Last Friday, I presented to a Leadership class of juniors at Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) in Michigan, most of whom were in business programs but a few that were art and theater students as well. After reading about the Hook Wild Basin Endowment, the professor, who I met at a dinner gathering, sent an email asking if I’d talk to his students about “Visioning,” using the endowment as my example of overcoming obstacles.
After I’d already sent back a reply to the professor with a “Yes, I’d love to,” I looked at Gatita, patiently waiting for me to abandon the phone and my laptop, and I said, “What the hell is visioning.”
Gatita responded by leaping from the desk and onto my thighs so that I could pet her while I searched the internet; the internet that I couldn’t access via my laptop, the internet that I could only read via a handheld device.
As a coach, I understood the concept of visualization (create an image in your mind of the outcome you’d like to have), but visioning isn’t like that, in fact, it’s almost the opposite. Both visioning and visualization are processes for energy flow, the flow of ideas, creative developments that occur with a single thought but then venture off on different paths: One manifests from the inside-out while the other begins from the outside-in. Once I understood the content, I knew my presentation would need to be atypical. I tossed the idea of using PowerPoint slides, and instead told a story within a story about why and how the Hook Endowment came to be.
Visioning vs Visualization
Visualization: An OUTSIDE-in process that usually begins with a clear solid picture. You control the external image then bring it into yourself; how it would feel to have what you desire. Example: Building your dream house by picturing the brick used to construct it, the square footage, number of bedrooms, layout, etc. You are in control of the details.
Visioning: An INSIDE-out process. It may begin with an idea but probably few details. You become centered within yourself through meditation or prayer or writing or simply asking a question to the universe, then listen to what is being revealed to you via a vision or part of a vision or what I like to call “the next step of what to do” appears in your mind. From this visioning you take action (out). Example: Asking how to honor someone (me); or, how to sustain a nature preserve (Hook)
Until that class presentation, I’d never looked at the creation of the Hook Endowment as anything other than Allan’s legacy. Three months before Hook passed away, I went to bed one night wondering how I could honor my husband after he was gone. The word “honor, honor, honor” sounded in my head. We already knew he was terminal, so it was no longer a matter of if but when.
It wasn’t horrible (the dying) or physically painful (the cancer) and it definitely wasn’t the worst (the experience). Hospice staff often said, “walking with them to the end,” and the thing is, you are literally walking with them, one of your shoulders under their armpit, eventually carrying them when they can no longer stand on their own two legs. You’re glad to be able to give that much and you’d give more, you’d do it forever if they could just stay with you, but they can’t. They cannot stay, and so you must also be the one to encourage them to go. And this, the dying and the being there and the honor are the most traumatic and significant things you will ever experience in both your lives, and trying to make sense of it in the moment is the closest to insanity you will ever come.
I cannot say how Allan’s idea came to him only how it transpired in our house from one single morning. After my mantra of “honor,” I’d thought the word “scholarship” but really, nothing more than that. Then after breakfast one day, Allan said, “I want to talk to you about something.” From that one conversation, he made a call then we met with people in person, then over the phone, then communication via email back and forth. We fleshed out options for a Hook Endowment, how the funds would be managed, which students would be eligible, and where the fellowships be administered.
Different ideas merged together (Hook’s, mine, and the university’s) and from one discussion of a simple donation, we ended up creating a global education fund with the ability to affect how man relates to nature.
It’s not easy for a widow to put aside her husband’s memory or legacy. But I understand finally that the Hook Endowment was never about him; never about us; almost not even about the Wild Basin except that the Basin is the “nature think tank” by which the message will spread to other universities and cities, other states and countries. The Hook Endowment is and has always been about nature and honor, education and honor, man’s future and honor. The Hook Endowment is not about Hook’s legacy at all but about man’s legacy to the earth
And that far out thought definitely did not come to me until the morning of the presentation to that class in Michigan. As I stood in front of those students, sometimes with watery eyes, sometimes with a resolve of strength that has always been within me, I shared how in the face of death, Hook and I allowed the end result to be revealed to us, trusting that writing a large check would somehow make a difference to future generations.
