And now, others look to me. Surreal doesn't begin to cover it.
I have one member who wants me to spell it out for her, the way I wanted it spelled out for me. She asks me a million questions at every meeting. Sometimes, I feel very sage and wise when I'm talking to her. Sometimes I just feel exhausted. But always, I give her my full attention. That does not, however, mean that I give her the answers she is seeking. That frustrates her. And because I care very much about being perceived as a "good" Leader, her frustration weighs on me. I worry that she doesn't feel she's getting what she needs from me.
But I know. I know from my own journey that this has to be a realization process for her. Every adult has, in the deepest corner of their psyche, a child; huddled and vulnerable. And children don't learn from being told. They learn by discovery. So all of us learn through evolution, not revolution. (I know, that's friggen brilliant isn't it?? But I can't take credit, our CEO David Kirchoff said it in a Town Hall meeting held here recently after a book signing)
So she has been struggling. And I have been struggling with how to help her without doing it for her. Parents, understand, don't we? We do want to do it for them. We want to make it easier. We want to keep them from getting hurt, making mistakes, having regrets. But we know that we can cripple them with love and good intentions. Nobody ever learned a thing by being perfect. Mistakes, missteps and failures are what shape us. I know this as a mother and I know this as a Leader. But it's not easy for me in either capacity.
But she isn't giving up. She's high maintenance, but she's tenacious. And scrappy. I like that about her. She's about the same age as my Mom, but very, very different in temperament. But the determination, that's the same. She knows my Mom's story. I shared it with her when she expressed her fear that her age would work against her and make her journey a fruitless one. That day, she offered to be my surrogate Mom. Her kids are far away, and she'd be glad of the opportunity to mother somebody in need. It's so kind of her. The offer touched me and I told her so, but without quite speaking the words that would affirm acceptance of her offer. I need my Mom. And nobody else will do, kindly though their intentions may be.
Today she had a breakthrough. The things she's learned are starting to come together and make a tangible difference where it matters most to all of us who share this journey - on the scale. After weeks of incremental losses, she experienced a very significant one.
I was seated in the meeting room trying to resolve some audio visual issues when she came swooping in, high on success, beaming with victory. Before I knew what was happening, she had swept me up in a hug and planted a kiss on my cheek. Then, seeing the prints left behind by her painted pout, she licked her thumb and scrubbed it away. The she hugged me again, hard, and held me for a beat. It was not a perfunctory hug; ((kissy kissy squeeze and part)) It was genuine and heartfelt. And....completely shocking to me, as a person with very strict personal boundaries. I don't hug or kiss those to whom I am not related or married and even though I've learned that it's the norm here in the South, I'm still often taken aback when others do it to me.
She pulled back with an apology on her lips, my shock no doubt telegraphed through my rigid limbs as she held me.
"Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry. You know what they call me? Hurricane *Sandy, because I just blow through without any thought to those in my path!" She giggled self-consciously...her eyes searching mine.
I reached for her hands, and held them for a moment. It was a strange thing for me, this small intimacy with a stranger, discomfiting and foreign, but also...solid and warm and real.
"*Sandy...it's okay. And I'm so proud of you. I knew you would get there, because you are every bit as unstoppable as that Hurricane that's brewing out there right now! And you know what? You remind me a lot of my Mom."
And in that moment...she did. Different yes, but at the core, so very much the same. Strong, indomitable, unwilling to accept defeat.
She asked "Can I hug you again?" I nodded my assent and she embraced me, gently this time, with restraint. She whispered "Thank You" into my ear. I wasn't entirely sure what exactly she was thanking me for, but it didn't really matter just then.
It made me smile thinking about it later and it makes me smile now as I write this. Hurricane *Sandy indeed...
So...there's no moral here, no pithy ending all tied up nicely with a metaphoric bow. Just a little anecdote about how I survived a Hurricane.
Sorry to disappoint.
*Name changed to protect her privacy