Zion Nat'l Park, Columbine

On Closure, Softly

I’ve been on a journey, a lovely journey. There were times when I hadn’t been aware that I was on a journey, although mostly I was paying attention. Just recently, it became apparent that I have landed in the exact place that I was meant to be…

This epiphany-the knowing that I had arrived-came to me two evenings past. I was enjoying the quiet activity of baking pumpkin-coconut bread, while freeing my mind to gently explore various happenings in my life. One large and ongoing happening is related to my having been spending a lot of time working with my husband in his medical practice, nearly two years now. During some of that time, I have experienced resistance to being there; I was, after all, growing my coaching practice-or trying to-and it has been an ongoing opportunity for me to find success in my professional life.

Three years earlier, I had resigned from my long-term role as the Coordinator of the Cardiac Rehab Center at the local hospital. I loved that job, and the resulting deep connection with my community was one that I savored. My decision to leave, to start my own coaching practice, was driven by my passion for health management-as opposed to disease management. As is typical of healthcare delivery in the United States, Cardiac Rehab is offered to a patient AFTER his cardiac event has occurred, and over the years, this no longer felt right to me…I was inspired to motivate others to engage in healthful behaviors that would minimize their risk for developing heart disease or diabetes instead of waiting for them to begin down the disease pathway. I was an experienced nurse-educator and I became fascinated with the neuro-science of behavior change. What was it about the adult brain that either engaged in or sabotaged healthful choices? I wanted to make a difference on the front end of the health continuum.

Talk about a leap of faith … it turns out that coaching in not about “teaching”; coaching is about supporting a client to cultivate their own strengths and to identify the opportunities in their lives to embrace optimal health. Using motivational inquiry and other nifty dialoguing tools, the client searches within himself, with the coach’s role being that of a guide.

My experience however, was that clients WANT to be given meal plans and exercise prescriptions. They want to be provided with tools that can be directly implemented into their busy schedules. I saw that yes, I could invite the client to explore his compelling motivation for pursuing optimal health and well-being, and yet, each client I worked with over the past three years asked for, and expected, the answers to be provided by me, the coach they were paying to guide them.

This worked, actually. I would still invite my client to look within for their motivation, for their strengths on which to build, and for the challenges that would present themselves as a possible barrier to their success. I talked to each client about quieting their minds with deep breathing to decrease the catecholamines in their system, which would avail the brain to take in small bits of new information. It was exciting and gratifying to incorporate the science of behavior change into my coaching practice. My clients made progress. They flourished. They gained self-care skills. They reveled in their newly-cultivated confidence to make decisions that would support their optimal health goals.

Each client, although my fees are quite modest, ultimately decided that due to financial constraints, they would take what they had experienced and learned to continue on their own. After three, six, or twelve months, my clients launched into their brave, new world.

All the while, I had been taking on more responsibility and spending more time at the medical practice-and struggling with my own sense of professional aspirations as well as personal time management. Because I remained resistant, I continued to feel harried, resentful, and as if my day had too many distractions. I was efficient and was making progress in the medical office, yet, at the end of the day, I didn’t feel satisfied with the work I had done. I continued to refer to my role there as temporary. What I wasn’t paying attention to was that my contributions there were making a difference; the staff was benefiting from my presence, both in regards to my lightening their load, but also from my (mostly) enthusiastic approach. And, my husband really, really enjoyed having me in the office every day. When I wasn’t too busy being resistant, I could see the positive influence I was bringing, and the bonus was that I very much enjoyed hanging out with my husband!

When I launched HeartMatters, I created this newsletter. I blogged regularly. I shared links via Twitter. My Facebook page had a lot of “likes.” I made new PowerPoint slides and facilitated workshops. In other words, I was growing my new business. As I got busier in the medical office however, I had less time for this creative and necessary element of marketing and expansion. Writing took on a flavor of obligation. My zest for being an entrepreneur diminished.

I sat with this. I thought of this dichotomy often. I contemplated the lesson that was looming; yet for a long time, the situation remained complicated and challenging. Until I SURRENDERED.

