I have not slept easily much recently. Thoughts of fires, hurricanes, marches, civil unrest, murder, armed citizens, confrontation, and misinformation run through my mind. It’s a struggle to keep positive while surrounded by infuriating, scary and destructive images and words. How many nights have I struggled to sleep while feeling overwhelmed, in grief or despair? How many mornings have I awoken not wanting to see the overnight news?

I am not happy with how things are right now. And HATE the phrase “in this new normal”. I would very much like for the next era to be very different from where we are now. It has been difficult to change the ways that we work, especially spending so much time apart. Though I’m an introvert, I enjoy being in space with nonprofit leaders. I love being together to learn from them about resilience and strength, and often to just get the work done. This physical and emotional isolation is taking its toll. (Image credit: Getty Images)

I also know that I do not long for a return to the previous normal, where we were before COVID. I do not want to continue systems of oppression, division or hierarchy. I want transformation, elevation, equity, and inclusive, supportive communities. I want to see money spent on housing, food, and jobs in ways that uplift everyone. 
As I sit with this, I feel the draw to my ancestry. I am the daughter of generations of midwives, or “sage femme” in our ancestral Quebecois language. And this time of turmoil, change, growth, and new ways feels like a time of birth.

Ask any woman about the birth of her children. It is at once beautiful, magical and special, and painful, messy and complicated. What if we thought about this chapter – of COVID-19, climate catastrophe, and political/cultural division – as a birthing? This year alone holds all of that uncertainty and discomfort, along with the promise of transformation. Is it possible that all of us are moving through this as we come into a new world?

In many ways, I see messy transformation at work on a regular basis. It’s one of many reasons that I love my work at NEW. I work with boards, executive directors, and staff in strategic planning, board development, fundraising, and more. At the end of our time together, success is dependent upon a willingness to embrace the “next steps”. But those steps often involve recognizing discomforts and challenges, and moving through difficult conversations. This is especially important in our racial equity work. And yet, despite the discomfort, so many choose to move forward anyway.

Watching nonprofits growing, stretching and building on the foundations of their missions is challenging. But it’s also exciting. Witnessing a group of board members and staff realize how they can make a change, having an “ah-ha” moment, is powerful. THAT gets me up in the morning. THAT gives me hope. THAT is the blessing of transformation. 

May we all birth into a world of inclusion, hope and empowerment. We’re getting closer. Sometimes it’s helpful to remember that birth is both messy and magnificent.

Judy is one of our team’s excellent Organizational Development Consultants.