They say life is a journey but for me it is much more than a metaphor. Looking back I can see two journeys that thread through my life. Both can be summed up as my journey home – one physical, first coming to England and finding a home where I truly belong; my other, my spiritual journey home to my true self.
My physical journey started when I embarked on a voyage that took me thousands of miles from Buenos Aires to Southampton. On 22 June 1965 I stood on the bridge of the ‘Amazon’ waving goodbye to my parents and watching them become smaller and smaller in the distance. With my eyes fixed on these shrinking figures I noticed my dad – who, up to that point had been smiling and waving – turn to my mum and cry. That image is forever engraved in my heart.
My parents had sacrificed so much to make this dream a reality – to send me to England to learn the language and become desirable on the job market as a trilingual secretary. They had shielded and protected me all my life which made it even more astounding that they were willing to send me away to a foreign country on my own.
I might be forgiven for believing that I was leaving home to come to a strange land; instead, I knew, from the moment I stepped foot on land, that I’d come home. I knew this is where I belonged.
As for my spiritual journey, I travelled from what felt like deepest despair, hopelessness and impotence to a point of clarity and understanding I had never experienced before. It wasn’t a journey I could have done on my own. What gave me the push to do that? Yet another friendship had just bitten the dust – again – and I had a hard time coming to terms with it. I couldn’t understand it: I’d been supportive, cheerful and undemanding. “What friend could be more?”, I asked myself. I felt hopeless. Other people had good, solid friendships. Why didn’t I? It was in that frame of mind that I first met the man who was to become my life coach. He told me: “When YOU change, your whole life will change.” I didn’t really understand that but, as it turned out, it became a process of shedding my defences, habits that no longer served me, limiting beliefs that kept me small, self-deceptions that caused me to sabotage what I insisted I cared the most about. It was a journey punctuated by insights, clarities, understandings and learnings followed by setbacks, discouragement, disappointments, hopelessness and then more transformations – two steps forwards, one step back.
My coach stood by me every step of the way, holding my vision of the kind of person I wanted to be – without realising that I already was that person, except that it was hidden under layers and layers of masks that he helped me identify and shed, finally arriving at a point where I began to see my authentic self.
That clarity and understanding about what it takes to be self-empowered felt like a bolt of lightning. It made me feel powerful; in charge of my life and my destiny.
I married just before turning 21 and remained married for the next 37 years. Thirty-seven years feeling unseen, unheard, unloved and lonely. Having tried – and failed – for many years to create closeness and intimacy, I finally reached a point when I knew I deserved better. Leaving my marriage was a watershed for me. Despite the fact that I was the one who initiated the separation, it was one of the most painful choices I had ever made and I grieved bitterly.
My next watershed came about shortly after I left my marriage: I was fast approaching my 60th birthday. I had been feeling really vulnerable, trying to figure out what being 60 actually meant to me. Eventually I realised that I had intimidated myself into believing, even for a brief time, that as a 60-year-old I would no longer make a meaningful contribution or participate in life. What made this so strange was because the evidence of my life even then was the complete opposite. Today I can honestly say that, so far, my sixties are turning out to be the best decade of my life.
Although many people will share this experience, there are many who don’t, people who, for a time, need a helping hand, as I did. I know that I wouldn’t have been able to create this life without the unstinting support and encouragement of my own life coach. I had never experienced a relationship like the one I had with him. For the first time I felt truly heard and understood, I was able to tell him about my frustrations, resentments and anger. I would continually blame others, especially my ex husband, for my unhappiness and frustration yet he never wavered. He challenged me, held up the metaphorical mirror so that, for the first time, I started to see the role I played in the creation of the life that caused me so much unhappiness.
Finally, I reached the point where I could look back to see what I had learned. The most important lesson was: ‘It doesn’t have to be like that; there is another way’. Leaving my marriage was only the beginning. Over time I came to identify this ‘other way’ which led me to develop a model that is unique and very powerful. I call it ‘The 10 Life-Enhancing Principles’.
These principles guided me to a place where I became clear about what worked for me and what didn’t, I discovered what really mattered to me, what was really true for me. Equally important was my willingness to stop blaming others for whatever was going wrong in my life and, instead, took responsibility for the consequences of my choices. This was one of the most liberating steps I could have taken. And I learned to accept that I was worthy of the good things in life – success and, especially, love. I learned how to develop fulfilling personal and business relationships and meaningful circumstances.
I am calling on people reaching a crossroads in their life – be it facing retirement, redundancy or divorce after a long marriage – who are looking to create a life that is rich and fulfilling, who are looking to plan the next stage in their life.
My role is to stand by you and be your champion through thick and thin, to hold your dream even if you, temporarily, forget it. This is my mission.
I am a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (FCIPD) and I hold a coaching qualification. I am an established author. My first book ‘Across a Crowded Room: how to find and keep the love of your life’ (Hodder Headline) was followed by ‘Dancing with the Mask: learning to love and be loved’.
I have also been interviewed by BBC Radio’s ‘Woman’s Hour’, ‘The Daily Mail’ and ‘The Daily Telegraph’ on the subject of crossroads for older people whether caused by imminent retirement or divorce after a long marriage. I know what I’m talking about.
Not that long ago, I was afraid of life. Now I embrace it wholeheartedly. I’d love to help you create a fabulous future for yourself.
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