Do You Listen To Your Inner Sarge?

As Father’s Day arrives stories that dad shared during his final month on hospice come to mind. One in particular stands out. Sitting on the front porch of the farmhouse enjoying the cool late September breeze, he talked about his failing health when the conversation tilted toward the question:

“Are you afraid to die?”

With the usual sense of dignity and grace with how dad held his head when telling a story that he hoped would teach a lesson, he shared the following:

“I’ve come close to death more than once. Once in Korea we were standing on a hill close to a field of battle when I heard an inner voice tell me to move to the next hill to the left. I told every man around me to move in that direction. Once moved, a shell hit on the spot where we had stood.”

Dad’s smile grew wide as he proclaimed, “After that they always listened to Sarge.”

When coaching leaders and consulting with individuals building new programs they often speak about how their intuition guides their process.

Clients also speak about the natural moments of confusion when they can’t see the difference between their intuition and their anxiety.  While you may not be facing the end of your life, the mind can often act like it’s survival is at stake.  Creating the conditions to feel the power of intuition as a daily working part of the mind is an intentional process that can be practiced by any high performing individual.

Can you discern the difference between worry and your voice of wisdom?

Do YOU Listen To Your Inner Sarge?

Thank you dad for demonstrating this valuable skill in your life as a bold leader.

By your side,

 

Patrick Davis, MA

 

 

 

 

Scratches of Love: A Mother’s Fingers

From morning until night your fingers moved

Sewing

Cooking

Cleaning

Doodling on paper while chatting on the phone

Playing cards

Knitting as you watch TV

 

Even in the end

Your fingers found a way

To rub more love into our hearts

Opening your bible we sat in awe

To read the letter you left for the generations that began,

“Dearest Descendents…”

You ended with words that made us laugh and cry,

“P.S. Sorry I was such a grouch.”

Even after you died

Your fingers used a pen to offer a final gift

 

 

Gazing at the mystery of your life we ponder the unknowable

How many smiles are born from your efforts?

How many belly’s filled?

How much comfort do your quilts provide?

How many rosary beads did you press in worry and hope?

 

A Mother’s fingers keep moving until

Every itch is scratched

Every cup is filled

Polishing each project with a unique zest for life

Moving to a rhythm orchestrated by palms in a one-pointed prayer

A prayer backed not just by grace

Many daily efforts endorse your vision of love

Each moment you scratch more love into our hearts

 

From morning until night your fingers move

 

 

 

 

Are You Waiting For Blooms?

Are You Waiting For Blooms?

On Christmas Eve the Christmas cactus pictured here bloomed. It arrived just in time and on schedule!

What is waiting to bloom in your life?

Is there a dream to be realized?

Is there work to be done?

Is there a relationship to nurture?

Are you entering a new season of work and life?

May discerning wise action and asking for support empower your life to bloom in 2017!

By your side,

 

Patrick Davis, MA, PCC

 

 

Honor Your Family Tree: Four Steps to Career Genealogy

Career Geneology

“It is very loving to see how my parents ‘being’ has continued in the world through me.” – a friend who completed the Career Genealogy Process

 

Being successful in work and life is a bold process that looks different for each individual. Whether coaching a real estate agent, a lawyer, a stay-at-home dad or a young business woman there are some common components that can bring clarity and focus to career decisions.

One component is to reflect upon the attributes that you’ve inherited from your ancestors using the four steps to your Career Genealogy.  This process provides a a way to identify key themes that shape and inform your own choices. Upon using this process to make your strengths conscious, you may join the many individuals who report that they feel better equipped to face the uncertain complexities of their careers.

One woman who used this process did not at first see any connection between her dad’s work as a plumber and her work as a nurse.  Trusting the process of these steps,  she began to focus less on what separated her from the previous generation and more on what connected her to them. She had a moment of realization that clarified the next step she was to take in life.

After ten years of conversations with many people completing the Career Genealogy process, we have discovered many things. To make this process concrete, I will share the example of one friend who is willing to make her story public.


