I don’t think I ever anticipated that I would do so much mental contemplating when I started going regularly to spin class more than 2 1/2 years ago. Booming music, sweat pouring down my body and heavy breathing don’t really connote mindfulness, but I am regularly given something to ponder that sticks with me during the Connect song, about 35 minutes into a 45 minute class.
Today Torrey, whose arms I spent much of the class admiring as a way to distract myself from the afore-mentioned sweating and heavy breathing, asked one of those innocuous questions that 9 times out of 10 I wouldn’t have given a second thought to. But today, it landed squarely into that intersecting point where my brain meets my emotional center. She said, “What if anything bad that happened to you this past week wasn’t done to you but for you?”
For me? How could my recent colossal disappointment possibly have been done for me? And how could I even begin to navigate that idea?
So I’ve decided to attempt to rewrite this week’s earlier post from the perspective of “dodging a bullet” so to speak. I want to see if I can find the blessing in this crushing blow.
Here we go:
I’m in a super vulnerable place at the moment. My work side, I guess my professional life, has taken some enormous hits of late. We were a finalist for a significant grant prize in the region and found out last week that we didn’t receive it.
I knew I would likely find the feedback dissatisfying, but I am by nature a curious person, and I hoped to glean something, however small, from what they had to say. The panelists were unanimously positive about the direction we have gone as an organization, the impact we are having on the arts sector and the larger community, the tremendous growth we have seen and the very real value of my leadership.
They ultimately decided against funding us, but in the moments I was listening to the feedback, I was proud that we had articulated our core values and impact so well, and it was clear that they struggled with not giving us the grant because our work matters, and they could see that.
One part of me, the immediate responder, had a hard time staying polite on the phone, and I rushed off as quickly as I could so that I didn’t cross any lines with the Foundation staffer. But another part of me, the contemplative strategizer, immediately began to formulate what our next move would be even while licking my gaping wounds.
This work is all about playing the long game, and while this was an enormous setback, it wasn’t the end of the road for us, even though it felt like it in the moment.
The bigger challenge for me personally is that this Foundation is, so far, a mountain I have been unable to climb successfully to the top. I appear to have all the right equipment, and I think I am in fit shape to make the climb. Four times I have been “this close” to the summit, and four times I have been denied the opportunity to stand on the top of the world and gaze out.
Until I started blogging, I told almost no one of these past failures because it is embarrassing to have been so close and to have fallen short so many times.
But I am done feeling shame over this. Twice I have exceeded the hopes and dreams of more than 650 people to get to the top 35, and twice I have written applications that have put my organization into an extremely elite group of organizations.
I could choose to quit working towards the last step; an enormous part of me wants to do nothing so badly as that. But I am no quitter—at least not like this. If I quit now, I have given my power to someone else and let their decisions determine my fate and define my value. That is not who I am. I am the boss of me. I know my value, and I don’t quit until I decide to quit. And now is not when I am deciding to quit.
My mother has said nearly exactly what Torrey said about a million times, but for whatever reason, today it resonated for me. So Mother, when you read this, know that I have heard you; I’ll admit that I have sometimes rolled my eyes as you have told me basically exactly what Torrey said that made me spend much of today thinking about this. And I knew even as she said it and even as I perked up at it, that I was hearing your words from a different perspective and finding value from both speakers.
I don’t need outside validation, although if you are one of the many people who read the previous post and wrote to me or stopped me when we passed to encourage me, please, please know how much your words meant to me and that I will hold them close to me for a long, long time.
What we do at The Arts Partnership matters. What I do for the organization and the arts matters. Who I am matters to my husband, my child, my parents and family and more. I know that, and no rejection like this can negate any of that.
I’m down, but I’m not out. I want these opportunities: one for me personally and one for my organization. The work I want to do and the work we are currently doing merits them, but if I never receive one, then I don’t. That Foundation does not define me. I do, and I know exactly who I am.
*Image of Mt Rainier I took when my son and I rounded a corner and came upon this stunner.