Connecting Coaches, Creatives, & Curious Folks through what's emerging in this moment

yin_yang_treeThis has been a pensive couple of weeks for me as at this time two years ago I was hanging out in the ICU of Marquette General Hospital learning a lot about living, dying, choosing, and how important oxygen is.  At this same time last year the thoughts were actually too overwhelming for me to sort through and write about, so I let the date pass by barely noted.  I took it so far as to let blogging pass by altogether and only wrote 3 posts in 2012.  Now I feel just that much farther away from the experience that if feels like a good time to capture some of the memories and begin to share some of my learning.  Bear with me please, as this is likely to get long.  I’m giving myself full permission though, as pivotal moments in one’s life should not be forced to meet our tweet-sized attention spans.


It is an incredibly frightening thing to not be able to take a breath.  I have easily accessible flashback images in my mind of my body bucking, eyes wide, wrists in restraints, as I struggled to suck oxygen into pneumonia-filled lungs.  “This must be what it feels like to drown”, I thought.  “If I could gasp harder, maybe I could get enough.”  But there was no room at the inn… no place to put a breath, even if I could manage to coax it into my crowded lungs.

And then…

Western medicine gave me the opportunity to stop trying to do it on my own.  It’s often hard for me to ask for help with something as simple as doing the dishes, yet here I had no choice but to surrender completely and let my breathing be done for me.  While medical staff monitored my vitals, the ventilator breathed me, tubes kept me fed and peed, sedatives kept me comatose-calm, family sat by my bedside, and a world of loved ones prayed in their various ways…. I got to journey through the darkest nooks and crannies of my soul until I found that resting place at the edge of death.  Or was it at the beginning of life?  Hard to tell when you’re there.  There are no signs saying “Welcome to Death’s Door!” or an arrow pointing “Life -> This Way”.  Even Mr. Google Webs didn’t have an image that looked like it when I searched.  I think it’s a place we just know when we arrive.  It was oddly familiar.

Time, like location and direction, have little relevance in that state of being.  Trying to recall things and align my inner memories with the memories of those standing by me, I read my sister’s caring bridge posts so I could see what was happening up here on dry land while I traveled below.  I can’t relate the timing I read about to what was happening deep inside my dreaming state.  What she reported, though loving and surely correct, had nothing I could relate to in it until the ‘conscious sedation’ period started.  I have vivid memories, but have no sense of their accuracy, the truth of them, or if they would be seen as ‘real’ to anyone but me.  And yet to me, they were as real as anything gets.

So, why did it happen anyway?  Sure, I was stressed and run down… sure, there was a virus I caught… sure, there was ‘something going around’… surely the sneaky smoking I was doing beforehand increased my odds.  And I know it was more than that.  When I was a kid, my mom went to Hungary to learn about Conductive Education.  Before she went, she had to learn Hungarian in a hurry to prepare herself.  Berlitz was the answer back then.  She studied intensely, then went off to Hungary to do what she’d gone there to do.  I feel like this ventilator experience was my Berlitz course for LIFE.  I’m on a journey in this life of mine which calls for learning that at a “normal” pace would never have had me ready in time.  And so, somewhere in the depths of my soul, I opted for the ‘fast track’… being taken down to my default setting and rebooted, so to speak.  Some days I feel like my very DNA must have changed.  Curly hair is my daily reminder.

imagesLike Alice falling down the rabbit hole and never seeming to stop, or being down in the dripping caves where Gollum searches for his Precious, part of that time was the time of falling…tumbling… finding my way through the darkest recesses of my thoughts and battling the darkest of demons.

Until… I came to that resting place.

When I think of the energies of the North and Winter,  I think of this time and this resting place.  It was emotionless, thoughtful, without judgement, and a time of sorting and assessing. Though the tumbling to it was filled with emotions like fear, terror, panic… once I arrived, it just was what it was.

I was not alone in this still place.  Some would tell me that I was there with God, Goddess, Jesus, Allah, or an angel of some sort… or my Captain, Guides, Higher Self, Future Self, or some other Archetype from my inner world.   Some would say none of it was real and that it was an ‘interesting hallucination’.  Truth is, I don’t feel I need to know who or what that was.  What I do appreciate is that in that moment, I was given the opportunity to review my life, look at death to my immediate right, and sort it out objectively with a non-judgmental listener right across from me.

My-oh-my was death ever an appealing option!  Tempting, tempting, tempting it was.  What a fine reward we have awaiting us at the end of this physical existence!  Maybe it’s just me that has such glorious light and infinite bliss and peace waiting for me, but I highly doubt it.  It sure felt like something we all get to have, though it would be presumptuous of me to say that what I experienced is what you or your loved ones will.  Though my life felt mostly complete, and though the ‘Door’ on my right was mightily tempting, it wasn’t my time.  Yet.  I had some things I still wanted to engage in and see how they turned out.  And so it was… I chose LIFE.

