**A little disclaimer.**
I am proud to say that our family has had it share of disagreements, legitimate hurts, and strained relationships and that for the most part, we remain committed to our family. Even cooler, I know that people have the capacity to change, even later in life, because I have witnessed it.
I’m sharing this story not to shame anyone but to share a divine and formative experience that influenced my life.
This is not a story that I tell often. Not even sure if my family would recount it in the same way. Part of me doesn't really care. (I'm more of a feeler than a logician and speak in broad brush strokes more than exactitudes).
And the formative day I'm about to share with you is one of those that will stay with me, in my bones, til I die. It's the reason I do what I do. And it was a pivotal point for the health of my family.
It was July 2006. I was staying in North Carolina with my parents and about to drive to NYC to catch a plane to Italy. A new small company had hired me to finish designing their inaugural handbag collection. I was to source manufacturing and materials. Live in Tuscany. Drive around Florence and its environs. And get paid for it!
To me, it was the best gig ever. I was beyond excited.
I woke up early-ish the morning of my departure to yelling (at that point not unusual in my family). My older brother and his wife were also staying with my parents- I believe they were in town for some wedding festivities in Chapel Hill. I think at the time they were both teachers, too, so they had the summer off.
My brother, Noel, and my dad were getting into it. A real yelling match. It began over something about my brother's dog Clifford not being welcome at my parents' house. When I wandered downstairs (after all, in these transitional homes with open floor plans, you can basically hear everything that goes on. And my room was at the head of the stairs), it was a bitter scene.
And watching it unfold, watching them argue back and forth, spit spraying from their angry mouths betraying the hurt and pain behind their eyes, I knew that this day, more than any other day, if something didn't happen to change the course of their argument (the same argument they'd been having for years), then Noel would walk out of the house and not look back.
He had created a new family (his wife and dog) and he didn't need ours.
I don't want to spend too much time on the argument part of this or on the history of my family's arguments. That's not really the point here.
But typically when arguments erupted (my dad was usually involved) I would also get triggered and join in.
On that July day, however, instead of getting angry and jumping in the middle, I stayed calm and started asking questions. I became the mediator.
I'd have to go back to my journal from that time to remember many specifics about what we actually said, but the gist was this:
My brother wanted to be heard. Acknowledged for what felt like a lifetime of hurt inflicted by my father.
And my dad started to see the past and present from Noel's perspective. He began to feel contrition and express his sorrow for how their relationship had faltered. After many hours of questions and answers, stories and discussion, most of it mediated by me, they both apologized. They both asked for forgiveness. They both forgave.
At the end, they both were crying and hugged and we prayed together, as a family.
And then I hopped in the car to drive to NYC.
I knew that something magical had just taken place.
In three hours, thirty years woven with pain and colored by anger began to unravel, almost dissolve. And I had been a part of it.
It remains the happiest day of my life up to this point.*
And my long drive that day provided the perfect time to integrate that huge change into my world view. To unpack what went on and debrief all the parts of myself.
As the morning's events had unfolded, I didn't even feel like my words were my own. I felt like someone/something else was using me as a mouthpiece.
It was my version of a transcendent experience. Driving north on I-85 in my 4Runner, my tears came, releasing the pain and tension I had no idea I was carrying for my family. My dad and I had made our peace some years before, but watching and being a part of a transition for both him and my brother brought even greater healing for me.
It also just happened that I had my first coaching session that day with a woman named Heather Fougnier.
I hired her because I was struggling (again) with eating disordered habits and thought patterns; I was running all over the country doing sales for fashion brands and while it didn't suck, it wasn't awesome; and I wanted some help as I navigated whatever would be a more stable life.
So on my drive to NYC, I called in and related to her the story of my morning.
It was epic.
It was transformational.
It is (still) a touchstone.
That day I knew that what had happened meant something for my future and for my career. I just wasn't sure what.
I continued to work with Heather for several years, and she pointed out that I had been coaching many of my clients (in the fashion biz) naturally. I began my coaching certification classes and hung out my shingle.
That liminal July day and the encouragement of Heather are the reasons that I began my coaching career.
The experience with my family I find truly humbling, and I needed Heather to articulate what I felt intuitively. I didn't begin to embrace coaching full time until 2009 (oh yes, I ran from it for a while), but I am forever grateful to God and my family for being a part of my realization and to Heather for seeing a path.