Suriving and Thriving Together

By Anne Harbison

How to Become the Author of Your Own Story

Uncategorized Nov 28, 2021

“When you’re in the middle of a story it isn’t a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It’s only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all, when you are telling it, to yourself or to someone else.” - Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace

Your story, the one where you are the hero, the villain, the victim, where you are thrown into rough waters or are abandoned in a desert, these stories where you can see the role you play and how things turn out -- they’re not stories at all until after the fact.

When we are in the midst of these events, there isn’t always rhyme or reason to it. There aren’t always moments of clarity to stop, breathe, take a step back, and see bigger pictures-- especially in dark moments where a...

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Filling the Gap When a Puzzle Piece is Lost

Uncategorized Nov 21, 2021

When something we care about is lost, cancelled, or put on hold (like so much of life in the past two years), we don’t simply miss that activity; we miss the underlying energy and value that the activity brought to our lives.

Consider in-person team meetings, coaching or playing a sport, travel, being able to attend a concert, play or worship service with others. These examples aren’t just “events” -- they are sources of joy, connection, entertainment, creativity, and adventure.

The loss of any one of those individually may not constitute real hardship. But collectively, they’ve left a hole.

Too often, that gap fills with loneliness, isolation, boredom, or numbing. But often, in the absence of what was lost, we can find alternate means of fulfillment. And a good place to start is by looking at our own talents, passions, and hopes. They will help us carve a path.

For example, I had a client who loved managing others. When he started a job where he...

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A New Take on Mr. Rogers’ ‘Find the Helpers’

Uncategorized Nov 14, 2021

Sometimes the best advice to start answering complicated questions are the simple answers. It’s for that reason I want to talk about a steady piece of advice from none other than good ol’ Mr. Rogers.

Mr. Rogers told children that when they saw or felt something scary, whether it be in real life or on TV, they should “look for the helpers.”

When lost in a store, look for someone with a name badge. When passing a wreck on the highway, look for the ambulance and police officers helping the injured. Even on the playground, when feeling shy on the first day of school, look for the person who is offering you a seat at the lunch table. Knowing that these kind souls are ready and willing to help makes us feel more secure and comforted.

That is a soothing reminder for adults as well. When disaster strikes, brave people step up to help, comfort, and heal. They may be wearing surgical scrubs or safety gear. Maybe they have no formal uniform, but they wear their kindness...

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In Between Shores: The Murky Middle of Growth

Uncategorized Nov 07, 2021

“For everything there is a season: a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

— Ecclesiastes 3:1–4

I have always loved advice columns.

Growing up, I read “Dear Abby”, “Ann Landers”, and indulged in the “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” column in Ladies Home Journal while waiting at doctors’ offices or hair salons with my mom.

I’ve since updated my easy reading list. As an adult, I still indulge in advice columns—like those of Carolyn Hax, Amy Dickenson, and Miss Manners. Their pithy words of wisdom balance out the weightier thoughts in a day.

My favorite of all is Cheryl Strayed’s “Dear Sugar” column -- now a podcast with Steve Almond. They are known for taking on meaty issues with no easy answers. Strayed, in particular, provides the same searing, gold-nuggets of truth. Her latest collection of essays, Brave Enough...

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Your Costumes in the World: Do They Fuel or Shield You?

Uncategorized Oct 31, 2021

The ‘20s (the last two years, not the Roaring) have not been years for getting all dressed up. 

For one, who has the time and mental energy to perfect our appearance when it seems the whole world is crumbling in more ways than one? And for two, no one really had anywhere to go!

Like many, I’ve spent most of that time in sweatpants or pajamas—at least on my bottom half during virtual business calls. That experience is so common that many commercials, memes, and comedy routines mock the hazards of our “split personalities” when it comes to attire.

So often our top-half and bottom-half are playing different characters adorning a single body.

Case in point: Recently, I had an actual in-person meeting and enjoyed putting on a nice outfit, make-up, and styling my hair. What a relief to be joining the grown-up world again.

When I walked into the kitchen, my pre-school daughter exclaimed, “Mommy, I love your costume!” (Kids have a way of...

