Tuesday, December 27, 2022

The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama

The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama is a solid follow up to her book Becoming from 2018. The first is more of an autobiography and this recent effort, subtitled Overcoming in Uncertain Times, notes that it contains habits, practices, attitudes, and beliefs; a series of reflection on things Obama feels to be important and leans on in her life. It's excellent and the chapters that stood out to me as particularly noteworthy are the following:

The Power of Small - Try not to get overwhelmed with the enormity of situations, focus on little things. The example given is knitting, how in doing it, Obama is able to settle an anxious mind. She's putting small next to big. Do something where you can claim a small victory and feel a sense of completion. Go from "it's all too much" to "I've got this." 

Starting Kind - Obama tells the story of her friend who each morning looks at himself in the mirror and says "Heeey, Buddy!" The idea is to take a supportive approach to a day, and it can be extrapolated out to a situation or even a life. She also notes that when a kid walks into a room, they're looking to adults to see if their faces light up when they see them. While we should do that for kids, we can also do that for ourselves. 

Am I seen? - It's hard to go through life feeling different than others, like you don't belong where you are. She notes that it's hard to dream about what we can't see. When you're an "only" in a setting, the only person who is like you, it's hard to feel like you belong. 

My kitchen table - It's important to try to make connections with other people, many of us are lonely. People are missing the sense of belonging with other people. We have to open ourselves up and take a risk to connect with others. She notes telling her daughters "don't do life alone." 

Meet my mom - There's great content in the chapter that stems from Obama's mother, with various maxims she's learned about parenting: 1. Teach your kids to wake themselves up. 2. It isn't about you. Good parents are always working to put themselves out of business. 3. Know what's truly precious. 4. Parent the child you've got. 5. Come home. We will always like you here. 

The armor we wear - Preparation can be an armor. Preparedness becomes a hedge against panic. And panic is what will lead you to disaster. There's also armor which insulates yourself from situations and can be exhausting to keep up, as it prevents you from being your true self. 

Going high - We can consciously choose to lift the level of discourse in a situation, to not let ourselves be pulled down in the muck with others who want us there. Another way to describe it is "tell the truth, do your best by others, keep perspective, stay tough." Obama notes that going high is about doing what it takes to make your work count and your voice heard, "despite the despites."