When sustainability requires solitude

When Joanna joined us at Bossed Up Bootcamp, she was in the midst of the biggest transition of her life: a divorce.

Coming to Bootcamp meant coming to terms with the split in a social context for the first time.  Standing amongst her fellow bosses at the end of the weekend, everyone had a turn to ask for one way our community could support them in moving towards their vision. Joanna was nervous, but summoned the courage to be real with her peers: “I need help with the divorce I’m going through right now,” she said, and laid the foundation for the strong bonds that grew from there.

Occupying a safe space full of women who are all in some stage of transition helped Joanna give herself permission to speak up and ask for what she needed. But in so many ways, it was the solitary time that followed that allowed to her to heal.

Joanna was determined to take some time for serious self-reflection, and did just that through a three-and-a-half week solo camping trip, which she chronicled for the PVD Lady Project here. In thinking back on her journey, she told me:

 Sometimes the only way we can progress through stages so full of change is to be alone with our own thoughts. To redefine ourselves by starting within.” twitter_button

Upon return, she was astounded at her sense of personal agency. She felt capable, self-reliant, and brave. But back in her home turf, she was also faced with the delayed grief of reality sinking in. Her divorce was about to be finalized, 3 days after what would have been her 5-year anniversary.

“The grief I avoided through the constant hustle and bustle of adventure finally hit me.” And while her first instinct was to drown her sorrows in a bottle of wine (or two!), she knew she wanted to channel that negative energy in a way that made her feel better in her head and her heart. So she did what this life-long artist knew she must: she created a piece that helped her transform.

Instead of running from the pain, she locked herself in her studio, turned on the kind of soundtrack that allows you to solemnly remember the past as you prepare for the future, and painted. She spent 20 hours over the course of a single weekend (and about 10 more on finishing touches) painting this incredible red-tailed hawk transforming into a phoenix:


It’s likely Joanna never would have painted something this bold without her renewed sense of strength and courage. “I paid more attention to my own intuition,” she told me, “and I felt freer to take risks and make daring color choices.”

Throughout her transformation, Joanna bossed up by letting go of perfection. She stopped caring about what she “should” be doing and started learning more about what she wanted to be doing. On the divorce, she says, “It’s reality. I’m not apologizing for it. I’m not viewing it as a failure, as it so often seems to be portrayed.”

By not being so attached to “perfection” and “getting it right,” Joanna is hopeful about the authentic, purpose-driven living that lies ahead. For her – and so many of us – time spent alone focusing on who we are and the life we want for ourselves is key to personal sustainability.  twitter_button






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