It’s Okay to be Sad

img_9677My darling daughters,

Yesterday was a hard day.  We lost our sweet Maggie, and just as we knew it would be, it was tough.  She was a great dog. She was a best friend to both of you over the years, and she will most definitely, permanently define your understanding of the love between a child and a pet.  You were lucky to have such an energetic, fun, forgiving dog.

kelsey145Kelsey, I’ll never forget her ability to move ever-so-slowly throughout the night in such a way that by morning I would find you tucked in a little ball in the corner of your bed because she had completely taken it over.  And you loved it. You never seemed to mind that she made your bed her bed.  Your stuffed animals became her stuffed animals.  Your pillows became her pillows.  She was your Maggie, Shadow, Kimperton, and you loved her and she loved you so completely.

image1-1Hunter, you loved her and spoiled her in ways I’ve never seen anyone do with their dog.  You taught her how to shop. She loved to ride in your car and get Starbucks and Dairy Queen with you.  To find her sleeping at the foot of your bed was evidence that even after years of routine, she had made a new best friend.

And she loved to camp.  So many nights spent trying not to step on her as she slept in the dark by the campfire.  So many games of fetch spent racing her best friend into the lake to see who could get the stick first.  It almost always resulted in the two of them swimming back together each holding one end of the stick in her mouth.

It was a sad day.  And it’s okay to be sad.

I don’t know if I’ve really ever told you that it’s okay to be sad.  You know that I believe more than anything that our attitude controls our lives.  Positivity is our greatest strength.  But it is possible to be positive and sad at the same time.  Sometimes life is hard.  Glennon Doyle Melton calls life “brutiful“, brutal and beautiful at the same time.  She writes and speaks eloquently about embracing the hard parts, sitting in the sadness and the pain, and using the experience to define who you are and what can never be taken from you.

hpim0306Maggie was taken from you.  It is sad, and it is hard.  But the memories of her, the unconditional love you learned from her,  cannot be taken from you.  Who you are because of your time with her cannot be taken from you.

Minutes after she passed, you both posted things on Facebook.  I wasn’t sure I wanted you to put your raw pain out there as quickly as you did.  But I am proud of you both for doing that.  I am proud of the way you jumped in with both feet to spend a last day with her- playing with her, loving her, crying over her, sitting in the sadness and the pain. I am proud of the way you put your sadness out there for the world to see.  I am inspired by the way you both said loudly “I am sad” and “Life is good” at the same time.

Your lives will not always be easy.  Real, painful, difficult things will happen.  It is absolutely okay be sad.  And it is possible to be sad and to know at the same time that life is really, really, good.

How a Note Can Change the World

I have worked for two different people who started meetings by asking us to write notes of gratitude to colleagues.  Not rocket science, I know.  But culture-shifting and life-changing.

Something happens when you put your focus on recognizing other people.  Something powerful.  First, you impact that person in ways you could not imagine.  Human beings need to be valued.  We need to know we matter and that other people know we matter.   It seems so simple, but taking the time to write a note and letting people know what you appreciate about them can make all the difference in their day.  Over time, this kind of validation can change a life.

Writing notes (or other rituals designed to recognize and appreciate people) can impact your day as well.  It lifts your mood.  It takes the focus off whatever might be happening in your life, and it shines a light on something positive.

And the impact on your organization cannot be overstated.  A work culture that focuses on the strengths of its people is positive.  The people feel valued.  I have seen first-hand how a shift towards building relationships and recognizing the contributions of other people can change a school, a district, or an organization.

People matter.  People need to know they matter.  Tell them.

As we start a new school year, it is worth a reminder that our students also have this primal need to be recognized, to be seen, to matter.  A friend shared a video with me this week that was a vivid reminder of this need to matter.  Welcome your new students.  Learn their names quickly.  Know them.  And then tell them and tell others all of things you appreciate about them.

Our world can feel overwhelming at times.  The news is full of events that make us question humanity.  How could something as simple as a note ever have an impact?  It can.  It does.  “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead)