put me in, coach

If you know the John Fogerty song, and know how much I love the movie Bull Durham, you’ll think I’m writing about baseball. But that would be silly, because I know just enough baseball to remain my mother’s child and no more.

I’m writing about my personal trainer. Or the adult swim team I belonged to in the ‘Aughts, or the fact that a badass corporate / entrepreneur’s coach I know said he’d be checking in with me next week. (He let me pick the day.)

One of the many benefits of hanging out with oneself for multiple decades,
and of being more than a little introspective, usually in a science-y kind of way,
is that I spend brain-cycles observing what I do / don’t do, observing how that aligns with what I’d envisioned or intended, and forming hypotheses about the gaps between.

And one of my theories is that eight years of teen swim-team has wired a “coach response” into me.

At this point, that was a looooong time ago. And vastly more of my life has been spent self-directed than obeying outside instruction. (Hey. I saw you smirk. You didn’t turn away fast enough!) And even so, there are ways I respond to (trusted) coaches that I never seem to manage in other contexts.

This response is easier to see in my workout life. My theory is that, after multiple years of being dropped at the high school gym door in the pitch-dark and promptly falling into the pool, there’s a layer of my whole-self that, once it trusts, is relieved to quit using its thinking and simply do. Ten fifty-yard freestyle swims, each no more than 45 seconds long? Sure. Laddered complexes of the four classic strokes, adding and then subtracting lengths all the way? Okay. Or, more recently, a lunge with a lift and a bend, twelve times the same? Will do.

I may be so winded I can’t speak. I may tie my limbs in knots, trying to remember pull first, bend next, right arm, left leg. I may — when I can speak — loudly mutter sarcastic quip after complaint. I still do what’s set before me.

Somehow, doing these things when Coach asks lives outside my distaste, my fatigue, my unwillingness, my un-fit-ness… . After all, one of a coach’s responsibilities is to make the task just larger than what one can and would already do.

Here is where my hunger for coaching resides.

I can, occasionally, muster myself to these kinds of pushes or stretches. Heck, despite my subterranean resistance to routines of all sorts I managed to acquire a new habit while in my late 40s. It’s not common, though. Certainly not frequent enough to self-start any flywheels of diminishing effort.

So it perennially feels like a gift when this business coach swings into my email to say, How’s it going? It’s going <murmur>? What if I checked in with you later — as in, you tell me when later will be, and you tell me what you’ll tell me? I keep losing track that our relationship is more than a standard media one-sided one. (Unlike my great-grandmother, I’m pretty clear that David Brinkley may-he-rest-in-peace was not visiting my living room weeknights at 6pm Eastern.) Our direct work together may now have been ten years back, but he knows who I am.

And as a coach-person, he knows who I am: someone who just needs that tiny push.

June has been a flux month. Flux as in fluid (time) draining away. Flux as in an effect of nothingness, traveling with magnitude and direction. Flux as in I have precious little to tangibly point to.

Except that in late May I told CG I would tell him some things about “the shape of my (PhD) advisor-finding plan,” as well as my plan for “something else I can finish in a summer.” By my July birthday, coming soon. Whoops.

The way many of my summers have gone — as recorded in this very blog! — I’m confident my June of not-much-doing would have bled into a July of not-doing then to drift into August, which may still get to be consumed in travel. But by chatting when we did, I’ve installed a coach-voice in my head that repeatedly speaks the reps and speaks the interval, standing on the deck with bemused detachment — did we not say what we (you) were going to do? And you are not-doing… why?

Maybe that last part is what seals my coached fate: completed, incompleted, tried, ignored, doesn’t matter — whatever is in place at the moment of accountability is what’s discussed. The moment will happen, and it will have discussion. Wouldn’t it be easier if my cheeks weren’t flaming in embarrassment when we spoke?

Yup. Much easier. I’m almost finished with that project outline.

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