Step One of Your Career Genealogy

First identify the name of your two primary caregivers who shaped your life while growing up. Who are the two individuals you experienced as your primary caregivers? Trust your common sense to identify two names that work for you. (Note: This process works for non-traditional families in case you were adopted, in foster care or if you have been a member of blended families with more than one parent, stepparents, grandparents or other adults who raised you. In this case you get to choose two adults from your village that make the most sense to you.)

A Friend’s Example

Dad: Vincent
Mom: Elena

Your Example?

On a sheet of paper or in your journal can you see your own example?


Step Two of Your Career Genealogy

Now that you have identified two individuals, research their career story. Under each name can you identify the major roles that they contributed to society? Even if they did not think of their work as a career or they didn’t get paid, make sure to honor their unique contributions as volunteers or as caregivers to the family. You may even consider hobbies that help you see their strengths.

A Friend’s Example

Vincent: Engineer (ships during WW II, then bridges and highways), manage a power plant, community leader (PTA, Board of Education and Knights of Columbus).

Elena: Mother, brownie and scout leader ,vocalist (church choir, weddings and funerals), LPN, a nurse, community volunteer (meals on wheels, hospice, crisis line, food pantry).

Your example?

You may pause again and build on the two names you identified and briefly outline the “resume”  of roles that describe their work or volunteer experiences.


Step Three of Your Career Genealogy

What were the intended outcomes and fruits of these efforts? Now, pause and come up with some key words to characterize the key themes of their life’s work. You may want to take a walk, listen to music or just sit in silence and contemplate how to best briefly summarize the contribution of their lives.

It can be interesting and fun to synthesize someone’s life work into a few key words. If any part of this process feels confusing at first, many clients report coming up with some new perspectives after they pause and lean into the confusion.  Find your own way to ponder the question, “What were the intended outcomes and fruits of their efforts?” Beyond this temporary feeling of confusion is often a break through where clients start to see something new about two people who they haven’t always observed through an objective lens.

At times we are so busy analyzing our family tree for psychological issues that we focus on the negative.  We rarely pause and see the intended contribution of our ancestors. In some cases their intentions were realized and they felt successful. In other seasons of life, they may have felt frustrated and their strengths were not always fully demonstrated.  Whatever the case, we are here to see the intended contribution and strengths that they made or hoped to make to the world.  Seeing these attributes can be akin to identifying your own emotional and spiritual DNA.

In the example of this friend, she paused and listened to music before the key words occurred to her. Others may find it helpful to speak with someone in order to gain a more objective view of these two individuals. Unlike other conversations we may have about these two parental figures, this a positive inquiry into their strengths and not their weaknesses.

A Friend’s Example:

Vincent: Design and Create Elena: Protect and Love

Your Example?

Are there key themes you can identify?


Step Four of Your Career Genealogy

Finally, this is where you turn these statements  inward and look at your own contribution to life. Ask yourself the question, “How have I built upon this emotional and spiritual inheritance?”  Begin exploring on paper how you have applied these strengths to your own life’s work.  Again, you might find it helpful to also speak with another person who is skilled at being a good listener. What is your own unique synthesis of these themes?

A Friends Example

Today, this friend sees that the  unique educational programs she has created are all extensions of strengths from both of her parents.  Her life’s work is a unique combination of her dad’s focus as an engineer and her mom’s focus as a caregiver.  She has spent her life ENGINEERING EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCES FOR CAREGIVERS!  The qualities that her parents demonstrated in these two different professions are ones that she has integrated in a unique way. In her own words she says:

“What I saw within myself was the capacity to  Design + Create (from my father) and to Protect + Love (from my mother).  All together this is the work I have done in creating a college of healing arts.”

She goes on to say, “It is very loving to see how my parents ‘being’ can continue in the world for others through me.”

The woman in this example is Paulette Genthon.  Since 1994, I have had the privilege of supporting and guiding her toward realizing her dreams.  Recently, we’ve been designing a creative student engagement and retention program for her college.

Paulette is the founder of the Universal College of Healing Arts where she has used the Career Genealogy process to empower herself and her students to celebrate their strengths.  With the foundation her programs offer professionals, she has empowered hundreds of individuals to realize successful careers in the healing arts.

Paulette’s unique program makes education accessible to busy adults. If you are interested in joining her weekend intensives you may want to speak with her. She may be reached at: (402) 555-4456. Or, you may e-mail her at: paulettegenthon@ucha.edu.

