Monday was my birthday, Tuesday I flew to Philadelphia to give two keynote presentations at a tech conference. I've never been to Philly before, but boy do I want to come back.
What a city! Classy and Trashy, full of smells, sounds, sights, that fill my soul...wonderful people, the seat of US history...and there I was, tripping around, scampering through the city like a little mouse.
I was asked to come here to present at a conference for the mainframe industry, to talk about diversity and inclusion (DEI) as it relates to neurodiversity...and to share space with other DEI professionals that also work towards making the mainframe industry more diverse. I was honored to have a seat at this proverbial table and excited to make it to Philadelphia.
The talks went well, particularly the second one. Day 1 was an amazing day, the energy was fantastic, the weather was superb, and I could feel Frank surrounding me. People on the street came to me out of the blue to ask me random questions about love, to show me their special ring that helped stop the rain, to talk to me about loss and grief and new beginnings.
Sometimes I get a glimpse about how all these things are interrelated...how my life, unfolding as it is, will eventually fold open enough to connect all the parts...like a lotus blossom might when it hits its fullest expression...all the leaves bending back towards one another, no longer their isolated experience, but totality...complete and revealing.
I was getting glimpses of that this week...walking in the city, opening myself up to the experiences of this life...just being in the energy flow of me and who I am and what is around me and what I'm creating. I keep saying "I" but it is not a singular me, it is the "I" that is all of creation...the "I" that took billions of years to get here, to make me...the "I" that is in the world of non-duality...we are all one, and this singular expression of me is but a hole in the flute, as Hafiz has said. This is my gift, this is my expression of what I came here to do...to nurture the world, to make it a more inclusive and safe space for all. It is but a tiny section of all of humanity, but to me, it is an entire galaxy.
Ah, I think I'm waxing esoteric today. Please bear with me...
Day 2 was also incredible, I had so many amazing conversations with people at the conference following my keynote...talking about our children (lotus petal), the education system (lotus petal), grief (lotus petal), faith (lotus petal), neurodiversity (lotus petal), love (lotus petal), spirituality (lotus petal), education reform (lotus petal)...and probably more...until I could sense them coming together somehow, at some point in this life journey...I still don't know how that is going to happen, but neither does the lotus...it just lets itself unfold.
On day 1 I went to the Liberty Bell, stood at the seat of history...saw the little house where Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence and I thought about all the land has seen since that time, and before it. A revival tent was up and some Christian rock was playing and normally I’d run in the other direction, but they were singing about love and light and it was just...so Frank...and I broke down in tears at the beauty and awful perfection that was there before me, that is my life, that is all of our lives, really.
Day 2 it rained and after the conference, I treated myself to a fun and immersive art exhibit where again I cried...this time because it was post-conference, and even though I did really good, and felt really connected, I had been masking, and I always cry after masking. I am still missing my grounding rod, Frank, the man that kept me tethered to this planet when I was out there saving the world...I’m still looking for that tether, it’s so challenging. It involves a lot of self-care, and not relying on anyone else, and that’s what’s hard. It’s so easy to say “I want to call Frank” but then he goes and dies, and what do I have? There isn’t anyone who is solely dedicated to my time and my needs like he was. So…I trip around, text friends, take pictures…stumble upon an art opening for mental illness awareness...leave, go to a thrift store…stumble around some more…eat, cry, text another friend..you know, just…trying to hold it together and remind myself that I am whole and complete and it’s ok to fall apart.
My brain feels very disorganized. There are at least 3 lotus petals unfolding at the same time here and I am having difficulty knowing which to follow first, so I’m bouncing all around.
I have a special friend. He has become very dear to me in a short period of time, although I have known him for many years. His presence this week has been quite helpful and yet, still, I see how I get to complete myself. That is very good. It’s like someone holding the mirror for you when you need that, but they aren’t doing your makeup. You do you, I’ll support you. Oh, life. It’s complex and simple and I just have to surrender. All the other choices are difficult and surrender feels right so I follow that thread to see where it takes me.
Anyhow...Philadelphia is a wonderful city. That petal is complete.
Grief is…a beautiful and painful experience every day…the discussion of that petal is complete.
So, the last one would be…DEI.
I want to take some time to address this because it is vital and important to the world going forward. I kid you not.
Diversity and Inclusion. Basically, how to get white men out of complete power and let some of us who are equally qualified take up some space. Of course the tech world has been white male dominated for decades, and they are actively trying to make their space welcoming to women, and minorities. But…minority? I mean, please define that…because the tech world has a lot of reach around this globe, and therefore there are many different races and ethnicities that are involved. And…there is a lot to unpack here.
Minority…when an estimated 40% of the population is neurodivergent and considered a minority…I have issue. I mean, that is by definition certainly NOT a minority. Marginalized, misunderstood, missed altogether, yes…minority, no.
But I digress. Neurodiversity (autism, ADHD, anxiety, dyslexia and more) is a universal thread between all genders, races, ethnicities and social classes. Yet…it has only recently been recognized as something that needs to be in the diversity and inclusion space. It’s the ultimate diversity! It’s everywhere! You address neurodiversity and you’re addressing women, people of color, marginalized populations, all socio-economic classes, all walks of life, really.
And that’s why I’m here, to shift that perspective and deepen that understanding.
And the way is becoming clearer, in fact, very clear…
I feel my next step is to train managers to learn how to manage their neurodivergent employees. And in that, I want to disassemble the current hierarchy of management..things get to change in a very big way. It’s the same that I want to do for the schools…train the managers (teachers) how to manage their students while also dismantling the current hierarchy of education.
These are some big asks, and I’m going to need some support in getting there, and it keeps showing up just as I need it, just when I need it, and that feels like everything. I’m on my way…it’s happening, and I’ll let it unfold...