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I’ve Been MIA These Last Few Months–and How the Work Pulled Me Back Out

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"I’ll be honest that the last several months were hard in ways I didn’t expect—from severe health issues to anxiety and overwhelm. And enriching in ways I definitely didn’t expect, either."

I haven’t written publicly in many months. I mean, I’m writing all the time. But really written. Here. Like this.

So this is going to be long.

As COVID-19 pushed us all physically inward back in March, I also went emotionally inward. Taking time—months now—to reflect on all kinds of things. To anchor into a deeper sense of integrity in myself and my work. Before I could rise up again.

I’ll be honest that the last several months were hard in ways I didn’t expect—from severe health issues to anxiety and overwhelm. And enriching in ways I definitely didn’t expect, either.

My husband Garrett started working from home in early March when his clinic shut down. (For those of you who don’t know, he’s a clinical pharmacist who cares for patients with hard-to-manage chronic diseases.) All of his care had to immediately move to telephone visits. And I got a front-row seat into his world of work—as he did mine.

I’ll never forget our first day of co-working. I had just finished a luxurious morning routine of exercise, journaling, meditation, and cleaning the house. I was sitting down to eat oatmeal at 9am. And he had already been on six calls.

I felt embarrassed. I felt worthless. There he was, helping patients with anxiety and food insecurity and diabetes. Doing domestic violence checks and suicide risk assessments. And I was eating breakfast.

His day was back-to-back calls for 12 hours straight. Mine was having a few deep talks and editing some video.

I felt like I was doing nothing with my life. Like I was hardly helping anyone. Like my work hardly mattered in the face of this global pandemic.

Fortunately, I’ve been doing this work long enough that I’ve come to expect semi-periodic meltdowns. And a combination of therapy, journaling, mastermind calls, and doing the work that I do helps me to find integrity and growth in those moments.

And then George Floyd was murdered—in addition to so many other Black Americans this year alone. And over the past 400 years. On top of infinite everyday racial injustices. And, while none of this is—or at least should be—news to any of us, the U.S. (and many parts of the world) started facing a new racial reckoning.

As I spoke with so many activist and nonprofit-leading friends, I again felt that similar wave of worthlessness. I’m surrounded by amazing people who are doing so much to help these problems. And am I doing enough? Am I helping enough? Am I unpacking my own blind spots enough? Am I using my own privilege to make this world a more equitable place enough?

They’re questions I’ve been circling for some time now (and need to be for the rest of my life). But they only got more overwhelming. So I again got quieter, I went back to my work, and I reflected deeper.

No matter how hard I try, I’ll never be Garrett.

Garrett has my dream job that I could never do in a million years. My mind doesn’t work well for back-to-back, short calls. It doesn’t work well when I can’t spend many minutes in a row in silence, just holding pain with a person. Or connecting dots between experiences and noticing patterns.

And I’ll never be any of my activist friends.

No matter how much I shame myself, I’ll never be able to effect the change on the ground that they can. I’ll never be good at organizing the community. Or educating on Twitter, without the nuances and associations I can explore in hours-long conversations.

And somewhere in these last several months, I’ve realized that’s okay.

Over the last four months, I’ve had dozens of 3-hour conversations with many different people—from yoga teachers to artists to healthcare advocates and activists. Across every race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, and income level.

I’ve gotten in many leaders’ faces when they doubted themselves and told them to grow the fuck up because this world needs them right now. I’ve used my framework of connecting dots between lived experiences to help people understand why this pathway is the right one for them. I’ve sat and listened to some horrific stories that people just needed to get off their chests. I’ve sent herbs to help people on the frontlines move through specific issues.

The irony, of course, is that I teach people how to map their sensitivities so that they can show up and make the greatest possible contribution to the world. And I was stuck in a shit storm of exactly that issue.

For a long time, I thought that my contribution had to look a certain way. Even that it had to be specific to my job. And, while, yeah—I get to work with a lot of amazing leaders in my job, I also realize that I can’t stop being myself.

Last month, I was helping Garrett and a colleague write 60-page dissertations on their leadership journeys, and I was pushing his colleague so hard to go deeper into reflection that she almost hung up on me. And then she had an epiphany about how all of the dots connect in her life.

Because that’s what I do. I’m a dot connector. I’m a mapper. I see patterns and Align them. My Brand Energies (or sensitivities, for the uninitiated) have told me that. I literally Align our lived experiences, our Vulnerabilities and our Zany idiosyncrasies to Free us from shame and help us to build a Successful life that is Unmistakably our own.

I can’t help it. It’s who I am. And you can’t help who you are, either. You share your gifts always. No matter how much you shame yourself to do things differently. To be someone else.

After four long months of going deep into the work, having some profound insights, and tightening up just about every program we’ve created, I’m rising back up again. Popping back up to say hi. To use my gifts however I can to help this world.

If you’ve been doubting yourself over these past few months, too. If you’ve felt overwhelmed. Or worthless. Or helpless. Or any of these things—well, I get it.

And I want you to know without a doubt that the answers are inside of you. Exactly how to de-condition yourself and unpack your own stuff are inside. They may point you to books, resources, or teachers, but how that journey will be most effective for you is in there.

You have a gift, a way of being, that no one else has. It’s a gift that has permeated every one of your lived experiences. Your greatest contribution might not look like anyone else’s. But I can promise you it’s no less valuable.

There are a lot of problems in the world. There have been a lot of problems in the world. And it might be overwhelming to even think about how we can learn, unpack, and take action.

But we don’t have time anymore to sit around and wallow in self-pity. We can feel that fear. Feel that confusion. Feel that overwhelm.

And then step the fuck up. The world needs us. Maybe more than ever.

This is why we’re here. This is why we’re doing all of this in the first place. This is why we’re showing up. Because we care. Because we love this world too goddamn much to sit by in fear.

It’s time to know who we are. To keep going back and remembering. And to step up—whatever that means to us.

I love you enough to get in your face any time you doubt yourself. Or feel worthless. Or question if you can really contribute.

Believe me, if I didn’t believe in you, I wouldn’t be wasting my time right now. There’s a lot more I could be doing. But you’re worth it. Your gifts are so worth it.

So step up. Do the work. Your own work. Know yourself. Stop doubting yourself. And let’s do this together.

I love you.

-Mike,

Mike Iamele

Mike Iamele

I help people map their sensitivities and lived experiences to discover their purpose. We call it Sacred Branding®.

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