Have you ever found yourself feeling lost? Lost in the familiar, the normal, the known?
Or do we only get lost on an unfamiliar route, when we’re in a new situation or when we are out of our depth?
We may look around us and know we are lucky, a nice job, lovely friends, partner and family. Yet sometimes we can still feel lost, overwhelmed with it all, do you ever recognise that feeling?
Or maybe we are just dealing with the challenges of life, that we all face be that: stress, loss, change, illness. And perhaps we have lost ourself a little in we middle of it all, trying to make sense of it all?
As a coach, my training, expertise and experience enables me to help people make sense of what’s going on. To help them feel less lost. To find their own insights. However to gain this wisdom, I had to experience and understand vulnerability, to get lost myself and so I share my story.
In my mid-thirties I became the first in my circle to get divorced. A catholic, country girl it was a hard pill to swallow. Now years later I realise it wasn’t such a disaster, althought at the time it felt pretty horrendous! My life changed beyond all recognition, and importantly without my permission!
I felt heart-broken, rejected, set adrift and lost. Yes lost, and on reflection it was a bit like being in a car-crash inside. All my friends were having children, buying bigger homes, and nesting. And then my dad timely left my mum for a new partner.
I was forced to re-think my life, to sink or swim. And I swam, literally each day in the local pool in my lunch break and cryed! I took the holiday planned with my ex to Peru, Machu Picchu, but ‘solo style’ crying in the heart of breathtaking beauty the Andean Mountains. I remember observing impoverished young Peruvian children and thinking “Lou you are an adult you will be ok, they are children”.
Often from our suffering, emerges great wisdom. For this I turn to Viktor Emil Frankl, Austrian psychologist as well as a Holocaust survivor, associated wih the powerful quote:
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space Is our power to choose our response” In our response lies our growth and freedom.” Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
From the space of the Andean Mountains, I had made a life changing decision, without realising. Back in the Uk later in the year, I left the safety of my steady job as Marketing Development Manager to volunteer in South American, in a small town called Cochabamba, Bolivia. I bravely stood up for myself, and negotiated a three-months Sabbatical with my boss. I ventured out of my comfort zone, and then disappeared off map from all I knew, for a while to lick my wounds.
I took myself out of my stretch zone and to the edge of my panic zone at times, smiling to myself about being ‘brave but stupid”. It was the hardest but best thing I every did. It helped me survive and more, I restored the old the person I thought I had lost. I built new resources and resilience to take me through the very tough few years which were to follow and the effort to rebuild my life in the UK.
In South America, working with abused, abandoned and lost children, I found myself. I realised my life was not that bad. I travelled, backpacker style in a jeep to the heart of the breathtaking Bolivian salt lakes Salar de Uyuni, with a kind, funny medical student, and bright, young fellow companions. We giggled a lot, staying in $1 a night hostels and submerged in natural landscapes that even Sir David Attenborough would marvel at.
Staring at the stars of the South Hemisphere, I was falling in love with life again. So powerfully captured in a verse from my favourite poem “The Dance” Oriah Mountain Dreamer:
“Take me to the places on the earth that teach you how to dance, the places where you can risk letting the world break your heart. And I will take you to the places where the earth beneath my feet and the stars overhead make my heart whole again and again“.
In these three most memorable months of my life, I started to trust again, and unfurl and flourish amidst kindness; to others and from others. I was accepted and started to accept myself. I was nourished by my host Bolivian family’s love. I taught arts and craft to vulnerable children, as well as found adventure with my travel companions. It was here I would also to gain first hand practical experience of the psychology of compassion that in years to come would support my pathway to a deeper love of coaching others and a MSc Studies in Mindfulness.
In the unfamiliar and naturally beautiful terrain of the southern hemisphere, I started to wake up again. The language barriers, materialistic poverty and my non-judging companions took me to a different place. In Bolivia I was named Luisa, the girl from England. I realise now she had fallen to sleep and got lost. Yes I was still suffering great emotional pain, it was real, but I was starting to live again. To have moments of goodness and be in what mindfulness and compassion expert and clinical psychologist Professor Paul Gilbert, calls the ‘flow of life’, I was discovering my truth of the matter.
I write this article again in Bolivia. Drawn back to a continent that makes my heart sing. A place to reconnect with my Bolivian family and make sense of the loss of one of my oldest friends to terminal cancer by helping others. My friend could not join this trip, but I hope maybe it helped her, in her last days to know and to support her spirit.
Yes I listened to “the call”, when Bolivia kept coming into my consciousness for six months before. So I planned and I made time for a working vacation, in the shadow of the magnificent Andes. I decided to work with a local project http://boliviadigna.org . I choose to raise money for, and volunteer in the children’s hospitals including cancer care (in memory of my friend) and in projects where children are most vulnerable.
So, I have listened to my heart and returned to the continent where I first learned to dance and where I started to feel whole again. I am grateful.
To find out more about how coaching can help to find yourself again. Drop me a line- Lou@elementas.co.uk