Whatever you see about your own career inheritance, I’m interested in hearing about your experience via e-mail, phone or Skype as well.

By your side,

Patrick Davis, MA, PCC

402/933-9393


Upcoming Workshops

November 12: 4 Free strategy sessions offered in Omaha, Nebraska | Sign Up Now

November 13: Student Retention Coaching program for private career school in Omaha, Nebraska (Universal College of Healing Arts)

November 14: CEU program on being Mindfully Present for Wings of Hope Cancer Survivor Center and the community | Sign Up Now

Putting Your Work Gloves On–Shifting into a “Get It Done” Attitude on Father’s Day

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I inherited dad’s work gloves when they were lying in his workshop after he died. Feeling nostalgic, I wanted their gritty smell of sawdust and grease close by. His gloves reminded me of his presence and of his “get it done” attitude.

Recently, the gloves shifted from being sentimental adornments on a shelf of a downtown apartment into essential tools for tackling the overgrown yard of our new home. I began wearing these “get it done gloves” each morning to pull out the brush and poison ivy that had taken over the beautiful gardens when the previous owner had a sudden health-altering event that placed her in a nursing home. The woman who occupied this place loved these grounds and they are ready to be loved again.

This June has been filled with the activity of beginning to care for a yard and home that are hugged by a wooded community called Forest Heights in Knoxville, Tennessee. We are now the stewards of a home built in the 1940’s that stands on a corner lot filled with trees and all sorts of plants with names I’m learning to pronounce.

It’s strange how falling in love with a new place has a way of choosing your hobbies and your work for you. By the time dad was my age, he had also fallen in love with a place that created for him a full-time hobby when our family moved from the suburbs to a forty-acre hobby farm outside Grand Rapids, Michigan in the township of Wayland. I now realize that the term “hobby farm” is a polite way to say, “this place needs a lot of work.”  While we are not taking care of forty acres, the same “get it done” principle of effort and determination applies.

Today, we are gardeners and find ourselves building on the legacy of our fathers by learning to become handy around the house. Since my husband is a social worker and I’m an educator and coach, we both have more practice working with the mind and emotions than with wires, pipes, chain saws and dirt.

Let the good times begin!

The aches and pains and itchy arms from poison ivy have changed something in our psyche that reflects both the challenges and joys that we face in this garden each day. Isn’t that the way it is with your life?

Applying your own sweat and effort to this project called life, you experience how gardens are weeded and made beautiful again–how work gets done in the world–only after you “put your work gloves on” and direct your “get it done” attitude toward the goals you love and the people you love.
Mindful conversations, whether with a therapist, coach or skilled friend, have a way of sending a message to the brain that is like “putting your work gloves on.”  No matter what challenge you face—career change, depression, growing a business, anxiety, making a big decision, facing loss—there is a capacity within you to make this subtle shift. I promise. Even if it’s just pulling one weed, there is something that is yours to do each day.

No matter what your need, are you willing to put your work gloves on? If your answer is yes, then you may have a free strategy session to explore options for your work in the world.

By your side as you get it done,

Patrick Davis, MA, PCC, HB

“Work is love made visible”-Kahlil Gibran
You may also follow the links provided here to register directly with the progressive centers offering these programs this summer:

July 14th | Mindful Marketing | Kalamazoo, MI 
The Kalamazoo Center for the Healing Arts
10:00 – 12:00 PM | $35 per person

July 15th | Creativity Retreat | Ludington, MI | Private Venue
Email for Details

July 16th | Jesuit Volunteer Corps Retreat | Traverse City , MI | Private Venue

Private Retreats also being offered via Skype and other Distance Learning Approaches. You may E-mail for more information.

Living Your Life In 4D

4D 3d-Adult glasses image

Just like putting on 3D glasses changes your depth perception at a movie, there are Four Disciplines  (4 D’s) that can radically change how you perceive the events of your life. Living your life in 4D is a playful reminder to find your own unique way to explore four ancient disciplines in a modern context.

