“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.” —T.S. Eliot
“Not in his goals but in his transitions man is great.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
In our own struggles, we not only gain insight with time and distance, empathy can be fruit we bear as well. When we allow vulnerability and share struggles together, we create connectedness and “us”ness rather than aloneness.
In conversations recently, I’ve referenced a few anchor points that have held me in and through difficulty. In Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ seminal book On Grief and Grieving, she frames the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. She never presented the stages as linear but more circular, completed in due time with acceptance. These stages are not only relevant in final death but the many deaths and transitions we experience in life. Two years of a pandemic have presented a lot of deaths to the collective whole of humanity. In 2020, co-author of On Grief and Grieving David Kessler wrote a new book adding the sixth stage of grief – meaning. When we know meaning is the destination, we can tolerate and keep moving through the rough parts of the journey.
The next reference that has fostered a deeper understanding and foundation of assurance is Bridges Transition Model identifying the three stages of transition – ending what currently is, the neutral zone and the new beginning.
“The essence of life takes place in the neutral zone phase of transition. It is in that interim spaciousness that all possibilities, creativity and innovative ideas can come to life and flourish.” – Susan Bridges
The winters of life serve their purpose which we rarely see or understand in real time. Be assured – spring never skips its turn. Sharing that assurance with others. Cast light, hope and connection.
“If you don’t talk it out, you act it out.” – Joseph Grenny
It’s been a while since I read the book Crucial Conversations by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, Emily Gregory. With the release of the third edition in October, Joseph Grenny was on the What’s Essential podcast this week.
The seven principles include:
Start with the heart – get the right focus
Learn to look – know when it’s unsafe
Make it safe – facilitate an open dialogue
Master your stories – stay in dialogue despite negative feelings
State your path – share your views persuasively
Explore others’ path – be a good listener
Move to action – convert dialogue to results
The assumptions we make, the conclusions we come to before starting, the narrow view we take comfort in shape our world, making it small. Choose your words, listen for understanding rather than waiting to state your case and dare to have conversations to learn, connect and expand.
When we let go of the need to be right, not mistaking opinion for fact, we expand and deepen our relationships and invite civility and connection back into our daily lives. Give your ego a break today. Turn on your empathy GPS. Cast light into the crevices of your thinking to see the same in a new light.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Viktor E. Frankl
“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” – Joseph Campbell
You are held and seen;
Remember that today and each day;
See others too, beyond judgment and assumption;
When not enough enters your thoughts;
When you question actions and inactions of others, of yourself;
When your thoughts wander off into scarcity;
Diversify your thoughts, actions, reactions and words;
Walk lightly and break patterns that don’t serve;
Keep expanding and growing, reaching;
Steeped in awe;
Listening and looking with rapt attention;
Being who you are in this moment;
Enough and complete;
Unfolding and becoming.
“Great thoughts come from the heart.” – Luc de Clapiers
Take a break from swirling thoughts and think with your heart today.
Filter through empathy, connection and acceptance.
Lay down the chains of opinion and assumption long enough to allow fresh thoughts in.
Build, expand and grow.
Be receptive, moved, transformed.
See what is right in front of you only visible through the heart.
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
“May we have communion with God in the secret of our hearts, and find Him to be to us as a little sanctuary.” – Charles Spurgeon
“Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter.” – Izaak Walton
We are on a shared journey. Some never figure that out. Others live it out. Most are in between. Youth convinces us life is a race, an individual sport, a competition. Weaving in and out, pulling out front, get ahead, win the race. Competition is good when it improves the player, hones talent so gifts can be multiplied. Hard work counts too. But there’s more. That’s the inkling, the soft call of purpose that keeps whispering, there’s more, go deeper.
As the years in front get shorter than years gone by, we realize that the racetrack is tiresome and old. Same circle, no destination. When we move from the race to the journey, we remain fully present in moments, days, months that are filled with detours, delays, joy, disappointments, celebration, discovery, boredom, excitement. The journey requires reflection, patience, forgiveness, resilience and faith to move through the valleys and mountains and the in between, where we reside most of our days. The journey is both an individual and team sport. We are on the path together.
The gift of the shared journey is that we win when we walk along side each other, stand next to each other in quiet reverence and camaraderie. We walk ahead to clear the path. We walk behind to allow others to lead. We walk alongside to remind each other of our presence and connection.
