This is my grandmother. She is 99.
And she is a change maker.
The only problem, she has never realized it.
And without that realization, her potential to impact lives has been stunted.
More importantly, her ability to feel her own wholeness and well-being, a far off dream.
For the next two months, I’m a three minute walk from her assisted living home.
She will never know how much she has changed the world.
The lives she has changed, in the moments she allowed the fears and doubts to fall away, and lived from that quiet, still place of essence.
By sharing her kindness, without expectation. For her generous spirit. By modeling honesty. And her patient, warm heart.
She will never grasp how much her way of being in the world influenced who I am today. The way I interact with strangers. The way I care for my friends. The ways with which I support my clients.
And more importantly, how she helped me learn to offer those same qualities towards myself.
She has spent her entire life feeling as though she was less than deserving, unworthy, and not enough. Yet, when it comes to her family, she has proactively done her best to create the opposite experience within us.
She has been determined to help us feel what she never has.
She wants each of us to feel that sense of wholeness. Of being complete as a human being, without needing to do, be, or have first.
My ability to be a thinking partner and support my clients in their evolution, requires my own first. When I live life from internal conflict with and about myself, or the world around me, I’m limited.
I’m imbalanced. And I can feel it. Those imbalances within me are then projected out into the world. Relationships. Business. Consumption habits.
I can have a grandiose vision of what I will create with my life. That’s great. But if the internal tapes and noise are incongruent, I won’t go the distance my heart is called to travel.
If I’m imbalanced within, I may find myself with little expansion of what I want to create.
For years I was in a battle with myself. It’s only been in the last couple of years where the battle has been gradually ending.
The judgements falling away. The criticisms. The blame. The fear about risk and danger. The sadness and hurt held onto.
Learned from. Accepted. Forgiven. Released.
Do I have moments of challenge? Of course.
And each time, and at each new level, there’s a calmness, confidence, and capacity that once didn’t exist.
I’m living within an ongoing process of interpreting, relating, and responding more generatively. Both in my relationship with self, and the world around me.
My grandmother will never grasp how she was an anchor and a lighthouse in my life, for this to be possible. And, how many lives she has supported through me, because of her.
She is a change maker. And yet, she doesn’t realize it.
This woman will likely leave this earth without grasping how amazing she is. And that’s a challenge for me. It’s a challenge to see in her what she can not.
I’ve been to see her almost every day since my arrival a week ago.
During my time here, I am capturing videos of her sharing about life, memories, and lessons over 99 years.
For me, it’s such a gift to have this time with her. To hear her stories of the world from 1922 to present time. To imagine her world over the years, leaves me in aww.
The challenge for me is in hearing her share about herself in such a light that I do not see. The story she has of herself is one of being less than, in many contexts. One of being a ‘coward’. A story of no ability or potential.
This is not what I, and most of the family, sees.
She is adored by her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren. She is adored by those in the community she lives within.
This is a woman that…
Lived through the Depression,
Supported her husband (my grandfather), while overseas during WWII,
Captured a speech for a US president,
Spent years mastering short hand and written word,
Supported her husband’s entrepreneurial efforts for years. Working long hours and earning to support the family, when his businesses didn’t do well,
Outlived her husband (since 1998). And at the time of his death, when the family was in pain, she was a light to those of us struggling,
Felt a tear in her heart as her granddaughter (my sister) died in her early 30’s. Once again, she remained a light for many in the family.
The only one that doesn’t see how incredible she is, is herself.
And from what she has shared about her life, it’s from this place that the impossible, stayed impossible. She’s done these amazing things I shared above. Yet, there’s a self defeating story that takes hold when we begin to discuss:
Her secret dreams that she dared not speak or pursue,
Her curiosities of the world that were never explored,
Her fears that were believed and unquestioned.
What fed these unexplored opportunities in her life was the narrative she held and holds of herself. She doesn’t see how amazing she already is.
The relationship she holds with herself, and the ‘facts of life’, remain largely unquestioned. And where the boundaries of potential did not stretch.
In times of need for her family, she rose up and was a rock, without question.
Yet, when it came to her, and the relationship she had with herself, that’s another story. Over the course of her life she picked up, held onto, and reinforced this story of not enough-ness.
Of… I can’t do, be, or create ______.
Her experiences with her mother, WWII and the Depression planted seeds within her. Those seeds remain within her today.
She sees many of them. Many she does not.
And when I’m honest, it’s hard for my heart to see and hear, given how many lives she has affected. My own and many beyond me.
Much has changed in the world since those seeds were planted.
The stories she holds about herself and life, lean towards that of not rocking the boat. Doing what you can to get through.
There is nothing wrong with caution and forethought. Yet, she often didn’t allow herself to think beyond what seems reasonable and possible, because of the relationship with herself.
Anyone reading this can point to someone that inspires them.
Someone that lived a life in such a way that it reverberated throughout the world and history.
Countless have changed the world to create a more generative experience for humanity.
Some of the larger than life examples being…
Martin Luther King Jr.
John F. Kennedy
Insert countless more.
As I spend time with this woman that has experienced nearly a century of life, new questions emerge.
Not from a place of right or wrong. Or better or less than.
As I consider the change makers mentioned above, I consider;
What would the world be without their courage, heart and way of choosing to navigate life?
What was the story they held about themselves that enabled them to do what they did?
And what stories of possibility did they create and step into?
For my grandmother, It’s not my role to change her. It’s not my role to point out ‘errors’ in how she speaks of herself. It’s my role to love and appreciate her, beyond how she sees herself.
Because I see who she is.
I see how her way of being in the world changes lives.
I see her genius for language.
I see how her kindness and playfulness lights people up.
I see her strength and bravery during times when many of us collapse.
The primary question I sit with — what would her life have become, if she held the story about herself, that I have of her?
A story and feeling of total self acceptance,
A story and feeling of worthiness and self-compassion,
A story of possibility vs contraction,
A story that unravels the self-talk that hurts and harms.
Even though the relationship she carries with herself may never change, I can do my part to only see the best in her, and communicate from that place.
Change makers are often clued in and connected to the essence of their life’s work. You may be reading this and are quite clear on what you are here to do with your life.
You are likely clear about the change you want to create in the world around you. For you. Your family. Your clients. Your community. And beyond.
You may find yourself challenged in creating and living your next phase of personal evolution.
As a leader, you know that your next level of business and impact will occur from being the next level of you. They are inseparable.
As you navigate forward, I invite you to reflect on these questions. Create the space within yourself to see the narrative you are playing out. See and feel how it is serving you or holding you back.
What’s the current story I hold to be true about myself and the world?
What is the generative side of this story?
What is the dark side of this story?
If I chose to rewrite one aspect of this story, what would it be?
As an evolving business leader, you may already have the strategy.
As you move forward bringing your heart’s work into the world, make sure you live from the story and state of being needed to bring it to life.
The more you understand and listen to the way you are creating your world, the more doors will open up for you.
Doors that may be in the shape of feelings of ease, peace, and joy. And doors that may be in the shape of new business, affiliations, and relationships.
After you have spent time with the questions above, reach out. I’m happy to offer a way forward with what you uncover.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.