Even Coaches Need Coaches and Therapists

by Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos

Crisis causes relationships to either grow stronger or fall apart, but they never stay the same.

The therapist introduces herself as Linda hands me her card featuring the face of a wolf rather than hers and says, “I was a wolf in a previous life, then I was an Indian.” She looks like a flower-power hippy with long gray hair parted down the middle and an ankle-length, multi-print dress that hangs above her socked sandaled feet…in the dead of a Cape Cod winter.

Okay. Either she needs therapy too, or I am in the right place, I think to myself. I’ll decide later.

Linda leads me toward two empty chairs facing each other and hands me a box of tissues as we sit. My eyes scan a room where sunlight falls on potted plants placed on windowsills that face the icy Bay. We sit so close her toes almost touching my boots. Did she come to work in those sandals? As if to answer my question, my eyes pause on an old pair of well-loved UGH-looking boots sporting run-down heels slumped in a corner. Her voice brings me back to our session.

“Now, start from the beginning and tell me everything.” So, I did. I told her how the medical community and the tests they relied on had missed my breast cancer, but my dreams filled with Franciscan monks bearing angel feathers warned me I had a false negative test and instructed me to return to my physicians for additional testing. The pathology reports confirmed the precognitive dreams. I had cancer. Linda’s nonjudgmental smile reassured me that I was indeed in the right place. Only a wolf-Indian coach could listen to my monk-dream story and not run screaming from the room or dial 911.

We discuss my emotional and physical experiences during chemotherapy and how I am still grieving the loss of my mother, who died of colon cancer less than a year ago and for me. Losing a parent is a right of passage that I was not taking well. In a way, my innocence has died, and now I’m worried that my body might follow in my mother’s footsteps.

“Having a passive wish to join a loved one is part of the grieving process and one of the healing steps. Attempting suicide to join that person changes normal into what is termed complicated grief and can often be helped with medication. Do you think about suicide?” Linda asks gently.

“No, but I wonder if my body does. I was so close to my mother but never thought I was so close that I would want to join her. As an only-child and army brat who attended five different first grades in Germany, my mom was my best friend. I realize we all have to die someday, but I really don’t want to die yet.”

“Good! I think you’re simultaneously experiencing several losses. Tell me how many of these causes of grief pertain to you right now: The death of a loved one, miscarriage, pet loss, major life change, and anticipation of a loss such as a diagnosis of a terminal illness.”

Well, I didn’t need to think long. Bluey, my sixteen-year-old Siamese cat, died in my arms six months ago of an embolism. I was too grief-stricken to get out of bed for days. So, the only loss from the list that didn’t fit my life right now was the first one, miscarriage. But, my oncologist’s belated warning two weeks telling me to “be sure to use protection during sex while in treatment because you could still get pregnant” could still change that, too.

The other three grief causes fit me on multiple levels, and I told them to Linda. As a coach and previous psychology professor at the University of South Florida, Ft. Myers branch, it felt odd being reminded of these signs rather than reminding someone else of them. But as a coach, I know how important it is for coaches to have coaches, just as doctors have doctors.

The tables were turned. Now, I was the client rather than the coach.

Linda looked down at her sandaled feet for a second and then said in all seriousness, “You certainly have grounds to grieve. Now let’s go over the steps of grief and see where you are.”  She must have dealt with a lot of grief because she rattled off the five steps without even blinking an eye,  “…denial of loss, anger, yearning, despair, acceptance of loss.”

“Well,” I said, “I’m past the first two concerning my mother and my diagnosis. I still yearn and dream of my mom and for my past healthy life. That does cause me despair. But I have accepted her death and my predicament as the ‘shit-happens’ part of life, which is step five. So, you tell me where that leaves me. Am I stuck in the middle and no longer progressing, or did I just skip over the middle to the end?”

Linda stares at me for a moment, then smiles and answers, “I think you are going through a very difficult time and progressing very well. But how do you feel you’re doing? How does having all this come at you at once make you feel?”

“Well, sometimes I feel like life is beating me down, and every time I try to get up, it yells, ‘Stay down! Cry Uncle!’  But I can’t give up or cry, Uncle.”

