Back To Center: 166 Days (Book Review)

166 Days My Journey throught the DarknessI read so many books that if I reviewed each of them, that might be all I’d be blogging about. I just finished 166 Days by Jennifer Clark and you’re going to want to read it too.

After hearing Jennifer speak and deliver a compelling message, I knew I wanted to read her book.

I expected it to be an account of her deployment in Afghanistan. It is – but it is much more.

I expected it to be about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) and a journey to recovery. It is – but it is much more.

I expected it be about the gender challenges of a female officer in the military. It is – but it is much more.

It’s about resilience, hope, healing, leadership and “leaning in”. It is a well-written, hair-raising account and I couldn’t put it down, which is not something I can say about many non-fiction books. I came away with a deeper appreciation for the cost that so many soldiers have paid for the freedoms that I can easily take for granted. It strengthened my gratitude for all things that are good in our country. (Reading the news doesn’t do much for that.)

Reading about Jennifer’s journey through darkness and having the opportunity to meet her and see the bright light she is now causes me to straighten my shoulders and press on with determination. We are all capable of more than we can imagine and her story is a much-needed reminder of that. She calls it “back to center.

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,  by Sheryl Sandberg, was one of the stand outs among the nearly 100 books I read in 2013. Jennifer Clark, through her book and what she has chosen to do in response to a very unique leadership experience, has joined Sandberg and other strong, bold women who are stepping up to the plate to open gates of opportunity for the next generation of women.

Reviewing some startling facts provokes some hard questions about what leadership looks like for women.  And since I’m a natural optimist, these statistics are a jolting reality check:

  • Of the 195 independent countries in the world, only 17 are led by women.In the U.S., women earn more than 50% of college degrees but only 21 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women.  (That’s a shocking 4%.)
  • Women constitute only 18% of elected U.S. congressional officials in the U.S.
  • Women are paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to a man. Today.

And this is a full century after women got the right to vote.

The only way to change that is for women to step up rather than sit down. To lean in rather than shrink back. It’s said that a leader is a dealer in hope.  Clark is a leader; an example of what leading with grace, courage and authenticity is all about. All that, and she can write too.

Go read  166 Days  and let me know if it inspires you the way it did me.

Jennifer’s Blog is Back To Center Wellness.

People grow through experience
if they meet life honestly and courageously.
This is how character is built.
~ Eleanor Roosevelt 

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