If I Was Katrina

If I was Katrina, I would only have a year left.  My aunt by marriage, she died at the age of 39 of sudden cardiac arrest at her desk at work.  Her favorite coworker found her and attempted CPR but v-fib takes people instantly.  She felt no pain.  She was here and then she was gone.  Katrina was always magical, and this was her final trick.  In her 38th year she found peace with not becoming a parent, found herself in the home she wanted in the town they dreamed of. And with the man she always wanted (since high school!) by her side, she also had hope.

On the eve of my 38th birthday the only person on my mind was her.  If I was Katrina, this would be my last year. 

You need to know something about Katrina.  She wasn’t a size 2. She was blond, a big blond.  She was loud and funny.  She called my uncle an asshole. She told the truth.  You also need to know something about the day before she died.  I had been working farther up north (Petoskey) making my daily round trip commute about 3 hours.  That day as I ran errands I had an incredible sense of death.  It was riding shotgun in my car like a companion.  I wasn’t afraid, instead I felt peace.  I knew in my heart that today was the day I was going to die. I wasn’t sick, so I figured something out of my control would happen on my way back home.  At the time Mumford and Sons was making their debut on the airways.  Smitten with their sound and wordsmithing I turned on the lyrics that made the most sense on my last day, “In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die. Where you invest your love, you invest your life.  Awake my soul. You were made to meet your maker.” I blared it, sang along, shed some tears and then made my peace.  I made it home that night.  To distract myself I decided to get on the treadmill.  Surely, since I wasn’t a runner, this would kill me.  Brandi Carlile’s version of Forever Young pumped through my headphones.  Still alive, I ran downstairs to check in with my dad (yes, I was a 30-something living with her parents).  He was watching a sitcom, laughing out loud, “Shea, this character is so much like Katrina.” He then started to imitate her, then I started to and then we were laughing till we had tears in our eyes.  There was no one like her and the light she brought into our family when she married my uncle Shane was electric. I said to my dad, “I need to call her. I miss her so much.”

I didn’t. 

The next day came, my heart was still beating.  I assumed that I was insane or secretly suicidal. That morning I had a Dr’s appointment in Traverse and would talk to him about it. He prescribed anti-depressants.  I got in my car and headed back up north.

The next thing I remember was a phone call from my mom who was sobbing. She was trying to say something but all I heard was, “Shea, Katrina is dead. She’s gone.” I now know what disbelief feels like.  For the record, it feels empty.  You float in space for a while touching the stars and have no temperature.  It’s the umbilical cord attached to the spaceship that jerks you back to earth. When you land, the gravity makes you feel six feet under while still standing.

I wept. The sky wept. It opened and poured on my windshield.  A monsoon of grief all around me. 

Katrina was gone.  Not me, her.  I wanted it to be me instead.  I had so much less to lose. No spouse, no dependents, no mortgage and no career. I was overweight, living with my parents and pushing through depression the way an endless winter feels, like when it snows in May. I think that my friends on Facebook might miss my sense of humor and commentary, but no one would really MISS me until they went to call.

I should have called her.

That was eight years ago this summer.

If I was Katrina, I would have done the exact same thing she did that last year.  I would have celebrated the clean bill of health, the new home and the move.  I would have half-assed diets and loved with my whole heart.  I would have told the truth.  

In fact, that is what this year will be.  I will stop lamenting what isn’t and own what is.  My life looks nothing like I wanted it to.  Being single, has never felt normal.  I’ve never gotten used to being alone or having empty arms.  I always thought that babies would keep me busy, not my Pomeranian.  And yet, here I am.  Feeling fully alive both in sickness and health.  In singleness and partnerships.  In employment and side-hustles.  In home-ownership and puppy life.  In hope. 

Thank you Katrina. You were the comet over the dark night of our lives giving us just enough light to find our way.  I hold the ashes in my hand using them like chalk to write these words.



