That Time I Tried To Buy My Husband’s Happiness

I get ideas in my head about things that are important. I think we all do. When Matt was in his late thirties, I knew I wanted to make a big deal about his 40th birthday. I was very committed to this idea and even started a savings account to ensure that I could do it up right for him.

You see, Matt had a crap year professionally before we got married. He had an idea for a new play, chose a playwright, single-handedly guided the development of the show from Day One, and then moments before its Off-Broadway world premiere, the writer he was championing “broke up with him” professionally. For all you creatives out there, I’m certain you’re not falling out of your chair in shock. This kind of thing happens. And it’s crappy when it happens to someone you love. Matt was one of the lucky ones: he lawyered up before it became a hit; the show transferred to Broadway and got a Tony Award nod; he still gets credit in the script and on every production, and receives surprise royalty checks from time to time (the show has thus far received over 60 productions around the world). But for Matt (and so many artists) it was never about the money. He loved the show and put years of his life into it. To say the least, my man was bummed about what happened.

But we didn’t have a long time to mope about it. We got married! We got pregnant! We left NYC! And my man got even more bummed. His creative outlets had all but shut down. He had taken on a full-time retainer client that he found far from fulfilling. Meanwhile, I was on my own journey to becoming a life and leadership coach. The irony! A life coach whose husband doesn’t like his life.

And then, with his 40th birthday upon us, I went hog wild. Matt kept saying how he wanted to play more music; that would make him happy. So I pulled the trigger on a multi-month music studio rental for lots of money (he only used it a handful of times at best). I bought him a suit from J.Crew (yes, a birthday suit). I coordinated dinners and parties and other birthday events. I arranged for a group of his friends to kidnap him for the day and take him golfing and gallivanting. I planned a special dinner at a fancy steakhouse. There was a karaoke party with his twin brother and a full spread of BBQ. His friends still love to bring up “the birthday that wouldn’t end.”

What I can see now is that I was trying to make it all better. I wanted him to be happy. I wanted to fix what was wrong. And I burned through thousands of dollars and mental calories trying to make it happen. But it was a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. It didn’t make much of a difference.

But you know what did? Time. What worked was him getting sick and tired of himself being a drag. So he hired a life coach. He got in the best shape of his life. He wiped his professional slate clean and went all-in on his freelance copywriting business. Basically, he took serious action on his life. And now, he’s being heralded as Charlotte’s new champion of creativity.

Look, I still have a lot of love for my party-planning, gift-giving self. She meant well. She was just playing a game she couldn’t win.

How about you? Where are you playing an unwinnable game? Sick and tired of the same-old, same-old? Let’s talk.

The Stories We Tell

When I was a participant (i.e., training to be a coach) with Accomplishment Coaching, it was one of the most special times of my life. I met extraordinary humans. And I believe that this kind of experience is a rarity: embarking on a year-long journey with a room full of strangers who want to change the world. And although these are people you’ve never met, you begin sharing all parts of yourself — the good, the bad, and the things that 99% of the people in your life don’t know about you. That level of relationship. That level of intimacy. These strangers turn into dear friends who feel more like family when all is said and done. I’ve often said that the relationships I created there were alone worth the price of admission.

I’m in contact with all of these folks at varying levels. Some more frequently and consistently than others, but if they call, I’m going to take that call. I share all of this with you to set the stage for my experience over this weekend.

One of my teammates from my “participant year” texted me to talk. I was super excited. Every time I hear from this person, I’m happy. I was a big fan of his during the program and consider him a friend and someone I can call on anytime.

We started our conversation by catching up on the last few months . . . he got engaged, has created an amazing men’s actor accountability group, and shared that he is boxing on the regular and takes Saturday for well-being days that include restorative yoga. I was super excited and inspired by everything he is up to — I mean, well-being DAY? Every week?? Yes please!

As the conversation progressed he shared that he had reached out to another teammate earlier in the week to get “complete” (a process we use in coaching to release burdensome energy; another way of saying this is “forgiveness”) about ME. Me! I was surprised and had no idea what he might be holding on me. He shared that he feels like he has let me down in some way or disappointed me somehow.

The part that was clear to me (and I see all the time as a coach) is that he believed the story he had created in his mind. He truly believed that I was disappointed/upset/fill-in-the-blank with him. As a coach himself, he sought out some support and took a look at what was really going on for him. Was this about me or something/someone else? Often, we can map our experience of one relationship onto another (so he might relate to me as his mom or a teacher or someone who had expectations of him in some way).

What I love is that he could have the conversation with me, get vulnerable and say what was true for him. And I got to tell him he made all of it up. Every last bit of it.

And how often as humans do we do that? Create elaborate stories around people or events and relate to it as the truth of the world? There is an impact to my friends’ (and all of our) storytelling. He felt bad. Often times we tell ourselves stories that make us feel bad. I’m thinking it’s not just me or my friend who do this. We all do this.

Looking to shift some of the limiting stories you are telling about your partner, your extended family, or yourself? Interested in having a new conversation? I have two complimentary sessions remaining next week. Email me @ hello@saraholingcoaching.com to get the conversation started.