As you practice each of the 4 D’s you will gradually see three things occur:

  1. Balanced emotional responses to challenges
  2. Intuitively handling challenges that used to perplex you
  3. A feeling of being more in the flow and experiencing fun and enjoyment

Living Your Life in 4D is a holistic framework that supports you in managing life’s ups and downs. Who doesn’t need that?

Life’s Paradox of Activity and Rest

We all feel the tug between doing more and being more present in the life we already inhabit. Living Your Life in 4D offers ways to dance with this lifelong challenge:

  • Lisa – A single mom wakes up 15 minutes earlier than she has to, just to have a quiet time before she dives into the balancing act of kids, work and going to school.
  • Anna – A retiree, has a daily yoga and meditation practice. Sitting in silence she searches for spiritual guidance as she contemplates her day.
  • John – The owner of a successful, commercial building company never misses attending an annual retreat sponsored by his faith community.
  • Claudia – The CEO of an organization that grants scholarships keeps her own bucket full by participating in regular meditation retreats.
  • Barry – The founder of an international model for managing conflict begins each day rowing on a lake by his home. He then sits in the boat for a few moments of silence to contemplate the beauty of nature and to connect with the concerns of those he loves.
  • Kathy –  A psychiatric nurse uses an app on her phone that chimes to remind her to pause throughout the day. This helps her stay in touch with her breath and to appreciate the present moment.
  • Chris – A global marketing consultant in the field of sustainability has learned to sense how she feels in the moment during each interaction. She’s learning to trust her intuition more in making important business decisions.

Through the example set by these humble practitioners can you begin to see ways that you may gain access to an inner quietude while leading an active life?

The Four Disciplines

The fruit born from these simple practices varies from person to person. Some report feeling more peaceful during stressful interactions or feeling more grounded during routine meetings and tasks. Others report being more flexible when called upon to solve a complex problem. The 4D’s are:

  • Discipline #1: Create a dedicated daily quiet time.
  • Discipline #2: Take a weekly “Sabbath” or a break from your routine to be in nature or to fellowship with others who raise your consciousness.
  • Discipline #3: Plan an intentional retreat to a new destination or a place of pilgrimage.
  • Discipline #4: Pause often in the midst of daily activities to just breathe and scan for gratitude in the present moment.

Are You Willing to Say “YES” to Your Own Heart?

There is nothing radical or new about these habits. How you adapt them to life within the fast pace of the 21st century is the trick. Even though the benefits are self evident, carving out time for these valuable practices isn’t always easy.

Implementing these disciplines calls upon your capacity to be resourceful. The point of bringing quiet reflection into your daily life is not to practice all of these principles with saintly perfection. The point is to make small, incremental changes that demonstrate progress over time.

Why not start by leaning into just one of these disciplines? Building upon one approach that you have already practiced is a good place to start. If, for example, you enjoyed keeping a journal in high school, you may want to return to that approach again. Consider which centering activities open your heart and blow your mind.  What approach makes you naturally curious? Is it music, dancing, nature or fellowship with others? It can be supportive to seek out and surround yourself with people on the same path.

Have fun! Experiment and commit to exploring the activity you’ve chosen for the next thirty days. See what happens.  Think of it as though you are being asked out on a date – by your own heart. Your job is to simply say, “yes” to the invitation.

Are you curious to see what happens when you say “yes” to your heart’s invitation? Are you ready to spend just a little more time in quietude? If so, you may enjoy Living Your Life in 4D!

By Your Side as You Polish Your Heart,

Patrick Davis, MA, PCC, HB


Living Life in 4D Events:

5/14 | Mindful Marketing | Omaha Yoga & Bodywork Center | Register Now

5/31 | Intuition and Business | Private Venue | E-mail for Details

6/1 | Grief Retreat | Knowles Mercy Center | Waterloo, NE | Register Now

6/1-2 | Speaker Caregivers Conference | Carol Joy Holling Center | Ashland, NE | Register Now

6/15 | Body-Mind-Spirit Stretch | Ludington, MI | Private Venue | Email for Details

7/16 | Jesuit Volunteer Corps | Traverse City, MI | Private Venue |

Interested in connecting with me personally or to schedule a workshop / retreat for your group?  Email me and we’ll dive into what’s possible, together!

9 out of 10 conversations miss the mark*

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One of The Exceptional 10%
In this update we highlight Claudia as an extraordinary leader who creates results by hitting the mark in her conversations.

From Little Girl To Bold Leader
Claudia arrived in the United States as an immigrant from Argentina. She was eighteen, completely on her own, and determined to start a new life. She had almost no money and struggled with the English language before she received help from an organization that was beginning to empower low-income students with college scholarships. Thirty years later she is now the President/CEO of that same non-profit organization. In this role she faces challenging conversations with board members, donors and colleagues who turn to her for mentoring and guidance. Her own words best describe the results born from her mindful practice of being intentional in each conversation:

Dear Coach,
As I review what our business accomplished in 2015, I thought you’d get a kick out of the financial results from this former “little girl” who once had $36 dollars to her name and fewer than 100 words in her vocabulary. We had a record year. Our balance sheet stands at over $1 million, our expenses under budget, and our social impact stronger than ever. Our great team did it again!  Thank you, for being by my side! 
~ Claudia

Will your interactions be among the 10% of conversations that hit the mark in 2016?

By your side as you hit the mark more and more,

Patrick Davis, MA, PCC

(*The 9 out of 10 statistic is taken from the book, Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results, by Judith E. Glaser)

New Affordable Mentoring Track
World class coaching for only $50 a month

Reading Claudia’s e-mail got me thinking, “Wouldn’t it have been FUN to support Claudia before she earned a higher salary that afforded her access to executive coaching?  How could coaching take a stand for the Claudia of thirty years ago and watch her grow into a bold and successful business leader?”
There are now six (6) spots available designed to serve the Claudia’s of the world before they hit the mark.

Whether you are like the Claudia of today earning a salary at the top of her career who needs highly customized Executive Coaching, or like the Claudia of thirty years ago who needs the Affordable Mentoring, this practice offers solutions for anyone with targets too important to miss.  Are you ready for a free and confidential strategy session where this coach will listen to your needs?

Are You Right for This Program?

Four independent business women are already finding success in a mentoring program that offers many of the same benefits of executive coaching. We’re expanding in 2016 by offering room for six more individuals who are:

(1) Up to the challenge of growing their business
(2) Earning less than $75,000 a year

In this model, members meet monthly with me, one-on-one and are invited to join group sessions for support, encouragement and accountability. There is also a social media space where members share resources and connect between formal sessions. One member calls it “Weight Watchers for the Soul.” Yes! We are having FUN and delivering results!

If you are interested in this option for you or someone you love,  reach out today for details.


		

A Trip to the Grocery Store

or How I Embarrassed My Mom one Christmas

While unpacking holiday decorations, memories come alive of mom as the one who first guided these hands to place an ornament on a tree. Perhaps more than any other time of year, memories of her are everywhere. Like snow falling upon a winter landscape, her presence covers everything.

When I was small enough to be placed in the seat of a grocery cart, mom took me along on the weekly ritual of going to the neighborhood market. As she drove, she complained about needing to join Weight Watchers.  She repeated over and over again, “I’m such a fat lady…I’m such a fat lady.” Once at the store, mom placed me in the cart. As my legs dangled free, our shopping adventure began.

Turning the corner into the cereal aisle, my arm swung up like a compass as I pointed to a stranger and shouted, “Fat lady! Fat lady!” Mom was aghast. Recoiling from this moment of public shame she did an about-face and wheeled the wobbly grocery cart away.

Once we turned down the next isle the “fat lady” chorus resumed each time we met an unsuspecting stranger. Mom had trained her parrot well.

Mom would laugh years later when re-telling these events. Her eyes welled with tears as she re-enacted the details by pointing her own finger and shouting, “fat lady! fat lady!”

As she told the story, she returned to the car to unload groceries and then promptly whacked my tiny heinie. Having my attention, she looked at me and wagged her finger to the rhythm of the next lesson of the day: “We don’t say those things in public!”

Laughing about these memories, I feel Mom’s presence and the gift of joy that is available in this holiday season. I invite us all to ponder a self evident lesson about Joy in our lives.

“Joy occurs when we pause to appreciate the love that is already present in our lives.”

Whether you’re an executive I coach, a professional I mentor, or someone I’ve met at a workshop, know that I feel joy having connected with you in 2015.

If you are interested in receiving an e-mail with information on the book being written in 2016, you may e-mail me.  If you’d like to connect in person, just request a free strategy session.


Omaha Friends!
A generous grant from Wings of Hope Cancer Support Center pays for my travel to Omaha three times in 2016 to offer affordable workshops for CEU’s on March 8, June 1 and October 27th.

Please e-mail me if you’re interested in these supportive programs for caregivers of all types. I’ve also been asked to offer a keynote for a large caregiver conference on June 2. If you or a group you work with have a need during any of the weeks I am in town my travel has already been paid for!

Happy to be by your side into 2016,
Patrick


Four Ways The Holidays Can Suck: Embracing Both The Light and The Dark With Friends By Our Side

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“La mucha luz es como la mucha sombra: no deja ver” ~ “Too much light is like too much shadow: it does not allow one to see” -Octavio Paz.

What Is There To Be Grateful For?

Let’s face it, just because the holidays are on a calendar does not mean that everyone is on the same schedule to feel the spirit of joy and celebration. Every person faces suffering. Here are four common shouts of pain that we don’t talk about at the annual holiday party.

 

 

Four Ways The Holidays Can Suck:

  1. Loss: For some, holidays are anniversaries of being without a loved one. Some losses are due to death. Other losses occur with work or relationship changes. Someone, for example, may face a holiday without a child or grandchild due to custody arrangements after a divorce. Loss takes countless forms.
  1. Finances: For others, a career or life challenge has them lamenting how much less they have to spend compared to their peers or to their own spending habits in years past.
  1. Family: For still others, time with family may actually bring up anxiety, doubt and fear as they struggle with the past and with thoughts of shame and blame that are in us all.
  1. Vitality: Then there are those with physical and emotional struggles. They search for the energy to get out of bed while they see so many around them are celebrating. Feelings like joy, are vacant for now.

Whatever the cause, we all face pain and suffering. It becomes misery, however, when we add to it the expectation that we should not be feeling what we are feeling or when we are alone.

One Man’s Story

I read recently about a man who faced his childhood losses and turned it into work that touched the lives of others. As a young boy he faced his mother’s death from cancer and saw his father drift into depression. Looking back as an adult, he found language to describe his experience:

“With my mother’s death all settled happiness, all that was tranquil and reliable, disappeared from my life. There was to be much fun, pleasures and many stabs of Joy; but no more of the old security. It was sea and islands now; the great continent had sunk like Atlantis.”

Don’t we all have our own version of this at some point in life?

As this little boy grew into manhood he grappled with his beliefs.

“I was at this time living, like so many atheists and anti-theists, in a whirl of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing.”

He gradually shifted his cynical view into a fruitful one that would touch many lives and transform his own. His change in perspective was not a lightning bolt or overnight experience. He would continue to be shaped by loss and wrote with a vulnerable heart about the death of his wife years later. Despite all this loss, he came to rely upon his common sense to eventually observe:

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”

A Brother By His Side

During his childhood he had a brother who was his constant companion and closest friend. They spent countless hours exploring the gardens, forests and fields around their country home. On rainy days, they climbed into an old wardrobe and told each other stories about talking animals, magic kingdoms, and the knights and dragons that inhabited faraway lands.

We are speaking, of course, about C.S. Lewis, who wrote a wildly popular series of children’s fantasy books, The Chronicles of Narnia.

About Human Suffering

About human suffering C.S. Lewis wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a dead world.” (The Problem of Pain, 93).

Since there are no simple answers to the mystery of pain, perhaps it is in the stories and the presence of others who have faced the darkness and returned, that we may find the grace to hold both the dark and the light of our own life.

Why Hold Both?

Why not? We are already holding both, whether we realize it or not. Why not have a good cry and then go to a holiday party? This isn’t pretending. This is being fully human and fully alive. This is being capable of experiencing and seeing all that life has to offer.

Friends By Our Side

It’s not easy to have the courage to hold both the light and the dark. Yet with companions by our side, we find ways to walk through the cold nights of life.

