Not What I Expected

Four years ago, I was considering retiring from school nursing and looking at my options. I wanted to work part-time and do something different. After Googling jobs for nurses, number ten on one list was Life Coach. I’d considered going into that area years before but the timing didn’t feel right. I had fifteen years of experience as a mental health nurse, so while Coaching would be different, it would still use some of my long-developed skills.

I took the Wisdom of the Whole (formerly Linda Bark Coaching Academy) course that following year in 2015, worked through the sixty supervision hours and passed the certification exam by April of 2016. I even completed an extra course that focused on Coaching People Affected by Cancer.

What I thought was going to happen, was that I would eventually develop a part-time role as a Coach in the oncology practice where I’d received treatment for triple-negative breast cancer. I’d served on the committee to develop the Waverly Survivors’ Community and hoped to contribute in a more direct way.

On November 7th of this year, I saw a previous entry in my journal that was written Nov. 7, 2016. I was giving my first Nurse Coach presentation to Waverly Survivors’ Community on using Positive Self-Talk when encountering medical procedures. I spent a lot of time developing my content, preparing a resource list, and working with the staff to coordinate our session. I made a comment in my journal that I was trusting God with my plans for retirement, with my desire to work part-time as a Coach with that oncology practice.

That night, three women came to our session. We were a very informal, conversational group. I presented some of my information, but what the women were more interested in was sharing their stories. They were so ready to connect with others going through breast cancer treatment. At the end of the hour, I posed the same question that I would with a coaching client, “So what is your takeaway from our session?”

They were quiet for a while, then one woman said, “You’ve been a survivor for 16 years.”

It wasn’t the information that I presented, it was me being an example that you could live for many years beyond treatment.

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Family picture May ’01 three mths after I finished treatment. Left to Right, younger son, Ross, husband, David, and older son, Brooks

Ultimately, I didn’t develop a role for myself in that practice. Instead, I was hired for a part-time research nurse position through UNC Outpatient Psychiatry that used skills from working in mental health, school nursing, and clinical trials research.

Now I realize that instead of working in person with cancer survivors, I’ve been using my own cancer experience and coaching skills in my writing. What I didn’t foresee, is that my energy for supporting survivors will be used with my own family. After fourteen years of having an empty nest, both my sons living in other states, now they’ve returned to our area.

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Family picture Oct. 2017–Daughter-in-Law, Emily pregnant with our grandson

And the biggest surprise, is that I’m taking care of my precious 6-month-old grandson two days a week. If I were coaching people going through the intensity of cancer treatment and learning to put their lives together afterwards, I don’t think I’d have the emotional reserves to give my best to my grandson. Now, instead of driving to that oncology practice I’m driving the ten miles to their home to take care of him. It’s a gift I didn’t foresee.

My heart wants to keep reaching out to fellow cancer survivors, to encourage them so they can say, “You’ve been a Survivor . . .” now for 18 years. I’ll keep pursuing Reflective Questions that help my readers, and me, to get at what’s inside waiting to be expressed.

And in the meantime, I’ll love each moment watching my grandson develop, grateful that I have this unexpected blessing.

 

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Loving my little North Carolina Tar Heel

How About You?

What plans have you made that didn’t work out in the way you’d hoped?

How did things unfold for you?   In what ways were you surprised?  Were there unexpected blessings?

 

 

 

 

 

Underpromising: Is that Settling?

A few years ago, I took a course with the Wisdom of the Whole Academy to be a Life Coach. I remember in the early part of the program, they were explaining some of the basic tenets of coaching. When it came to the client setting goals, the guidance was to ‘underpromise,’ to pick the one goal they were most interested in reaching and then  commit to one small action step to take in the week following the session.

When they first explained it, I thought I must not be hearing them correctly. My expectation was that a client would commit to a significant step. This didn’t sit well with me. I thought it sounded like ‘settling,’ doing a mediocre job when weren’t we supposed to be reaching and challenging ourselves?

I learned that the rationale was if it was a small step, not too difficult, the client would achieve success and would be encouraged to continue with another small step until they obtained the goal. Choosing too big of a step often produced failure and discouragement.

