From the April 2014 Cathedral Connection

In her retirement, Susan Blexrud is fighting the tendency to exert her Enneagram “3.”  For those of you not familiar with the Enneagram, it is an ancient system that tests personality types to determine the motivation behind behavior.  As a “3,” Susan is highly focused and driven

to succeed, traits that served her well in her position as the spokesperson for the City of Orlando.  “It was a 24/7 job,” she said.  “After September 11, for instance, I practically lived at City Hall while we determined the threat to Central Florida, primarily due to our proximity to Disney World and other major tourist attractions.”

Susan didn’t limit her drive and focus to her job responsibilities.  She was just as intense about her volunteer activities, which included CITE, an organization dedicated to providing job opportunities for sight-challenged individuals, and the board of the Winter Park Public Library, where she served as president.

“I used to tackle my responsibilities like a bull in a china shop,” Susan said, “and it created a lot of stress in my life.  And in addition to the uptick in my blood pressure, I finally stopped one day to ask myself WHY I was spinning so many plates? Was I driven to serve or driven for ecognition?  That’s when I decided that I would devote my retirement philanthropy to working behind the scenes and not being the person who controlled the message.  I felt that God had given me the abilities to lead, but that now He was asking me to serve.”

When Susan moved to Asheville six years ago, she slowly and deliberately evaluated volunteer pursuits that spoke to her heart.  While taking a fiction writing class at AB-Tech (Susan is a published author of romance fiction), she met Ron English, a local philanthropist who was involved in a fledgling organization, Youth OUTright (YO).  YO is a support organization for LGBTQ youth, many of whom were/are being bullied in schools throughout Western North Carolina.  “My first husband was gay, and I’ve always had a heart for what he went through,” she said.  “For years, he denied the person God had created him to be, which caused heartache for him, me, and our whole family.  Had he felt free to be himself much earlier in his life, everyone would have been happier.”

Initially, Susan’s work with Youth OUTright included assembling a media list for the 18-county Western North Carolina area that the organization serves and writing and sending press releases about YO’s charter and work.  (At that time, the organization had not yet achieved North Carolina not-for-profit status.)  But after a few years of working on the periphery, she joined the board of directors and now serves as vice chair. “I don’t want to be the spokesperson for Youth OUTright, but I am very happy to be grinding the wheels in the background.”

This past year, Youth OUTright presented its first signature event, The Dance, and Susan was responsible for stories in the Mountain Xpress, The Laurel of Asheville, and she wrote a feature in WNC Woman that focused on the event’s honorary chairs, Adelaide Key and Maggie Smith. 

“I loved interviewing Maggie and Adelaide.  They have done so much for our community and particularly for children and the oppressed. Adelaide founded The Key School at Carolina Day School to help underachieving children reach their potential.” In 2014, Susan will continue her work with Youth OUTright, will continue to write the “Living it Out” feature for the Connection, and will be assisting Robbin Whittington at All Souls through the Center for Spiritual Resources to offer a new Enneagram program.  “I’m hoping to help Robbin with setting up this program and with sharing my experiences as a “3” and assisting other people identify the traits that underlie their motivation and behavior, as well as how the Enneagram influences our spirituality.  There are good and bad aspects of each of the nine Enneagram types.  The key is to focus on the good.”

P.S.  Marion Carroll is a nom de plume for Susan Blexrud.