Living My Dash

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Life is good.

Life is affirming.

Lately I’m on a high…on a role…enthusiastic and energized!

images-8I have been slowing life down (metaphorically) the last several months. Retrospection and introspection can be very healthy things every now and then and are also parts of my cocooning.  As Farris Bueller said in his movie Farris Bueller’s Day Off: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” 

In my teen years I started to realize that I had a gift for listening to and connecting with people. I would hear things like: “I feel like you truly care. Thank you for really listening to me! Wow, how did you see that in me? No one has ever acknowledged that before!”

At the time there wasn’t a term that described this gift, but there is today; it’s called coaching.

Throughout my career, I have taken many assessments on personalities, natural strengths, communication style, interaction with others; etc….These assessments have consistently nudged me to follow this gift yet I didn’t listen. I regularly rejected my inner voice’s whispers telling me to follow my heart, my talent, let go, trust.

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As I reflect on why I didn’t listen to these whispers, I quickly see it was driven by fear. My inner critic would rear up and tackle me to the ground as I thought about following my gifts. To make such a shift would require me to take a huge leap of faith; something very foreign to a person who always had a plan of action and yes, played it safe.

As I look back on my first half of life, I can see that this was a gift I was born with. A skill that for many years I didn’t always utilize yet in the last year I have embraced and fostered. I have fed my gift with knowledge, resources, and insights. It is being honed and enhanced and I’m becoming stronger and more skilled – the bonus is I’m also feeling more confident.

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In October, I entered an eight-month coaching certification program through the Hudson Institute of Coaching. Last week I was in Santa Barbara at a four-day intensive training session. The session was fantastic and affirming! The reading and coaching work between session one in October and session two last week was transformative and confirmed that I’ve made the right decision to follow my passion and to grow my natural gifts. I am ecstatic with what the future will bring now in my second half of life.  I’m still a little fearful, but faith in my abilities is beginning to overshadow that feeling, at least a little. 😉

You may be wondering why I titled this post Living My Dash. On Monday February 9, Frederic M. Hudson (who started the Hudson Institute in the mid-1980’s) succumbed to the devastating disease of Alzheimer’s. In my last blog post I reviewed some of the wisdom within his book titled Adult Years. He was highly intelligent, articulate, and lived life with joy and vigor – he will remain a cherished role model to all who came in contact with him.

When I loose people I care about and/or have been influenced by, I take some time to hit the pause button to reflect upon on my own life. How am I feeling about my life? Where am I going? What shift can I make to ensure my life is as fulfilling as it can be? I am also reminded of Linda Ellis’ poem, The Dash.

imagesLinda’s poem reminds us of the symbolism of the “dash” on our tombstone; year of birth, dash, year of death. The dash is our entire life’s contribution. It represents our relationships, the mark, and the impact we’ve made on the world. If you have not yet been exposed to her simple yet compelling poem I encourage you to do so. It has touched many people and provided them the courage to make changes in their lives.

When we experience loss of life, we should reflect on our dash. Heck we’re still alive and we can make immediate changes. When we hit the pause button and see there are things that are not working, we aren’t experiencing happiness on a regular basis, relationships are not fulfilling, or our life’s work and contribution isn’t meaningful, we have the chance to change it now before the date on the right side of the dash is upon us.

images-1I am thankful for Dr. Hudson’s work, research, and understanding of the adult years. He provided his readers and students with a road map and compass to navigate their unique and special journey through life. In his book he shared an eight-word chant he used when he entered a life transition.

The chant goes like this: “hold on, let go, take on, move on.” I liked this phrase/chant so much that I have the passage highlighted and the page dog-eared in his book.

In honor of Dr. Frederic M. Hudson:

I will hold on to his wisdom, understanding, and keen sense of the adult journey.
I will let go of my former self and metamorphous into each of life’s chapters.
I will take on his teachings and explore/live life’s many options.
I will move on by committing to use his life’s work and teachings to become a better human being.

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Transition

images“Today the backdrop to everyone’s story is never-ending whitewater. We feel like we’re on rafts floating down a commanding river, with each raft having only a small mast and sail, a rudder, and some poles. Sometimes when the river is calm, our journey is fairly effortless; we can moor our rafts in an eddy or near a meadow and camp for a while. Other times the whitewater tests every skill we have, as we slide over rocks and rapids and swirl about in unforeseen directions.” – Frederic Hudson.

Dr. Hudson is a master at sharing his message through stories and analogies. I learn well using these methods so I found myself deeply immersed in his book titled: Adult Years – Mastering the Art of Self-Renewal. The book reviews the journey of adulthood (from age 18 – 100) as our opportunity for continual revitalization, reorientation, and positive change. Where was this book when I was 18? Oh yeah! It wasn’t written yet. 🙂 I could have used some of his teachings to help me understand what was happening as I moved through my life’s chapters and transitions. We all face extraordinary challenges in today’s ever changing fast paced world; his book has given me some insights on how I might proceed with my second half of life.

images-7The image of life as a river resonates with me. It ignites images of the chaotic power of change and our need for continuous vigilance and readiness as we move through this one shot at life. I can picture myself careening down the Colorado river; my heart pounding fast and hard – me gasping for air with every class 5 rapid being navigated. Yet as we move down the river we are presented with ports of call. Some that are expected – school, marriage, children, career growth/changes, loss of parents, children moving out, retirement, etc…and some that are unexpected, divorce, loss of a job, death of a spouse or child, a diagnosis of cancer, etc…

“A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.”Nikki Giovanni

images-5Hudson shares that the river journey flows in a cycle with reoccurring patterns of events and life tasks. The cycles move from periods of stability, which he calls life chapters, to unstable periods, which he calls life transitions. I recognized as I read that I’m currently in a life transition which is both fantastically exciting yet at times overwhelming. I’m what Hudson refers to “cocooning.”

Cocooning is a phase in which a person is quiet and introspective. They are focusing on and investing in their personal growth and tapping into core personal values as they transition into life’s next chapter. A cocooning person becomes filled with new hope, passion, and purpose. During this phase there is a peeling back of the layers of the former life chapter – leaving the world of action and entering the world of soul searching.

images-4As with any cocoon, there is a metamorphosis happening inside. Introspection, personal growth, and a clear vision of life’s purpose is typically discovered while cocooning. This process should not be rushed; a cocooning person needs to allow themselves time, energy, focus and work for this transition to produce positive results.

“This time, new external extensions of the self will be chosen, like new clothes, to fit current dreams and values and competencies and to accommodate current social conditions and opportunities. The dark night of the soul fades into morning’s sunrise, and the cocoon breaks open for the butterfly to begin its journey.”Frederic Hudson

Can you see why I love his style of writing? Deep right!?!  He has studied adults for decades, in particular how we get off track from our inner purpose, and has written several books regarding the adult journey.  Hudson has been called the “Dr. Spock of the Adult Years.” I have a feeling that my generation may have been the last to have Dr. Spock’s book: The common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care on its “must read” list of child rearing books. (Learn more about Dr. Spock and his book here.)  I say this because I don’t want you think this is Star Trek’s Dr. Spock! 😉

I whole-heartedly suggest his book to anyone who is wanting to discover more about their life journey – why at times it appears easy and other times it’s a struggle, feel lost, even stuck. If you do choose to read the book, I would love to hear your thoughts by commenting to this post.

I wish you calm waters and the ability to better navigate the rapids on the river of life.

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