Leadership, love and friendship. Buzzy buzz words. What do these phrases mean? We look for these emotions in our relationships. But so often, we find ourselves disappointed or confused. In part, this may be because we all have different definitions and understanding of the terms.
What if leadership wasn’t some fixed quality present in one person? What if leadership and instruction moved in a dynamic spiral?
Here are a few stories which illustrate my own experience with and understanding of love, friendship and leadership.
Overwhelmed by My Own Dinner
The food has arrived.
I look down at the tray in front of me.
A unique little puzzle made of tiny plastic-covered containers. In the center of the tray sits the biggest container covered with aluminum foil. On the corner of this tray is a thin long neatly wrapped paper package.
But, where to begin? Confused and overwhelmed. This is not what food normally looks like to me.
You see, I’m five-years-old. I’m on a plane, flying “unaccompanied”. This means, no Mummy or no Daddy around. No one to tell me what to do.
“Okay. Now, take the paper napkins and unwrap them. Keep the cutlery on the tray. Put the napkin on your lap.”
Rhea, my elder sister who is sitting next to me has stepped in. She is authoritative with her comments. After all, Rhea is eight-years-old.
I’m grateful for the instruction. I quickly take out the heavy silver Emirates stainless steel cutlery and place the napkin on my lap. Then I look up at her with a look that says: I’m ready for the next tip.
“Okay, now let’s start with the bread and butter. Open the bag.”
Rhea finds the round bun which is covered in plastic. Effortlessly, she pierces its plastic bubble. Her fingers seem to move so confidently around the tray. She finds the gold wrapped tiny square of butter. Rhea is wrapping, unwrapping, spreading and slicing.
I’m so impressed by her dexterity. I find my own butter and bread. And like this, we continue our meal. A delayed version of Simon Says. Rhea tells me what to eat, how to unwrap it and how to put it away. She shows me. She does it. And then I follow. Action for action.
How to Use a Word Like a Grenade
“Hy- po-chon- dri-aac”
Back and forth we keep trying. Rhea is teaching me a new word. It has five syllables.
No! “Hy- po-chon- dri-aac”
My nine-year-old tongue is struggling to slip over the complexity. I’ve never heard this word before. Mum and Dad certainly haven’t said it out aloud.
But Rhea knows it. She just learned the word and has now come to deposit this five-syallblic bomb with me. Together we will use it as a slur of sorts. Rhea hasn’t explained the meaning of the word just yet – but I’m learning.
The next day at school, I find my friend Maria. She complains about something. With pride, fluency and confidence, I retort: “Oh don’t be a hypochondriac!”
Maria is confused. What does that mean?
I smirk. I am so impressed with myself. It is like I have brought a new toy to school. We are all taking our turns to play with it.
But I have authority over the others.
I get to say how we use that word.
My Convulsing Life’s Ambitions.
When I was six, I wanted to be a Nun. I went to Catholic school, so naturally I admired the Nuns who ruled supreme. The Nuns were so pious, authoritative and righteous.
Oh, and Rhea wanted to be a Nun.
When I was ten, I changed my mind. I wanted to be a Teacher. Teachers were all of the things the nuns were…but, they also had families and children.
Oh, and Rhea had changed her ambitions. She now wanted to be a Teacher.
When I was twelve – I was thinking about money.
That’s what I wanted. To earn a living. Earn more than a living. So I wanted to be a Computer Analyst.
Erm…what? Yes, you guessed it. That’s what Rhea wanted to be.
Initiating the Women’s Triangle
I open my laptop, take a sip of my coffee and smile.
On the screen, calling in from opposite sides of the globe are my elder sisters, Clea and Rhea. My sisters both have notebooks in their hands.
“Let’s begin,” I say.
Over the next 90 minutes, I facilitate a conversation between the three of us.
This isn’t the first time. In fact, every two weeks for the last few years, my sisters and I drop into this connection space we call The Women’s Triangle. It’s like a women’s circle…only there are three of us.
It is a space of my imagination and forming. Once we had all left Dubai, I was longing for deeper connection with my sisters. So I proposed a bi-weekly women’s circle. My sisters agreed. Some weeks I recommend we read a book or we discuss intentions and of course, we discuss childhood. I am often the one to initiate and facilitate the conversation.
What has surprised me is the consistency my sisters have displayed. No matter where they are in the world or what is going on in their lives; my sisters show up – ripe, read and ready. They’ve taken a few notes, read the book and are open to sharing deep and frequently. If I recommend we take some time to journal or meditate; they oblige.
I’ve not been able to achieve this level of consistency and richness in any other space I’ve tried to cultivate.
The Women’s Triangle…is genuinely a different space. Why?
A Blueprint for Sisterhood, Leadership and Love
While this article focuses on my sister, Rhea; I’m proud to say I enjoy a similarly rich relationship with both my elder sisters. This article is really a love letter to what sisterhood can be. In fact, the larger point within the article is one on the changing and shifting nature of relating, leadership and learning.
When I was younger, I looked to both my sisters to instruct me. Rather than roll their eyes, my sisters took it upon themselves to include me, educate me and show me how to be in the world. Like a sponge, I soaked it all up. Eager for more.
As I grew up, I began to learn more.
Rather than be stuck in a rigid binary of “I am your older sister – you must listen to me” – I’ve been struck by the fluidity of our roles. It isn’t a fixed hierarchy of rigid roles. Our relationship has been a blueprint of what can be possible among women when deep love, care and joy is the guiding force. When we open our eyes with kindness to the reality of the situation and no more.
May we all live to enjoy the richness, love and care of each other.
This White Wine Will Go Perfectly With Your Fish
I’ve been traveling the world for the last three years. And, now Rhea sits at my side. We are on an airplane. The food arrives. The first thing I do is find the butter. I take the frozen piece of butter wrapped in golden foil. I place it under the hot meal.
Rhea looks at me.
“That way it will melt faster,” I say.
She follows suit placing her butter under the hot meal.
I motion towards her empty glass.
“This white wine will go perfectly with your fish…”
Rhea nods, hands me her glass and smiles that smile.
I smile too.