Each of us had to partner with a fellow student and practice coaching one another. Over the weeks of my sessions, there was a theme in what my coach summarized and reflected from what I’d said: I often used the word overwhelmed. It seemed to occur when I was talking about my frustration with having multiple goals and not knowing where to start. I had an “Ah Ha!” that there were too many goals and that had been a theme throughout my life with my driven nature. No wonder I had a hard time with the concept of underpromising.

The summer after I finished the course and was certified as a Nurse Coach, I took my solo journey to an artist residency at Artcroft in central Kentucky. In return for the free residency, I’d provide the sweat equity of helping with the farm animals, garden, and provide a community service– like speaking and leading a writing workshop. In between those jobs, my project was to rewrite my memoir. But when I arrived, things were completely different.

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Instead of sharing the house with fellow artists, I would be there the two weeks by myself. The cows had been sold and there was no longer a garden. The library and Chamber of Commerce had no requests for workshops in mid-July, so other than meeting the staff as an ambassador for Artcroft, there were no expectations of me. “Just write,” the Artcroft director told me.

While I was disappointed at first, in the quiet farmhouse with only an upstairs window unit air conditioner, my feelings changed over the two weeks. The sparsely furnished house on a lone road on a hillside of Kentucky, became the perfect time and place to write with great focus. I could not put a load of clothes in the washer, or turn on the television, or even use wi-fi, because there were none of those.

I spent the early morning hours, sitting at the table writing with the door open to the cool air, a rabbit nibbling by the side yard. The quiet was occasionally broken by the sound of a car coming up the road or a cow mooing in the distance. I’d take a break and walk the hilly road that crossed the property and enjoy the lane lined with Queen Anne’s lace and lavender chickory blooms. I took garden clippers and gloves and cut pieces of the bountiful thistle to make a simple arrangement for my kitchen table.

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While I would head out for the latter part of the day to the library to check email or to see a few of the area sites, the majority of my time was spent in that simple farmhouse doing just one thing: writing.

The one thing the director advised me to do. I didn’t have multiple goals, “Just write.” It’s the only time in my life when I’ve ever had two weeks focused on one thing.

Was that like what I’d learned about underpromising and with less we could ultimately achieve more?

I still have to remind myself of being kinder, gentler when it comes to goal setting. And when I find myself overwhelmed again, I remember that little house in Kentucky and the quiet lesson learned over that two weeks.

Less really is More.

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How About You?

Do you have a goal that would benefit from taking a smaller first step, of underpromising so that you will have success?

Is there an area of your life where less could be more?

 

Moving Question

I followed the blue heron along the shoreline of Coquina Beach, amazed that the large bird would allow me to trail so close behind.  I’d seen many of them flying over Jordan Lake in central North Carolina during my years of living in that area, but never had I walked within feet of one.  He or she, I didn’t know which, appeared to be searching for something, probably scanning the shallow water for food.  It occurred to me when the bird stopped from his roving and turned his head to the left, he appeared like a question mark.

It reminded me of how I approach my pilgrimages as if they’re a moving question mark, taking off on my journey and asking God, “What is it you’re going to show me this time?”

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There have been times that I’ve been tempted to see the travel to-and-from my destination as not part of the journey.  But this time, given my long drive to my cousin’s on the Gulf Coast of Florida, I rethought that and saw that God can work in my life just as much on the drive as when I’m finally there.  The benefit of a road trip is there’s time for the transition from my everyday life at home to that space I’ll inhabit while I’m on my pilgrimage.

The first miles going south on I-95 were spent letting go of things undone and unresolved at home– like writing projects, my part-time job as a research nurse, and household responsibilities.  Sometimes my anxiety wants me to be sure everything is nicely settled before I leave.  During my previous 14 journeys, I’d found that same tendency which may be due in part to my internal resistance to leaving the safety of home, crossing the threshold to the unknown.  I tried to settle the issue by praying to let go of that latent worry.  I needed to rest in knowing I’m competent to handle whatever awaits me when I return.

After a couple of hours of driving, I started my radio-station-surfing since I didn’t have pre-programmed music.  I landed on an affiliate for K-Love, a Christian radio network.  The segment was on making a ‘stop-doing’ list as a way to counter our extensive to-do lists and our overly-busy, media-absorbed habits that keep us from being present with people who are important to us.

