Leading with Vulnerability: Mary-Ann Booth
Healthy Habits, Workplace, Adult, Chill Tools OR Mindfulness,
About the episode
Stress is a common anxiety trigger, but because a little stress is normal, it can be hard to identify when stress has become a problem.
In this episode of #OurAnxietyStories, Mary-Ann Booth shares the pressure and physical impact of stress and anxiety after being elected Mayor of West Vancouver in BC, Canada.
Mary-Ann’s demanding, fast-paced election campaign increased her adrenaline so much that she felt increasingly “hyped up,” even having tingling in her legs. Because she was used to high-pressure situations after working in courtrooms as a lawyer for years, she did not feel concerned by the physical sensations. She won the election and was elated—and didn’t think she was experiencing an abnormal amount of stress.
However, shortly after being elected, she recalls experiencing a “physical crash” from anxiety. She felt fear and a loss of confidence, telling her loved ones she didn’t think she could go through with being mayor. As a natural problem solver, she worked to improve her mental health like she would any other challenge.
Exercise, yoga, and mindfulness helped Mary-Ann overcome anxiety—something she is happy to have experienced because it increased empathy for people with mental health challenges. Mary-Ann’s episode highlights how powerful it is for leaders to share about mental health. She notes trying to embrace life’s ups and downs and that discomfort is not a bad thing, so though she still fears not being busy, she knows she’s on her way to living a less stressful life.
Stress is the response of your body and mind to demands placed on you. When you feel threatened, your brain releases chemicals called hormones that send alarm signals throughout your body. These hormones prepare your body to act against any perceived threats.
Work can be an ever-present source of stress—especially in situations with high expectations, like in Mary-Ann’s case. Major life changes can also cause stress, even when the new life events are positive. To learn more about stress and what you can do about it, check out this HeretoHelp BC resource from CMHA. Find more anxiety resources on Anxiety Canada’s Get Help page.
About the guest
Mary-Ann Booth was elected the mayor of West Vancouver in 2018 after two terms on City Council from 2011 to 2018. People who know Mary-Ann describe her as an inclusive, collaborative, thoughtful leader who works to improve her community. She served as a school trustee with the West Vancouver Board of Education from 2005 to 2011. Before public service, she practiced law for 12 years, including positions as a provincial crown prosecutor and in-house corporate counsel.
This episode is 1 of 2 extra special video episodes for Season 4. To see the recording of this episode, check out our YouTube channel or preview below.
"I said, 'I’m kind of glad to be feeling this,' because I knew a lot of people that struggled with anxiety, even in my own family, friends. And until you’ve experienced it, you don’t really appreciate it."
This podcast is brought to you by Anxiety Canada™, a leader in developing free, online self-help and evidence-based anxiety resources. For more information and resources, please visit our website and download our app, MindShift™ CBT.
Intro: This is #OurAnxietyStories, the Anxiety Canada podcast with John Bateman. This is the place where people from all walks of life share their anxiety stories to remind you that you are not alone. If you have an anxiety story you’d like to share, contact us at AnxietyCanada.com/OurAnxietyStories.
John Bateman: Hello, my name’s John Bateman. This is #OurAnxietyStories, the Anxiety Canada podcast, which can be found at anxietycanada.com. My guest today is Mary-Ann Booth. She’s the former mayor of West Vancouver and a former lawyer. Welcome, Mary-Ann.
Mary-Ann Booth: Thank you, John.
John Bateman: It’s wonderful to have you here.
Mary-Ann Booth: Glad to be here.
John Bateman: The podcast is #OurAnxietyStories. What’s your anxiety story?
Mary-Ann Booth: Well, it started in 2018. I had a very robust and long election campaign. And, oh my gosh, we pulled out all the stops, and we did, like, 10 events and it was just go, go, go, go, go.
John Bateman: The year 2018… it was when you started your term?
Mary-Ann Booth: Yeah, that was the election period.
John Bateman: Gotcha.
Mary-Ann Booth: It was the councilors, that’s the campaign, and campaigns are quite different than the job. But running for mayor is a big deal, and my team and I took it really seriously. Like I said, we did all these events. And, you know, as a former courtroom lawyer, I love public speaking. I don’t have a problem with presenting, debating, being kind of on stage, and also coping with stress. Like, going into court, you have to be on.
