Courageous Feedback

I’ve been facilitating workshops for decades. My first “front of the room” experience was as a Reiki master, sharing this healing modality with college students, healthcare workers, and even a few nuns. It was a huge stretch for me and deeply fulfilling.

Fast forward a few decades to my training as a life coach and workshop facilitator, I continue to experience live group teaching and learning as a gift and a challenge. “Reading” the energy of a room and trusting the process, while holding a safe space for whatever is needed or wanted, has become second nature. I don’t always get it right. The experience is humbling.

When the pandemic hit, a brand new opportunity presented itself — teaching virtually. Was I up to the task? I definitely questioned whether I had the skills to facilitate a group of 8 in a virtual classroom. As I leaned in to this new format, holding the energetic space became something elusive, foreign, and nearly impossible. I had to trust even more that participants would receive exactly what they needed. It is so different and remains a huge stretch for me. Deep breath.

At the end of a workshop series, there is an on-line evaluation form for participants to fill out for The Daring Way™ team. This informs them and me of my strengths and weaknesses. This is part of the requirement for ongoing licensing to facilitate the curriculum. For the most part, evaluations are darn good. Not perfect. And, as a recovering perfectionist, darn good was “good enough.” I want to be a model of “good enough.”. Still, there is always so much to learn.

At the end of eight weeks it’s too late for me to make adjustments to my facilitation style in a way that benefits individuals or the group as a whole. So I decided to ask for feedback upfront.

In the very first class and each week, I ask participants to please send email feedback. Specifically, if something wasn’t working for them, it would help both of us, all of us, for me to be informed. On occasion I received constructive feedback. It was always helpful and sometimes opened up a broader conversation for group discussion. If it was something I could adjust, I would. If it wasn’t, we could talk about it.

Asking for feedback is courageous. Giving feedback, face to face, or emailed, is very courageous.

At the end of my most recent virtual series, an anonymous email was forwarded to me from my licensing team — someone who had spent 8 consecutive Thursdays, 16 hours of their precious time and energy in my workshop, who detested my style and thought I had no business facilitating groups without a LOT more training and supervision.

I was HORRIFIED! My heart pounded and I began to sweat. I was in a shame storm from this hurtful email. The story* I made up was that I’m incompetent. My greatest fear. It’s true. I suck. One out of many, I rationalized, one out of so many. They’re right. I suck. Then –why do I focus on the one person in the arena who hurls criticism out of so many who benefited? Back to — who do I think I am facilitating groups or coaching at all? Then — who is this cruel person who betrayed my trust? I did ask for ongoing feedback, after all. What a fucking coward!

Rumbling* with vulnerability, shame, blame, self-compassion. Finally – acceptance.

I can’t please everyone. I’m not here to please everyone. I’m here to be me. My authenticity mantra**: “Just be yourself, dear one.”

In the end, just as Brené Brown teaches, it is not the critic who counts. This individual is not the person whose opinion matters. And, frankly, it would have mattered had they come to me that very first or second or third week to share their dissatisfaction. I can “hear” clear feedback. I can’t “hear” anonymous criticism.

*To learn what it means to rumble with your story, read Rising Strong, by Dr. Brené Brown, or attend a workshop offered by a licensed Daring Way™ facilitator. like me!

**To learn about authenticity mantras, read Daring Greatly, by Dr. Brené Brown, or attend a workshop….

Posted in Brené Brown, compassion, life coach, self-acceptance, self-compassion, Uncategorized, understanding, vulnerability | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Permission to Hope

Hope is a gooey word. I use it, as a noun and a verb, and never quite know if it sounds as gooey it feels. Here is a brief definition of HOPE. Noun: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. Example: She reached out in the hope that her friend would respond. Verb: want something to happen or be the case. Example: I hope she returns my call. Expectation not met. Hope dashed, disappointment follows.

Spring always comes, so the hope for spring is just a matter of waiting. This expectation is a given, whether the spring is cold and snowy or too bloody hot, spring happens. Returned phone calls, maybe not.

I hate hope. Life is awful right now for so many people and the planet. Hope? Sheesh.

