The most difficult lesson of this Fellowship to date: how to find the courage to let go, to surrender, and to breathe into uncertainty with all the discomfort that comes with it. This lesson has been attempting to reach me in all kinds of ways since I started in community in September. Every time I try to predict what will happen next, it fails miserably, and also delightfully in the unexpected little successes and steps forward that show up in the most surprising ways. I’ve gone through cycles of attachment and detachment to outcomes of processes, people’s emotional states and reactions, and my own understanding of my perceived purpose and role in community. I’ve obsessed over how “successful” my time has been so far, and then have let that obsession go, and then have stepped back into constantly comparing myself to others in toxic ways. Reflecting on this constant battle I have been a part of the past 5 months, I am hoping that this blog post will serve as a final letting go process for me so that, like the quote above says, I can reach a place of peace and happiness as I continue to move through the second half of my Fellowship experience.
In community we’ve gone through a tumultuous, emotional, conflict-ridden process around defining a community held vision for Hearts & Hands. This process, since we have continued to try to make it as participatory and inclusive as possible, has taken months. It has been extremely difficult for me being in community and watching how this slow unfolding has impacted people’s wellbeing. For some individuals, this process has consumed them and has made them feel much less motivated to contribute to Hearts & Hands moving forward. As an empathetic person, and as someone who is always drawn to trying to “make better”, watching this unfold has fed my inner-critic in incredibly powerful ways. I leave community constantly questioning how I can alleviate people’s suffering, believing if I just “work harder” I will be able to find the creative solution that will cause people to shift to a more optimistic place allowing us to plow forward leaving all these tensions behind. In my last blog post, I talked about how it feels like I’m on a “hero’s journey”, and while I believe in the importance of being the heroes of our own stories, these days I’ve been trying to be the hero of everyone else’s. This perspective is not helpful. By wanting to “save” community members from their own struggle, I’m actually interfering with the multitude of ways that I believe this process is serving them.
The latest mantra has been: “I’m okay if ____ is not okay”, where the blank is filled with the names of those I work with, “Hearts & Hands”, or “the outcome”. It’s about internalizing the fact that even if everyone I interact with is angry and upset, and even if Hearts & Hands falls apart, I am still okay because those outcomes are not a reflection of how “good” of a person I am and are entirely out of my control. People’s projections, while they may be directed at me, are not actually about me. It’s leaning into the fact that this process is infinitely bigger than me, and yes I’ve catalyzed this opening by being here, but the way it unfolds and manifests is totally out of my control, and exactly what this community needs. I cannot “fix” or “alleviate” the tensions, I cannot predict what’s going to happen, and I cannot control the way that people are showing up to help them transition from being barriers to active contributors.
Wise words by Brené Brown!
The community may be ready to step forward tomorrow, and they may be ready to step forward a year from now, and they may never step forward. While I can logically navigate this in my head, it has been incredibly difficult to let go of even the hope that people suddenly come full circle in the immediate future. It hasn’t been that I’ve been actively trying to control the situation, it’s that I’ve so badly wanted to just push a button, pull a particular string, or have some sort of major influence to allow the community to move forward. I’ve wanted to control outcomes, I’ve wanted to force, push, catalyze, and I’ve lost sleep over trying to come up with the creative breakthrough that will allow these things to happen. No, I have not taken any action with the intention to control, but it has been extremely difficult to channel neutrality and to let go of my own frustrations with how stuck we currently are. This is, for lack of a better term, the “low point”, and I’m tired of living here.
What I can control, and what I’m trying to actively focus on controlling, is the way I show up. I can control the value that I place on my own work, I can control the degree to which I allow compassion to win out over frustration, I can control how I spend my time so that I am prioritizing activities that bring me life and energy, and I can control how authentic and vulnerable I am in times of struggle. It is time for me to let go of my desperate attempt to fix, save, and control. It is time to surrender to the bigger learning that is trying to show up here about trust and about needing to focus on saving myself rather than trying to save everyone else around me. I know that until I let go, surrender, and breathe into the uncertainty that presents itself, I will be stuck in this low point of feeling like my presence in this community is causing turmoil and doubting my ability to have any sort of impact…so I am letting go now, hoping that I can finally get to feel that “sweet spot”, that freedom that comes with getting on the ride without any indication of how it’s going to end.
Letting go….letting go.