Our 2020 Theme Book for our members is Emotional Agility by Susan David. During this COVID-19 time, we have invited our team members to reflect on their own experiences and how the book has been a helpful resource.

These weeks of prolonged uncertainty have been both exhausting and enlightening for me. I do not get easily rattled by life. I typically get energized when faced with ambiguous, messy challenges and relationships. I viewed the first week or so of the pandemic through my typical can-do, optimistic mindset. After a few weeks, however, I hit a time of exhaustion and sense of paralysis. My perfectionistic, over-responsible, and “power through” patterns were ignited at home and at work. My body was sending me messages.

What am I being invited to let go of?

Susan David’s Emotional Agility book provided a way forward. She says, “Abandon the idea of being fearless, and instead walk directly into your fears, with your values as your guide, toward what matters to you. Courage is not an absence of fear; courage is fear walking.” (p. 238)

I did an internal inventory to “show up” to myself. To name my uncomfortable feelings of loss, loneliness, and anxiety with curiosity and nonjudgment so I could get unstuck. This included listening to my body, as the body doesn’t lie. My body was sending me messages that I needed to heed. A short list of what I named included:

  • loss of precious time with my 2½ year old granddaughter who gives me deep joy and meaning
  • loneliness for presence with family members and friends, beyond what Zoom can offer
  • loss of the ability to run, an important coping and life-giving practice (due to my over-doing running in the first week of the pandemic)
  • anxiety arising from grappling with business decisions I need to make which impact others
  • generalized anxiety and sadness about the suffering and ongoing uncertainty near and far

As I let go of powering through, I gave myself permission and time “to welcome your inner experiences, breathe into them and learn their contours without racing to the exit” (p. 80).

What am I being Invited to hold on to?

Before my Dad died 18 years ago, he oversaw the development of a family video which artfully captured our family and family business legacy over many generations. It included historical facts and the sharing of family stories. He named the video “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” after a family-favorite hymn that acknowledges God Is With Us through whatever we face. We sing this song at family weddings, funerals, in our homes, and, yes, during the pandemic. I am holding onto my faith, the support and strength of family and friends, and an ongoing practice of blessing others. And I am holding onto an intentional, growing capacity to name, welcome and learn from all my feelings rather than power through and avoid them.

Sally Derstine

Managing Partner, Senior Family Business Advisor

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