(You know, it feels very bold to say that, as people have strong opinions, beliefs, and theories based in their religions, science, personal experience or gut instincts.  You might be feeling all cocky and thinking you know what that was… that you know I didn’t choose Life, but that God chose for me.  I beg you to remember, that until we have truly walked in someone’s shoes…..)

For over a year and a half after choosing, I was frankly very ambivalent about my choice. This whole living thing seemed like a bit of a bother.  I was happy at times, of course, and moved and pissed off and surrounded by amazing people and awed by the Universe.  I was really fine with being alive, most days, but at the same time I felt I may have made the wrong decision.  People who love me didn’t like hearing me say things like that, but as you well know, life can be really hard.  I came back to massive hospital debt, a relationship that fell apart as soon as I came home from the hospital, a teenager that didn’t like me much, and a body I no longer recognized.  I got back to work a bit too soon with my brain, eyes, emotions, and memory not ready yet. Somehow, I carried on doing what needed to be done.  Taxes needed doing.  FAFSA applications were past due.  Clients missed me.  My kids needed parenting.  Money needed to be raised for medical bills.  People around me both listened and tired of my stories.  They had stories to tell me too, and they’d  missed the listener usually was for them.  It was easy to fall into business as usual, even though I knew that my life was now divided in two parts:  Before Choice and After Choice.

What happened?  Well… I kept working… I wrote some… I raised money… I worked with healers… I talked to people who could help me see things differently… and I started going after a long-held dream.  I worked on my Life Purpose statement… dug a little deeper… explored the complexity of my inner world… prayed… journaled… hiked… talked with friends… listened to music… hiked, prayed, and worked some more.  I laughed and cried… A LOT.

phoenixSo now, two years later, I’m poised and ready to launch into a next stage of living.  The story of the Phoenix comes to mind.  My daughter, my youngest, is turning 18 and graduating in June.  I begin leading CTI’s Leadership program in April — that long-held dream I mentioned earlier.  In these last two weeks I’ve decided to sell my home, shed my belongings, and move into my mother’s basement for the next while.  This will relieve me of my hospital debt, allow me to be available to my dear mom, and give me a chance to prepare for what’s next.  LIFE is calling, and being weighed down by brick, mortar and mortgages doesn’t make sense any longer.   This House is sprouting wings and will need hollow bones and a clear heart to fly.

Thanks for being with me on the journey.  Every prayer, card, call, Facebook post, flower, donation, visit, listening, affirming, and moment of curiosity and support mattered.

With Love to you and gratitude for the remarkable cycles Life and Death,




Comments on: "After Choice ~ Sprouting Wings" (31)

  1. What a beautiful reflection, Helen. Thank you for sharing and inspiring!

    • helenhouse said:

      Thank you, Moira! I appreciate you reading it, and taking the time to leave a comment of support. XO

  2. What to say . . . I LOVE you, Helen. Thank you for that!

    • helenhouse said:

      Awww, thank you! I feel you, my friend. Thanks for the love… you know I love you too, right? Always have… always will!

  3. Yay. You’re blogging again. So glad to hear this story and get *something* of an idea of what was going on for you – and what is still going on – and simmering below the surface. (love that image of the tree above too …)

    Big hugs across the miles. xo

    • Helen, what a beautiful and ‘present’ way of telling us your story. Loved every word. And, hope to see you soon. Congratulations on all of your choices. Much love, Dean

      • helenhouse said:

        Dean, thank you! I love the image of a ‘present moment present’ that this conjured up for me. Hmmmmm… I think that will find it’s way into something! I’ll be in DC April 5-6… any chance you’re assisting Process that weekend?

    • helenhouse said:

      Deb, you are my biggest champion around writing and blogging. No one roots for me, encourages me, inspires or motivates me more around all of this than you do. I can’t tell you how much that means to me, especially in the stuck times. I’ll read your newsletter, or see a post on FB, and eventually something breaks free. And when it does? You’re RIGHT THERE cheering me on. Damn I’m lucky. XO

  4. Helen the tears are streaming down my face, and as you know that isn’t always available for me. And I am sitting here with my heart wide open and so filled with gratitude that you chose life and that here you are writing a love poem to that choice.

    I love you and I love the life you have chosen.

    • helenhouse said:

      My dear brother…. I’m honored by your words and your tears. I love that you called my ramblings a ‘love poem to that choice’. What a beautiful way to see it. Those words are inspiring what’s trying to come out next. Stay tuned! I love you and am so grateful for the many blessings in my life that were born of the seeds you’ve planted along the way… and the way you could always see more of me (and for me) than I could see myself. See you soon!

