There are a million “how to” posts that will tell you the exact steps to follow to build a dedicated, engaged group of people around you.
None of them will tell you that you must first be dedicated to healing yourself.
That’s the soft stuff that seems a little too woo woo.
But how many communities have come crumbling down because their leaders are not able to solidify their foundations, not able to summon the courage to speak up and keep going? How many hollow promises are made and broken by leaders of communities? Thousands of communities every month are launched and never go beyond one event or idea. They’ve created no sense of belonging there.
I say this because it’s something that has grown unpleasantly obvious to me this year, the year I took a break from writing and hardly published anything at all.
Instead of shouting words into the echo chamber, I’ve been deliberately absorbing, listening, feeling, connecting, healing.
This year has been a year of coming back to myself by way of knowing others. I’ve put my trust in a lot of community members, healers (never thought I’d do reiki or yoga therapy or take up dance, but here I am), and leaders to lead me back home.
And it has taken excruciating amounts of time and effort. But, here I am, doing the goddamn work to take in all that I can so that I can put even more back out into the world.
In these last 12 months, I’ve taken quiet and intent notice of the most powerful community leaders around me (often who are not sincerely thanked or ever widely seen, such as yoga teachers, female entrepreneurs and company leaders, and political and social organizers, especially women of color). I listened to them closely to try to absorb some of their positive, electric energy. I cared about doing this because it was their energy that got me out of bed in the morning on the days when everything felt a little too overwhelming.
That, my dears, is what a leader is capable of doing for others.
If you can get your community members out of their beds in the morning and able to step into a world that feels just a modicum more friendly, you are doing something extraordinarily special.
We can talk about ROI and strategy all day (and we often have to for our company’s sakes), but I think we are all actually here to get back to this special heart of the matter. We love to see others thrive, to see them smile and succeed and come home to themselves.
But to get to the heart of it, we must nurture our own hearts first. That work is not always pleasant to do.
We have hundreds of invisible scars we try to cover from others. Maybe your scars include dropping out of high school or university due to financial hardship, your layoff, your emotionally absent ex-best friend, your parents’ inability to see you for who you really are in all your strength and glory, the loss of a loved one, feeling divorced from your own body. Maybe your invisible scars are the scars of never knowing what any of what I just said feels like, feeling like there is a gap between you and the pain of the world that keeps you disconnected.
These are all the little scars that pile up on us in relation to others. They make connection harder and harder each passing day, until we’ve wrapped an iron blanket around us so tightly that we mistake its cold grip for the arms of someone holding us and telling us it will be okay.
This year I have been lost more days than I’ve been found. But haven’t we all had years like that?
Now that I’ve taken such a huge step back, I know I can make a leap forward.
As I turn back to the world with the year coming to a close, I ask questions of you to challenge how you approach your community: How can you see your community members for all they are facing each day? Your relationship with them is not purely transactional. And if it is, who are you keeping safe by keeping your people at arm’s length?
Is it them? Or is it you?
One of you may be in need of healing.
Maybe 2017 is your year to start that process.