Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Oh yeah... that's what its all about!

It's 10:00 am in NYC and its pouring on the streets, 5 police cars and 2 fire engines are clogging up the corner of 41st and Lexington, sirens blazing, people running through the streets adeptly navigating their bodies and umbrellas, trading spaces between one another while never trading glances, in what appears to be a highly efficient well choreographed and automated dance. 

I'm late to meet my sister for coffee and I too enter the flow, albeit not as skilled as the hundreds of New Yorkers that seem to have been in training all their lives for moments like these.   Big umbrellas small umbrellas... is he going high or low?  Left or right?  As I try to look into the next persons eyes looking for a sign, I see nothing but focus on the empty space that they appear to be creating for themselves as they move forward. 

I feel alone, disconnected, and find myself sad as I look into the blank faces of my fellow New Yorkers wondering about each person as the walk by.  My mind muses...  are they married, divorced, employed, recently laid off, a mom, a dad, are their parents alive, when was the last time they spoke to their kids?  Lost in thought, I snag a passerby's umbrella then proceed to step right into a running stream of New York's mystery moisture, soaking my foot.   

Finally, a cup of coffee in hand, my sister and I have a chance to catch up.   I reflect on the insanity that I just experienced walking to meet her in the rain and of course she is quick to point out she's got bomb proof knee high boots and a simple yet functional waterproof coat.     

Our conversation quickly moved to the family, at which time I began recounting the seemingly toxic experience that I just experienced with my mother and my father.   As I try to talk myself off the ledge, knowing its simply a matter of perspective, and to simply allow them to be the way they are and the way they are not, I fall into my own trap.   I just cant do it.  I'm right they're wrong.   It just shouldn't be this way...   I'm on a roll... ranting about my parents, wanting to check out, commenting on our completely ass backwards society running around like lunatics trying to convince everyone they are all happy, the Indian cultures obsession with pedigree and achievement, and the overall alienated existence of mankind.   I tell her "I'm done!"  "I'm over it"    I just want to go back to Santa Fe, get back in the garden, coach my clients, work my couple of nights at the restaurant and just get back to basics.   

Its been a frustrating couple of weeks.  The Project has been moving slower than I've liked and I've been to two family events over the past two weeks.  Dropping in to a group of highly educated over achieving Indians obsessed with school, vocation, and marriage is enough to make even the most successful person question whether or not they are doing enough.   Questions of when is it going to be live?  I thought it was supposed to be up a month ago?   Is this going to be your business?   How do you plan on making money? What are you doing with your life?   I try to explain that this project is about service... but that falls mostly on deaf ears. 

At the same time I've been confronted with how difficult it is to actually take incredible creative, intriguing copy, a novel idea, and present it in a web format that is easy to understand and have it be compelling.    The Facebook Group continues to grow and everyone that I speak to is intrigued by the concept.   But what is it going to take to get people to really take this on?  Who is going to be the first group of pioneers that will be willing to share their experience with this?   Does anyone really care about the Courage and Commitment to Communicate?   

My sister begins to share with me how she has handled her communications, making direct requests and refusing to get hooked.    As I proudly sit there in total admiration of my little sister's simple yet infinite wisdom, all of the frustration, resignation, and anger started to melt away.   While I'm now jacked on my second cup of coffee, I feel a certain calm...   Isn't this the whole point of the Pink Elephant Project?!?!  Sharing stories with one another about what worked and what didn't.   

At that exact moment a woman who had been sitting in the corner of the coffee shop comes up to us and gently says to us:  "I'm sorry to bother you but I could not help overhearing what you both were talking about but if you haven't heard of this book, I think you might find it helpful."  She proceeds to hand us a note that says... "Non Violent Communication  By:  Marshall Rosenberg."  My sister and I look at each other in a state of disbelief thinking this never happens in New York.   How bizarre.   As we both get up getting ready to leave and thank this woman for her suggestion, my sister just laughs  "What a perfect end to the conversation!"  and headed off to her next stop.   I took a moment to introduce myself,  let her know that I was familiar with Rosenberg's work and proceeded to quickly tell her about the Pink Elephant Project, as I also had to get going.   

As I walked out of the coffee shop, I noticed the rain had stopped and there seemed to be a certain calm in the air, I caught the eyes and a smile from an older lady that passed me by, and I too had a smile on my face.   

Who was that woman in the coffee shop?  She didn't know us at all.  She didn't just sit there listening to us, she heard us, and she decided to do something about it.    How easy would it have been to just sit there and judge my sister and I?  How easy would it have been to just refocus her attention on to what she was doing?   How easy would it have been for her to just simply go about her own business?   But she didn't.  She chose to participate, make a difference, contribute, share, reach out, and connect.  Such a simple genuine and human act of caring... how  awesome.  

What this woman doesn't know is how much that simple act has impacted me all day!  While I started the day exhausted, late, wet, frustrated and filled with resignation I find myself re-inspired and reinvigorated.  My faith in humanity completely restored.  

The need for the Pink Elephant Project project for me has never been clearer.  There is something about dealing with those difficult conversations that seems to be speaking to people...so much so that they would get up out of their chairs and approach two total strangers to offer a helping hand.   And what about my sister...what started out as a simple bitch session from me turned into a healthy story telling about strategies that work and what was possible for her after being straight, clear, and direct in her communications.   This is the Pink Elephant Project, thats what its all about. 

Glancing at my horoscope for the day, it all seemed to make sense!  Sometimes you've just got to puke out the ugly stuff with a loved one or good friend so that you can let the good stuff come back in.  Thanks for the strong shoulders sis.  

Cancer Horoscope
Go to: Yesterday | Tomorrow

You may be worried about medical expenses that are coming in, but you may find that what you need is not more expensive herbs or medicines, it's a good old fashioned venting session, preferably with a loved one with strong shoulders and the ability to keep a secret. 


  1. You write beautifully Shasheen...and I love the story.

    I opened up a conversation recently with a man that was my first love and discussed what happened back then and how I felt. What songs reminded me of him, 33 years later. He said that I'd brought a tear to his eye and confirmed that we were still special people to each other.

    What a great conversation to have, it wasn't needed, everything was just fine. But, to have those unsaid items out in the open is golden.

    TJ Moore

  2. Hi Shawsheen,

    I have been a big fan of Marshall Rosenburg and his teachings have changed the way I interact and communicate about difficult situations with the people in my life. I also teach and share his work with others in my leadership classes. I am a big fan of making clear requests of the people in my life...it works so much better than complaining. Good luck with the project.