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7 Q+As: Nicole Leigh Shaw

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One of our amazing speakers, Nicole Leigh Shaw, sits down with the That’s What She Said 7 questions…


That's What She Said

1. What are you grateful for today?
Health. Mine and my family’s. There was a time when I couldn’t imagine putting something as mundane as “health” at the top of my list, but the longer I live and see people in pain or struggling with illness—their own or a loved one’s—the more thankful I become for our well-being.

2. Tell us about one of your friends and what you love about her.
I’ve lived in 8 cities. In each place I’ve collected a friend or two that have become precious to me. What’s so gratifying is that none of them are particularly alike. In each woman I’ve found a bond that adhere to some aspect of my own personality or some aspect that I admire or aspire to in their own. It’s a beautiful thing to have some many friends of the heart that force me to realize a fuller life.

3. Describe one of the best days of your life.
I want to say it would be a day that had to do with my kids or my husband: birth, marriage, etc.  But those are the best days of our lives. Those are the joint ventures that I treasure. But I think, if I focus very personally on my best days, they would include days that affirmed my path as a writer. My first paid writing gig was as a magazine columnist for a business travel rag. It’s not a field I have any particular expertise in, which, is to say zero expertise. But I’ve never been more elated than the day I left the meeting with the magazine’s editor with a bona fide journalism job.

4.  What’s the best lesson you learned from your mother/grandmother?
Ah, my grandmother. I have learned a lot of lessons from both my mother’s mother and my step-grandmother. But I’ll pick just one. From my mother’s mother I learned that accountability needs to be primarily to one’s self. She’d caught me doing something I shouldn’t have been doing, this would have been when I was 11 or so, and there was no guilt, not tattling to my mother, and no punishment. Instead, she let me weigh the consequences of my actions and with love, encouraged me to be responsible to myself so that I could have self-pride. Because what value is there in following rules if we can’t see how they benefit us? As for my mother, I’m still learning from her. But the ongoing benefit of having my mother as a friend and parent is that she helps me to stay grounded and humble, and to forgive myself for all of the unreasonable emotional demands and expectations I put on myself. I cannot adequately express how valuable my mother is to me. My relationship with her is my greatest investment.

5. We’re all unique. What is your special gift?
Honestly, you’d have to ask someone else. Though I know it’s a bit naive, I operate from a belief that everyone is more or less like me. That they experience very similar things and that they have very similar reactions. I feel, well, very much like I’ve been slapped in the face when someone expresses that they cannot for the life of them understand where I’m coming from, or when someone has a point of view that is diametrically opposite to mine in every way and on every point. It floors me. But, then again, it doesn’t happen very often, so maybe we aren’t living such unique lives after all. Maybe the gasping desire to be unique in some way is what keeps humanity apart. And, what made Miley Cyrus do all that whackadoo twerking.

6.  What could women be doing to make their community a better place?
First, we can reach out to other women and make their lives stronger, safer, and more fulfilling. It’s mostly a matter of paying attention and being willing to step in an do that one, ugly, emotional thing that might need doing, even if that’s listening to someone’s story in spite of the fact that it makes us uncomfortable to do so. Second, for those of us that are mothers, we can extend the basic care we provide our own kids: food, shelter, love. There are mother’s in our communities who can’t do that for their kids, but those kids still very badly require help.

7.  What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
I would go to my own city’s poorest, sometimes most dangerous neighborhoods and talk with their people. Who lives there? What do I really know about them and what are assumptions I’ve been carrying around? What do they need to improve their safety, their opportunities, their lives? How can I help them achieve that?

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