19 years ago Kayla started school. We were just launching Treasured Locks, inspired by the need to find good products for the girls’ hair. Shayna was only two years old.

So much has changed in those 19 years. Shayna passed six years ago, just after Kayla finished her first year of college. We thought Kayla might need some time off of school- a semester at least, a year more likely. Kayla went right back the next semester and changed her major to something she has a passion for, psychology with a minor in Spanish. She would not waste another day pursuing a degree that didn’t inspire her.

After getting her bachelor’s degree, Kayla informed us she would move closer to home and dive right into her Master’s so that she could go into Mental Health Counseling. For the last two years, she has lived with two friends she has known since was 6 years old. Her 19 years in a row formal education journey finally came to its conclusion on Friday, April 30th. We celebrated with her on Saturday, May 1st with a small gathering on the first day of Mental Health Awareness Month.

I could not be more proud of Kayla. This has not been an easy journey for her and she has handled it with grace and poise. She is compassionate and accomplished. She will make a great difference in the lives of the people she chooses to work with.

While the last six years have been difficult for our family, the past year has been the most difficult in a century for the planet. We are finally coming out of the worst pandemic of our lifetimes. Having (vaccinated) friends over and sharing hugs on Saturday felt like a little return to normalcy.

Just yesterday, Sanaya said (through Suzanne Giesemann):

Have you ever hugged a friend and not wanted to let go? The awareness of your shared connection flows from heart to heart, soul to soul, and it is such a strong reminder of home—of your true nature—that you don’t wish to return to so-called “normalcy.” In the spirit world, this kind of intimacy and connection is the norm, so soak it up while you can. This is the gift of a true friend—to remind you that Home is available here and now through connection. Save it not only for those most close to you, but spread it around, why don’t you? Love is your very center, and trust us: You are so very loved.

Take a Break and Watch This

I’m sure it’s no coincidence that I had shared this video on Facebook just the day before. While we can’t be together in person right now. Please enjoy this and accept a virtual hug from me.

As my good friend Roberta Grimes says: “Consider yourself hugged.”

 

A couple of days ago my cousin made a Facebook post titled “I Ain’t No Ways Tired” the title of an old Negro spiritual. I replied, “Yes, I am tired.” This was the day after the verdict in the murder of George Floyd and the day after an officer shot and killed a 16-year-old Black girl in my hometown. I was exhausted.

The Uphill Climb

Then, yesterday happened. I took my morning walk and sat down to print out the orders from our website. The business has been dwindling. But, that’s OK, as I’m transitioning into the life coaching business. But, there were no orders to print. We had received 0 orders in 24 hours. Typically, we get 7-10 orders a day, down from the 20 orders a day we got at our peak. I immediately felt a rush of panic. What was happening? Just two days ago I sent a text message announcing a sale to 2,500 people on my text list. Two ordered. Two out of 2,500. That’s a paltry 0.08% conversion rate. My mind fixated on all the things going wrong. 

I had two coaching appointments for the week. My goal is 3-4 appointments a day. And those two appointments were with the same person. I got a reply to my automated follow-up emails that go out after my complimentary discovery sessions. A potential client wrote that she would love to schedule more appointments with me. She just can’t afford it right now. Why do I keep attracting clients who love to work with me but don’t have the money?

A few days ago I put out a call to 3,000 Facebook friends and 800 people on my business page asking for volunteers to evaluate my new guided meditation. Literally, not one person volunteered.

I felt all alone and the voice inside my head told me I should just quit. “Just give up.”, it said.“ “You’ll never be successful at anything. Everything is too hard. Why did I plan this life?” I wanted someone to talk to. But, there was no one. I had an appointment coming up with a client. I thought about canceling the appointment. I didn’t have the energy to try to cheer someone else up. I could barely keep myself going.

What Does Quitting Look Like?

But, what would quitting look like? What were my options? As always the only option was to keep going. As Churchill said, “When you’re going through hell, keep going.” So, I didn’t cancel the appointment. Instead of focusing on what was going wrong, I focused on what I could do at this moment. Instead of projecting into the future where I’d be living on the street, I set up a list of things I could do right now.

