After sharing my last Musing About Practical Presence, I had someone ask “So what does Practical Presence look like in the real world?” In thanking her for asking, I told her I was pretty sure she wasn’t the only one with that question!
So I figured in this Musing I’d share with you the story of a woman who’d been part of one of my introductory Realizing RICH Relationships classes. After completing that program, several of this group decided they wanted more – they wanted to Dive Deeper.
Over the last several years I’ve coached them individually and together as a group. Each in their unique way is making a difference in our world. All have powerful stories, and today, I’m choosing to share this one.
When she first joined the group she was working as a successful consultant. She’d always received high accolades from the people she’d worked for in a field that was both technical and male dominated. And she’d done this while single parenting two children, now adults with their own careers and families – so she wasn’t a stranger to challenges!
After I’d been partnering with her for a while, a number of events came together pointing her in the direction of leaving all she’d built on one coast, and saying ‘yes’ to traveling across the country to offer her considerable skills to an organization that was dear to her heart, and had been a powerful influence in her own life.
She had a clear sense of her contribution in furthering its mission and vision. She could feel in her bones this was possible, and we were all excited for her.
|Less than perfect … and still loved and welcomed …|
One of the illusions many people have is that if you’re in the ‘right’ place things will go well, and that things getting challenging means you’ve made a ‘wrong’ choice.
And it’s not surprising that we think this, because in these challenging moments, we often experience our understandable human fight or flight response to danger, where our impulse to fight back, or give up often kicks in.
While I’m all for paying attention to those impulses, and taking swift action when there IS danger, I believe Life is calling us to discern and make different choices when that’s not the case. Thankfully this woman knew better than to buy into the illusion that things becoming challenging necessarily means you’ve made a ‘wrong’ choice, because after the initial honeymoon period in her new job, things didn’t work out as she’d hoped.
Rather than the collegial working partnerships she’d experienced in the past, her boss, the same leader whose work and wisdom inspired her to say ‘yes’ to this in the first place, began to not only challenge, but berate and belittle her ideas, and question her personal and professional judgment and expertise.
It’s not hard to imagine the human reactions she experienced in the face of this. It took enormous wisdom and courage for her to navigate this journey. It was definitely NOT one that she could or should have tried to go alone on – and thankfully she didn’t!
Clearly this was a time for building her capacity for Practical Presence – one that required her commitment to practice this, as well as (how many times have you heard me say this?!) her connection with a supportive community!
As she often told me, our Coaching calls, along with the encouragement, support and celebration of the others in her Diving Deeper group were lifelines for her in those challenging days.
One practice that often played a part of our coaching conversations was the invitation to focus on the C in RICH, where that C stands for courage.
You might want to try this on as you reflect on a current challenge of yours.
When things are feeling swirly and shaky, check in with yourself in 3 directions – down (like into the earth), horizontally (all around you), and up and out (like a V).
In trying to make this more real (and practical) for you, I’ll share some of the ways this showed up for her:
- Having her attention and courage focused down – Her understandable first human reaction to her boss’s attacks was feeling hurt and misunderstood. In the repeated disappointments she experienced she’d often feel angry and frustrated saying “how many times will this happen, what will it take for him to truly see me, and hear and understand what I’m saying?” Rather than continuing to live in reaction to her boss’s attacks, she would practice being anchored into her integrity and truly living from her fierce commitment to her own loving heart. As she did this she recognized in her growing up that her “younger self had been slapped out of her knowing so many times … and back then I had no way of protecting myself.” Here now, as a wise adult, she would courageously practice standing for and encouraging this tender part of herself. One of the things she anchored into was her deep knowing that “Life is holding my hand … there’s something here that’s not done … I hope neither one of us gets scared and walks away before it gets played out.”
- Having her attention and courage fan out horizontally – Practicing Notice-Accept-Nurture in the midst of those emotional firestorms called her to pay attention to what was happening inside and around her. And without denying or turning away from what was actually happening, courageously discern what it meant for her to nurture herself in those painful moments when her ideas, and personal and professional judgment were being so painfully criticized and dismissed. She had many opportunities to attend to and mentor those younger parts of her that had early in her life come to believe she “had to be perfect in order to be loved, that others only paid attention to me when I am perfect, and if I’m not perfect I won’t be welcomed in the world.” Even though as an adult she could cognitively know this not to be true, transforming this deeply embedded, mostly unconscious bias didn’t happen overnight!
Like the Phoenix, standing in the firewithout getting burned …
- The third direction of courage was focusing her attention up and out (like a V) – As all this was going on, Life was calling her to hold the vision of what she knew in her bones she was committed to co-creating in our world. As she said to me once “What’s my ‘yes’ here? I’m determined to sing every note of every line of the song I came here to sing.” A crucial part of our working and walking together over this period was my ongoing invitation for her to recognize that as painful as all this was, rather than it being an indicator of something being wrong, much of the pain she was experiencing was related to the birth pangs of her greatness being called out of her. She was being prepared for her next step in ‘singing the song she’s come here to sing’.
Rather than focusing on what she longed to have happen and wasn’t, she learned to stand with what actually was, and nurture herself right there, while holding the vision of possibility she knew she was called to be part of.
To her delight, over time she discovered that like the Phoenix, she could “stand in the fire with her heart open, clearly speaking her perspective, without getting burned.”
Once she got this in her body, she knew she was truly free.
So when the time came and she recognized that though they’d accomplished a number of the shared short term goals, it was obvious that for his own reasons her boss was some combination of unable and unwilling to co-create with her a longer term vision for building that community. It became clear to both of them it was time for her to leave.
She did so with integrity and without burning bridges. She now continues to stand courageously, continuing to be the powerful feminine leader she is – building bridges of connection and respectful relationships, and standing in the fire without getting burned.
As she said recently, “just because there are no laws against emotional and psychological violence, does that make it ok? I was forewarned going to work there. And yet I had no idea how difficult some experiences would be. I also learned a lot. And because of my experience I want to work to create a more healthy relationship with anger and rage, for all of us. How we deal with it now (or don’t deal with it) is not helpful to anyone. We can’t stop anger and rage. We are human. We can change how we deal with it. We can acknowledge some expression of it as emotional and psychological violence and decide how to behave with one another in the face of it.”
There are so many systemic problems in our world that need to be addressed. With the capacity for Practical Presence she has developed, she’s much more able to play her part in doing just that.
It is this kind of coaching partnership that makes my heart sing! It’s such an incredible privilege to walk with wise and courageous individuals like this woman. And the delight of knowing that there are more and more of us able to stand and make our unique contribution – creating RICH(er), juicy relationships with ourselves, others, and all of life are steps in the fulfillment of the vision that I hold.
If any of this feels resonant for you, and you’re looking for a way of creating (or perhaps deepening) connection with me and some of our Realizing RICH Relationships community, I hope you’ll consider joining us on Tuesday July 24, from 8-9 pm ET. It’s our usual 4th Tuesday of the month no cost, At Home with Maralyn & Friends call – the EVENING version. Remember, you only need to register once for these calls, if you’ve not yet done so and would like to, click here.