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Time Management for the Pandemic Flux Syndrome

Uncategorized Oct 22, 2021

“If you can’t fly, then run,

If you can’t run, then walk,

If you can’t walk, then crawl,

But whatever you do,

You have to keep moving forward.”

— Martin Luther King Jr.

On New Year's of 2021, we were all hoping that this would be the year of lasting recovery and relief. We'd lived through the worst year in decades, but now had turned a page. Let the healing begin!

Within the first week of 2021, however, there was a popular meme that captured a different sensibility: "I've seen the first seven days of 2021 and I'd like to cancel my subscription."  Political turmoil, the Delta variant, and controversy over the best path forward are only a few sources of the crisis-recovery cycle that continues.

Getting through a difficult time is hard enough -- but being repeatedly thrown from optimistic highs to discouraging lows takes its toll. We have a threshold of tolerance when it comes to prolonged uncertainty.

In fact, there’s...

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Experiencing Hope with Both Your Head & Heart

Uncategorized Oct 15, 2021

“Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”

— Carl Bard

In the wake of a great tragedy, crisis, or turmoil, no matter the degree or scope, we have a spectacular tendency to hold onto hope.

So let’s explore what hope actually is, and how it works.

I learned from Dr. Shane Lopez, a leading positive psychologist whose specialty was the study of hope, that hope is both affective and cognitive. That is, it contains elements of both emotion and logic. Both our heads and hearts are involved when we feel hopeful.

Hope produces positive feelings, such as optimism, but is sustained by a clear-eyed assessment of what is possible, not blind faith.

In hope, there is a reason to believe. This reason is not proof—we know by now that there are no guarantees when it comes to surviving a crisis—but a set of circumstances, principles, and experiences that provides glimmers (and eventually full rays)...

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You Are Not Alone

Uncategorized Oct 09, 2021

“Does it ever go away?”

“No, it doesn’t. But it does change.”

Rabbit Hole (2010)

In the movie Rabbit Hole, Nicole Kidman and Dianne Wiest's characters have both lost children. For Kidman’s character, the tragedy of her four-year old son dying in an automobile accident happened only months before. In contrast, Wiest’s character lost her adult son to a drug overdose fifteen years earlier.

Feeling the suffocating weight of acute grief, Kidman’s character asks Wiest's, “Does it ever go away?”

“No, it doesn’t. But it does change.” Wiest replies.

She compares lingering grief, over a long period of time, to a brick that you now carry in your sweater pocket. Yes, it is heavy. Yes, it continues to make its presence known. But you can still function. Most of the time, people don’t notice the weight you are carrying, and that too is a sort of relief.

In my own life, I’ve found that to be true. One...

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Grieving What Is Lost

“At every point in the human journey, we find that we have to let go in order to move forward; and letting go means dying a little. In the process we are being created anew, awakened afresh to the source of our being.”

— Kathleen Fischer

We experience grief whenever a relationship ends before we're ready to say goodbye.

That ending may be the death of a family member, friend, or pet. It could mean the ending of a friendship, romantic relationship, or job.

We may grieve the loss of something tangible, like a piece of jewelry or a child’s artwork, or from the loss of something abstract, like youth or a certain way of life.

We can even grieve a future that is no longer possible... a lost opportunity or the next chapter of life that will no longer be what we had imagined.

Grief comes in so many shapes and forms, each one with their own layers of loss. The impact of one significant loss almost always ripples into multiple facets of our lives. The change...

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Honoring Our Shadows in Order to Find the Light

Uncategorized Sep 25, 2021

After my eldest daughter was born, I consumed every how-to, why-to, and when-to book there was on parenting. And when she was six months, I stumbled upon a book titled Photographing Your Baby.

Now, in what feels like a lifetime later, I don’t remember much of the book, except for one key idea:

Turn off the lights.

The author explained that bright flashes wash out the infinitely complex subject, making the baby seem two-dimensional. Relying instead on the surrounding natural light produces what the author claimed is the essential feature of good photos: shadows.

Without an artificial glare, the many folds and creases of the baby’s skin deepen. The contrast between foreground and shadow conveys a richer portrait of reality: the intricate complexity of a multifaceted life.

And the reason this has stuck with me, while complex in execution, is simple at its core: Embracing shadow is the only way to embrace light.

When emerging from a crucible or crisis experience, as we...

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