I threw out the question, “What do I need to stop doing, God?”

I drove on, waiting for something to come to the surface. In my quiet car, traversing the flat farmland of South Carolina, I was reminded that in working as a Life Coach, we often ask people to sit and wait for an answer.  It’s good for my journey to start with a question to go before me during the week.

The first answer I received was, You need time for quiet.

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Specifically, the Podcasts icon came to mind and my emerging habit of binge listening to programs.  While stimulating and educational, they kept my mind buzzing and made it hard to settle down and be still.  Like other things, I needed to be more moderate and put limits on anything that takes up mental space, valuable attention, and ultimately zaps my energy.

The list to stop-doing continued on my drive and throughout the days of my journey.  It grew to include stop worrying, stop hanging on to items that clutter my life as well as my house, and to stop losing things that send me into a panic.

But before my stop-doing lists became too long, and a burden of too many things to remember, I realized that it can be a traveling question that stays with me beyond my Florida pilgrimage.

Like the blue heron along the shore, I can fly away and pick up the search in another place, carefully watching to see what floats up for me.

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How About You?

What is your moving question?

How can you be open to the answers that surface?

 

 

 

 

Follow Your Energy

Follow Your Energy.  That was one of the big takeaways from my Life Coaching course.

What I found interesting was how to help clients when they were deciding on a course of action but were conflicted over their options.  Prior to my training, I would have probably encouraged the client to write down their options, list the pros and cons, and then logically make their way through their list to come to their decision.  My course with the Wisdom of the Whole (WOW) Coaching Academy was based on an integrated body-mind-spirit approach.  Before the academy, I came from a logic-based perspective in my work, as well as my personal spirit-based view, but I had little acknowledgment of bringing the physical into the mix.

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Energy’s pull

But with WOW, I learned to ask, “How does that feel in your body?”  “What are the physical clues to what you really want to do?” I was doubtful at first, feeling it may be a hokie way to make a decision.  I think now that my life had been one of ‘soldiering on’ and that I’d never developed an awareness of bodily clues.  As I thought about it, my very decision to enroll in the program came after excitement over what I’d learn, feeling my heart quicken and my mood lift.  After years of working as a psychiatric and then a school nurse, it felt like a new, more dynamic way to help people.

Now I pay more attention to my body when I need to determine how I really feel about a situation.  Instead of my habitual insistence that everything is fine, I notice my tight muscles, my clenched jaw.  Instead of following a usual path of doing what I think I should do, I pay attention to what naturally pulls me.

In a previous post, “Follow Your Whim,” I wrote about how I hesitated to strike out on my solo journey to the San Juan Islands after seeing a movie because it seemed illogical.  That thought came out of using a mental, logical lens in my initial evaluation.  As I moved beyond that limited perspective and paid attention to my body I noticed I was energized, and my world felt like it opened up as I proceeded with my whimsical plan.  Later, I was so glad that I’d listened to my body, and my spirit as I felt my life was enriched from that pilgrimage.

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Feeling like I could soar from the Summit of Mt. Constitution

In my last post, “Dry Well” I shared with you all, or y’all as we say in the South, about how I was feeling uninspired and depleted.  Now I see that I was tired in my mind, body, and spirit, not just in the mental ability to create a post.  You gave me so much encouragement that I needed.  It was a great reminder for me, and I hope now for you, that when we are feeling a need, we should call out to others.  Being aware of how we are feeling requires that we pay attention not just to our thoughts, but to how we carry that in our body and how it presses down on our spirit.

My hope is that we’ll all use a more tender approach and honor all parts of ourselves. When we make choices let’s take into account all aspects of our lives, including the wisdom that is stored in our bodies.

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Cairns by Lake Huron remind me of mind-body-spirit #solojourney Michigan

How about you?

Could you use a mind-body-spirit approach to a decision that you need to make?

Let’s try it:

What are the choices or options you see that are involved in that decision?

When you say aloud each option, what response do you notice in your body?  Scan each system and see what you come up with.

How does each choice speak to your spirit– including your values, beliefs, life purpose?  Which option resonates with your spirit?