Updated: Mar 14, 2019
“There is a voice inside of you
that whispers all day long.
“I feel that this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.”
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What’s right for you—just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.”
(Shel Silverstein, “The Voice”Where the Sidewalk Ends)
Five years ago, I was in the wrong relationship, the wrong house, the wrong job, and more than anything, the attitude I had about myself, was a wilting plant that didn’t bother lean toward the sun.
Before this time, I was no stranger to change. I had become an Occupational Therapist, despite life-long scoliosis. I had become a successful co-parent, despite my divorce. And, although very difficult, I had handled my sons type one diabetes diagnosis, and now it was part of our everyday life. Besides all of that, I had handled an unplanned pregnancy, after my divorce, and in our small town. But this time, fear was standing in my way.
Old friends reminded me of the confident Nicole they always knew. But, she seemed like a distant friend. Swimming in a deep pool, probably treading water, and the walls felt too high to climb this time.
The wrong job was this: I loved working with patients as an OT, but a tough problem to ignore was lifting caused back pain, and lifting was part of the job. So, I had sold my soul to the corporate rehab giant and became a director to avoid the lifting, and to pay the mortgage of the detested house. To fit their profit driven mold, I was to do as I was told. Almost as bad as no longer feeling respected for my professional opinion, but rather act as a puppet, my severely curved spine meant driving home feeling beaten down—a metaphor for my life.
The relationship I was holding onto post-divorce made me feel so small, that once or twice, I may have even disappeared. Just like the house, the back, and the job, it all felt the same. I was used to living with pain and discomfort in all forms. My children were the reason I pushed though and smiled for them. I’d wake up in a house, that didn’t feel like a home, and sometimes felt more than just my spine was bending; the essence of me was harder to find, just like the potential for the changes I knew would set me free.
Still living in the ugly green house that my ex had originally chosen, it was now long after the divorce dust had settled. A split-level house meant an unwelcoming feeling from the moment you opened the door because you were forced to either face stairs, or stand immobilized on the landing pad, which is where I stood since the time of my unplanned pregnancy to her toddlerhood when I decided I'd had enough because there were moments, where I was reminded of the changes in life I had already overcome. Somewhere between the midnight blood checks I did for my son, coaching my young therapist to pursue her dreams (that entailed leaving my team), and inspiring the few patients I still saw (despite the lifting), I remembered who I was and what I needed to do, and it happened to be exactly what I was doing for everyone else.
“What’s the point?” said a woman lying on her back when I arrived to see her for OT
Yearning to discover what gives her meaning, I asked,
“What do you live for?”
“What gives you joy?”
“Nothing, nothing anymore,” she said.
“Tell me a time when you felt joy,” I said.
“My son, “she said.
“Tell me more.”
Her eyes widened with description and love.
“Now tell me more about what scares you now.”
“Tell me the worst thing that could happen if you try again.”
In knowing, why my patient bothered wake up every day, and in tackling the negative beliefs she held that stood in her path, that was where I came in to help. And when I left her room that day, just like when my young therapist left my office, I saw the influence I had to positive affect change for others, regardless of how I felt inside. But, it was time to make a plan for me.
“There is a voice inside of you that whispers all day long. “I feel that this is right for me, I know that this is wrong.” Shel Silverstein
Call it my wiring, my determined Franco-American-Irish genes, or my years of searching for what motivates other people, whatever it was, I began to see it for myself: my motivation was happiness, for myself and my children. And, the block in getting there was fear of failure, fear of public opinion, fear of more pain, just fear.
My plan for change didn’t scare me, it petrified me, but I told fear to go fuck himself anyway, I had enough.
Because here’s the thing about fear, it only scares you because its unknown, and so you have to allow the known motivation and all that drives you to WIN over fear.
I had to dive into some very dark water and face corrective surgery for my spine, it was the only way I could see anything else unfolding. This action, I knew, would pave the way for all the other changes. Spinal fusion was like embarking into an underground tunnel, not knowing if you’re going to heaven, or hell.
I told my children, it will be hard, but things will be so much better later for all of us. Change was so close I could taste it.
Fused at forty, things got a lot harder before they got better, because ending a troublesome relationship is hard. But the most important change had already happened, the way I felt inside. The fire, the fighter, the go-getter, the lover, the I-can-do-anything girl, she was back. And God knows, it was nice to see her.
Every day, the pain of the titanium rods and screws that extended the length of my spine, fixed deep within me, hurt just a little less. And, once you remember who you are and you journey up-hill with progress toward your better life, you become unwilling to go back down, to be made to feel small again, to allow the words or behavior of others to make you feel anything less than the warrior you’ve become. And that, in a nutshell, was how I ended the relationship that was wrong for me. And all that mattered was this, my beautiful children were about to have the best me they had ever had.
As for the job, even though I no longer had pain, I wanted more than OT, because my true professional passion, was to inspire others to make positive changes in their own lives. Later, I found my tribe at The Life Purpose Institute, and became a Certified Life Coach to professionalize what I was doing with people. We get to the bottom of two things: what drives you and what’s stopping you. These tow are the key to making change happen.
After all of that, the house change was easy, because everything inside my old house, just like my old back and my old skin, had zero importance. The kids and I walked away without a tear and moved on to our happier life.
What I am not is: you-should-get-divorce coach, time-to-leave-your-job coach, loose-weight-so your spouse-will-fall-in-love-with-you-again coach, or even, have an optional-surgery-to-relieve-pain coach. I am a change coach, the change only you know is right for you.
Maybe it's time to plan a career change, a relationship change, a change of surroundings, or, even, an attitude change about you and how far you can go. All I need is a flicker of hope from you to help make that change happen.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Mary OIiver
Written By: Nicole Olivier-Degere, CLC, OTR/L, Dragonfly Life Coaching