during maternity leave, i’ve invited a few friends to share their thoughts in this space. today, we’ve got the amazing karen walrond. karen and i met a few years ago just as she was about to launch herself out of corporate america (where she was an attorney for a large firm) and into full time creative life as a photographer, writer, digital storyteller, and one amazing public speaker. i know, i know – she’s amazing! although i don’t get to see her very often (she lives in texas), i love being around her whenever i get the chance. once, she told me in a moment of creative insecurity that my paintings were just as amazing as the writings of a mutual friend we both admired. it really struck me, the way she said this, and i’ve never forgotten the kindness. and that’s karen: all about kindness as you will read below. it’s very very real.
baby true was just a couple of weeks old when she was in portland for a quick visit. during that visit, i had the pleasure of seeing and holding in my hands karen’s first book, The Beauty of Different: Observations of a Confident Misfit. i’ve read the entire book and let me just say this: it’s awesome. she has done an extraordinary job of integrating her talents of story telling and photography and created a book that weaves in her personal life truth and belief that there is so much beauty inside each of us and that it’s kindness that holds the divide between our differences. it’s a book that showcases her amazing photography while also being all about connection and story telling. it’s the best of both worlds. her book officially launched last week and we are all so so proud of her….go karen! i’d highly recommend it for christmas gifts, but be sure to gift yourself with this beautiful book.
okay, now for karen’s amazing letter to baby true (thank you, friend).
Hello, beautiful True!
Welcome to the world! We’re thrilled to have you here, and I know your mom and dad are beside themselves now that you’ve finally made your appearance in their lives — I know this, because I’ve seen their excitement first-hand. Your mom invited me to write you a personal letter of welcome, and I can’t tell you how honoured I am at the invitation. I hope I manage the job well. If I do, perhaps your mom can print this out and keep it for you to read when you’re finally capable of reading (which I estimate to be in about, oh, 6 years or so). If I don’t, well, then maybe your mom will just delete this and we’ll never speak of it again. “What letter?” we’ll say, with faux surprise in our eyes. But secretly, we’ll know. Oh, we’ll know.
I suppose, in theory, I’m qualified to write you this note because I’ve lived on Earth about 43 years longer than you have. Which, my goodness, when I put it that way, it must seem to you that I am of ancient, redwood-like, Yoda-esque age, mustn’t it? Given this, you would think that I would be full of the wisdom of the millennia. You would think this, but you would be wrong: the truth is that even at my age, I find myself still looking at the world with a certain measure of wonder and disbelief, and am still trying to make my way through it the best way I can. (They don’t call life a “journey” for nothing, my friend.) And yet, of course, I’ve managed to receive some really good advice along the way, tips which I believe to have some profound truth in them; and so, at the very least, I’ll pass them along to you, in the hopes that maybe, in your own journey, they’ll help. I find, however, that some of the best learnings you can receive in life are those that you glean from experience; so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t understand it the first time.
The first thing that comes to mind is that when your mom tells you that you’re a beautiful boy — and trust me, if she hasn’t already, she will, and often — even though you’ll think she’s just saying it because she’s your mom (and you’re right), there’s more to it than that. The truth is that the fact that she’s your mom doesn’t reduce the accuracy of her comment: you are beautiful, True, and even more amazing, you haven’t even begun to tap into the profound and real beauty that you are and will be capable of exhibiting. As a matter of fact, this is the real meaning of life: we’re put here on Earth to learn how to harness the power that’s within each of us to help make the world a more beautiful place. And the best way to learn this? By being kind: kind to the people we love, our friends, acquaintances and even total strangers. This doesn’t mean that anyone expects you to be a doormat, you understand. You have a good mind and a strong voice and you should use them both vigorously, but always do so with kindness. After all, as a friend of your mother’s and mine would say, Love Always Wins.
And she’s right.
To that end, I remember when I was about 10 years old, and having some problems with some schoolmates, my father looked at me somberly and said, “Karen, if you lie down with dogs, you’ll get up with fleas.” I remember exploding into laughter, thinking it was such a funny phrase (while secretly suspecting that my father had finally lost the plot). But years later, I finally get what he was trying to say: while you should be kind to everyone you encounter, you should also be very discriminating about who you allow into your close circle of friends. Always try to surround yourself with boys and girls (and later, men and women) who are as determined to make kindness their focus as you are. If you do this, there is absolutely no obstacle you, with the help of your friends, won’t be able to overcome. I guarantee this.
And finally, I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t pass along this nugget that a friend gave to me not too long ago: always — always! — confirm that you have enough toilet paper before you sit down.
This last bit, in fact, might be the most useful advice in this letter.
With that, I’ll leave you to your gurgling and stretching and sleeping and eating and other things that you’re busying yourself with these days. Have a wonderful, wonderful life, beautiful boy, and remember: listen to your mother and father. They love you like crazy.