Helena Clayton Newsletter - View this email in your browser
Leadership Developer • Coach & Facilitator • Writer

Welcome to the September 2022 Newsletter

Hello all, especially first-time readers, and welcome to Late Summer. According to Chinese traditions, this is when we transition into the season of the Earth element- the season of harvest. It’s time to take stock in the celebration and abundance of summer and let that nourish our body and mind.  Does that feel about right for you?

This summer has been pretty gentle on me, work-wise.  As ever, I am massively grateful for the space and equally fearful that I won't earn a decent month's income ever again.  Ah, the problems of being a freelancer!  And I always think I'll use this downtime for 'something useful'.  I never do, of course.  But this month I've loved the space for:

  • long walks on the South Downs with all the harvests in, and swims down at Goring, sometimes in the flattest and clearest water
  • a day in London with a friend who was visiting...we had plans for a museum but we just wandered, chatted had coffee and repeated.
  • 10 home-based days looking after Dom, fresh from his second knee replacement
  • 10 days in my #HappyPlace on Gower, plus a beautiful week away in Ceredigion on a poetry camp -  more details below
This month, some juicy things:
  • picking up on ways we can stay in love with life
  • a new workshop on a modern approach to helping with complex change and problem solving in organisations
  • a wonderful (second!) podcast conversation about love, with Pete Clark
  • an exploration of what might be beyond midlife, for women (and for me)
  • and asking for your inspiration and help ...
OK, so stay well, love hard and remember what Rita Dove said: 'in the midst of horror we fed on beauty—and that, my love, is what sustained us'. 

I'll be back with more in October and m
uch love in the meantime.

Helena x

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A new workshop for problem solving and change

My colleague, Matt Fairbrass and I help people in organisational life navigate complex change.

In the last 18 months, we've been working with some new ways to do this that we call Systems Mapping, an approach that blends traditional with very modern ways to respond to organisational change - and that's proving to be both helpful and useful, insightful and practical. 

We're delighted to say that we're offering a one day workshop on this new approach - a lab, if you like, that will bring you new insights and perspectives on an issue as well as 'the next wise action'. 

If you're in an OD or a change role, or a leader or manager involved in leading complex change, if you have a team that feels stuck, or something in the organisation 'that just won't shift', or patterns that seem to be unhelpfully repeating themselves, then take a look at what we're offering.  It's designed with you in mind. 

It's a one day workshop, on 24 November in central London, and we're limiting it to just 12 people so we can hold a space that's both safe and stretching.  Come along?  

You can find out more and book your place HERE. And Early Bird prices available until 29 September. 

Podcast - with Pete Clark
(yes, our second conversation!)

If you're a podcast fan, you might have listened to last month's recording I did with Pete Clark of 21 Whispers. In it, among other good things, Pete asks me about the findings from the original research I did into love in the workplace. If you haven't come across that report yet, you can download it here

Pete and I decided we hadn't finished with each other and so we scheduled another time to talk, this time with me hosting.  You can listen to that here - Episode 13 and as we chat, we pick up on some of the threads from our first conversation and explore:

  • the importance of 'doing your work' on your trauma and difficult experiences as way to connect with our love
  • how 'love as a verb' makes all the difference
  • the ways that small acts of love - and some specific ones in particular - really matter
  • and how small things might be all we can do in the face of the global car crash that seems to be heading our way.

We still haven't finished with each other - feels like there's plenty more great conversation yet to come. 

Poetry + bringing parts of me back to life
I have parts of me that are yet unexplored, or have lain neglected for a long time. I have a hunch that my mum, who died when I was 20, was a poet.  I think I might have something to say. Also because I never want to let my life get small. And because, to my huge surprise, something powerful is calling me towards the poetic!

Is that why I was at Poetry Camp for a week, with poets Tom Hirons and Rozi Hilton?

I can't say for sure, but I'm just very glad I was. 

All day and all night around the fire. Sometimes lessons on the craft of poetry, other times sharing poems we love. Sometimes out in the forest talking to the trees and speaking with the land, other times listening to ancient stories. Sometimes on our feet doing voice and body work, other times talking about why we write and what we have to say.

I arrived assuming I’d be writing heaps of poems. Wrong. I left with just one - but as I can’t recite it without tears, it feels one to be proud of.

One of the highlights of my year, for sure. If even a part of you is interested in this, why not subscribe to Tom's Newsletter so you can get next year's date ...?

And along a similar theme ...

There's an article here about how as adults we might need to recapture some of the exhilaration and delight that we felt as a child - doing things or relearning things we had left behind.  Something about getting back in touch with joy or delight.  That's also why I was there.

And here, a whole series of wonderful short pieces here on 'a new start after 60' and how some people have done something very different in their older years. Also why.

