This is a conversation I have been having with many different people, and not just during coaching sessions.
One particular one was at a recent Book Club Session. The Book Club that I run is a bit different, in that we don't all read the same book, we read whatever it is we want to read, and then share it with the rest of the group. It always leads to some awesome discussions along the way, and often we find that a thread weaves it way subtly through the different books we bring and the conversations that follow. Sometimes there is no thread at all!
This last one, was so definitely a thread... I spoke of a book I had been reading that was written in such a way that was spoke in to what we make things mean about us. The author did really well to get inside the different character's heads and the chatter that can often be going on for us.
Another member brought an autobiography of a man that had transitioned in to a woman, and their journey of self-acceptance, another shared some poetry, and another a light-hearted book that sparked a discussion on what I call bandaids, things we do or use to cover up pain that we are feeling.
I also shared Brene Brown's book Braving the Wilderness, where she talks about belonging and it was at that point that the themes started weaving, that we can often let others off the hook, but be so judgemental of ourselves, and when we are able to be kinder and more accepting of ourselves, we are able to really connect back to who we are, and feel that sense of belonging within ourselves and the world we live in.
Sometimes I feel the most connected out in nature. By a river or a waterfall, watching the waves pound in just a few steps away from where I am standing, feeling the sand between my toes as I walk along the beach. It may be the sunrise or seeing the sun set, being on top of a mountain, or deep in to the green of the bush, with just the birds singing their tune around us.
When I started seeing that I simply belong to me (hence the journey of self-love and acceptance) and belonging to this world as a whole, something seemed to settle and rest easier for me.
Liz our Life Coach
From the UK, I often get asked where do I call home, and I usually flippantly reply wherever I am not. So when in NZ I call UK home, and when in UK I call NZ home, but with that there has always been a thought running, as to where do I actually belong?
In a previous blog, found here, I speak of how sometimes we can find belonging in the most unexpected places, and sometimes we can not feel a sense of belonging in places that are really familiar to us, and where we would expect to feel that sense of connection and being part of something.
I often hear this come up in conversations and coaching sessions, "Liz, I don't know where I belong," "I don't feel I fit in anywhere." I can totally empathise and as I mentioned it has always been a thought running for me, where do I actually belong.
I think there is a difference between fitting in and belonging. For me I see that with fitting in, there is an expectation we put on ourselves to change in order to fit in and be part of something. I see belonging as somewhere we can be and feel a part of simply by being ourselves.
Connection for me is really important, and it is often said that as a society we are more connected than ever, but more disconnected than ever. That battle between devices and technology and genuine connection. With less of the heart to heart connection going on, we can easily become isolated and it feel very hard to feel that sense of belonging to anything, anyone or anywhere.
But I do feel times are changing, I see more groups popping up to get people reconnected again, people are turning towards faith or spirituality to find some of that sense of belonging or connection. Sometimes its just being out and about where other people are, a cafe, a library, a church, to be amongst people, even if we are not necessarily talking with them.
It can be easy to try a group once, and decide its not for us, but I would recommend giving it a go a couple of times at least, unless something really doesn't resonate. Being curious is really key here, hunting out different groups, different activities, different places, seeing what is out there and look at it as an adventure in finding some places where you feel that sense of connection, feeling like you are part of something. More to follow on this next week....
Liz our Life Coach
Talking to a client this week and so many of her words absolutely resonated with my journey, thoughts and values.
We were talking about being brought up in a society/culture where the expected is to get an education, get married, have kids, have a career and somewhere along the line get on the property ladder too, or at least some of the above.
I know for myself, and it seemed for this client too, that as we started on that path, it soon became obvious that it wasn't working for us very well, it didn't feel aligned or flow, or was generally a hard slog or just felt clunky.
I shared some of my story starting at school where it was not the norm at my school to go in to Nursing, that I was asked more than once why I didn't want to become a Doctor, and even after completing my training and working in the profession for a while, I still felt something was missing.
I wasn't interested in promotion, I just wanted to be amongst the patients. Leaving Nursing, I then worked for the Prison Service and then ran a pub, before coming away to New Zealand, hardly a logical or progressive career path. But in hindsight it is very clear that through all of that I was gaining experience of working with people in different settings, hearing different stories, understanding more.
Here I am now, a Certified Life Coach in New Zealand, working with an incredible team at the Taranaki Retreat. There is no way I could have planned for this, even when I got in touch with Suzy to talk about volunteering for three months back in 2018, it never once crossed my mind that it would turn in to what it has now.
My path may not have had a plan, a map or even a compass, but it was the right path for me. For this client, she is very much in the process of owning her path yet is already seeing some of the beautiful sights it holds.
It can be so easy to think we are wrong because we are not following that same, expected path. But it does not mean that at all. It takes courage and strength to mark out our own path, but the rewards can be so very high.
Liz our Life Coach
The prospect of sitting facing a counsellor and ‘opening up’ leaves many of us cold, and such supports are avoided. Worst are younger guys... and kinda middlingly old-timers like myself.
However, get us working on a project along with a bunch of others; chuck a couple of Peer Support Workers into the mix, bring on a qualified builder who knows their stuff, without even realising it, we're opening up to support, sharing our story over coffee/smoko, and picking up not only the physical tools in the workshop, but the support tools that we so need.
Since Clare started offering the programme, there have been moments when I've been reduced to tears (manly ones, of course....!) - both through laughter, delight and simply being humbled at the depth of what I've seen. It's the GOLD. It's true holistic prevention work at its finest.