“Why not?”

“Because it goes against my nature, my inner warrior, and the Fighting Irish in me.”

“Good! Now, let’s talk about your relationships.”

She immediately understood my concerns about previously not being “the number one person in Peter’s life.” Although he has now pledged his support to me, his family still pulls at him harder than ever, even though they know about my health crisis.

“Nothing is more important to them than themselves,” Linda explains about Peter’s family. “You will never change them or their demands, but you can change your response to them. Then they’ll have to change to this new response.”

She was right! Her words confirmed what I had realized days earlier after a phone call from an angry family member had reduced Peter to tears. It is the Basic Behavior Modification Class 101 rule:

The quickest way to change someone’s behavior is to change your own first.

Years of teaching Special Education taught me that before any behavior gets better, inevitably, it gets worse, so you don’t always immediately get the response you desire.

“I’m going to give you a mantra to repeat to yourself whenever you don’t feel like the most significant person in your life because that is what you need to feel right now,”  Linda says and leans toward me in her chair. “I am number one. No one and nothing is more important than me. Repeat this mantra as often as you need until you start to feel it.”

Realizing our time was up, I stood to leave, grateful for my new mantra coping tool.

“Encourage your husband to seek therapy because he is faced with some overwhelming issues, too. But right now, your attention must be on yourself and not on him. Be selfish. His issues have to do with letting go of the past and his family. It’s up to his old family to either sink or swim. Peter can’t swim for them anymore. No one can swim for someone else.” Then she patted my hand. “I’ll be here for you, and when you don’t feel up to coming in, we can talk by phone.”  I felt so much better. Linda Wolf-Indian was definitely a keeper, sandals and all.

My lesson learned is how health and relationships go together like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They need to be balanced. Too much jelly causes drips, and too much peanut butter can gag you. When relationships are too challenged, our health can become stressed. And, when health is too challenged, relationships, personal, and business are stressed. I talk about this on my Dreaming Healing Show– Expert Business Panel- Ringing In the New Year Success!

Crisis challenges all relationships, and the closer the relationship, the greater the challenge because deep emotions result in deep cracks. Crisis causes relationships to either grow stronger or fall apart, but they never stay the same.

Relationships are like bricks in an archway; two or more entities fused together to become one. When an earthquake such as illness shakes those bonds to their foundation, cracks form. If the cracks are ignored, perhaps from denial, guilt, or indifference, they grow larger until they completely split. However, if the splits are scrutinized with soul searching and repaired with respect and love, the attachment can become so strong that the archway survives during the next crisis when everything else is reduced to rubble.

This analogy seemed to describe my relationship. My illness registered a 5.0 magnitude on the Richter Scale of Existence, and although my life had crumbled down around my ears, my cracked marriage is still standing. My coach’s mantra helped me overcome the mayhem of my illness by refocusing on what was truly important to me—ME!

I have been cancer-free for more than twenty years. And my undying love created a relationship that has lasted more than forty years.

The moral of my story-  Like the old Frank Sinatra song lyrics, “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime,” the coaching twist is, “Everybody Needs Some Coaching Sometimes.” No one is an island unto themselves. Even coaches need coaching. And a good coach can get you back to the business of life.

Unstuckable and Unstoppable
By Dr. Patricia A Baccili

Street Smart Spirituality is a world of alleyways, each one giving us options. We can choose to see the darkness harboring fear, or we can shine a bright light to illuminate countless possibilities.

“Dr. Pat” Patricia A Baccili
(author, Radio Network Owner)

You could hear a pin drop. Frankly, though, even the tiniest and most insignificant sound could’ve been heard in that cramped and crowded room embarrassingly surrounded by an open bullpen of 50 clerical people. The room was like a micro-sized Costco, polluted with the smell of newly printed paper and aged steel. The metal shelves were filled with cardboard boxes. Each box housed piles of papers, and documents were filed into folders which were, of course, organized alphabetically. This wouldn’t have been bad, but this Costco subbed out its free samples for a big, angry boss with no better name than Dan the Man.

