Stick Figure Family or Nesting Doll Reality? Which do you choose?



I can’t drive down a street anymore without a car going by advertising just who exactly is in their family. How many boys, how many girls, how many dogs, cats and goldfish. While it started out as cute, somehow I think it’s only soccer moms who actually have this on their car/van/SUVS. That may be narrow thinking, but it is what I think.


Frankly, I don’t want people to know (especially predators) that I may have young daughter who attends middle school or that they will need to shoot my dog when they break into my house to steal my stuff.  That is after they run my license plate to get my address. I’m just saying-  they have their ways.



This is my Russian nesting doll that my mom and dad brought me from Russia in 1976. Original Russian nesting dolls depicted many themes from fairy tales, to political leaders to families. My doll is the same character growing from a solid wooden baby to an adult. From baby, to childhood, to teen, to 20’s and into adulthood: that’s what I am thinking. I am going with it.

My question: Even though we grow older, do we in fact grow wiser? In my second half of life, I may be a little grayer, I may have some wrinkles, but more importantly: is my life representing who I authentically am? Do I walk my talk? Do I treat other people the way I want to be treated? Am I truthful? Do I have the ability to be me when I am with other people? Or do I fall prey to peer pressure- to keeping up with the Joneses?  Frankly, who are the Joneses anyway and who cares what the Joneses have. Does it matter? Are they happy?  Are they people to emulate?

This is for your consideration. Don’t you think it is better to truly be who you are? I heard a sermon at church once where the pastor said, “All are welcome here whether you are black, white, Latino, gay, straight, bi, rich, poor, healthy, sick, good looking or not so good looking, fat, thin, average, full head of hair or no hair. You are welcome here.” I can honestly say at that church there was at least one of each. 

I breathed a sigh of relief because it felt welcoming. It felt right, fuzzy and warm. It felt like a place where you could be who you are without judgement. Isn’t that what we really crave: to be who we are? What if the world  could freeze in place and no one could see us.  Would we be silly? Would we sing at the top of our lungs? Would we wear the clothes we really find comfortable and say what we mean and mean what we say? Imagine a place where we don’t have to pretend to fit in, lie about our career status, have two kids, own an SUV and have a private school education.  We can be the people we are. Doesn’t that sound refreshing?

Here are two examples that are opposite ends of the spectrum:

First is a man who actually walks his talk. I heard this second hand from a good friend. A doctor who truly cares about the people he treats says he is an insomniac. He gets up most days at 3 or 4:00 am in the morning  and during this time, he prays for his patients, their families and people in the world. This is a person being who they truly are. In my opinion, this is a person that puts other people first and thinks outside of himself.  He does it in private- in the pre-dawn light and doesn’t discuss it. There was a special reason that he told this particular person as they needed the uplift. It is important to do that sometimes- to put other people first. It gets you out of your own head. 

Second example of the world’s response to who you are or claim to be. It's a real example of how the world works. Everyone knows I sell cooling and power products to data centers. Mission critical is my middle name.  If you run a mission critical data center, I want to know you.

 I was at a volunteer appreciation event recently and everyone went around the table and shared a little about themselves: where they live, what they do for a living, hobbies, etc.. They got to me and I said, “Well, I am a Pediatric neurosurgeon down at Emory.” …you could hear a pin drop. The respect and awe was palpable- no kidding. I loved it.  I was a temporary hero. I let there be that pregnant pause and said, “Just kidding- I am an independent sales rep, and I sell power and cooling to data centers.” They all laughed and said, “We thought you were serious!” One lady stopped me as I left and said, “Hey, you actually look like you could be a neurosurgeon.” I took that as a compliment that I could actually look like a neurosurgeon, whatever it is they look like.

In my example I was deceitful in an effort to see the response.  I sure got one. It mattered what I did especially if I was a neurosurgeon.   When really, I could be a neurosurgeon and be a crappy person.   So now I am a pediatric neurosurgeon who sells power and cooling to data centers: wrap your head around that one. I am also Phi Beta Kappa because ya’ll know that matters too. It means I am “qualified”. I have “made it” in the world. I am somebody.  Sorry to say I am not a neurosurgeon and I am not Phi Beta Kappa- my temporary hero status has left the room.

It got me thinking: Does it matter what I do for a living? Selling power and cooling to data centers is a good and lucrative profession. Do I need to be a doctor? Do I need to be rich?  Do I need to have a PHD from Harvard to have game in the world

I think not. I would rather have compassion and be kind.  I would rather give of myself to others who are poor, need help, money and love. I would rather sit with someone who is dying, feed someone who has no food, protect someone who is disenfranchised- who doesn’t have a voice. I would rather give $5.00 to the guy on the corner than constantly second guess his motive. I would rather pull from my insides than my outsides.

Richard Rohr the well-known Franciscan Priest says, “Your life will be your message.” So I ask what does my life say about me?  What do my actions, words and deeds say about me? Is it all about me or can I stretch myself to include other people? Can I be authentic? It’s a hard row to hoe. It’s difficult.  I know it.

I want to work on this little Jan:


So that this big Jan:


becomes all she is capable of being: authentically true to myself. I believe that people want to know me as I am. To know that I am truthful and to be able to trust me.  To know I will be there if I am needed and to stay until I am no longer needed.  Frankly, I am still working on all that.

 We live in community; not just a homogeneous community- we live in a world community. That means ALL of us as different as we are.

So I am thinking: What did I learn on the journey from the little wooden baby in the nesting doll into my current adult life? I know I am holding all the joys, disappointments, mistakes, love, kindnesses, and hopes within me. They make me who I am. Am I learning and growing or am I still the little, wooden centerpiece where it all revolves around me? Only we know that about ourselves.

“Your life is your message”  Richard Rohr.

Make sure your message is worth sending. The world needs more authentic people.

Until next time. 

Peace out.