There are times, Ive noticed lately, when its challenging or even impossible to drop the life coach lens. Ideally as coaches we want to be friends or colleagues or siblings to the people in our lives, as opposed to putting on our life coach hat. But then our friend tells us she is flat out against her son pursuing a military career and as a friend we understand, but as a coach we think, You're squashing his dream.
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Its a unique perspective that perhaps only a therapist can relate to in some ways. We see so much.
The same instinct kicks in sometimes when we take in a movie or a play and its fiction unfolding before us. This happened to me last week. Three characters in a play, each so well-drawn I gasped in spots at the familiarity, the human frailty, the sad realness of what was unfolding. I almost wanted to reach out and help.
First there was the life insurance salesman who listens to books on audio and proclaims to not hate his job. Then there was the Christian volunteer firefighter always attuned to the police scanner in his mothers basement so he could be the first on the scene at accidents in his town. And then there was the standardized test administrator whose sex life with his wife had turned into performing on demand as they went through fertility issues.
These characters appeared in a play called Life Insurance at the 15th International New York Fringe Festival. Well-written and well-acted by Joel Jones yes, he marvelously played all three characters the story spoke volumes about the American dream.
What is that anymore? Im not the first nor will I be the last to ask that question, but it is worth each of us examining. Otherwise were just getting by. Every day the news is filled with stories that have the potential to jar us from our stagnation, things like people dying at a Sugarland concert or in the jaws of a shark while on their honeymoon.
The characters in Life Insurance got me thinking about what we all want and how complicated it can be to keep it in our sights.
The salesman sipped a drink and talked about Odysseus and Charlemagne, his vapid supervisor and how somewhere deep inside he knew he was selling life insurance to a man who was planning to commit suicide. The man eventually crashed his motorcycle into a wall and the salesman had the double satisfaction of knowing the surviving wife and child would be taken care of and his boss would be ticked off.
In turn, the over-zealous volunteer firefighter was the first on the scene of the accident, found a picture of the mans wife and child in his wallet and sought them out. He eventually insinuated himself into their lives, his mother threw him out and he wound up living with the woman and child. The life insurance money proved to be just one of several miracles in his story.
The standardized test administrator happened to be on the winding Virginia road, saw the accident and called it in from his car. He was in the process of driving around to avoid going home to have the sex requested of him by his wife via text. But what surfaced was how tired he was of years of having compromised his career for hers and then seeing her respect for him wane.
Wow. Just wow.
The motorcycle accident--never actually seen in the play--was the connector that set off a ripple effect of insights and consequences for these men. It showed the humanity of the seemingly shallow salesman, the opportunist in the needy firefighter, and the double-edged sword of marital compromise for the administrator.
Overall it spoke of the prisons we create for ourselves, the small ways we can make our current lot better and how good fortune or disaster can be around the next bend. The three men never met, yet their lives were all profoundly affected by this one event.
I got all this from sitting in a tiny theater in Manhattans West Village. As a spectator I was entertained. But as a life coach I was stirred and shaken.
Sometimes we just cant turn it off.
Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.