He’d practically packed me up and hauled me into this filing room, and, in hindsight, I suppose I did deserve it.

He’d done something to anger me and I, forgetting that the man I was speaking to was my boss and controlled my employment, decided it would be a good idea to tell him how I felt. Spoiler alert; this was not a good idea.

He’d asked me to grab a card from a folder beside me, and I accommodated. I could understand this move as he likely just didn’t want to get up to grab it, and, after all, I was right next to it. I grabbed the card from the folder and handed it to him gleefully.

Upon taking the card from my hands, he observed it carefully, fiddled around with some other papers on his desk for a moment, and then got up and out of his chair with the card in hand. I thought nothing of this as he walked around his desk and stood beside me. He extended the card out in front of my face, close enough that I could smell its ink and close enough I could see the neglected cuticles on his thumb.

“Put this away.” He said it casually; you could practically see the words just fall out of his mouth and land on the floor. “Go ahead and put it back in the folder where you found it.”

Now, I’m sitting here thinking to myself, why did you get up and walk all the way over to me just to stick this business card in my face and ask me to put it away? The folder that it belonged in was sitting there, beckoning us both. It was right there, not even an arm’s length from him.

Uh oh, did I say that thought aloud? Was that the last thing I said aloud before I found myself in the filing room on trial for insubordination?

“I should fire you right now,” he said, no longer casually. In fact, now his words were shooting out of his mouth and jabbing me directly in the stomach, stirring up all the little butterflies that were already loose and rabid inside. 

“But I won’t.” I blinked at him. I’ve heard this before.

“I don’t know what it is. But there is something about you,” he continued. I’ve definitely heard that before as well.

By that point in my life, at the ripe age of 17, I could swear I had heard that statement a hundred times. There is something about you. Even now, it sounds so profound, so meaningful. There is something about you. So far, I wasn’t happy with the hand that I had been dealt. I was living a doomed life that was either going to keep me on the streets or put me behind bars. This seemed like rock bottom; this is what being stuck before even getting started feels like. And yet, even with all that baggage, this guy believes in me.

Rock bottom entailed sex, drugs, rock n’ roll, and disco. I became street smart living in the projects and resourceful to our neighborhood dealers. I was a homeless teen. I was the nasty bruise on the Big Apple where I was born. I lost my own way to drugs, my mother to suicide, my sister to a different kind of addiction, my stepsisters to mental illness and cocaine, and my stepmom to working so hard that her heart just couldn’t handle it anymore.

There are many ways to climb out of a pit, and I found my own.

I made it through all of that with what I call Street Smart Spirituality™. You are capable of the same.

There is something about me; I thought to myself in that filing room—this time making sure I wasn’t saying it aloud. I thought about it again when I applied for a job in the mail room, and the woman who interviewed me said the same thing. Despite my poor performance during my senior year of high school, she still said it. I also thought about it when I made it from the mail room into a clerical position, and once again, she told me the same thing, “There is something about you.”

Dan, keeping his word, didn’t fire me. I continued to work with him for years, even becoming friends long after I’d moved on and proven to him that he was right in believing I was made to do more, just as we all are!

There is a thickly crusted layer of self-doubt that we all carry with us; an inner voice that holds us down and yells “get real!” “Look at yourself! You’re an embarrassment. You’re a fiend. You’re not made to succeed.” These voices do not want to leave us. I hear them once in a while telling me I’ll always be a worthless girl from the Bronx.

“Your radio listeners may call you Dr. Pat, but we know who you really are, “I hear my little voices whisper, “So big deal, you founded and own a rapidly growing positive media, podcast, and tv network. You come into your expanding office every morning and think you deserve it?

You think this will work? We know the truth. This is just another epic fail like the rest of your life.” This is where street smart spirituality comes out to play – if you let it. 

Street Smart Spirituality is a world of alleyways, each one giving us options. We can choose to see the darkness harboring fear, or we can shine a bright light to illuminate countless possibilities. It’s a world that strings us along a treacherous path through dumpsters and rain and echoes constantly bouncing off of every graffitied wall and through every rusted drainage pipe: There is something about you. Find it. It’s a peace in chaos and a light in the dark.

