This month we feature a guest post from Alicia Kennedy. Alicia is a participant in the 2018 Melbourne Table of Ten. Having worked as a veterinarian for thirty years, Alicia was acutely aware there was a growing need for a community-centred veterinary service that provided special support for senior clients. So, in 2015 she founded Cherished Pets, a unique veterinary social enterprise that supports pets and people through all life stages and enables the human-animal bond to flourish.
What a year you’ve been. You took me to my limits, emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially. You have been a year of crisis, celebration, progress, interruption and consolidation. You were unrelenting.
This week marks the end of an extraordinary experience for me as I reflect, restore and prepare to head full-on into 2019 ready for the excitement and challenges of the year ahead.
Over the last nine months I’ve been blessed to take part in the Global Leadership Foundation’s Tables of Ten in the company of eight extraordinarily talented fellow humans. As well as meeting as a group each month, I’ve also had, as part of the journey, an enriching monthly coaching session with co-founder and Tables of Ten facilitator Gayle Hardie.
Each month’s experiences have centred on a theme, and it astounds me how these aligned so well with where I was at and what I was seeking at the time.
Part of our coaching process is to create an intent of ‘how we want to be‘ as we move forward. Over the year we’ve described our intent using three words, which have evolved for me over time – starting with ‘Nourishing’; ‘Balanced’; ‘Powerful’ and finishing with ‘Grounded’; ‘Calm’; and ‘Confident’.
It’s also been a year in which I’ve discovered that seeing the world as a ‘both…and’ person is actually okay. And that, in the words of Brené Brown, we can be “tough and tender; brave and afraid” all in the one moment.
In summary, my year has been Extreme, Supported and with Boundaries. Here’s why.
My team and I at Cherished Pets have been stretched as we’ve continued to grow our groundbreaking bond-centred veterinary and pet care business. With our commitment to making our service accessible to all, we deal with people in crisis on a daily basis. This has required digging deep into our reserves to meet growing demand.
Personal and professional challenges have arisen as the result of some confronting cases. In one case we had to report a situation to the RSPCA in order to protect a pet from further suspected abuse from an owner who was seriously ill, both mentally and physically. Harrowing is the only word for this experience. In another situation a client attempted suicide. One of our team arrived at the scene after the police.
Palliative vet care cases have taught me so much about commitment, the human–animal bond, strength of spirit, life and death and the importance of letting go.
We’ve further extended our resources by embarking on a project to open Australia’s first community pet hub in the face of escalating demand for our services. There have been moments of extreme excitement about the possibilities that abound – the realisation that we are a ‘happening thing’. And, on a personal level there’s been a death in the family and the passing of three very special elderly clients, niggling illness and escalating anxiety that some days grips me and holds me in my tracks.
Dealing with difficult people has tested my emotional health and resilience as I’ve attempted to stay above the line and present in the face of distress, confusion and an ‘inner critic’ who loves to raise her voice when the going gets tough.
It’s in these times that purpose matters most in order to keep you on your path. I’ve been mastering the art of two-minute meditations as one way to stop, breathe and ground myself before moving forward.
Cherished Pets is now in its fourth year of operation and never before have I felt more held. I feel like I am wrapped in a big blanket. Some wise words recently heard at a BCorp workshop ring true: “Community is a safe place to fall”
Cherished Pets is indeed a community. Through our team, volunteers, supporters, donors, business friends, advisors, board, clients, partners and my family and friends, I have never felt safer and more supported as we progress this remarkable venture, driven daily by our purpose and mission. We are holding each other and, most of all, they are all holding me.
As a founder who is always chomping at the bit to be ten years ahead of where we are at now, I have trouble saying no. However, when the ‘hot breath’ of burnout starts to breathe down my neck, I am realising the importance of boundaries: professionally, personally and as a leader.
We are ‘building this plane while we are flying it’ and I need to take stock of the incredible progress we are making. I need to get smarter about what we say yes and no to. It now feels safe to say no, to slow down to speed up. We cannot be all things to everyone and we cannot fix everything. I work to the 75% rule when it comes to fixing the problems in the world. We do what we can, when we can. We always do our best to be what we need to be for everyone we work with … but we cannot be it all.
I am getting better at holding my boundaries across all I do, and better at taking care of me.
So, thank you 2018 for your abundance, your celebrations, your challenge and your lessons.
Just because I am following my dreams doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, I am convinced that I’ve chosen to travel the harder, and lesser, path. But as 2019 looms on the horizon, this is what I’ve got to say:
“I am ready. I am calm. I’ve got this”.
Heartfelt gratitude to Global Leadership Foundation Tables of Ten 2018 for it all.
Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash