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Leadership Boot Camp...or Mom's Dementia, Part 2

Leadership involves treading on the tightropes of multiple tensions:

  • between creating space for creativity while maintaining enough structure to lead to a great result;

  • between fostering innovation and change and still meaningfully honoring history and tradition;

  • between maintaining an inspiring vision while retaining enough flexibility in enacting that vision to shift as circumstances demand;

  • between empowering decision-making deeper within the organization yet stepping in to make tough, sometimes unpopular decisions when called for;

  • between balancing the organization’s wellbeing with the wellbeing of its various stakeholders;

  • between personal commitment and dedication to the organization while simultaneously seeing to one’s own physical, mental, and emotional needs

It might seem a stretch to some, but I have found myself precariously perched and, at times, wobbling furiously amongst these tensions over the last couple of months of caring for my mom (and my non-profit). These are in addition to the compassion and patience I mentioned in my last blog post, an every-waking-minute boot camp requiring ever-deeper competencies in these qualities, as we make our way though my mother’s progressing dementia.

We have no corporate policies or handbook to guide us. Between myself, my husband, the caregivers and my mom, we do have the caregiver company policies, the state and national laws, the caregivers’ training (which varies from individual to individual). There are also our own individual beliefs, patterns, and preferences – and sometimes these clash. All of these have the potential to both enhance and constrain our creativity in dealing with situations as they arise. Just this morning I was thinking how an “improv approach”, meaning not saying “no” or taking a position of opposition or resistance, but playing with possible viable ways to say yes, could create more lightness, possibility, and happy outcomes.

When my mom is having a hard time expressing herself understandably (which is becoming more the norm rather than the exception), how can I set aside my impatience and frustration, remember to smile and find ways to creatively shift her anxious, worried energy or misplaced desire to something more comforting, uplifting, or humorous?

What standards can the caregivers and my husband and I design that will empower the caregivers to make decisions that embody both safety and possibility, so they and we both feel more freedom? And, vitally, what do I need to let go of in my vision for how my mother’s care, our home life, and what my own commitments should look while still retaining an overriding standard that integrates excellence while releasing what no longer serves?

What will allow me to find the capacity to give more, rather than less, loving attention to my husband we are both shouldering more obligations? What is needed to find the time and energy to “take care of myself” (which most everyone tells me is more important than ever in this situation) when my mom, my husband, my dogs, my horses, my studies, and my community obligations are also pulling at me for meaningful attention?

These are the questions I’m navigating. I expect how they are traversed varies from person to person. For me, I’ve been experimenting with mindfulness, meditation, getting enough sleep, finding a few minutes here and there for alone-time, dog-time, horse-time, husband-time, and mom-time. I’ve been implementing reminders into my day and week to make space for both my own creativity and downtime. I’m continuing to make ongoing-while-not-fast progress with my non-profit (my dream), while also growing the skills that will aid me in bringing excellence, integrity, and a unique selling proposition to it, through professional and personal learning and development.

I’ve completed one after another of a variety of professional/personal development courses and programs as a coach, business owner, non-profit leader, and community activist over the last 10 years or more. They have all given me tools and practice ideas…but now is the boot camp where I can really put them into moment-by-moment-every-single-day practice. Honestly, I fail. A lot. Then I ask and pray for forgiveness, and try again, and again. Practice. Practice. Practice.

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