Hear me read this post.
Well, the obvious answer is we are all one another’s healers. Through simple acts of appreciation, a willingness to listen, the offering of new perspectives and ideas, just a touch, perhaps — all of which may trigger an inner connection or two, and a resolution to something that may have been bothering somebody a long time. A very effective leader I know told me one time her “secret” was this: “All you have to do is take care of people. They do the rest.” And it strikes me this is another way to say the same thing, that in the sunlight of one another’s care we are stronger, and because we are stronger, things can change. Things can get done. Oh, I know, it isn’t so simple as all that. The leader I am thinking of is an incredibly good reader of others and their needs, and she’s no pushover — what she has is a gift.
And yet, who heals her? Who heals any of us when we are alone, whether it is at the top of the organization or at the edge of a community or even in its midst while attempting to create positive change? How does the one who brings care, the one who stands solid when others cannot, the one who gives, sustain herself or himself? The risk is what some colleagues used to refer to as “change agent flu,” a disease caused by not seeing enough organizational or institutional change from one’s hard work, the symptoms of which are such things as low self-esteem, persistent crankiness, pushing too hard at meetings, private panic attacks, recurring depressions, darkening cynicism, and finally withdrawal from the work that a person once loved the best.
And yes, support groups can help, and that’s a variation of where we started, with the thought that we are all one another’s healers.
There is another answer, tougher, that takes us to a deeper well, that causes reflection at a more primary and sometimes primitive level of ourselves, that has to do with why we do the work we do, why we lead, why we need to create change, and ultimately what we are trying to work out in ourselves through our own leadership. And so we are faced with our values, perhaps our sense of worthiness to the roles we have accepted, and to the processes of self-reliance and of our own healing, processes which are like roots slowly growing down and in, searching for nourishment within our personal, inner landscape.
I have found, like you, that sometimes that landscape is intact and sufficient, and sometimes it has been washed away — by events, by dilemmas, by pure exhaustion. And when it is washed away and there is no one to talk to about it at the moment, then there has to be another place to go. A place of essence or peace that is given, not self-created. Precisely because personal landscapes are prone to get washed away from time to time. But to find that place can be difficult. It never seems to leave a forwarding address from the last time we were there. And so, in turn, the amazing process of waiting kicks in, sometimes for excruciatingly long periods, but never, it seems to me, forever.
A little context and disclosure. The last time I got washed away, it was the product of an awkward conversation with a friend (worse for me, in many ways, than a client), with the issue being exactly my role as a “healer” and the inexpressible aloneness I sometimes feel that comes with it. I was really suffering over this, busy linking stuff that went back to my family of origin, feeling alienated, and wanting something more than me relying on this role to keep the relationship in tact. I was facing where the role came from in the first place, how I’d used it to foster and maintain connections and what that was now delivering back to me in return, what baggage and insecurities I was still carrying that might prevent me from dropping it. So that’s where the question came from. I was feeling like a burning bush that had burned itself right out.
Fortunately, the wait for me wasn’t too long. The next day I happened to be sorting out some CD’s and ran across the Charlotte Church song, “All Love Can Be.” The song, with music by James Horner and lyrics by Will Jennings, can be found on the soundtrack CD for the film, “A Beautiful Mind.” I dug up Jennings’s lyrics, put the song on my player, and almost instantly felt something reach into me and go all the way down to the painful places I had been feeling most alone. Was finding that particular song that day synchronicity, just a meaningful coincidence? Well, perhaps, if you believe that synchronicity finds you.
Here are the words (there are several slight variations — if these are not the official ones, please let me know). Here is the song.
I will watch you in the darkness
Show you love will see you through
When the bad dreams wake you crying
I’ll show you all love can do
All love can do
I will watch by the night
Hold you in my arms
Give you dreams where no one will be
I will watch through the dark
Till the morning comes
For the lights will take you
Through the night to see
All love, showing us all love can be
I will guard you with my bright wings
Stay till your heart learns to see
All love can be
There is agency in this world, of course, and maybe as the song suggests, it comes from the heart of an angel. I am sure you have your own interpretations of this force; for me angels are but one elegant archetype. But whatever it is, it finds us, if we let it. And that did answer my question — at least on that day.