Me in the Middle of Leadership Part III (Reblog)

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 The past ten months of the presidency under the current administration has left many exasperated and alarmed about where we’re heading as a country.  Last year, when I decided to do this Leadership series, I was getting increasingly alarmed as the campaign for Election 2016 was drawing to a close.  What kind of Leadership does the United States of America need during these critical times?  Each of the three posts are long yet provocative and inspiring.  (You can read the comments on the original post 10/2016 Part III HERE

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 This is the third post on what qualities make a good Leader  The first ~ What Kind of Leadership is Needed for Our Time by Heather Plett ~ looked at Leaders as Host rather than Leaders as Heroes.  The second ~ Are We Winners or Losers by Arthur Rashap ~ looked at winning and losing and how to play life’s infinite game. 

My good intentions have been not to get political on this blog.  I hope to explore these qualities without picking a particular candidate or bashing a particular candidate.  It seems the campaign season here in America has gotten way off track.  It’s become almost impossible to explore what Leadership means much less what kind of Leadership America needs at this time.
Today I’ve chosen a post by Andrea Schulman @ www.raiseyourvibrationtoday.com.   I’d love to hear what you think about Andrea’s thoughts on Ego and the qualities to look for in our Leaders.
“To the ego mind, there is no connection. There are only winners and losers, and the ego desperately wants to win.”
“Put your ego in the passenger seat to enjoy the ride of life, but let your higher perspective do the driving. Everything is going to be just fine in the end.”

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9 Ways to Check Your Ego When It’s Out of Control

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By Andrea Schulman | Raise Your Vibration Today 

Do you worry that you may be ego-driven? It happens to most of us at some point, so you aren’t alone!

To understand if you are ego-driven, it can help to understand what your ego is. The ego isn’t who you are, but rather it is just a fragment of your consciousness.

What is the ego?

See, there are several aspects that make up who you are as a conscious being.  One, is the loving light that makes up your soul. This is the part of you that is strongly connected to the divine (and therefore connected to every other being as well).

The other, is your ego, or the mask you wear that tells you that you are different from others.  Your ego is your self-image in this physical reality. Because the ego observes your separation from others, it is often the part of you that seeks to protect you from others, rather than connect you with them.

The ego isn’t a “bad” thing, and it isn’t something you should try to get rid of. In fact, your ego does serve a very powerful purpose. It allows you to perceive the world from a unique, differentiated perspective. Without the ego, it would probably be pretty hard to root down into this physical world, and have this experience as a separate, human consciousness.

When an ego is out of control.

With that being said, sometimes the ego does a lot more of the driving in life than is useful. An ego-driven person frequently pushes down the higher, loving aspect of him or herself and allows the ego to take primary control.

The ego-driven person usually measures his or herself from a competitive viewpoint.  For this reason, ego-driven people are often in hot pursuit of being ” “stronger than,” “smarter than,” “richer than” or some other element of “better than” other people. 

This is born out of the desire to protect the self, but left unchecked the ego-self can become a tyrant. An out-of-control ego forgets entirely about the importance of unity, love and our ability to connect with others in meaningful and fulfilling ways.

To the ego mind, there is no connection. There are only winners and losers, and the ego desperately wants to win.

How to check your ego when it’s out of control.

So, what do you do when you feel your competitive ego taking more control over your life than you’d like? How do you check your ego, and allow more of your love and kindness to shine through?

Here are 9 easy ways to check your ego. Next time you find yourself caught up in the rat race of “winners and losers” try one of them out!

1. Remember, we’re not all perfect.

The ego is quick to point out other people’s mistakes and missteps. When you find yourself judging the actions of others, understand that is the ego at play. Step back into the loving aspect of yourself by remembering that you make mistakes too, and you appreciate it when people love you in spite of them.

2. Remind yourself that people often act out when they are hurting.

There’s nothing more annoying to an ego-driven person than another ego-driven person! However, it’s possible to check your ego even in the presence of someone else who is fully ego-driven. Just remember that those who are ego-driven are often acting out of fear or pain. Their competitive natures are typically driven by the threats they perceive from the outside world. When people are hurting or scared, they often step into the ego-self for protection.

3. List out the things that are most important to you in life.

Think about what you want to look back on when you are on your deathbed. The achievements and experiences you ultimately wish to have will likely resonate much more strongly with your higher self than with your ego.

