In his book, Crisis Points: Working Through Personal Problems, author Julian Sleigh introduced me to the idea of demons who show up in our lives making us “shrink in fear and revulsion.” Yet they bear gifts hidden under their wings. “If we challenge them and make them yield up their gifts,” he says, “they will be satisfied and will fly away, leaving us to benefit from what they brought.”
If this is true, I met many demons last year and it took me awhile to make them show me the gifts. You may be wondering where I’ve been since last February. And, perhaps my biggest fear is that you are not. Maybe my posts and newsletters and calls were forgotten in the bustle of your own demons, triumphs and joys. And that’s as it should be, really. My demons belong to me – and yours to you. And for much of 2012, I couldn’t coach you or help you to share your fears because my own demons were circling like vultures, it seemed.
Last year began rather unexpectedly and dramatically for me and my family. My youngest daughter was hit by a young driver, resulting in a severe break at the ankle and the total loss of her car and her job. Months of surgeries and pain followed, and I worried about every aspect of her recovery. Simultaneously, another demon brought me the realization that my mother’s dementia and failing health would require an almost immediate move to assisted living. I worried that the house wouldn’t sell and that we wouldn’t be able to afford the right place. Later that summer, my oldest daughter broke her wrist – yet another surgery ensued! Federal funding cuts affected nonprofits that I serve daily. I slipped into a routine of reacting, fretting, doubting myself and fearing – oh the fearing!. By July, being on hyper alert to all of these issues began to take a toll on my physical and emotional health. It took me a few months, but by the end of the year, I came up and out of the darkness and demanded that all these demons yield their gifts to me. And there they were…
I was able to work when I could, as I could, without losing my income or the career that is so meaningful to me. My children recovered and found their own gifts in the pain and suffering. My mother adjusted to the move and I found that I enjoyed having her so close and can accept what her brain can offer at this stage of her life. I realized that if I ignore the emotional work that needs to be done and hope that it all goes away, it won’t. I read a lot of books and watched a lot of movies, but when they each ended, the problems were still there. If I try to continually live with reacting rather than responding, I eventually break down and need to nurture myself and heal. I’m not an adrenaline junkie anymore. Maybe it’s my age or maybe it’s just that I’m tired of it.
But when I do demand the gifts, I am surprised by joy and I see grace. I see those friends who loved me through the times I retreated to my room, forgetting to call or send a birthday card. I am loved by those family members who believe that what I could do in those moments was enough. My colleagues, clients, and teammates acknowledge my journey and wait for me to come back to myself. I forgive myself for not ‘achieving my goals’ or ‘committing to success.’ I just let it all go and reach for what is beautiful and comforting.
So this year, so far, the demons have been mostly at bay. For now. I am back to myself and back to work that I love in a way that pleases and delights me. I remember why I love coaching so much and have reconnected with old clients and welcomed new ones. There are still issues – some loom large on the horizon. But there is more good in my life than I can number.
This year will be filled with peace. How do I know? Because even when the demons swoop in, I know that they are carrying something that I desperately need. And only I have the ability to ask them to surrender it.
Surrender. Sounds like a beautiful state of being, doesn’t it?