Where do I start? As I look back along the path of my life there have been dozens of moments when the sets of footprints have been many. I know that God has been with me all the way, even when I have chosen to ignore Him. So I know that there has been at least one set along the sands of time when He was carrying me and, when I was “in a state of grace”, then we walked side by side leaving two sets of prints.
But those other times when more feet left their mark are when some very special people walked with me. People who loved me or at the very least cared about me enough to accompany me through difficult times. Sometimes these people were professionals whom I sought out for specific help. Other times they were special friends, the kind that leave footprints not only on the path of life but also across my heart.
If I were to be honest, even though I did not recognize it at the time, I would have to say that my mother was my first mentor. It would probably be even more honest to say that I was not capable of recognizing her in the mentor role. But with the wisdom that age eventually gives us and with the passage of time, I am able to understand and admit that she did indeed give me many of the values that I hold dear today.
My Aunty Polly was another mentor in my young life. She was not a blood relative but someone my parents knew from before they were married. She had an amazing ability to make me feel loved and cherished no matter what I may have done. She always had a compliment for me and she always smelled of some divine French perfume, and when she hugged me I wanted to stay inside her arms forever. As I struggled through my teen years her love and support never wavered. She was always ready to be my champion.
Sad to say I remember no particular mentors in my life during my upper school years or college years, although Aunty Polly was ever available if I bothered to approach her. This barren period of my life stretched into my marriage to my first husband. But the barrenness was of my own creation as I slid further and further into isolation.
It was not until a few years after I separated from my him that I began to seek help and became aware that there were some very compassionate people available if I but looked. Dear Fr. Hill, the Catholic chaplain with the U.S. Navy in La Maddalena, Sardinia was the first of those. His laughter filled the corridors of the Navy base and filled my battered heart with hope. In turn he introduced me to a young woman called Lou Ann who was to mentor me through the first few months of struggling out of my “dark period”.
As I took my place among my fellow citizens on this path of life I slowly understood that there was no stigma in seeking help from professionals. Since then I have been blessed with help from many psychologists and spiritual advisors: Dr. Lockart, Dr. Fernandez, Dr. Werbel, Dr. Boger, Chaplain Gerry Smith, Chaplain Steve Jensen, Chaplain Wendy Bausman, Chaplain Rod Kelley, Chaplain Terry Robertson, Chaplain Paul Witt, Chaplain Robert Church, Chaplain Mark Logid, Chaplain Greg Gillette, Chaplain Larry Smith. I know there were others. I can see their faces but my memory is being unkind and not allowing me to remember their names.
My dear friend Herm del Prato in Naples, Italy was another soul with whom I shared many personal stories and struggles. His ear was always willing and he was never judgmental. And how can I forget my “soul sister” Cawne who came into my life in 1987 and, in her own woundedness, opened up a whole new path of spiritual possibilities to me. Despite a large geographical separation we are deep friends to this day.
As I think of my life today I realize it is full of mentors in the unique friends who I choose to surround myself with. Men and women who are all questing on their own paths and yet willing to share and give of themselves to me. My beloved Mavis, who is also a substitute mother-aunty-sister-friend and who teaches me to remain teachable. Cathy and Lorelei in St. Augustine who help me stay true to myself.
Kathi, Paige, Tish and Robin who all help to keep me “right size” and show me how to live by going out there and living life themselves. Michael, who massages my body and through his skills, talents, knowledge, and experience helps me to get nearer to myself. Linda who helps me care for my garden and teaches me lessons of genuineness like no other.
And there are many more, too numerous to name, who through their actions and the way they live their lives, fill me with gratitude for their presence, for their friendship. They enrich my life with love, with compassion, with humility, with joy. They nurture me along my path. I am truly blessed.
I have always loved reading. My mother called me a bookworm. I would devour books, rarely putting them down until the last letter of the last word on the last page had been savored. As a little girl I heard, then read by myself, all the childhood favorites.
I learned the nursery rhymes one by one until I new them all by heart. I remember Little Boy Blue, Baa-baa Black Sheep, Mary Mary Quite Contrary, Little Bo-Peep, Mary Had a Little Lamb, Jack Spratt, and so many others. The characters all seemed so real to me and with my vivid imagination I would charm them all to life as I lay in bed.
