Monday, October 18, 2010

To Know, Understand, and STILL Engage

Before most of the women who work at Julep were born, I was weeping night over night (for at least four nights, anyway) over a young Australian lass who fell in love with an ambitious priest. Of course, I mean Rachel Ward and (shirtless) Richard Chamberlain in the brilliant 1983 mini-series, The Thorn Birds.

Because of my deep twelve-year-old’s knowledge of sacrifice and ever-lasting love, the mini-series spoke to me.

I’ve never seen it again, but OFTEN, by which I mean at least several times a month, I think of (shirtless) Richard Chamberlain telling me about the legend of the thorn bird, who is born to seek a thorn bush and impale itself on the longest thorn while singing the most beautiful song of its life – thus causing even God to smile. If I had the inter-web back then, I would have Googled (or “Binged”, since my beloved works at Microsoft), “thorn birds” - and realized they weren’t real.

But those were the dark ages, when it took walking to the library and physically flipping through card catalogues to access the information dirt road, and so until tonight (just minutes ago, in fact), I honestly thought thorn birds were real. I thought they were just like salmon – only even more masochistic.

I was particularly moved by Cardinal Di Bricassart (aka shirtless Richard Chamberlain)’s realization that we are ALL thorn birds – destined to impale ourselves on the longest, sharpest thorn we can find. Even worse – here’s the real “ah-ha” moment - we are KNOWING thorn birds: “we know, we understand, and we still do it.”

But here’s the uplifting part (really, there is one!). The thorn birds do what they do because of Beauty. Because we all want to belt out the best song of our lives, consequences be damned. No matter how painful, no matter how bloody, no matter what ends up happening, maybe we’re all searching for that moment where we get to channel Beauty. And it seems that these things are intertwined. Yes, death is a little severe, but if you flip the question around from "what are you willing to die for" to "what do you live for" - then it starts making sense.

The thing is, I do believe in Beauty. And finally (DECADES post-Thorn Birds), I feel happy in my middle-brow perspective that we see it and create it through acts of love and engagement.

I thought about my lesson from Richard Chamberlain again this weekend because I met this amazing woman named Mandy Hitchcock. The amazing thing she does is continue to hope.

Mandy lost her 17 month old daughter, Hudson, to meningitis earlier this year (she shares a beautiful blog at She is living the freak tragedy that I’m always discounting in my own mind as a mother, and as the CEO of a start-up. “A fever is just a fever, a slow week is just a slow week – let’s not panic.” In many ways, I’m not dispositionally capable of wrapping my brain and heart around the concept of real danger and risk. And of course I can’t imagine the loss.

But in my life as a mom, CEO, wife, daughter, sister and girlfriend - I aspire to learn as much as I can about the dangers of heart break - and affirmatively choose to engage anyway. I am wrestling with this equation in both my personal and professional lives. The real challenge is to engage – but with eyes wide open. To know, understand, and still do it, to paraphrase a life-changing made-for-TV mini-series. And it’s so helpful to find inspiration along the way. And to seek out the "one good thing" that comes out of every challenging situation.