Head, Body, Heart

I started my careHead body hearter completely in my head.  I spent all my energy and attention developing my intellect, growing my capabilities in my head center of intelligence.  I lived in the world of academics, and a separate world it was.  I then moved into the world of health care, where book smarts also reigned supreme.  Status was granted based on where you went to school and what kind of degree you had.  Meetings were often debates similar to the intellectual sparring contests I witnessed and participated in as an academic – a battle to see who could make the best case, using logic and data.  While I enjoyed this, having been well trained in this particular game, I also grew tired of it.  I wanted action, forward movement.  That, after all, was why I left the world of higher education and research – because I wanted to do something, to make a difference in the world.

This was the beginning of my body phase – a time when I learned to take action, even when I did not have all the facts or logic figured out – supported by coaching from my manager, James Hereford (now COO at Standard Health Care).  I practiced “good enough, press on” thinking, learned from one of my leaders, Matt Handley (still at Group Health) – a fantastic physician whose intellect was excellent and who had an even stronger bias for action.  I developed resilience, or some might call it stubbornness, to keep coming at a problem from different angles.  The problems I was attacking were organizational, not individual, and so I learned that successful action required me to build effective, strong relationships with others.  I brought this head and body skill set with me when I moved into philanthropy, and continued to grow these skills through application.  My new organization proved to be very head-centered, just as in health care, so intellect combined with action proved to be very useful.

But over time these two started to seem just a bit hollow.  About two years ago, I realized that while I had strong relationships, they were not as deep as I wanted them to be.  So I set out to deepen my connections to those I saw and worked with on a day to day basis (see previous post on paying down relationship debt).  The result was that I opened my heart to people in a way I had not done before – both the number of people and the depth of the connections grew, and kept growing.  Looking back now it seems obvious that this would be the result, and yet I still find it somewhat surprising.  I have spent a lot of my life a bit defended, proactively preventing pain from grief and loss.

Now here I am, poised to depart and leave behind the web of relationships.  I am deeply grateful to have had the chance to know people more intimately, to see and be seen.  And I am feeling the loss keenly.  However, in spite of the pain, I have no regrets.  I can only hope that I bring my relatively newly developed skills of the heart with me wherever I go next.  And that I maintain connections as I move on.

“Do not grieve. Anything you lose comes around in another form.”  – Rumi

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2 Responses to Head, Body, Heart

  1. Betsy Bell says:

    Eleanor, I am in tears as I read this. You have articulated my experience of you. This journey of yours has mentored me in the same direction. Thank you.

  2. This is beautiful and true. Thank you for articulating your journey with such deep simplicity.

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