Triage

I put on my problem-solving hat. What would be wrong? Let’s investigate. The first thing I did was I got on Google Analytics to see if our website was getting any traffic. Traffic was fine. Actually, better than fine. We had over 1,000 visitors in the 24 hours we got no orders. I got on my website and placed a test order. It went through fine.  So, the website is up. The payment methods are working and people are finding me. Nothing else to do there. Next, I wrote an email and sent it to our newsletter list- 5,600 emails. I offered a flash sale for 36 hours only. A few minutes later, two orders came in. Two is better than zero. The orders continued to trickle in during the day. I guess I just had to prime the pump.

I kept the appointment with the client. It went fine. Then, I re-wrote the request for help evaluating my meditation. Within a couple of hours, ten people had volunteered. I guess the first post just went unnoticed for some reason. I thought the guinea pig image was cute. Apparently, no one else did.

Moving On

I put it all out of my head when Tywana got home from work. I had been too tired and distracted to make dinner. Getting out the meditation to the people who volunteered, re-doing that post, composing the email, etc. had taken up my entire day. So, she went out and picked up Chipotle for dinner. I had done what I could do. So, I set things aside to resume tomorrow.

The Dreams

But, the frustration followed me into my dreams. I was driving down a dark highway with no headlights on. I could barely see 10 feet in front of the car. Suddenly, I found myself in a tunnel that was too small for my car. I could head the walls scraping the paint off of both sides as I sped through the tunnel which turned into a roller coaster. We looped and dove in the car on this roller coaster in the pitch dark. I transitioned out of that dream into a dream where I was wandering around downtown Columbus (my hometown) trying to find the bus to take me home. I wandered into a restaurant where the owner offered to tell me how to get to the bus stop if I first introduced myself, individually, to all fifty people in the restaurant. I did so. Then, I found myself trying to walk home alongside the very busy two-lane road near my parents’ house. But, the road had no shoulders and about a 15-foot ditch beside it. And, my legs didn’t work. So, I was army-crawling most of the way. I was spent. Finally, about halfway, mercifully, I woke up in my bed and the alarm went off a few seconds later.

Then, it was time to get up and do this all again. So, here I go… I am tired. But, I will keep putting one foot in front of the other. It’s a new day with new challenges. I am tired. But, it’s one foot in front of the other.

Image by Leroy Skalstad from Pixabay

The saying goes, “ The only thing constant in life is change.”

Here we go again. Four days ago my wife took a full-time job. This is the first time she’s worked full-time out of the house since Kyle was born over twenty-four years ago. I think of the days when the house was full. I loved those times. Kayla, Shayna Zoe (our dog), Stevie (our other dog) Tywwana all here together,  all day long, every day. Those were are fun times. I loved spending time with the girls. Even though I would mostly be in my office, we would stop and have lunch together. And we would check in with each other during the day.

Then Kayla graduated from high school and went off to college. Just a year later, Shayna passed away. We were suddenly, unexpectedly, and against our will, empty nesters. That was an adjustment. The house seemed so quiet. It seemed so empty.

In August last year, we had to say goodbye to Zoe. Stevie is still adjusting to not having her playmate here. I miss Zoe still.

5 1/2 years later, I had pretty much adjusted to this new lifestyle Tywana has worked part-time jobs during that time. But, mostly, she has worked Treasured Locks full time. Her office was in the basement. My office is on the first floor. But, things change. Health insurance costs continue to rise. Treasured Locks is not doing as well as it once did. Manufacturers whose products we use to move a lot of have gone direct with their own websites or to retail locations. So we’ve had to adjust to the new levels of income from Treasure locks. Our health insurance is now about one and a half times what our mortgage is. At almost $20,000 a year, we have to sell a lot of shampoo just to pay for healthcare. A couple of years ago, Tywana took a job.  It was full time, but she was working from the house. It was nice because we could still be together, and she could still work on Treasured locks. And our health insurance was down to just half of what our mortgage is. Covid-19 put an end to that job.  For the last several months, we’ve had to pay our own healthcare insurance again until she could find something else.

About a month, ago she found something else. She got a job with GE Credit Union that she started this past Monday.  As I sit here on Thursday, she’s been in training for the last several days. I’m here adjusting to the New Normal. It’s just Stevie and me now. Neither of us us likes it. Stevie’s adjusted a little bit. She comes into my office and whines. She whines when I’m packing orders. She wants me to play with her. Stevie does not get the concept of work. Finally, she will give up and lay down and let me get to work.