4. Practice gratitude for the things you already have.

The ego is more concerned with what he or she doesn’t have, as again, the ego is very worried about coming up short. Gratitude reminds you of all of the ways you are supported and abundant, and therefore have no reason to worry about losing.

5. Think back on a time someone showed you they really loved you.

Looking back on loving memories is an excellent way to connect back into your higher self. Just thinking about being connected in love is often enough to tap you in to your higher knowing.

6. Help someone less fortunate than yourself.

Helping those less fortunate than yourself reminds you that you really don’t like for people to lose in life. The loving aspect of yourself wants everyone to win. When one of us loses, we all lose!

7. Give someone a long hug.

The simple act of connecting with another person in a loving manner can help bring you back into resonance with the loving aspects of yourself.

8. Meditate, to center back into the loving part of yourself.

The ego thrives on mental clutter and fearful, worrisome thoughts. Clear out the mental clutter with meditation.

9. Play devil’s advocate for the people you are arguing with or competing against.

Why might they be right? Why might it be good for them to “win” instead of you? Playing devil’s advocate allows you to connect with another person’s perspective, rather than separate from it.

Keep your perspective as high as possible, but respect your ego too!

Remember, we all have an ego, and that’s ok. You aren’t supposed to be without an ego, and it does serve a very powerful and important purpose. Without an ego, it’s unlikely that we would have a separate sense of self in this human experience.

The ego makes the game of life a lot more exciting and interesting. An ego allows you  to view reality like a movie, with you getting to be one of the characters.

With that being said, a life driven entirely by the ego can be a very sad and unfortunate one. Our ability to connect, to love, and to laugh together is what makes this human experience so wonderful and enjoyable. When we allow our egos to take control in life, we disconnect from the most satisfying elements of life. It’s like we forget it’s all just a movie, and we take things much more seriously than we need to.

A life driven entirely by the ego is one filled with pain, anger and frustration.

You are infinite and eternal, and everything is going to be ok.

Ultimately, we are connected to every being on the planet, and beyond. We are all connected to an infinite source consciousness. In fact we all ultimately ARE infinite source consciousness.

This means, in the end, there is nothing to fear, and nothing we need protection from. Everything that makes up this universe is us, and we it.

This reality is simply a platform we’ve created to play around in and experience. The threats our ego perceive exist only in the illusion that is this physical reality.  All of the struggle, and all of the pain is just a part of the ride. It isn’t anything we really need protection from, in the end, as it is our own creation.

Again, it’s just like watching a movie. There’s a lot more going on when the show’s over! See yourself as a character in the movie, enjoying the ride, but keep that inner knowing that you are connected to something far greater than this individual life experience. 

Remember, we’re all in this together. We are all one, therefore we are all actually safe as infinite, eternal beings. Your ego will try to get you to forget this, but your higher perspective knows this well.

Put your ego in the passenger seat to enjoy the ride of life, but let your higher perspective do the driving. Everything is going to be just fine in the end.

XO, Andrea

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Steve Winwood ~ Higher Love

 

Me in the Middle of Leadership Part I (Reblog)

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The past ten months of the presidency under the current administration has left many exasperated and alarmed about where we’re heading as a country.  Last year, when I decided to do this Leadership series, I was getting increasingly alarmed as the campaign for Election 2016 was drawing to a close.  What kind of Leadership does the United States of America need during these critical times?  Each of the three posts are long yet provocative and inspiring.  Beginning with Part I, I’d like to invite you to comment below on this critical question (You can read the comments on the original post 10/2016 HERE.) :

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This post, along with my next two posts, is going to help me explore my thoughts about what qualities make a good leader.

My good intentions have been not to get political on this blog.  I hope to explore these qualities without picking a particular candidate or bashing a particular candidate.  It seems the campaign season here in America has gotten way off track.  It’s become almost impossible to explore what Leadership means much less what kind of Leadership America needs at this time.

Today I’ve chosen a post by Heather Plett @ www.heatherplett.com.   I’d love to hear what you think of Heather’s definition of Leadership and the qualities to look for in that person.

“We need leaders – at ALL levels of our governments, institutions, communities, and families – who can dance with complexity, play with possibility, and sit with their fear. We need leaders who can navigate the darkness. We need leaders who can hold seemingly opposing views and not lose sight of the space in between. We need leaders who know how to hold liminal space.” 

