On being an inadvertent life coach

I know a lot of people, most very close to me (emotionally) who are going through Really Hard Things at the moment, up to and including the very worst that depression can bring, parenthood nightmares and the bitter pain of knowing you will not have your own, biological children (wait, that last one’s me). These people repeatedly pick themselves up and carry on – they are warriors. But unhappy ones.

I have a wonderful sage in my life, and she’s also gone through far more than her share of difficulties and yet her outlook on life remains determinedly ‘can do’. She’s a huge advocate for trying to change the way life happens and work hard on your little bit of it to improve matters.
I’ve never been a believer in this ‘shape your own destiny’ stuff, thinking that it was absolutely too ridiculous for words – after all, life happens TO us. We often don’t get a say in what or who explodes in our face, turning our (formerly neat and orderly, ha ha) lives into a smouldering, ruinous mess. There’s just no way that any amount of ‘positive thinking’ was going to make a difference to someone with severe depression, nor ‘believing in dreams’ for a parent whose children (and the manner by which they arrived) have left each day a massive battle of conflicting emotions. 
It’s all just too…fluffy.
However, on closer inspection, the fluffy turns out to have a steely edge born of resolve, perseverance, and ‘it simply cannot stay the way it is’.
I am not (nor is anyone) in control of anything beyond their own behaviour and attitude. It is not our right to control others, nor do we have the ability (and, perhaps, nor should we) and yet today as I spouted good, practical advice to one of these warriors, I realised that my wonderful sage and I are working on opposite sides of the same coin, and suddenly everything made sense.
It’s not about warm fuzzies or everything being ok, it’s about taking charge.
It’s about pushing beyond feelings and taking action, for if I wait until I feel like it, I may never act.
It’s about grabbing life by the throat and pummelling the goodness out of it.
It’s about surviving from one catastrophe to the next, with a short space of calm in between, when you can stop and breathe and feel the sun on your skin.
It’s about realising that if you want to make the situation different, the first thing you have to change for the positive is your own behaviour.
You can wake up in the morning and the day looks like crap on a stick, and you can decide to bitch and whine about it, drag your heels, do the day resentfully and let everyone know your day’s shit by giving them a hard time OR you can choose to take on that day in hand-to-hand combat. You can choose to put emotional walls up against the stuff that’s driving you crazy now but won’t matter in a week. You can choose to appreciate the small things. You can decide not to react with anger or frustration, but breathe, then breathe again, and respond with calm.
Because in the end, it’s the bad times we remember, but the good times that count, and I want to tip the balance in favour of Good as often as possible. But I gotta make it happen.

Will you choose the thorns or the sunset?


38 thoughts on “On being an inadvertent life coach

  1. *hugs* this is it – it's all about finding those small, tiny things of goodness which keep us going 🙂

    And you're right – the 'feel' of the day can change from hour to hour depending on unfolding circumstances, and sometimes we can influence them for the better 🙂


  2. Great post! This is something most everyone goes through (I'd say everyone, but some always seem to have that peppy demeanor).

    I don't think I have that “wake up” moment much, though. Where I am just dreading the day or feel like it will be off. It's more dictated by random events through the day. Being mindful of your thoughts and staying positive is a constant exercise.

    If you can't make it through the day-to-day, it's always great to know there is the TToT blog hop!


    Jak at The Cryton Chronicles & Dreams in the Shade of Ink


  3. Glad you found it helpful Linda. It's all too easy to forget, come to our senses later (a day? a week? a month? In my case all of the above at various times) and think “Now just what on EARTH was I doing? How did I get myself into *that* place. Again!”


  4. I have very little 'fluff' left, sadly, but you're so right – the 'victim' cycle can be crippling, but until someone shows us the way out, we can be paralysed. Well done you for getting out of it 🙂


  5. It's true. I used to think that life was something that happened “to” me, as if I was a victim of a nefarious plot to make me miserable. Yeah, stuff happens that's out of my control, but having agency over my choices helped me to eradicate the “victim” cycle in which I'd caught myself.
    Good luck to you!! I'm glad you're figuring out the fluff isn't all fluff… 🙂


  6. Any time.

    I've been in the position myself, and several people close to me are currently battling clinical depression, from moderate to the most severe degrees. Sometimes getting out of the house helps them, sometimes not. Sometimes company helps, other times it makes it worse. There is little consistency from day to day, but at all times, the important thing that I have realised, is that each individual, no matter how they are feeling, is still in control of how they behave.

    And I discovered in my own life that if you behave in positive ways, life begins, eventually, to feel a bit better, because I was still achieving, still seeking the good things and being actively involved in ensuring that good things were happening in my life. Even when I didn't feel like it, then I could take pride and solace in the fact that I'd done it anyway.