While Tywana’s working the full-time job,  I’m juggling my consulting business, my coaching business, and managing what remains of Treasured Locks. I pack orders in the morning.  I ship the orders. I make products. I do marketing. Then I work on my podcast, my courses, my coaching, my presentations, my writing, and my social media. I’ve also taken on a part-time sales job with a new software-as-a-service company that’s starting today. It’s fifteen hours a week right now, with the opportunity for more if things work out.

So, there are lots of irons in the fire. No, wait. There are lots of new seedlings planted. We’ll see what takes root.  If they all grow, I’ll have to cut something out. For now, it’s the let them all grow up together approach.

What I have to do is to be patient, to not get ahead of myself. I can easily get overwhelmed with so much going on and so much to do. Since I don’t know where things are going, I have to trust for now.

I love what I’m doing with Grief 2 Growth. It’s my passion. It’s what I feel I’m here to do. But, there are bills to be paid, and most of what I do- like the podcast, doesn’t pay. Ahh.. the life of a “lightworker.” 

Things have always worked on in the past. So, there’s no reason to believe that they won’t continue to work out in the future. And, as I approached 60 in just a few weeks, the planning horizon is not that long anymore. We have savings, and our expenses are decreasing as Kayla graduates college in the spring, the home remodeling is over, the furniture is bought, etc.

As I look back over the years, I’m grateful for what Treasured Locks has been able to provide for us.  We started the business in 2002, intending just to make a little bit of extra cash.  For fifteen of the nineteen years we’ve been running Treasured Locks, it’s been our primary income. It’s put Kayla through college. It’s paid the mortgage. As Treasured Locks possibly winds down, I have to keep in mind every good thing comes to an end. Everything in this life is temporary. One of the traits of wisdom is knowing when to let go of things. Another is to let go of things with gratitude rather than with regret; to smile because it happened rather than cry because it’s over.

It’s not all bad. Tywana is working just about six miles away, and we see each other every morning and every evening. But, it is an adjustment not to be together in the house everyday all day the way that we have been for the last 24 years. It’s an adjustment to be alone all day long, with the exception of the dog who would rather I play “bone” with her than work.

This new new normal too shall pass. I will be eligible for Medicare in 5 years, drastically reducing our health insurance costs.  Hopefully, Grief 2 Growth will continue to grow.  The job opportunity with a software company may turn into something full-time.  At some point, I’d like to retire,  as would Tywana. For today, I’m grateful for what I’ve got. I’m thankful for all the opportunities before me, even though they have not yet come into full bloom. I’m grateful for what I’ve had in the past. And, I trust that whatever comes will be for the best 

“If we provide our service not solely for the monetary reward but in the spirit of love and dedication, this will be reflected in the quality of our afterlife and will make our work much more gratifying and enjoyable in the process.”

Jurgen Ziewe
  Vistas of Infinity

Yesterday, my friend Ruth Altschuler was giving me a flower essence session, a service that is similar to homeopathy. As we were discussing my issues, I was telling her of the frustration I’m experiencing working on one business that seems to be winding down and another that is still in its infancy. Ruth, in addition to offering me some very practical advice was talking me through this.

As we spoke, the song “Just One Victory” came to mind again. Sometimes, you just need that one thing to go right to signal you that everything will be OK. A couple of weeks ago I got a lead on a part-time job that would be perfect for me. But, of course, after hearing of the opportunity, I had heard nothing in spite of checking in a couple of times. It’s the old “hurry up and wait.” I know everything happens in “divine timing.” But, I’m human. I want things to happen now.

I told Ruth if that would just come through, it would go a long way toward brightening my mood. While we were on the call, I received this email from the person who told me about the opportunity. They are getting ready to set up training. I know next week is a holiday but do you guys have any availability next week?” Looks like it’s going to happen.

Later in the evening, I got the Friday Afterlife Report from Victor Zammit with the quote from Jurgen as the headline. What came to mind was that Jesus said to store up treasure in Heaven. There’s no monetary compensation for the work yet. I’m putting more out than it’s bringing in.

I’ll take those as indications I’m on the right path.

I’m going to pat myself on the back here. Not even two months ago a friend suggested I take a life coaching course. I had never spoken to her about life coaching. I hadn’t mentioned it to anyone. I took this as a sign of something I should do. Within a couple of weeks, three or four more people would bring it up- after I purchased the course. The course was about twenty-five hours of material. I set a goal of finishing it within the month, and I did. I started working on my website. And, last night I had my first paid client meeting.