C.S Lewis’ found companionship and a story telling partner in the author of the epic Lord of The Rings series, J.R.R. Tolkien. Both men faced losses as children and also confronted the trauma of serving in the trenches of World War I.

Together they created a fellowship with other writers that gathered around the fireplace at their local pub. Harnessing this energy of friendship they applied their power of imagination, common sense and humor to transform pain through the power of story.

Aren’t we all capable of performing this kind of alchemy? Friends help us see and polish our own story with the power of laughter, tears and shared understanding. By being present in each others’ lives, the polarity of light and dark shifts from being a lonely burden to an experience we share. In that sharing, we know we are not alone.

At the holidays we gather around the fire of friendship; sharing stories of the past year like who died, who was born, successes and failures, who realized their dreams? Friends soften the stories we tell ourselves, alone in our heads.  They offer perspective as we humbly face our human limitations. Feeling safe in the presence of those who love us, we come to see the beauty and truth of who we are.

It’s in these gentle, loving moments we can embrace and cultivate Gratitude.

As I write this reflection, one of the friends by my side, Susi Amendola, shared beautiful words on how gratitude is a conscious pathway and not a spontaneous feeling. In her article entitled, “Focus on Feeling More Gratitude Without Avoiding Your Real Feelings” this well-respected yoga teacher says

Gratitude often arises naturally when we are feeling joy. Yet, gratitude is not the natural state of our minds. It is a conscious pathway we choose. It takes some mind training to awaken our sense of gratitude along with a healthy dose of patience to let gratitude become a habit.

It is during this season when the nights grow longer, when we most need to be with others who understand the journey through the light and the dark. Walking with others, we stumble upon moments of gratitude. This gift of intentional fellowship is available to us even in a season of darkness. Even in the holidays.

By your side in the light and the dark,

Patrick Davis, MA, PCC

 

 

 

By Dad’s Side: Four Vulnerable Gifts That Grow The More They’re Shared

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(Written for Veterans Day 2015 in memory of Command Sergeant Major, U.S. Army Retired, Audie “Neal” Davis, 1932-2011. He was a bold and effective leader!)

THE FIRST GIFT OF HOPE

 My spine felt extra tall the day I, a first-grader, rode by Dad’s side in his pick up truck. His words struck my heart like an arrow: “you can do anything that you put your mind to.”

In adulthood, when I put the puzzle pieces of Dad’s life together, I realized these words held such power because he had demonstrated them. He had journeyed from the life of a tenant farmer in Arkansas to creating a future that offered his kids and grandkids a foundation of hope.

THE SECOND GIFT OF RESPECT

Many years later I would sit by Dad’s side in another truck. This time, I had returned home for a routine visit after spending five years away in college and beginning my own first steps toward a hopeful future.

The excuse to ride by his side on this particular day was an errand into town for one of his many work projects. While some projects were real maintenance needs, most just kept his mind busy.

Dad’s truck smelled of sawdust, work gloves covered in oil, and his distinctive aftershave. An Army sticker memorialized his first career in the military and celebrated his pride in country, service and devotion to family.

He was also devoted to his farm. He had spent almost forty years tinkering with every square inch of his forty-acre hobby, which grew more beautiful every year under his care.

Dad had purchased the farm as a midlife experiment to be engaged with something larger than civilian jobs that never fully met his desire to continuously make things better. Dancing with the elements of nature satisfied his soul. Owning this acreage was the capstone to his life’s work.

As with most trips, that day we said very little. In true man-to-man fashion, we revealed our thoughts best when sitting side by side. This was true whether it was fishing, sitting at the local VFW bar for a drink or as we found ourselves today, driving into town.

Dad’s words were as disciplined as his actions. It’s as if he had scripted his thoughtful phrases for a line of soldiers waiting for inspection. In as few words as possible, Dad let me know that he had heard from family members about me coming out as a gay man. His message was clear: It was okay with him.

Dad was not offering to teach me anything about the unknown chapters to come. He was there to do the one thing that really mattered: to extend his unconditional acceptance and love

Love, I’ve come to understand, is something deeper than the sentimentality that flows out of meeting someone who thinks and feels the same as we do. True love is born only after the glow of meeting a new friend or forming a new romance has faded. It only comes after we extend ourselves beyond the borders of our own mind and lean into the adventure of understanding another human being who is different than us, and yet strangely the same. It’s grounded in mutual respect.

