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Margaret: Can We Stop Talking About “The New Normal”, And Try Instead To “Live in Liminal”?
Last month, I celebrated the American Thanksgiving with my two sons and one of their friends. Since the end of my marriage two years ago, I have been deeply resistant to holidays. Ours is a family that loved and valued traditions – and I couldn’t quite let go of the tradition of the four of us all being at the table. So, for the past two years, we’ve found a way to combine forces.
This has had the positive effect of no one needing to have a major holiday without our sons. However, as anyone who’s ever had a relationship end also knows, it’s had many tick marks in the “negative” column, too. My kids have reported – with accuracy – that it has felt tense and awkward. One of my sons even said it felt like there was something decaying in the room – the decomposing space of a marriage that hadn’t been allowed to burn fully to ash so that something new might (or might not) be possible.
This year, my ex-husband wisely said: let’s not. And he resourced himself with other family members, and I got to spend the day cooking and enjoying a meal of gratitude with my grown sons.
And I realized, the morning after Thanksgiving, as I finished putting away the wine glasses and reflected on a great night, what I had been missing out on by holding onto the comfort and familiar of what’s now the old. We had a lovely night, in which I got treated to my sons’ culinary talents and adventure (deep fried turkey!), as well as a way we danced together during cooking and cleaning that was as delightful as it was oddly unexpected. This is a new way my family looked this year, and even though it is likely to change without notice, I loved it. And I have taken years to be open to this delightful new version.
And as I look back on 2021 – this is meant to be a “year in review,” after all – I think there is a lot of resistance in our collective space to letting go of what’s old. If I had to name one of the trends among clients and friends this past year, it would be that: we are standing in a doorway, not quite sure whether to go in or out.
It was a year when planning was insanely difficult. In which finding a thread or a story to follow in the world of fundraising was close to impossible. It was a year when events were live then not, when many started to cringe at reporting any work related to Covid, since they feel so so tired of talking about that.
It was a year in which we all continued to wait to see what life would be like when this is all settled – and a year in which we started to suspect that we might have to wait indefinitely.
It was another year of the liminal.
And I hope for all of you that as we roll the best we can with the “what IS,” that you, too, can find some lightness and joy.
Happy Holiday season to the Fundraising Leadership community, and sending love and gratitude to my teammates on this journey!
David: My New Normal is, as Igor said in the 1974 Horror Comedy Young Frankenstein, “Abby Normal.”
Some of you may know that I suffered a stroke in the fall of 2020. It happened about a month after my mom died. Needless to say, 2021 has been a bit “Abby Normal.”
In addition to dealing with my mom’s estate, I also had to deal with the impact of a macadamia nut sized lesion in my left posterior brain. The latter affected the former as there was damage to some of my language processing as well as my ability for analytical thinking. Fortunately, the brain has the ability to rewire itself over time and I regained both functions – mostly.
Unfortunately, there is no regaining my mom. She exists now as a memory trace. I miss her (and my father) nearly every day. This sense of loss was more acute this year at Thanksgiving, which was her favorite holiday.
Like Margaret, our family has its traditions. Like Margaret, we are in the liminal space between the old and the new. There’s no escaping the discomfort of this “neutral” zone. It’s the space between “no longer” and “not yet.”
On the professional front there was also some discomfort. I had to give up (or, reduce) some of my responsibilities that I had been holding for the Fundraising Leadership team.
Thankfully, Margaret, Michelle, and Janice helped fill the void. I feel blessed to have such wonderful partners.
Margaret and I co-led several groups through our Positive Intelligence (PQ) program. And, Michelle and I led a couple of nonprofit teams through our Growing Together Through Trust, Candor, and Conflict program.
It felt satisfying to get back to the work we excel at and love – e.g., helping nonprofit leaders grow and thrive.
Also in the Spring of 2021 I got back to the arena in another area of life. That is, competing in Jiu-Jitsu. I wish I could share here that by some miracle I won the World Masters Championship in November, but that would be a lie. I placed second, after losing to the undefeated champion of the world. As in Thunderdome, so in life: “Two men enter, one man leaves.”
On a final note, I’m putting the finishing touches on my next eBook. It’s a collection of essays entitled: You’re Not a Zombie (Yet!) – How to Survive the Apocalypse by Embracing Your Humanity. Stay tuned. There will be an email forthcoming to the community announcing the release.