Until…. I heard a Podcast on Ten Percent Happier https://www.tenpercent.com/podcast #340: The Science of Hope | Jacqueline Mattis

My new definition of Hope.

Optimism + A Plan = Hope

Thank you Jacqueline Mattis. https://g.co/kgs/HN8crL

I think of myself as a fairly optimistic person. I have evidence to be optimistic. I’m still on the planet. I have a loving husband, a great relationship with my son and his fiancé, and wonderful friends. I love my “work” as a workshop/retreat facilitator and life coach. I am truly fulfilled by my volunteer work in the community, as a trustee for my local library and a budding master gardener trainee for cooperative extension. I’m vaccinated. Darned healthy for an older woman or any woman. I am aware of my tendency to forebode joy (dress rehearsing tragedy — just in case). With awareness, I do this less and less.

Now the plan. My plan during the pandemic has been to survive it. To take one day at a time and learn how to be with uncertainty. Last year I planned a retreat. The plan didn’t go as planned. My co-facilitator couldn’t come because of the mandated Covid quarantine in NY. The space couldn’t accommodate 20. I cut the number of participants to less than half, measuring out exactly how much space each brave participant would need to feel and be safe. Days before the retreat we still weren’t sure if we could pull it off — we being me and Wiawaka Center for Women. https://wiawaka.org/ We did!

I didn’t recognize this as hope. Throughout my many moments of doubt and sleepless nights, there was still a plan in place that morphed into something I never could have anticipated along the way. Now I see and love that it was HOPE that got me through.

Hope is no longer gooey. I can own HOPE, grab it and hold it to my heart. It has substance, like the hunk of rock in my garden, but it is mailable, expandable, contractible, and no longer gooey. I plan without being (terribly) attached to the outcome, because I have hope. I am deeply grateful for my life. I am an optimist with a plan.

I hope you will join me in redefining HOPE in your life.

Posted in Brené Brown, compassion, hope, integrative coaching, life coach, permission, purpose, stay engaged, Uncategorized, vulnerability | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Leaning into Uncertainty

I have not been writing, except a bit in my journal. Even then, I pick up a pen and have few words to describe the strangeness of my feelings.

After all, I’ve never lived through a pandemic before. Notice I wrote LIVED. Still alive. Still uncertain.

I have lived through and witnessed social disparity and racial injustice. Notice I wrote THROUGH, as though those of us who lived through the 60s saw its end. No, we are still on this journey. I’ve never before owned up to my white privilege. I’m working on it. Reading more, learning more. Being and doing better.

I’ve never worn a mask before, except when I was ill, waiting for urgent care. Pre-pandemic, masks were so strange — yet most of us have a adapted. Grabbing a mask on the way out the door (color coordinated or generic) and wearing it in public is the new normal.

We’ve managed to get through the uncertainty of a divisive political campaign with 50 days to go until the inauguration of our new president.

More and more, normalizing uncertainty, new ways of being and doing — leaning in.

Even as I write these words, I sense it will be obsolete before you read it. Does it have to be certain? It’s only this moment in time. The idea that anything is/was ever certain is my biggest rumble of the last 7+ months. Remember the expression, “You know how to make God laugh?…”

And still we plan. I plan. It’s part of our humanness. In reflection, I’ve had nearly as many plans FAIL as come to fruition. Maybe more! The college I wanted — didn’t happen. The high school sweetheart who was to be my life partner — dashed. The vacation(s) — cancelled. The successful medical treatment — first one failed. The marriage to my son’s father — ended. The healing of wounded relationships — still hopeful. The workshops — ugh. All plans based on intuition, love, hopes, dreams, expectations…

God, Goddess, The Universe, Fates, had other plans.

Leaning in, having faith, that whether the plan is a go or has to be scrapped or amended, it’s all okay. I’m okay. I can hold the space for whatever is meant to be within the uncertainty of the moment.

Many plans for 2020 were made well before the pandemic hit. Some had to be cancelled without question, though disappointing. Others waited. And waited. And waited. In the case of the “live, in person” workshops and retreat scheduled for the summer, we waited until the very last moment. We were all hanging on, hopeful, holding space within the uncertainty. https://wiawaka.org/

The workshops and Rising Strong™ Retreat happened. Not the way they were planned. We were fewer and thrived. We wore masks and survived. We were extra careful before we met to be sure we were as healthy as possible. We took good care of ourselves and our sisters throughout our time together. We leaned in and held uncertainty as our model of success.

Let’s dream. Let’s grow our dreams. Think big. Plan. Be uncertain. Whatever happens, plans dashed, thrashed, downsized or not-how-I-thought-it-would-look, Goddess willing, we’ll have a story to tell to our grandchildren.

Stay safe. Stay strong.

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Pandemic Perspective

gander

 

Is this gander running toward or running away? Fight or flight? **

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change… I cannot change the pandemic. I choose do my part. Here in New York State that means stay home and, now, wear nose/mouth covering, along with other precautions when I must go out.  The curve is flattening. Deaths and hospitalizations are going down. Because we’re practicing NY PAUSE. There are glimmers of hope. I hold “glimmers” in my heart.

I choose to believe that I’m going to get through this. My perspective about what’s truly important is changing. It’s a process I can’t articulate well, but I feel different. Some feelings are familiar. Impatient. Paralyzed. Sad. Touched. Tired. Pissed off. Sometimes I feel positive and energized and this leads to full engagement in life as it is. I remind myself that it’s safe to surrender to the flow of my feelings — the only way out is through.
I’m aware of the concept of the holographic universe. My understanding — each of us is the microcosm of the macrocosm. My emotions, my beliefs, my thoughts, my actions, do not occur in a vacuum — each affects the whole. We truly are powerful beyond measure. How you engage in life, your thoughts, words and actions, join with mine and others and affects the whole of humanity and, in essence, the Universe.

This too shall pass, but at what cost? We just don’t know. Pause. Deep breath.

Notice what is stirring in you. Go with the flow. Reach out for help. Help others, if you can. Be keenly aware of how you are connected with the whole, even as you physically distance. Love your precious self, then allow that love to flow to others. The world needs your love. Remember, it start with you. May you weather the storm with grace and ease.

** What is your perspective about the gander? I took this photo a few weeks ago. It was a thrilling scene…
He’s running toward an adversary to protect his nesting mate. And, from my perspective, he was also terrified!  

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Posted in Brené Brown, grief, integrative coaching, life coach, self-compassion, Uncategorized, understanding, vulnerability | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Lessons from a Warbler

A week ago, during a 30 inch snowfall over two days, a bird that I did not recognize showed up at our suet feeder. His little beak told me that he was a bug-eater, not a seed-cracking year-round resident. I posted his photo on Facebook, both in my news feed and NY Birders. The owners of Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop (Saratoga Springs) identified mystery bird as a black-throated blue warbler. He’s a tiny little thing, about the size of a goldfinch. My bird books agree that they summer in the Adirondack and Catskill mountains and that he “should” have skedaddled in September or October. Hum….

warbler and woodpecker What was I to do? The only thing a mother CAN do…. FEED him! He’s a bug eater, so I stocked up on highest quality suet with dried meal worms, increased the number of feeders and made sure the bark butter (seen in this photo) did not run out.

My friends who “follow” totem animals implored me to discover his meaning. Only then would I be released and he could fly south to his winter home. I’m always curious about the spiritual meaning of wildlife when some critter out of the ordinary shows up, so I did my research and discovered that when a warbler flies in as a spirit guide:

  • You have a song that you want to share.
  • You seek confidence to be yourself.
  • You have a dream but are not following it – when you need guidance or direction.
  • You have a desire to be valued for your work or effort.**

Well sure, I can always apply any spirit message when an animal shows up.

Snowed in for a day, ignoring “other” work that needed to be done, I watch this little bird take sustenance from the feeders and this season’s grapes left on the vine for wildlife. I fret about how he lost his way, wonder why he didn’t leave with his flock on schedule, curious to know how he found our feeders.

Comments on Facebook range from dire predictions to suggestions on what to feed him to ooohs and aahhhs and keep us posted. Every dawn and dusk I’m glued to the windows looking for our little visitor.

A week later, he is still here, through below zero nights.

In the stillness of pre-dawn, as I hear the rain of a warmer day ahead, my heart speaks and lessons are revealed.

I acknowledge my abiding desire to nurture.

Nurture songs that has yet to be shared — yours as well as mine.

Nurture confidence and encourage you to be yourself, as I strive to be authentically me.

Nurture my unfulfilled dreams, as I support and celebrate you fulfilling your own.

No doubt there is more.

Back to little bird… Who am I to say he is “out of season”? I would never think that of you.

What if he is exactly where he’s meant to be?  Landing on my doorstep to receive nurturing and sustenance. Until he is ready to fly, this is his safe refuge.

What if YOU are exactly where you’re supposed to be? (You are.) When you’re ready to fly, you will.  In your time of “waiting”, I will nurture you with the sustenance of unconditional love and remind you that letting go of the need for certainty (Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection) and trusting what you cannot see is a true act of courage.

As I sit in acceptance of this moment and surrender to the fickle weather of climate change, I’ll feed and nurture little bird and continue to rumble with the gifts of this miraculous visitation.

Some people see angels. Me too.

** credit for the spirit guide info: https://www.auntyflo.com/magic/warbler

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Loss and Longing

This morning, as I was folding towels just out of the dryer, I was overcome. It took a few beats for the emotion to surface. I commented to my husband that the old striped dish towels, worn but usable for spills, belonged to my mother. I gave them to her at least 25 years ago. At first I laughed at the longevity of William Sonoma towels, then it hit me. I was overcome with grief. Missing my mom, my dad, my youth, my connection with family, my old life. I sat on the edge of the bed and sobbed. How could it be that my mother, gone now nearly 17 years, and my dad, 15 years, could still be so embedded in my emotional body? How did I get so old and I’m now just noticing? How is it that we are (culturally) so bad at claiming and talking about loss and grief?

In Rising Strong, Brené Brown writes: Grief seems to create losses within us that reach beyond our awareness — we feel as if we’re missing something that was invisible and unknown to us while we had it, but is now painfully gone. (P 146) On longing: Related to loss is longing. Longing is not conscious wanting; it’s an involuntary yearning for wholeness, for understanding, for meaning, for the opportunity to regain or even simply touch what we’ve lost. Longing is a vital and important part of grief, yet many of us feel we need to keep our longings to ourselves for fear we will be misunderstood, perceived as engaging in magical or unrealistic thinking, or lacking fortitude and resilience. (P 147)

Turning to these pages again brings comfort. I am not alone in experiencing loss and longing.

In my work facilitating Rising Strong™ with individuals and small groups (curriculum based on the research and book of the same name, by Dr. Brené Brown) we give ourselves permission to “rumble” with grief, loss and longing. It is never an easy topic and as we dig deep, tissues fly out of the box. We hold each other with compassion as we share our common experience.

I remember this as I rumble and give myself permission to acknowledge and allow the feelings to move through me. I practice self-compassion, as well as gratitude for my life and loves today.  I will share this with my coach in our weekly session to help me discover the key learning from this recurring experience.

I am compelled to be vulnerable and share this tender emotion with you today because I want you to know, in the deepest part of your being, that you are not alone.

Posted in Brené Brown, compassion, grief, life coach, self-compassion, Uncategorized, understanding, vulnerability | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

My teacher – Beatrice

I haven’t ventured to blog post in over a year. I’m not clear about the reason, but it seems to have to do with my own “rumbling” with an overload of social media,  too much bad news, and distractions of all sorts. Somehow I have translated this into: I have nothing of interest to say that hasn’t been said before by someone more interesting than me. For today, I’ll let that go and get this blog out before I change my mind.

My story is about my morning and Beatrice’s gift. I awakened at 4:30 AM, early even for me. I lay in bed thinking about an hour “talk” I was scheduled to give later in the morning to a small group at the beginning of their weekend retreat. I affirmed to listen as much as talk and gently meet them where they are.