Then, of course, there was Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. How many nights did I fall asleep with the image of myself in one of my very ordinary little dresses being turned into a shimmering creation of gossamer silver and silk. Or seeing myself with a handsome prince (who looked suspiciously like Johnnie the boy next door!), riding off in a glimmering golden carriage into a rosy pink sunset. And those were the ideals that were cast in stone in my childhood memory banks for the future that could be mine. I would be “rescued” from whatever paltry life I was living and I would be carried off to live “happily ever after”.
The only problem with Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty is that no one wrote the sequel. So here we are left with the never-ending final scene of riding off into that proverbial sunset and being happy. We are never shown what happens when they got back to the palace. I presume that’s where they were eventually headed.
I mean, I realize that if they did live in a palace they would probably have access to a maid or two, and a cook, and a butler, and a gardener. Life wouldn’t be too shabby as they created an edict or two and smiled magnanimously at their subjects. But they’d still have to think about day-to-day living and waking up to each other everyday.
However, I have to admit, that if ever my little girl mind went further than that ride into the sunset, I always imagined Cinderella walking the corridors of her palace in different ball gowns and tiaras, and leaning out of balconies in the palace turrets as little blue birds flew down to her fingers and sang to her. I’ve no idea what the prince was up to as she floated around in her perfectly idyllic life!!
No wonder we are set up for failure in real life relationships! Given the state of today’s society full of drinking and drugs, fast paced living, crime and abuse, there probably isn’t more than a handful of healthy families in each neighborhood. Pessimistic – maybe; realistic – probably.
Let’s just go back to the sixties. Actually we need to back further still, to the time of prohibition. Everything was forbidden, especially alcohol. When that law was revoked there was a wild swing into drinking which eventually ended up in the free love and drug experimentation during the era of the hippy sixties.
Although the sixties ended and the hippies went out of style, drugs had taken a firm hold. The hippy youth of the sixties became the next generation of parents. Many of them continued to use “soft” drugs and some “not-so-soft” drugs also spilled onto the market. You don’t need to be a psychologist to realize that these people were not the best of parents and a whole generation of dysfunctional families was created.
As their children grew up and began to look for mates we had the first layer of inter-dysfunctional marriages. Many people used alcohol to chase away their demons. Others got into heavier drugs which were becoming increasingly more available. Wherever there is a new market entrepreneurial minds will flourish, and many criminal minds were savvy enough to realize that there was much money to be made with drugs.
And let’s not forget the wave of people who began to turn to prescription drugs to treat the depression and other psychological ailments that came from the pain of knowing there was something wrong but not being able to pin point or explain that wrong. Very few people could bear the stigma that was associated with going to see a psychologist or therapeutic counselor, so they used whatever was available.
“Too depressing, way too negative”, I hear you cry. “Depressingly true”, I respond. “But what has this got to do with Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty”, I hear you ask. “Everything”, I say. When there is nothing, or at least very little, left but darkness or depression we look for salvation wherever we can find it. When no decent role models are around we turn to fantasy and make believe and the realm of fairy tales and try to turn them into reality.
Is it any wonder that the explosion of New Age religions and spirituality was so enormous? By now we have generation upon generation of dysfunctional people searching for something, searching for salvation, searching for real role models. On a subconscious level people realize that there is more to life than “sex, drugs, and rock and roll”.
Thank God more and more people are reaching out for the help that they need. There is definitely a movement toward the return of old values. Many people are seeking professional help as that stigma drops away. The rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous are growing in number and in size.
Many people see that it takes courage to ask for help and are discovering that courage. Even men, the proverbial “strong, silent, macho one’s” are becoming brave enough (they always thought it was a weakness!), to approach therapists. Couples are recognizing that jumping into divorce does not remove their problems. Divorce may remove the other partner, but each partner is still left with attitudes and behaviors that they will drag into a new relationship.
So perhaps we can lay the fairy tales to rest, or at least in recounting them to our children and our grandchildren we can help them to understand that they are just that – fairy tales. Perhaps some new good authors will emerge who can write a “second level” of classical fairy tales for our children as they reach early teens. Stories that will shine a light of good healthy reality on how life can and should be lived after that ride into the sunset.
