Friday, May 4, 2012

Your Highest Self

The beach brings back a lot of memories for me. Over the weekend I learned that my friend and neighbor from there was in his last weeks of a cancer battle that he lost after 6 years.

I lived there for 3 years in the early 2000s, and despite our completely opposite political views, we developed a friendship that continued beyond that. It cracked him up when I showed up one day during my Senate campaign with a huge Crystle for Senate stuck to the minivan, my big stubbly face taking up a third of the side. "Don't you liberals know how to shave?"

I planned to drive down Tuesday to say goodbye, but that morning his wife and son texted me that he had passed away in the morning.

I drove down anyway. There are a few times when showing up isn't negotiable, and this is one of those times. I've been through the loss of Dad and am still grieving in some ways 16 years later, and wanted to support his wife and son, who's a bit like a little brother,  but smarter and quite accomplished. After visiting with them and taking a long walk with his son, I was in full re-evaluation mode. Again.

Tuesday night I checked into the hotel and then made it down to the beach to just sit and think. And not think. And negotiate with myself. Retrace my own steps. Consider the losses of people both dead and still living. I was a block from my wedding reception, and that weighed in heavily; the split was official about a month ago.

Introspection can lead you down dark paths; for me it was a humbling trip where I honestly recognized my ownership of things that had failed. But nobody likes a critic; you've heard me talk about the optimism of dissent, where the expression of a criticism implies there's a better way. Well, clearly I could have done a lot of things in life better and had better outcomes. At some point I fell asleep, and then it was morning on LBI. I miss those mornings.

sunrise on Long Beach Island, NJ

So I laid it all out there, and started composing the letters in my head, and when I got home started writing them. I'm pretty certain they're just to myself--an exercise in introspection. And in identifying these things and taking ownership of them, I've been able to see a path to what maybe you could term the highest self, or Lincoln's "better angels of our nature".

Imagine yourself when you were at your best, and what that really means or meant. I don't mean winning. But the best version of yourself. Try to capture what that felt like, how you were seeing things at that moment. And then think through each impossible or painful situation, and imagine how you would see your highest self in that situation. In doing this--and taking my time in doing this--I'm identifying the things I need to make a daily practice, and trying to hold the mindset of my highest self, which is at once humbled, reverent, honest, and selfless, and through that, ironically, also in my own best interest. Maybe you're naturally there. I'm not.

So why is this a blog post? Maybe you'll think of your highest self, and figure out how to make that your only self.

And then maybe you'll come back and let us know how you did it.

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