Who I Surround Myself With Matters


I have all sorts of feelings after watching the Democratic National Convention last night. The lineup, the speeches, the ideas shared….a stark, vivid contrast to the Republican convention last week.

Full disclosure, I worked for Hillary Clinton in the mid ‘90s while she was First Lady of the United States, so, #ImWithHer.

Much has been written about Hillary. Whatever you want to believe or not believe, you have thousands of resources to support your narrative. No one, in the history of time, has been so thoroughly vetted.

Personally, I don’t have the mettle to withstand all that she’s endured. Her fortitude sets her apart from anyone else I’ve ever known.

But I’m not going to write anything more about Hillary because in my experience, the people who don’t like her, do so obsessively and have no intention to change their minds. And the people who love her…well, same thing.

What I want to share today is what’s been churning in my brain all night after watching the parade of impressive speakers last night on behalf of their candidate.

If I were to run for President of the United States, who would step up and speak about my virtues? Would they come willingly? Would I feel inspired? Would I trust them to speak about me, for me, and paint a picture of me that conveys my truth? Would my children be proud?

The list I came up with was short. But, oh what a list.

And my takeaway was this: Who I surround myself with matters. Who I let into my heart matters. Who I read matters. Who I watch on TV and listen to on the radio matters. Who I stand up for matters. My children are absorbing it all. I’ve brought 4 children into this world and when it’s time for me to hand them off, I’m confident they will see beyond themselves and their interests. I’ve done a thousand things wrong as a parent. But this, this I got right.

What I also got right are my friendships.

My people can rep for me anytime, anywhere and I would die a happy woman. I trust them and love them beyond measure. Each could stand in and parent my children at any time and I would not question a word out of their mouths. Because they are careful, deliberate people who lead with love.

Here’s one of my favorite examples:

A few years ago when my first son was graduating from high school, my husband and I offered him a choice: A graduation party at home or a trip with us, solo—no siblings—to a place of his choosing. He went with the trip. It was incredible.

However, a group of our friends still wanted to get together to honor our son’s achievement. This. This is all I need. For me, it truly is the thought that counts. Kind gestures win every day of the week. I remember thinking that even if it didn’t come to pass (coordinating 20 people’s schedules is a bit of a challenge), I was touched an effort was being made.

But, we did pull it off and it was no ordinary graduation party. No box for cards. No wall full of pictures and awards. People didn’t eat & run.

We had a Literary Pause.

One of our friends suggested we each bring something to read. Something we’d like to impart on our young graduate that has had meaning in our own lives. Or something we feel is worthwhile to know. Anything goes, we decided—an excerpt from a novel, a poem, song lyrics, an original piece of writing—anything.

What we didn’t know at the time, but have since learned as we’ve had three of these Literary Pauses now with other graduating kids is that this is one of the most sincere and significant experiences we give our children as they leave the nest. And it has almost nothing to do with what we’re reading out loud and everything to do with how we make them feel. How the whole room feels.


Unconditionally and unequivocally.

Man. It’s an emotional night.

We strip away the veneer, the glossy bits we show the outside world, and get to the crux of it all. Why we’re here. Together. Supporting each other and our choices.

Before stepping into the world and choosing a life, we’re letting our kids feel their worth as a human being. There is nothing shiny in the room other than the sunlight as it hits the tears streaming down our faces.

We don’t talk about which college degree will offer the most bang for the buck or which fraternity or sorority they must join. We don’t get caught up in the “must have this in order to do that ” talk.

These are good friends. Even better people. We go high. We go deep. And it’s a remarkable evening to experience.

So it was those special evenings that I found myself thinking about while watching the convention last night, knowing who’s backstage or in the hotel suite with Hillary watching this special evening unfold. Hillary has surrounded herself with solid people. Caring, thoughtful, smart people. For decades. I’m happy for her. They sustain her during trying moments. One of the best even opened the convention for her. #JohnPodesta (Honestly. The. Best.)

It matters to me that I follow this example. That my children follow this example. Who we bring into our personal world and allow to take up space in our hearts and minds is a hugely important gift we give ourselves. Or not. So, kids, choose wisely. Eventually, people always show you who they are, when the veneer gets stripped away. The good. The bad. The kind. The naysayers. The helpers. The takers.

Listen well.

Karen FahleComment