In my mind, I’ve understood the importance of boundaries for a long time. But really feeling it with my heart only happened this year. Suddenly boundaries were no longer prickly things to put up when I’m upset or feel threatened. Now they are beautiful flowing lines of love that I hold with kindness and understanding toward everyone around me. That was a huge revelation. Thanks (again) to Alan Seale.
I woke up this morning to the news that Leonard Cohen has died. I was 16 when I discovered his music (I’m Your Man). When no-one was watching, I’d stand in the lounge, music full blast, singing along to every song imagining I was one of his backup singers. I know the lyrics to every song on that CD by heart. Few musicians have moved me as much since and today I lost one of my favourite poets. No words I come up with can do him justice. So I leave it to Tom Robbins, another writer I greatly admire, to do so:
“He was rowed down from the north in a leather skiff manned by a crew of trolls. His fur cape was caked with candle wax, his brow stained blue by wine – though the latter was seldom noticed due to the fox mask he wore at all times. A quill in his teeth, a solitary teardrop, a squirm in his palm, he was the young poet prince of Montreal, handsome, immaculate, searching for sturdier doors to nail his poignant verses on.”
The guardian gets why I loved his work: “…It wasn’t that he knew the answers but that he never stopped looking. He searched for clues in bedrooms and warzones, in Jewish temples and Buddhist retreats, in Europe, Africa, Israel and Cuba. He tried to flush them out with booze and drugs and seduce them with melodies. And whenever he managed to painfully extract some nugget of wisdom, he would cut and polish it like a precious stone before resuming the search.”
Leonard was right when he recently told his muse Marianne on her deathbed “I’ll be following you soon”.
I wish you’d stayed around a little longer to seduce us, Mr Cohen.
But today it’s our turn.
So long, Leonard. Thank you for all the beauty you brought to our lives.
Alan Seale taught me something fundamental recently: “People can only meet you as far as they are along their own journey.” To me it was a huge revelation. I recently had some sobering experiences at work leading a team, which in itself is a wrestle with your own demons – and those of others – every day.
As team leader, I expect myself to reflect on what I do well and what I can do better, every time I get feedback from someone in my team. It’s not easy. It puts me right up there with my nose to the mirror to face myself and the impact I have on others. I know I do some things well, but many other things I don’t do all that well. In fact, no matter how much I try to hide my less likeable traits from the world, there’s no escaping them when you lead a team. People will point them out to you. And when they do, I try to face them, with an open mind and as much courage and mildness as I can muster, no matter how much that stomping, angry little girl inside me tries to turn her back on it all.
Self-reflection is not easy or comfortable. Being prepared to pull back your shoulders and look your demons straight in the eye is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Because here’s the thing: once you look your demons in the eye and acknowledge that they exist, you can never again unknow what you’ve just learnt. And that’s only the beginning. Once you know, you are also handed the responsibility to do something about it. Of course you can choose not to do anything. But there’s a price to pay. What you won’t face today will come back to haunt you, time and again, until you’ve learn the lesson. It’s an age-old wisdom.
So here I am, low down and rumbling (thank you Brene Brown) with my demons. I’m not a happy puppy. This ain’t easy by a long stretch. But as Brene says: “There’s no going around it, only through.”
And that’s why I’m not angry today, at the person who gave only negative feedback on our working relationship or my leadership over the past 2 years. No mention of the walks we took, the mails to the whole organisation thanking him for his contribution, no mention of the trust or freedom to try new things, no mention of the apologies for things I could have done better. Denying any support or positive contribution, however, revealed not only my blind spots, but also his own. I could be angry and hurt. Instead I look forward to the day when we can walk toward that mirror together, to face our demons with mildness and forgiveness, knowing that we are both doing the best we can with who we are and what we know, at this point in time.
“We can all only meet each other as far along as we are on our journey.”
That sentence opens up so much space inside me, for myself and others, to work with who we are and where we are at this point in time, with courage and kindness.
Today, I choose courage and kindness, not anger.
So here I stand, shoulders back, doing my best to look in the mirror. Because we all need to look in the mirror at some point. And either you do it yourself, or life makes you.
*With enormous gratitude, to my ‘marble jar friends’, Alan Seale and Brene Brown for helping me on this journey.
Radiant, luminous “crone” woman. During ancient times, the crones, hags and witches were frequently sages, leaders, midwives and healers in their communities and were revered for their wisdom and knowledge. As history evolved and a patriarchal society took hold, the definitions of the crone, (the crowned one) the hag, (the holy one), and the witch (the wise one) were distorted.
May we again respect all elders and honor their wisdom.
“To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived …..this is to have succeeded.”
Bessie Anderson Stanley
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Nelson Mandela
To let go doesn’t mean to stop caring: it means I can’t do it for someone else.
To let go is not to cut myself off;
it is the realization that I can’t control another.
To let go is not to enable,
but to allow learning from natural consequences. To let go is to admit powerlessness,
which means the outcome is not in my hands.
To let go is not to try to change or blame another;
I can only change myself.
To let go is not to care for, but to care about.
To let go is not to fix, but to be supportive.
To let go is not to judge,
but to allow another to be a human being.
To let go is not to be in the middle arranging outcomes, but to allow others to effect their own outcomes.
To let go is not to be protective;
it is to permit another to face reality.
To let go is not to deny, but to accept.
To let go is not to nag, scold, or argue,
but to search out my own shortcomings and to correct them
To let go is not to adjust everything to my desires,
but to take each day as it comes and to cherish the moment.
To let go is not to criticize and regulate anyone, but to try to become what I dream I can be. To let go is not to regret the past,
but to grow and live for the future.
To let go is to fear less and love more.
Nelson Mandela (18 juli 1918 – 5 december 2013)