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What kind of leadership is needed for our time?
By Heather Plett ~ www.heatherplett.com

“Can’t you just give us clear direction so we know what’s expected of us?” That question was asked of me ten years ago by a staff person who was frustrated with my collaborative style of leadership. He didn’t want collaboration – he simply wanted direction and clarity and top-down decision making.

What I read between the lines was this: “It makes me feel more safe when I know what’s expected of me.” And maybe a little of this: “If you’re the one making decisions and giving directions, I don’t have to share any collective responsibility. If anything goes wrong, I can blame the boss and walk away with my reputation intact.”

I didn’t change my leadership style, but it made me curious about what different people want from leadership and why. While that staff person was expressing a desire for more direction, others on my team were asking for more autonomy and decision-making power. It seemed impossible to please everyone.

I’ve been thinking back to that conversation lately as I watch the incredulous rise to power of Donald Trump. No matter how many sexist comments he makes, no matter how many people with disabilities he makes fun of, and no matter how many small business owners he cheated, his support base remains remarkably solid. As he himself has said, he “could shoot someone and not lose votes”. (I’m glad I’m no longer teaching a course on public relations, because he’s breaking all of the “rules” I used to teach and getting away with it.)

It seems implausible that this could happen, but this article on Trump’s appeal to authoritarian personalities helps me make sense of it. 

“‘Trump’s electoral strength — and his staying power — have been buoyed, above all, by Americans with authoritarian inclinations,” political scientist Matthew MacWilliams wrote in Politico. In an online poll of 1,800 Americans, conducted in late December, he found an authoritarian mindset — that is, belief in absolute obedience to authority — was the sole “statistically significant variable” that predicted support for Trump.”

“Authoritarians obey,” says the author of the study, “They rally to and follow strong leaders. And they respond aggressively to outsiders, especially when they feel threatened.”

Authoritarians hold strong values around safety, and they expect a leader to give them what they need. They don’t mind following a bully, as long as that bully is serving THEIR needs for security. Hence the popularity of Trump’s proposals to build a wall on the Mexican border and to keep Muslims from entering the country. They might even put up with some of the bullying directed at people like them (hence the surprising tolerance of Trump’s behaviour among his female supporters) if it means those who threaten them are kept at bay. Take, for example, the times when Trump told security to throw the protesters out of the places where he was campaigning – he made his supporters feel safe because he was roughing up “the enemy”.

Where does an authoritarian mindset come from? According to the article quoted above, there is evidence that it is passed down from one generation to the next. Religious views can also play a strong role. Those who were conditioned by upbringing and religion to obey the authority figures at all cost are more likely to vote for someone who reflects that kind of leadership. If you grew up never allowed to question authority, no matter how illogical or unbalanced it might seem, then you are more likely to have an authoritarian mindset.

There is also a correlation with how fearful a person tends to be. Those who are, due to personality and/or conditioning, frequently motivated by fear, will be more inclined to trust authoritarian leaders because that’s what makes them feel more safe.

Does it matter that some of us prefer authoritarian leadership over other styles? Shouldn’t the rest of us simply adapt a “live and let live” attitude about it and not try to change people? Don’t we all have a right to our own opinions?

Though I am deeply committed to holding space for people in a non-judgemental way (and I tried to create that environment when I was leading the people I mentioned above) I am convinced that it DOES matter. Yes, we should respect and listen without judgement to those who look for authoritarianism, and we should seek to understand their fear, but that doesn’t mean that we should allow their fear and social conditioning to make major decisions about who leads us and how we are lead. That authoritarian mindset is a sign of an immature society and it is holding us back. It must be challenged for the sake of our future.

Around the same time as my staff person asked for more authoritarian leadership from me, I was immersing myself in progressive teachings on leadership such as The Circle Way, The Art of Hosting, and Theory U. These methodologies teach that there is a “leader in every chair”, that the “wisdom comes from within the circle”, and that “the future is emerging and not under our control”. Though these models can (and do) function within hierarchical structures, they teach us to value the wisdom and leadership at ALL levels of the hierarchy.

Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze (two people I had the pleasure of studying with in my quest for a deeper understanding about leadership), in this article on Leadership in the Age of Complexity and in their book Walk Out Walk On, say that it is time to move from “leader as hero” to “leader as host”. 

