Kate prepared meticulously for her speech at the annual strategy-planning meeting of her company which sold a popular soda. She heard rumblings from employees pushing for reduction in sugar grams in the soda which were jaw-dropping high. Of course, the suger jolt had a lot to do with why the drink was so successful.
An alpha woman to the core, Kate took great pride in having risen so quickly in the company. She was sure this speech would put her in line for yet another promotion, a birthday present to herself for having just turned 30.
Beautifully composed, confidently presented, she was floored when her speech was interrupted by boos. “Let’s face it,” shouted one young man in jeans and beard. “Sugar is poisonous. People are waking up to that fact. We’ve been cited as a dangerous product in numerous articles.”
A surprising number of people nodded in agreement. Kate stomped out of the room.
In the hall, her cell phone rang. A policeman was calling from a nearby hospital. “Your mother has been involved in a traffic accident. She damaged four parked cars when she lost control of the wheel.”
Her mother Adele had Parkinson’s disease. She had also been complaining about headaches. Kate assumed her sister Violet was looking in on Adele regularly as she had for years. Then she remembered that Violet was confined to bed because of complications in her pregnancy.
At the hospital, the cop said her mother was under arrest and could not be released unless Kate agreed to be her guardian.
What? Looking after mother was Violet’s role. After all, Kate was the family star. Her mother bragged about Kate’s achievements, but counted on Violet. Her mother’s friends seemed to value Violet more. “She’s True Blue,” they’d say.
Kate signed the guardianship paper. After the cops left, a hospital chaplain came and sat with her mother. Though her mother was weak and not completely clearheaded, she was surprisingly optimistic.
“I shouldn’t complain,” Adele said. “I’m rich in many ways. My volunteer work gives me a lot of satisfaction. I have so many friends, and interests such as reading books. And now Violet is going to have another baby.”
Kate was aware that her own name did not even come up. Back at her apartment, her boyfriend Edward called. He wasn’t that ambitious but he was her “steady Eddie” — husband and father material. Plus he was relaxed enough to be good in bed.
Though she often talked to Ed in the same ‘woman in command’ voice she used at the office, this time she broke down. Pouring out the details of her wretched day, she ended with “I realize I hate my job.”
Long pause. Finally Ed said, “Remember how we met at the American Red Cross fund-raising telethon?” Of course Kate remembered. She had signed up for the telethon because it would look good on a resume.
Ed continued: “That night I listened to your phone calls and you were so optimistic and persuasive. Well, I heard they have an opening at the Red Cross here in town for an executive. Why don’t you look into it?”
A nonprofit? Heresy.
Ed heard her gasp and said, “Maybe today the gods are sending you a message. They might be saying that you would be a lot happier if you used your high intelligence and formidable skills to make life better for other people.”
Kate was in the clutch of a Threshold Experience:
If you’re heavily influenced by the goddess Athena, you may be unduly focused on your own master plan. You may not easily get that other people think and act differently than you. Treat this realization as a challenge to explore. Be curious.
Life was conspiring to stop Kate in her familiar tracks. She had grown up in a divorced family. Time with her dad was much more interesting than with her mom because he took her to work with him during Kate’s vacations where she shadowed the office manager – all her ‘take charge’ impulses fired. College and business school had been a snap. Adele’s volunteerism had never been on Kate’s horizon.
What better way for the goddesses to conspire for change than to have ‘mother’ come to live with her? This could have proved to be a nightmare, but didn’t.
Kate was observant enough to open to her mother’s – read feminine – ways. With Adele’s current position so up front and personal every day, Kate was dipping into a deep well of compassion and empathy. Her heart began to open to this unique mother of hers, and she realized she had never given Adele a chance to share how she’d found a life of ‘service’ so fascinating.
Listening to Adele’s excitement and review of her life’s work in volunteer positions, her varied interests, the influence of growing up in a household with a bedridden grandmother – all this led Kate to rethinking what her own life could be.
Kate had already called into work and explained that due to a family medical emergency, she was taking a leave of absence. She took care of her mother Adele with style and grace; helped Violet get ready for the baby and invited Ed to move into her condo. She was still bossy, but she was on her road to fulfillment. Kate followed the dots and discovered a more authentic way of being.