The caller’s name was familiar. I listened intently and searched my long term memory bank for a clue.
Then it clicked. Memories from 18 years ago began to flash and finally gain focus. She talked about the Leadership in Action trip we led to Peru and her expressive voice was smiling as we shared memories. We had all been so open, so trim, so full of adventure and Connie was part of the band of explorers from the states that hiked the Inca Trail, did fire ceremonies with Augustine, our charming shaman, and learned to experience leadership from the inside out.
We talked about ourselves, others we had been with on the journey, and mainly about what we learned and what has sustained us thorough two more decades. What were the key teaching points and what really mattered.
It was reassuring that the work my husband Herb and I continue to do really does have long term, sustaining results. Here is the essence of our conversation. During the last years Connie left a marriage and changed careers. She went through some dark days and some very “dark nights of the soul” showed up to challenge her.
Yet, she told me of the memories that would spark at the strangest times to remind her to keep going, not slide back, and move onto higher ground. One that she mentioned made me realize we really do impact each other, do make a difference, even if we lose personal contact over time.
Connie came on the trip to reinvent herself. She was in a relationship that looked super amazing to the outside world, yet her husband’s levels of self-absorption left her always feeling like a service provider at an upscale hotel.
Her career as head of a nursing agency was going through a free fall as health care was redefining itself. She was, in those days, driving on empty.
We had been walking on the Inca Trail together, one of the three days of the challenge, and I told her I was taking all my knowledge of relationships and how systems work into the business world. I too was no longer willing to sit with the dreaded insurance companies telling me how many sessions I could have with a client.
I did not remember my next sentences. They did however, resonate with Connie and she would call them up for years every time she hit a roadblock. Her memory of my words went something like this “I’d rather eat beans from a can than sell my life for financial or even relationship security.”
Those words would come back to her every time she started down the fear path of not enough financial success or disappointment with a relationship. She called to tell me how much our time back then had mattered. She wanted me to know that I had made a difference, more than she could ever really tell me even though our lives had not crossed paths till now.
I believe happily ever after is good for a song or story. I believe we leave each other with nuggets that help with the climb through life. That’s good enough for me as a leader.