Gorgeous, today is your big day, your 18th birthday, the day you become officially a grown-up.
So what else can I tell you, a few days ago you finished high school and I already gave you a ‘great pep talk'.
So let me just add a little more: you are gutsy, a go-getter young lady and we are extremely proud of you…
But there is one thing that I love the most about you, your beautiful smile; your beautiful smile about life. You were born with that smile, from ear to ear and you always kept it. Never change!
We love you! Happy birthday to you!
So, before I react… I will follow my own advice:
Breathe… breathe, breathe, breathe.
Now, I am focusing on my deep breathing for 30 seconds or for a minute; I am only focusing on the air going in and out of my nose, nothing else.
Focusing on a simple activity, that helps me to calm my mind; that helps me to create a space between me and what has just happened.
When breathing properly we reduce stress and our bodies release endorphins. Endorphins are feel-good, natural relievers, created by our own bodies.
_After a breathing session, it is always easier to deal with any senseless situation; I am most likely to have the right reaction and save the nuisance and aggravation!
This week I invited myself to a meeting…
To a meeting where some members of a community asked the elected board members to listen to their concerns about an abusive and unfair decision.
After leaving the meeting and listening to both sides I thought to myself “how easy it is for people just to accept the status quo, how easy it is for people to be bullied into silence…”
It really surprised me to find out how passive as a community we are; how, despite our dissatisfaction, the majority, are not willing to stand up, to protest and just accept the situation.
It truly shocked me! Is it cultural or are we just simply trained to conform?
At home, we constantly teach our kids that they have a voice and they have to make their voice heard no matter what age or gender they are.
Submissiveness or passiveness is taught at home, at school, at work; it is a societal phenomena. People from an early age are trained to stay quite!
Nesrin and I want to make sure that we reinforce this strength of character and “believe in yourself” philosophy to our kids! We encourage our children to fight for themselves even if it is with a teacher or an adult. You are the only one that can protect your self worth! No one can disrespect you or minimize your self worth!
Kids tend to believe that it’s normal to be bullied and that it's something you have to go through as part of being a kid. For us it's definitely not normal and having to go through it can be devastating to ones self-esteem.
All three of our kids have experienced bullying at school, yet, we constantly push them to stand up for themselves. We always tell them, at your age the worse thing that can happen is to get a bruised eye… at this age they are able to risk it all and it will have an immense impact on their personality. This is the time to mold their strength!
_At the meeting, after listening to people’s accounts, I saw that very few are willing to fight for injustice. The majority in the community is willing to accept the status quo and believe there is nothing in their power that they can do!
Well, that it is not true…
First, as a family that has lived in different parts of the world, dealt with contrasting cultures and societies we have realized what a great country the United States is, where the rule of the law is above everyone; where authoritarian judgments are not granted or obedience accepted.
Then, as a community we have the strength in numbers; we have persuasiveness to decide who is going to represent us or who is going to be responsible for our affairs.
Finally, what would we be teaching our kids if we opt to stay silent, to allow injustice to happen knowing that it is wrong…
So, I was thinking about my inner devil…
Last week I heard about a gentleman named Francisco… I had a few days where “I did not have anything to do” and decided to go find this guy. Alone, I drove for a few hours into the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest, got into a boat in the Napo River and found his place.
Francisco, a successful banker, a successful entrepreneur, a successful ex-alcoholic, a successful ex-cocaine addict, a successful amended person, a successful recovered person; a successful humanist, was waiting there for me.
“Hi Francisco, great to meet you… like you, I have plenty of devils to deal with; I have been fighting with them all my life, it has been tough but slowly I have managed to deal with them, and what is even better is to learn how to control them!”
Boom, the ice was broken… he and I established a connection immediately. We began our talk at 6 pm and ten hours later we were sitting at the same table talking about our issues, our lives, our families, our weaknesses, our strengths and how with our little efforts we would like to change and influence people in a positive way.
The following morning as soon as I woke up I called my wife, my buddy, “you wont believe how much I learned last night, it was as if I was in college again. I met this great guy that has an incredible, patient, woman with him….” She said: “great, I am so glad that you went to see him…” period; no questions, no problems.
Wow... good wife, good woman, good friend.
Anyway, after meeting Francisco I decided that I should write about my own devils, about my own internal battle.
Anger is my battle, and euphoria brings it out. If I am partying and drink too much, my devil comes out. If I am in a business meeting and I get excited my devil comes out. If I am talking to one of my kid’s teachers I go strong…
Yet, with time, and after too many moral hangovers, I am slowly learning to control it…
When I'm in a business meeting I just listen, and listen, until it’s time to close the deal. I then jump in and close the deal or kill the deal, but it’s a well thought out jump.
Whenever I go out with friends, before I have a drink I remind myself: “remember you have a devil inside of you…”
The same with my kid’s school… I listen first before I go on the attack.
So here is my thought:
We ALL have devils that we have to deal with. Angriness, insecurities, weaknesses an so on… Yes, we ALL have them not all are willing to accept them; the majority of us are always pretending that they do not exist.
We disregard them, we push them aside, we blame other people but we are not willing to accept them as our own weaknesses.
To deal with our own devils, our own insecurities, first we need to accept them and we need to understand that they are part of us. Our weaknesses are a part of our DNA.
When we understand our flaws, we can learn to manage them and even use them to our favor and make them an asset.
I learned that my explosive character is a great asset during a crisis. I have learned to use it as a weapon. This strength allows me to focus, to aim and not get distracted. I do think that this fury has helped me to succeed.
My wife, the person that knows me the best, is the only one who knows how to use my impatience in the best way. When it is time to deal with a real issue, she calls me and says, “I think that it’s time for you to get involved, to focus on it.”
I have learned not to allow myself to get confortable and always to keep my devils in check. Before I have a drink, I always remind myself about my inner devils; if I have to discipline my kids or employees, I step back, breath, and then talk.
The funny part, is that my kids have learned how to keep me in check. If they see that I am getting a little annoyed they will say to me “tranquilo, tranquilo”, meaning relax, take it easy in Spanish. They definitely calm me and make me smile.
_Meeting Francisco made me realize that we all have a weakness, an internal evil but we are not weak. By looking at our internal evil in the eye we acknowledge its’ presence but we do not allow it to define us. Every single one of us has the power within ourselves to manage our evils and to build strength from our weaknesses.
It is not what you see that matters … It is what you do with what you see that does! Mauricio Fraga-Rosenfeld
So I was thinking how to describe Nesrin, my wife; the mother of our children…
The dictionary gave me a word, Oenomel, derived from the Greek words, oinos (wine) and meli (honey), a drink made of wine mixed with honey that it is used as a folk remedy. Oenomel also has the connotation of being a blend of strength and sweetness
Oenomel, a perfect word to describe Nesrin, a tough woman that was raised in Greece, that keeps us all in line but is also kindhearted; a demanding mother that truly cares and always is there for us!
Happy Mothers day Mama, we love you!
Who I am today as a person is largely due to my failures!