Holy Water

This is a True Story ... Let me tell you what happened this week. 

My friend, a true Ragamuffin in the flesh (he's a saint with an incredible capacity for mischievousness) blessed me with holy water from the holy land. His father brought it back to the US about 20 years ago (a miracle happened upon its' first use and he wants a miracle for me). I was afraid to put it on my forehead (you know, considering I'm allergic to everything). But I decided not to reject the blessing. I closed my eyes and right there in the cubical of his office he prayed a prayer and made the sign of the cross on my forehead. It dripped down to the tip of my nose and he ended his prayer with a tap there, "I end my prayers on the nose." We laughed and then he continued, "God, where the cosmos collide in her head - heal her." I could sense the secretary was staring at us - witnessing a miracle I suppose. He was praying over me because of my migraines and because I had an MRI to see if they can detect what is happening in my head. I'm convinced that they won't find anything medical - they will find a book. 

I'm more convinced that sometimes it's the truths I want to speak building up in my body like the fizz in a Mountain Dew bottle that's been shaken all the way to the beach and back with no escape. Not speaking my truth creates a lot of pressure. Drip by drip. Word by word. 

Anyways, when he prayed over me it felt like the New Testament. I'm hesitant to share this with you - that Jesus might have healed me with holy water someone has kept in their freezer for 20 years because it's too sacred of a story to tell and you'll want a bottle too or even worse ... you will dismiss it.  But I'm more like the Lazarus type. If Jesus brings me back to life EVERYONE will know even if you don't want to. If I am healed, I'm going to drink that water like whiskey from the south and then write a book about it.  And if I don't get healed, you'll continue to hear about my suffering. My guess is that you have your own bottle of that too. Either way, the healing will come if not by water then by love on earth as it is in Heaven. Find your Ragamuffin or accept that you are one. Then find some holy water.




At some point, you're going to have to get low enough, close enough to the ground that you'll need to start digging for a reserve.  Where there is dust, you will need to find a well.  I don't care if you have to claw at the ground with your fingertips, start digging.  That's when you'll know that you're ready.  When you're thirsty enough to ruin your manicure.  You'll be a** up, face down in the sand and you won't give a sh*t. 

Everyone else will.  You can't.  You need to get better.  This means sidelining the spectators who have mastered "likes" and "comments" and little else.  Their quick wit and thumbs up mean nothing unless they are helping you dig. 

Layer upon layer will get uncovered.  Answers will come slowly, one day at a time or no days at all.  Nothing will happen for a long time, but then something will.  It's not up to you to bring the water to the surface.  You can't manufacture the mechanics of this.  You can only accept, then dig and then hope.

In that order.

Somehow, knowing that it's going to be this gritty makes it better already.



Our Greatest Fear

it is our light not our darkness that most frightens us

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.

It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

—Marianne Williamson



You Asked...

I was recently asked if I would coach a friend. The answer to that is, "Yes...but, only if they're willing to lose the friendship." The response across the table was one of shock that was mixed with a bit of disbelief and, "That seems extreme."

It is...but, here's why: even with your deep friendships you're not getting to where you want to go - because that's not their job, it's yours. If I switch roles and become your coach you've given me the permission slip to say what I wouldn't have otherwise said at happy hour. Being honest as your coach means I have nothing to lose, you're actually paying for the clarity. But as a friend, I might have everything to lose should I offend you. It's about managing expectations. The tightrope of tenderness isn't violated in the coaching relationship but it is challenged. Without tension how are you going to walk across to the other side? Our friends have good intentions but they are going through their process and will only toe the line with you in as much as they are willing to be toed (which by the way may or may not be a real word).

This isn't about having an accountability partner (as some friends are) this is about you inviting someone to assist your (let me emphasize YOUR) process. There is a difference.

Another friend asked, "So, do you have a coach?" And I responded (after laughing) I have a coach, a therapist, an acupuncturist, a chiropractor and reflexologist. In other words, it's takes a village." A recent Instagram post said, "Yes, I'm high maintenance but that's okay because I maintain myself." Ha! So good. So true. So expensive.