And when I was working with Josie Gregory, in supervision some years ago, she once told me with some heat and passion: 'never let your life get small'.  And especially, she said, as a woman.  Those words landed. Almost certainly another reason why.

And something too about 'rewilding myself' and strengthening my connection with nature.  That too. And a whole lot else. 

What parts of you are being neglected?  And how might you reconnect with them?
Exploring Eldership for women
Some of you know that I'm interested in the concept and practice of Eldership.  I wrote about it here and slightly differently here a little while back.

Having turned 58 in the summer, I'm still interested in it, and getting more so.  What does it mean to age well?  And to mature well?  Especially as a woman.  What does the third third of my life look like - what sort of life do I want to live?  Who do I want to be - and how do I want to live at my fullest?  How can I use these next decades (assuming I'm lucky enough to have a few more granted me ...) to be of service?  How can the life I've lived and the experiences I've had be useful to others in some way?  What's my role now?  If I am to 'slip the skin' of my earlier years, what might that mean for me? 

So of course, when I saw that Dr Sharon Blackie (of If Women Rose Rooted) had a new book exploring this phase of life, I was interested. She says about the book, called Hagitude (yes, a provocative title ...) that: 

It explores the powerful archetypes of elder women in European myth, fairy tales and folklore as a focus for navigating the challenges and opportunities which women face during the second half of their lives. The book is aimed at women who are looking to break out of negative cultural stereotypes about menopausal and post-menopausal women, and so find continued growth, meaning and authenticity all the way through their last decades.

For women, becoming elder is a new journey all of its own. And so in Hagitude, I offer an unflinching, but ultimately joyful and inspiring, extended deep dive into the nature of that journey – a ‘post-heroic’ journey – and the many ways in which women can flourish during what is so often portrayed as a time of decline.

She also has a year-long programme starting in October, exploring these issues in a series of live sessions.  I've signed up.  Maybe I'll see some of you there?  My copy of the book has just arrived and so I'll be diving into that this month too. 

What does eldership mean for you?

Love.  Who should I be talking to?
Hive-mind ... I'm looking for some inspiration and ideas, please, and reaching out to you to see what you might have for me.

As I continue to develop my work on love, I want to talk to and hear from anyone who's doing love-based work and people who have an interesting angle on love.  Partly so I can chat to them on my podcast, but also because we need to start building a community of people who can talk about (and DO) love.  So, who do you know ...?
  • who's already writing and researching about love ...
  • or someone in business who leads from love or who has a reputation for a loving approach to doing business
  • maybe someone who's nowhere near the organisational world - from the community, maybe... and, however tangential, might offer us ways to look at love that we wouldn't ordinarily think about 
  • someone mighty and well known, or someone humble who should be well known,
  • and/or who would you love to hear in conversation with me?
Please do let me know ...I'm interested in everyone...

dream bathroom

do not tell me this is my 'dream bathroom'
unless there are mermen singing
nat king cole with granddad in the sink
unless the cold tap flows prosecco
and the shower transforms into a
giant see-through rocket so i can scrub
my naked arse crack while speeding
between planets, unless the flush
makes me orgasm, the light switch
ends all war and the mirror make believes
i have the tits of mrs claus.
Holly McNish

A few good reads 
I'm surprised I've read so little.  But there's some great stuff here, including:. 
  • Octavia Butler's Kindred.  A 1976 sci-fi exploring historical racism and violence that I really enjoyed. 
  • Helen MacDonald's Vesper Flights.  Wow, this woman can write!  I haven't read H is for Hawk (and now I might) but this series of nature-based essays is such a lovely integration of her human life, and the more-than-human life, and helps me see my own connections with nature a little more clearly.
  • And Joy Harjo, until recently the US Poet Laureate ... the second part of her autobiography, Poet Warrior.  Again, what a read.  I do feel like I'm currently looking for new perspectives, new ways of seeing and understanding the world.  And this gave me some of that, for sure. 
And at work
Not so much of it this month as the balance was tilted towards holiday and domestic stuff.  But nevertheless:
  • lots of admin and project management as a new piece of client work starts to come together for delivery in September and October.  Great to work with a small team who, in between our various holidays and summer-childcare commitments, are working so smoothly by drawing on all the small spaces that are available to us
  • an action learning group whose membership keeps changing, despite me asking the client for that not to happen.  We are making it work.  But it does make me think about whether I could be less accommodating and more boundaried about some aspects of my client work. When will my no mean no?
  • some Gender Allyship workshops where (as ever) the biggest moments for people were not the actions they could take within their organisation - useful as they were - but getting to understand and talk about their own unearned privilege, and their own experiences of feeling excluded, marginalised and made to feel different. The first time of doing that, for almost all of them.
And if you think a conversation about how I might support you, work-wise, might be useful, please do get in touch.  You know where I am on Twitter and LinkedIn, or connect via Email. Or call me of course, whichever suits.

Thank you for reading
Helena x

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