December 23, 2022
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Welcome to the Art of Accomplishment where we explore how deepening connection with ourselves and others leads to creating the life we want with enjoyment and ease.
Welcome back, everybody. The holiday season is in full swing, and it is likely that many of you are gathering with family this week. Today´s episode is a family episode, and joining us is Joe´s daughter, Esme. Esme was given a school assignment to make a podcast about where she came from by interviewing a person from her family about a meaningful experience in their lives. Esme decided to deviate from that task and follow her interest. She wanted to know what it was like for her dad to raise her. When her assignment was completed, Joe asked if it was all right to make it available to the community and our listeners. Esme agreed, and what follows is the touching interview between Esme and her dad, Joe. I hope you enjoy it.
Esme: Thanks for coming on to the podcast, dad. I really appreciate it.
Joe: Of course. I love spending time with you in any way that I can.
Esme: I appreciate it.
Joe: Wait, I think we should tell everybody what is your day. What is the day today?
Esme: It is my birthday.
Joe: It is your birthday. Congratulations.
Esme: You took me out to breakfast. It was delicious.
Joe: I am glad. It was a breakfast place that you have been going to since you were like 1 year old. When mom needed to sleep, I would carry you there. We haven’t been in years. It was such a great idea you had to go there. Thank you for that.
Esme: It was really nice to be back. I have a question for you.
Joe: Go ahead.
Esme: How would you describe the work you do? What is it, in your words?
Joe: I mean the world calls it coaching. If you need to explain it to somebody, that’s the way I would explain it. My dad is an executive coach, but the way I would describe the work is on an intellectual level we are teaching people to be kind to themselves, have a relationship with the voice in their head that is gentle and kind and eventually just dissipates. On the emotional level, the work that I do is all about emotional fluidity. It is about allowing people to fall in love with all of their emotions and find the genius in all of their emotional experiences and not to avoid them. Then, on a nervous system level, it is all about helping people feel safe and loved.
Esme: That’s beautiful.
Esme: I appreciate hearing how you describe it because I never know exactly what to say when people ask.
Joe: Neither do I. I remember one time I was at some conference. I was with a friend who does similar work, and everybody asks you what you do at these conferences. His response was I help people die in peace. That was his response.
Esme: That’s one way of putting it.
Esme: That’s funny. I grew up around this work.
Joe: Yeah, you did.
Esme: And around a lot of people going through big emotions and stuff like that. I was wondering what it was like to raise a kid in that environment. It is a very welcoming, open environment, and raising kids is not easy. How was it to have that community surrounding you while you raised me?
Joe: It made it easier. I mean the last part of your question about how it was to have a community around you. When you do this kind of work on yourself, there is just more love, peace, joy and freedom, and so we have been really fortunate because since that’s how we are, that’s what we attract. Most of the people who spent time in the house that you got to hear do the work, either doing work with us or vice versa, they are just loving, caring, playful, fun, and joyful individuals. I think on that level it was just amazing.
I think there is also something you are asking me, which I would reverse. I would say raising you was… I am going to have emotions. I can feel myself welling up. Raising you was like the work, meaning there is a way in which all of the work we had done up until you were born was… I don’t want to say in the head because it wasn’t. It wasn’t practical. It wasn’t real world. You could fool yourself. You could sit on a meditation pillow and fool yourself. But if you are raising a kid, you can’t fool yourself. If you get all frustrated at an infant… The main thing I would say is that for me you and your sister were one of the greatest teachers that I have ever had. Luckily we found things like Hand in Hand Parenting and Simplicity in Parenting which helped guide us, but for me, the most important work I ever did was raising you, for my own freedom, for my own joy.
Esme: For your own joy. You can’t fool yourself when you have two kids as results of the work.
Joe: You can’t fool yourself if you are frustrated with your kid. You were born with colic, and you would just yell for four or five hours every night. It was brutal. You can pretend you are at peace. You can pretend you are awake.
Esme: How long can you be patient? How patient are you really?
Joe: Exactly. But to answer your question directly, what was it like? I mean it was interesting. There were definitely moments. I remember you were 7 years old, maybe 8, and there was somebody on the couch doing the work with mom or me. You would do things like yell from the other room, “Just let it in” or “Stop being defensive. Stop resisting.” I am pretty confident you would listen at the door, and you wanted to know about these conversations.