We become the church (not a building or weekly 1-hour obligation) we are called to be when we awaken to this shared journey and walk the path home together to make the journey sweet and meaningful.
“The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician. Therefore the physician must start from nature, with an open mind.” – Paracelsus
“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.” – Emily Dickinson
Last week, I stepped on a rock at an angle that stretched my foot, ankle and knee in a direction that they are not meant to go. I could feel that it was different, not just a tweak, but a jolt, something that would linger.
In the past week, I stopped running, iced and elevated my ankle regularly, wore an ankle brace to steady it to allow for healing. My normal response would have been to tough it out and work through the pain. While a slow learner, I have learned that with an injury like this, resting now will allow for running later.
We try to rush through the healing process, to tough it out, to “be strong.” Healing has its own timeline which requires patience and pause. Patience develops with experience, practice and rigor. If we are patient and rest there for a bit, we come out stronger, allowing healing to do its work in due time.
This morning, I didn’t feel pain in my ankle for the first time. It has more flexibility and range of motion. While I feel better, I’m not going to run 5 miles today, but will add activity gradually to build back up to get into the groove again.
The past year has had a tremendous impact on our collective and individual psyche. It’s important to acknowledge the “injury,” to grieve and most importantly allow for healing. We are coming closer to the end of “pandemic living” and there’s a new fear of going back out there again. Fear and grieving can wear you down and burn you out. Healing and meaning pull us through to the other side of grief, to our near future self that will be stronger, changed and renewed.
In 1969, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote the classic book On Death and Dying describing the five stages of grief in loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Anyone who has lost a loved one knows that the stages are cyclical rather than linear and they show up in various ways at different times.
He states, “The stages have evolved since their introduction and have been very misunderstood over the past four decades. They were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages. They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss as there is no typical loss. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief. Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order. Our hope is that with these stages comes the knowledge of grief ‘s terrain, making us better equipped to cope with life and loss. At times, people in grief will often report more stages. Just remember your grief is as unique as you are.”
Allow your grief, but also allow healing and meaning to greet you with a warm embrace on the other side and in glimpses daily throughout. One day, you’ll wake up and the injury won’t hurt as much anymore. It will still be present but in a different form. Give yourself permission to find joy and light daily as you work your way through and we work our way through together.
“An exchange of empathy provides an entry point for a lot of people to see what healing feels like.” – Tarana Burke
“A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
“Tea time is a chance to slow down, pull back and appreciate our surroundings.” – Letitia Baldrige
It’s going to break into the teens today and 20s this weekend. After two weeks of below zero temps, 20s will be balmy. Dog parking, snowshoeing and running will commence today with a deeper gratitude and appreciation for the outdoors.
The past year of a pandemic, weeks of below zero and weather extremes across the country have steeped us like teabags in hot water. It’s been long enough, the tea leaves have dissipated in the water, there’s no flavor left, pull us out already. The tea is dark and strong.
Our timing and God’s timing are rarely in sync, and God is always on time. While steeped and stuck in the hot water, in the desert and winters of life, rather than longing to be pulled out already, perhaps the answer lies in us listening quietly, observing with rapt attention and opening up our being to receive the cues, clues and signs that we are surrounded with in this present moment.
We have had a combination bootcamp/master class this year in self-awareness and gratitude, the first ingredients to empathy and transformation – the ability to go outside ourselves and see our connectedness to others, awakening to our shared path and grateful for what already is present. Rather than pass hard and fast on the left in a rush to what’s next and new, we can move alongside each other and continue our journey together on our journey to return home to authentic self and becoming.
The only way to the other side is right through the middle. Not around or about but through. We fritter away a lot of time looking for shortcuts and loopholes rather than do the root work of seed germination that’s required to break ground, unfold into bud and burst into beautiful bloom.
Do not forgo this time. Go deep until the tea bag has expended all the flavor into the water. Steep and when it’s time, savor.
“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” – Saint Basil
I have had many conversations in my head with others, things I want to say to “set the record straight,” to “put them in their place,” to “lay it on the line.” Fortunately, I’ve kept most of those where they belong – unsaid. When they’ve escaped and actually came out, regret usually followed. At times, it is appropriate to not be a doormat as well and to speak our own voice.
