Doing our best has to be enough

Decisions. Choices.

We make them many times, every day.

Big or small, we inevitably spend some time asking ourselves; Is this the right choice? Can I do better?

In the end, no matter how much thinking I put into a problem, or how many angles and perspectives I consider when attempting to resolve a situation, I can’t avoid the decision. I have to make the best choice I can with the information I have.

It is something I am learning as a leader.

It’s vital to gather as much information as possible to support making a decision. Timing, as they say, is everything. Gathering information cannot override making a decision. Decisions must be made.

To make sound decisions, I must be open to listening, hearing, asking, seeing as many sides of the issue as possible. And in that process, I must trust that whatever the decision, I am doing my best.

The challenge is, whatever the decision it will probably not sit well with some. I must choose for the well-being of the many.

And that can be hard for a veteran people-pleaser.

I want to believe that whatever I’m doing, people will buy into it. They will see I am acting with good intent. That it is a decision not made lightly, or without thought of all the consequences.

But sometimes, people can’t see that. They can only see from their perspective. Through their lens, which is filtered through their feelings, experiences, beliefs, history.

When I first stepped into this role of being Interim Executive Director at the family homeless shelter where I work, a very dear friend said to me, “It’s lonely at the top. No matter what the situation, the final decision is yours.”  He went on to add, “You won’t be able to please all of the people all of the time. You have to become comfortable with that.”

My friend was right.

Awhile ago, there was an incident that required very difficult decisions. No matter what I chose, lives would be impacted.

I had to choose the best thing for the many, which though difficult to see for the one most impacted, was the right thing for all.

We cannot see what we do not know and what we know is always grounded in what we see as true.

When we are in pain, when fear is riding roughshod over our state of mind, it is hard to see alternatives and possibilities from where we stand mired in fear.

With our brains contracted by thoughts of all that can go wrong, of all that has gone wrong, of all that is wrong in whatever the situation, we focus on the darkness creating worst case stories that block our view of the possibilities that exist, even in the darkness. Seeing only catastrophe, we, leave ourselves with few options other than to stand still, run away, fight back or give in.

There is a fifth dimension.

When we acknowledge our lizard brain, or critter as I like to call him, is limiting our view, we create space for our higher thinking to step in.

When we breathe through our fear of whatever’s going on, of making a wrong move or upsetting everyone with our choices, we create space for all of our higher thinking to turn up. In that space, we are free to engage with our brain’s higher functioning capabilities, awakening our capacity for whole-brain thinking, judgement and thoughtful action to take hold. No longer fearing we are enough, or are ‘wrong’, we see the possibilities to create better. We see pathways we’ve never seen before and options we’ve never considered.

In that place, we are able to make choices based on possibility not fear, to see opportunity not dead-ends and to embrace hope not hopelessness. In that place, we are able to make the best decisions we can without fearing our decisions are wrong, because we know it’s not about right and wrong, it’s about trusting in ourselves.

In that place we can act compassionately, with integrity, even in the midst of pain and fear.

I am learning to let go of my fear of making decisions that impact other people’s lives. It’s an essential part of becoming a leader.

it’s been a beautiful, challenging and growth-filled journey, not without its ups and downs. Always with its possibilities because what I’ve learn is key to living my life with integrity, compassion and joy. What I’ve learn is: doing my best has to be enough.

 

 

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Love is always here

Photo by Alexis M.

Last Friday, we celebrated my grandson’s first birthday. Along with his parents, grandparents, family and friends, Love was there.

I watch my daughter and son-in-love as they parent him and I stand in awe. Everything about him and his life is grounded in Love.

There is no end to it. No beginning. There is only Love.

I try to reach back into my own life and wonder, was Love always present?

Beyond the life-happenings, the mis-steps and wrong directions. The hurts and pains and ups and downs, was I so blessed by Love?

There is only one answer. Yes.

No matter our human condition, no matter the circumstances of our birth, the environments in which we grew up, all our lives are blessed by Love.

It is always present. Without beginning or end.

It does not judge our human condition. It does not withdraw itself or pervert its presence because of who we are or what we do. Love is Love and Love is always Present.

I am reminded of an exercise on self-love.

No matter what is happening, self-love creates space to name what you are feeling by acknowledging its presence and to remember, no matter what feeling is running through you in this moment, so is Love.

The exercise begins with a statement of what emotion is present without being that emotion. Rather than, I am angry, the statement is, Anger is present and then ending with an affirmation to Love.  For example:

Anger is present. So is Love.
Fear is here. So is Love.
Disappointment is present. So is Love.
Sadness is here. So is Love.

It’s important to acknowledge the feelings, without owning them or judging them, and then to acknowledge what else is present, always and forever. Love.  In that space, grace descends and acceptance expands to embrace all of you, darkness and light, yin and yang, beauty and the beast, in Love.

Love doesn’t need us to be anything other than how we are in each moment. And if in that moment anger is present, Love accepts its presence without fear of it being present forever. Love knows, all things pass, all things change except that which is always present, always here. Love.

Without beginning or end. Love is always here.

I spent five days with my grandson. it was a time to celebrate. To cherish. To savour. It was, as it always is, a time to Love.

Namaste.

 

The Courage to Fly

Sometime ago, I attended a workshop at a hotel downtown. When I arrived, I wasn’t sure where to go and approached a waitress I saw setting up a table in the lobby restaurant. As I approached, she looked at me, smiled and said, “Louise. How wonderful to see you.”

“Hi!” I replied, glancing at her name tag. “Claire*. I know I know you but I can’t remember from where.”

She smiled. Glanced around to see if anyone was within earshot. “From the shelter,” she said. “I was a client there years ago.”

My eyes widened in wonder. “Wow! I wouldn’t have recognized you. You look fabulous,” I told her.