When I was in provincial court, you’re running six trials in a day. You’re interviewing witnesses in the morning that you’ve never met before and you’re running them and it’s like, you’re on. It’s crazy. And this was a bit like that… I did it, and I was, I mean, I know that physiologically I was different by… the Thanksgiving of that year just before the election. Because my daughter came to visit and to be there for the election, and I was off the ceiling on adrenaline and cortisol. I remember my husband saying to my daughter, “Your mom is not quite herself.” I was so pumped up. I could feel like just blood coursing through …
John Bateman: Would you describe it as what you would know as being manic or hypomanic?
Mary-Ann Booth: Maybe.
John Bateman: I don’t want to say that as being bad because manic gets a bad rap. But you’re definitely elevated and… yeah.
Mary-Ann Booth: Probably and just really wound up. And… at the height of it, you know, we’re in the thick of the election, we’re down to the wire, and I just remember noticing that I felt… like I could just feel stuff coursing through my legs and all a buzz. And, you know, I was, even at that point, kind of taking some, you know, medication to just kind of be calm. Just to be calm. Like, if you get on a plane, you take an Ativan, or whatever. Right?
John Bateman: Yeah, for sure.
Mary-Ann Booth: And then I won, which was fabulous. Right?
John Bateman: You would’ve gotten an injection of some of those dopamine and some of those good chemicals at that point. Yeah?
Mary-Ann Booth: Yeah, for sure. Although, I only won by 21 votes, so I was really surprised after being in office for 13 years. My opponent came in a month before. We virtually had the same resumé, although, he’d been the mayor in the 90s, and I was disappointed, actually.
John Bateman: Yeah, right. Interesting.
Mary-Ann Booth: After running this long, really incredible campaign, I was disappointed… but, you know, moved on. Christmas came, got sworn in, it was all good. And then, the January, I crashed physically. And people had been saying to me, “Wow, Mary-Ann Booth, it’s incredible that you were able to do all this stuff. You don’t seem stressed at all. You don’t seem nervous at all.”
And I was like, “Yeah, I guess I just absorb it.” I had a career …
John Bateman: And you weren’t feeling anything as far as you knew at that point?
Mary-Ann Booth: Except for just like I said, a little hyped up. I knew I was …
John Bateman: An electricity or something.
Mary-Ann Booth: … generating adrenaline and cortisol, and I knew enough to know that wow, this is not really … But you know what? After this is done, I’ll get back to normal. But then honestly, I remember Christmas was good, you know, you’re getting through Christmas. And then January, I literally crashed, and I remember saying to my husband, “What have I done? What have I done? I can’t do this. I can’t be mayor.”
John Bateman: Oh, God.
Mary-Ann Booth: And my husband was like, “Wow.” And my best friend was like, “Well, maybe you can quit.” And I said, “No, no. I can’t go quit.”
John Bateman: No. Yeah.
Mary-Ann Booth: But honestly, I just remember that period of physically just crashing, lost my confidence, just …
John Bateman: Describe a physical crash to me. What does that feel like for you?
Mary-Ann Booth: It… It just felt like fear.
John Bateman: Right, yeah.
Mary-Ann Booth: Well, and actually, you know, you asked me earlier whether there was a big jump to go from council to mayor. And, yeah, I think it was. I think the reality of the job then, you’re celebrating the election and the victory and your team and you’re having a party…
John Bateman: It’s a honeymoon phase, I guess.
Mary-Ann Booth: Exactly. And then you get into the office and there was no system set up. And I had a brand-new assistant who had never been. And so, both of us were learning. The other thing too, which I can’t forget, is that as a lawyer, I’ve always managed all my affairs myself. You don’t have assistants.
And I had to turn over control to my assistant who actually helped me on the campaign. She was my assistant on the campaign on a volunteer basis. She was amazing. That’s why I hired her. And I turned over control to my emails, to my filing, to my schedule—three things that I had always done myself.
John Bateman: And so, you doing it yourself, that sense of control probably really helped you guard your stress and guard your anxiety at that point.