Pixar’s Coaching Movie, Inside Out

A while back, a colleague of mine sent a GroupMe to my team of coaches. The text went something like this: “Guys, Pixar made a movie about coaching and feelings — it’s called Inside Out! How crazy is that?” About a week after it came out, Matt, Mirabelle and I went to check it out. I really enjoyed it, although the concepts were pretty meta for a 3 year old. But for adults: brilliant.

One of my favorite parts is when a few characters are zooming around on the Train of Thought. Boxes of Facts and Opinions spill out, and Joy says, “Oh no, what do we do? I can’t tell them apart.” The other character replies with, “Don’t worry! Just put them back in the box. No one knows the difference.”

Ha — how true is that? I just returned from Accomplishment Coaching’s annual leader retreat in San Diego and I noticed myself relating to different leaders in a particular way. E.g., he/she is mean. And it was “true” for me. My opinion or judgment became the truth. A reality. I even had evidence to back my truth up. And because I do the work that I do, I always try to take that next step of looking on my own side of the street (which, trust me, isn’t always a pleasure) and identifying what I can get responsible for. And in this case, what I saw for myself is that I was relating to the story I made up in my head as the truth.

I’m not making myself wrong for what I did. I think this is what we do as humans. But it’s just interesting to notice. Because when I judged those folks as “mean,” I got to be by myself and be “right” and righteous about how mean they are. I didn’t actually have to be in relationship and have a vulnerable conversation. I just got to take my marbles and split, because after all, “they are mean.”

Again, “my way” isn’t bad — it’s just limiting. It doesn’t leave much space for possibility.

And like in Inside Out, my feelings are running the show. The main emotions represented in the film were Joy, Disgust, Anger, Fear and Sadness. At our leader retreat, judgment and disgust were riding high at the control panel. And as a human (and coach), I have many more places that I can choose from: intellect, logic, Spirit, purpose, curiosity, compassion and maybe most importantly, my commitments.

Who gets to sit at your control panel most of the time? Where do you choose from? Where do you let your judgments, interpretations or opinions show up as The-Big-T-Ttruth? Interested in having things go differently in your life? Email me at hello@saraholincoaching.com to get the conversation started.

Me & Jon Stewart: Avoiding the Love

Warm Greetings,

A few weeks ago, we had some family photos done.  I wanted them for personal and professional use. I love giving pictures as gifts (and having them as keepsakes), plus I am giving Luscious Mother a facelift and needed some new pics. Hence: family photo shoot.

When I got the pictures from my amazing photographer, Magen, I got excited and posted them to Facebook. They received tons of likes and wonderful comments—and something funny happened: I got weird. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I started deflecting the kindness and love with the swiftness of an NHL goalie. Not one nice comment was getting by me. “Your hair looks great, very Mad Men.” My response? “Oh, I had my hair cut that day. My hair NEVER looks like that.” “You all look so amazing, and like your having a great time.” I'd reply: “It was so hot. We were sweating like Christmas hams and Matt broke my phone.”

I didn’t even realize I was doing it until I saw Jon Stewart’s farewell show.

During Stewart's send-off, the man simply could not be with all the love coming his way. He couldn't be with the acknowledgement of the huge contribution and gift he was (is) to his profession and to the world. He is a conscious, hilarious human who genuinely cares for his fellow man. He treats people with respect and people adore him. And when folks tried to express their thanks and admiration, he pretended to move away.

And there is a lot in that “joke.” What I notice with the people I coach, with the team I lead, and with my friends and family is that is really difficult for people to receive love. It’s a funny thing, because I believe love and acknowledgement is an emotional need we all have as humans. And when we get it or when it is offered, we brush it off, try to ignore it and generally get uncomfortable. I didn’t notice it in myself until I saw Jon doing it.

I think there are many layers to that weirdo, no-love-allowed cake. We are taught so many different things over the years; being “self-centered” or “selfish” is bad. Don’t brag. Behave. Be “nice.”

From fear, the love coming in around the recent family photos made me feel like I was “bragging” -- i.e., hey world, look at me and my awesome family. We are so great...la,la,la. And I felt unworthy and a little ashamed -- who am I to have this great life?

From love, it’s just sharing myself and my family with people I wouldn’t otherwise get to. From love, it's gracious and playful and inspiring. And you know what -- I love it when other people post pics of them and their families having fun.

So what about you? Where are you playing small and dimming your light? Where do you come from fear? Where would you like to choose love? Interested in having a different experience? Email me @ hello@saraholincoaching.com to get the conversation started.

(BTW, I'm so excited -- my next Group Coaching for Moms Program is about to begin! Read below for more details!)

If you’re a Mom, ask yourself a few questions: do you want to experience more joy and fulfillment in your life? Do you struggle to find the energy you need to thrive through each day? Do you have goals and dreams outside of your vital role as a mother, but you’re not sure when “your turn” will arrive?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then ask yourself one more: what if the support and structure you needed to create a truly fulfilling life was right under your nose, waiting for you? Well, it is! My friend, Sarah Olin, runs an amazing program called Group Coaching for Moms.