“For too long, too many of us have been entranced by heroes. Perhaps it’s our desire to be saved, to not have to do the hard work, to rely on someone else to figure things out. Constantly we are barraged by politicians presenting themselves as heroes, the ones who will fix everything and make our problems go away. It’s a seductive image, an enticing promise. And we keep believing it. Somewhere there’s someone who will make it all better. Somewhere, there’s someone who’s visionary, inspiring, brilliant, trustworthy, and we’ll all happily follow him or her.”

This style of leadership may have served humanity during a simpler time, but that time is past. Now we are faced with so much complexity that we cannot rely on an outdated style of leadership.

“Heroic leadership rests on the illusion that someone can be in control. Yet we live in a world of complex systems whose very existence means they are inherently uncontrollable. No one is in charge of our food systems. No one is in charge of our schools. No one is in charge of the environment. No one is in charge of national security. No one is in charge! These systems are emergent phenomena—the result of thousands of small, local actions that converged to create powerful systems with properties that may bear little or no resemblance to the smaller actions that gave rise to them. These are the systems that now dominate our lives; they cannot be changed by working backwards, focusing on only a few simple causes.  And certainly they cannot be changed by the boldest visions of our most heroic leaders.”

Instead of a hero, we need a host. A leader-as-host knows that problems are complex and that in order to understand the full complexity of any issue, all parts of the system need to be invited in to participate and contribute. “These leaders‐as‐hosts are candid enough to admit that they don’t know what to do; they realize that it’s sheer foolishness to rely only on them for answers. But they also know they can trust in other people’s creativity and commitment to get the work done.”

A leader-as-host provides conditions and good group process for people to work together, provides resources, helps protect the boundaries, and offers unequivocal support.

In other words, a host leader holds space for the work to happen, for the issues to be wrestled with, and for the emergence of what is possible from within the circle.

Unlike a host leader, an authoritarian leader hangs onto the past as a model for the future. Consider Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. Instead of holding space for emergence, he knows that his support base clings to the ideal of a simpler, more manageable time. It’s not hard to understand, in this time of complexity, how it can feel more safe to harken back to the past when less was expected of us and the boundaries were more clear. Don’t we all, for example, sometimes wish we could be back in our childhood homes when all that was expected of us was that we clean up our toys before bedtime?

But we “can’t go back home again”. The future will emerge with or without us. We can only hope that the right kind of leadership can and will arise (within us and around us) that will help us adapt and grow into it. If not, our planet will suffer, our marginalized people will continue to be disadvantaged, and justice will never be served for those who have been exploited.

In his book, Leading from the Emerging Future, Otto Scharmer talks about leadership not being about individuals, but about the capacity of the whole system. “The essence of leadership has always been about sensing and actualizing the future. It is about crossing the threshold and stepping into a new territory, into a future that is different from the past. The Indo-European root of the English word leadership, leith, means “to go forth,” “to cross a threshold,” or “to die.” Letting go often feels like dying. This deep process of leadership, of letting go and letting the new and unknown come, of dying and being reborn, probably has not changed much over the course of human history. The German poet Johan Wolfgang von Goethe knew it well when he wrote, ‘And if you don’t know this dying and birth, you are merely a dreary guest on Earth.’”

What he’s talking about is essentially the liminal space that I wrote about in the past. It’s the space between stories, when nobody is in control and the best we can do is to hold space for the emerging future. We, as a global collective, are in that liminal space in more ways than one.

With Wheatley and Scharmer, I would argue that an important part of our roles as leaders in this age of complexity is to hospice the death of our old ideas about leadership so that new ideas can be born. Authoritarianism will not serve us in the future. It will not help us address the complexity of climate change. It will not help us address racial or gender inequity. 

We need leaders – at ALL levels of our governments, institutions, communities, and families – who can dance with complexity, play with possibility, and sit with their fear. We need leaders who can navigate the darkness. We need leaders who can hold seemingly opposing views and not lose sight of the space in between. We need leaders who know how to hold liminal space. 

This is not meant to be a political post, and so I won’t tell you who to vote for (partly because I am Canadian and partly because I’m not sure any candidate in any election I’ve witnessed truly reflects the kind of leadership I’m talking about – they are, after all, products of a system we’ve created which may no longer work for the future).