Mary-Ann Booth: Absolutely. That’s I think my whole career how I’ve managed that is the neat office, everything in control, you know where everything is, you have a plan, everything’s orderly. That’s my environment. And I get into the new office and my assistant’s now, like, okay, now I need something to do and I’m going to do this for you and I’m going to do this. Honestly, she was loving it. She’s like, isn’t this the best? And I said to her, “I’m glad one of us is having a good time,” because I was not.
John Bateman: Well… [it] also means she doesn’t really have to control her life, she can … control your life and the ramifications aren’t the same as it is. So, yeah, what was that like? Is that something you got used to? Because … as a lawyer, I’m assuming you have a great deal of control in what you’re doing and then all of a sudden, you’re giving that control to somebody else, which causes people a lot of anxiety. That’s why you hear about people with anxiety when they’re on airplanes because they’re giving the control over to people they don’t know. So how… Did you cope with that? Did you change the system? How did that …
Mary-Ann Booth: Originally, at the beginning, I wasn’t coping well at all. The other thing is you’re actually having to create your job and figure out, okay, what does a mayor do? Because the mayor doesn’t just respond to all the emails and do the filing and do your calendar, which was a huge part of my job.
John Bateman: You’re probably dying to do that at that point.
Mary-Ann Booth: Well, I have to say the volume of emails, even as a councilor, was not my favourite part of the job, and it always hung over my head. So, once I… During that period of transition, handing over control was horrible. It was like… without a safety net. It was like being on a trapeze without a safety net, and literally I’d want to try to find a piece of paper, a file, and I couldn’t because I wasn’t filing anymore.
John Bateman: You weren’t in the know anymore.
Mary-Ann Booth: And it just caused me an incredible amount of anxiety. And so, I think that loss of control, plus maybe the exhaustion that had happened and the stress…
John Bateman: Well, such a build, build, build, build, build. Yeah, I could see it happening.
Mary-Ann Booth: Yes, that was… you know, my assistant was fantastic. And I think during that period I did start going “well, this is good.”
John Bateman: You started actually growing into it.
Mary-Ann Booth: I did.
John Bateman: You got used to it.
Mary-Ann Booth: Definitely. I think that by kind of Spring, March I was starting to [go], “okay, I kind of can relax.” I think also, and this is maybe a gender thing, you always hear this about women: They always feel like, I have to be 110% qualified before they’ll even go for a job. And men will be like 25% qualified and they’re like, “oh, yeah. I can do that.” And we’re just not programmed the same, I don’t think.
John Bateman: No, I agree.
Mary-Ann Booth: And so, you do have some doubt about, like, what have I done?
John Bateman: As a woman now in a position of power in a traditionally male, let’s face it, probably, I don’t know how many female mayors there were in West Van previous to you.
How did you deal with the anxiety around that? And what did you change? Did you change anything in your environment? Did you change the way you think? Did you change the way you approach people to sort of, in a way, battle that stigma?
Mary-Ann Booth: Yeah, so there was a few things that happened politically. There was a beeline you may have followed, that was a big controversy in West Van, bringing rapid transit into West Vancouver. And then there was an infrastructure project we were doing, and I was getting some pretty angry men calling me up.
Sometimes people say, “There’s just something about her. She’s sort of…” not [going to use] the B-word. Some of that is survival. You have a choice when a bully calls you. You kind of cave, or you feel like I got to stand up to this person. There was a bit of that testing.
John Bateman: Well, I believe some of that is survival, but I also believe some of that is a double standard that exists where a man and a woman on a very same trajectory get very different monikers. Women are negative monikers and men are empowered monikers. You had to deal with that. Yeah.
Mary-Ann Booth: You’re sort of trying to establish what your persona’s going to be. I mean, I’m a respectful, compassionate, caring person—a nice person—but you also have to be a leader. And so that, yeah, that period continued of… it got to kind of better, but still the confidence and the physiological piece was there. I could tell that I still didn’t have the confidence.
John Bateman: Tell me a bit about that because, you know, you talked about the physiological piece, and I always like to get into the nuts and bolts of physiologically and how it’s affected by our psychology. And it sounds like you know something about chemicals and bodies—you’re talking about cortisol, you’re talking about adrenaline, you’re talking about those things.
