by Karin White – YWCA Pierce County
In reflecting on the last two days I was fortunate enough to spend with wonderful leaders in DV and SA work at the Just Futures Gathering, three main points resonated with me. Partly because of the awe I felt at the wisdom, authenticity, and graciousness of the presenters, but also because of how these concepts ring true in my own life.
A little more than a year ago I was at a conference with my colleague. I was tired, per usual. As we discussed a great workshop on organizational wellness, my colleague gave me what is maybe the biggest favor anyone can do for someone they care about—she told me the truth. She pointed out to me what I couldn’t see for myself, which was that I was so burned out, so busy, and so depleted that of course I was intrigued by the idea of wellness. As I took in and sat with these words for awhile, what I realized was that a) she was right (I hate that), and b) I had no idea how to apply to myself the advice I give others all the time.
What ensued was a year-long journey that I am still on, that is focused on what it means to be well; to be whole, whole-hearted, balanced, and ultimately to thrive. Both as an individual and as/in the many roles I play. The idea that life can be joyful, peaceful, vibrant, and fulfilling disappeared for me a long time ago. I was tired to the very marrow in my bones; cynical, pissed, and on auto-pilot. Auto-pilot on overdrive.
I won’t go in to all the details of where this journey has taken me, but here’s what I know for sure: In slowing down, there is grace for myself and those around me. In stepping through the doorway to my own core being and owning it, I minimize the unintended consequences I have on the people around me who I love. In having a colleague who is willing to tell me the truth, to ask me, “so what?” when I make excuses for not taking care of myself, there is space for healing. Working for the empowerment of other women, I somehow lost sight of my own inner power, my own ability to be my best self.
How often do we want for others what we make excuses for when it comes to ourselves? Every damn day. If we are to slingshot forward as a movement, we must be ready to slingshot forward our own lives. It’s ugly, painful, raw, and the best thing that ever happened to me! And you know what I learned? Some pretty awesome stuff:
- I am alive and have the innate ability to embrace my life.
- I am not alone; I have a “power grid” of those who came before me and will come after, and of those who walk beside me to inspire and tell me the truth.
- I can feel joy; I numb out joy when I numb out pain—feeling both makes my life richer.
- I can have love; if I don’t have it for myself, I can’t have it for anyone else, or really get it from anyone else.
- I can access my own internal resource (core, center, resilience, soul—call it whatever works for you); any time, any place, for any reason I want or need.
I’m not a poster child for wellness by any means. What I know is true is this: when I slow down and breathe, when I step through the doorway toward my own inner power, when I ask myself “so what?” and quit making excuses for ignoring my own needs, then—ONLY then, can I bring my best self into the work that I love and believe in, that I think will someday change the world.
“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” –Albert Camus