Some More On Visioning
Lack of Details: One difficulty of visioning is that ideas are not concrete, they’re just ideas. If you’re someone unsure of how to center yourself or how to allow something to manifest, then you run the risk of telling the image what it will be versus allowing a vision to come to you. If that sounds squishy, it is and it’s supposed to be. Trust is not an easy thing, except when you take the best of what’s inside you and use this to pull on the energy of the universe, the next step will absolutely emerge. Trust yourself, trust the universe, and allow the rest to reveal itself.
Naysayers: If a naysayer enters your realm of experience, telling you to hurry up or make a decision or discounting the work you’re doing to get to the next step of your vision or worse, pushing off their fear onto you, you will have to mute them. Hook and I never discussed the amount of our endowment to anyone until it was official. If we had, it’s possible at least one of the many people who loved us or were concerned about our welfare may have cautioned against spending such a large amount of money when we didn’t know exactly what the future held (What if we needed the money? What if he lingered for another year? What if I became sick? What if, what if.)
A friend or partner can be helpful during visualization, even guide you toward more concrete details. But during visioning, where the answer is manifesting and specifics are few, a naysayer can poison your sense of self, inflicting wounds that you might feel tempted to use to stop the visioning. Mute can be a beautiful button to push.
Obstacles: We often see obstacles as hurdles to jump over; but in the realm of visioning, it can be the obstacles themselves that prompt the visioning, testing our perseverance, strengthening our resolve. Sometimes our hearts are preoccupied or our energy erratic and we can only do, do, do and act, act, act, trusting that the universe will have our backs. That was the mode I was in with Allan those last months, and it only quickened the closer we came to the end.
Even though I couldn’t beat back the ultimate obstacle (death), I could use the misery from that to fuel a vision. Within that time suspended from reality, I felt as exhausted as Allan looked. The only organ in my body operating at full capacity was my heart. I trusted this and allowed a vision to come, then listened to Allan, then listened to supporters, sometimes following the vision as it morphed into visualization then allowing it to morph back into visioning. Obstacles can be exactly what you need at exactly the time that you need them.
Happenstance or Reason?
When tragedy walks into your front door uninvited, some of you may take refuge in: Everything happens for a reason. Others say: It’s happenstance; there is no reason and not everything has a purpose.
If you believe that everything happens for a reason, then you will find a reason to make sense of the tragedy. If you are a happenstance person, and you are wise, you will apply a reason so that the tragedy wasn’t for naught.
Neither is right or wrong. I cannot even tell you today into which group I fall: Happenstance or Reason. But if I were to allow Hook’s death to be the end of all I had to give back to the world, then that is the real tragedy. Part of me believes what Hook said, “Dying is just part of living.” True, but part of me needs to make sense of Hook’s passing, his life, our marriage, and so I look for ways to honor it and him and myself.
The Revitalization of Saginaw
In the early 1980s, the automobile industry in Michigan began to collapse, pulling the cities of Detroit and Flint, and the ancillary city of Saginaw into a downward economy. In 1989, I drove out of Saginaw and into the college town of Austin, Texas, a cool music stop between San Antonio and Dallas. Today, Austin is listed as #1 across the nation in jobs and terrible traffic. In the 1950s, Saginaw was what Austin is today, taking in transplants from all over the U.S., many of whom came from Texas. In 2011, Saginaw was rated the #1 most dangerous city to live in.
At the end of the current academic semester, the Saginaw Valley State University class that I presented to will lead a team of other students and together, they will offer a plan to community leaders for The Revitalization of Saginaw. Imagine the beginning of talks on how to do anything different in a city that once had at its center, a vibrancy found only in capital cities. Lack of details, too many naysayers, and tons of obstacles and yet, the power in that university classroom was energetic — a clean energy and not the general electric of parents and grandparents.
My admiration for these students and the visioning and visualization they’re willing to experience is surpassed only by the anticipation of what will be created in a new Saginaw. It’s not even a question of if or when but how they’ll succeed. Books will be written about this city’s return, of this I am certain.
Speaking of writing, I blog to you live from the Court Street Grill in “Old Town” Saginaw, an area that began its revitalization early, and where they allow me to sit for hours, drinking club soda, and sponging off their wireless internet. I continue to write my own book which has also been revealing itself to me, mainly that it has a split personality.
This sabbatical is my revitalization, too. Trust, trust, trust. Heart, heart, heart. Or in Gatita’s case: pet, pet, pet; scratch, scratch, scratch. The writing continues to come, in manic spurts like me, but it’s coming.
Estimated time in Michigan: Until the end of March.