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Brown Teddy Bear in Old Fashioned Suitcase

Resiliency Requires Experience

By: Donna R. Wood, Existential Coach

The one thing in life that I know is true is that one must know who one is, before they can create any type of life that is filled with meaning and purpose. A life of meaning and purpose doesn’t come wrapped in a Zen experience or regulated schedule. It comes from living each day as a person fully connected to the world in which one lives.

Through one of my self-care indulgences is where I learned this deeply important lesson. I spend time each week delving into the life and times of those who came before me, while digging through records, old photographs, and journals or articles. It is the way of the genealogist.

As I methodically piece together the life stories of all the men and women who were necessary to bring me into the world, I find myself in awe of their resilient natures. I’ve traveled back to the Norse Invasion of Great Britain, sailed across the ocean on a coffin ship, lived lives of anticipation and trepidation on the frontiers of Canada, climbed mountains in the Appalachians, and bumped along the prairies in covered wagons, all in the hopes of finding a new life filled with the promises of hope and prosperity.

Deeply engrossed in their stories, I experienced the heartbreaks of the women as their men marched off to war, leaving them to hold down the fort at home. I read the repeated scenes, where babies came quickly and left just as they had arrived. My mother’s heart ached for the women who buried their babies, leaving them behind as they forged onward. I learned of the greedy and callous men and women, who populate the family life line. There were the surprising discoveries of the clergymen, trying to hold it together in a new land, where it seemed all bets were off, and God was either dead, or overly alive.

In every family history there are the tales of war, and rumors of war, families torn apart and families coming together, women striking out on their own or cleaving to the security of men. There are times of feast and times of famine. The one thing that all of them had in common that allowed them to overcome is they were all fully engaged in the process of life – from beginning to end.

Resiliency requires experience – both good and bad. It isn’t built through reading the stories of other people’s lives. Although, those lives still have meaning and purpose for us in the present. They are the stories of hope. They are the stories of meeting yourself where you are, and building from there. They are the stories of sometimes building your wings on the way down, while living on a hope and prayer. They are the stories that brought us here today. One misstep, episode of indecision, or making a different decision by any one of them, may well have prevented our being born at all or having been born into a very different life – for better or worse.

As I venture into each life, I look for the lessons that I can use today to make my own life filled with meaning and purpose. But, most importantly, I leave their lives as they were, and engage in my own life, so that when my 25th great grandchild reads about GreatX25 Grandma Donna, there will be lessons they can use in their life, many of which were gathered into my own life from the ancestors. My legacy will be the lessons of hope, perseverance, and an enduring faith in tomorrow.

woman standing with stretched arms facing beach

Don’t Just Survive…Live!

By: Adele Geiger, Resiliency Coach

“If you do not make time for your wellness, you will be forced to make time for your illness.  Read that again.”    – unknown

 There have been many studies over the years that prove a mind-body connection.  Emotional can manifest into physical symptoms.  Your emotional health can have a direct impact on your physical health. 

 

I learned this the hard way by enduring trauma and continuing as a caretaker to everyone.  I didn’t make time for me or healing me. I was either last on my list or not on my list at all.  As a child I assumed the role of caretaker. I guess I thought that the role had been appointed to me. So that is how I operated as an adult.  It simply didn’t occur to me that I was establishing a pattern that eventually would hold me accountable. 

 

Three years ago, I was ambulanced to a hospital and stayed for five days.  I was completely dehydrated and depleted of almost all vitamins.  Had I not gotten help; my organs would have started to shut down.  I had pushed my body (and emotional health) to the limit.  The doctor said, “I can’t figure this out, but I know that all you are doing every day is surviving and that is no way to live. I’m sending you to Mayo.” 

 

The trip to Mayo is what taught me the most.  A specialist there asked me a series of questions. My answers (which he had already guessed) brought him to the conclusion that the conditions that I have are all stress related and trauma based.  He compassionately said, “It seems you were in a position where you didn’t feel as though you could take care of yourself.  I don’t think you realize how serious this is.”  My high stress life, the traumas and caretaking had gone from taking an emotional toll on me to manifesting into physical conditions.

 

Your body does keep score.  There are places to go for support to help you to build yourself back up – EMOTIONALLY AND PHYSICALLY.  They can help you to find ways to care for yourself so that the manifestations are at the very least drastically reduced.  Support groups, individual therapy, positive self-talk and exercise are just a few ways to make life better and more meaningful. 

 

You’re not alone.  You’re not the only one.  Don’t just survive life – live it! 

 

 

 

Feet on the bus

The Wheels on the Bus

By: Donna R. Wood, Existential Coach

Betrayal never comes from your enemies. It always comes from those who are closest to you; family, friends, and even co-workers. For those who are young, confident, and ambitious, what I am about to say may save you a lot of time and heartache:

Everyone gets thrown under the bus (and sometimes ran over by the bus) at least once in their lives.

You would think that the experience of being thrown under the bus by a family member or friend would be the worst; but it’s not. With family and friends, there’s a stronger emotional bond that allows space for forgiveness to occur more quickly.

When a co-worker, or boss, throws you under the bus, it’s a much larger, more complex experience. The bus that you’re on in the workplace carries everything that you have and are: your livelihood, your family, your possessions, etc.

We live in a world where most people define themselves not by who they are inside, but what they do for a living. The experience of being thrown under the bus by people you trusted can result in a full-on crisis of identity.

Years ago, I worked in a small nonprofit where I felt I was thriving in the world. I looked forward to going to work every single day, including Mondays. I didn’t mind working evenings and weekends, because I was doing what I loved. I put my heart and soul into the work. The staff worked as a team, developed friendships, and trust bonds with each other.

Three years into the job, things took a very ugly turn. It was so dark and nefarious; it broke every bond that had been forged. Truth became lies, and lies became truth. Everyone was walking on egg shells and no one trusted anyone. The ugliness of it all spilled out into the communities we were supposed to be serving, and even those who trusted us the most stopped believing in us.

The tires on our bus had all gone flat and we were limping along the road, digging huge gouges in the asphalt. The sparks of blame, finger-pointing, triangulation, bullying, mobbing, and toxicity were flying everywhere. Some people jumped off the bus. In hindsight, I should have jumped with them. It took three years of riding on a bus that was on fire before I was thrown off the bus, under the bus, and then had the bus run me over, grinding what I had known myself to be into the pavement in pieces.

When I pulled myself up from the pavement, I watched the bus continue to limp itself down the road. In some ways, I had felt a great sense of relief. I thought that it was over. I could just move on with my life and everything would be fine. It wasn’t over, and things definitely weren’t fine.

I was a complete mess inside and out. I had spent three years of my life in survival mode. I had been going through life protecting myself from certain inhalation. I started to feel like I was suffocating in my own skin; and at that final moment on the pavement under the bus, I think I suffocated for real. I had nothing left to give – to anyone, including myself.

As a highly sensitive person, I turned everything inward. I swallowed it all whole and absorbed it all until I imploded. Thank God, I had the wherewithal to know and understand that everything wasn’t fine in me, and I sought the help that I needed to put myself back together.

The danger in these types of stories is that there are so many variables at play, with many different actors, not all of whom are highly sensitive people. Some of them don’t swallow the hurt and pain. Some of them don’t implode. Some of them throw back the hurt and pain in the form of acts of workplace violence.

At the point of toxicity, you have reached the point where “If you see something, say something” is useless. You have reached the point of no return. Once a work culture reaches toxicity, the likelihood of a comeback to healthy is slim if not impossible, without a complete overhaul of management and staff.

There are five stages between healthy and toxic.

  1. Healthy
  2. Incivility
  3. Bullying
  4. Mobbing
  5. Toxicity

A workplace will always bounce back and forth between healthy and incivility. However, if you let incivility grow into bullying, the bus will pick up speed and race down the road until the wheels fall off at the T-Intersection of toxicity. Drive carefully.

Sometimes, You Have to Do It Afraid

By: Adele Geiger, Resiliency Coach

There’s a quote that I’ve seen a lot lately.  “Sometimes the fear won’t go away, so you’ll have to do it afraid.”  

It’s kind of like sometimes we don’t have the voice outside of ourselves, but we find it often in the most critical circumstances of our lives.  We become warriors without even realizing it.  

I was sitting in a closet covered with clothes, so I wouldn’t be found.  Shaking, crying and alone, until my best friend would answer the phone and she would be my saving grace.  The person that would listen to how afraid that I was. The only one who knew how bad with all certainty that it had become.  

I finally got brave enough to change the locks and put heavy furniture up against every door.  Then I went to see my doctor and she did the routine things.  After that, she looked at me and said, “You have the saddest eyes I have ever seen.  Do you want to tell me why?”  I did.  It came pouring out of somewhere that I didn’t even know existed.   

I’m trying to reclaim my life by taking my power back and understanding that although I did not cause the adversity, it was, and is still, my responsibility to repair what has been broken.  And…I was unmercifully broken.  

Find your voice and establish boundaries, or abusive people will keep hurting you.  Find the help you need.  Share your story, because it’s so healing to do that, and you are helping others in the same kinds of situations you have been in. 

I did it afraid.  There was no other way to do it.  You can’t continue to justify the scars that you have suffered just because you love the person holding the knife.

Feed Your Soul With Laughter

By: Adele Geiger, Resiliency Coach

There is a therapeutic benefit to laughter.  I realized this the most at some of the hardest times in my life.  Laughing in the face of adversity creates a balance that we need in our lives. 

It’s not so much that it shows strength or courage, although I think that as we grow into this kind of laughter, it does. It’s more that you begin to realize that if you don’t laugh sometimes in the hard moments you’ll always cry.  I’ve learned to find ways to talk about difficult situations in a funny sort of way…a laugh out loud sort of way.  Not all the time.  But some of the time.  Now I make a point of finding amusing things to read or watch on TV. The kind that makes happy tears roll down your face and you can barely catch your breath.  The kind of laughing that makes your whole-body smile. 

Laughter is magic!  What would we do without it?  Life is messy and hard, so grab onto every good moment for all it’s worth and celebrate. Make it last as long as you can.

Cry when you need to…absolutely!  But after a really good cry, find another reason to smile. 

Look for joy.  Laugh intentionally.  It doesn’t change your circumstances, but it helps you create an awareness that the option to smile and laugh is available.

My children were six and eight when we were shell shocked into a completely different life.  One of the dearest memories I have about that time is getting into our pajamas every evening under warm blankets and reading Junie B. Jones books to them. Their laughter was the most beautiful thing I will ever hear.  We were going through the depths of despair.  And yes, there were many tears.  But in those moments snuggled up together under the covers, the laughter saved us. 

In your deepest and darkest nights of your soul, you’ll need the laughter the most.  It will help to pull you into a safer place and create a sense of spiritual wellbeing to continue to lead a meaningful life. 

Laughter feeds your soul!

 

Heart and Soul – The Art of Forgiveness

By: Donna R. Wood

In the corner of my mind stands a jukebox. It’s playing all my favorite memories…” ~ Alabama, (1990) written by Dave Gibson & Ronnie Rogers

Music has a way of connecting us with memories, some of which are not so pleasant. As a young person, I often dropped an imaginary quarter into that old jukebox in the corner of my mind and let it stroke the chords of sorrow, regret, and misery. I’d listen to it for hours and connect to times in my life that weren’t so good.

In my childhood, my mother would always listen to music as we cleaned house on Saturdays. My mother had a beautiful singing voice. She would sing along to the radio as we dusted, mopped, and did laundry. Every time I hear Kenny Rogers’ Lucille, it takes me back to the late ‘70s, cleaning house with my mom. It was the first time I heard my mom sing out loud. The memory is haunting and beautiful at the same time. My mom had left my dad only a few years before, and well, there were four of us children. Only, my mom took us with her, for which I am eternally grateful. I never realized how important and healing that song might have been for my mother at the time.

By all accounts of the family, my father was a monster in a large man’s body. He was explosively violent and abusive – both mentally and physically – not only toward my mother, but also my older siblings. Years later, I read a letter that my grandfather sent to my mother when he was in his late 80s (around 1971), recounting how my father had come to his home and beat him senseless. My father had beaten his own elderly father senseless, and had landed him the hospital where he didn’t wake up for five days.

At first, I thought it was my kindly old grandfather – the one I had imagined him to be – confirming that my mother’s assessment of her husband was correct. The truth behind the letter is that my grandfather was attempting to manipulate my mother into taking my father back, because my father was taking his rage out on others.

I’ve seen pictures of my father. I never had the misfortune of knowing him personally. My father looked like a mountain next to my mother. Just like the man in the song next to Lucille. My father was so large that when they lived in Florida, they called him Gordo, which means fat in Spanish. However, my father wasn’t just fat, he was tall. He was every inch of 6 foot 4; my mother a petite 5 foot 5 inches in heels.

The healing part of that song is that my mother, in one fell swoop of a good decision, crumbled that mountain into a pile of rubble. He quaked and shook as his heart broke, and in the end, my mother had won. Oh, there were letters and phone calls, and all the like, but she had stood her ground, no matter how difficult life was for her with four hungry children.

As an older and wiser adult, I can listen to Lucille with a different perspective on the memory of cleaning house with my mom. I can hear her voice singing along to the radio, not in pain or sorrow, but in courage and triumph. She wasn’t taking joy from making him look small – okay, maybe a little bit, but encouraging herself to look forward to the love and the laughter in the here ever after that would be her life; without him.

My father was indeed a monster. He will always be defined in my mind as a monster. However, I had some healing of my own to do in regard to this monster that lived in the shadows of my past. My father died in 2004. There is nothing left but shadows of the things that were. They were real. They were true. They were horrific. Yet, I had to find the part of me that was willing and able to forgive him for all of it. I wasn’t forgiving him for his sake. I was forgiving him for my own sake.

I had to let go of all of it. Forgiveness is a soul process. It transcends us above the reality of what was and allows us to release the hooks that anchor us to the past. Once the release occurs, there is an overwhelming sense of peace that takes its place and new melodies begin to play from the jukebox in the corner of our minds. Melodies that may be old, but are heard in a different way.

You Don’t Live There Anymore

We have all done it, and some of us still occasionally do. We live our lives looking out the rear window, while we watch the ever lengthening road of yesteryear disappear in the distance. Our eyes strain to see all the milestone moments of success, or fixate on those we considered failures, or places we feel we made a wrong turn.

We begin to obsess over the “would’ve beens”, “could’ve beens”, or “should’ve beens”. If I had only said this or that. If I hadn’t done one thing or another. Or even, what if I had done it. All the possibilities of a life unlived appear as shadows in the mist.

The fact of the matter is the past no longer exists. There is nothing there to see, but shadows of all the once was. It can’t be changed, no matter how much we might engage in such wishful thinking. The most difficult part of the journey is acceptance; accepting that we don’t live there anymore.

Our current place of residence, or stop on the road of life, is the here and now; this present moment. The only useful thing to do is to look in the mirror and accept what we see as the all of everything that is. It doesn’t matter if you are twenty-something or eighty-something or greater in years than even eighty; you are at your starting point.

For many years, I sat across the desk from the desperate. I would listen to their stories of how they came to be where they are. Some were tragic. Some were stories of youthful, and not so youthful, missteps. Some were stories of heartache and grief. Nonetheless, not one of their stories could be changed.

Each of them, in spite of their pasts, had to come to the realization that the only thing they could control was the moment in which they lived. What would they do next to reach a greater level of satisfaction in life? The only thing I could do was guide them along the explorations of what might yet be. We worked out needs, wants, desires, passions and hopes for better days.

Some followed through on their goals and missions in life, others fell along the wayside; a few of them even died. The one thing that made the difference for those who successfully created new lives was acceptance. They no longer lived in the past. They kept their eyes on the goal ahead and made each cautious baby step until they were confident enough to take life in greater strides.

I’ll never say the road is easy. It certainly hasn’t been for me. But, the one thing I do know is the road of life only travels in one direction – forward. 

Accessing the Right Help

Creating positive change in a person’s life often requires seeking help in the process, but how does one know which is the right help? 

Let’s be clear about something from the beginning: 

THERE IS NO GRAY AREA BETWEEN COACHING AND THERAPY.

Coaches are not allowed to provide therapy unless they are a licensed therapist. It is illegal, unethical, definitely inappropriate, and in most cases dangerous to the client’s overall sense of well-being.

At Butterfly Phoenix Coaching, we serve those who are out of the Chrysalis; ready to take the leap and spread their wings and fly.

The Chrysalis: The time to choose a therapist.

Your mental health is nothing to trifle with. It really can be a matter of life and death. If you are experiencing any of the following examples, the right choice is a therapist or other mental health provider: 

Anxiety, Depression, Trauma, PTSD, a mental health diagnosis, overpowering or overwhelming emotions, addictive behaviors, or toxic stress. 

When you are in the darkness of the Chrysalis, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to make successful, significant life changes. You know you are in the Chrysalis if you are feeling overwhelmed with life events, or trapped, or unable to manage your day-to-day life. The Chrysalis is where we make changes on the inside that transform us at the core of our being. Coaches are not equipped, and lack the capacity to be helpful in this area – unless they are also a licensed therapist.

The Butterfly: The time to choose a coach.

Coaches have the best capacity to work with individuals who are experiencing the desire to make changes in their life. Maybe those changes are personal or professional goals. In either case, you must be in a space where you feel strong and capable of following through with coordinated action-steps that lead you to where you want to be in your life.

A good life coach leads from behind. They work with you to design a plan that is realistic and obtainable, and then assist you every step of the way. They help you to celebrate the successes, and re-evaluate what isn’t working.

Sometimes, you have to spend time nurturing the inside and growing strong physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually, before you can expect to succeed in any major life change that you want to make. It’s the “you have to build the foundation, before you can build the house” sort of deal. If you are out of balance in any of the four dimensions of being, you need to take a moment to practice the pause and ask yourself honestly: Do I need a therapist, or do I need a coach.

Choose the answer that is most honest to you.