I won’t bore you with the details, but I recently found myself in the extremely uncomfortable position of writing an email that I knew was going to provoke anger; maybe even fury.
Now you need to know I am a peace loving person. I value harmony, respect and rightful relations. In True Colors terms, I am a blue. In professional terms, I spend a great deal of time and energy growing trust and cultivating mutually empowering relationships where collaboration is the highest value.
I was not prepared for the intense onslaught of anxiety unleashed by the mere act of hitting the send button. I was dumbfounded and rendered incapable of doing much of anything for the better part of an hour.
In hindsight, I now recognize that I experienced my first ever full blown anxiety attack. At the time, all I knew was that I felt feverish and shaky, and my head felt like it was being squeezed by a contraption with an outer layer of tiny needles.
We’ve received a formal response to our email which indicates that our strategy of non-compliance was successful. In short, the victory was ours. Mind you, the ‘war’ is far from over.
I have no illusions. There will be consequences to our non-compliance, our bold decision to claim some autonomy and act according to what we believed was the right decision. I just don’t yet know what those consequences will be.
What I do know is that the email was necessary. We’d hit a wall and to comply in this case would have meant perpetuating a paralyzing power imbalance. Where there should have been collaboration and a shared approach to solving a problem, there was acrimony and disempowerment.
I do not know where the two parties go from here. There may well be more conflict and more anger.
And yet, I think we’ve allowed something important to happen. We’ve at least temporarily dismantled the power equation in this relationship. Anger and conflict were inevitable.
The other more personal, but, perhaps, equally important thing that has happened is that I’ve survived the experience. I don’t say that lightly.
I don’t relish doing it again but at least now I know that if and when I ever need to stand my ground because of something I believe deeply, I can do it. And the world won’t implode! I have the capacity to survive the horrible experience of knowingly putting anger and conflict into the world in order to address larger issues of justice, equality and mutual respect.
You may have noticed by the look of my blog, that I like water. It’s actually more emphatic than that … I love being near water. I can honestly say that no where do I feel more alive, more myself, more deeply connected to life itself. I’ve pondered it often and come to the conclusion that, for me, being at the shore is an experience of slowing down and finding a more natural rhythm than my too busy of a life generally allows. The ebb and flow of the water works on so many senses at once – I hear it, I see it, I feel it – that on a deep physiological level, I slow down in a way that simply isn’t possible in the city. And the turmoil of city life and a never ending to-do list seem far away and less important. For many reasons, I can’t or don’t live at the water, but my partner and I make a choice to visit frequently because we experience it as a gift that qualitatively alters how we approach whatever life is about at any given time.
This week, for example, I’m scrambling madly to finish a magnitude of ‘things’ before I go on vacation. The water and the slow breathing of earth itself seem far away … and yet, since water will be central to my vacation, I can forge ahead knowing I will have that opportunity to rest, to slow down, to feel the slowness in my body, mind and spirit.
I am new to blogging and do not know where this exercise might lead me. For starters, I am viewing it as a learning journey and, at the same time, a learning journal where I might reflect on what it is I am learning. In particular, I hope to reflect on emerging leadership insights and ideas. And yet, because I view leadership as a way of being in the world, and deeply connected to learning as a lifelong, perpetual expansiveness, I entertain the possibility that my musings may stray from the typical parameters of the topic of leadership. While I see it as primarily for my own eyes, I welcome anyone who finds my learning a catalyst or companion to theirs.