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Love and Lessons in the Time of Corona

This is the first post on my new site and I am looking forward to lots of exciting opportunities and possibilities ahead, even though I'd be remiss to say that my personal and professional lives have been challenging this year. What looked to be a really great year for my business took a drastic turn when the SA government announced a hard lock down in the growing tide of Covid-19. A word never heard before suddenly became heard dozens of times a day, blocking social media feeds and capturing news headlines.

As a coach who works primarily with those challenged by substance abuse and addictive behaviour disorders, this seemed like it would be a good time for people to be focusing on some of the less healthy lifestyle choices they had, and possibly looking at making some changes. I wasn't prepared for the fact that the clinic I was managing would take a massive hit, and that I became an economic casualty of the pandemic. I was asked to step out of my professional, management role and continue to work with the organisation as a contracted recovery coach and facilitator.

At the time it was overwhelming and unsettling. And I got really angry and resentful about the situation, which I thought I was hiding rather well considering my income had been slashed and I was almost overnight fully self-employed, without the surety of a monthly retainer and incentive-based package. I felt like I was being incongruent, especially since I wasn't experiencing myself the same way other people seemed to be experiencing me. I got platitudes and sympathy, and even an "It's about bloody time you were done with that position", from a very wise man that I have had the fortune to collaborate with. But the resentment and anxiety grew, and it was not until last week when I was confronted on my behaviour by a group of colleagues that I understood the magnitude of my anger and grief.

I've never had children, but losing my position felt like I'd been stripped of parenting responsibilities of a real problem child. It's a strange metaphor for me to have arrived at, given that I have no regrets around my choice of not having children, but I see now that there was an intense period of grieving. Being confronted on my shitty behaviour had a profound effect and also included a very deep purge of sadness and frustration. What was very real for me was the knowledge that it is the people who truly love and respect us that are prepared to call us on our bullshit. So instead of feeling like I'd been ambushed, I realised that I was experiencing authentic and real love.

It worked! After a round of very ugly crying, I was able to understand the ferocity of their love and respect for me. I've always believed that it's indifference that marks the dissolution of relationships. And so I spent the weekend reflecting and resting, and started this week with a new perspective, having reframed my situation and found a way to become curious about the way to best move forward, both personally and professionally.

So far 2020 hasn't been the greatest year for many of the people I know. My work includes dealing with people who are battling to stay connected to the wellness. But there's also the joy of seeing people moving forward and overcoming the magnetic pull to use habit-forming substances to cope with a year such as the one we find ourselves entrenched in. What I have learned this year, more than ever, is that people who love us don't let us get away with bad behaviour. I have also been reminded that it's in tough times that we get the opportunity to be authentically vulnerable. And that it's not about going it alone.

My coaching work remains central to who I am and how I engage with the world. And I'm not immune to wading in the emotional quagmire of life. I've never claimed to have all this life stuff figured out just because I do the work that I do. But I make a massive effort to get up every day and take it all on with all the courage and authenticity I am capable of. Leaning into these two values and checking my behaviour against them means that even when I stumble and often times fall, I have created the space where I am able to get up and do it all over again.

And yes these past months have been difficult and scary, with very little certainty, but it's made all the difference to understand that boundaries and love are synonymous and that without one, the other cannot flourish. So I regroup and move on, grateful that I have the people and skills and tools in my life to make this all a little less overwhelming.

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