Suriving and Thriving Together

By Anne Harbison

The Power of Stories to Transform

"To fashion an inner story of our pain carries us into the heart of it, which is where rebirth inevitability occurs." -  Sue Monk Kidd

If You Knew Me Well...

You'd know that I grew up in Kentucky, I was a national speech competitor in college, and my first job was at Procter & Gamble. I received my doctorate researching leadership development. I've been married to my college sweetheart, Steve, for over twenty years. We love being parents.

Pretty basic stuff, which makes it a tame (and lame) icebreaker in the retreats I facilitate for leadership teams. But conversations like these get more interesting when we start telling the stories behind the stories. So...

The plot thickens...

Before joining P&G, I spent a year with a music group that traveled around the world. We were in Eastern Europe when the Berlin Wall came down, performing in the shipyards of GdaƄsk where Poland was invaded at the start of WW2.

After P&G, I joined an...

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The Danger of All or Nothing

surviving and thriving May 01, 2020

Remember Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? Maybe you’ve had one or two of those lately. Some (bad hair) days are truly atrocious, but often we use “catastrophe” language as a dramatic default.

I could just kill her…
That was literally the worst thing that could have happen…
Never in a million years did I see that coming…
I would die if that happened to me…
She’ll never recover... 

And those were simply reactions to when Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt broke up. Seriously, I have said ridiculous, exaggerated statements over articles in Entertainment Weekly. For you, it may be when the sports star misses the tie-breaking shot, your favoriteTV series is canceled, some juicy gossip gets unleashed, a friendship betrayed.  Of course, it’s hyperbole. But still, words and mind-sets matter.

Yesterday I shared my victory story of embracing Joy and Sorrow (literally). I hope you let both the simplicity and the...

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The Power of Holding Space

surviving and thriving Apr 24, 2020

When someone we love is in pain, we long to relieve their suffering. We have an impulse to jump in, fix the problem, cheer them up, get enraged over the injustice they’ve experienced, or offer up “everything happens for a reason” platitudes.

I can tell you as someone who has experienced deep grief that I understand, and am even grateful for these responses. The other person is vicariously experiencing the pain of my loss, and like me, feels helpless over their inability to make it go away. Like the person suffering, they want nothing more than for life to go back to what once was.

I can also tell you from experience that these responses are not ultimately helpful, even though they are well intentioned. After our son died we were showered with gracious care and support. But every now and then, the intensity of someone's attempt to make me feel better actually shut me down, and in a few cases caused resentment. Several times I felt like I was comforting...

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Navigating Layers of Loss

surviving and thriving Apr 20, 2020

There’s a saying when you’ve lost someone very close to you that the second year is worst that the first. After we lost our son, that sounded like a cruel joke. How could anything be worse than the devastating pain we were living during that year of “firsts” without Ben - the first birthday, holiday, plane ride, school pick up, hockey game, etc.?

I’m not sure that “worse” captures what I experienced, but the pain of year two (and the years since then) definitely shifted. I was in a constant state of disbelief in the first year. Even months after his death I’d be going about my day and in an instant it would hit me, as if for the first time, that he was gone. It felt like a cosmic punch in the stomach. I would actually feel dizzy over an inability to compute what had happened. I now know how common, and even necessary, that disbelieving shock is. At some level we simply cannot bear the new reality, so our minds shut down to give our...

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The Gifts of Grief

surviving and thriving Apr 17, 2020

I’ve learned a lot about grief in the past five years. Certainly through my direct experience of mourning of our son’s death, but also through being in community with others grappling with profound loss. Like many searching for solid ground after a crisis, I reached out to counselors, wisdom literature, experts in death and dying, and my community of faith. Although these external resources were vast and valuable, it is the simple insights that guided the day-to-day rebuilding of my life that I want to share with you.

The insights offer don't only apply to tragedy - they relate to navigating loss of any kind, in any type of life crisis. The best definition of grief I’ve heard is from my friend and mentor, John Ross. He explains that we grieve whenever a relationship ends and we weren’t ready to say goodbye. That may mean losing a family member, friend or pet; it could mean the ending of a friendship, romantic relationship or job. Grief can occur...

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'Not Now' Doesn't Mean 'Not Ever'

surviving and thriving Apr 13, 2020

Post-ponements, rain checks, cancelations. Our lives are full of them. A birthday celebration, or actual birth, you were not able to attend. A graduation ceremony or wedding postponed. A family vacation or work event cancelled. There is not a human on the planet whose daily routines, and major life events, have not been turned upside down.

The ancient Greeks had two words for time: chronos and kairos. Chronos was associated with actual “clock” time - measurable, consistent segments of time passing. Chronos is the time of day planners, project management deadlines, birthdays and anniversaries recorded on our calendars. Chronos time is the number of days you’ve been home-bound. The number of days your child has been home from school. The number of days that you haven’t been to the hair stylist, gym or coffee shop.

Kairos, on the other head, referred to the meaning of any moment in time. Kairos (the Greek god of Opportunity) reflected the...

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The Next Right Step

I’ve gotten pretty lax with television time in our house during this stay-at-home period. My kids are watching a LOT of Disney (giving me some time for Netflix binges). Frozen’s Let It Go has been on a replay loop in my head for years. Now “The Next Right Thing” from Frozen II is playing right along beside it. If you have to have an ear worm, these empowerment ballads are pretty great.

Yesterday I encouraged you to purposely toggle between the big picture and the immediate need (zoom out, zoom in). Taking the next step without a broader frame of reference (and meaning) can lead you unconsciously down a path you never meant to travel. You may be moving forward, but is it the right direction at the right time for the right purpose? Is the decision, action, conversation you’re having today actually the next right thing?

It’s especially hard to discern the next right thing when that “ zoom-out" horizon...

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How Are You Doing With Not Knowing?

surviving and thriving Apr 03, 2020

Gallup research shows that our primary need during times of turmoil and crisis is stability. In times of uncertainty, we long to know what is still true, what is expected of us, on what and whom can we rely.  In the context of the Covid-19 crisis, when what we do not know is overwhelming, reaffirming what has not changed will continue to be a touchstone of sanity and comfort. If there was ever a time for gratitude for what we do have, it is now. 

It has become clear that we are experiencing a global inflection point. Across continents, across cultures, time will be delineated by BC (before Covid-19) and AC (after Covid-19). As the profound scope of this pandemic is unfolding, we all need to strengthen our emotional muscles for tolerating ambiguity and complexity. 

So here are two critical questions:

1) What was your relationship with “not knowing” before Covid-19 (BC)? 
In more normal, predictable times, have you been someone who...

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