Yep, that’s what the world was waiting for, at least my world. I surrendered…I simply acknowledged that the difference I could make was right in front of me, that what I was doing was very helpful to my husband’s medical practice (which we now call “our practice”, as in, the family business), and agreed to give it five years-yes, five years-to genuinely engage. That was when the shift occurred. The more I began to be present with the day-to-day routine at the office, the more I felt joy. The more I genuinely connected with my co-workers and patients, the more authentic I became. I began to experience gratitude for the positivity I brought to the work and for the kindness that came into my life because of it.

A couple of weeks later, there I was, baking pumpkin-coconut bread and these realizations were the epiphany:
I had gotten away, with intention, from being a Cardiovascular, hospital-based nurse educator to start my coaching practice. As I served others in a coaching capacity, Gratitude became a central tenet in that work. I too had began a daily gratitude practice, during my morning walk, and woweezowee, gratitude became HUGE in my personal and professional life. I wrote about gratitude, I gave workshops on gratitude and I began to live a life of gratitude. Part of my journey, I now see, was towards gratitude. On the way back I found my heart in nursing. Again.

I am truly filled up by teaching others-in a kind way-so that their learning is gentle. As I have cultivated my own gratitude practice, this has also led me to speak to others in a language that is compassionate and non-judgmental. I feel able now to re-engage in guiding our patients towards their own optimal health-in spite of having diagnosed heart disease.

As an aside, I see daily that many of our patients are living with much stress, some of which is self-induced, and some is related to external circumstances. Nonetheless, their stress creates chaotic brain chemistry that ultimately interferes with a patient’s ability to make healthful choices. In spite of their best intentions, some patients fall back to the very behavior(s) that contributed to their heart disease in the first place. I can see now that by connecting one-on-one with patients and/or offering small, group classes to our patients, I can make a positive difference. This realization nourishes me…

Another opportunity for kindness and compassion has been around finances in the office. Many of our patients are un-insured, and many have an outstanding balance for services rendered. Some call to schedule an appointment for the first time, and ask about cash-pay prices. My husband and I have not hesitated to make excellent health care available. He leaves this dialoguing with the patients up to me – there are some times when I write off the balance altogether, and many times when I make an agreement with a patient to make small monthly payments; it feels so right, and touches the patients’ hearts, both metaphorically and physically. When I am understanding of others, when I am able to share kindly, when the heart of another is touched, I believe our world becomes a more joyful place.

And finally, this last awareness, which is a bit awkward to write about: I love to shine. I enjoy being a manager. I have the skills to lead and motivate co-workers in a pleasant and effective manner. Being an entrepreneur requires constant tending to, creativity, and diligence, that I-much to my surprise-didn’t seem to have the energy for. Holy Cow. That’s a big piece of understanding. Yet, in my newly-embraced work environment, I can shine. For which I am grateful.

If you have had the fortitude to read this lengthy story, then I thank you with my heart, for now you understand more about my journey. I am at the crossroads where I am offering a soft closure of HeartMatters; I will not be gone, not by any means, but I am going to have a lesser presence for the next little while. For however long that turns out to be. I’ll gladly be available for email and phone call queries; I will, with enough notice, be available to provide a workshop or to write an article.

I am following my heart and my head, a rich combination of intuition and reality.

Blessings to you. May each of your days be filled with joy, time outdoors in nature, nourishing food, and authentic love.

This is the zest to which I was referring, in one of my favorite videos: 1.1.11

Robin Mallery

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"Robin Mallery has been working with me for over a year now. During this time, she has introduced me to many different thought and choice options--most importantly she has helped me understand that I am the most important choice. Her passion for living right and feeling even better brings a human support to a process that could easily have been uncomfortable and unsuccessful. She is tireless in her unending support. Her talent for listening heightens a nurturing coaching relationship. I recommend Robin for those that have chosen to change; she will help support that decision, and you will be pleased that you chose to change and that you chose Robin as your coach."

---B.B., restaurant and business owner, Northern California

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