Coaching Files: Answering the intention and not the question

There’s a thing my family does that kind of drives me bananas. It’s the thing where they ask you why you’re leaving [an event you barely wanted to go to in the first place] after you’ve been there the requisite number of hours +1.

I hate lying. If you know me, you know that I always prefer to just answer with the truth, albeit diplomatically when appropriate.

So when, for example, I’m at a baby shower for 5 hours and I say “Hey, it’s time for me to get going” the last thing I want to be asked is “Leaving so soon? WHY?”

BECAUSE I WANT TO.

That’s my answer. That’s THE answer. But I know my family, and I know that this is not an answer they deem “good enough” to warrant my departure.

The question always lands on my ears like a judgement. I’m not living up to their standards of socialization. I’m not placing a high enough value on family time, or babies, or socially influenced personal milestones.

And I don’t want to have to make up plans that I don’t have.

I’ve learned that in most [healthy, unenmeshed, nontoxic] families, this is not a question that would be asked. People that hail from families like these are the type of people that will look puzzled and suggest that I don’t owe anybody an excuse for why I won’t be attending or want to leave something. I can just say “Decline” and not have to tell them why.

First time I heard that I was like “Wait, what???”

So… I worked with my peer coach today. We decided to try out some of the tools we learned last weekend during the second module of the class, and I brought up this topic to work on, since the holidays are coming (and a couple family weddings) and I feel like I need to have a plan for how to deal with this without defaulting to blatant rudeness.

And, you know what? The tool worked.

I decided at the end that when someone asks me “why” I am leaving, or “why” I won’t attend something, I will just pretend that what they did say was what they probably meant to convey, which is: “I really enjoy your company, and am sorry to see you go.”

See…with that, I can respond “Thank you. It was lovely to spend time with you. I’ll see you next time!”

I will respond to the statement they should have been making, which is kind and fuzzy, instead of the question they are asking, which is rude and intrusive.

Can’t wait to start using these tools on my own clients and see what incredible ideas they come up with to get out of some of life’s pickles!

 


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For me, it was Anton Yelchin

We lost a lot of our heroes, idols, role models, and artists this year. For many people, a David Bowie, a Harper Lee, an Alan Rickman, a Muhammad Ali, or a Carrie Fisher might have been the person they could look to in an isolating world and feel less alone.

Did you know Alan Rickman didn’t have his breakthrough role as an actor until he was a year older than I am now? There were many times when my late husband, who felt he’d reached his peak in college, looked to Alan Rickman and his story as a beacon of hope that there might be more ahead than behind him.

For so many people, these artists were more than just famous people. They were hope in human form.

Some of those losses hit some people harder than others. The one that really sort of threw me for a loop – the one that really had me reeling this past June was Anton Yelchin.

He was young and talented. He was at the start of what might have been an incredible career doing the thing he loved to do, and everything was falling into place….

And a freak…and I mean super freak accident took his life at 27.

It was a very shocking reminder of the lesson that had already cemented itself into my bones the morning my husband passed away at 52 from an accidental overdose of prescribed medication.

You really never fucking know.

A night or two after Anton Yelchin died, I had a nightmare. I don’t want to get into the details, but suffice it to say I woke up in a panic thinking I’d lost another love of my life way too early. It was horrible, and it shook my otherwise stalwart optimism about the future.

This year, my grandfather finally succumbed to old age. He made it to the end of the game – two grown children, five grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren – all happy, healthy, successful. He was the embodiment of the American Dream. He immigrated to the United States with a couple hundred dollars in his pocket, a wife and two children, and grabbed hold of every opportunity he could to make it work.

I wasn’t devastated when he passed away. Sure, it was sad, but it was also peaceful. He accomplished everything he’d set out to accomplish, and in the end, died painlessly and peacefully in bed with his wife and children at his side.

Different from my mom’s cousin, who also passed away earlier this year in his 60s after a battle with cancer, or my husband who’s struggle with addiction and depression had already taken his mind and spirit from me long before it took his body.

But Anton Yelchin….

That one hurt in unexpected ways. Because it could be any of us. Any time.

The thought of despair crosses my mind in those times, and I think about trying to protect myself from life; but I don’t do that. Nearly every time I’ve gotten behind the wheel since Anton Yelchin passed away, especially in inclement weather, I think about whether or not that might be the time I’m destined to go.

And then I stuff down the anxiety and keep moving forward. ‘Cause I got shit to do and people to love, and when my time inevitably comes, I don’t want to have wasted too much of it worrying.

You know….I lost my original point along the way for this post, but I do like where it ended up. I was going to say that for some people these losses hit so hard that they truly are in mourning. Real people with real feelings are suffering a tremendous loss in Carrie Fisher because of what she meant to them and how she helped them cope in a sometimes very scary world.

I saw it when David Bowie passed, as well as Prince, and to an extent Alan Rickman as well. Those deaths did not affect me in monumental ways, but I saw how many people were devastated as they reminisced on social media what these larger-than-life icons meant in their very real, comparatively less gargantuan lives.

My husband was a drug addict who suffered from severe mental illness and chronic physical pain that forced him to put his life at risk every day by either taking opioid medication so he could cope with living or suffer so intolerably he’d wish for death. I wonder how he might have reacted to this news. I’m certain he would have been devastated – far more than I, because he’d have seen her as a kindred spirit in some ways.

My experiences influence my reaction, as others’ experiences influence theirs. A little kindness has not, to my knowledge, ever killed anybody. Perhaps now is not the time to pick fights in the posts where people are sharing their pain about a loss that means something very personal to them.