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Journey to Overwhelm

I don’t think I have ever felt overwhelmed in my life until this last 10 days.  But now I get it.  I realize now I do everything I can to not feel deeply and so, not become overwhelmed.  People see being overwhelmed as a negative.  My story of overwhelm is different.

After my unapologetic post last week in which I staked a claim for my personal authenticity, I have received the most incredible outpouring of support from friends and strangers alike.

Never in my life have I felt such support and to be honest, I am not sure I dealt with it very well.  In some cases, I didn’t know how to react.  I was shocked at my level of vulnerability being reflected back to me so genuinely by others, both in email and in person.

I was brought to tears several times as I read through emails sent to me and I am wiping tears as I write this on my flight home.  I am not a crier.  I don’t cry.  I don’t get overwhelmed.  Or, that was my belief.  Obviously this is one of my many limiting beliefs that was – may still be –  preventing me from connecting with people on a deeper level.

My first mind blowing experience 10 days ago.

I flew out to work with an executive and continue my coaching with her.  It was the day after my last email went out.  She didn’t say a word, just walked toward me and looking at me just slightly odd.

As I got to her, she reached out and hugged me.  And hugged me.  I began to pull back and yet, she held on to me just hard enough for me to not get away.  I began sobbing.  I felt so embarrassed and out of control.  I was taught not to cry and certainly not like this.  And certainly not with a ‘client’.  Had she let me go, that is what I probably would have been left with but because

Now that I look back, writing that email was easy compared to being completely vulnerable with someone else.

I did not know it at the time, but clearly that hug was monumental and gave me strength over the next two days.

When I stopped sobbing she stepped back, put her hand softly on my face and smiled.   Then she yanked on my goatee saying, ’Let’s get to work’.  Not a word about the email was ever said between us.

I had no idea my email would strike such a chord in people.  And not all good.  Several hundred people unsubscribed and a few with some very *interesting* comments about was is appropriate to be emailing out.  Apparently they did not take my ‘Who fucking cares?’ comment seriously and thought perhaps it was a wonderful teaching opportunity.

In case you are wondering, I read every response and reply personally.  No one else sees them.

The email replies were a wide range of people telling me an eerily similar story that made me think I have several dopplegangers in the world.  I might have to find you and destroy you, so beware.  🙂

Other emails were unbelievably raw with emotion on both sides.  After several emails exchanged, one person wrote ‘I love you’ as part of the email.  It was in the most amazing and appropriate way and I was shocked when I looked inside and felt the same.  By the way, I have not responded to you and I will.  Please know I have been on a 10-day sprint with travel and several clients.  You DID NOT scare me off!  Expect a reply very soon.

Which brings me back to being overwhelmed.

I had no idea so many of my clients and clients employees have subscribed to receive my emails.

Quick digression – I HATE the word employee.  Please use a better word to show value to the people around you.  It is a good description when speaking about large number of people but individuals are so much more than an employee.  It is a transactional word as if each ‘employee’ is interchangeable like a nut on a bolt.  Please use another word when you are speaking to them.  Words matter and pick one that helps individuals feel valued.

During my time with my clients, many people I did not know received the email came up to me asking how my family was doing and thanking me for sharing.  It was, in a word, awesome.

Over the last 10 days I was in San Diego for one of our Effective Facilitator Training which is always different and always awesome.  So many life experiences and roles are represented which creates rich discussions.  While I don’t think I showed it, these are always emotional experiences for me.  This is my opportunity to directly impact those who are trying to impact others.  If I am effective in the workshop, the ripple effects of my actions are HUGE.  There have been partnerships developed, lifelong friendships created and people walk away knowing absolutely that they can create life learning opportunities.  That’s some powerful shit for me!

Unfortunately, for the first time in 15 years, the Boys and Girls Club backed out at the last minute and the new skateboard program we have, Get On Board, was not possible.  (BGC members show up and we have a ton of fun while earning and assembling a brand new 100% custom skateboard).

It is silly, but this was a crushing blow as it is the climax of the workshop.  Also, a long-time trusted partner failed to deliver which was completely unexpected (with good reason, by the way).

I love living in Boulder CO but a large part of who I am lives at sea and I am always yearning to be on the ocean sailing.  It is my zen place where I go to rejuvenate and find myself.

San Diego is awesome, but I was looking out at the ocean the entire time and I had no time to get on the water.  Next was Naples and no time for the ocean.  Next up was St. Petersburg and no time for the water.  Next up was Portland OR and driving along the Columbia River where I sailed on my little 26 foot Pearson in my 20s.  It was one long and constant torture on my soul.

This alone was no problem but throughout all of this I am responding to incredible email responses from people who were moved by my post.

The election had it’s own emotion tied around it and I spent election night at a hotel bar with some ‘clients’ while supporters from both sides would come up and talk about their thoughts.  It was rough.

And then I look at the email on my phone and read from one person about how they have lost their business due to family illness/death, how they are recovering their lives and how much my email had helped them know it was not just them.

All I wanted to do was reach out and hug them the way I was hugged.  To let them know they are not alone and perhaps provide the same comfort I was given.  My emails are a pale comparison and please know my virtual hug is there, just waiting for you.

As I continued my crisscross of the country, being gone was taking a toll on my own family.  I simply wanted to be home to help take care of them as a couple of crises reared up.

And the emails and replies kept coming…  the overwhelm began in earnest as everything simply piled up.

The climax was today as I was presenting for 120 leaders on 3.5 hours sleep.

It was one of our Building A Dream experiences (assembling bikes and giving them to children who arrive on site to receive them as their first bike, check out videos here and DIY here).  My amazing team had overcome obstacle after obstacle in coordination and logistics which created a tremendous amount of stress for all of us.

As I was standing to be introduced, the President of the client company was talking about legendary people with the attendees talking about fathers, grandmothers, teachers and… mothers.

I have held back the grief from my mother dying since July of 2015.  The audience was talking about the small things, describing them in some detail and flashes of my mom came rushing in and I started sobbing and then crying all over again.  It was not grief.  This may sound crazy but it felt like my mom was hugging me.  I had to leave the room, hoping that I was not introduced and absent.  I lived fully in that moment, accepting the hug and, I SWEAR, I felt my mom touch her hand to my cheek, yank on my goatee (which she begged me to keep on hear deathbed) and say, ‘Now go change some lives’.  So I did.

Never in my life have I felt so connected to my heart and the hearts of other people.  That is what has overwhelmed me.  It has been wave after wave of deep emotion that I typically keep at arms reach for fear of looking too ‘soft’ or simply being afraid of my reactions of letting people see the real me.

Again, to those who reached out to me with your own stories, I thanked you in my responses and I want to thank you again.  Your stories and thoughts have given me exactly what I needed to keep going.  I didn’t realize I needed that external validation and maybe I didn’t.  But it sure feels awesome and has given me permission to continue.

Overall, being overwhelmed was the best part of my life in the last 10 days and has created a shift inside me, hopefully a permanent shift if I can keep up the habit.  Which is why I wrote this.

I thank all for challenging me to be a better person.

I am finishing this on Saturday morning so I can send it before I think twice and chicken out.

Next for me?  I am off to start the pumpkin pancakes before the family wakes up (they sleep in on weekends).  Just try and top that!

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