Instead, I will ask you… how is this style of leadership showing up in your own life? Are you serving as host or hero? Are you holding space for the emerging future? And are you asking it of the leaders that you follow and/or elect? Or are you still clinging to the past and hoping the right hero will ride in on a white horse to save us?

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Hero ~ Mariah Carey

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And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you

Me in the Middle Introducing Guest Blogger, Nancy of Practically Wise

“For death is part of the human experience. I think we must respond when we are called upon to bear witness to suffering. We may feel hopeless because we can’t make the pain go away. And ultimately, we can’t stop death. Yet our willingness to simply be there leads us to greater compassion and greater wisdom. We become more fully human.”

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Keeping a Home, Keeping a Legacy

“The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.” –Sir Thomas More

My grandma, who passed earlier this spring, was a woman who had led a simple life. A typical life even, common to many of her era. Her immigrant parents, from the “old country,” came to the U.S. as young adults and eventually settled in Detroit, Michigan. Grandma was born in 1916, the younger of two children. She took her high school education to a typing job at the phone company and then to a real estate agency. She gave up full-time work after she married my grandpa in order to raise a family. They too lived in Detroit. She would take the bus to Hudson’s department store with her two young daughters, outfitted in true 1950s fashion in matching dress coats and tams, looking like tiny models out of a catalog. Her home was spic ‘n span clean with the décor arranged just so. And of course, she cooked. Hearty meals of roast beef or macaroni and cheese, with endless pleas to have some more, don’t let it go to waste.

Yet for such an ordinary life, the struggle at the very end of her life’s journey was extraordinary in the fear and agony she experienced as her body declined. Being with my grandma during her final, wretched days was heartrending. Months later, I am still processing the emotions from those mere handful of days. As Jane Austen would have said, it has “required a long application of solitude and reflection to recover.” Talking, and especially writing, has helped me find perspective. This essay is taken in part from the eulogy I delivered at my grandmother’s funeral.

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There are some, like my late grandfather, who have a zest for life. He owned a succession of small businesses, owned a sailboat, and organized rafting trips down a raging river in Virginia. But every adventurer needs a solid anchor back home, making that home and keeping it.

Such a simple-sounding verb, to keep. Yet it means more than mere tending. The art of keeping includes an array of responsibilities: being able to form strong habits, fulfilling your part of an ongoing agreement, and preserving long-standing traditions. At our best, we keep friends and promises; we keep Christmas in our hearts; we keep a home for those we love most.

My grandma was a home maker, and a keeper of that home. There’s a how-to book, Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson, that I came across several years ago. In it, Mendelson suggests that many of us underappreciate the value of a well-kept home. She explains it like this:

“Housekeeping creates cleanliness, order, regularity, beauty, the conditions for health and safety, and a good place to do and feel all the things you wish and need to do and feel in your home…it is your housekeeping that makes your home alive, that turns it into a small society in its own right, a vital place with its own ways and rhythms, the place where you can be more yourself than you can be anywhere else.”

That was my grandma’s house. No matter what calamities were occurring in the world or what stresses we faced in our personal spheres, time spent at Grandma’s was restorative, a reminder that structure and comfort will always exist because they can be created with readily abundant supplies: diligence and love. She made homemaking a practice. A practice she worked at every day, creating—and keeping—a warm, inviting home for us, her small society of family she loved so dearly. A home and hub that for decades structured our lives, brought us happiness, and from which multiple generations would make our way in the world.

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In her last years, Grandma lived in an senior apartment that offered some care assistance. Her apartment, with its kitchenette and small living room, was still a home in the sense that she could receive guests. They could gather at her table or sit around the TV. Toward the end, however, we had to move Grandma to a nursing home, which was little more than a glorified hospital room, short on both privacy and space for visitors. Although she would be in the nursing home less than three months, moving her there more than anything signaled the beginning of the end. Not only was she facing the physical decline of her body, she was also losing her role, her place in life as homemaker and hostess.

And then the pneumonia set in. Her body had little defense against illness and it began to shut down. We — my mother, aunt, and a few other close family members — braced ourselves. We contacted hospice. We had been here before. In the early 2000s, we gathered at the deathbed of first my great uncle and then my grandfather. We thought we knew what to expect.

