An Unexpected Lesson on Integrity

 
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Perfection still creeps its way into my life. Especially in parenting where the pull to control all.the.things is real.

And, for the past four years, I've been hard at work - learning to find beauty and balance in the chaos that is my life. Learning to embrace the unexpected. Giving myself and my family permission to make mistakes - to be fully human.

Nothing could have prepared me for what happened on Sunday morning at the Christmas tree farm.

 With their bellies full of homemade French toast for breakfast, and sunshine in the sky - all four girls were bouncing with excitement for our annual trip to the tree farm. 

With fresh coffees in hand - Storks soundtrack on full blast, we made the twenty-five minute trek up to Vermont. The six of us relaxed, feeling grounded and free. Feeling deep joy.

We pulled into the lot closest to the barn and unpacked the girls - and then spent the next 15 minutes bundling, zipping, tying and preparing for our hike down the hill. As we were getting littlest settled into the carrier, the owner started walking toward us.

I felt his eyes searing through me. I looked behind me to see if there was something I was missing.

The anger on his face and the toxic energy swirling around his every step confused me.

When he approached our crew - girls standing nearby {calm + excited} - he started lecturing us about the tiny, 18"ish, tree by the back of our car. It wasn't a Christmas tree that we could cut down, he said.

I am sure my face said it all - no shit, I thought. And wondered, why are you tell us this - and why are you so angry?

Most of his words were lost on me - especially after he accused my daughter of attempting to cut down the tree - twice, he said. 

She stood near the tree, yes. She was holding the hand saw, yes. Attempting to cut down the tree?

Absolutely not. 

After he stormed off, we turned to our girls and tried to make sense of the conversation. 

There was no making sense of that level of accusatory righteousness. It was beyond bizarre. And it wasn't the truth. 

I took a deep breath. Or two or five. Saw my daughter's face - who's been dealing with a bully at school all fall - and knew.

We needed to go back over and have a Brave conversation with that man. 

Last week, I shared this picture of mantras, written by Bigs, while playing 'school' with her little sister. Inspired by her words + challenged by my therapist, I opened the I AM CHALLENGE this past Friday.

 
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The irony is not lost on me.

The strength of the I AM CHALLENGE community was with me in that moment, as I silently repeated the words: 

I AM INTEGRITY.

Rob and I believe in accountability. And are fully up for the hard in parenting. 

And.

Bigs didn't do what the man was accusing her of doing. And both of us felt compelled to stand in the truth.

When Rob approached the owner - who had resumed his position 50+ yards away {still glaring at us} - to have a conversation, he was met with even more anger and outrage. Screaming that drowned out the sound of the tree-wrapping machine. 

I thought the man was screaming because he was trying to be heard over the machine.

Not the case. 

Rob walked away while the man was still ranting on. Calmly. And, appalled.

After loading four very confused, uncomfortable and disappointed girls back into the van - we were handed another opportunity.

A powerful, teachable moment.

J asked why we left.

We can't control what happens to us - we told her - or what challenges are thrown our way.

We can always control how we respond.

We talked about our intolerance for that level of disrespect. And, explained that we will never support a business owned + led by someone who treats his customers this way - or any human being for that matter. 

M asked what would happen if the man followed us.

We'd call the police and ask for help, we said. Her question validated the dark energy I felt swirling around him.

Anger is a manifestation of pain. I silently wondered why he's is in so much pain.

And then K opened up in a new way about the boy who bullies her at school. He's a lot like that man, she said.

I'm not sure how much of this day they'll remember. All I know is that for the next fifteen minutes, we had the most amazing conversation about using our Brave Voice to stand up for what's right - owning what's ours to own - and staying in our power around those who try to steal it from us. 

We talked about choosing COURAGE over comfort. 

We talked about choosing what's RIGHT over the fun, fast or easy.

We talked about choosing to PRACTICE our values rather than simply professing them. 

Words by Brene Brown. Words that took on new life today. The definition of integrity.

Parenting is tough territory for a recovering perfectionist. I catch myself expecting perfection and focusing on all the things they aren't doing. I know my tendency is to be hard on them.

There was no space for that today.

We ALWAYS have a choice to show up in a way that’s aligned with our values.

Even when it's hard. Even when it's uncomfortable. Even when it means dealing with someone who is fuming and irrational. And has lost sight of the meaning of Christmas. 

I don't know that man's story. And, I probably never will. I'm sorry he feels so much pain.

I'm not sorry for something my daughter didn't do.

We can feel compassion AND hold people accountable. Both can be true.

His pain does not excuse his behavior. 

~

Today, I chose INTEGRITY.

Not the swallowed up feeling of embarrassment that use to rip through me when confronted.  

Not the fear of 'getting in trouble' that used to leave me frozen and send me out of my body.

Not the unsubstantiated snaps at my daughter as a way to deflect the pain of the situation. 

Today, I chose integrity, not perfection.

Despite my shaking hands and surging adrenaline, I stayed grounded.

Three simple words - I AM INTEGRITY - changed our day. The ripple effect far reaching.

I am grateful for growth.

And, I AM PROUD.

~

We ended up at the most beautiful, family-owned farm a few miles away. Laughing. Smiling.

And back in deep joy.

 
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In January of 2018, I will be weaving together my passion and skill set to offer my first online course via The Compassion Project - bringing together a community of women and men who value growth and authenticity. Together we will cultivate the courage, compassion and connection we need to live our dreams. To bring meaning to our life in a way that sets our soul on fire. To live unapologetically free.

 To be in the know - and to receive a free gift from me {because I'm too excited to wait!}, head over here to stay connected!

Creating this platform has been on my heart for years. It's time. I hope you join me. 

For now, join me in the THE I AM CHALLENGE community space. {It's free.}

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Samantha Livingstone is an Olympic Gold Medalist, transformational speaker, high performance coach and mama of four.  She inspires and empowers others to cultivate the courage, resilience and perseverance needed to let go of perfection and other limiting beliefs so they can live their dream. Samantha candidly shares her battles with her inner critic, depression, perfection, PTSD and parenting as a working mother because she believes in the transformative power of story – and the strength that comes from knowing we are not alone. She is on a mission to pay forward all that she’s learned to help others find joy and live free.  

A mama of heart warrior and mama of twins, Samantha and her husband, Rob, live in the Berkshires with their four girls.  

You can learn more about Samantha at www.samanthalivingstone.com.