I spent the early morning quiet, as I often do, reading a book that inspires me. Today I picked up Pema Chodron’s comforting book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.  Slowly, I went through the many tabs I had placed in the book and found what stuck with me throughout the morning: “Our experience is the ultimate teacher.” I knew that I would be “presenting” to a group of people I had never met and that how I responded to them, my experience, would be my teacher. But I couldn’t have predicted how this would play out.

Because I had gotten up so early, I decided to run a few errands before my regular Friday morning dance class. I have been procrastinating about having a new passport photo taken and decided it didn’t matter that my hair was a wreck and that I was in my workout clothes. Passport pictures are awful anyway. The woman at CVS reminded me that for a U.S. Passport it is verboten to smile. She said forbidden, which sounds so foreboding, that verboten feels appropriate. She took several shots as I grumbled about not even wanting to see them. I was totally aware that I would be dissatisfied. And, yes, it’s pretty awful. Back in the car my inner critic went nuts, even spoke out loud. How did I get so OLD? How did my mother’s face suddenly turn into a face shadowed by my FATHER’S great nose? OY VEY! I told my critic: it’s OK. I LOVE my AGING self and who looks at passport photos anyway? If it gets me through the border, it’s fine! It’s way better than dead! Maybe if I get dual citizenship with Italy I can get a passport picture with me smiling…. Our debate continued as I drove.

And then I met Beatrice. I arrived at School of the Arts at the National Museum of Dance a few minutes early.  A classmate was just arriving with her granddaughter. She introduced me to Beatrice, who is spending the whole weekend and is almost 3! Grandmama helped Beatrice into her ballet clothes. Beatrice takes a pre-ballet class at the school and would be joining us for our kick-butt dance class this morning. Beatrice was not really in the mood to change her clothes. She had a look on her face that could only mean trouble, it was just too much to change. Mission accomplished, her wise grandmother said, “Look, Beatrice, look in the mirror!” Beatrice looked at herself in her pink leotard, ballet slippers and headband and a HUGE smile filled her face and whole being! Suddenly the dressing room got brighter and I swear the sun came out! She was totally in love and in awe of her very own preciousness; her response to her image in the mirror filled my heart with love for the little ballerina in me. How could I be so hard on myself?

When do we lose that self-love? When did I lose that? When did life’s experiences and people’s responses to me teach me that I’m not enough? I know it happens very young. Not much past Beatrice’s age for some of us. It happens when we are compared to others, to some sort of “ideal” way of being, behaving and looking. Then we begin to compare ourselves to others. It’s not always those closest to us who give this message. We are experiencing a culture of scarcity, comparison, never enough and just “not good enough”.

I was so happy to see that Beatrice had not yet lost her self-acceptance and true love for the sweet, gentle soul in the mirror. She danced her heart out along side the rest of us, smiling and laughing.  I hope she gets to experience this kind of love for a very long time.

My experience with Beatrice changed me and filled my day with light. When I met with the retreat group, I shared this story to open our time together. By doing so, I hoped to encourage each of us to look inside to find the precious light-child that we all possess and know that, just like Beatrice, we are whole. There is nothing missing. We are worthy of love, connection and belonging. The first step is to belong to ourselves completely.

Thank you Beatrice. May you continue to teach us old folks how to love for a very long time.

 

Posted in Brené Brown, compassion, gift giving, life coach, self-acceptance, self-compassion, stay engaged, Uncategorized, understanding, vulnerability | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Just say NO

When the topic of “boundaries” was introduced in my very first coaching training (with Debbie Ford and The Ford Institute in 2004), I was dumbfounded. It’s not that I had never heard of boundaries, I just didn’t understand how boundaries operated in my life. As I researched and examined my own relationships, I was horrified, but not surprised, to admit that I was a chronic people-pleaser. I was desperately seeking approval because of a deep desire to belong and feel important. The “good” part of people pleasing is that I really DID genuinely want to help others, but the “bad” part was that it almost always came with a need for something in return — to be liked, wanted and indispensable.

I began to realize that the “gift” I gave by pleasing others was no gift at all.  As I began to learn more about my nature, my authentic feelings and my true self, I came to understand that I needed to please myself first. I began to check in by asking myself questions: “Do I REALLY want to do this or am I just trying to be liked?” “Do I REALLY want to say YES when I know I’ll be resentful and angry at myself later?”