I had given my new client an introductory half hour session to be sure that they knew what they were getting into. I gave them some homework that we went over in that first session. When they said they were ready to book a paid session, I nearly panicked. The free meeting wasn’t threatening. Taking money makes this for real though. I have to deliver. As the time for our appointment approached, I wondered what we’d talk about for the full hour we had booked. I think I’m a pretty decent conversationalist, but I’m not a natural born bullshitter. Besides, when I decided to do this, I  committed that I would never waste anyone’s time or money. If they’re not getting value out of our sessions, I’m not going to do it. I was over-the-moon happy when a couple of day after our first session, my client emailed me and told me they had begun exercising regularly again, prompted by our conversation.

Still, there was this niggling feeling in the back of my mind about doing this work. No one in my family has mentioned it, even though I’ve been posting it on my blog. In my family, no mention is equivalent to disapproval. If they support something, they might say it. If they don’t, they’ll just stay silent. Tywana has been very encouraging. Strangers have been encouraging. My mentoring group has been very encouraging. I’ve got to draw confidence from myself and ignore what others say or don’t say.

When the time came for our hour together, I was prepared to talk about the second homework assignment that I had given them. But, first I wanted to touch base with how things had gone since our last talk. My client is new in sales and is doing great in her new job. They were hoping for a promotion, and the promotion came through since our last session. However, there were going to be some issues with the transition into the new position. This is something I felt very comfortable helping with since I was a sales professional myself for over two decades, trained by IBM, Sun Microsystems, and others. I was able to offer advice that, if it pays off, will smooth the transition right out. We also came up with two backup plans. I felt like I had earned my hourly fee many times over and that feeling of having deserved my money several times over is what I hope to feel like after every client session. I didn’t feel like the imposter I felt like at the start of the hour. I felt very comfortable with what I was doing. Our conversation continued touching on a couple of other areas of their life, and we made plans to talk about some other things in later sessions. We barely touched on the program I had planned, and it was just as it should have been.

I was pumped up when I got off of the call. Maybe not Tiger Woods winning the Masters pumped up, but pretty pumped. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was doing what I’m meant to do in terms of earning money. I’ve heard it said that the ideal job is one that doesn’t feel like work. This doesn’t feel like work at all. Even preparing the materials and building the website are things I enjoy doing. All of those years in training, all of that experience, all of the grief, all of the hardships, are tools I can use to help others and I’m more than happy to do that. I’m ready to see where this goes.

Today was a good day. It was a balmy 60º in April. Gotta love that. My friend Bill and I went for a walk. We are opposites when it comes to politics. So, we usually avoid that topic. We met at an evangelical church back when I was an evangelical. He’s still attending the church and is a former pastor. So, let’s say our religions don’t exactly line up either. I respect where he is. I think he thinks of me as lost. And, since I’m someone who is lost, it’s his duty as a Christian to get me back into the fold. I respect that. If he didn’t try, it would mean he doesn’t care.

He asked me where Tywana and I are going to church now. He wanted to know if we were still attending the “universalist” church. It’s an understandable mistake. I tell him no. We stopped going to the Unity church. I have more than enough social interaction with friends and neighbors and online. I don’t need church for that anymore. In fact, in the years we attended the Unity church not once did we do anything with anyone outside of the church service. As far as religious instruction, I get that via podcasts and reading. Tywana listens to Super Soul Sunday. When we were in Phoenix, we attended the Unity church there. Tywana listens to their podcasts. So, as far as the functions that church serves, it’s not something we need to get up for on Sunday morning and spend two hours, including drive time, to do.

He moved on to ask me what my relationship with “Christ” is like now. That is one of my pet peeves. Why is it Christians, and I think mostly evangelicals, call Jesus (Yeshua) Christ? They say they know him and they have a personal relationship with him. But, they refer to him by a title. Even worse is “Jesus Christ”. Jesus the Christ would be more accurate. Christ is not his last name. I had to ask

Me: “Bill, why do you refer to Jesus (Yeshua)? as Christ? Christ is a title, it’s not his name.”

Bill: “Christ is the Greek.”

Me: “Yes, Bill, I know, but it’s still not a name.”

Bill: “Christ is Greek for Messiah.”

Me “Yes, but Messiah is also a title. Like your name is Bill.You are a father, you are a husband. Those are titles.”

