The Power & Gift of Being Fully Human – Fully Alive | Blog

What We See By Leaning Into Life

In hindsight, I can see that much of my personal development and curiosity to improve myself was focused on overcoming what is, put simply, the human experience. 

I had sorted out the good bits and bad bits and thought success meant I felt the good bits more than the bad ones. For instance, I was doing well if I felt secure, confident, and assured that things would work out, and things were bad if I felt self-doubt, fear, or down in the dumps. 

Doing what I could to avoid or overcome anything I had deemed “bad” or “uncomfortable” meant a lot of analysis and trying to manage life and myself.

A few years ago, I had a realization. There was an unintentional and unexpected outcome of trying to manage my human experience so much; I was making my world small. 

By only wanting to feel certain things, I was avoiding anything that might make me feel uncomfortable. Yet, the truth was that much of what I wanted in my life, intimacy, connection, new experiences, and making a difference in people’s lives, meant I would sometimes feel uncomfortable. 

With that in mind, getting good at, rather than avoiding, the full range of the human experience seemed the richer and more fulfilling path.

These last three weeks, reminded me of this truth. The passing of my cousin, Mary, threw my family and me into the deep end of the beautiful, messy, emotional, and sacredness of our humanness. While it was hard, I would not change one feeling, moment, or experience. 

Four weeks ago, I got the call that Mary was in the hospital. It wasn't until a few days in that we all realized this visit was different. I booked my trip home. 

I was the power of attorney for Mary. I share this because that role was unfamiliar to me, and I had never served anyone in this way before. When I stepped off the plane, I had no clue what the next few weeks would entail. Within days we went from exploring long-term care as the next step to walking in one morning and having the hospice decision upon us. 

I want to be clear that I wasn't in this alone. My family, including my aunts, were in this together. If you have ever been with anyone during this time, you know the gift it is – for everyone. 

I'm so grateful I was able to spend the last week of Mary's life with her and my family. It was full of stories, memories, new connections, love, laughter, tears, and pain. 

It was also full of decisions I've never had to consider before, some family dynamics, a history of hurt feelings and misunderstandings, tension, anger, and shared love and concern for Mary. 

While navigating all of this was challenging, we all leaned into whatever was required at the moment. I was experiencing my own and witnessing others' innate resilience and capacity to rise to the occasion. 

It was a condensed, intense time when I was completely in the unknown. I had no direct experience to draw from when making daily decisions, navigating strong emotions, tough conversations, and leading others through it all. If I had known what would happen over these few weeks before getting on that plane, I would have been worried and overthought and tried to scenario-plan it all beforehand. With the concern of family dynamics, I would have had lots of imaginary conversations in my head. 

Being in the unknown and having to address everything in the moment as it unfolded was a powerful reminder and demonstration of our ability to handle the unexpected, including our emotions. We have what it takes to handle the full range of the human experience. 

It reminded me of something my nephew told my sister years ago when he finished boot camp, “It was the hardest thing I've ever done, yet it showed me I am strong and can handle anything.”

That knowing that we can handle it, that we can live the full range of our humanness, is powerful. It gives us the courage to lean into our lives more fully. To have tough conversations, tell the truth, and try that new thing. It gives us the courage to go for our heart's desires, create more intimacy in our lives and step into the unknown. 

Knowing we have what it takes to rise to the occasion, no matter what life puts in front of us, allows us to be IN our lives versus thinking we need to control it or manage it. We discover we are not fragile; we are strong.

I'm grateful for the gift of these last few weeks. I'm grateful for the gift of my cousin Mary's life and her passing. I'm grateful to experience and witness the richness and range of our human experience — all of it, including death. 

What I had previously described as the bad bits and the good bits can perhaps be more accurately described as Joseph Campbell says, “The rapture of being alive.”

“The knowing that we can handle it, that we can live the full range of our humanness, is powerful. It gives us the courage to lean into our lives.”

“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow; but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.” – Agatha Christie

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Barbara Patterson is the owner of a global coaching and consulting company helping solopreneurs, entrepreneurs & leaders access more clarity, creativity, have greater impact and higher levels of fulfillment in work and life. She is the founder of Beyond Limits in Business, a global platform and community designed to point people to the source of human potential. That potential resides within and is experienced via our minds. Barb is also the host of the Real Business Real Lives podcast. You can follow Barb on Linkedin and Instagram. You can also subscribe to her weekly blog on her website at 



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