Coaching In ‘Christina’s World’
A dear coaching mentor, Wendy Y. Bailey came into town to present to our professional coaching organization, ICF Charlotte Chapter, and her presentation and presence has inspired me to deeper clarity and more questions about what I do.
I’ve tweaked and cemented my coaching brand, thanks to her example, as well as the mentoring and coaching program I participated in with Coach Bill Baren. And I’m very happy with The Life Beyond Limits Coach® path I’m on now as a result of Bill’s Client Mastery Blueprint Program. Still, something just hasn’t felt quite right in various exercises and seminars I’ve done to perfect my niche in disability life and career coaching. Something’s been sorely missing and I’m still dragging around some ideals that are shooting me in the proverbial foot professionally. Yes, I want to coach people with disabilities – first, last and always. But which sub-niche or population? There are, after all, over 75 million people with disabilities worldwide and I can’t coach them all. (Or can I? *evil cackles*) Do I want to coach veterans coming home with disabling injuries? Do I want to coach ‘tweens’ and teens with disabilities? Or do I want to focus on women? I’d love to coach any number of folks with disabilities, yes, and they are all welcome at my door, but I have to be clear with myself if I am going to really attract and be a sharp coach to a particular group of people with disabilities that rings the bell in my soul.
After a satisfying dinner, Coach Wendy asked me, “So, what’s her name? What’s she like?” Wendy quickly searched for a pen and a scrap of paper to begin writing, waiting for me to answer. “What’s she do for a living?” I at first looked at Wendy like Scooby-Doo perplexed by a cartoon apparition and gave her my version of Scooby’s “Do huh?” yelp. We shared a giggle and backed up. She then asked more clearly, “Who do you feel most drawn to coach, Monica?” Let’s do a quick profile of that person with a disability, she invited. It didn’t have to be perfect or complete right that minute, but on the back of an envelope, words and phrases began to draw a picture in my mind. Wendy asked me again, “What’s her name?” “Christina,” I said with a slight beam, once I got the name in my head. It took me a beat to think. The name comes from one of my favorite, if not my most favorite, painting, “Christina’s World” by Andrew Wyeth.
Many art critics describe the painting as melancholy and depressing, but I see so much hope in that scene where Christina, the actual woman having been a paraplegic from birth herself, lies in a golden field of grassy expanse, fingers combing the ground as she peers over the horizon at her home in the distance. To me, Christina represents a woman with a disability who is reaching for her home, her rightful place in the world, within herself, however straightforward or complex she sees her path and role. She might be a lady veteran coming home with a new body and abilities trying to reconcile the military role she’s been used to with the role of mom, wife, daughter or working civilian woman. She might be a ‘tween’ or teen girl awkwardly budding into the woman she was meant to be.
Christina might be a woman who’s dealt with her disability her whole life or was injured years ago, but she has finally come to a crossroads, realizing that she hasn’t quite made it to her idyllic place in the world, her home base. She wants more, deserves it. She sees home in the distance and is clutching her way onward regardless of the challenges. She needs someone like me to coach her through the vast plain of possibilities, provide her with tools to carve a path beyond her limiting beliefs and behaviors, beyond the limiting labels and expectations others have assigned to her, beyond the presumed limits of her body and spirit.
I’ve been dabbling on a character sketch of Christina today with a print of that painting in front of me and I think I see her more clearly in the distance. Once I do have a clearer picture, I can better prepare for her visit into “My Life Beyond Limits Coaching World,” and beckon her into a rich collaboration with me as her coach, proudly seeing her reach her sense of ‘home’ by our collaboration’s end.
Christina, whoever and wherever you are, I almost see you inside-out in rich Technicolor. And if you aren’t Christina, aren’t even a woman, but have a disability, I won’t necessarily turn you away from the tools to build your own life beyond limits. I’ll do my best by you, too. But Christina, be patient with me. We WILL meet soon and we’ll know each other when you come to my door. I’ll leave a light on.
Thank you, Coach Wendy and Coach Bill, and so many other mentors and friends, for being among the mentors who inspire me to be at home in my own corner of coaching.
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