Finally, he relented. On to the meat of the conversation. I told him I view Jesus as a Master teacher, as an Ascended Master, if you will. I view Jesus as someone who perfected his relationship with God (Source). Jesus was a pure channel. It’s my goal to be like Jesus and become a pure channel for source. I do not view Jesus as the son of God. We are all sons of God. Jesus told us we can do what he did (and greater). He said that Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” Yes. Because Jesus had become so much like the Source (God) that they were inseparable. Bill asked me my source(s) for these conclusions I’ve come to. I explained to him that I have studied a lot of extrabiblical materials. In a previous talk, I tried to refer him to a book that I had read, and he refused me saying that he only needs the Bible as his source. When I brought up today that he had said that, he say that he reads other sources. Anyway, the idea that Jesus is an Ascended Master comes from channeled communications, NDEs and after death communications; all sources Bill would not take as credible.

Then, I got into what I definitely do not believe about Jesus. Jesus did not come to pay the penalty that God was owed for our sins. That is an insane notion. I told Bill that God commands that we forgive seventy times seven. To forgive is not to demand payment. Why would God tell us to forgive when he cannot forgive us? I said if God is love, how could God torment any of his children? Bill explained to me that God is not just love; he is a complex being. Bill explained that sin has consequence and God is also justice and punishment is a part of justice. My eyes rolled so hard, I thought I was going to pass out. OK. Slow down. Sin has consequences. We agree. Natural consequence. Sin damages our relationship with God. OK. I agree with that. But, we’re not talking about natural effects or a damaged relationship. We are talking about torment. I said to him: “If I owe you money, you have a choice. You can demand payment. Or you can forgive the debt. Either is within your rights to do so. Right? You can forgive my debt without demanding payment.” He countered with the relationship between the two of us and the relationship between man, and God is different. Yeah. OK. God is supposed to love me infinitely. So, God is so constrained by his own “godness” that he cannot do what man can do, forgive?

I continued. OK. This brings me to my next point, Bill. God also is demanding a double payment. He looked at me quizzically.  I continued. Jesus paid our debt.  So, let’s say it was a bajillion whatever that’s the cost to cover the whole debt of humanity for all time. God’s got his payment. But, wait. Here I come, and I haven’t “accepted” the payment. God torments me eternally as payment for my sin. But, he’s already been paid. Besides, in what justice system eternal torment for a short lifetime of sin a just payment? I tell him I read many decades ago the answer to the question of how Jesus could have paid billions of lives times eternal torment in just three days in the grave. The author even diagrammed it out how Jesus, being a multi-dimensional being, could simultaneously absorb all of that torment in a finite amount of time. That makes the movie the Passion of the Christ look like a walk in the park.

Things were getting a bit heated now. But, we kept our mutual respect and continued. Bill acknowledged that I had had bad religious experiences as a child and he thought that’s why I’ve rejected my faith now. I admitted I did have bad experiences as a child and that is a huge part of who I am today. He is spot on. I said, the pain of my religious upbringing forced me to look for answers that made sense. When I was about eight years old I wished I had never been born. I was told that I was born with God hating me for my “original sin” and that only Jesus loved me. Only by being “covered in Jesus blood” could God even bear to look at me. It made me feel worthless and ashamed. And I was told I was supposed to love God because he created me. I didn’t ask to be created. Uncreate me. Put me back where I was before. Then, when my uncle was murdered and they told me he was in hell because he hadn’t been saved. But, he couldn’t be saved because he was gay and the church wouldn’t accept him the way he was, that set me over the edge. Up until then I passively accepted this notion of the angry sky God. I was OK because maybe he wouldn’t torment me if I could keep up the charade until I died. But, I couldn’t accept he was sending billions to eternal torment anymore. Yes, Bill, I have rejected the faith of my youth. It would have been easier just to accept I was saved and move on. I was baptized. I spoke in tongues. And, I was taught eternal salvation. I was all good.

It’s when I got outside of the Bible, which is primary, if not exclusive, for people like Bill, that I began to see the big picture. I studied church history. I learned how the Bible was cobbled together. I learned about how the books of the canon were chosen (by men who had a political agenda). I discovered how Constantine early on co-opted and corrupted Christianity. And, I began to read other texts- the Dhammapada, the Bhagavad Gita, the tao de ching. I looked at contemporary sources.

