In late 2018 I embarked on my year of Radical Yes. I turned 50 years old and for the first time realized a life-long dream of building a fundraising consulting business. Up to this point, in so many ways, I was buying into all the things society was telling me: I was “too old, too broke, too single, too inexperienced. . . too. . . too… .too. . .“ — you fill in the blank. I was exhausted that first year of my new life and felt a little ground up after a tough eight years of relocating from New York City to Southeast Michigan for a new job, a life-changing journey through late-stage breast cancer, and a radical realization that I was doing what I was meant to be doing but where I was doing it was wrong: Wrong institution, wrong values, and wrong vision.
I decided that while I didn’t know how or if my fledgling consulting business was going to work out, I needed to jump and damn the consequences. The great side-benefit of a near-death cancer experience is that fewer things frighten me now. Facing my mortality was a surprisingly gentle, but compelling wake-up call that my time deserved far more respect than I was offering. While I had my business plan in place when I quit institutional fundraising, I gave myself 12 months to say YES to anything that presented itself as long as it was fiscally responsible and I had the time and ability to do it. They weren’t big yesses on the whole, but yesses that I had longed for without ever gifting myself the time to do in my busy busy busy drive toward career advancement — yesses I always felt I needed to set aside in order to be more “productive.” One of the most amazing YES moments was realizing how hungry I had become for “do nothingness”. I said YES to two wonderful month-long road trips, I said YES to spending time with friends and newly forming friendships, I said YES to co-creating a non-profit with a friend and colleague I admired, I said YES to radically downsizing a lifestyle that required too much maintenance, I said YES to gardening like a maniac, I said YES to sleeping in (and napping, and going to bed early, and still sleeping in), I said YES to restorative tears, I said YES to soaking up the sun in a lawn chair while reading trashy romance novels, I said YES to attending a “reunion” of Accenture consultants who I hadn’t worked with for 25 years (so weird. . .), and perhaps most impactfully, I said YES to my friend Diana Wong to attend a SoulCollage workshop with her.
I purposely didn’t know much about what I was attending. Diana said to show up, so I did. The facilitator led us through a series of steps to select a first image from a large selection of images spread out on a table. I felt a little skeptical but selected a picture of a baby in a brightly colored stocking cap simply because I liked the color (chartreuse, my energetic favorite). We then sat down in a group and began to talk about our image using the “I am one who. . .” exercise. As I spoke from the image, “I am one who is new…I am one who is newly born. . . .I am one who is filled with growth and possibility. . .” I suddenly felt the image transformed from a baby in a green hat into a symbol of my emerging self, the self that wanted to be new, to be a learner, to be reborn. I felt a wave of emotional connection with the image that continued to deepen as I selected a background of a growing flower (my garden energy getting infused into the narrative) and finally adding a picture of an old, saucy lady smoking a rolled joint the size of a cigar and glaring with “fuck you” certainty at the viewer. As I assembled my collage onto the 8”x5” size mat card, I found myself getting more and more excited about what the symbolism of the images and their arrangement was revealing to me. I was hooked. The multi-nuanced nature of creating cards for all parts of myself and my journey, both the dark and the light, the optimistic and the fearful, felt like I had, at last, met the mentor I always wanted… and it was me!
Fast forward a few months and I am now a trained facilitator in SoulCollage® with the happy task of preparing for our first set of workshops at the Back Office Studio here in Ypsilanti. It is the beginning of a journey that I feel very passionate about — holding space with people who are interested in finding their own inner mentors and sharing their insights in a supportive, non-judgemental space of discovery. It’s not always easy or joyful work, but I feel the energy of transformation in each and every workshop I host, each and every person who meets the mentor they always wanted in themselves, their history, their vision, their future. Powerful stuff to celebrate on any given afternoon. How grateful I am to be in this work with you. I hope that you will say a Radical YES too and come join us at a workshop soon. I can’t wait to hear what your cards have to say to you!