About a year ago, I set out to engage Congress in a project that I hoped would open up a space in our political dialogue for compassion, understanding, love…the humanity of “us.”

This week, I pulled the plug on the project.

It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make. And like every “letting go” has painfully and joyfully opened up a space in my own life…an awareness frankly…that before all this started, I could theoretically talk about, but needed to experience…I guess.

I am a wildly compassionate person. Born a feeler, I love people, whether they want to be loved or not. I am fearless in my search for and desire to create spaces where heartful connection can thrive and unabashedly joyful even in the most cynical of circumstances. I crusade for no religion, race, country or party but instead create opportunities that invite those who feel voiceless, disenfranchised, lost and unloved…to let go of the constraints that bind them and rise up into their greatest human potential.

I am a very fortunate and grateful woman. I’ve, by the grace of so many and such wonder, been able to live a life that is bound by very little. I run when I want to, cry when I feel like it, and love just because. I can.

So…without dropping the details of how I was introduced to the Capitol Climate, I found myself hanging out with some of our nation’s (heck world’s) most celebrated and well-known collaborative leaders. Picture camp-counselor-yoga-practicing-red-boot-wearing girl sitting at big round (very impressive might I add) tables with people who had spent most of their lives serving our nation by serving in some of our nation’s highest elected positions. We talked a lot. I got to know them. We lost ourselves for hours in closed rooms trying to get down into the “what’s underneath all this political anger and polarization.”

Interestingly, after hours of debate (heated at times I might add) we basically landed on two different causes. Those that are visible to the human eye and those that are not. In the first category, we find gerrymandering, primary election issues, the influence of money. The second is not so easy to articulate. It’s about ethos, culture, connection (or lack of). It’s the stuff that keeps us from looking each other in the eye and honoring our humanness..

I would walk away, after each of our gatherings, increasingly frustrated. “Can’t you see? CAN’T YOU SEE?” That as long as the ethos lacks a willingness to talk about, honor and celebrate the humanity of “us” the systems we create, support, sustain will too.

So, I began work on a project I believed would open up a space for our elected leaders to look each other in the eye and experience what can happen when we understand, honor and celebrate the humanity of “us.” Run 2 Lead would pair our nation’s leaders with children. Need I say more?

I should have known I was up against something formidable when right off the bat I was told (with a lot of what looked like very angry gesturing) by a Congressional staffer, that using the word love and compassion in my literature would never get an elected leader to “sign up.” “We are in an election year. If my boss signs up for this, he will be primaried out. There are those who will use this against him.”

So, I took ten deep breaths, moved the presentation aside and asked this young staffer to “tell me more. Help me understand.”

So for an hour we talked about what it’s like to be on Capitol Hill. The pressure, the money, the fear.

By the end of the hour, we had compromised. I will use the word empathy and connection instead of love and compassion. This will more likely engage folks. It’s less intimidating.

I did not sleep that night and since that time, have not slept well.

I wrestled, nearly every waking moment, with why can’t we use the words love and compassion when it comes to political leadership? Who wrote THAT memo? I use love and compassion every day in my work, with my children, Gloria, my homeless friend, the children and volunteers I serve, my three dogs, the young staffer ranting at me about how love and compassion have no place on our political landscape.

And so, without seeing it, I was slowly but surely, lowered into that boiling pot of fear. I began to measure my words. Watch what I wrote and said. This red-boot-wearing, joyful, open-hearted and fearless lover of people began to shut down. My fearless and at times irrational pursuit of seeing the good, the positive, the potential in all people and circumstances began to disappear and be replaced instead by a kind of cynicism. One I hadn’t known, EVER.

I tried I really tried.

But put it this way. Suddenly, the words I loved to use, the joy I love to bring, the very essence of who I am as a person was, in an attempt to make this program work, compromising. I could convince myself (I’m very good at this) that this was the right and noble thing to do. After all, am I not asking these leaders to compromise? Surely I can for the cause of good, compromise a word or two here or there to make the initiative take flight?

Two weeks ago, I started to feel sick. My stomach hurt. I was experiencing headaches. I couldn’t sleep, at all. I was crying a lot. My temper was short with my kids. I was getting angry more easily.

I’m on the elliptical at the gym, when for one fleeting moment, I remembered who I was before this all started. The Molly who smiles at people, confidently walks into a room, laughs freely and often, dances frequently and unabashedly with my teenage daughter through the aisles of the grocery store, wears her pajamas to the drug store when she is sick, loves to hug people and is driven not by money, economics, winning or politics, but by a big, bold, audacious love that invites others into its fierce and fiery warmth.

I cried right there on the treadmill at the Dowd YMCA.

I want HER back. THAT Molly.

And so, I talked to the people who knew me best. My sister, my children, my mentors and decided that it was time to surrender…give up and let it go.

It’s been only three days, but a three days of reflection and soul-searching.

And here I am now, writing you. Very aware and happy to share with you that something even more audacious, bold and fearless has taken root within this very soul of mine. A leader without bounds. A leader without fear. A leader who leads with kick ass compassion and like it or not love.

A leader I like. A leader who loves. A leader who will go to the ends of the earth to defend and stand up for love, compassion and the humanity of “us.”

So let me just state for the record and to all those hundreds of thousands of little girls who I’ve spent my entire life telling…that love matters, compassion works and being your authentic self is what the world wants, celebrates and honors…I’m going in, with my red boots on