This phase in my life has been met with challenges I never anticipated but it has also given me a tribe of women and men that are my lifeline - I reach out for energy and support but don't put the responsibility of my personal growth on them. In fact, only one friend has an all-access pass. Meaning, if she attended any of the above appointments - nothing would come as a surprise. My friendships, like partnerships are equal give and take, ebb and flow, taking and giving. They aren't experts, they are support systems (incredible ones - because they too are doing their own work).

Asking someone to assist your process is brave - scary - awesome - enlightening - WORK. As a coach, I don't take that invitation lightly. It causes me to pause and say, "Are you willing to lose the friendship, because I am willing to if it means getting you over to the other side."

Are you following me?

Give your friends, spouses, children, employers and dog a break. Start to invite the right ones into your good, bad, ugly and interesting process. In other words, "Leave it to the professionals!" and return to your relationships with renewed strength and energy.

Maybe Rumi said it better...


Still Not Clear?


Still Not Clear?

I started Life Coaching a year and a half ago, officially.  I think I’ve been one unofficially for most of my life.  My friend Chuck says, “Jesus made you to be a Life Coach.” He is mostly kidding, but he is mostly right. A lot of wonderful things have come from coaching, particularly the transformation within my own life. There hasn't been a client who hasn't been my teacher. Henri Nouwen refers to that as being a "Wounded Healer." Yes, I am that. With deep pain comes deep understanding and from there I can go places with people in their own life. Nothing is wasted (except me - when it's necessary). But seriously, it's true.

I met another coach, Steph Jagger through Instagram (of all places) and I touch base with her to compare notes and help make the muddy waters a bit more clear. Tonight she said something I liked a lot, "Being a coach simply means that I'm an expert in exploring. We are quick to hire people to help us improve our golf game, guitar skills and artistic ability, why wouldn't we hire someone to help us communicate, relate and connect with ourselves and others? Isn't that the end game?"

My friend Jonny Rodgers called me out on that back in 2008 during our Groundworks Training hosted at Yale University. We were split into groups of three and instructed to tell the others how their personality changed the room. He said to me, "Shea, you walk into the room and it’s all boarded up. There isn't any light, sheets are covering the furniture, dust is piled high and you just yank the curtains back and expose everything. And instead of being afraid, you just say, 'Let's clean this up.'"

That's it. If you're unclear about what coaching is, it's simply yanking the curtains back and shaking off the dust. There is so much there, it's just a matter of discovering and I have the curiosity to go there with you.

It may not feel concrete. Or objective. It may feel unsettling and too therapeutic. I get that. All of it. But I also have seen how incredibly brilliant people are.

To all of my clients from ages 13-73, from business professional to just getting started, from worn out mom to got-it-together dad, from millionaire next door to pulling the pieces together, from knowing who you love to figuring that out, from homebody to social butterfly, from landing to taking off...you are the big news this year. The one making headlines. I just wanted to say out loud how thankful I am for you.  



A 7-minute Transformation Experience

It’s a snow day in April. Taxes are due in a few weeks. I haven’t even started them, until now (literally). I’m looking at what I do for my day job as the CXO (Chief Experience Officer) in a financial firm and I'm trying to reconcile that with who I am as a Life Coach. Does it translate in a culture that is obsessed with identity? Am I allowed to be more than one thing?

Who gives that permission slip?

The rabbit trail of self doubt took me away from the balancing sheets and onto my own website. As I combed the content, the comments and the blogs, I started to refine a few things. Simultaneously I got a new message in my inbox. A client sent a podcast link and says, "She reminds me of you." I finished publishing my SEO update (not my taxes) and then I started to listen to the Award-winning product designer Ayse Birsel describe her process as a coach...

"Look, I'm not a psychologist, I'm not going to be able to solve your challenges and your problems. But what I can do is give you creative tools to think about your life creatively."