Tell me a little bit about the physiological, what that felt like for you, because obviously, you talk about a dip in confidence. Here you are a prosecutor, you’re used to a lot of confidence, projecting a lot of confidence. What did that dip feel like for you? Physically, what did it feel like for you, and then, part B, emotionally, what did that feel like for you?
Mary-Ann Booth: And I’d never felt this before.
John Bateman: Really? Physically at this point?
Mary-Ann Booth: Physically. Well, like never… definitely physiologically. I was literally having tingling in my legs that would kind of go up, and it happened when I would have a thought about a stressful situation or what I had to do or whatever.
Before, where I would, you kind of ruminate just in your head, I could feel my body reacting. And I didn’t think, from what I knew about cortisol and adrenaline, I didn’t think having that feeling was healthy for me. Having that on a sustained basis was going [to be] good for me physically. I did not think that was a good thing.
John Bateman: Did you have an idea that the two were connected? I mean, I guess physically there’s cause-and-effect you have going on. You have a thought mentally in the physical effect you have, but were you still connecting it to anxiety? Were you connecting it to that at that point—these physical feelings you were having?
Mary-Ann Booth: I think I was identifying it as anxiety because I remember saying to my … The first couple months were quite horrible because I really was like, “I can’t do this,” and that’s not a good place to be.
But then I started saying to my husband, “I know what I’m feeling.” And actually, what I said, “I’m kind of glad to be feeling this,” because I knew a lot of people that struggled with anxiety, even in my own family, friends. And until you’ve experienced it, you don’t really appreciate it.
John Bateman: Do you feel that upped your empathy in those situations?
Mary-Ann Booth: Very much.
John Bateman: Yeah.
Mary-Ann Booth: Yeah. And I mean, that’s why I’m doing this because I really think, wow, this is good that I have gotten to experience this so that I can understand what other people are going through.
John Bateman: It’s always interesting talking to people who have … A lot of people deal with anxiety have their epiphany about, “this is anxiety.” I had mine when I was very young. But here you’ve gone through this whole thing and it’s interesting that you … It doesn’t surprise me because obviously we’ve talked about … you’re an observer of people and you have to be, to be in your discipline.
How was that transition for you to finally … You said that was like a relief when you finally felt it because you were able to engage more with people around you? What was that?
Mary-Ann Booth: I don’t think it was a relief. I think I was kind of going up and down a little bit, sort of, “okay, am I going to feel better? I feel a bit better. Oh, I’m still not myself. I’m still not myself.” I remember going to a meeting at the Port of Vancouver and walking into a room and just not feeling myself. You look in the room and you’re like, everybody else here is smarter than me. What am I doing here?
John Bateman: Right. Interesting.
Mary-Ann Booth: And that was early on in my term and just feeling not myself. Yeah.
John Bateman: I mean, what you’re talking about is one of what we call a thinking trap, which is mind reading or fortune telling. Assuming that everybody’s smarter and assuming that you’re the, for lack of a better word, the beta in the room. Or maybe there’s some imposter syndrome in there, too.
Mary-Ann Booth: Absolutely.
John Bateman: And you felt that as well. Having all those emotions going into these high-level meetings, how did you deal with that? How did you present yourself? What steps did you take to get over that hump? Because, obviously, you had to go into the meeting; you can’t turn around and run back home. What was your mindset when you finally would have to get in there? Because something pushed you in there.
Mary-Ann Booth: Yeah. Well, it was just like going to court or you’d just go, “okay, I’m going to just do this. Make small talk, sit at the table.” I mean, as a new mayor, you don’t have to talk. That’s okay. It’s good to just learn and listen. And that was a bit of a saving grace because you can go to meetings and don’t have to say a lot, but you’re really … I mean, aside from being mayor, you’re also now at the TransLink table, you’re at the Metro table, you’re chair of the police board.
You have about four hats, new hats, that you’re wearing. And none of them, all of them could be full-time jobs in and of themselves. So, it’s no wonder that I had these self-doubts and no wonder that I was having a manifestation of the stress because literally it’s like, okay, well, here’s your binder for Friday. A thousand pages. Get ready for your meeting on Friday where you’re going to have to vote at Metro.