We all have to navigate these alleyways, and we will all get stuck in them. It’s the echoes from the ones that we love, and the ones that love us that comfort us in the darkness, and it is our job to focus on them. In the world of street smart spirituality, our eyes will catch a glint of our reflection in a puddle as we run by, and they will see a grotesque figure, deserving of nothing and no one. Our eyes betray us. So, instead, we must listen, see, and believe. We must absorb the faith that is around us and the ones who support us. Once we’ve declared our YES, our light will shine. And we will open our eyes once again to what has been there the entire time, something that we simply just could not see. 
     We are always in the alleyways of street smart spirituality. The goal is not to escape because to escape is to fail to understand why it exists; it is here to help us learn focus and become stronger than the shadows that lurk within it. It is a challenge presented to us, not allowing us to thrive until we choose to. Upon choosing to, the sun will rise on the alleys and, by extension, your success, and prosperity. You will have become street smart spiritually.

Upon lighting up those alleyways, the world becomes your oyster; the shadows turn into peaceful, translucent spirits that guide you on your path. The graffiti becomes vibrant and radiant with beautiful colors of oranges, greens, and yellows. Grass sprouts from the corners of the buildings, encapsulating everything in natural color. The blue sky melts away the rain, and the dark clouds give way for people to walk the alleys without fear or shame. And you are there, in your perfect and personal peace. It is just the way it has always been. But now, you can see. You can see because you made the choice to. 

To find peace and purpose in reality, you must find peace and purpose in your alley.

It took a lot for me to become, as I call it, “Unstuckable.” The same difficulty that tried to crush me will try to crush you, too. Remember why you’re in the alley and that it all comes down to a choice. I failed just about every single multiple-choice test in school, so if I chose the right answer in life, you can, too.

What, then, can we learn about how to navigate the alleyways? There are several things I’ve learned and now teach to help people move the needle and create an epic life. 

1 – You’ve Got To – Want It. Start honoring your dreams—even those you’ve been told are impossible! 
2 – Let the Power Of Your Soul Rock You. When the door to my old life swung shut, I was faced with the choice of moving forward or being stuck.  I learned that all I needed to do was turn around to see the many new doors that were open to me to take me to the next level.
3 – Fight for The Truth Of Who You Are. You must fight with steadfast conviction and the unstoppable power of perseverance.  Stay the course despite challenges and rejection.  Believe in miracles and beat the odds because to find yourself, you’ll have to.
4 -You’ve Got to See It. The root of the word, image, comes from conceive, to become pregnant with, to take into one’s mind. Just as one cannot give birth to a child until after physical conception has occurred, neither can one give birth to a new idea of what they want until mental conception has occurred.
5 – You’ve Got to Believe It. When we think or act out of deep confidence, we are tapping into an already existing “brain wiring.” We’re actually wired for success. We can feel when we’re aligned with what is true and correct. In short, we need to have faith and we need to have unwavering conviction.
6 – Mine Your Mind. Positive thoughts are like gold. You are the master of your thoughts and the molder of your health, wealth, and prosperity. You are already the maker and shaper of your destiny; now, it’s time to shape it into the image you seek.
7 – You’ve Got to Act On It With Gratitude. Being grateful for what you have is a prosperity attitude. Being grateful in advance is powerful. This attitude of future gratuity acts like a magnet that attracts those things for which you desire.

Keeping all this in mind, return to the alleys, close your eyes, and listen to the echoes in the dark. The voices may belong to a family member, a friend, or perhaps a higher power of your understanding – maybe even beyond your understanding. For me, it was my big and angry boss, Dan the Man, along with many others who have helped me along my journey. Do whatever you need to do to get yourself through those alleyways and light them up as bright as you can, allowing the people that matter to you as a launch pad. You only need a few words to get you started. Just a few.

There is something about you, too. Find it.

Dr. Pat Baccili ~” I’d love to thank my parents for the “never give up” Entrepreneurial spirit they gave me. And me, for never giving up.” 

One of Dr. Pat’s Favorite Quotes ~ “Whatever You Think You Are, You Are More Than That.” Dr. Matt James