BAM! That’s it. That’s where the reconciling happens. A designer has applied the same principals that have made her successful in her day job into a process that applies to how she coaches her clients.

I get it. That’s what I do.

As a Life Coach, I have the questions, not the answers. I’m not handing out maps to places I’ve never been. After all, you are your greatest resource. As a CXO, my "job" is simply to assist you in that discovery. I create experiences that allow you to go to places within your own story that may otherwise be terrifying.

Listen, if you doubt me...know that I doubt myself first. Also know that the seemingly disjointed parts of your life, aren't. There is a connection, a reconciliation - we have to give it time.

My taxes aren’t done. However, the unexpected appointment to get clarity on my own “identity” was welcomed. The 7-minute interruption might be worth it for you today.



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Fellow coach and friend, Greg Mutch said it best this week when describing coaching, "Yes, it is DEEP work. And sometimes that is surprising to the client. They think it's going to be solution focused consulting. But we don't coach the problem, we coach the person. And the WHOLE person."

Let me give you an example:

This week I was having lunch with a dear friend. She, like most of us has a script running in her head. It's usually a familiar struggle, a place we always get stuck. She ran the "lines" with me (as they say in theatre). As I listened to her I watched her face contort. It had been a while since she had actually spoken these words out loud. The pressure of ruminating without resolve demanded release. She stopped and I said, "How did those those words sound coming out of your mouth?" She didn't have to answer - her expression said it all.  

When we accept the script, we have chosen to stay stuck. 

A sign of acceptance is when we have isolated ourselves, running the same lines in our heads - our thoughts measured against themselves become true. When we invite others into the story, we are giving them permission to help us rewrite the script, to get unstuck.   

Here's how:

1. Expose your SCRIPT for what it is - a lot of half truths written together creating a convincing and somewhat charming lie (perfect for the stage). 

2. Invite another person over and read them the "lines" and ask them to be curious for you. Those lines would be the things that make; your face contort, your stomach ache, your head throb, your throat close, your eyes shift, etc.  

3. Start to replace the lies with truths. One by one. Day by day. Moment by moment. If you're someone who believes in a higher power, this would be an opportune time to ask for help.

My friends, where I end and where you begin is how we gain momentum in this life. This is DEEP work and there isn't a good reason why anyone should do it alone. There is great POWER in partnerships. 

Do you believe that? 

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Is there a circumstance in your life that is forcing you into a little corner? Making you small? 

Is it painful?

Does it feel like punishment? 

I would like to suggest that your pain is saving you.  That perhaps the physical ailment, the relational breakdown, the fallout is in fact an act of grace on your behalf - saving you from things unseen. Who you are now is not who you will be on the other side of it.  You will walk with a limp.  You will remember how tight the space was - the space where the walls met.  You will remember how it felt to be made small.  And you will be thankful. 

The pain will make you, but first you have to embrace it.  

Sit with it.  Don't beat yourself against it.  Join the bigger work and instead of throwing your fist, say "thank you."

You aren't being punished, you are being loved.  

That's what it takes to become big. 





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I wanted to be Chuck Swindoll when I was 12.  In my pre-teen world, he was the most influential person in the evangelical church.  I confessed this to friend in college and she burst out laughing. I did too. Then she said something I will never forget, "To be him, you're probably going to have to go through a lot of shit." Meaning, wisdom and the gift of influence will come with a cost.  

Fast forward 23 years and I have found myself wondering who in fact, have I become? I'm certainly not Chuck Swindoll.  I am most certainly more me, but my heroes had to change because I have.  

What about you? Are you still reaching for the future while relying on old visions? Have you outgrown your heroes? 

More importantly, what price are you willing to pay in order to become more "you"

My friend Johnny Sertin said it best, 

The question is not, 
"Can the change be done?"
It's what it will cost you.
In that price God honors 
our choice and brings life."






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