Waking up to unicorns

It has been a particularly challenging week. Just a month after my car ran over my lower legs, I’ve had to ask for assistance more vigorously than my independent head desires and I find through this healing journey I am exposed and vulnerable. Deeply held beliefs and prior behaviour around “doing it on my own” are being melted down like cold butter in a warm pot and leaving the lighter mass of my optimism under a much darker layer of heavy yellow oil. The two parts look quite separate from their prior block solid state. Not at all something I’m comfortable with but something I have to endure as the process of reduction is proving to be an elemental ingredient for the future recipe of  ‘me’.

I’d been given the okay to leave hospital after skin graft surgery and 5 days of bed rest. That made it 4 weeks of complete reliance on other people for my nourishment and mobility. Indeed, there’s a lot that can waste and congeal whilst on extended bed rest and many times a good cry has eased and loosened that hard mass. Post discharge though I was excited at the prospect of facilitating an event that was negotiated and agreed upon last November. This was something I’d conceptualised, designed, planned and had a super outfit picked for. Whilst waiting in the 14mins for the ambulance to arrive after the accident I knew I had to be at the event. This was my stretch goal. To keep my bright mind from sinking under the dark liquid I’d suctioned my focus to this date like a barnacle to rock and I was going to be there no matter what. My optimism and expectation were in firm defiance of my body and it’s diminished capability but because I knew my responsibility to leading a team, and equally the business of leading my own recovery down a path with purpose, I needed to stage how far it was until the next bench seat under a shady tree. To a place where we could all take out a water bottle and rest a moment. A spot where we could breathe in the view and marvel at our creation. That’s what I wanted and in my head it was all planned out. The reality was something quite different.

On International Women’s Day and the day of our You Me and a Cup of Tea event with State Library, I had placed myself into the wheelchair and was rolling at a snail’s pace down the hall at home. The walls began to warp and my stomach was disputing strongly. I willed myself to the bathroom and at the same time my mum had arrived to make me breakfast. At this point even dry toast was causing a tsunami in my stomach. I had factored in my lack of mobility, the pants I’d need to wear to accommodate the surgery wounds, my pain threshold, the effect of too many painkillers on the quality of my conversation, even a really cool shoe for the foot that could but I had not considered that I may be vomiting or passing out. The nausea was quickly replaced by the intuitive knowing that I was going to miss the parade. It felt worse than the pain, the nausea and the spinning all put together. I knew I was not getting to the bench seat, no sunlight sprinkling itself through the shady canopy and I had to pass on the one thing that I’d really wanted. For those who have been in this position, you know what I mean. It truly is like handing over a baby. I knew it was right, I knew I had support and an incredible team that have shone like diamonds through this entire ordeal but I was just so sad to not be able to share in it like I had hoped.

The expression ‘give until it hurts’ followed my heart as it fast tracked south to become roommates with the acrid pit of my stomach. I let go. I said farewell. I cried… a lot… but I let go. Surrender is a gift. Surrender is not a seat, it is a warm bed with lush blankets on layers of cotton wool and if you truly release you can feel beautifully supported. So, with tender heart and surrender as my guide I telephoned each of the team to action Plan B. The plan we’d had the foresight to quietly develop a week after the accident but honestly had kept it in the pantry… shoved waaayyy up the back. None of us wanted it in the mix and here we were dealing with what could have easily been perceived from the outside as a substitute. It was not and here’s why…

True leadership is an act of service and a response to circumstance. High performing teams rise with a challenge. I asked myself “How was I to best serve the team in this moment?” My answer was resolute and rock solid – I was to empower them to leap and to fly. To package and pause my own grief for just a moment and have them understand their own capability. They themselves had done the work. This event had been fed, grown and protected under their wings for the last few months as well. The only thing left to do was push them out of the nest and watch them fly. And oh how they did! It was truly uplifting to witness from my bed and feel the quality of conversation and the impact it has made.

The following Monday morning, after a wet weekend of grieving and emotion that left my eyes puffy, my youngest daughter came to my bedside. There was a unicorn in her soft little hand. The rainbow patterned and sparkly horned creature asked me via the voice of my child, “If you had only one wish what would it be”. I responded honestly with “I’d like to be up and walking”. To my disappointment the unicorn erred. It was taking longer than I’d hoped to respond and then said coolly… “Well, ummm… No, I can’t make that wish come true”. My own little girl heart slid south again to curl up foetal next to my navel but in the time it took for me to consider from where my daughter’s pragmatism and wisdom had grown the unicorn added. “… buuut… what I can do is bake a cake and put a lot of candles on it so you can make all the wishes you want.” Phew, my heart uncurled and climbed back up my ribcage to it’s previous position.

It seems the ingredients on my recipe for recovery include surrender, support and cup loads of trust and loving myself for how this is playing out and how I’m sitting or laying down with it. It also includes the support of a harras of horses. These are the powerful, soft and willing people who are carrying me down the path on their backs. I am so very grateful. My team are flying, my course is true.

That was last week… so today I sit journaling about this and at another stage of my adversity and my leadership journey. I’m feeling stronger by the day, the graft is doing well, and we are crowdfunding the print of our first journal. It’s a new learning experience and another stretch goal. We will continue forward and together uplift women’s voices. The team here are so proud to offer you an opportunity to add to the mix and support a simple vision. Please pledge and share generously.

My thanks and my love

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash