I was speaking about the future with my son recently over an obscenely large steak at an Argentinian restaurant in Mexico City. We’d just seen a real ‘shoot ’em up’ film which just happened to be called Shoot ’em Up. The hero, a kind of homeless James Bond, lives on the street, reminiscent of Lee Child’s character Jack Reach. They are both tougher than tough guys, the kind of character who make the bad guys feel bad that they ever met. Last night’s film was about 500 guys getting wasted by the hero, including 20 or so in an aerial gunfight while skydiving. This movie was way over the top. We talked about various film genres and ended up declaring this will become a cult classic along the lines of Pulp Fiction and Straw Dogs. This is definitely a guy film.
Anyway, as the evening progressed I was excited to hear of Clarke’s idea and intention of getting himself into a degree program for older students who haven’t followed the traditional academic ladder. I think it is a great idea and I wish him success if he decides to pursue it. We also discussed various other life strategies he is thinking about as well. At the end of the conversation, I was left feeling very close to him and happy that we could talk about all these scenarios … but I was also wondering if I was useful to him in the conversation.
Coincidently, earlier in the day, the team I am working with on the “Eldering Project” requested that I change my style of relating and communicating with them from being a coach to being an elder. I have accepted the request but confess it has me now very self-conscious about what I am saying and how I am being in various conversations. This is a great opportunity to learn and sharpen the distinctions we are working on.
In the context of last night’s dinner conversation with my son, I noted two things. First, that I was more relaxed and comfortable in the discussion. I felt less need to ‘help’ and was able to listen to him and wonder how life looks from his perspective. The second difference I noted was that I have total confidence in him and his capacity to make whatever choices he needs to make in the coming years.
This left me with just wanting to support him in whatever ways work for him, but also wanting to have him help me understand how to build more powerful communication bridges between the younger and older generations. We even speculated on possibly leading a workshop together if we can find a mutually engaging subject and have something to say.
I think this is the first step in my becoming an elder—the capacity to listen and allow others (particularly people who are younger and less experienced) to contribute to me and not attempt to dominate the relationship with my desire to contribute to them.
To be continued…