Right now I am sitting in the back of my mother’s garden beside my garden gnome shed where I have been living for just over a year. Inside the shed are a bunch of empty boxes, waiting to be filled with the little I brought with me to Victoria when I moved from Montreal last July.
I am preparing to move into my new house on Friday with my girls. My house! It is small, but spacious. In a funky neighbourhood, close to everything: the ocean. The park. Downtown. Several fabulous coffee shops. Not to mention 30 seconds from my work. Most importantly, it is my own.
[Note- I have been in my new house for over a week now. It turns out that moving means no time to post things…]
Oh yeah. I also got a job. I work for the B.C. Government now. I have benefits. An amazing boss. A completely new career.
All this is scary. I am trusting a lot in my own abilities and that a lot of moving parts will come together to make this sustainable. But the main point is that I’m trusting again. That has been no easy feat.
A year ago I almost ceased to exist. I came to Victoria with a sense of self so shattered I had to carry it in a Ziploc bag. The end of my marriage had cratered me so bad, the only thing keeping me together was my new tattoo (a visceral reminder to keep my heart open), a determination to get through this dark age lighter and wiser as well as a fierce desire to build a good life for me and my daughters.
To do this, I was going to need some help.
First and foremost, I want to take a moment to send a whole Spanish Armada of gratitude to my mother and my sisters for pulling me out of the abyss in every possible way imaginable. For keeping me standing even when I was dead weight. For being my village when it comes to my children. To my friends (read Family) in Montreal for doing the same when my family was 6000 km away.
I have good people in my life, who made it possible for me to take the space I needed to help myself.
In keeping with the mantra “whatever will get me through this hell lighter and least broken”, I have tried a lot of things in the last couple of years. I went to an acupuncturist. Tried several different counsellors, some individually, some for our marriage. I went to career counselling, had massages (a new thing for me), tried gyrotonics (which I was so not ready for- something to do with holding my breath for my entire life) and attempted to make a regular practice out of yoga and meditation (only the meditation stuck).
And yes, I am even seeing a life coach at the moment. And, as useful and helpful as all the other interventions have been (and they were useful and necessary), my life coaching sessions have been by far the deepest, most intense and most necessary experience in terms of moving forward.
Before having embarked on this particularly intense voyage, it is difficult to say what I thought a life coach did. I think I had a version of a large, overbearing Tony Robbins’ like man acting like the drill sergeant for all aspects of my life where I did not SHOW UP! LIVE UP TO MY FULL POTENTIAL! Where I did not CARPE FUCKING DIEM!
Yeah. I think I thought that a life coach was for people who did not know how to live their life, obviously. People who needed to be told things like “you must take time off from work” or “why don’t you take up a soothing hobby like scrapbooking?”
I never in a million years thought I would have one myself. But then again, that is just one of the surprises of these last couples of years. It turns out that love and definitely marriage do not last forever. That self-help books can actually be helpful.
And that life coaches can actually help you sort the wheat from the chaff of your own internalized beliefs regarding your own capacity and launch you on a course for a new, better way of living your life.
Or maybe it is just my life coach. Her name is Michelle Aubrey and she has defied all of my preconceived notions of age and wisdom (she is 15 years younger than me, which was a major cause of hesitation for me before agreeing to this relationship and which has turned out to be simply ageist on my part), of what a life coach does, and why, contrary to my firmly-held belief, I actually really needed her.
That also has a lot to do with me too, though. I like action. I am goal oriented. I like to attack problems and solve them. Perhaps that is why the life coach has been working so well for me.
But mostly I think it is because of Michelle.
We build stories out of our own experience and then take them as gospel. “This is the way it is.” “I’m not good at math. Remembering birthdays. Taking the garbage out.” “That’s just who I am.” [Insert other categorical statement you make about yourself]. We view ourselves through the lens of these static stories.
The problem is we are not static. We are ever changing, even on a cellular level. And most of the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves do not reflect our present reality but a version of our history. They are the root of the baggage we carry. We do this without knowing we are doing it; the luggage has become so familiar in our hands we forget it is there.
I am reminded of how it felt to go for a walk without a stroller in my hands when the kids were little. It felt awkward, as if I was missing a limb. Or if I was standing in line at the grocery store, for many years I would rock a phantom stroller. We have this miraculous capacity to normalize our experiences, to make them routine, to take what happens to be random circumstance and weave it in so thoroughly into our daily lives that we begin to think of it as inevitable, as having always been like that.
So I ended up at the age of 40 with certain beliefs and patterns that were not serving me. In fact quite the opposite.
Michelle is helping me unweave some of the more harmful stories I have been telling myself and weave them back in a way that actually serves me. She gets me talking, calls me on these patterns, makes me dig at them and then gives me concrete techniques and actions with which to deconstruct them. She has helped me delve into what I want to achieve with my writing and see ways I can both write what I want to write and still make money.
She is a no bullshit, compassionate hard-ass that will lovingly not take excuses or let you get away with anything other than you showing up in the world as your truest, brightest self.
Please don’t mistake me here: a life coach is not a counsellor or a therapist. Michelle is only concerned with my past in so much as it is limiting my present and my future. Our work focuses on moving forward. Building that good life I so desperately want to build and doing it on my own terms, aligned with what is true and important for me.
In short, Michelle calls me on my bullshit, makes me commit to projects that mean something to me and keeps me real.
Who doesn’t need that at some point in their life?