All of this changed how I read the Bible when I came back to it. I see it through new eyes. For example, if God could speak to Paul and John, why can’t he talk to Neale Donald Walsch today? I related to Bill that Paul’s experience on the Road to Damascus sounds just like an NDE. He saw a bright light, he heard a voice from the sky. He was blinded and later regained his site. Bill said “Except Paul didn’t die.” How do we know Paul didn’t die? What we do know is he heard the voice of a dead person (Jesus). Paul was blinded by the light and subsequently ended up with new vision. I told Bill I absolutely believe Paul’s experience. But, you know who else I believe? Michelle Clare who I spoke two days ago who had three similar experiences and came back with messages. Why do you believe Paul’s experience just because it was written down 2,000 years ago and is in your Bible? And, when Paul had his vision where he was taken into the third heaven “Whether it was in the body or out of the body- God knows.” sounds an awful like an astral travel or out of the body experience. Why don’t we believe people who have those experiences today?

For years, I tied myself up in knots and believed things that defy logic and common sense. And, the wilder the thing, the more “faith” you were supposed to have had. I told Bill this to sum up. “You began by asking me about my faith and immediately tied that into Jesus. My faith is stronger than it has ever been. In fact, it’s not even faith anymore. It’s knowing.” I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I like where I am on the road.

It’s April 7th and spring has finally arrived in Ohio. Tywana’s out of the country on a cruise. So, I have a lot of solitude this weekend. This morning I’m up early out for my walk because I have a full agenda. The temperatures in the morning are above 50º, warm enough for me to go without a jacket. There are buds of leaves on the trees. The daffodils are in bloom. The birds are chirping and waking me up with the sun. And, it feels good.

I’ve always loved spring, maybe even more than summer.  I am definitely a summer kind of guy. But, there’s something magical about spring. The death in winter, in contrast to the new life of spring, makes spring all the more special. Seeing the Earth wake up after that sleep is a reminder that nothing truly dies. Living in Ohio and Kentucky all of my life, I’ve always experienced four seasons even though I have no love for winter. Fall only reminds me that winter is coming. So, I don’t particularly enjoy autumn. But, there’s an added bonus to spring now. The change of the seasons is a reminder that everything changes. There are times in the winter when it seems it will never end. There are gray days end on end. I find myself looking at the long-range forecast for an appearance of the sun. I search for that day when the temperature will finally climb above 32º and melt and snow. And, I often wonder if I can make it through.

This change of season let me know I’ve hit another milestone. I’ve made it through another winter. The gray and cold can’t last forever. The times we look forward to that sometimes seem like they will never come, always eventually come. Time’s inexorable march goes on. If we hang in there, things will change.

As I walked this morning, I had to listen to George Benson’s “Everything Must Change” which was released in 1977. I was sixteen years old when I began listening to this song. Of course, I could not appreciate it at sixteen. Tywana, Kayla, and Shayna weren’t even possibilities to 16-year-old Brian. I was just learning to drive, I hadn’t even begun shaving. I had no idea that 42 years later I’d be listening to the song again, and how these lines would have so much deeper meaning now. I am the old, mysteries have unfolded and 42 more winters have turned to spring. This wounded heart is healing. As humans, we tend to resist change. We want to lock in and stay wher we are. Some will find this song melancholy. Not me, not anymore. Bring on more change.

The young become the old,
Mysteries do unfold.
‘Cause that’s the way of time
Nothing and no one goes unchanged.
There are not many things
In life you can be sure of.
Except
Rain comes from the clouds,
And sun lights up the sky,
And hummingbirds do fly.
Winter turns to spring.
The wounded heart will heal.
Never much too soon
Everything must change

Imposter syndrome (also known as imposter phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the imposter experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

I’ve dealt with the imposter syndrome my entire life. It was only in the last twenty years or so that I learned there was a name for it and others feel it as well. It’s common. Maybe everyone has experienced it at some point. I think it hits perfectionists and high achievers more than others. It manifests as “The Voice”. The first time I can recall this was back in my early days of Christianity. I was told that God had created me defective and hated me for it. He wanted to torment me eternally. The only way to escape this fate was to love him and obey his every command. I pretended to love him. But, how are you supposed to love someone who only loves you for what someone else did (Jesus)? I was terrified of being exposed as an imposter for the next thirty-five years. The Voice told me I would be exposed soon.

Then, there was my career in sales. I’m naturally shy, or so I thought. I took up a career in sales to make more money and to force myself out of the shell I found myself in. I was good at it. I made the 100% club every year I was at IBM. I left IBM and made even more money. But, every time things turned for the worse, which they will in any long sales career, The Voice said: “Maybe I was never any good. I’ve been faking it. Now I’m being exposed for who I truly am.”

