Staying Well While Doing Good: A Valentine’s Day Love Letter from Me to You

Dear One,

Here at Healthy Gen, we often say “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” because creating enduring health equity is a bit of a long game. And we all need to be able to stay in it for the long haul. So we try and help each other with things like: “Time to go home now! Take a walk around the block and get some air! Don’t eat your lunch at your desk; go back to the kitchen… plus, there are some great big windows there! You can even see the sound between the buildings!“

Every now and then, it actually is a sprint, and so we run as fast as we can for a short bit. The trick is figuring out which sprints are worth doing? What if it’s a marathon disguised as a sprint, and suddenly weeks have gone by and you’re just about ready to fall apart? Or, maybe a really divisive and intense national election has you overwhelmed and freaking out and getting lost in social media feeds, whatever your affiliation? Sound maybe a tad familiar? Since you are a human being (we don’t believe we have any dogs or cats signed up yet, but we are always game) this is pretty much the daily struggle of our every waking moment. What is our YES and what is our NO and how do we decide? Are we “helpers” even allowed to say no?

We want to help. You know us, we believe in being the “help that helps.” We know YOU are the true help that helps, and we want to have your back because creating enduring health equity is beautiful and magical and inspiring and also exhausting. Thank you for all you do.

As part of offering helpful supports sustainably, we are going back to our legacy roots and launching a project that will increase our capacity to: give philanthropically, support preventive public policy, and to bring a seriously bigger megaphone to amplify community voices and the wisdom of lived experience.

Our first offering is focused on the hard task of “staying well while doing good.” So you can stay in it for the long game. Because we love you. 

We are proud to launch the Transform Your Boundaries series from the magical Sarri Gilman (therapist, author and boundaries expert), who is on a mission to invite and support us all to a) become experts on our own boundaries and b) learn how they take great care of us.

When we don’t protect our boundaries, we suffer. This is especially true for helping professionals who face a greater risk of work-related burnout and fatigue. When you recognize and protect your boundaries, you can begin the journey back from being someone who’s overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed to someone who is decisive, trusting of yourself, and committed to healthy relationships. You just need to know how.

Sarri’s boundaries work helps any person in a variety of ways, not just professional helpers. Many of you may see this as a tool to “become better” or “be a better you.” We hear a lot in mainstream culture nowadays on this topic of how to become a better self.

I suggest that who you are, right now, is exactly right and perfect.

I suggest that the work with these boundaries resources helps each of us to simply find who we are when we have been partially obscured from ourselves due to over stress, over work, too much input from the world’s events, even over compassion towards others.  And, often, not enough love to ourselves.

It's not that we need to figure out how to be some future self or some better self. It's that we already are that person now and we simply need to let that person, that true self, out. To act and to be seen. Regardless of any internal stories we have about whether we are good enough or simply “enough” at all. Your essential self is already with you. Just let it be and let it act. Let that self make the choices that will help you care for yourself in the best way. And this will help you energize your path towards your personal mission which may be to help others or something else. Your path is needed to make this world better, whatever it is.

Sarri’s work helps you find your inner voice that already knows “yes” and “no”. YES and NO are our boundaries and they take care of us. They are core power words that help us both understand and express ourselves more fully in the world. Who you are, as you are, is what we need for this work to create enduring health equity. As the Hopi Elders put it so beautifully:

"We are the ones we have been waiting for."

I have known Sarri and have been learning from her for two decades. Let me tell you just one story about that, one of many! I promise to share more in the future. When my now 17 year old daughter was very young, I didn’t have any role models that worked for me about how to parent well. I had plenty of academic knowledge about it. But, gosh, here’s this baby, your living heart outside of your body, in your arms and how do you do your VERY best by this precious soul? Sarri’s advice to me (among, oh, say, a zillion pieces of advice I received from many – any parents reading this are laughing right now because you know this is true!) was something like this:

“What you see about your child and what you put in as a parent at 3, 4 and 5 you will see back from them, TIMES SEVEN, at 13, 14, and 15.”

Let that roll around a bit. This became foundational for me. It helped me compress and distill my own parenting priorities into two areas: respect and safety. Respect and safety for yourself (the growing child) as a growing being and body and respect and safety for those around you. If I couldn’t make my decision or “rule” fit within these two principles, then it was out. It sounds simple but it wasn’t always. But it did give me critical guideposts to move ahead and parent the way I felt my daughter most needed me to parent. I know I am biased, but I would say it’s worked out pretty darn well so far.

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You may be thinking: but wait, then Sarri should have written a parenting book! Well, there are probably a dozen, two dozen, books Sarri could write that would serve the world well including that parenting book. In the meantime, I’ve gifted you with her key advice, so go forth and spread it!

Sarri has honed in on her own life’s purpose and path to help people with the foundational work of discerning and acting upon our inner boundaries. Two core words. Yes. No. How do we hear them inside ourselves? How do we act on them in helpful ways?

She wants each of you to become experts in your own boundaries and her work has shown her over and over and over again that you absolutely can become that expert.

These two words, yes and no, are helping me now, in fact. Last year, I participated in one of Sarri’s live workshops. It blew my mind. I thought I had a lot of this stuff already pretty well handled, to be honest. This was a humbling experience, but in a truly joyful way. I identify with several of the seven patterns Sarri teaches in her Transform Your Boundaries bookworkshop and our first eCourse.

One of them is “workaholic.” I’ve been working on this one for years. You too? I feel ya. In the workshop, she said, “think about the opposite of the pattern. And figure out some small baby steps you can do in that opposite area.” So what’s the opposite of work? She said that even for herself it took awhile to understand that “the opposite of work is not play. The opposite of work is rest.” Well, basically my head exploded with that sentence. Later I cried a lot about it, in such helpful ways. For about a month I kept that sentence up on the wall in my office.

"The opposite of work is not play. The opposite of work is REST."

You’ll be seeing more from us in the coming weeks and months as we bring you new elements in the Transform Your Boundaries series and other magical concoctions. These are being brought to you by a new team in our agency: Healthy Gen Media, which is led by the fabulous Bennie Soto. He’s assembled an amazing team, all cooking up more of the help that helps in the Healthy Gen kitchen. Remember, the one with the big windows that let in the light? That one. Come by sometime and have lunch with us!