Group Coaching is a powerful opportunity to connect with other like-minded moms up to big things, reap immense value from a structured and effective program, as well as a community of other women to whom you can relate and share a personal journey.

The structure of group coaching is 3 group calls per month (90 minutes each) plus three one-on-one calls with Sarah (1 hour each) over the course of the program.  Group coaching is a five-month commitment, strictly limited to four people per group.  There will be areas of practice (outside of the weekly calls) and additional calls and structures in place to support you in reaching your individual goals.  Pricing for the Group Coaching Program is $400 per month.

Participants receive nourishing connection with other Moms, clarity on the life they truly crave and deserve, and priceless support and accountability in getting there. THE NEXT GROUP STARTS 9/1/15! Strictly limited to four people per group. Email hello@saraholincoaching.com or visit lusciousmother.com for more info!

Structure, Support & Sister

When I was in RI a few weeks back for an unexpected visit, I had the great pleasure of spending the night with my sister and two nieces. My little sister is one of my great heroes. She is fun, funny, smart, brave, discerning and totally on top of it. And by “it” what I really mean is anything she’s up to. She is strong, loving and a total badass. Not to mention a loyal wife, sister, mother and daughter. In short, Kate rules.

My sister’s husband, Ed, is a Navy Chief. In his role, he goes out to sea for six months at a time. The thought of being away from your partner for six months is challenging enough; add in two kids under four, a house, a full-time job and a dog — and you officially got a lot on your plate. And my sister stays fit AND plans meals AND manages to have a social life. Until recently, I was mystified how this was possible (without resulting in her off drooling in a corner somewhere) until she explained to me how she keeps it all together . . .

Two things: structures and support.

From my perspective, on the day-to-day, it’s really the structures that keep things moving when Ed is on the boat. In the morning, she gets up 20-30 minutes before my nieces, prepares their breakfasts and gets ready for work. Then she gets my older niece up first and helps with her bathroom routine and getting her dressed. Then they go in and sing to the 18-month-old to wake her up. Finally, they all head down for breakfast and then take their show on the road to day care and work.

In the evening, she prepares dinner for the girls, knocks out bath + books + bed for the girls, heads downstairs for an exercise video, has her own dinner, and then showers and unwinds. EVERYDAY(ish).

Her routine (i.e., structure) is what makes her life work.

Support is the other part of this equation. Like the chosen Destructor Form of Gozer (this apparently is a Ghostbusters reference my husband insisted on), this can come in many different forms — such as fellow Navy wives and great friends (Cristen Sassi and Heather Romano, I’m looking at you) who provide emotional support, and our family in RI who provides more hands-on support with the girls on the weekends.

If you can’t already tell, I’m a big fan — not just of my sister, but also of intentionally rigging your life with the structures and support systems you need to survive and thrive. Want to explore ways to usher the immense power of help and routines into your life? Not sure where to look first or how to ask? Interested in having things shift from a “hard” or “complicated” life to something full of fun and ease? Email me hello@saraholincoaching.com to get the conversation started!

What I didn’t say about my airport adventure

In my last Newsletter, I mentioned my epic 9-hour airport experience.  And what I didn’t say was that during my 9-hour stay, I had a big ol’ breakdown.  You see, when I went to the airport, I thought I would just be there to re-schedule my flight.  Instead, I got re-booked on a sooner flight than anticipated, and had to hunker down there until takeoff.

After about five hours of waiting and delays, I was missing my husband and my daughter.  I really thought I would see Matt and Mirabelle again that day and have more time with them before getting on a plane.  But because of scheduling/availibility and the state of icy roads and traveling in Charlotte, that didn’t turn out to be the case.  It actually didn’t make sense for me to go home before my flight.  So my bag was dropped off to me by my father-in-law.  No more time, no extra hugs and kisses.  And so I got really sad.  I was tired and nervous (it was my first weekend as a mentor coach) and could feel a cold coming on.  Add hunger into the mix, and you’ve got perfect conditions for an (smallish) emotional breakdown.  And my phone was dying.

After I got through security, I did what any good American would do . . . I went to Chili’s.  I plugged in my phone and thought about who I could call to support me.  I had been trying to connect for two weeks with my sister-in-law Dana and in my moment of need, she picked up the phone.  I started crying the minute I heard her voice.  Dana is a working mother of two and really “gets it.”  She gets how challenging  (and rewarding) it can be to work and have a family.  To really want to be in two places at once.  To love your children fiercely and also love your work.  She told me everything I needed to hear in that moment.  That I’m a great Mom.  And what makes me a great Mom is setting an example for my daughter of what it means to have it all.  To go and train to become the best coach (and human) I can become.  To have a thriving career and an amazing relationship with my husband.  And to be really present and happy when I’m spending time with my daughter.

Ladies, maybe your relationship with your partner is about as interesting and spicy as a piece of angel food cake.  Maybe your ready to go back to work and aren’t exactly sure how to pull that off or what that would look like.  Maybe you aren’t enjoying your life in the way you know you could.  Maybe you’re interested in having things go differently.  Email me to get the conversation started.

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