Terminals, white knuckles, word deficits

This year I am taking part in the Leadership New Zealand programme, and recently I was asked to capture the mid-point of The Whole Thing. On a page. In actual sense-making syllables. Even though it’s all so very…

*low whistle*

Well, my best effort at Using My Words can now be found below, or up the Leadership New Zealand site.


Our backs are to the terminal’s glass. Our bags, our coats, our scarves, our folders tangled on the floor by our feet.

Softening light. Lowering sun.

My boarding call is in five minutes, but we are snatching one last conversation from the weekend. We look at each other. Trying to make sense of the last three days.

Did you… I feel so… Do you think…

I had been warned. Sparkly-eyed, you’ll-see, gleefully warned by those who had been here before me. Leadership New Zealand? Oh! Ha! Hold on tight!

I have. Tight tight tight. Tight through the imposter-syndrome phase. Tight through the oh-holy-shit-what-have-I-done phase. Phases. Tight through the sessions well over my head. Tight through the painful insights, and the joy, and the requests to expand. Again.

Tight through the realisation (first retreat, first day, three hours in) that I am going to cry a LOT in front of these people.


White-knuckled and curious. Testing my grip strength. Holding on through the ground-shifting intensity of it all.

Half way, now.

Christchurch. Hanmer.

I was welcomed by the stones of Ngā Whāriki Manaaki. I walked, heavily, to ruined cathedrals. Lightly, to spiral-slided playgrounds. I advocated for a dying lake to an extraterrestrial judge. And snort-laughed at crepe-paper theatrics.

I sucked in perfect Hanmer air, and Instagrammed perfect Hanmer landscapes. I watched a man unearth a latent gift for poetry.

I sat, bark pressing through my coat. Pines. Wet grass. Back-lit seed heads. Bight red berries on bare grey stalks. A creek singing over stones. I was greeted by a small black Lab with a flailing tail. He pushed his nose into my calf. Hello.

I talked to trees.

I breathed in for four. Held for seven. Out for eight.

I saw yet another way I have been blinkered. Ow. I cried. I ate peanut-butter bliss balls and went to bed early.

I was honoured eight times. One. Di. Two. Darren. Three. Mary. Four. Sarah. Five. Rob. Six. Ketan. Seven. Hillary. Eight. Kathy. They are what courage looks like.

I cried eight more times. I moved on from my standard Leadership New Zealand Glossy Eyes to Actual Crumpled-Face Sobbing.

Oh well.

Holding tight.

My back is to the terminal’s glass. I’m fat-throated. Fighting a cold. These have been three full – three wonderfully full – days. I’m an introvert well into Word Deficit.

But one last conversation, please. Did you… I feel so… Do you think…

Half way, now.