Esme: I would listen to the whole thing.
Joe: Occasionally you couldn’t help yourself. You would just yell at the person, which was always as disarming as heck for the person. The 9-year-old in the other room gets it and I am pretending I don’t. That part was really cool. The other thing that’s been really interesting is to watch you. You are 16 now.
Esme: 17, it is my birthday.
Joe: Sorry, you are 17 now. You are very 17 in many, many ways. Then there is another way where you are very not 17. There are some ways in which you have an emotional understanding or an understanding of the voice in your head that tons and tons don’t have. That’s been really interesting too because on one level I’ve watched you mature differently than other folks in your community. I have seen both the stress of that on you and also the joy of that for you. That’s been interesting to know, to know that we were raising you so differently from society that there were going to be challenges as you grew up and still choosing to do that.
Esme: I am really grateful for it, but there are challenges to it. How have you seen being brought up differently than other kids and being brought up with an emotional understanding in society that impacts the way I navigate the world emotionally, especially as a teenager?
Joe: I will tell you a couple of early stories, and then the teenage stories. The early stories were things like you were really interested in doing a silent retreat when you were 9 because you knew about my meditation. As you know, we looked all over to find somebody who would let you do a silent retreat with me and luckily we had friends in Tennessee who ran a retreat center. We did a silent retreat there. One cute story I want to tell is at the end of it, I asked you what your favorite part was after three and a half days of silence. You said it was the fact that you couldn’t tell me what to do for three and a half days.
Esme: I remember that actually. I ate so much banana bread.
Joe: You did. The other thing is at the end of it, you said Dad, I know what a metaphor is now, which is interesting because cognitively you weren’t supposed to know what a metaphor is at 9 years old. It is not something that your brain is supposed to get yet as far as development. The reason I tell that story is because when you came home, two or three weeks later you said I don’t want to do meditation anymore. It is making me too different from my friends.
Esme: I remember when that happened.
Joe: What was the event that triggered that?
Esme: I remember being in school and my teacher, who had known that I went because I missed school, asked me how the silent meditation retreat was, and I got made fun of by all of my friends. I was interested in having a conversation about how I felt with my teacher after the meditation retreat, but I didn’t feel safe enough in that environment to share because I thought I would be bullied for having that experience.
Joe: That’s fascinating.
Esme: It was like meditation is woo, woo.
Joe: I somehow thought that you were seeing that you saw the world too differently. I didn’t know it was about being bullied. I probably would have treated it differently.
Esme: I think it was about being bullied and also because growing up, whenever there was a conflict between two kids in school, I was always the meditator. The teacher would bring in and I would meditate because we always got through conflict way quicker. I think I realized that being the meditator was fun and it was interesting to watch people work through conflicts and everything, but it was making me feel separated from my class. Being around that type of work, it is hard to understand if you weren’t raised that way.
Joe: I remember that was the second story I was going to tell from your childhood. You really liked doing that work for a very short period of time, and then you didn’t like it because it created too much separation between you and the other kids. I remember us supporting you and saying just tell the teacher you don’t want to do that. Don’t do that anymore. Be a kid. That was it.
Those were the tough moments. The non-tough moments are right now you and I are doing a podcast. You haven’t done a podcast before or recorded yourself before. I gave you a couple of pointers. You figured out the technology. Here you are doing it, and you are not self-conscious. You and I are just sitting here having a conversation. That’s the positive stuff. The positive stuff is you are very self-possessed. You are incredibly confident. You have a high standard for who your friends are and for any kind of love interest. You are incredibly open and honest with me about everything that you do. I would assume not everything.
Esme: Most things, honestly.
Joe: We have very forthright conversations. I just enjoy your company, and I am not worried about you doing things that are going to get you in trouble where I would have to worry about you. I feel very confident in your capacity overall. It feels like now that you are a teenager, really the only pointers I am giving you are adult skills. The only thing I feel like is my job left to do is to teach you here is how you get a really big project done, here is how you deal with people dismissing you, here is how you deal with social politics, etc. We get to talk about adult lessons. Besides that, it is just a lot of love and connection. Now it feels really great, and I still think that you will find great people, but you are not going to have the capacity. I think the older you get, the more persnickety you are going to be around the quality of folks you surround yourself by. I think you still respect and love people, but I think it is going to get pickier for you about who you actually want to spend time with. That’s the thing that is hard on my heart. There is not a community of people who were raised like you that can be with you in that way.
