, frankly, irresistible. And the deeper we are willing to dig, the more powerful and irresistible we become.
Anyway, last week, I was in the city for a client and Lily decided to come along for the ride since we'd be in Soho and Greenwich Village. We met up after I was done and walked around, got something to eat.
As we were walking, I noticed people staring at her, quizzical looks on their faces. Now she's very pretty, so it would've been easy to chalk up the staring up to her looks. I also know she has a YouTube channel that's had thousands of views as well as a Tumblr blog with 7,000 followers and counting. But then I put two and two together and I realized that some of the people looking at her recognized her. I told her what I thought and, just like a teenager, she blew me off.
Now stay with me... it's an important part of this story; I'll get to the punch line later. But first some background...
When Lily came out at 14, I was in shock. There had always been boyfriends, crushes. So my fantasies about her future were traditional and conventional.
Once I got the news, however, I knew I'd have to pivot. Unfortunately, it was more like turning the Titanic. And I didn't get much help from Lily. She was 14 -- and then 15, 16, and 17 -- not easy years for any teen, no less one shouldering such a burden. She was angry all the time, hormones raging, hating me and her dad - but mostly me -- for her rotten life.
I wasn't allowed to tell anyone. But I had to respect her privacy, follow her lead.
Keeping this news private actually worked for me because I thought, "maybe things will change."
And that very thought was my wake-up call. I had always considered myself socially liberal, completely behind social justice issues such as affirmative action and equal rights for all. I had had conversations with friends who suspected their children were gay. I'd say, "It's genetic. Nothing you can do about it. Accept it. Help your kid accept it." But now it was on me. I questioned myself. Did I harbor a secret bias? Was it ok for other kids and families, but not mine?
I really had to dig deep. And be honest with myself. And once I was, the floodgates opened.
Instead of being angry in advance and ready to attack someone if they said the "wrong" thing, I became more tolerant (are you following me here?). I mean, you still couldn't mess with my kid (and you still can't), but I could ease it for her. I had freed up enough capacity to accept, categorize, and devise an appropriate reaction.
And with that increased capacity came other benefits: I became a better listener, more tuned into the many unspoken needs of clients, more willing to assert myself when I saw a client making a mistake. As a speaker, I become much more compelling because my confidence was at an all-time high and there was a new lightness in my step as I took the stage.
The most significant thing that happened, however, was that I asked for help. I'd always been lousy at that vital skill. Needing help humiliated me. I felt I should know it all. I mean that's why people came to me, right? I was the coach. But, of course, that's ridiculous and I realized it had been holding me back. So I reached out to some very skilled people on both personal and professional fronts.
They helped me realize that though I love my corporate and celebrity clients, I needed more of a connection that I would only find by working with small businesses and entrepreneurs. Recognizing this truth increased my capacity even more, which was quickly filled with wonderful new clients who, though they wouldn't have known what was going on with me personally, suddenly wanted to do business with me. They sensed my authenticity... and my level of knowledge and expertise. They couldn't resist.
But it was actually Lily who taught me the greatest lesson of all: Be who you are.
Because while I struggle to attract viewers and readers, trying every trick in the book, Lily has thousands of followers simply by speaking honestly about who she is and how she feels about it. It's astonishing.
Lily has the self-confidence to know that as new circumstances and experiences present themselves, we must incorporate them. That what worked before the new circumstance or experience no longer does. That we must adapt and change. And that doing all this will free up that capacity and make room for new ideas, people and business. This newfound freedom will be immediately obvious to everyone with whom you come into contact. You will become irresistible.
The Titanic has finally turned. Lily is now 18 and about to leave home for college. I am so proud of her and the young woman she has become, confident that she has enormous capacity that has been freed up through our tandem journey. I know it's not over -- probably never will be. Momentous changes in society take decades. But in our little world, two people, exploring their deep, deep feelings simultaneously, being honest about them and accepting them, can move mountains.
And, finally, the punch line I promised: I was right about people recognizing her in New York City because when we got home, she received a couple of posts to her blog asking her if that was her walking down Bleecker Street that afternoon. Unbelievable.
Have a great Independence Day!
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