Knowing Never Leaves
"This process with you has been really revelatory."
These words came at the end of a closing call with a coaching client. She came to me a few months ago, a book contract in her hands and many questions about what she really wanted to write.
Over the course of a few months, she explored many questions, sat with difficult feelings, and got very, very honest with herself. Despair, hopelessness, jealousy, and exhaustion all made appearances. Also present at times were curiosity, playfulness, and irreverence.
This person is a coach herself, a brilliant writer, and someone deeply involved in and committed to spirituality and social justice movements.
Hearing those words from her as we completed our work together (we agreed to say, "for now"), I felt so humbled and also grateful and moved. She told me that part of what was so helpful and meaningful about our sessions and this process was having space to really say all the things out loud and look at what was simply there.
Send yourself a message by taking a step.
The minute you embark on a process of growth -- be it prompted by the need to make a significant decision or a more subtle sense that something is needing attention -- you send a message to yourself that says: This matters. This is real.
I first learned about coaching when I was maybe 27. I was a Hillel director with very little experience, and as a professional development opportunity, I was given a session with a coach named Tammy Gooler-Loeb. I wound up working her Tammy for several months, and it was during that time that I realized one day that I was interested in doing what *she* was doing for me: Helping others listen more closely to their true selves, and living accordingly.
I went to my first Coaches Training Institute intensive in December 2001. It took me about a year and half to complete, as Aviva was born in October 2002. And in the summer of 2003, I left my job at UVM and hung a shingle. Strong Coaching was born. In 2005, I went back to work as a career counselor, again at UVM, then left to start coaching again when Pearl was a baby.
When my life fell apart in 2010, I thought I was done coaching for good.
Thankfully, I was wrong about that.
All these years later, my skin is less flawless, my hair is streaked with grey, and my kids are 13 and 16. I'm sitting an office I could only have dreamed of then. My fifth anniversary to a beautiful wife is this year. Each day I get to wake up a gift. I know that might sound trite, but it's true. (Actually, I sound more like my mother and her mother every day).
This incarnation of my work was borne out of one the scariest times of my life, shrouded in uncertainty and need.
It might seem strange, but these two poems keep coming to mind. Maybe you know them already?
The Uses of Sorrow
by Mary Oliver
(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)
Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.
by David Whyte
When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone,
no part of the world can find you.
Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your home
The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
Why these poems?
Because without the darkness, without the sorrow, without the grief and the aloneness and the searching to belong and so much wrestling, I would not be sitting here today. There is no joy without pain, no learning without doubt. No growth without uncertainty, no clarity without confusion.
True story. Living, evolving story.
Being honest with ourselves means letting go of some things. Sometimes these are entire identities. Other times, they may be jobs or relationships, or beliefs or ways of relating.
Change happens little by little by little. Then a moment comes, sometimes, when you can see clearly, if only briefly.