Those taking part have already got stuck into:
All this has only been possible thanks to the sponsorship of Mitre 10 Mega, New Plymouth. Humbling to see such generosity in action.
Building the skills; creating something; using your hands - it changes stuff. However, power tools are a requirement for that to happen - and are where the real fun starts! Mitre 10 Mega's generosity has included the full sponsorship of the equipment - a comprehensive list including the best in landscaping tools; skillies, drills, drivers, chargers, saws, angle-grinders... PPE...
Today we shout out to the amazing team there, for caring so much - and, on behalf of every single person who will take part in the programme - THANK YOU. I encourage all of us to show our appreciation by making our presence felt in the local Mitre 10 Mega when the DIY urge hits us... The guys are the real-deal legends there.
Why Building Mates?
....because it's all about connections; and it's not just about guys, either. It's about all of us.
Shaun Robinson, Spokesperson for the Mental Health Foundation commented, in response to a sobering report on the scale of loss to suicide within the construction industry: “Suicide prevention is something for all New Zealanders to work on, but the most effective suicide prevention initiatives are tailored to the environments and cultures of people at risk. In the case of the construction industry, pilots of programmes in New Zealand and Australia have found that initiatives targeted at people who work in the construction industry can prevent suicide and improve mental health and wellbeing.”
That's what we're all about.
Know someone who might find the hands-on approach helpful (suitable for teens and upwards) - pick up some skills, and get a listening ear in the workshop environment? Tell them the story.
Keen to support? Here's the wishlist (think Build-Bank - like a foodbank, but gruntier):
Can you help out with any of the above? Drop Clare an email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Kia ora e te whānau
Greetings to you as another week has flown - wet and coldly - by. Does it feel to you that life is speeding back up again? Some shared with us how helpful they found sloooowing down, and a less crowded calendar. Others really struggled with being told to stay at home and felt trapped in the four walls. Still others of us found a kind of safety in that. We had to do a bit less. Now that everything is back open, we are getting back to perhaps where we were before - and not all of us want to go back to that.
Like many other organisations, things became tougher for the Retreat's work through Levels 3 and 4, and much of our work had to be done online or on the phone - it's never the same, eh. But there were learnings too - ways in which we discovered we could decrease traffic to our site - and therefore keep things more peaceful, by moving some team meetings online, and arranging more catch-ups in the community.
Bonus, more time to be alongside our Guests and those we're working with at home!
If this post-lockdown period feels strange and uncertain to you, it could because we are now having to re-assess and make decisions about how we prefer to do somethings, having been forced to try out different ways of doing life. Many of us missed having the treat of a take away, but some found that actually they enjoyed being more adventurous with their cooking instead. Sometimes it is good to look at everyday things in a new light and consider changing it up and sometimes the absence makes us even more sure we want to keep that in our lives. Like hongi, shaking hands and hugging :). What a relief to be able to connect physically again!
To keep our doors open, a gnarly chunk of my time is spent assembling applications to every single possible grant-making body there is! It's a heap of admin, spectacularly tedious, and depressing fruitless most of the time.... I am determined that, one day, we will find the route to some kind of social enterprise or corporate funding solution that will mean the Retreat's programmes are sustainably funded. It's there, somewhere - just needs a stroke of genius.
So many applications boil down to quanatitive analysis (how many of this, that or the other); I find it a diminishing process for the mana of those we support trying to put a measure, or draw a graph that expresses "the value" of our mahi. People's lives are not easily depicted with statistics which make a nice pie chart; we are not numbers, and are much more complex beings than that - and we strongly stand against quick-fix approaches (guess what; they don't work!). Working on the narrative part of a grant application this morning, I was so moved to read this chunk of feedback (below) from an awesome Guest who had just completed one of our programmes.
Feedback is critically important to us; indeed a constant process of listening, learning and improving what we do is built into the Retreat's policies and procedures. We made it so that we had to be intentional about this - knowing that the most vital source of learning for any caring organisation, are the stories - those whose lived experience, tears, laughter and narrative teaches us constantly what was most needed - where, and when, and how. We don't and can't get it right every time, whānau, but we do do a merry dance of celebration where something has worked well.
Working with Liz, the Retreat's Life Coach, has been lifechanging. I've had a safe and neutral space in which I have been able to navigate dark corners, had reliable and practical love and support and built the confidence to dream about what my ideal life would look like moving ahead. I'm so happy (and proud) to say that thanks to Liz's support, reflections and guidance, I'm now living that life - I still have to pinch myself! Liz believed in me and cheered me on when I didn't think I was worthy of all that I have now and I'll never forget my time working with her. She's down to earth, real, warm and one of the very best things I've ever allowed myself to receive. Thank you so much, Liz & the team at Taranaki Retreat. You've all completely transformed my entire life. xxx
I believe that Coaching is one of the best tools in our kete - and, indeed, that we have the very finest practitioner on our Team, offering it. Liz embodies heart-and-wairua the Retreat's 'way' - and that's this... empathy:
Interested in learning more about Coaching? Hit up our blog page here, to read some of Liz's material. If it's something that you, or your loved one might find helpful - just hit reply to this message.
Just before I let you go - I want to thank you again for 'being there' and reading our e-news updates. Your part in all this is that same kinda empathy. It makes such a difference.
Next week... ohhhh there's exciting news to share! An update on an awesome new programme we are offering. For now, here's the logo for the programme - hot off the press thanks to our in-house/in-whānau graphic designer, Storm.
Guys, it's the coolest new Pilot Project - watch this space - I'll tell you more next week.
EO, Taranaki Retreat