Esme: It is sometimes a little bit lonely to not feel like I am being met on the same level of connection I want to meet people with. There are some people, though, who I have found, which is really nice that can meet me on that level. I am most grateful for that aspect too.
Joe: I will tell you a funny story. I was finishing Groundbreakers last time. Sometimes you say something that just lays flat in the room, and they are usually the favorite things I have said. Somebody asked why I do this, and I said I do this because through Groundbreakers we are creating an environment where a whole bunch of people can accept the love that I want to give. There is truth to that. There is also truth that I take great pleasure in helping folks lead the life they want to lead.
To some degree, I think your mom and I do this work so that we can create an environment where there is that much love and openness and that creates a community around us with that much love and openness.
Esme: I mean it created a community around me. We have [unclear] and so many others who I don’t think we would ever be in connection with if it wasn’t for the work. It has allowed us to find really amazing, beautiful people.
Joe: It is true. We are really, really blessed that way.
Esme: Thank you, dad. I do have one more actually that I am really curious to know the answer to. I am wondering having seen me navigate difficult situations, especially emotional situations, being raised around people who are okay diving into really uncomfortable, emotional situations and talking through them and working them instead of building up those emotions, getting resentful and stuff like that, how do you see me navigate difficult situations with that prior knowledge?
Joe: I would say in 90% of all things I see you navigate without trying. I see you interact with whatever social politics or gamesmanship that’s happening or with teachers, especially with adults, you seem to just be able to meet them where they are and stay in yourself and allow the emotions to be smooth. I mean just the other night I remember you were having a hard time. I was saying something to comfort you, I think, and maybe make you feel better. I was definitely on that edge where we don’t particularly like going, and you looked at me and said dad, I just need to be sad. You don’t need to take care of that. That’s your level of understanding.
I remember the first time you broke up with a boyfriend. You came to the car where I was picking you up. You held my hand, and you were crying. You said you already taught me that heartbreak helps you love or allowing heartbreak helps you love, but you never told me it could feel so good. There are moments like that that I feel so grateful and dumbfounded by your capacity.
Where I see you still struggle with that emotional fluidity is where you don’t feel capable. Some adult tries to make you small in a project that you care about or there is a class where you have a teacher who doesn’t know how to meet you. You start feeling like you are not capable of the class instead of feeling like the teacher isn’t capable of teaching me the way I need to be taught. You start to get hard on yourself. You don’t want to find out that you might fail, or you don’t want to have to confront this aspect of you that’s not capable or feels helpless or something. There is something there, and it is the only place I see you shy away from a difficult emotional experience. I think it is totally natural, so there is no criticism in that.
In any other way that I see you, I just see you lean right into the difficult emotion with friends and family. I see that you laugh a tremendous amount. There is so much joy and laughter in you. I have that quote that joy is the matriarch of a family of emotions, and she won’t come into a house where her children aren’t welcome. When I see the level of joy that you bring into life, not fake niceness, not fake happiness but just natural, peaceful joy, that’s really the sign. As long as you are getting some exercise and eating pretty well, I see that as your natural, most authentic state. That’s really cool to see that.
Esme: I feel so seen by you right now.
Joe: I really like seeing you. It is my biggest joy.
Esme: I am beyond grateful to be seen by my dad. I am so grateful for our relationship.
Joe: I am crying. I can’t even begin to tell you. I love you deeply, and I remember when you were young and mom was amazing with you when you were younger, and I was definitely not capable. She was teaching me. We were learning, but she somehow knew where we were supposed to go. It didn’t take long for me to let her lead us, but I remember the older folks, folks my age now, would say you are going to hate it when they leave. I would think what are you talking about? Just get me a good night of sleep. Now I think it will be the biggest heartbreak of my life, you and your sister leaving the house. I so enjoy your company. Obviously it has to happen. There is going to be a lot of crying in our house when you guys go.
Esme: I don’t know what I am going to do. I am going to have to call you and say dad, I have this thing I need to process.
Joe: I hope so. I hope I am that lucky. Awesome. All right, dear.
Esme: Thank you for coming on.
Joe: Is that it?
Esme: I think that covers it. Thank you so much for coming on.
Joe: Of course.
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