John Bateman: No. I’m saying no to that immediately. But here it is. This is where I’m very curious because I’ve often said that, you know, I’ve gotten through a lot of my mental health challenges because of this character attribute, and I think it’s important. It’s stubbornness. And for me, it’s like stubbornness to stick with what I’ve got. I know I have this; I know this terrible; I know this is uncomfortable, and [I] just stubbornly go through it.
Do you feel there’s characteristics in your personality? Maybe it’s stubbornness, maybe it’s not that, because you mentioned a tool already, which was making, “okay, I’m going to go in. I’ll make small talk first. I’ll do what’s comfortable.” You obviously have this set of things that works for you. Those are some characteristics that kind of kept you going because anxiety, as you know, is paralyzing.
I’ve been paralyzed before for months and months and months and months, and you didn’t have that luxury. So, it’s really interesting to know what kind of characteristics you bring when you go in that gets you past, because it’s important for people to know, because it’s important to nurture some of these characteristics in ourselves, too.
Mary-Ann Booth: So… Yeah, I think you’ve, again, as we have this discussion, I’m discovering some of these things on the spot. But resilience, for sure, I’ve just recently come to that realization through this campaign, which was much more enjoyable, even though I lost. But also, you draw on all those times. And every time I switched jobs, which I did voluntarily …
John Bateman: You’ve done a lot.
Mary-Ann Booth: … I was on a huge learning curve, which I loved, or I thought I needed. But there was always the first six months where I was like, “oh my God, what have I done?” But then I loved it. I think I just drew on that and said… and also the worst thing, or maybe the best thing that people can say to me is, “Oh, you can’t do that.”
John Bateman: Yeah. Oh, exactly.
Mary-Ann Booth: Because… Even my career path, no one would do that in law to go from civil litigation to teaching business law, to practicing criminal law, to practicing commercial law. Along the way, a lot of people said “you can’t do that. You can’t go from that, to that, to that.”
And so, I guess I did think “you can get through this,” but I had never felt the strain as much physically that I had felt before. And I did say to my husband, “Okay, the next time I say I’m going to switch careers, please stop me.” Because I think there’s a point when there’s diminishing returns.
John Bateman: But that kind of thing is important … Having somebody that you can talk to is important. You’ve mentioned your husband a couple of times, so obviously there’s something there. But it’s also important within creating our support system around mental health that we have somebody who can keep tabs on us a little bit. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you saying, “Hey, double check me.” Because it sounds like you are obviously a person of power, and you are not somebody who doesn’t want to be, you know …
My daughter who’s 20 now. Her mantra is like, “don’t tell me no.” Right? “You can say I can’t do this, and it gives me more fuel to prove I can.” But to have people around that kind of check on you, and I think that’s fair. I think it’s fair to say to your husband, who is part of your support system, “Hey, don’t let me do this again.” But that was after you decided you were going to run for mayor again?
Mary-Ann Booth: That was after, yes.
John Bateman: Yeah, yeah. So … Did you do anything else that was in service to your anxiety? You know, you tackle things head on. Did you tackle your anxiety or mental health struggles the same way? Was it head on? Did you change anything within your lifestyle? What kind of things did you change?
Mary-Ann Booth: I guess now when I reflect, even during the campaign, I was starting to tap out. And this adrenaline, I had some good advice and some good … I know I had people that say, “Okay, you’ve got to go work this off at the gym.” And that made me feel really better physically, because there’s just these chemicals.
Then, I also, one of my best friends is a mindfulness yoga teacher, and so she started giving me private mindfulness sessions and yoga so that I could kind of live in the moment. And that was really helpful, as well. And I continued to do those after I got elected.
Just recognizing the importance of physical activity as well. Exercise, I work out with a trainer. I still do, for a long time. The other thing is that I was physically in the best shape. I could not have done that 10-month marathon, but I have been working out with a trainer since, you know, 1998. Almost 25 years. So, I had really good physical strength and endurance and stamina.
John Bateman: Those foundations are important when you’re facing physical and mental health challenges.
Mary-Ann Booth: And I also am one that if I figure something’s wrong, I do something about it.
John Bateman: Yeah. We’re taking action, and I’m the same way. And it’s hard when people are in the middle of anxiety or feelings it’s hard for them to do that. But action doesn’t have to be running for mayor. Action can be something else.
