Paula Levin

#Coached 2 a sticky situation

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During my first session with Sterna, we got straight into it. The previous night I had hosted sheva brochas for my newlywed niece and I shared what had happened. I was getting the house ready when my sister arrived early with her adorable two-year old twins, her older daughter and my daughter. The kids immediately tucked into a platter of watermelon and pretty soon there were sticky puddles of watermelon juice and seeds tracked throughout my house. I was horrified by the stickiness (I have a bit of a sticky phobia)! On top of that, my brother-in-law, who was barbequing the meat in the garden, stepped in fresh dog poop and there was also a terrifying trail of THAT running through the house. I tried not to freak out, convincing myself that it wasn’t really a big deal and I had no right to feel uptight about something as petty, and easily fixed, as a filthy floor. Especially because my brother in law and sister were both doing me a favor – and after all, I had invited them!

The funny thing about telling yourself what you should feel (to “should on yourself” as my friend Lara Noik calls it) is that it doesn’t change what you feel! It simply adds an additional feeling into the mix. Now, in addition to feeling stressed, I felt like I was failing some invisible character test because I had let this rattle me. This made me more stressed, and I noticed I was feeling short-tempered with my older children, barking instructions at them, indignant that they had not volunteered to help. Now I felt like I was failing at one of the most important things in life – being a good mom! Perfectionist much?

Despite the drama, the mess was cleaned up and the 7 brachot were wonderful, but the morning after, I wasn’t just tired, I felt depressed, just when I needed my energy to tackle a new day. I know this feeling well. It’s the feeling I get when I’ve used up too much energy telling myself not to feel what I’m feeling, and beating myself up for being human.

Sterna asked me straight away what I would do differently to avoid this kind of sticky scenario in the future. “What plans could you put in place so that it doesn’t happen the next time? Because in that stressed out moment, your limbic system is in control and you’re not thinking rationally. How can you avoid putting yourself in a high-stress situation next time? Can you block off more time in the day to get ready earlier? Can you communicate your needs in advance, so everyone knows their responsibilities and tasks?”

“But aren’t we going to work out WHY the mess stressed me out?” I asked, ready to launch into my childhood and tell Sterna that my mom is a bit OCD with cleanliness and always freaked out about the mess. After all, we learn our reactions from our parents. “Coaching is not about asking why. It’s about self awareness of what IS and working out where you want to get to,” she explained. Well this sounded like a fresh new approach and something I had never tried before! But I wasn’t ready…

About the Author
Paula is a wife, mother and writer - based in Johannesburg, South Africa, dreaming of Israel. She is a full-time thinker, part-time copywriter at her husband's advertising agency, journalist and published author. The former editor of Jewish Life magazine, she is now a regular contributor with a passion for contributing goodness, kindness and wisdom to this world.
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