Son to daughter: living with conflict in a conflict-averse world

"The world changes in direct proportion to the number of people willing to be honest about their lives." Armistead Maupin

Three weeks ago my 19-year-old left home in the middle of the night, without a word to anyone, and drove 13 hours to Virginia Beach to meet a man he met online. A week later, after a lot of panic and tears on my end, and some frank talk on his end, he came home a she. My drum-playing, car-loving, video-gaming son was actually my daughter. Mom and dad, meet Jasmine.

Turns out she had been living for years with a conflict. Her brain felt female but her body was male. She doubled down on the boyness in an attempt to resolve the conflict. But she could not resolve it, and sure we would reject her, ran away. When we did not, she returned. And I am happy to say she is happier than ever, and although this is by far the largest parenting curve ball I have been thrown, we are doing ok too. 

So this got me thinking a lot about conflict. How the persona we show the world isn't who we are. And although we know this about ourselves, we are shocked when we find out others live with conflict. My jock son was my daughter in hiding. I am a confident woman and deeply insecure. I am hardworking and shockingly lazy. I give and care and love and then I take and need and want. You probably do too. And that is ok. We love our kids, we want to run screaming from our kids. We love our jobs but can't wait for the weekend. Our spouses are wonderful but could you just give me one afternoon to myself, thank you.

I think we are all bundles of contradictions and we are afraid to show that because we believe no one else gets it. Jasmine decided she could not function anymore and shared her conflict. And guess what, it got better. And now we are working as a team to help her move forward. 

As organizations, we are contradictions as well because organizations are made up of people. So we are sometimes courageous and sometimes fearful. We are together and organized and also know that there are messes. 

Here's the magic of courageous communication. If you learn the lesson of Jasmine, and share your conflicts, those of us who are struggling with our own conflicts are relieved because OMG it is not just me! We are working on helping Jasmine resolve the conflict as much as she can, and learn to live with what she cannot. I believe being courageous communicator means understanding that conflict is a part of life and we are not always going to be what we seem. It also means, like Jazz, when we finally take that deep breath, swallow that big gulp of act big, and share our truth, wonderful things happen. We learn to manage conflict, accept it in others and then share in the joy of our strong and weak, bold and shy, straight and wobbly humanity. 

Maryanne Dersch