As an entrepreneur, I started my own company from nothing. It’s sustained our family for seventeen years now. We’ve gone from selling other people’s products to developing our own line, to (finally) landing our first distribution deal. Yet, I often feel like I really don’t know anything about running a business.

When people started suggesting I consider life coaching all I could think of was what a joke life coaching is. Life coaches are for wealthy people who have too much money and too little self-esteem. Then, I saw a couple of life coaches and realized the value they could have. A few sessions helped me tremendously. But, could Brian do this? My whole life I’ve felt drawn to the ministry. Pop, my paternal grandfather, was a pastor. His parents were pastors. It runs in my family. I didn’t have the traditional Christian beliefs to serve as a pastor in a church. That was out. When Tywana and I did pre-marital counseling at the Vineyard and I stood up in front of people about to get married teaching them the skills that would improve the odds for a successful marriage, I felt right at home, much more than I ever did in sales. That’s a form of life coaching and I loved doing that.

Can I charge people for what I do for friends for free? Isn’t being a life coach a bit like being a prostitute? You charge people for what you’d give away in a relationship. I gladly spend my time helping people. I’d do it for free, for anyone, anytime, anywhere. The problem is, in this world, you need money to live and no one’s giving away money for free. We have to charge for our time.

I started to reflect on much of my typical day. People call me for advice all the time. As an example, just yesterday, I spent over an hour on the telephone with one friend who was so pumped up they just needed someone to listen. I got in a few “Uh huh”s. But, it was really about them getting it all out.  Another friend sent what had to be over a hundred Facebook messages as I’m being a sounding board for her. A third friend and I had a long conversation when they needed some advice on something of a spiritual that had just happened that they didn’t understand. For her it was a brand new thing. After the years I’ve spent studying this, my expertise was valuable to her.  Hours of my day are spent helping people out, being a sounding board, giving advice, sometimes frankly Googling things they could Google themselves.

Six weeks ago I took the plunge. Five people had told me I should do this, including three people who are already life coaches. I purchased a life coaching course. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right. I was going to educate myself. I set a goal to have the course completed in a month. I completed it a week before my self-imposed deadline. Then, it was time to work on the website. I decided to build it myself. It’s not nearly complete. But, one of my friends saw what I was doing and asked about my new business venture. She wanted to hire me. Then I felt it again. Imposter syndrome. The Voice started. “Who are you kidding? You’ll never get this website finished. You can’t build a website on your own. What do you know about advising other people? You took a course now you’re an expert on life? What will we talk about? Will she find any value in our conversation? You should just stop this now before you embarrass yourself. You know people will think you’ve gone off the deep end completely” I thought about calling her and telling her “Nevermind. I’m not doing this.”  Besides, I wasn’t ready. The Voice started whispering excuses “The website’s not nearly finished.” But, the purpose of the website is to let people know who I am so they’ll hire me. It doesn’t need to be ready. “But, my scheduling system, I haven’t even started on it. How will we schedule the appointment?” We schedule it the old fashioned way. Pick a date and time and put it on the calendar. “But, I haven’t organized all the materials from the course. I want to re-write all of the material and put it online so my clients can fill it out on their computers.” The answer to that was to just send her what I had. The next client can get the re-written, automated stuff. I told myself to stop making excuses. Everything is good enough now. We can continue to work on perfecting it.

I pressed forward. I told that inner critic to shut up. If I set my mind to this, I can do it. I’ve been doing it for free most of my life. There’s nothing wrong with charging. I spent two or three hours yesterday helping other people out. This is time that  I’m not working on my own business. I have to make money. There is nothing wrong with exchanging time for money, as long as the person paying the money finds value in it.

As the time for our appointment approached yesterday evening, the nerves came back again. The Voice, starting to give in said: “At least I’m not charging her for the first session. If she hates it, she can make up an excuse and we’ll just pretend it never happened.”

When we got on the call, it started coming naturally to me. I scheduled a 30-minute initial consultation to get a feel for what she was seeking in a life coach and for me to explain to her what I think I can provide.  40 minutes into the call, I started to wrap it up. I did a very soft close. “Should you choose to work with me, these will be our next steps… Just take some time and think about it and let me know.” She said she definitely wants to go forward and would contact me in the next week or so.

