A favorite part of my job as a Life Coach is that I get to witness human beings take tiny filaments of beliefs and turn them into huge knots of limitations. They, like most of us, aren’t able to hear themselves speak, nor see how their thoughts create the world around them. As their thinking partner, I hear what they themselves can’t hear, and I share with them what I’m hearing so they can make sense of the tangled knots of beliefs that lie within. After which they are at choice to choose differently.
The other most favorite part of my job is witnessing people courageously untangle those knotted up filaments of beliefs, and weave them into a magnificent tapestry of fulfillment and joy.
My client Shirley, mid-fifties, in our latest coaching session said in every way but Sunday, that she would be better off being someone else, because if she was someone else, all of her circumstances would be good and easy. “If I weren’t me, I wouldn’t fail and I wouldn’t suck at just about everything!”
Now, Shirley is one of the most courageous and brilliant people I’ve ever had the honor to work with. Regardless of how brilliant one is, however, there are inherent beliefs that tie us into knots and limit our intelligence, wisdom, and the ability to see clearly enough to choose what is in the best interest for all involved.
Shirley is initiating an amazing startup company in Silicon Valley. She also is in relationship with a very challenging and dangerous horse. She isn’t making progress with either the start up or the horse, and so, she sees herself as a failure. She says, “I would know what to do if I weren’t me.” Then, Shirley says, “what I want is to know what to do. What I want is to have the answers that would make all of this be easier. Then it wouldn’t be so obvious that I SUCK!”
Like most of us, Shirley looks outside herself to see that others have successfully overcome these obstacles that are currently keeping her struggling with her challenges.
I’m not unfamiliar with this belief that if I weren’t me, life would be hugely different. So, I empathize with Shirley’s dilemma. Her dilemma though, isn’t whether she should put her horse down, who is not only dangerous but also lame, or know all the right answers to bring in funding for her startup. No, her dilemma is that – though she is Shirley and will always be Shirley, she can’t reconcile this truth with the fact that she doesn’t know how to be Shirley and be with the truths of what is. She doesn’t know how to be in the midst of very challenging circumstances. The truth is that no one knows how to be in very challenging circumstances.
Shirley, like the rest of us, shuns, resists, or shuts down the human experience of powerlessness, hopelessness, and helplessness. She hates feeling out of control. She hates herself when she is out of control. Raise your hand if you’ve never felt this way! Raise your hand if you are in denial of ever having felt this way! The point is, I don’t know a single person that hasn’t been, or isn’t currently in Shirley’s dilemma – how do I be me while in the midst of such deep personal challenges?
Shirley is facing a hugely common occurrence of being human – feeling powerless, helpless, and hopeless – AKA, feeling out of control. And, my experience is that most of us will do everything possible to avoid feeling out of control. We would rather blame, shame, hate and rage against ourselves than to accept that, due to the fact that we are human, we can’t always know what to do, and we can’t always know how to do what needs to be done. Sometimes life just sucks, and there is no way around it.
The statement “If I weren’t me…” creates a type of insanity. Yes, it’s true that if I weren’t me I’d be somebody else. For some reason though, we believe that being someone else would mean we wouldn’t have problems. Well, the truth is, you wouldn’t perhaps have these problems, but you would probably be facing other problems and dilemmas that would be just as challenging.
The constant barrage of challenges that are Shirley’s, in this moment, are sourced in her core belief that being Shirley isn’t enough – that she isn’t enough. As she and I uncover this deep truth, Shirley sobs uncontrollably. In these deep moments of grief, she begins to reclaim herself. She sees that, over and over again, she has thrown herself under the bus; she denies her own experience of being powerless and helpless, so casts aside her own knowing and wisdom, and focuses on what other people are telling her to do.
As we grow, develop, unfold, and yes, age, we increase our capacity to listen with intelligence to what is being said inside our heads and inside our hearts. Aging gives us the opportunity to work out the truths of who we are and who we are not; we can see limiting beliefs and how they affect us. It’s easier to see this in other people, and, quite often, we say “I’m glad I’m not her. I’m glad I’m not him. In this moment, I’m glad I’m me!”
No one likes facing the unknown. No one likes not knowing what to do. No one likes feeling vulnerable within those life circumstances that wring us of every shred of smartness, and right-action. These moments are the big Fat Be-Withs of life, within which we surrender our “if only’s,” and our “what I want is”, and be with what is – the Isness of Is.
Admitting that we are powerless over our circumstance and over people, places and things empowers us to surrender to the truth of the moment – which, for Shirley, is that it sucks! The truth isn’t that Shirley sucks as a human being; the truth is that her circumstance suck. She now gets to be with the Big Fat Be With of being Shirley. And, inevitably, she will know what to do, she will do it, and she will feel good about herself when all is said and done. That’s what happens: Eventually we realize that we have the capacity to accept what we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and we have the wisdom to know the difference. Yes, this is the Serenity Prayer.
In the midst of our human challenges, even the most horrendous ones, we can look to anyone around us and know, without a doubt, that they too know what it’s like to be in sucky circumstances. We are all so courageous. And at the same time, we are so afraid of discovering where our courage will take us. Wha-hoooo!
If you’d like to join Dr. Rosie in the AGING – Who Me in-person discussions at the Orcas Island Senior Center, they are meeting this coming Tuesday – May 9, 2017 from 10 – 11:30 a.m. Or, if you’d like to set up a coaching session, feel free to call her at 360-376-4323.