I’ve blogged before about the difference between NICE and KIND. Kindness truly does mean being honest and practicing healthy boundaries, even though there is a risk of hurting someone’s feelings. In the long run, delivering a NO is kinder than the nicety of a phony YES. No follow up, no call back, hurts way more than that first, difficult, NO.

Fast forward a dozen years or so, I’m a certified Daring Way™ Facilitator (based on the research of Dr. Brené Brown). My boundary lessons continue. Saying NO is not natural to me even now. Not only a chronic people-pleaser but a people-appeaser. (Think: Avoid conflict at all cost! I’ll deal with it later!) Now I practice Brené’s definition of boundaries like a mantra: Boundaries –what’s OK and what’s not OK. I affirm to myself that boundaries are a form of self-love and self-respect. Above all else, I wish to practice healthy boundaries, to walk my talk.

And yet I am struck again and again that social “niceties” suggest that it’s just not polite to utter that one word, NO, especially to an invitation. I’ve practiced excuses and reasons ad nauseam and, yes, they make me sick!

I write about this topic today because I met an acquaintance for lunch recently. We’ve seen each other only a couple times in three years or more, our paths and interests crossing infrequently. At the end of lunch she suggested that “the four of us” (meaning with husbands) meet for dinner. This seems to be a common “nicety” to extend a pleasant event. It can be interpreted two ways: a polite way to end lunch (like our mom’s raised us) or an effort to forge connection (because we truly want to cultivate the relationship).  When I think it’s the polite form of ending, not truly meant, my usual response is: “Oh yes, that would be great. We’re all so very busy, but do, let’s, keep in touch.” Ouch. Phony times two. How often do I say what I don’t mean?

Deep breath. I risked hurting my companions feelings for her polite invitation and said, “No”. I quickly added, “I hope you’re not offended.” As we left I expressed what was truly in my heart: “It was good to see you. I’m so happy for you. I wish you the very best. Take good care.”

Suggested readings:

Debbie Ford, Why Good People Do Bad Things: How to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy

Brené Brown: Rising Strong: The Reckoning, The Rumble, The Revolution

Posted in Brené Brown, compassion, Debbie Ford, integrative coaching, life coach, self-acceptance, Uncategorized, understanding, vulnerability | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Manifesting or Revealing?

I’m bombarded with messages about how to “manifest” dreams and desires.  It all seems so mysterious and out of reach, like there is some secret method to unlock the code and if I pay $$$ the code will be mine. Not buying it.

I’m not alone. When I talk with my clients, I’m aware of a general anxiety around this. “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I manifest my dreams? Other people do it! Don’t they?”

Part of what I hope to convey in my coaching and workshops is that each of us has all the wisdom of the Universe within us. If this is true, everything we need already exists and there is nothing to manifest. Perhaps it’s all about what we believe.  If we believe we have to “manifest” our desires, then that will be our “work”: visualizing that ideal something out there so that this thought becomes a tangible thing. Sounds like a LOT of work to me and though I’ve witnessed success, I’ve always questioned whether this is manifesting, luck, destiny, or just seeing what’s ready to emerge.

As I struggle with this notion, the Universe steps in. A book on my crowded shelf calls out to me: Thich Nhat Hanh’s Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers. I choose a random page: “The Buddha said that when conditions are sufficient, things reveal themselves. They just do not manifest themselves and become an object of our perception. They don’t go anywhere. It is a matter of conditions only.” … “When conditions are sufficient, things can be seen by you and you say that ‘you are.’ When conditions are no longer sufficient and things can no longer be seen by you…. you say, ‘you are not.’…. Being and non-being are notions created by you….”

This works for me. I embrace the idea that it is my thoughts and beliefs that matter. The work is not in “manifesting” but in seeing, being with, and shifting what gets in the way. Beliefs about what I can and can’t have, can and can’t be. Feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness. The choice to please others instead of being real and expressing my true self.

Why is it that the workshop that I couldn’t fill last autumn is nearly full with 6 weeks to go this spring? Was there something else I needed to know or believe or was it simply timing? Do I need to know? You know the old joke about getting God to laugh… tell Her your plans. No, I don’t need to know. It just is. I am grateful.