I can no longer ignore the fact that some of you may be wondering why the words Life Coach precede the words Spirit, Body and Mind at the top of my blog page. Life Coaching is a new career field that has opened up in recent years and I am, in fact, a certified Life Coach. I chose to get my certification with the Certified Coaches Federation (CCF).
However, Life Coaching is something that I have been doing for years. I just didn’t call it that or realize that I was doing that until late last year. That’s when I “God-incidentally” received an email through an unknown source that introduced me to CCF. I contacted them to make inquiries about the certification course they offered and that was when I recognized that most of what they taught I already knew and practiced. I just didn’t have certification in the specific field.
I have already mentioned in previous blogs that I made a serious life change about thirty years ago. This entailed much work on myself, changes in attitudes and behavior, in other words a major lifestyle change. As a result of all of the above, I opened my heart, my mind, and my soul to many opportunities that I would otherwise have never seen. I opened many doors that I had previously ignored and began to live a very full and rich life and continue to do so to this present moment.
I explored many paths on the road back to the religion of my childhood – Catholicism. However, the practice of my religion is only one aspect of my spirituality. Along the way I opened myself to being there for others, becoming part of the CREDO retreat team in Naples, Italy and also becoming a facilitator for a class called NADSAP. This acronym stood for Navy Alcohol Drug Safety Action Program, which was later known as Navy Alcohol Drug and Substance Abuse Program. I believe that today this program carries yet another acronym and name which I do not know.
In order to undertake these roles I had to go through both programs as a willing participant then undertake paraprofessional training. They were both fairly stringent and involved a lot of personal growth and continued maintenance training each year. I will not go into the details of those trainings but I can tell you the skills that we came out with were highly developed in the following areas: active listening, empathy, compassion, tracking, objective feedback, personal disclosure, non judgmentalism, personality recognition, and genuineness.
So let’s get back to Life Coaching. What is it? And why do people need a Life Coach. If you think about a sports team, whether they are good or bad, they got to where they are with the help of a coach, maybe many coaches. The coach is there to assess the teams strengths and weaknesses, to see where they stand right now, and to look at what they can do to achieve future goals. He or she is there to make sure they don’t get stuck.
And so it is with an individual person who is attempting to navigate the oceans of life. Why can’t the team or the individual see that and work to change things without the help of a coach you may ask? The best answer to that question may be because they are all too emotionally close to the the issue/s at hand. In other words they can’t see the forest for the trees, or vice versa.
This is where the coach comes in. However, there is one big difference between a sports team coach and a Life Coach. A sports team coach, once he/she has made all the necessary assessments, then makes a plan and gives instructions as to what the team has to do. A Life Coach creates a professional rapport with the client from which he or she can then help the client recognize where they are at and what goals they want to achieve. Then through the skilful use of uniquely created tools, the Life Coach will encourage the client to take action to achieve their goals.
Life Coaching is most definitely a process which involves a commitment from both parties – the coach and the client. And when I say a commitment I mean a signed-on-the-dotted-line-contract kind of commitment. This creates a professional relationship between the two parties. The coach commits to be there fully and intentionally for the client, and the client commits to stick with the coach for a specified amount of time in order to reach his or her goals.
The main idea behind Life Coaching is to help people to recognize and break through their self-imposed limitations and to identify and achieve goals, dreams, and aspirations that will improve and enhance their lives, their careers, and their relationships. The coach never tells the client what to do. The coach is there to actively and objectively listen, to empower, and then to encourage the client along his or her path.
The beauty of Life Coaching is that it does not “brain wash” or take away from the client’s unique ideas, nor does it seek to interfere with or change their personality. The coach becomes a “companion walker in life” if you will, however the client has to take his or her own footsteps.
Another unique aspect of Life Coaching is that you do not have to be face-to-face with the client to do effective coaching. In fact much Life Coaching is done over the telephone. My personal preference is to have at least one initial face-to-face session with the client and then move to telephone sessions if that proves to be a convenient method for the client to be coached.
Life Coaching is a very satisfying career. It is a privilege indeed when someone asks me to enter their life. My sense of wonder increases a thousand fold as I watch a client’s sense of wonder at themselves increase through the coaching process. I find that it is an honor to help someone to recognize their personal beauty, worth, and potential as they explore their relationships, their place on this earth, and the value that they can bring to anything they put their mind to.