The Power of Our Responses

How do you respond in the normal course? Are you empathetic? Resourceful? Singularly-focused? Kind? I’ve been stuck on this topic for weeks, ever since I heard a piece on NPR that talked about the impact of a single person’s response.  The story offered a rare glimpse into something we do effortlessly – instinctively – everyday. We respond. Transition has taught me something very important about responding. Through its lens, I now recognize that we choose how we respond in every moment, in every situation. Taken together, our responses represent an opportunity to telegraph to the world the fullness of who we are. How do you choose to respond?

A little light for the season!

The piece that started all this was NPR’s coverage of Plague, a podcast that explores the Catholic Church’s role in the AIDS epidemic. One of the earliest episodes features a story about Karen Helfenstein, a Sister of Charity nun in New York City in the 1980s.

In an important moment, Sister Karen responded. Genuinely. Differently. Expansively.

Her simple choice changed a community and its very history.

Sister Karen served as VP of Mission for St Vincent’s Hospital, a Greenwich Village institution that cared for the sick and dying throughout the early decades of the AIDS crisis.  Early on ACT UP, an advocacy group, staged a protest in the Emergency Department (ED) of the hospital. The protesters were furious over what they believed to be the hospital’s poor treatment of those suffering and of those who loved them. The protest got a little out of hand. Somewhere along the way protestors defaced a statue of Jesus Christ by affixing condoms to it.

Law enforcement was called. The protest turned ugly.

The act of affixing condoms on Christ was a flashpoint for both sides. To the gay community, the act symbolized their outrage over the Catholic Church’s stance against the distribution of condoms even though condoms were widely recognized as an important tool in preventing the spread of AIDS.  On the other side, few could envision a more egregious act than to deface the embodiment of Christ, let alone with condoms.

Sister Karen was charged with responding to the event on behalf of the hospital.

Many around her wanted the hospital to press charges against the protestors. These voices were incensed. Indignant.

It all hung on her response.

Instead of feeding off the crowd’s fury, she responded differently. Sister Karen invited community members – who at the time were ostracized by many in society – to talk with her about what happened and, more importantly, why it happened.

She held their hands as they described their pain. She listened as they talked about their fear and disbelief tied to a demon that was ravaging their community. Patients and their lovers drew parallels for Sister Karen between these feelings and how it felt as they walked through the doors of St Vincent’s to seek care.

Sister Karen’s – different, genuine, expansive – response started St Vincent’s on a path that years later established it as the standard-of-care for treating AIDS patients and their families.

Instead of anchoring on an image of a defaced Christ, Sister Karen’s response helped St Vincent’s create another new image: one that held the hand of the sick;  staged an infinite variety of birthday parties and last meals; and even created a new annual Holiday tradition, a visit from Drag Santa.

St. Vincent’s is gone now. Bull-dozed to make way for the neighborhood’s progress. But the response of Sister Karen lives on in the hearts and minds of those whom St Vincent’s touched.

The choices we have in front of us daily may not seem so highly-charged. But make no mistake, they all can be as influential. Our responses matter. Our willingness to bring who we are to the choice of how to respond has an unimaginable power.

This season I encourage you to bring your awareness to how you respond and to recognize the innumerable choices you face everyday related to responding. Without such reflection, we all risk leaving untapped the enormous potential that is resident within each of us.

I wish for you and those you love great peace and moments of joy this Holiday Season. Thank you for walking next to me as I continue to explore transition and as I embrace its invaluable gifts.

Warmest wishes for a safe and happy Holiday Season,

Linda R.

linda@WomenAndTransition.com

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If you have a few minutes more, here are a few holiday posts from the Novofemina archive:

Choices and Teddy Bears, December 20, 2017

Leading with Gratitude, December 21, 2011

A Gift for You This Holiday Season, December 12, 2013

Simple Gifts…, December 24, 2015

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Copyright © 2019 Linda Rossetti & NovoFemina.com. All rights reserved. No content on this site may be reused in any fashion without written permission from NovoFemina.com.