Our choice is between reacting “in kind” – returning what’s given to us, especially the negativity and criticism or responding “in kindness” – by not returning the same so we don’t turn into that which we want to avoid. Complaint, negativity and criticism are rampant and only create a downward spiral. Gratitude, optimism and hope offer an alternative and multiplies rather than substracts, a whirlwind upward, a deep well to draw from.
So little of what people serve us in negativity, complaint and consternation has anything to do with us. When we take it personally, we allow them to steal our joy. That person who cut you off, the coworker who has a bad attitude and shares it every time you interact with her/him so you do everything to avoid her/him, the family member or friend who triggers that 10 year old in you are all carrying their own burdens and struggles. When we understand this, we have arrived at empathy and understanding and can move out from that place rather than the “what about me?” hole.
Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements are simple rules and principles to follow that can help us respond “in kindness” rather than “in kind,” freeing us from the power and winds of external forces that we allow to permeate our internal state of joy and peace:
Be Impeccable With Your Word.
Don’t Take Anything Personally.
Don’t Make Assumptions.
Always Do Your Best.
As Maya Angelou said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” We can choose to respond with empathy, understanding, positivity and optimism to combat negativity and model a different path that creates contentment and joy, which is in short supply right now.
Choose mindfully and with forethought the energy that you put out into the world. You can be that thread of hope, that beam of light, that source of joy that someone desperately needs from you now.
“I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” – Stephen Grellet
“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – E. M. Forster
Often we assume that things are happening to us rather than for us. Immediately going to “worst-case” scenario thinking, we shut the door on exploration, insight and expansion. Abundance to scarcity in a split second. Assumptions, judgments and the past serve as the lens for the present and a map for the future. How many times have we been “saved” from something in hindsight that at the time felt like we were being “screwed over?”
A woman last week was standing in the middle of the road when Abby, Sasha and I were on the way to the dog park. Her back turned toward me, she was waving her arms to stop a truck. At first, I was irritated that she was in my way, so I turned into the parking lot to go another direction. As I looked closer, she was in the middle of the road because a live wire was down and she was stopping traffic from driving over it. In that moment, I realized how quickly we jump to the wrong conclusions and race to judgment. I was grateful that she just didn’t drive away when she saw it but stood there preventing others from driving over it. Generosity, kindness and empathy in a simple act.
In our need to understand and control, we put everything and everyone in a box that serves our narrow narrative, our biases that experiences often reinforce if they go unchecked. How many awesome people have you never really met because you labeled them before getting to know them?
Amidst the pandemic, civil unrest is surging and anger rising. Rooted in bias, hatred, social inequities, conspiracy theories on all sides, arrogant institutions and political parties that never have learned the necessity to work together to create policies and frameworks for the whole rather than advancing their power and position.
In the days ahead, take a breath, go within and check your own assumptions and biases. Contribute to peace and understanding through reflection, thoughtful discourse and empathy. We always have been and always will be in this together. How we choose to shape the future depends on our individual response and contribution to understanding, peace and solving problems together.
So much is happening “for” us rather than “to” us. See today with fresh, unassuming eyes and make something positive, meaningful and lasting of your time on earth. Be remembered for light, not darkness.
“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.” – Mother Teresa
“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
“The truth is that, given enough time, life bestows its gifts, a drop at a time, if we find the courage to stay open to the mysterious flow that is larger than any one event.” – Mark Nepo, Finding Inner Courage
It’s but one day, but this year, there’s a heavy sigh of relief with the calendar turning to 2021. This new year is an invitation to release the weight of 2020, while holding tight to the plentiful lessons. 2020 has been a master class in empathy, hope, resilience, priorities, generosity, kindness, authenticity, and the power of the human spirit to persevere and overcome.
While “pandemic class” is still in session, the distribution of vaccines offers hope of better days coming soon. And we don’t have to wait for better days when we become prisoners of hope and chasers of joy.
Beyond circumstances or events, even a pandemic, we have a blank page each day to write our own story, to find joy in moments, to break trail, exploring the unknown with optimism, gratitude and wonder.
What story will you write this year? The pen is and always has been in your hands. Pursue, hope and create your own path. Happy New Year!
“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” – Jennifer Lee