You see, things are falling in to place. Almost as if by magic. And it feels so good!
On a recent visit to the UK, for example, I had a magical time catching up with old friends I haven't seen in years. Dave on the Tuesday night for the first time in seven years, Craig on the Saturday for the first time in twenty, and Tanya's parents, on the Sunday for the first time in three years. I've also deepened existing friendships - Beatrix and I had a magical Friday evening together that lasted right through until gone 4am on Saturday culminating with an impromptu firewalk in her back yard. OK, it was only two steps, but we repeated it plenty of times!
In a couple of weeks I have another old friend from 20 years ago coming to stay. That same month I'm hooking up with a school friend who's visiting the UK, and in the beginning of September yet another old school friend I haven't seen since we were teenagers is also coming to visit here in France! Just last week I had the Princess and the Runner here to stay (you know who you are!) and it was fabulous - my friendships are getting stronger and stronger, and my life is enriched as a result.
And I'm also strengthening the relationship with myself each and every day - although I must admit it's not always easy. A couple of weeks ago, for example, I spent two days observing a 'training' event for the 250 top-tier leaders in a hugely successful UK PLC. It's the first in a series, and they had asked me to provide feedback on the event and help them to make the following planned events more successful. A great opportunity! But as I was observing the whole situation, I felt myself getting more and more uncomfortable with what I was witnessing. Double-speak, manipulation and bullying and at it's nastiest - because the delegates, the so-called valued leaders of this organisation, the very people the event was allegedly designed to help, ended up feeling that they were somehow at fault.
I heard the whispers and read the fearful thoughts that leaked through their behaviour and body language. "Perhaps I'm too stupid to understand the messages? Perhaps I shouldn't really be here? Perhaps I'm just being tested and singled out for the next round of culling?" It was nasty. Insidious. And I began to wonder to myself whether I was trapped inside the Matrix. Surely I wasn't the only one who could see beyond these masks of professionalism that the heavy-weight speakers and organisers were preaching as "openness" "honesty" and "one team"...? Or perhaps it's just that I'm now indelibly tarnished from my experiences with Cam - and my in-depth knowledge and appreciation of abusive behaviour. Perhaps I'm automatically seeing the baddie in everyone and everything?
My answers to these inner questions came in three different ways. Firstly, there was a consultant there at the event who had been working with this particular company for the previous eight months. We were sat together on the same table and we immediately bonded. She echoed my thoughts and concerns, and also shared more in-depth background on her own viewpoints over the time she's been working with these people. I felt delighted (and a little bit smug if truth be told) to discover that my observations over such a short space of time were exactly the same as hers after eight months involvement. Ha, so I haven't lost my touch then!
Secondly, as I was driving away from the event, I received a call on my mobile from the person who'd originally introduced me to the company. I'd worked with him some seven years earlier when he was with another organisation - the work had made a significant difference to him and his team, and he was keen to get me in to this place. Now I understood why. He explained to me his frustrations with the company, and how their unreasonable demands and relentless bullying had resulted in his breakdown a few months earlier. He stressed that he's not the only one, but that the culture is to keep your head down and do anything to survive the blows. That way of working goes totally against my grain, and I felt desperately sorry for these genuine people who were surely just being used and abused - empowerment was a joke, a word that the leaders were telling everybody they had to achieve (and berating those who didn't) but only so long as they remained in their box and 'did' empowerment as the leaders expected. Again, I'd seen all of that about the culture in a very short space of time - ha!
Thirdly, a great friend of mine (a very senior HR professional) gave me this simple comment when told about the horrors of this particular organisation: "Sounds like a client you don't want to be working with, however it reminded you how good you are. Cutting to the chase on the analysis issues so your team can deliver!"
So, the answer is no. No I'm not seeing horrors in everything. No it's not that I'm tainted. No I wasn't wrong. In fact I'd say that, on the contrary, I've become stronger and more accurate in my observations, and certainly more authentic in my responses. Because I sent this company a brief but honest feedback report on my observations, together with a short email stating that I'd happily go in to more detail as and when they chose to move forward with me - confident that they had no intention whatsoever of calling me back. Because, as I found out on the first morning, they already have a consultancy working with them, and they certainly don't need another. In fact I have no idea why I was invited in the first place - unless they thought they'd get a full-blown guidance report for free! The response came back as expected, that they thought the event was a huge success (of course) and they're taking my feedback on board as they plan the next events (because, actually, they don't want to change anything).
So, job done. Professional integrity in tact, safe escape from a toxic company, and a clearing of the pathway to make space for clients who really do want to make a positive difference.
And guess what? One such new client has immediately come in to play. Fun, forward-thinking, with clear integrity and a major passion for developing their people. Oh, and they're also worldwide with fantastic plans for the future. During the meeting we spoke the same language and shared the same passion. Now that's the kind of client I'm going to love working with and will happily give my all!
Petit a petit, petit a petit. What looks like a failure can be released in place of the hidden treasures that sit behind every situation. And, while it often feels as though I'm taking one step forward and two steps back, I know - I absolutely know - that little by little I'm making progress, and building solid foundations on which to create my new world.