Several years ago I broke down and got a life coach. I was skeptical at first, but now that my life is back on track and all is once again right with the world (or at least with me), I hope my experience can give others the courage to take control of their own fate, by yielding it to someone else.
Before I met my coach, my life was a mess. My energy was scattered all over the place, my priorities were totally out of whack, and no matter how hard I tried, I could not convince myself that life had any meaning whatsoever. But now, after years of expert coaching, that’s all changed. These days, I awake each morning with a strong sense of purpose and absolute certainty about what I am going to do on any given day, and why. The twin demons of doubt and fear no longer cloud my judgment, and I glide through my life with an ease others would envy if they could crawl inside my body and experience, if only for a moment, the peace and joy of being me.
My coach’s name is Sarge, and, true to his namesake, he is an unforgiving taskmaster. Stocky and strong, with the swagger of a man three times his size, he has no patience for nonsense. At first, I tried to curry his favor by offering him savory biscuits and finding ways to make him laugh, but he wasn’t impressed. He didn’t even have to say anything; I could tell by the look on his face in those first few days that he was disgusted by my fawning efforts to please him, and found my entreaties pathetic. He knew he had his work cut out for him—but, professional that he is, he stuck with me through those first rocky weeks and slowly guided me toward a better version of myself. Over time, he molded me into such an amazing version of myself that I hardly recognize me anymore. Which is a good thing, because I used to scare myself when I looked in the mirror, especially in the morning. Now the face staring back at me is little more than an improbably handsome stranger, and I am oddly comforted by the fact that all his teeth appear to be intact.
How did he do it? How did Sarge turn the old, used up me into the fabulous me I am today?
First of all, I had to admit to him, in writing and on social media, that my old way of living was not working. Which was true, because I was unemployed at the time, and no matter how many times I called Comcast, they refused to boost my Internet speed so that I could unlock better weapons in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, which was essential, because Deathwing the Destroyer had returned from Deepholm, and my sworn enemies in the Horde were being ruled by none other than Garrosh Hellscream! I think most people would agree that it doesn’t get much more urgent than that.
Anyway, Sarge convinced me to give up WOW and make a pact with him to live each and every day as if it were his last. Before long, Sarge had convinced me to forsake the toxic habits of my past and embrace a more structured, disciplined future. Under his tutelage, I learned the importance of eating a healthy breakfast first thing in the morning, and sticking to a predictable, repeatable routine. Modest daily exercise was also part of the program—one or two walks a day, at least, with occasional stops at the local soccer field to practice wind sprints. He also taught me the importance of taking frequent naps during the day to recharge, and the value of conserving one’s energy in case the mailman pulls a gun on you and extraordinary measures are required to neutralize the attack.
Best of all, Sarge has taught me that bottling up all my anger inside is counterproductive and unhealthy. He is an excellent role model in this regard. Direct and to the point, Sarge lets anyone and everyone know whether they have pleased or displeased him, and he has shown me the wisdom of choosing one’s words very carefully, then repeating them over and over again, very loudly, until the offending person changes their behavior accordingly.
This approach is magic, because it is so emotionally satisfying. Before I met Sarge, if something upset me I would stoically accept it and try not to show people how I really felt. But now, after years of training, whenever I get angry, the bile of my rage flows straight through my body and out my mouth, with no mitigating filter whatsoever. Those old habits of repression are long gone, replaced anew by the spontaneous confidence that comes from speaking one’s truth, from the gut, really loudly, without really thinking about it.
For example, I was checking out of the grocery store the other day, and when I inserted my card in the chip reader, the cashier informed me that the chip reader didn’t work—that I would instead have to swipe my card the old-fashioned way. Now, in the past I would have simply overlooked this annoyance and swiped my card, as ordered, and that would have been the end of it. But this time, drawing on my years of training with Sarge, I simply let the cashier have it. I mean, I lit into her. I quite literally “barked” at her, letting her know in no uncertain terms how much I hate it when the chip reader doesn’t work, and how terrifying it is to wonder if its malfunction is going to lead to a security breach that devastates my personal finances and ruins my otherwise marvelous life! Loudly and insistently, as I have been trained, I repeated my grievance over and over, throwing the occasional growl in to let her know that I was serious, that I was not someone to be messed with, and that if it ever happened again, I would tear her throat out.
She was absolutely terrified. It was fantastic.
In these and many other ways, Sarge has taught me how to manage my emotions and use persuasion to get what I want. Each day brings with it new challenges, and each day Sarge teaches me something new, though his techniques can be admittedly unorthodox. Lately, on our daily walks, he has been trying to convince me that I should follow his example and start defecating outside, in public, where anyone can see. He calls it “the ultimate freedom,” and insists that someone will come along to pick up the mess, but I do not yet possess the strength of character necessary to follow his lead.
Though I have come a long way under Sarge’s expert guidance, there is always more work to be done—which is why, for the sake of efficiency, my life coach now lives with me and sleeps on my floor. I once asked him why it was necessary for him to follow me around all day, every day, as if I couldn’t take care of myself. He arched an eyebrow and gave me that sad look, the one that hints that I do not know what’s going on and never will. “I am not your life coach,” he seemed to be saying, “I am your Coach for Life.”
And I couldn’t be happier.###