Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Family, Love, Acceptance: Relearned on A Beach Retreat




The power and intensity around these words for me personally is practically indescribable. Each one a trigger of all kinds of emotions and deep seeded beliefs. As a person whose life work revolves around relationships and how to best grow and leverage them for good, I am intimately familiar with the contradictions that can accompany each word.

We all have family.

We all crave, want and need love.

We all deeply desire acceptance but know it's not always available so we can live without it.

I am deeply moved and forever changed by my experience with a "client", no less,  who showed me in a very real way that all those things are possible even in places where we least expect it.

This past Spring, a dear sister friend invited me to use my talents at a retreat for Black women executives who in work in philanthropy. Based on their desires, I created two workshops and quickly got the "thumbs up" from the planning committee. This event weighed heavily on my schedule as its confirmation fully booked my September 2015 calendar rendering me not one additional billable hour in May.  From day one, I knew this would be a history making event for me and my business, even if that the time I had not true idea why.

Fast forward to September 24 - my arrival day at the event. You could say I skidded to this event after 30 days of relentless travel. There were 9 workshops, 3 TED-style talks, 2 seminars in 5 cities touching countless people with my message of Engage, Collaborate, Lead in one form or another. The trip itself pushed me into American Airlines Gold status which was huge for me back in my days of corporate marketing travel on someone else's dime. I was exhausted yet completely stoked to lead and learn with a group of my peers - outstanding Black women executives. Don't even mention that the week was a great one for talented Black women in general. Even though I was on a plane, I did not miss the 2015 Emmy buzz around amazing Black actresses taking home statues  - Regina King, Viola Davis and Uzo Aduba.

Little did I know, that my contribution to the weekend would be the least impactful memory I'd have. From allowing me full participation in the planned weekend activities, to my divinely appointed work group Friday afternoon - every aspect of the ABFE Women in Philanthropy 2015 Leadership Retreat deeply touched me and renewed my faith in family, love and acceptance.

Family is a complicated matter with me. My family of origin is a complex and messy tale. Until recently, my marriage and family I built was my refuge and saving grace for the very word "family." While it is still together, many uncertainties abound about its future.

Love. Boy, do I struggle with this concept. See my Mother's Day post here, if you don't believe me. I have no problem giving love but receiving it is my achilles.

Acceptance is quite another story. I have learned to live without acceptance for much of my life. While I have always wanted it, especially from women who look like me, rarely was it extended to me. I've always been too different. Too loud. Too outspoken. Too smart. Too daring. Too driven. And now that I am well into my 40s, I simply don't give a damn if I am accepted or not. I have learned to live in that tension without diminishing who I am.

Imagine my sheer shock at getting all of these things - family, love and acceptance from a group of women who barely knew me.  Imagine feeling completely at home being who I am, delivering my best talents, sharing my heart and soul for a few days in paradise.  Imagine days later continuing to build those connections virtually and feeling the sense that someone - lots of someones - close to 30 someones HAVE MY BACK in all corners of this great country.

Thank you, ladies.

Thank you for sharing yourselves with me.

Thank you for allowing me to serve you.

Thank you for showing me that family, love and acceptance can be extended and shared in our community.

See you at the next retreat!


Your new ABFE sister

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