Archive for the ‘Life Coaching’ Category

Whose Suffering Is It Anyway?

Thursday, August 6th, 2009


In the final days of my cat, Natasha’s life, was human comfort or feline comfort my priority?

Already a spectral presence, frighteningly thin, weak, and silent, my dying cat took up residence under the bed exactly far enough from either side that she could not be reached. I lay on the floor, my arm outstretched towards her as far as possible, begging her to please come out where I could stroke her. Those great liquid eyes stared back from a place I couldn’t go, a place where pain and exhaustion took her when they became her new mistress. It was a contest I couldn’t win.

I cried to her to please not die under  my bed where I couldn’t touch her.  Again, those big, empty eyes turned towards me at the sound of her name: the end of her tail flicked. I still don’t know whether her tail registered happiness that I was near or annoyance. Like most of my species, I needed to believe my life made a profound difference to hers.

In the end it did. I chose to stop her suffering prematurely…and mine. Always the supposedly good human, I had to take control of her death as I’d always had control of her life.

I have to remind myself now of the times when I was sure I made a happy difference in Natasha’s 16 years, of the affectionate head butts, the late night snuggles, even the cold shoulders I received when I was away too long: the rejection that seemed to say Hey Human, pay more homage to your cat next time!

For the last two-and-a half years of Natasha’s life I measured every day in 100 ml dosages of the subcutaneous fluids I painstakingly administered to her, giving her failing kidneys another 24 hours of usefulness and another day of the pleasure of my company. Eventually the fluids strained her failing heart.

Did she want to live? Did she want to die? I’ll never really know, will I?

In the end the decision was a human one. The only feline input was the big void of her eyes staring back already near the other side of life, the place we humans have a really hard time with. I pleaded with her not to die under my bed, and finally when her weakened body couldn’t fight me off, I overpowered her and whisked her off to the vet for a professional analysis of what I already knew.

Did she want a quick release from her suffering, or was it human suffering I was more interested in ending?

I only know her suffering presence is gone from under the bed. For me now, imprinted in my mind’s eye is the slender, regal gray cat whose whole tail shuddered with joy, I’m certain, the moment I entered the room.

We humans  interpret the world so full of our own importance.

A peak a week

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

I live in a region of the country where outdoor recreational activities abound. Last night I overheard a couple of young men standing behind me at an open-air concert discussing their hiking plans for the summer. Not wanting to turn around and stare, I could just imagine two strapping, healthy youths sporting robust backpacks and hiking boots. One was telling the other, “It’s my plan to hike one new peak every weekend.” He began mentioning the names of various local mountains. I could just imagine the breathtaking vistas to which he would treat himself along the way.

Even in my younger years I was not a mountain goat, so scaling peaks is not in my game plan. Negotiating the cable car hills of San Francisco when I lived there a few years ago was a good enough challenge at sea level.  I am still proud to say I succeeded at climbing some hill or other each week when I belonged to a city hiking group. I still do a 3-mile walk occasionally, up and down the hills of my current neighborhood nestled in the Sierra Nevadas.

These days my real challenges are more sedate, but nonetheless steep. The hills and valleys of writing a novel keep me fretting over whether I “can make it.” When the terrain gets a bit rugged and I can’t catch my breath, I sometimes stop to rest and to consider my next step carefully.  Turning back before I reach the pinnacle, however, is seldom an option. I know it’s too beautiful to miss the view at every milestone of the climb, and if the interim vistas are this good, I can’t wait to see the view from the top.

I’m glad I overheard that hiker’s declaration last night. It encouraged me, too, to set my goals “a peak a week.”

One sentence at a time

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Shaking off the shackles of writer’s block (as any writer knows) is not easy, but I’ve learned that anything worth doing is rarely as easy as it seems when you start out. Occasionally, just starting out is the difficult part.

I decided to use the strategy my own coach, Scott Lewis, taught me when I first complained to him that I wanted to write–knew I could write–if only I knew how to get myself to do it. He asked me to commit to two minutes of writing a day and report back to him the following week.

Two minutes of writing a day? “Are you kidding?” I thought. “Anyone can do that!” I took the challenge. The first night I stared at the computer blankly. What to write? Being one of those people who takes her commitments very seriously, I looked around my room and decided whatever my eye landed on at the moment would be good enough to morph into the opening, and probably closing, sentence. (After all, two minutes isn’t much time to write more than a couple of sentences.) From the second night, I was writing for 10 minutes, and after that, I was pounding the keyboard in oblivion for two hours, not two minutes, a night.

I wrote my way out of my block the last couple of days by just sitting down and writing the next sentence, and then another. I figured if I didn’t like the direction it went, I’d be revising it sooner or later anyway.

It worked. That and a little help from some tunes of my favorite divas of ’80s dance music–Tina Turner and The Pointer Sisters. Why not? I left my plucky boomer protagonist, Chicken Cacciatore, in a quandry about pole dancing in public. All she really needed was some inspiration!

Do you really need to know your life purpose?

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

I recently read a post from another life coach that made a case against expending time and thought to uncover your life’s purpose. Her main argument is that we all have life purposes, often more than one, but if we waste time trying to discover what they are, we waste our lives, period. In other words, just get moving and you’ll be following the path of your purpose…it happens naturally.

I’ve been pondering her post for a few days. It challenged me, and I had a strong reaction to it, but I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was just my ego reacting because I had recently written an article extolling the benefits of uncovering one’s life purpose. My point was that if you struggle with decision-making, it is easier to evaluate competing options by measuring them against the standard of your life purpose. Which decision aligns you with your reason for being, if you will? If you know where you are going, but are momentarily “lost,” you can get out the compass of your life purpose and find your way again.

The argument she made, however, was interesting in that if you just stop agonizing over where you are going and follow your instincts, you are bound to naturally end up somewhere you will ultimately benefit from being. I can see that, because I believe that whatever you encounter in life, it’s an opportunity for growth and learning. Sooner or later you stop in a town that feels enormously familiar and if you are open to possibilities, not limited by a narrow view of “this is my purpose; this is who I am,” then you may frequently discover new and remarkable places to explore in your life.

But what do we mean when we talk about life purpose, anyway? On a very basic biological level it is nothing more than to survive and procreate. As a species, we have done that quite well–all too well–and often at the expense of each other, as well as everything else on this planet. It does not require any conscious thought to follow our biological imperative and find a way to continue our existence, no matter the cost or sacrifice. It does, however, take conscious effort to consider the consequences of our biological imperative, which brings us to the spiritual, or at least philosophical, question of why we are here, beyond the mere fact of our existence and instinct to survive as a species.

It’s true that there is no need to ask this question in order to keep traveling through life, but if we don’t stop to consider, “What is my life purpose?” can we ever really say that we are “in choice’ about the myriad of options we face moment to moment?

Pursuit of Prosperity: What are you worth?

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Money is not good or evil. Like everything in life, it is both, and how you perceive it is personal. What is money exactly? We don’t even see it anymore. We swipe a plastic card and somewhere in cyberspace funds are moved electronically from one bank account to another representing someone giving monetary value to someone or something. So the amount of “money” we receive for work or services we perform is simply a representation of what our work or services, and by extension, ourselves are “worth” to someone else.

The more important question is, What are you worth to yourself? If you want to attract prosperity, you have to first believe that you are valuable and that what you give is valuable. Without that first crucial step, you are not going to be attracting enough money to sustain yourself.

Is your life worth living? Then it is worth getting paid, at the very least, enough for necessities. If you believe you’re more valuable than that, you will always be taking steps, even unconsciously, to receive more. If you believe what you do benefits others, you will receive enough money and enough fulfillment to be happy and secure. In other words, it all starts with whether or not you believe you are valuable.

Scrabble is like life

Monday, August 4th, 2008

Sometimes you look at the seven tiles you’ve got, and all you can think of making from them is a two letter word. That’s it, that’s all you’ve got this round. Other times you can take all seven letters, miraculously arrange them to form a big, fat juicy word with a “Q” or a  “Z” or an “X” or a “J” or all four of them across two triple word scores! If you play just for fun sometimes, like I do, and you show your letters to someone else, they immediately see the potential you can’t. You are amazed (and embarrassed) when they whip them into a word where you saw only yowling vowels or dissonant consonants. In either case, you’ve got all the tiles, but you just can’t put them together.

So what if you can only make a two or three letter word that doesn’t land on any colored squares? You still get to pick a couple of new ones. There is fresh potential in every pick, every round, every set of seven letters. It’s all in the way you “see” them.

Like I said, Scrabble is like life.