Janice: Befores and Afters
It is hard for me to distinguish between 2020 and 2021. Instead it feels like the last two years are just a series of before and afters. Before Covid. After adopting our rescue pup Qui Qui. After my parents moved across the country. Before when we lived downtown in a condo. After we moved to a house in the city’s East end.
From last March until now has been a series of life-changing events. You have probably heard us talk about saboteurs before. My main one is controller, which is defined as an “anxiety-based need to take charge and control situations and people’s actions to one’s own will.”
So living through all of these big events has certainly triggered me.
Last summer my parents decided to finally move across the country. It was a long considered move that would bring them closer to my sister. And it took them very far away from me. My husband, my sister, and I coordinated the move. Moving across the country is always a big thing and doing it during a pandemic requires extra care and planning. My sister was prepared to help my parents out. And, well, let’s just say that became a much bigger job than any of us anticipated. We are deep in the world of caring for elderly parents now.
Last December my long-held dream of adopting a dog came to be. Our now two-year-old Qui Qui is the love of our lives. She is sweet, playful and goofy. And she is also much more anxious than we expected. Living in the heart of the city with an anxious dog is challenging to say the least. We suddenly were spending hours everyday at the off leash park. Playing with other dogs is her joy and helps her cope with her fears. Walking her on city streets, on the other hand, was the opposite of joy for all of us.
One gift of Covid was that our area became a lot less busy. As the city came back to life this summer, we decided it was time for all three of us to move to a quieter area. My husband asked if I wanted to look at houses. As a devoted condo dweller, I shocked myself when I said yes. Suddenly we were on the move to a small house in the city’s east end. Moving an anxious dog is tricky and I read lots of advice on the Internet. My mantra was short term pain, long term gain. Months later and we are finally settling into the life we wanted for all of us.
I travelled to see my parents last month and my sister got a break. I recognized that I need to give much more attention to my family for the next few years.
And, oh ya, we run this business called Fundraising Leadership. In 2019, I finally made enough money that I felt like a real business owner. 2020 started with lots of hope and then you can probably guess what happened. The past two years have been a disappointment for me in terms of finances. The great thing about working with other coaches is that they remind me that we never know what is good or bad.
Yes, business has been slower for me since March of 2020. And during that time I helped my parents move across the country, adopted a sweet dog who had a rough start and deserves all the love, and moved to the right neighbourhood for this stage of my life. The controller has been triggered many times and I am always grateful that David, Michelle and Margaret are there to help me find the gift in whatever is happening.
Michelle: Deep Appreciation for Connection
Time has blended together for me in the past year or so. The pandemic disrupted everything and it feels like the pieces are still fitting themselves together. Part of me wonders if the idea of time has become less important to me and so I have let it go.
My family has been on the move for the past year. My husband has moved from working at home and back to the office so many times that I’ve lost track. My son moved from an apartment nearby to living with his girlfriend in Denver and getting his first post-college job. My daughter took a break from college, moved into her first apartment thousands of miles from home, came back home for a few months, then moved into a dorm to attend college again.
This movement has enabled me to make decisions quicker than ever before. I have learned to adapt and be less attached to the way I thought things would be. I have learned the importance of community and have learned to ask for help and to help others in unexpected ways.
There have been health challenges too. I recovered from an unexpected surgery and am getting to know what my body needs. A family member has been experiencing long covid symptoms that are slowly getting better. And there have been mental health crises that have caused me to drop everything and prioritize getting help for someone close to me.
I have learned to ask myself in these different situations, “What is important here for me?” It’s a coaching skill that we actually train nonprofit leaders to use. The answers have helped me get grounded in my values and to be able to move forward with purpose and clarity. I fully embraced vacations and gatherings with friends and family with a new appreciation. Life feels more fulfilling and important.
My work with the Fundraising Leadership team and as a faculty member at the Co-Active Training Institute, have been incredibly fulfilling for me. I have spent countless hours on Zoom with people from all over the world. And David and I have had the joy of being with a few groups of people in-person too. There is a deep appreciation for human connection that I see as I engage with groups. And the skills of listening and navigating uncertainty have been rewarding to share with people and to witness the ripple that is being created in the world.
I am grateful to David, Janice and Margaret for the heartfelt and honest conversations we’ve had during this time. I still pinch myself that I have such amazing colleagues to share my life’s journey with.