This week I’ve been working on the next chapter of my sequel memoir. I picked up on my story in the summer of 2015. I was mid-way in the Life Coaching class that I was taking with Linda Bark and the Wisdom of the Whole Academy. That July, I traveled by Amtrak on my solo journey stopping first in NYC where I visited with my younger son, Ross, then continued on by train to White River Junction, New Hampshire. There I stayed a few nights in the Hotel Coolidge– a historic train hotel. Then, I rented a car and drove into Vermont and stayed for my next three nights at Button Bay State Park on the shore of Lake Champlain. This picture is one made in the early morning hours. Now, I wonder what I was thinking as I looked out onto that glass-like body of water with the Adirondack mountains of New York in the distance.
At the time, I was focused on my plan for the next chapter after I retired from school nursing. I knew I wasn’t ready to completely stop working but didn’t want to continue in the same type of nursing roles I’d been in for over forty years. Becoming a Life Coach would use my skills and disposition that served me well when I worked in mental health nursing, stretching me into broader ways of helping others. Bark’s Coaching Academy combined Western and Eastern medicine and was focused on holistic, integrative health. For me, it felt like the perfect way to pull my nursing knowledge and experience together in a final area of helping others.
I started the Life Coaching course in January of 2015. Every Thursday evening, I dialed in for the two-hour audio sessions with eleven other nurses from around the U.S. I wasn’t sure I’d like the audio format, sitting in my living room with not even a computer screen to help me focus. But I found that I paid better attention and was less distracted by visual stimuli than I’d be in an in-person or video class. Someone coming in late, or wearing the wrong type of blouse with her pants, would easily distract me. Ultimately, I really learned to listen by having just audio.
I was also hesitant about being in a class with other people from different regions of the U.S. When I went on my summer journeys, sometimes my regional Southern accent would receive comments–and some didn’t feel so positive. How would I sound when I had to participate in our group calls? I wondered if I’d be able to ‘hang with the class’– old insecurities of not being ‘good enough’ or ‘not smart enough’ coming to the forefront.
Over time, I discovered that the folks in my class were appreciative of different accents. One of our instructors from Fairfax, California later commented on missing my ‘lovely Southern accent’ when I was absent from a class. I learned to relax and just be myself–and others did the same. It was not the critical group that my lesser self imagined.
As busy as my life was back then, working full-time as a school nurse, visiting Mama in the nursing home, writing, dancing– I found I was excited to be learning. I felt rested after those two-hour classes instead of tired because I was fully engaged and felt myself growing in new and unexpected ways.
I liked the course content and the new emphasis on treating clients as partners instead of the medical view as patients. We were taught to trust that the client knew themselves better than anyone, and we could only act as an expert when we received permission.
I’d heard the term, “Trust the process” when I was learning to be a group therapy leader–that advice to see how things unfold and the wisdom in where it would lead. In the coaching class, that idea was expanded:
“Trust the process. The Process is the Teacher.”
It sounded akin to “it’s not about the destination– it’s about the journey” which felt true of the solo journeys I’d taken every year since I’d turned fifty.
The Life Coaching course was very thorough and included sixty hours of practice sessions with at least ten different clients. I recruited staff from my school and fellow nurses to be my willing subjects. While it made for an intense time of getting in the hours, completing and submitting session notes–I felt good at the new skills I was gaining. It also felt good to be moving forward in my retirement plan. I started seeking out places to recruit future paying clients for that Nurse Coaching business I’d start when I retired from the school.
But, as some of you know, I never ultimately started that Nurse Coaching business. Simultaneously, I was finishing my final edits of my memoir and I wanted more than anything to publish that book that was a labor of love. In my enthusiasm for coaching and writing, I thought that I could start both my Nurse Coaching Business and Writing Business/publishing my memoir at the same time. When I consider that one of the foundation principles of coaching clients was to have them to ‘underpromise’–to set small achievable goals– my idea to start two businesses at one time was the extreme opposite; It would be doomed to fail from the start.
I struggled with what to do, how to handle wanting two things so much. When I discussed this with my friend, Jennifer, she had the words that helped me find my path.
“I just hope that you’ll let whatever you do in retirement flow organically,” Jennifer advised. Instead of my typical striving, I was to allow it to unfold naturally.
In our class sessions, we often stopped and ‘listened to our body’, paying attention to our energy. When I thought of starting two businesses at one time, I felt tired and overwhelmed–which was always a sign of having too much to deal with. My shoulders felt weighed down and my mind felt cluttered. Eventually, before I’d worked through those feelings, I talked with my younger sister, Peggy. I told her how I was struggling with what to do next, which business to pursue.
“Well, Connie, you know you’ve always wanted to write,” she said. “Before anything else, that’s what you said you wanted to do.”
She had been listening to me for years as I shared the desires of my heart. When I considered just finishing the book and working toward publication, my body felt more alive. I didn’t feel my shoulders drooping from the heavy weight of two lofty goals. It felt like accomplishing the one goal was doable; the point of underpromising was that you’d experience success, and that builds more success.
I look back on that time of anticipating my retirement chapter. It’s not been as I expected in some ways, but I did publish my memoir and have continued to produce my blog. I used some of what I learned in the coaching class in creating Reflective Questions in my memoir and in my blog posts.
In those posts, I sometimes refer to music that seems to accompany how I’m feeling, that gets at the current theme in my life. It strikes me that a song I’ve come to love in the past few months,”Gravity” by John Mayer, is a reminder of what I learned from following one dream versus two, of going with a writing business instead of a coaching business. The lines that resonate with me are:
“Oh, twice as much ain’t twice as good
And can’t sustain like one half could“
My one half as a writer is where my heart’s desire led me. Now, six years later, I look back at the path I’ve taken. I think I have mostly trusted the process- and it’s been quite a teacher. My wish for you is that you find your path, your next chapter, trusting your body and your intuition to lead you to the one half that’s right for you.
Are you planning for an upcoming transition– like changing jobs or retirement?
What step can you take toward that new chapter in your life?
What are your fears in moving into this unknown?
What previous success have you experienced in a similar situation that can help you during this change?
The memoir I published is available in paperback and ebook on Amazon