Taylor was sick this week. So on Wednesday, after 4 days of runny noses, coughing and general puny-ness, I gave in and took him to the doctor. He is 14 and a little embarrassed about going to the same pediatrician as he has since the day he was born (literally), but he was a good sport and dutifully took a seat in the lego-stocked waiting room until his name was called.
Walking through the front the doors of the Children’s Medical Center sent me immediately into a full blow nostalgia attack! Fond and frenzying memories of bringing him in as a baby for check-ups, strep tests and shots (that terrible look in his eye begging for an explanation of how I could possibly be cruel enough to stand by and watch as these monsters masquerading as nurses stabbed him… I think he has forgotten (forgiven?), but I’m still haunted). I was absolutely enamoured with him (still am), but he was not an easy baby. From the very moment he was born, T was on a mission. I wouldn’t say he was picky, he just liked things how he liked them and if anything wasn’t just so, he was very demonstrative about his displeasure. He wanted to face forward, he wanted to lean forward, he wanted to be on his stomach (hated being on his back as much as a turtle hates being sunny side up), he wanted to crawl/ walk/ run, he wanted to be held tightly and swaddled, and he wanted white noise to soothe him (we blew out a few vacuum cleaner motors in his first year of life). I was amazed at his awareness, his sensitivity, and his conviction. He taught me almost instantly that it wasn’t my job to mold him, but rather to feed his genius even if I didn’t fully understand what special gifts he would bring to the world or how to support him in developing them.
From there I pondered the concept of GENIUS.. the all caps kind of genius. I thought about Einstein and DaVinci, Beethoven and Bach. How did they discover their genius? How did the people around them nurture their talents and encourage their development? What would have happened if Bach had been born in a remote village in Rwanda and never had the opportunity to see let alone play a piano? What if his parents had insisted he play football or join chess club or herd cattle? Would his gift have manifested in another form? Would he have been a tortured soul because he could not “sing his song”? Would the agony have killed him? Or would he have been content being normal… average…contributing only minor “genius- like” qualities to the world… you know, the genius-with-a-small-g things like being kind, making children laugh, milking cows, tending gardens…
And then I wondered about my genius. I know I have some, I believe every living being on the planet does. But have I discovered them? Have I nurtured them? Have I tried them on for size and taken them out for a spin? Am I letting my light shine as brightly as it might? Or am I caught up in the shouldsandwouldsand coulds… the day to day minutia that prevents greatness. Do I invite chaos or serenity?
And what about those around me…am I feeding their genius? Helping them shine their light brighter? Helping them be more them? Does it really MATTER if T gets a B or a B- in biology, algebra, or English lit? Or do I have my caps all wrong? Maybe academic grades matter, and genius-with-a-small-g things like kindness, being a good friend, putting it all on the line for something that you love should really be in the GENIUS category and it is the grades for those that MATTER.
So in the “This I know” category goes genius/ brilliance/ gifts. I know we all have them. I know they need care and feeding to grow and thrive. I know that our brilliance doesn’t have to be beautiful or perfect or even exceptional in the eyes of others, it just has to feed our soul, sing to our spirit, and complete us. Our genius may grow, evolve and change shapes as we do the same in our lifetimes. And those most valuable to us illuminate our gifts, and inspire us to help others illuminate theirs.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
— Written by Marianne Williamson, Delivered in a speech by Nelson Mandela