Trusting that everything I need is already present and it is a matter of uncovering what’s hidden, I let go of the burden of manifestation. God(dess) has already done that work.  I am relieved and excited about what may be hidden and the discovering, in its time, what may be in the way.

 

 

 

 

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Better than I was, but not as good as I used to be

My first true Adirondack hike, October 1998. I believed it was like walking in the woods, only with hiking boots. Halfway up Blue Mountain I was paralyzed in fear. Exposed granite, smooth rock, wet with recent rain and icy in spots. I could feel my boots slip as kids ran by me wearing sneakers. I wanted to turn back, but not as badly as I wanted to reach the fire tower and see the view from the top.

I told my then-boyfriend and soon-to-be hiking mentor/coach to go up ahead without me. I was embarrassed that I couldn’t keep up and I could sense his frustration. I kept climbing. I kept stopping to rest.  I can still picture him sitting on a rock as I came around a bend, waiting for me, a moment of empathy and kindness. *

I made it to the top and back down again. It was hard. One of the hardest physical challenges of my life up to that point. In sheer exhaustion, I fell flat on my face in the mud just before reaching the parking lot.  I determined to throw away my crappy boots and never hike again. I figured it was nearly the end of hiking season, the heck with it. By spring, if I was still with then-boyfriend, I’d break the news. No hiking for this woman.

Something happened that winter. I kept going over the hike in my mind. I had a vision of what hiking “could” be:  Seeing the beauty of the woods and views. Feeling the path and the granite under my feet. Remembering the exhilaration of reaching the top with my heart pounding as I climbed the fire tower steps. I didn’t know it yet, but I would soon be an avid hiker. My face down moment of utter failure and embarrassment led me to achieve my own personal “greatness”.

New hiking boots. A workout plan for aerobic and muscular strength. Spring brought black fly season and more hikes, snowshoeing in winter. In the next two years my then-boyfriend, mentor/coach led me on harder and harder hikes until my 50th birth year, when I hiked my very first Adirondack high peaks. Still paralyzed by fear at times, I kept at it. I remember reaching the summit of Algonquin and having an out-of-body experience.  I felt if I died in that moment, it would be OK. This was enough. In that moment I didn’t need anything other than to sit quietly with my back against a boulder. Plus, I wasn’t quite sure of HOW I was going to make the descent!

The following year, I lost 35 pounds and continued to get stronger. Then-boyfriend and I parted ways.  I began to hike with the man who would become my husband. I took Pilates **, and continued to increase my strength and stamina. We used common sense and took on “do-able” peaks, though rarely did I find one “easy”. I recall turning to my husband on a hike and musing, “I wonder when I’ll peak, not get any stronger and maybe even start to decline?” It may have been that day…

I find that I can’t “do” the extreme hikes any longer. In 2011, a nasty treatment for hepatitis C left me flat out on the couch for the better part of a year. (Gladly cured of hepatitis C from a second treatment, 2015.) I never regained my “peak” strength. I had to “rumble” with feelings of loss, grief and frustration. It’s been a process that continues today, even as I feel extremely grateful for my health and physical ability. I can still hike!

Now we take on smaller mountains, less traveled trails to waterfalls and views of the higher mountains we once traversed.  I depend on my trekking poles — my third and fourth legs to help me balance and save my knees! I do the very best I can. In so many ways I am stronger than I was on that very first hike. I know in my heart it is precisely because I challenged myself to turn my vision of hiking into a goal and that I continue to work through my face down moments and acknowledge my successes.

All I’ve been and “accomplished”, all I am and still “do”, and all that I will become and decide to “do” is simply good enough! I always was good enough, even on that very first hike on Blue Mountain.

*special thanks to J.N. for introducing me to hiking in my beloved Adirondack Mountains

** and thanks to Melissa my dear friend and best Pilates instructor for helping me find my core strength!

Posted in Brené Brown, hiking, integrative coaching, life coach, purpose, self-acceptance, self-compassion, Uncategorized, vulnerability | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments