Once, when bedridden with a fever, I watched the movie "The Holiday" 3 times in a row. While it may have been the fever tempering my overall artistic critical abilities, the movie did in fact have a core inspirational message, "Be the STAR of your own life!" For both the protagonists and me, this was revelatory! It had really never occurred to me to organize my life around me. Yes, we all make choices as we are growing up that lead to a career, a relationship, a lifestyle, but how many of those choices are really well thought out and centered on what we deeply value, what brings us joy, what makes us animated and excited, what makes us truly feel good about who we are and what we are doing?
As I look back, at this (more than) mid-point in my life, it seems as if much of how I arrived at where I am today was like having floated down a river. At some point I had jumped into the river flowing past me - without a boat! I let the current take me where it would, choosing what to grab on to, but not really steering through the rapids or even really choosing the river. I went to college and stayed with the major I thought I had wanted to study in high school, I worked, met my husband, moved to the suburbs, had children, stopped working, volunteered for everything, and just kept drifting. If you would have asked me at any time during the past 20 years I might have said, "oh yes, this is exactly what I want to do...", but was it? Like so many others, I had ended up in a life centered around others needs and wants, and at some point - for me it was when faced with being an empty nester - poof! it all just sort of stopped. What now? Is this it?
So is this sour grapes from choosing to live my life as a Mother, Wife, Community Volunteer? No! I have been blessed with the privilege of that life and have experienced love and joy in all of those things. I cherish all of that time spent, but just imagine how that time, those relationships, my sense of purpose would have been enhanced by what I could have brought to the table had I truly been examining my own life and whether or not I was genuinely playing a starring role. In the book "The Self-Love Experiment", Shannon Kaiser states, "Because the bottom line is: when we show up for ourselves, we show up for the world." As I was facing my new status as a "freebird" (work with me here, I'm trying to have this label worked into the nomenclature in lieu of "empty nester"- just think of the positive connotations!) I was finally forced to really take stock of what was next for me. Where was my passion? What will the next 20 years bring? How can I learn to be the star of my life?
Can you imagine if we were to have children ask themselves these questions routinely, perhaps as part of their school curriculum? We ask them to write essays about what they see themselves doing 10 years down the road, but we don't give them a framework for really examining the possibilities. In fact, I remember my own kids, frustrated with that assignment, wondering how the heck they could know - as a 14 year old - what they would be doing in 10 years! But what if we asked them the following: What are you doing when your feel like your best self? When do you lose yourself in an activity so that you don't even notice the time passing? Where do you most feel at peace? energized? curious? excited...? We'd be training them to be the captains of their life ships!
Recently, I began asking myself some of these same powerful questions:
When do I feel most like my best self?
What kinds of activities make me not notice that time is passing?
What do I love to do?
What activities give me energy?
In what kinds of places do I experience the feeling of 'coming home'?
What activities have I forgotten that I love?
What attributes are core to me and how do I want to share myself with others?
At first I was blank. I couldn't see past my life as it was in that moment. Finally, I began to remember. I was shocked at how far back I had to reach in order to find some of the answers, and, I'm still reaching, searching, answering. It's a process of self-discovery that I just sort of assumed had already happened, but in fact needed very badly to be re-discovered.
I am a creative person by nature. I can't draw anything, and crafts give me hives, but I see everything in the world through a slightly different colored lens than most people. I am so happy when I am creating a program, brainstorming ideas for new activities, or even writing music. Anything that is new and serves to foster community and just make others interact really jazzes me. I love looking forward to new possibilities. I see what can be and love to get others excited about finding the "new" in their lives as well. I coined the phrase, "Don't be afraid of the new!" for a friend of mine who was considering a job change, but it really fits my life philosophy perfectly. I am also passionate about cooking creatively and am a clean food devotee. Mindfulness, connection, creativity, wellness, community all float my proverbial boat.
I was in the process of this deeper self-discovery when I came across the idea of Health Coaching. It rang all the right bells and whistles for me: healthy living, personal growth & professional growth, connecting to something larger than yourself and a deeper exploration within yourself. I ended up becoming an Integrative Health Coach through a program at Duke Integrative Health. Integrative meaning both "to unify separate things" as well as "combining allopathic and complementary therapies" - integrating all the parts of our life into one wellness whole, and using both traditional and non-traditional means of maintaining wellness. This is a forward thinking, creative approach to helping people gain insight and make positive changes in order to live healthier, happier lives. It mirrors my own exploration perfectly, and allows me to work creatively with individuals, groups, and communities.
So... for me, forward ho! Continually finding ways to implement my work as a health coach in new and creative ways is what is keeping me, busy, happy, and healthy. How about you? Maybe you've been lucky enough to have been the star in your own life all the way through. Great! But, if you're finding yourself floating down the river without a paddle, then build a new boat! Reflect on the questions above and determine how to be the lead in your own life's movie; and - if you need a creative hand with that - then give me a call!