But where my uncle and grandfather went more or less “gentle into that good night,” my grandma resisted. For several days, she writhed in an agitated, restless state. She kept trying to sit upright, though lacked the strength to do so. We wrung our hands in despair.

She’ll wear herself out completely, we said. We had to take turns, relieving one another of the harrowing vigil because of the difficulty of watching her and feeling completely helpless. It will be ok, we said. The nurse will come soon with more medicine, we said.

Yet we could not soothe her. We knew our words were feeble; we knew that we could not make them strong merely through force of repetition. But we didn’t know what else to do.

So we repeated ourselves, again and again. Mother, it’s ok, we said. Lie back down, Helen. Let go. It’s ok, Helen.

We love you, Grandma.

Did she hear us? We couldn’t tell. Her distressed mind slipped into the Finn of her girlhood. She pleaded with people who were none of us. At times, the hovering people must be speaking, for Grandma would suddenly be still, listening. Who were they? Her long-lost parents? Her revered older brother, the exceptionally smart one who had been the family pride? Surely he would know what to do, how to help her.

Then she would moan and wail again, a stream of vowels and gurgling consonants, erupting from deep recesses within. She would push her frail body forward, away from the pillows. Where in life she sailed calmly like a mother duck on placid waters, in dying, she clawed her way along a rocky path, brambled, always into the head winds.

Was she fighting against death in pure terror, or was she pleading for it to take her faster? Perhaps it was the knowledge that at age 99 she was one of the last of her generation to carry the weight of her home, her life, and all that had been across her thin shoulders.

We’ll never know. Around 9p Monday evening we lost contact with her after a very long weekend. The morphine at last took over. She passed at 11:30p. In many ways, we were relieved. She was finally at peace.

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It was the hospice nurse who helped me see what Grandma’s life stood for. We talked about her life, her vocation as a homemaker, for she was more than a consummate homemaker, she was the keeper of the well-being of her family. A role she held onto stubbornly, so that even two days before she died, she insisted on knowing the fate of her apartment furniture. My brother told her he had taken it. This was a “loving lie” — as the hospice nurse later called it — because we had actually donated the furniture. Yet we knew Grandma would rest easier if she believed that her table, her bed had stayed in the family. Her shrewd shopper instincts were still intact, though, and much to our surprise, she had asked what moving company we used and how much we paid.

My brother was forced to embellish the little loving lie into a full-blown story (which he did with gusto, I might add!) We have certainly laughed about this incident many times since. It’s a moment that will be cherished amid so many that were emotionally charged and downright painful. Yet it’s also a moment to serve as a reminder of how Grandma kept something very dear for us for 60 years: an inviting, comfortable, loving home. And beyond that, she had given us the resources and the know-how to keep homes for our own families. Her care and dedication has extended outward through the generations.

It was difficult to decide if I should bring my two teenaged kids to the nursing home during Grandma’s final weekend for it was hard to see her in that state. She was no longer the great-grandma who gave them coins from her bingo winnings or who was excited as a little kid when it came time for dessert or opening gifts. I’m proud to say that my kids decided that they should be there, for her sake, and for the family’s sake. I thought that they should be there for their own sake as well. For death is part of the human experience. I think we must respond when we are called upon to bear witness to suffering. We may feel hopeless because we can’t make the pain go away. And ultimately, we can’t stop death. Yet our willingness to simply be there leads us to greater compassion and greater wisdom. We become more fully human.

And sometimes, it is only at the end, that we can fully appreciate a life. Despite her understated ways, Grandma knew how to make her home a living embodiment of her love. May I have the grace and fortitude to keep her legacy going strong and pass it on to my children.

~ Nancy at Practically Wise ~
July 17, 2016

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Purpose

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This post is a part of the series Me in the Middle Invites Guest Bloggers.  An Invitation to share a time in life where you thought you’d never make it through and you did.  A witness of the strength that you never thought you had.

It’s an honor to feature Nancy’s writing.  I encourage you to visit her Blog at ~ Nancy at Practically Wise ~.

~ For guidelines on submitting your inspiring story please go Here ~

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Me in the Middle Introducing Guest Blogger ~ Leanne

the story of how I lost my happiness and how I found it again

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~ MY LEMONY SNICKET MOMENT ~ 

Around the time I turned 50 a Series of Unfortunate Events (to quote Lemony Snicket) took place in my life and the consequence was that my happiness seemed to gradually drain away until it was almost non-existent. I never expected life to be perfect and I wouldn’t say it had ever been calm seas and smooth sailing for any length of time, but those couple of years around my 50th birthday seemed to be intent on sucking the joy right out of me.

