Locating the Source of Our Pain

Dear Friends,

In another life, I was a board chair of an arts nonprofit in Brooklyn. On my way to meet the ED for our monthly meetings, I’d meditate on what discoveries I wanted to share, what new thinking for our work together.

Because I moved back to my hometown in South Carolina a year ago this month and my work continues to be remote (like so many of us), I no longer have long, quiet stretches of a commute to think, to watch the sidewalk pass me by, to dream. This is a small reminder for all of us to try to build that back in, even if our commutes are from the living room to wherever our computers find us.

Anyways, for two consecutive meetings I limped my way to the restaurant where we’d meet. By the third meeting, I almost skipped in and sat down and exclaimed that we had been seeing a particular problem the wrong way.

“It was like the pain in my hip,” I explained. “I had been massaging and massaging my hip to no avail. Finally, I moved away from where I felt the pain was, and moved more towards my back, and the tension was released.”

This body work—that pain can be referred to or shows up at a place different from its source, has been a great business and consulting epiphany. Last year, when I added team members and couldn’t for the life of me figure out why things still felt off kilter, I realized I kept splitting the atom into smaller and smaller pieces. I thought I needed more folks to do fewer things, but it turned out to be the opposite: I needed to invest more in fewer members and renegotiate how we worked together. The pain wasn’t in capacity = more people. It was capacity = the right people, working deeply.

That meant I had to give up some power, another pain point. As I urged my clients to “let the experts expert.” We’re still finding our groove, but I have to tell you, the pain of figuring out the alchemy of a distributed consulting team has certainly subsided.

Of course there is so much pain that is so acutely located these days. Some of it no amount of massaging may loosen its grip on our psyche. I’ve been grieving my father’s death since 2018, and when I joined the fellowship of folks who had lost someone, had already known the immense sadness you carry with you daily, I was given a glimpse of hope by a friend. She said, grief/grieving is a verb, a continuum. It changes, but it’s always there. We may never shake loose what we have carried the last nine months together, but like my epiphany in the restaurant — that a pain I thought would never leave me, had healed by focusing my attention to other parts of my body — I am hopeful for a deep and restorative healing for us, that it may come soon.

Finally, this last monthly message in 2020 is to say we have a new team member this month, Damaris Dias, a woman I worked with at Brooklyn Community Foundation, who has come to the Red Olive Universe. You can read about her below, but I am so excited to continue to build with y’all well into the future.

Please let us know how we can dream with you in 2021.

In Black love,

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