And she did. Her once gaunt face had filled out. Her eyes sparkled. Claire, when I knew her many years ago at the shelter was a crack addict. While there, she drifted in and out of sobriety, in and out of rehab with never a stint of sobriety lasting longer than a couple of weeks.

When high, she flitted like a butterfly, laughing and joking with everyone.

When coming down, she drifted through the room like a wounded sparrow, dragging a broken wing, fluttering feebly, fearful it would never fly again.

When sober, she volunteered. Helped out where ever she could, constantly staying busy in the hope she would not succumb to the call of the drugs eating at her peace of mind. “I want to be sober,” she told me often. “I really want it, but I’m too scared to let go of the drugs.”

She’s been clean and sober for several years.

“I’m loving it,” she told me. “Love being sober. Love getting to know me again,” she laughed. “I was too afraid to do that before.” She glanced upwards, pointed above. “It’s a miracle. I’d be dead by now if He hadn’t found me lying in the dirt and picked me up. I am so grateful for His Love.”

Claire’s sobriety was hard work. Rehab. Fall. Rehab. Fall. Until one day, there was no more falling. No more rehab.

“There were so many people who made a difference on my journey,” she said. “I say thank you every day.”

We chatted for a bit. My eyes welled up several times as she told me about her journey, her letting go and surrendering to Love.

As we said good-bye, she gave me a hug. “I’ve always wanted to thank you for being so kind. You always treated everyone with respect. It meant a lot. You reminded me of what was possible even when I was high and running scared.”

I wanted to brush off her compliment. To slip away and let it slide off me.

I chose not to. I chose instead to let her words lift me up and to give her my appreciation for sharing her story with me.

“Thank you,” I said. “Your words mean a lot to me. Seeing you has reminded me to never let go of hope. To always believe in the beauty of the human spirit. I’m so glad you are alive.”

There are no accidents even though running into Claire felt like one at the time.

In Claire’s story I was reminded of the magnificence of the human spirit when it soars free of limiting thoughts and behaviours that tie us to the belief we do not deserve Love. Chatting with Claire reminded that we are all at times like a bird with a broken wing, desperately trying to take flight. It is only when we do the hard work of letting go and falling into Love, that we set ourselves free.

In Love’s embrace, we are safe in our humanity. In Love, even broken wings find the courage to fly.

Namaste.

* not her real name

No one is meant to be alone. Especially in the end.

I told your story yesterday old friend. I told your story and shared your voice with strangers. Just like you wanted. Just like you knew I would those days when you shared stories of your life on the road and laughed and teased and flirted.

Remember? You said you wanted to be remembered. Oh. Not for the word you carried that named you. Oh no. Never that harsh and judgmental label – homeless. It didn’t sit well with you. Call me anything but that, you said.

And then you laughed. Because I’m not, you know. I’ve got a home. Here. And your rheumy eyes glistened and I saw the longing for home shining.

I told them of your brother. Of your reuniting. Of the missing years that had no need of filling in. Of the tears and the joy. And finally, I told these strangers who had never met you, but wished they had, of your brother’s hand holding yours in those final moments. Of your passing over filled with grace in the love of a brother who never forgot you and never gave up on finding you before it was too late.

You blessed my world my friend. You blessed me with your laughter and your words and your insistence you would fight this. You would win. You would beat it. Not even life can beat me down you said. And it didn’t. At least not life itself. You were so full of it. So completely engaged in it. And then, you were gone.

In the end, you won. In the beauty and the tragedy of your life, you found the thing you most sought. That thing we all yearn for. That place we all want to be. Held forever in the arms of Love.

Yesterday I told your story and I smiled and laughed and remembered you just the way you wanted to be remembered. Determined. Feisty. Laughing and just a little bit naughty.

Tell them about the man I was, you said. Tell them about the man with dreams and big ideas and an eye for the ladies.

You winked when you said that. You always winked when you flirted.

Tell them about the man who could lift bales of hay with one hand and change a flat tire in three minutes flat. Don’t tell them about the skin and bones, the skeleton rattling around a small cubicle room where all I own fits into a 2×6 foot locker. Leave the ending out, would you?

Remember me for the man I was. The man who did it his way. The one who told himself he never needed anyone and found out, in the end, he was grateful to be wrong. Make sure they know that, you said. Make sure they know. No one is meant to be alone. Especially in the end.

I told your story yesterday old friend and you were remembered and eyes glistened and hearts drew near and warmed their hands in the glow of your closeness and I knew, you were there. Laughing. Caring. Sharing your stories and your funny jokes and not so delicate ones too.

You are not forgotten my friend.

It is cold and frosty outside today. Inside, my world is warm and toasty. Beaumont sleeps on the chaise behind me. My beloved lays in our bed. The furnace hums. The river flows past, its ripples glistening in the light that shines from the bridge above. The bridge that connects two sides of the river flowing past.

The world outside my window is wintry white as once the screen lay flat and white before me. Until your memory filled it.

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I ran into an old work colleague yesterday. We laughed and chatted and talked about people we knew. Those who are still with us. Those who are gone.

“It’s good to remember the good of that place,” my colleague said. “That way we let go of what we do not need to carry.”

Wise words, I thought. And I remembered a man who once stayed at that place. His name was Terry. He is gone but the lesson he taught remains.

In remembering, I searched for something I’d written of him a year after he passed.

No one is meant to be alone., he said. Especially in the end.

The air is frigid outside my window. Arctic air encompasses the city.

There are those who are outside in this cold, struggling to survive.

If you are in Calgary and see someone in distress, please call the DOAP team — 403-998-7388

If you are in another city, please check with your local shelters if there’s a number you can call, or call 9-1-1