Troubled hearts

Last January I was side swiped by unemployment. Financial hardship is the story I received from my employer. Whatever the reason, I never saw it coming.

But if I use my infallible 20/20 hindsight, I believe that for months (hell, maybe even years) I’d been asking the universe, or myself, or something, to release me from the confines of the daily grind.

Broken heart

Shortly after I started what I thought was the job I’d been working toward for years, the one I was downsized from last winter, my only niece was airlifted to a cardiac intensive care unit, first in Saginaw, Michigan, then on to the big time in Detroit at Henry Ford.

On a couple truly harrowing January nights, my family and I watched a ventilator breathe for my then 19-year-old niece, not knowing if she’d go on to see the sun rise. Her heart was in such trouble; it was, in the most literal sense of the word, breaking.

The ICU nurses ministered her every need. They moved noiselessly around her prone body changing out IV bags of life-saving meds; monitored her temperature; placed ice packs in her arm pits and down the length of her body to cool the fever that threatened to overtake her; washed her hair; and assured us she was in there somewhere, gathering strength to return to her family.

On sleep-deprived nights when a loved one’s life hangs in the balance, it makes you think about how you’ve been spending your days. Outside of thinking that my family is small and my niece had better not go anywhere because we need and love her very much, I mostly thought that I don’t come close to using my time helping people the way those nurses helped my niece and my family.

It seemed my own heart was troubled, though not in the same fatal manner as my niece’s. At least not yet.

In fact, don’t most of us have troubled hearts? Shouldn’t I find a way to untrouble my heart and go on to help others do the same?

One door closed, another opens

My niece lived (!), though her heart is a bit worse for wear, and I returned to work. But all was not well. Not with me, anyway. And apparently not with the company for which I worked. Though I genuinely liked my bosses, and believe in what they’re trying to build, my dreams definitely didn’t align with my employer’s.

After gathering my things and walking double time out my former employer’s door for the last time, it took me about two minutes to decide it was finally time to not just be my own boss, but to also do something bigger.

Since January, I’ve picked up some satisfying freelance work for nonprofits and small businesses. It’s a good day when I’m writing blog posts or assessing websites with my puppy sacked out in the chair next to me and the sun streaming through open windows. The commute, the dress code, and the office politics can’t be beat. And my clients seem genuinely appreciative of my work and reasonable rates.

For a long time, I’ve yearned for this way of working. Now I can blog at 3 am, if I so choose; schedule Fridays off and not feel guilty about it; choose my projects; and seek out clients who are trying to make a difference in the world. I really need to send the guys at my last job a thank you note, or a giant bottle of Grey Goose, for pushing me in this direction.

My heart is my compass

I’m always pleased when I connect with nonprofits and small businesses. That work feels useful. It feels right and true doing mission-driven work or helping a small business get a leg up.

Here’s the thing, though: While I’m ridiculously content with the project work, I want to take it up a notch. Or several notches. It’s taken some time to discern what that looks like, but I finally got there.

About a year ago I was accepted to grad school to work on my masters in counseling. I deferred for a year. After a wedding, my son’s graduation, selling a house, and moving,the timing wasn’t good.

I revisited grad school after the lay off. But the price tag and time commitment concerned me, and the classes no longer appealed. It seemed too cerebral. I wanted something with more feeling, something more heart-centered. It occurred to me that I don’t want to make diagnoses. And if someone has been coerced into therapy, I wouldn’t be good at working with that client. I want to help those who are ready to make positive changes and who want to live fuller lives. Once I figured that out, the rest fell into place.

So this week, I’m headed to Miami to the Ford Institute to begin the process of becoming a certified integrative life coach.

Arrival time

If you know me even a little, then you know I’ve practiced yoga for about 15 years, been to past life regressions, had my tarot cards and palm read, walked labyrinths, sat in mediation groups, journaled until my hand cramps, read countless self-help books, been needled by acupuncturists, seen spiritual healers, and attended other various and weird workshops.

I am fascinated by human behavior. My favorite hour of most weeks is spent on my therapist’s couch dissecting events, emotions, actions, and words. I then enjoy debriefing my husband and one of my besties about my sessions (they return the favor, I’m happy to say). And, surely to the dismay of others, I’m quick to dispense advice and thoughts on whatever situation arises. I’m even intrigued with why my dog behaves the way she behaves.

When I connect the dots, I can see that my niece’s heart, all that time I’ve spent on my yoga mat in poses and meditation, and my love of putting together pieces of an emotional puzzle, have gotten me where I am today.

I’m sure there’s more to my desire to help others with their hearts than what I’ve written above. Fortunately, for me and for my future clients, I’ll spend the next 12 weeks getting my own self life coached so I can get my shit straight before I start with intense training and go on to hang out my integrative coach shingle.

What exactly is a life coach?

In the words of Debbie Ford “…we’re brilliantly designed to heal ourselves and return to wholeness. But sometimes we can use a little help.”

Possibly you think integrative coaching is similar to therapy. And maybe it is. But here’s how it’s different: Rather than looking to a counselor or therapist for guidance and wisdom, integrative coaching teaches you to access and trust the wisdom that’s within. It helps you embrace the shadow-y bits and pieces of your character and personality. Once you embrace that darkness, you can integrate it with your light, and regain your wholeness.

When I’m done with my year-long training as an integrative life coach, I’ll guide clients to reach deep inside and support them while they uncover their own answers and intelligence. It’s my hope I’ll help others map out lives filled with love, possibility, success, inspiration, and happiness. In other words, heart-centered lives.

Sounds kind of out there, doesn’t it? Maybe so. And I know I don’t yet have the language down to fully describe this destination I’m about to fling myself toward. But, I’m trusting my heart, and I’m getting on a jet plane next Thursday to see where this leads me. I hope some of you will come along for the ride.

P.S. My writing and digital consulting work isn’t going anywhere! Let’s talk if you need some help wrangling words, websites, or social media.