 ~ FAMILY DRAMA ~ 

I think it started when my husband was made redundant from his job. Quite confronting at the best of times, but then he decided it was the opportunity he’d been waiting for to become a full-time student – studying externally from home. Not my idea of the bread winning 1950’s husband who was going to support me while I kicked back and finally quit the job I disliked intensely. No, he was immersed in the world of unpaid academia while I went out to earn a crust for us.

This was followed by both our children getting married and settling in the city, two hours from our country home. It was a joy for them and for us – wonderful partners, great jobs, mortgages and all the paraphernalia that goes with “children” in their 20’s……..but also the final severing of the last frayed remains of the apron strings tying us together. As a mother I was pretty much redundant – job finished, boxes ticked, but now what? Any hope of the “Brady Bunch family” was completely blown away.

 ~ WORK DRAMA ~ 

On top of all this, my job was becoming more and more soul sucking – I worked with a couple of narcissists who bounced their drama off each other all day long and there wasn’t an end in sight because I was the sole breadwinner for my ‘student’ husband and myself. So, I was trudging along to work every day (praying to be kind and pleasant) and coming home again, only to turn around and do it all over again day after day after day. On top of that, my boss lost the plot and had a meltdown at my expense one day that completely knocked the stuffing out of me.

 ~ MARRIAGE DRAMA ~ 

The Unfortunate Events crescendo-ed when my husband told me (completely out of the blue, and just after the Big Boss Meltdown episode) that he didn’t think we had anything in common and he didn’t want to be married any more. WHAT?! What do you do with that and where do you go to try and move forward? He thought it might be best if I moved out because I had an income and could afford to rent. WHAT?!! Needless to say, that didn’t happen and after a lot of soul searching, and talking, and crying (by me) we worked our way through and came out the other end and survived.

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All of these events and life situations created a perfect storm in my life and basically my wheels fell off. I was working in a job I hated, supporting a husband who wasn’t sure if he wanted to be married to me, tucked away in the back corner by my kids, hitting middle age with a vengeance and spiraling down faster than I gave it all credit for.

 ~ LIGHT BULB MOMENT ~ 

In the end I took myself off to the doctor because I thought it must be menopause (blame it on the hormones and it can all be fixed). Unfortunately (or fortunately as the case may be) he told me I wasn’t menopausal and asked if there was anything happening in my life to make me weepy and flat? Light bulb moment and a real wake up call as to where to go from there – HRT certainly wasn’t going to fix the situation – so it was up to me!

Suffice it to say, I did a lot of serious thinking and made some major (and minor) changes in my life that turned it around from a happiness score of about “3” I’d graded myself with to a score of around “9” now days. It wasn’t an overnight cure, it wasn’t just one change, it wasn’t me slapping myself over the back of the head and telling myself to pull up my socks. No, it was a Series of Fortunate Events – where I started to figure out who I was without all the old “tags” (mother, wife, faithful friend, work drudge etc), and I started liking the person who was emerging. I’m a work in progress, but I’m thriving now rather than wilting and weeping – what more can you ask for?

Over the next few weeks I’m going to cover some of those changes I’ve made, some of the discoveries I’ve made along the way, and how they turned me around and brought back my Mojo, my happiness, and my self-worth. I hope you’ll stop by and read them and share your thoughts because the journey is only just beginning – there’s so much more ahead!

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This post is a part of the series Me in the Middle Invites Guest Bloggers.  It’s an honor to feature Leanne’s writing.  I encourage you to visit her Blog at Cresting the Hill. (Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday during the month of July there will be a post in her series ~ 12 Steps to Happiness.)

Hi I’m Leanne, Welcome to my midlife blog ~ Cresting The Hill ~ this is where I share the discoveries I’m making about how great this stage of life is. It’s about building people up, investing in relationships, and trying new things. Lets live with gusto, embrace life, laugh every day, and appreciate the blessings that come our way. I’d love you to read, leave a comment and lets get to know each other – friendship is what it’s all about!

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~ For guidelines on submitting your inspiring story please go Here ~

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