I’m curious, I want to double back to this nebulous thing we call mindfulness. Do you practice mindfulness? Is it a daily thing? And can you explain to me a little bit how you practice it? Because I practice it in a different way, or in my own way, but I’d like to know how you practice it.
Mary-Ann Booth: I’ve done, I wouldn’t say, I was going to say religious or regular meditator, although I do think my meditation might be different than other people’s.
John Bateman: And this is an important point that I want to get to.
Mary-Ann Booth: And golf might be my meditation. Because I can’t…
John Bateman: It’s mindful as well.
Mary-Ann Booth: You’ve got to get out of your brain when you’re golfing. I mean, it is a mental game, and I recognize how important it is. Now … Unfortunately, campaigning and being mayor, they’re the opposite of mindfulness. You are living constantly in the next hour, the next day, “what’s on my calendar?” constantly.
John Bateman: Which is [the] definition of anxiety, you’re future-living. You’re getting through all kinds of scenarios and what ifs.
Mary-Ann Booth: And you’re changing. Like, I would have eight meetings in a day, and I would be changing hats, changing topics [snaps fingers], like that. And you may have a kind of down meeting, and then you have to go into a really good meeting because now you’re handing out an award for someone and you got to bring that.
Now again, being in court taught me a lot of that, like, switch, and I actually thrived on it—switching gears—and took pride in the fact that I could make decisions and change.
I’d do a media interview, I’d go to an awards thing, then I’d have to do, you know, a council meeting, and I’d have to go to Metro. And you are, oh, my gosh. It’s fantastic. I loved my job once I dealt with the first nine months. After I got kind of, “okay, an assistant is a good thing. And look at what she can do for me. And you can do this job. Actually, you do bring value to these conversations.”
John Bateman: I think it’s a really important lesson to learn for people that, you know, we’re… increasingly we’re in an instant gratification thing. And with mental health, too. I mean, I had to learn there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end to any kind of crises or episode and reminding yourself, and it sounds like you do, you did that. You knew I’ve been in new jobs before. I’m going to project to the end and it’s going to be okay in six, eight months. Mental health, I approach the same way because I have dips. My trick is to mitigate them—to not have one that goes down to zero and then up to 100—is to keep them kind of smooth dips.
It sounds like you already had these tools in place previously and you’re able to do that, but it’s a really important lesson for people to learn that. And it’s within their own world. It doesn’t have to be this high-flying, high-energy world that you run in. You must have to … Yeah, sorry. Doubling back to mindfulness again. Is it a practice you do? Is it something that you sit down I’m going to be mindful?
Mary-Ann Booth: Absolutely. I really believe in it. I believe that our Western culture is desperate for it. We’re at a tipping point. I resolved in my job, once I got to a place where I could actually function properly and was starting to get happy, I resolved [that] every day, I was going to enjoy the journey because it could be over. You live and die by the sword as a politician. And so…
John Bateman: When you walk out on the street, you live and die by the … You just don’t know. You’re right.
Mary-Ann Booth: Well, also the term. You could be out, which I was. And I take a great deal of comfort in the fact that it was hard, and I worked super hard, but every single moment, if you can believe it, I knew this was part of the journey and to enjoy it.
John Bateman: Your mindfulness is bringing you back into the moment at the moment.
Mary-Ann Booth: At the moment. Mm-hmm.
John Bateman: Yeah. Right.
Mary-Ann Booth: Like they say, whether you’re savoring a bite of food. You’re walking out, you’re looking up where you are, you’re not just, okay, I’ve got this meeting to go to.
John Bateman: That’s true.
Mary-Ann Booth: When you’re with someone you’re like, you know what? I get such joy. This is a really cool moment.
John Bateman: Here we are now. Yeah, exactly.
Mary-Ann Booth: I have a book of mindfulness. Yeah, I really believe in it.
John Bateman: Oh, okay. So, now I want to get into the correct, now, this isn’t the correct way, but now I’m really curious because you’ve had several occupations, you’ve had several transitions. Transitions are difficult for people, difficult for me, transitioning from my home to coming here and interviewing. This is a difficult transition.
But you’re transitioning into a different part of your life now. You’re, for all intents and purposes, “retired.”
How are you handling this as you’re moving into this? Because you’re just freshly not mayor anymore. You’ve just, as you said, lost an election. How are you moving into that transition? You know… Emotionally what are you doing? And physically, what are you doing to help yourself get there? And, you know, do you have big plans? How are you navigating this?
