Some days are hard
Sometimes many days in a row are hard.
Just a few days ago, my husband and I attended the funeral of a colleague of his and a father of three daughters, two of which are friends with our girls. That's the second of my one daughter's school friends that have lost their fathers in the last month.
Yesterday I learned that a colleague of mine lost her adult son, the father of my colleague's grandchildren.
On a coaching call this week, I spoke with a client who had just lost their father-in-law and, within a day, found out that their mother may only have a few days left to live.
On social media and in conversations, I listen to stories of the ongoing war and the rising costs of everything. I hear references to so many "isms," inequities, injustices and downright stupidity.
This week there was mass destruction in a storm that ravished eastern Canada and many deaths.
And there was another school shooting this week.
My heart aches—the tears flow. I wonder why. I sob
What do I say to you this week? How do I create hope and optimism for you? What words can I offer that can make any difference? I don't know the answer to that.
What I can tell you is how I make my way through it. If what I do can offer you any hope, I offer it to you also.
One fundamental belief I live by is that I can't change anything other than myself.
I wish I could impact everyone, but I can't touch everyone in the world. But I believe that the way I positively impact others through any connection I have can have a ripple across the globe.
I remind myself my purpose here on earth is to bring the light.
So after reading the latest news this morning and feeling my heart drop once again, I had a choice to make. I could go down the social media rabbit hole and get angry, scared and depressed, or move through the pain and shift my energy.
So I played Let the Light In and, through my tears, reminded myself that I must do that.
What's interesting, though, is that letting the light in with you or for myself is not just shifting our focus to the positive. Instead, before we can move to the light, the positive or the joy, we must stay in the dark for just a little bit longer. We need to stay where we are and experience this hurt, pain and sorrow before we can let it go.
I was coaching a client this week, and through her tears, we talked about how lonely Leadership can be. When coaching another client, we talked about the anger and frustration with the organization she works with. In a third coaching conversation, we stayed with my client's irritation long enough to name it and identify the trigger.
We stayed in the dark, the yucky and uncomfortableness, each time, rather than hop over it.
I learned a long time ago that numbing out pain, hurt and darkness does not work. Numbing out the "bad" emotions also numbs joy, contentment, inner peace, and happiness. We need to experience the full range of our feelings to experience the full range of our emotions. Otherwise, we feel more flatlined, which does not feel good either.
To let my light in and let my light shine and help you do the same, I must crumble to my knees in moments like this and fall apart. I must pray through my tears as I feel my heart breaking wide open. It is only when I experience those cracks that I can then allow the light to shine in
When I can feel the whole range of emotions, what hurts like hell, can I then experience what feels so good!
Last week I went for a walk and crossed paths with a young boy walking home from school. We had a little chat. The conversation was nothing crazy, nothing miraculous. We talked about his day at school, where we lived, and who we knew in common. Yet, when I walked away from that moment, I realized I felt immense joy. I'm sure my heart was glowing. Such a simple, ordinary, inconsequential encounter had such a profound impact.
But, here's the thing, I can't feel that joy without feeling today's deep sorrow and pain.
I can't feel the softness of my granddaughter leaning into me for a hug and telling me she loves me, and stay there just a little longer, soaking in love, contentment and pure bliss, if I hadn't cried in sorrow earlier in the day.
I can experience the awe of an eagle soaring over our family picnic for several moments, lost in his freedom, ease and grace, and feel that wash over my body, calming me and bringing me peace. I can feel that because I also let tears fall when I read another news story of loss, devastation and hate feeling just as profoundly in that moment, at the bottom of the arc.
If you're interested in my advice about dealing with all that is "wrong" with the world, it is this: Feel the full range of your emotions.
Let yourself experience whatever you're experiencing.
Life and leadership are about ups and downs. There's no way around that. If you don't want to get stuck in the mundane, the rat race, the flatline of feelings ebb and flow with everything.
Here are 4 resources to help you
LeAnne Rimes - Chant Album
This is my go-to album when I need to feel — Feel joy, sorrow or just feel whatever I can not name.
Atlas of the Heart - Brene Brown
A reference book for 87 emotions
I come back to it repeatedly to understand, feel, and make a bit more sense of what I am feeling.
Unlocking Us Podcast Episode Atlas of the Heart, Audience Q&A, Part 1 of 2 with Brené Brown, Ashley Brown Ruiz, & Barrett Guillen
At minute 20, they answer a listener's question on compassion fatigue and secondary trauma
It's easy to think that we have compassion and empathy for the world around us, but we are often creating secondary trauma in ourselves, which is not helpful either.
Brene's answer to this question helped me understand why I felt so incredibly distraught after the funeral I attended on Saturday. I had gone into secondary trauma, imagining what would happen if my husband died and how our kids and I would cope. I was reliving the experience, having climbed over the metaphorical fence as Brene talks about.
Note, Brene references the Sandy Hook shooting :-(
Permission to Feel - Marc Brackett
While the subtitle is Unlocking the Power of Emotions to Help Our Kids, Ourselves, and Our Society Thrive, the book is full of learning for adults. Mark provides tools to help develop your emotional intelligence, including his RULER framework and Mood Meter. I use these with clients frequently.
I won't tell you that it's easy, but this is the only way I know how.
Feel free to show your other strategies with me so that we may all learn together how to navigate this world we live in.
I am sending you much love, hugs and light today!
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Women leaders often hit a point where they find themselves in over their heads and wondering if they have what it takes to lead.