“In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. Do not make yourself ill with overwhelm. There is a tendency too to fall into being weakened by perseverating on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails. We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear.”
– Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Letter to a Young Activist During Troubled Times
Last week I had the privilege of listening to a young woman questioning her impact in the world. She described working tirelessly, only to have her efforts go unnoticed. She asked questions about whether she and those she was working with had shared vision and values. She sounded unmoored and lonely. For those of us listening to her, the best we could do was remind her who she was and that she was connected to a sea of changemakers, so very much not alone.
Some of us listening to this young woman wanted to remind her about how capitalism and other structural systems were interfering with her sense of self-worth. Others talked about “managing up” and organizing strategies. I suppose we were simply trying to lift up the perennial reality that the personal is political. Yet, the political is also personal. She wanted to hear how to make a way, towards healing and peace. She wanted strategies – and especially, company.
Amidst countless career and calling advice methods, I have learned of ways for tapping into purpose by surrendering to our heartbreak. The question to ask is: what about the world breaks your heart?
This is my heartbreak – leaders who are weary, beaten down, burning out. I cannot abide the things we have to survive in order to offer our gifts. My life’s work is to pay attention to leaders and what happens to their souls and spirits as they collide with work, life, and the truth of leadership. I am doing my part to build the world we dream about by focusing on the collective practices that allow us to feel more purposeful, hopeful, connected, and alive.
Again and again, I see us trying to address each other’s needs for support in our leadership. We are issuing global pep talks on Facebook. Sharing articles on self-care. Posting videos of baby elephants and adorable puppies. Giving each other vacation recommendations. Taking each other out for milkshakes, or trips to the ocean.
I see us all doing our part, leader to leader, to tell each other we are not alone. To bless our offerings. To give each other rest. To promise each other we are enough.
Let’s keep doing that. I’m going to.
image credit: Larry Vincent “weary pug“