Seeing You

Who sees you? You. Your essence. Your truth. I was reminded of being seen’s power during a recent exchange with my daughter.  She was introduced to being seen – only to have it taken away from her. Abruptly. Unexpectedly. The before and after contrast made me think about our last blog, A New Twist on Being Seen, and our willingness to let others see us.  Tell me, does anyone see you? Continue reading

A new twist on being seen

What does it mean to you to be seen? At first glance, ‘being seen’ might make you think about your presence or absence at something important. Were you at the right meeting? The right party? The right moment? What you recognize as ‘being seen’ will differ from what I recognize. That said, I am not sure this type of ‘being seen’ really captures it. What if ‘being seen’ is being acknowledged or affirmed for who you really are? Or even better. What if being seen is really about our willingness to be seen? Not the person you are supposed to be at work or at home or at the PTA meeting….You. Your essence. Your truth. How visible are you? Are you willing to be seen?

Continue reading

Making Choices Matter

Choice is such a whopper of a topic. Isn’t it? How would you describe your relationship with choice? Do you err on the side of safety or throw caution to the wind? I’ve been thinking a lot about choices this summer thanks to a chance conversation. It happened when I was talking with an adult daughter of a friend at a lawn party earlier in June. She was excited about an upcoming move to LA and the start of a new job at a large law firm there. She had been in the public defender’s office in Dallas for a few years and was ready for a change. I was so curious about her decision.  That’s when she said something powerful about choice that sent me reeling…. Continue reading

Reaching

“It is unrealistic.” said my son to his long-time pediatrician. She was asking him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He’s fourteen. She reminded him that at last year’s physical he said, “I want to be a professional basketball player.”  I like her because she stops to ask him these questions. In spite of the cloying requirements of insurers that beg her to quickly move on, she lingers. Listens. Before saying anything more, he looked at me as if to say, ‘Should I tell her?’ Then he added calmly… 

Ring of Kerry, Ireland

Continue reading

My struggle with kindness

Do you practice kindness?  I know it sounds pretty odd but this whole kindness business is getting under my skin.  The reason is really simple. I’ve witnessed time and again an unintended consequence of kindness that I find damaging, particularly to women. Let me explain. Have you ever caught yourself resorting to kindness when you would rather rage at something or someone?  Don’t get me wrong. I’m not arguing for reckless confrontation. But this conflict – the intersection of kindness and authenticity – has me wondering.  Is kindness becoming a new modern day requirement, another expectation that is layered upon us like a cloak gently silencing our voices? Continue reading

Rethinking Failure

Failure. failure. FAILURE. What pops into your mind when you hear the word?  Is it a failed relationship? Or a job offer that never materialized? Or a mortgage that was never approved? Or a marriage that ended badly? Or maybe failure has migrated its profile to become a trait that showed up one day and lingered.  Last week a rare coffee break with a dear friend got me thinking about failure in an entirely new light. It helped me see that failure may not be any of the things I listed above or the many more that we all could add to the list.  What if we have failure all wrong? Continue reading

Rethinking Enough

I was asked to make a 2019 wish on behalf of all the listeners of Feminine Foresight, a podcast for which I was recently interviewed.  My response was simple. I wished that we could all re-imagine ‘enough.’  Are you enough?  Maybe you haven’t thought about the question in quite that way before. Even so, I am fairly certain that you have experience with it or one of its popular cousins. Are you smart enough? Talented enough? Connected enough? Slim enough? Fit enough? Attractive enough? Kind enough? Driven enough? Supportive enough? Good enough? Happy enough? Tough enough? Successful enough? Present enough?  Loved enough? Loving enough? My personal favorite – in case you are wondering – hails from the good enough arena. Will I ever be good enough? Or more precisely, will my work ever be good enough? My interviewer’s question made me realize that I’ve had enough of all this. Have you ever wondered what might be awaiting for you on the other side of enough?