Mary-Ann Booth: So… Yeah, this is a real test of, again, resilience and… I mean, I did not expect to lose, which is probably a good thing because if you did, it’d be hard to work really hard to win. You’ve got to want to win. You can’t be afraid to lose. And even though I paid lip service to losing, I constantly said, “I could lose. I’ve got to be ready for it.” Until you lose, and again, I was totally shocked, as were a lot of people. And then you do have to go through this period of mourning really.
And, honestly, I looked up the seven stages of grief, and the first one was shock and denial. And literally, when I would wake up in the morning, I would think, “was that a dream or am I not mayor?” And I’d go, “oh, my gosh. I’m not mayor anymore.” You cannot just skip ahead to the happiness. You kind of go …
John Bateman: If only. If only.
Mary-Ann Booth: And, you know, it was like, okay. First of all, you have to understand what happened and that again, and study people and study what happened and really reflect and look at the community. You start here at the campaign level, and you start going up, and then you kind of get at the big picture and you start … Which is a good thing because you’re so down here in your community in the details, you sometimes don’t see the forest for the trees. Right? So you’ve gotta…
I took a little bit of a vacation, which was perfect. I had it planned before I ran. And I spent kind of half reflecting. And then, the positive is, I started thinking about the future. Contrary to what I always want to do, and I’m fighting it, I’m not planning. I actually want to have a period of discomfort.
John Bateman: Are you planning to not plan? Is that what you’re doing? Wow. But that’s something, putting yourself a discomfort is something.
Mary-Ann Booth: I’ve put disciplined things in place because I’m going to be going to Europe next year, England. I’m going to live there for a couple of months.
John Bateman: But you still obviously have a thread in your life, like a routine, for lack of a better term. You obviously work out, maybe you play golf, you have social, you have all that stuff. I think that thread is important for continuity within those transitions. Yeah.
But you’re doubling down, you know, because you’re not mayor and you’re retiring and you’re risking … It’s a … testament to your confidence in not being confident … it’s an oxymoron. But you know what I mean?
Mary-Ann Booth: Well, again, my friend Lucy, she’s the mindfulness [friend]. She was asking me, “So, how does this feel for you?” And I’m like, “Relief. My biggest fear is not being busy, not having a reason to get up in the morning. I’ve always had that. I’ve always been planning. I’ve always been working.”
She’s like, “It’s okay to be like that. You might have down moments. Embrace those.” You say, “Okay, feelings of discomfort are not bad things.” That’s where I think we have to get to.
John Bateman: That’s human. You know, there’s the illusion, and probably people viewing you from the outside, there’s an illusion of “she’s always going, she’s always good. She’s always got it. She’s always under control.”
Mary-Ann Booth: Absolutely.
John Bateman: But you speaking to me today is just so incredibly valuable for those people who are reading that in you, and they think that’s true, and then they’re getting the truth from you. It’s an incredible gift to give to people so they know: even the most highly functioning successful people are going through it, too.
Mary-Ann Booth: Yeah, and that’s why I think it’s important for people in positions like mine, community leaders, to show courage and do this. It’s super hard. I mean, I’ve done it a few, well, a lot of my job was taking positions that maybe weren’t popular. You don’t know how they’re going to be accepted or received, but I really believe that is leadership.
John Bateman: Yeah.
Mary-Ann Booth: That and community leaders have even more of an obligation to do this because with decisions I’ve made in the past, I’ve seen it gives permission for others to follow you.
John Bateman: Exactly. And it’s also, I found when I first started becoming transparent with my mental health struggles, it helped me a lot. It was like therapy, too. And so, what you’re doing in your new path, I can’t explain how valuable it is and how many people you’re really going to affect positively doing this. Thank you so much for taking the time. Your story’s incredible, and I can’t wait to see what you’re doing next. And I would love to talk to you more sometime. That would be fabulous.
Mary-Ann Booth: Thank you so much for the opportunity.
John Bateman: Thanks a lot. Okay.
Outro: Thank you for listening to #OurAnxietyStories. If you’d like to support this podcast or Anxiety Canada, go to AnxietyCanada.com.