My work often involves creating a framework to break down challenges organizations, teams or individuals are facing. Emerging hope in the midst of chaos by creating conversations that share out strategies to facilitate the moving forward without diminishing the problem or losing the lessons.
Before. MIDDLE. Otherside. A framework that allows for reflection [before], action [middle] and intention [otherside].
Diagnosed in 2016 with triple negative breast cancer [after caring for and losing both parents to cancer] felt chaotic, uncertain of what the otherside might look like. Layered with experience as a caregiver and now thrown into the role of recipient the emotion and fears got complicated fast. Yet this framework offered a space to do the soul work necessary, offered some clarity and even calm in the middle.
Now as I stand five years out, the milestone triple negative breast cancer survivors hope to reach, I find myself once again leveraging the framework to reflect, act and move forward with intention. I know regardless of science and research there’s always the chance. Always the potential that the cancer may return and yet to stay in that place mentally changes how I live, love and lead today. It flows out to impact those around me.
The framework allowed a way to organize what felt chaotic and uncertain. It allowed a sense of influence over what felt [and was] out of my control. It allowed me to make decisions based on the whole picture of what had been, what was and what I prayed would be. It designed a pause to help me take the path of least regret when so much was unknown.
When we are in the MIDDLE of a challenge, problem, uncertainty or pain this middle space offers a sacred time to do soul work yet our culture is quick to dismiss this internal work. It urges us to forge ahead to the otherside, losing the lessons, missing out on the transformational shifts that influence what the otherside will look like.
For me the MIDDLE was about understanding what I did not have control over, what I could control and what I could influence. Determining to place my energy which was limited on what I could control and influence. It was the work of discovering the pain both physically and emotionally had purpose beyond myself and needed to be a part of the progress. This was not diminishing my experience or a twisted sense of martyrdom, it was the understanding that even pain, discomfort and disappointment offers opportunity.
This framing of my cancer experience offered the ability to not see breast cancer as my identity but as a part of my story. How often do we define ourselves by what we have done or has been done or said to us? How often do we grasp at becoming our experiences vs recognizing the situation as a part of a bigger story, one that is not only yours but also resonates with others?
Leveraging resources when we face challenge is essential and reminds us that we are not designed to do life or work in isolation. That rarely is a challenge solo work. Faith was a resource, a sustainable strategy that when given intention allowed me to find peace beyond my understanding in the unknown [when we were told the cancer had likely metastasized to my liver], curiosity in how every interaction I had might be used to encourage others and glorify God, hope in what the otherside may look like whether I lived or died.
Don’t tune out the value of the framework if faith is not a resource you currently tap into when facing challenges. This is my story, not one that I request you to embrace. My story five years ago and the “otherside” I am now living in is different because of the work that was done and not dismissed in the MIDDLE, the faith of others when mine was weak and felt broken and embracing the experience of the unknown as a collective soul journey not solo work done in isolation.
The challenges you are now facing, the fears of what might be, the uncertainty that can overcome us needs our attention. It has purpose beyond what we likely know at this time. What we do when we are in the MIDDLE, how we allow ourselves and give safety for others to be genuine and vulnerable will change what the otherside will look like. What the next chapter of your story will read and how it will inspire.
Allow time to dig into the grit as you battle and necessary rest into the grace that is all sufficient. We need both grit and grace when we facedown a challenge. My prayer for you is that you will find the framework a place to start when overwhelmed and that the gift of faith, not earned but given, will be the hope and fuel in whatever MIDDLE is placed in front of you.
We don’t know what the future holds. I still struggle at time with fear as I hear other’s stories. I remind myself I am not alone. We are created to connect and that is especially true when we face struggle. Yet that is often when shame, embarrassment or even pride can keep us from the hope that emerges in the transformational work of a MIDDLE. The MIDDLE is messy and in that mess we have opportunity to allow more honesty, show up with authenticity and a vulnerability that changes the storyline of our otherside, what it will look and feel like. Let’s create space and time for ourselves and other to explore the MIDDLE and not miss the beauty that can surface even from the ashes.