I keep pulling it out –
the old map of my inner path.
I squint closely at it,
trying to see some hidden road
that maybe I’ve missed,
but there’s nothing there now
except some well-travelled paths.
they have seen my footsteps often,
held my laughter, caught my tears.
I keep going over the old map
but now the roads lead nowhere,
a meaningless wilderness
where life is dull and futile.
“toss away the old map,” she says
“you must be kidding!” I reply.
she looks at me with Sarah eyes
and repeats, “toss it away.
it’s of no use where you’re going.”
“I have to have a map!” I cry,
“even if it takes me nowhere.
I can’t be without direction.”
“but you are without direction,”
she says, “so why not let go, be free?”
so there I am – tossing away the old map,
sadly fearfully, putting it behind me.
“whatever will I do?” wails my security
“trust me” says my midlife soul.
no map, no specific directions,
no “this way ahead” or “take a left”.
how will I know where to go?
how will I find my way? no map!
but then my midlife soul whispers:
“there was a time before maps
when pilgrims travelled by the stars.”
it is time for the pilgrim in me
to travel in the dark,
to learn to read the stars
that shine in my soul.
I will walk deeper
into the dark of my night.
I will wait for the stars.
trust their guidance.
and let their light be enough for me.
---Joyce Rupp, from Dear Heart Come Home
The past two years have put me on a path that has been both challenging and rewarding. As I look back on this time, I can see the truth in the quote above. My primary focus has been developing my leadership and knowledge as it pertains to burnout and resilience work. And at the same time developing my own practices of self-care and self-compassion.
One of the first things I decided at the beginning of my Bush Fellowship was to work part-time for the next two years. I never realized how difficult and anxiety-provoking it would be to walk away from most of my work responsibilities. Before learning of my Fellowship, the responses were of concern and alarm. Why would I leave my job to focus on myself and family? Now when I tell them that I have a Bush Fellowship, the responses are of support and encouragement. This whole experience has made me reflect on how we as a society put so much value on titles and jobs and so little value on taking care of yourself and spending time with your family.
After opening more time in my schedule to focus on my Fellowship goals, I began training and became a Certified Daring Way Facilitator. This certification allows me to offer trainings and retreats based on the research of Brené Brown. I am using this work to advance the work of the Bounce Back Project (www.bouncebackproject.org) in my community to create a collaboration of community leaders, healthcare workers, social services and school administrators. I have facilitated multiple courses for business leaders, healthcare leaders, school administrators, and leaders of Wright County Social Services. The intent was to appeal to the leaders in the community who would then vocally and financially support moving the work forward. It was an unbelievable group that came together to model vulnerability and courage. Additionally, over the past two years I facilitated a Daring Way courses for multiple cohorts of Buffalo High School teachers, including the Superintendent, Principal, and Assistant Principals and some of our coaches. It is rewarding to see this work being incorporated into their curriculum and the school community. With this group of engaged individuals, we also facilitated a community wide book read of the "Gifts of Imperfection" and have engaged over 1500 community members participating in 40+ community lead book discussions. We recently launched a “Gifts of Imperfect Parenting” class and just started a transformation in our high school curriculum, incorporating Daring Way and Bounce Back work into advisory time for all high school students. Our Bounce Back Team has also transformed into a team of students who will take the help and continue to do this work in our schools, and push it out into our communities.
I have been busy over the past 2 years with multiple different community presentations and retreats scheduled across the United States with schools, communities, and healthcare organizations. I have come to realize the importance of doing this work not only in healthcare, but maybe even more importantly in education and with teachers and students. The training and work that I’ve done through Daring Way has been immensely helpful in the part-time work that I was doing for Allina Health around burnout and resilience for healthcare providers. However, as is not uncommon in Big Organizations, my position was eliminated at the end of 2018. This has become one of the biggest gifts that I was given, as it helped open up time in my schedule to do this work with organizations that place more value on it and what I have to offer. I have gotten to work with numerous school districts and most recently I was asked to be a trainer for new trainees going through Brene Brown’s Daring way program. I am also continuing to facilitate the largest gathering in the state of health care providers talking about burnout and resilience, through a yearly Continuing Medical Education conference, “Moving from Surviving to Thriving”, every December. This years program will be in collaboration with the MMA and UofM’s Center for Spirituality and Healing and will be even bigger and better.
I have also spent time over the past two years becoming certified with the Center for Courage and Renewal as a facilitator of Parker Palmer’s work as well. With this knowledge and opportunity, I have been able to facilitate six resilience trips in the past year for healthcare provider and community members to places like Guatemala, The American Southwest, The Camino de Santiago in Spain, and the Via Francigenia in Italy. The participants included a wide range of professionals who were able to earn continuing education credits in their respective professions, experience a beautiful reconnection with nature, and learn tools to improve their resilience in difficult times. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, so I am currently finishing preparations for more resilience trips in 2019 and 2020 to Guatemala, The American Southwest, Germany, Ireland, and the Camino de Santiago in Spain (www.bouncetravels.com)
The fellowship has been a true blessing in helping me transition into a life that allows me to focus on self-compassion and self-care. I have become aware of my own use of busyness and work to numb myself. I’ve learned that I can’t work on the important things in life…marriage, relationships with family and friends, or knowing myself, if I am constantly busy with work and other commitments. Now that I am working half-time, I have never spent so much time with my family and friends. It is amazing to have dinner every night with my family and plan family events, to meet friends for lunch, to work on the “honey do list”, and sometimes just lay in the hammock and just “be”. It’s an interesting transition to go from academically understanding the importance of taking care of yourself and thinking you are doing an ok job, to slowing down and actually doing it. It is a little disheartening to think about all the things I’ve missed over the past 20 years as I was performing and perfecting to fit into other people’s ideas of who I should be, AND I am so grateful that I am having this epiphany now, instead of waiting until I retire or not at all. It is because of this that I have made a transition of counting the days until I can retire to realizing that I really like my life with the changes that have occurred over the past 2 years and I can see myself continuing to do this work and lead for the foreseeable future. It has been a wonderful gift that has been given to me, and I hope to continue to model for others the importance of a life of introspection, growth and development.
When you are on your path, the world conspires to help you.