  7. Wonderful post. It is hard for me some days. I have read or heard from my past psychologist about waking up each day, clean slate, and making the day what you want it to be. One problem is there is no denying I have a chemical imbalance that causes moodiness, even with the best medications. I no longer see any psychologist, though I often tell people that I recommend everyone speak to one at some point in there life. I do try to not sit around dwelling on the negative and I have found being active can help. There are days when I just want to sleep all day. If my children are in school, and my sleeping isn't directly affecting them, then I'm not too hard on myself. What I truly dislike even in friends, is when they don't understand that simply “getting out of the house” will improve my mood. Sometimes it doesn't. You are right though. We cannot control others. Only our reaction to others. This is a very thought provoking post. Thank you for sharing.


  8. Exactly, this is it – and if we don't like how we perceive them (and this is an important warning factor for our safety and wellbeing at times) we can still change how we behave in response.

    Thanks for the compliment 🙂


  9. This is a concept I try to live by as often as possible … I practice radical acceptance at every turn I can…its the concept that I can change my perception and behaviors and nothing else so therefore in order to move on I may need to accept some things that I don't like. How? By changing how I perceive them, how I choose to experience them. You really wrote a beautiful piece here.


  10. It can help, but more than 'faking' it, is to start really small and find five good things about your day, about your situation, and about yourself. Just five, between those three.

    Then tomorrow try to find ten.

    Then after that, try five things for each.

    It's all about being proactive and getting out there and finding the good. It won't always just come to us, and it doesn't need to wait until we feel like looking.

    But I warn you, it's hard work.

    (Fortunately, I have just the weekend blog hop for you…Ten Things of Thankful, back here, all weekend, every weekend – we share each others' joys and bits of wonderful, even when life's going really, really badly, and people have experienced some amazing results. I warmly invite you to join.)


  11. What a great post. I tend to be positive about everyone's lives except my own. Lately I have been trying to “fake” positive and surprisingly it has been working… kind of 🙂 I am still a work in progress!


  12. This is it. I think we all have. And I think we all may feel we're the only one (or at least, one of few) when in fact we're one of many and all on the Mobius strip, staring across at those on the 'other' side…


  13. Wow! That's an amazing leap of faith, and yet often the maddest ideas seem to be the ones which bear the most fruit. I hope it all works out for you, because even though it's scary and I'd guess things are tight financially, you're doing it – you're living the dream 🙂


  14. XmlSplit-57-Trial Really lovely post. I recently graduated with a degree in art and after fruitlessly job hunting (soul-killer) for months I decided to take the plunge and commit to making art full time. I'm happier but it is super scary (plus we just bought our 1st house too).


  15. Yesterday i read this but I was not in a position to appreciate it because the thorns held me fast. Today I am taking a chance on the sunset and turning my back on the thorns.

    Thank you Lizzi 🙂


  16. Yes, the ol self-fulfulling prophesy's a tricky one, huh. I've never managed to stomach watching the Music Man, but heard some of the songs and philosophies on Ally McBeal (which I loved) so I know a little bit about it, but not the 'think system' – I'll have to look that one up.


  17. I've heard that the smiling thing can work. You kinda reverse-psychollege yourself (as it were).

    I'm glad you're soldiering on to keep things going. Some days it's one breath at a time, but I guess if in the end you decide you're going to 'get there' and make something of your life, it's worthwhile.

    For hope brings perseverence, and perseverence, character.


  18. I am a HUGE believer in self-fulfilling prophecy and a happy heart is good medicine and all that crap. Because I've been there. And I knew I could wallow or get over it. I chose getting over it. I also took a lesson from “The Music Man” and employed the “think system.” Now I go around humming “Minuet in G” a lot, but it got me through the worst of it 🙂


  19. I think there's so much we can do. It really is the outlook. I can either focussing on all the things that go wrong, or the little beauties in life. I'm getting so annoyed with a colleague of mine, who comes into the office each morning, complaining about something. One day, it's too hot, the other day, too cold, then there's rain, then there's a traffic jam, you name it. Yes, I do get up some days and just want to cry. Yes, I do have bouts of deep depression, when I can barely manage to play with the girls, but I decide to pull myself out of the ditch each time. One step at a time, one day at a time.

    And something really cheesy: making myself smile, even though I do not feel like smiling does actually improve my mood in no time!


  20. Ohhh I know what you mean about the thorns being attractive! You can get stuck right in there and struggle and (somehow, perversely) begin to enjoy it. That's one of the ways I can recognise when I'm in a particularly bad place – one that's so hard to come out of, but so necessary to leave.


  21. It's a tough choice to make. I think we bloggers are at an advantage for managing the 'perseverence' bit, as we have that ongoing therapy of writing our wrongs…


  22. I choose the sunset most of the time… every now and then, the thorns begin to look very attractive, but I always manage to {eventually} pull myself back toward appreciating the sunset.


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