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Four Months of Surprise, Pain, Surrender, Gratitude and Discovery Suzanne Elshult/Your Executive Coach

I am sitting at my desk in my home office looking out over a foggy Puget Sound. A cold pack is wrapped around my foot, a hot pack strapped to my shoulder, my face mask is hanging on it’s hook ready to cover my nose and mouth if I have to venture out from the safety of my home. My dogs are softly snoring on the couch. I am reflecting on the first four months of this year, months of unwanted surprise, pain, surrender, gratitude and discovery.

Three Surprises and A Silver-Lining
The surprise came in the form of two unexpected surgeries within four weeks, a foot bone fusion – probably due to too too much strenuous purposeful hiking with my two search and rescue dogs – and rotator cuff surgery of my dominant arm resulting from a fall – probably woozy from narcotics – on my crutches the day of my foot surgery. While my foot is doing well now, three months later, and I just did my first very slow three-mile hike yesterday, my shoulder is still 10 months away from being fully healed and hurts like the dickens. ALL THE TIME! I try to be grateful. I know others’ have it worse. But, I have been spoiled with good health my whole life and this predicament caught me totally off guard. My ability to adapt with grace has certainly not been helped by the fact that my persona, according to my husband Scott,  is “fiercely independent.” Having to ask for help to manage even the most mundane of tasks has been more than challenging for me, someone who by profession is an executive coach used to helping others become self-actualized: “Scott can you help me shower. I need my hair up in a ponytail. Can you please bring my dinner on a tray. I cannot uncork this wine bottle, please help me, NOW! ”
I freely admit I have been having pity parties this Spring.  But my own circumstance started looking a bit less bleak when the third surprise descended upon us: the Pandemic. The truth:  for some time now I have felt fortunate to be able to cocoon in my house with Scott and my dogs Keb and Kili. Surrendering to being taken care of has been a freeing experience. Growing older does not seem quite such a scary or lonesome prospect as Scott and I have grown closer as a team while dealing with my temporary disability, social distancing and watching our businesses slow down to an almost standstill. At this stage I maintain my roundtables mostly as a goodwill gesture. Pretty much none of my clients are in a position to pay membership fees right now, but it is a strong community where many of us have developed deep and meaningful connections with one another. Though I cannot help on the frontlines along with healthcare workers, janitors, grocery workers and others, this is one small way I can make a meaningful difference by providing a safe space to decompress for my leaders.

New Realities Come With New Opportunities
I want to wake up and find out that both my surgeries and the pandemic are but bad dreams, but the reality is that the combination of crises I have been and am facing, are real and there is a silver lining: I have learned to surrender, be present, receive help and look at my ‘why’ with fresh eyes. Life has slowed down and Scott and I have more time just BEING together. And the virtual shutdown of my business – and Scott’s – has led to unexpected discoveries and allowed my roundtable community of leaders, to enter new territories, explore deeper questions, listen more deeply and remain fully human and more vulnerable during this perfect storm. As their sense of security has been shaken, as they have been under tremendous pressure, as our meetings have shifted to virtual Zoom meetings after 25 years of monthly face-to-face gatherings, we have also felt a deeper sense of community with each other – of being in this together. Our meetings have always had an element of peer coaching, but now as we face Covid and an unknown future together we are letting others in to the more private aspects of our lives. I see as clearly now as I did on 9-11-2001 why my tagline from the very beginning of my practice has been to “build community for leaders.” I also see the power of my decision early on to blend my personal and professional life as I pursued my goal of building community in every aspect of my life (a long time before “community” became popular business jargon). My clients have no choice: they get all of me whether they want it or not.

This Is Our Moment
I am fortunate to have found purpose and value in what I do for a living and passion in my avocation to save lives and find the missing and dead with my search and rescue dogs. I am lucky to have  my family and friends. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to create community for the senior leaders that are members of my roundtables. We are discovering new paths forward together. We know we will not be who we were going into this crisis when we get out on the other side. We know our workplaces will look drastically different. Facing the unknown together makes it a bit less overwhelming, and perhaps even a bit exciting. This is our moment. You are my tribe. You are my peeps. You are my community and the space where I refresh, refuel and find creativity.



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