Despite accessing our own sources of self-esteem, don’t we all hope to be greeted by acceptance and love when we return home to share the results of following our own path in life? Even when we come to hold our own spirit, nothing can replace the acknowledgement of a parent.

Dad gave us all the gift of respect. We didn’t have to be like him to be respected by him. Sitting by his side in his truck that day, he gave me respect as a man with different thoughts, feelings and preferences than his own.

THE THIRD GIFT OF HUMILITY

Years later I would approach my own midlife. On a fishing trip I interviewed Dad for a veterans oral history project. When the recording was turned off he shared some things that were “off the record.” More important than his war stories, were the vulnerable truths he revealed about his own limitations. Far from seeing him as weak or feeling sorry for him, I saw in him a new strength.

Isn’t that the paradoxical gift in being vulnerable?

One morning, he sat by my side in a fishing boat on a lake in Canada that refused to offer up any fish. Left to wait and be still on the water, Dad answered questions I had about his post-military career. I was curious how he made his way in the world when he approached midlife.

Dad reflected on how his young brain was trained to think and work in a specific way after twenty-plus years in the army. From his point of view, he would never approach the same level of success in any civilian hierarchy. No matter how hard he worked he never felt acknowledged by the rules of the civilian game.

It’s as if Dad spent years playing baseball, and when life invited him to play basketball, he compared his performance in the new game to the game he had already practiced for years. Nevertheless, Dad was well respected in all of his civilian endeavors. The weight of comparison with his younger self had caused him at times to judge himself. How human of him.

When I flirted with comparisons in my own head, I remembered dad’s humble admission of not feeling successful in all games of life. It helped me to know that he faced his limitations, too.

Dad gave us all a way to be humble. As I sat by his side in that fishing boat, Dad taught me that I, too, could be stronger at certain games and gentle with myself when I’m weaker at others.

THE FOURTH GIFT OF GRACE

For most of his life, Dad’s body was stronger than most men. Muscled limbs defined him. Nearly eighty, he had spent most of those years looking vital and feeling healthy. In the final months of life, his rapid weight loss shocked us all.

Dad would die only nine days after he witnessed Mom die on the same hospice program that kept them both comfortable in their home. Five adult children, grandkids and extended family would have the privilege of being by their side.

By all medical accounts, Dad was going to die first. However, no doctor can estimate the power of devotion. Dad’s physical condition should have prevented him from attending mom’s funeral, but Dad had a different plan. He declared for himself one final mission as he called forth eighty years of grit, determination and mental focus to demonstrate “you can do anything that you put your mind to.”

We five kids had been taking turns staying with our parents through the night. My rotation landed on what would be the night before mom’s funeral. At three in the morning Dad called my name with a quality of inner strength that was at the heart of all his commands. I found him sitting up and with his feet over the side of the bed as he stretched his frail voice to say, “Pat, get me a cracker with some peanut butter on it.” When I told my brother about his middle of the night request for a cracker, he said, “Oh, he was carb-loading.”

As we approached time for mom’s funeral the following morning, he focused all of our efforts on one final work project: he would be attending mom’s funeral as her loving and devoted husband.

SHARING ALL FOUR GIFTS

It’s taken me four years to see more clearly the emotional inheritance of these moments sitting by Dad’s side. While I may not have always appreciated them at the time, I treasure these gifts today.

Sitting by Dad’s side as he ate that cracker, I witnessed him marshaling all of his strength to show up for one final mission that demonstrated to us all, “you can do anything that you put your mind to.”

This experience of caring for them continues to shape us all even after we placed their bodies side by side in a grave that marks their shared years of birth and death, 1932-2011.

Today, I imagine that whenever we put our minds to sharing moments of hope, respect, humility and grace with one another that dad is proud. These are, after all, four gifts that grow the more they’re shared.

By your side,

Patrick Davis, MA, PCC

Patrick Davis, MA, PCC is an executive coach, mentor and educator at www.patrickbymyside.com