I began my coaching session thinking there was nothing on which I could possibly be coached. I’m pretty darn driven. I constantly strive to do more, be more, and achieve more. Also, I had reactive arthritis from which I was trying to recover. I was able to walk two miles most days, which is about ten percent of the physical activity I had normally done. If I did more, the arthritis flared up. Being a retiree, I had no big career goals. I was writing a book, which would be a nice, quiet diversion, except for my stroke-induced brain injury that rendered me unable to read or write for more than an hour at a time. I was doing as much as my body would allow, then filling my time with meditation, art, visiting with friends, or other sedate, yet not too visually stimulating, activities. But my coaching friend needed to log 100 hours of coaching in order to get her certification, so I decided that I’d do it just to help her out.
Imagine my surprise when I actually got a lot out of the coaching session! We kicked off by talking about what was going on in my life, and I started to cry as I told her about the arthritis and how it was hampering every aspect of how I live. She asked some probing questions, got some more background information, and we went forward with the session. Through her prompting, I figured out that what bothered me most about my circumstance was the unknown. This condition can take anywhere from two months to a year to clear up, and can be a single occurrence or recur throughout life. Immediately after the diagnosis, I started on a health program that is designed to help eliminate inflammation and heal the immune system so that it stops attacking my body, creating arthritis. But I didn’t know if it would work, if the illness would come back, or how I could live my life with this hanging over me.
We explored what my life would be like if I never got well. It was a difficult topic, but looking at it made me realize that I had put my entire life on hold, awaiting a return to health that might not happen. This reminded me of when I had a stroke, three years ago. The stroke left me visually impaired; unable to drive; struggling to read; and challenged by anything involving vision. I put my whole life on hold, pending my recovery. Then my neurologist told me there would be no recovery. “This is as good as it gets for you,” was my message. Some people disparage the harshness of this message, but it made me determined to get on with living my life, and to learn how to deal with my new parameters. That was exactly what I needed to do in respect to this arthritis. Imagining that this was as good as it would get for me, what could I do to get back to living my life in a way that harmonized with who I was? I felt truly hopeful for the first time since the illness struck.
We also discovered I had dealt with many problems after the stroke that were similar to issues with the arthritis. Feeling paralyzed by the fear of the unknown, loss of control of my life, needing to change how I think, eat and act in order to ensure better outcomes for my health. In looking at how I dealt with these issues after the stroke, we talked about some boundaries and timelines I needed to work with in order to get through this ordeal
If this were all I had received from this coaching session, I would have counted it as a resounding success, but I got something even more important than this strategy. I got insight into my feelings about this illness I’ve been plagued with for over a month. I got the ability to deal with these feelings, and begin to understand the complexity of my emotional situation, instead of just concentrating on the physical aspects.
When we finished our session and I was alone, I broke down and sobbed for a while. I allowed myself to feel the emotions that I had been repressing all of this time. I acknowledged that I was frightened, frustrated, and even a little angry. And that was okay. I grieved for the loss of fitness, which I have guarded so keenly all my adult life. I expressed to myself the unfairness of this illness striking me in such a way as to take away much of what had kept me happy since having the stroke. And I committed to myself that I would do whatever it takes to get well and be able to resume some form of active lifestyle.
Then, I did what I always do when struck with the oddity of something that has happened to me. I looked for the lessons in the experience. It was interesting to me that I was re-learning lessons that were given to me when I had the stroke. After the stroke, I learned to avoid stressful situations, yet in my retirement from my stressful job, I had created my own stress by putting ever-increasing demands on myself physically, and also emotionally, by being self-critical any time I did not meet these expectations. The stroke gave me a greater appreciation for the healing that comes from allowing myself to grieve. Grief was what allowed me to accept the new way I had to live, and it made it possible for me to give up so many things from my old life. This coaching that I received got me to perceive the emotions associated with this illness in a way I had not before. I grieved my hopefully temporary loss of physicality. Another thing I re-learned was not to take anything for granted. But the most important lesson I received along with the stroke was that there is no control over life. Things happen in life that are insanely amazing and incredibly cruel. I cannot control them, I can only live through them and learn the lessons they give me. Perhaps the most striking synchronicity was that I was receiving all the same lessons I had previously received with the stroke (and perhaps many other times in life that I had ignored). It was time for me to take note, and really incorporate these lessons into my daily life!
The overarching lesson is this: if you keep having the same experiences in life—whether they be dating the same type of unsuitable partners; having health crises; or career mishaps—then you are likely ignoring the lessons The Universe is trying to teach you. These experiences will likely get more and more intense until you take note. So when something happens that seems oddly synchronistic, or that makes you say, “Not this again!” then sit down and look for the lessons in your life, and learn what you need to do to take your life to the next level. I’m still sorting through these lessons I’ve recently received, and finding how to use them to move my life forward. Look forward to a blog on how that worked out soon.
Live and learn, my friends!! (Whether it’s a new lesson or a repeat.)