After the call was over, I felt fantastic. And, I was proud of myself. Six weeks after setting the intention, I had completed the course, started the website, and taken my first appointment. This is what I want to do. This is what I’m equipped to do. I’ll continue education to learn more techniques. But, it’s really about communication skills, empathy, and life experience I think. I have all of that. I can help people and I can make at least some money along the way. The Voice telling me I’m an imposter will have to just shut up for a while.

A father recently called me and opened the conversation with “I think there’s something wrong with me.” I’ll call him Donnie.  His son was murdered six months ago.  People in his family are telling him he is doing grief wrong.

He continued “I know a father’s love for a child is different from a mother’s.” It took all of me not to interrupt him.  I restrained myself and practice my listening skills. I could tell he wanted to get a lot out.

His family, of mostly women, are questioning his love for his son because he isn’t mourning the way they are, with wailing and gnashing of teeth. They are still holding vigils, staging protests, wearing t-shirt with “Little Donnie” on them. They are, using his words, “stuck”.  He told me he believes his son is safe with God. He trusts that his son is happy. He trusts in God’s promises. He then told me about his son’s life, filled with womanizing, drugs, and gang banging. There were times he didn’t see his son for years at a time, times when he worried about his well being. From his perspective, his son is safe now. No harm can befall him. His family takes his attitude as indifference to his son.

He went on to tell me that he misses his son all day, every day. When he drives past the location where his son was murdered, he stops and takes some time to visit with his son’s spirit. He told me how he was the one who had to handle his son’s funeral arrangements by himself. He didn’t have the time to mourn properly. He had to make the money to pay for the services, choose the clothes his son would wear, plan the funeral, etcetera. He had to get shit done.

When it was my turn to speak, we talked about how men are socialized. How many of us were told, “Men don’t cry.”? We both heard “You want to cry? I’ll give you something to cry about.” It’s difficult for us to cry in front of others. Speaking for myself, I know that my inability to express emotion in front of others is not innate. It’s not who I was when I came to the planet. It’s the result of years of conditioning living in a family that doesn’t express emotion, positive or negative.

I had to push back on the notion that a father’s love is different than a mother’s love. Women will tell us they have a special bond with their children because they carried them, as if the umbilical cord is still attached. This is an unfalsifiable theory. I cannot know the bond a mother has with a child, just as a mother cannot know the bond I have with my children. I do know that my life was forever changed the first moment I laid eyes on Kayla and again when I first heard Shayna cry. I know that a father feels responsible for the safety and well-being of his children. I know that bond is permanent. And, sadly, now I know that bond extends across the veil that we all cross from this world into the next. Men may not express our love for our children the way women does, I believe largely due to conditioning.

Since Shayna passed, I know that the tears come more easily for me. There are times when I wonder if I’m “over” the grief. I’m not sure that I want to be “over” it. I can get through a conversation about Shayna now without breaking into tears. I do it all the time. However, just yesterday, the sight of a little girl, 19 years old, the age Shayna would be brought a tear from my eye. She had survived the Parkland shooting a year ago only to be taken by PTSD. She took her own life. As I looked into her eyes in the picture, I could feel the pain she felt. I could feel the pain I know her family feels now.

I assured Donnie that there’s nothing wrong with him. I could feel the love he has for his son. I could also tell he genuinely believes his son is now safe, something every parent wants to feel and something he did not feel when his son was in this world. He did what he had to do in the days after his son passed. At the suggestion of someone, he joined Mothers of Murdered Children after his son was murdered.  He could quickly tell these people were obsessed with being “stuck” reliving their children’s deaths over and over again, never healing. He told me he was confident his son wants him to be happy. He wants to be happy. I advised him to not let anyone add guilt to his grief. We all grieve differently. Six months in, he feels like he’s in a pretty good place. I warned him though there will be triggers. Grief never goes in a straight line.  He’s probably still in the shock phase. But, he’s doing remarkably well and is dealing with his grief in his own way.

Helping Parents Heal has very few fathers involved. Less than 20% of the people at our first conference were fathers. The percentage of men in our regular meetings is even lower. This is the first father who picked up the phone and reached out to me for help. Hopefully, there will be more.

We may interact with our kids differently. We may grieve differently. However, a father’s love is a bond that cannot be denied. Men, don’t let anyone tell you that you love less or grieve less because you do it your own way.

 

Thanks to those of you who tried to listen to me on the radio program I was on last week. I have the audio file now. So, if you’re interested, here it is: