I Spent Ten Days in Turkey I Still Don’t Know How To Say, ‘Teşekkürler.’ ‘Love’ is Getting Easier, Though.

I do not have any tattoos. I do not foresee this changing, but my mom always told us that “dreams are free,” so I have given it thought in moments of daydream.

Were I to have a tattoo it would be the world “balance,” or some not so subtle reminder to.

Living in balance has long been a challenge for me. I get lost in the mirky middle; a beautiful but twisty place to be- or I quickly take myself to the comfort and safety of controlled ends named black or white where things make sense but where there is no room for play. I’m brilliant at supporting others in exploring this place in between and in betwixt but it is always easier to teach than to do, isn’t it?

My dad was often the person who played this support role for me. He spent a great deal of time in Turkey for his own work in the textiles industry and so when the opportunity to attend the International Organization Development Association Conference in Istanbul arose, I was intrigued. When the topic was “the re-birth of re-balance,” I knew I had to find a way there.

Writing this, nearly two years after the death of my father, Tom Hilb, I am wondering how many times in our lives we are re-birthed and in need of re-balancing.

Many people have asked me about my trip to Turkey. Typically, full of far too many words, I find myself somewhat at a loss to articulate all I want to share. My two major takeaways are this: gratitude and love.

As a child with severe anxiety who grew into an adult with managed anxiety, I have tried many techniques over the years. Between yoga, therapy, scheduling “worry time,” meditation, various attempts at eating differently, medication, being intentional with my energy, and so forth, it is all important. I also find it challenging to keep all of this in balance with everyday life. The practice I have found most calming for me personally is the practice of gratitude. Journaling what is going right in my life or making a list when I think of it, closing my eyes and listing three things when I feel blue or overwhelmed, writing an email to a friend I love when I think of them or even sending praise to some business for something that went right. Telling the barista at Starbucks their coffee made my day. Sitting down and writing a thank you note or a love note. Essentially, sending a Valentine in July. Somehow, for me, this removes the focus on myself and whatever is stressful and points me towards beauty in another.

In preparing for my trip to Turkey, I was surrounded by such a community of people wanting to ensure my trip went well, it was overwhelming. I had not even arrived yet and I had an entire village. IODA people, my host family, friends of my dad’s, their families. Knowing this somehow makes you lighter and then you open up and want to tell your story and suddenly I had friends on airplanes and in waiting areas. I have so much gratitude to distract me now that I am back, the only negative is that I have to actively recognize that I will never give it back equally. I will never be able to cross thank you notes off of my list (crossing my list is so satisfying ;), and I have to be ok with that, and I am.

I am even grateful.

At both the opening and the finale of the IODA conference, I heard genius Turkish speakers present. One spoke about the definition of success and the other did an exercise on goal-setting and accountability. What they both mentioned in a very direct way was love. They spoke to humanity and relationships and how this is something we all require yet we do not talk about enough or in a direct way in the workplace. When we spoke about goal-setting we discussed why this is and why speaking about our common humanity in the workplace can create a fear of being taken seriously.

For me, even the word “love” doesn’t roll off the tongue. It is an effort to say and to write in the context of a professional environment. Still, I know that my life’s work is about creating space for deep connection to manifest and when I am in places where this is able to happen, I feel more whole and I see others step into this light where they let more of their whole selves be seen. This is what happens in loving community and IODA was no exception.

“Nothing changes, if nothing changes,” the final speaker declared. Gratitude and love are how I choose to change both myself and the world at large. The work then is to express it. I have always been grateful, and I have always loved, but how am I manifesting it? How are any of us?

Attending IODA and connecting with my dad and with so many others, including myself, in another way is something I will forever be grateful for and I am sending so much love to all who made this journey possible. Thank you.

Anne Hilb