How to fall into a river

Sketch of our dozing cat
Sketch of our dozing cat

“Why am I blogging this drawing of my cat?” I asked myself, because somehow it seemed both odd and important. I have thought about it all week, and this story shares with you the answer I found.

It’s been years since I sketched. I used to, before I studied art at Concordia University, but those studio classes somehow put an end to sketching. As if, with all the changes taking place in my mind, there was no energy left over to bask in pure observation. I’d been warned about this side effect of art school, so just I focused on printmaking and art history instead and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Afterwards, when I tried to get back to watercolor, I discovered that my hands, weakened by migraines, were no longer up to the task. No problem: life is long. I decided sketching would come back to me at the right time.

Meanwhile, I went back to working in IT, and spent some energy exploring myself on the side: why did I find things so hard that others found easy? I had an OK therapist for a while, but I got more from my wonderful Ignatian spiritual director, a former school principal (in whom I now see excellent coaching skills, looking back.) I did my own reading and research too. Along the way I discovered the converse of what I started out with: that there are things I love to do that others find hard! Thus began my hunt for better-fitting work.

Being somewhat of a geek, I landed in an Agile software development team, where I was drawn to the “people side” of the work, and where my talents of empathy, communication and connection were valued and used. Later, I moved into full-time independent Agile coaching, starting at a US financial organisation on a team of 15 external coaches… which is where I met Michael Spayd, and my journey toward full-time coaching began…

Michael was studying at The Coaches’ Training Institute, and invited me to try out his coaching skills. Coaching perfectly suited my preferred way of learning, and I quickly found answers I’d long been seeking about how to be happy in my work. Within months I was experimenting with coaching classes, and soon decided that studying coaching would give me important skills to handle issues my clients were facing. The intention was certainly not to become a life-coach!

At every step of this journey, I took chances, I tried things, and I learned. Sometimes I learned what really works for me. Sometimes I learned what never to do again! Because all of it was learning, it was all valuable. This journey of experimental steps and listening to my gut has led to big changes in my life… and now, has let back to sketching.

A client of mine created a wonderful metaphor: her goal was to “get to the flowing river” but she found herself in a wood. After exploring it a bit, I asked: “What would you like to do now?” Her answer has stayed with me for the beauty of its simplicity: “Follow the stream because I know it will eventually lead me to the river!” This was one of those fine times when both coachee and coach have an Aha! moment!

Of course! It’s another version of Agile’s “do the simplest thing that could possibly work”, but so much more beautiful! “Do what water does, feel the pull of gravity and fall ever down, down until you return home.” Don’t struggle, just find the simplest way that both refreshes you now, and takes you further toward your dream.

And so, here I find myself: married and in Germany, working intensely with clients on the phone and in person, changing the world one conversation at a time, with fewer migraines, and with the unstructured space an introvert needs to reflect and ponder, to learn and scheme. And time to simply observe our sweet cat as she dozes by the window.

Oh, and now, it seems, the time has come: I can draw again. :-) This drawing just seemed the right thing to do, and then I patiently followed the stream of of the drawing, through my meandering thoughts, until it led me into the juicy river of this blog post. (It’s a fractal metaphor, it works on so many levels!)

Do you find yourself in a wood, feeling a little hemmed in, a little turned around? Maybe you can hear your river, but not see it for the trees? Forget about examining the trees, or planning how to bulldoze them, or learning to build an airplane to get the big picture. Find the relief of a small, bright, refreshing stream… and learn from it how to simply fall down, down, until you splash into your fresh, lush, flowing river.

I wish you an exciting and rewarding journey. And: let me know if I can be of any help!
— deb

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