I close my eyes and a familiar memory comes forward, it feels like a recurring dream, seen through the sands of time, gone but still a part of me.
The school day is over and I am sitting on the packed service bus that runs from school all the way home, trundling along, one of those old buses that were a familiar sight in the 80s and 90s. The seats covered in an itchy, orange and brown carpet covering, the driver up-front doing what he did every day, skilfully threading the big old thing through the suburbs and streets, matching engine, speed and gears as if he is playing a musical instrument. The steady melodic rhythm of the engine, the hum of conversations flow from my fellow passengers, I drift, my eyes heavy, it feels safe here, a gap in time, an in-between land where I can rest, "Ding, Ding" as we approach a stop, I look to see who gets off and who gets on, imagining their lives, where are they going? what are they doing? conjuring up my own little stories but never really knowing.
Ah hour later, the bus is approaching our little village, it's nearly my stop, there's that familiar flutter in the tummy, it's time to switch on my hyper-vigilance again, to tear away from this dreamy place of rest on the in-between time bus.
Our two dogs greet me at the door with the sort of greeting that fills my heart as if I had been away for years, the scene seems idyllic, happy and contented but appearances can be deceiving.
My stepfather comes home, I immediately scan his mood, watch for a look or a hint to tell me if he was in a good mood or not. I do all I can to ensure the good mood stays, make a coffee, wash up, whatever it takes, my hyper-vigilance is switched on.
Looking back through the sands of time, I see he was a good man, hard-working, even kind underneath it all, yet he carried so many demons in his soul, an unresolved and integrated past before we knew him, his temper was unpredictable, at times this anger bled out, but my innocent, developing mind at that age didn't know this and wondered what I had done wrong, what had I done to cause this anger, yet I found a coping mechanism that was to stay with me for three decades. Conflict avoidance, people-pleasing, hyper-vigilance and a love for the "in-between" times.
The grit in the oyster
A piece of grit enters the oyster and causes the oyster to get irritated, the oyster's response is to turn that piece of grit into the most beautiful pearl. Gorgeous nature and what better emblem for the kind of growth that comes when we integrate and start a journey of healing.
It has taken time, years, in fact, some help from some amazing people (including my gorgeous mum) a fierce gentleness and a huge dose of self-love to finally see that those coping mechanisms, born so many years ago are in actual fact a gift. Hidden gifts that only come forward when we take the time to become still, to stop running, to allow the unconscious to become conscious, to put it all into the light of awareness.
Fast forward three decades and I am sitting in front of my coaching client. He looks well, his voice is calm and measured, my hyper-vigilance is switched on but this time it's a healthy vigilance. I scan his body posture, I notice that there is genuine authenticity in his eyes, a smile that is wholehearted. The words leave his mouth and land on my ears as if time has slowed down "I feel like I've grown up".
My eyes water slightly, a smile grows across my face, deep deep down everything in that little moment aligns, I know what he means, for it is a journey I too have taken, a journey to becoming, a journey to becoming the adult we deserve to be. I allow myself a little moment before coming back to my client, a moment to realise there is no other place I need to be, nobody else I need to be, the healing journey laid bare.
It has taken some time to see those coping mechanisms generated so many years ago, are the hidden gifts. The hypervigilance, with some careful management, allows me to pick up on the most subtle of clues to help my clients on their own journey, to notice every little word, eye movement, body posture, to ask those deep questions that allow integration and self-inquiry. There are times when this hyper-vigilance goes astray. When I pick up on every little blooming thing and my mind can create a whole lot of fiction with this information. It is those times when I know it's time to take a break, to go into the "in-between" time.
People pleasing and conflict avoidance have morphed into something new also. Whilst I have learned now to say no and to protect and patrol my own boundaries, these two coping mechanisms have become my dearest friends. They make sure that every day I awake to a mission and a calling. To walk alongside others, to support their own journey in becoming the adults they deserve to be, to support them in creating humane businesses and to become the leaders, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters that they want to see in this world, to access the gifts that are hidden.
Life can be so topsy turvy, doing this inner work doesn't make us immune to life's challenges but it does stop us from running from them and hiding, deceiving ourselves that we are ok. It is perhaps the end of the battle. With fierce gentleness, surrounding ourselves with those that support our growth, with a strong back and a soft heart, we can step into the mystery of life with courage and grit.
Within us all are these hidden gifts, sure we need time, time that may seem in short supply in our busy world, but crikey it is so worth it. When we stop running, we see who we are, we may belong again and become the adults we deserve to be.
Don't hold back, time is fleeting, your hidden gifts are waiting.
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