Continue reading

Words We Cannot Say

With Valentine’s Day approaching, I thought I’d explore a concept we don’t talk much about. Love. What comes to mind when you hear the word? Hallmark, Amazon and 1-800-flowers would hope that cupids and red roses and chocolate are somewhere in the mix. A recent story I read compelled me to look at love differently, from an honest and often hidden perspective. It centers on how we express love in the normal course. Can name a few ways that you do?  A pic from one of the ways I express love – talking about my fav topic transition – is below.
Continue reading

Embracing an Unknown Destination

When was the last time you took a new step? Sounds like a funny question, doesn’t it? New steps can take many forms.  Yours might be tied to finally having a long-dreaded conversation about ending your relationship with your spouse or partner. Or yours might be finally registering for that course to help you begin to track your career in a new direction. Or, like me, yours might be tied to having a long overdue conversation with my 85-year-old mother about her continuing loss of function and skyrocketing care needs. While these may sound like vastly different scenarios, transition has taught me that they are all versions of the same theme. Each requires us to begin.  To take a new step.  To act by relying on a set of beliefs that are tied to who we are and how we make meaning in the world. Each one asks us to head in a direction whose outcome is uncertain. To embrace an unknown or unknowable destination.

This journey – into the unknown – fascinates me. My knowledge of transition has helped me walk in this direction. I’ve benefited greatly from it thus far and still consider myself a traveler. One thing I know for sure. We greatly misunderstand transition as a society. In fact, we’re socialized to head in the opposite direction when we face uncertainty. This detour can be costly to us and to those who rely upon us.

My work is all about dispelling this confusion around transition and helping people live the lives they only imagine. To support my work, today I introduce my new podcast, Destination Unknown: a field guide. Its sole purpose is to dispel the mystery surrounding transition so that all of us – no matter the particulars – can take the first step, and then another one, successfully.

Destination Unknown: a field guide (Available on iTunes)

Destination Unknown: a field guide (available on iTunes) is designed with you in mind. It features 15-minute power conversations between yours truly and those navigating all manner of transition.  Our first episode features Leona, a 50 ish year old career enthusiast who decided to head in another direction.  Leona talks about how difficult it was to make the decision and  how she did it.

Here is a sneak peek at the 1st episode:

  • What if my prevailing thought it, “I cannot do this!?”
  • What can you expect if you find yourself at a crossroads? Maybe you have an idea of what could be ahead but not much more than that?
  • What are the murkiest parts of the journey?
  • Are there patterns to be aware of that can help redirect my energy in positive and important ways?

If you’ve ever felt nauseated, discombobulated, or panicked about a new step, you’ll find something important in our first episode.

Why is this podcast different?

I know what you are saying, ‘not another podcast!’  Destination Unknown: a field guide is a resource for everyone in or considering transition. It will introduce you to the scary parts of the movie before you find yourself in a theater all alone. For anyone who has seen the Exorcist or Nightmare on Elm St,  remember that once you are familiar with the really scary scenes, you experience the movie differently.  You see new things. You access new parts of the plot that you overlooked in your earlier panic.  So too, transition. Learn how to navigate it successfully with Destination Unknown: a field guide.

I hope you’ll join us. Please take a moment to subscribe to Destination Unknown: a field guide on iTunes  and tell someone you know who might benefit from its message.

For those wondering about my 2019 imagined possibility test, I’ve made it two days so far. Even so, I am improving. I catch myself when negative thoughts hop into my head. I cannot say that I have made much more progress than that. I haven’t given up. I continue undaunted. Beginning a new step each day.

May you always be drawn to journeys that can lead you in a stronger, more beautiful direction and may you always find the courage to take the next step.

Thank you for your unending support of my journey.

Linda R. (linda@womenandtransition.com)

 

Copyright © 2019 Linda Rossetti & NovoFemina.com. All rights reserved. No content on this site may be reused in any fashion without written permission from NovoFemina.com.