  5. Amen. I have walked a similar path though the circumstances were very different. So glad you chose to stick around and fill the world with your wisdom, light and learnings. I support all your choices and send love for your journey. Nia

    • helenhouse said:

      Thank you, Dear Nia! I know we share some similar journeys, in more ways than one. It’s nice to have sisters who get it so we can help one another see what we can’t see alone. I’m so curious about where your path has led you lately. If you feel so moved, please send me an email or message bringing me up to date. I miss that connection. Love to you ❤

  6. Now I Really want to do Leadership! 🙂

    • helenhouse said:

      YESSSSSS! How about April in North Carolina???? My brother Sam and I are leading a group that’s shaping up to be pretty incredible. Come join us! There are still a few spots!

  7. Thank you deeply for this. XOXO

    • helenhouse said:

      Anne, you have had an up close and personal look at living and dying and choosing and letting go…. more intensely than many I know. You are my model for being able to STAY with someone through that journey. I’m so grateful for you and how you’ve served as my teacher in that way and many more. Much love to you… XO

  8. Helen, you remain very moving and powerful, as you always were, and although I understand you sometimes wonder if you made the right choice, I can say I honestly am glad you agreed to come back to us. You have so much to share, and we are your benefactors. I anticipate I will continue to be blessed by your presence and writings and gifts. Many thanks, and Peace, my friend…

    • helenhouse said:

      Thank you, David! You are a great teacher, champion, supporter, colleague, and friend. Though I haven’t seen you in years, I feel like I could call you up and you would listen to my heart. I know I made the perfect choice now… whether it was really me who chose or not. We will continue to share our gifts for years to come. Hugs to you…

  9. What a gift to read this. Thank you for sharing, Helen. We are all so lucky/blessed/fortunate (whichever works for you) that you said ‘yes’ to life!

    • helenhouse said:

      Thanks Sabrina! I’ll take all 3 of those words 🙂 I’ll include myself in the “We are all” that you speak of. Getting to meet people like you along the way reminds me regularly just how lucky, blessed, and fortunate I am to be alive and well and fully awake! xo

  10. Hi Helen. Thanks for sharing with. My tears were full in my eyes when I read this and you are my example in my life. I am so lucky to have you as my coach, my 100% supporter. It reminds me of my stake we talked about it today–learn to lead, learn to choose, learn to accept! Love you Helen.

    • helenhouse said:

      Thank you, Dear Jessie! I am learning too… every single day… learning to lead, learning to choose, and learning to accept. Thank you for being one of my teachers as I learn. You open my eyes to the bigness of our world and how much the same we are in our hearts, no matter which continent we were raised on. Loving you across the miles….

  11. kindred or something along those lines?
    blessings Helen and the world is a better place with you in it, actually, because of your experience I assert that the world is a better place with You in it, more fully realised,more your Self, just more.Thanks for choosing to stay 🙂

  12. Helen, Thank you for choosing to continue to shine your light here with us. Thank you for the gentle words and the galvanized guidance. Thank you for showing us all a better way through your love, courage and example. I love you. We love you. You are amazing.

  13. Sam House said:

    Helen, I wonder what agreement we were making together in the ether world before we decided to enter the same family system? Whatever it was, I am clear that one reason I am here is to learn from you….thank you for the teaching of breathing hard vs being breathed (literally and metaphorically), of choosing life, awake, vs coasting through life, asleep, and for being such a model of transparent, loving full permission. I honor and love you. Sam

  14. Thank you Helen, for sharing some of the more personal journey at that time of “choice.”
    I have wondered what was there for you in that deep, sacred, contemplative private chamber… I wondered if there was a tug towards the “being of spirit” for you, even as much as you are loved and cherished by so many earthlings. You have tremendous courage and strength in choosing the vulnerable realm of recovery and leaning in on others to help you in recovery. What a gift to us all.

  15. coachamanda said:

    And so it continues…. Your choice to stay and now to share that experience with us is a gift beyond any measure. Your post touched me deeply and was so very vulnerable in a way that makes me feel incredibly human… with all the joy, sorrow, and everything in between that comes with that. I am honored to witness little tid-bits along the way as you continue to journey on and celebrate life. Much love and huge misses to you. I hope to see you again in person sometime soon.

  16. Thank you for this very provocative and moving description of your experience, your love, and your choice. You are an inspiring example of what real leadership looks and (God knows) feels like.

  17. I am just one of your many hundreds (thousands?) of CTI students and I was deeply impacted by your teaching and leading at the time, a few years ago. I’m so glad future students (and Leadership tribe members!) will get the chance to be similarly moved by you. Glad you are here!

  18. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for choosing. Thank you for life. And love. You are a wonderful demonstration and inspiration. Lead on!

  19. Helen, I just want to explain how deeply gracious I feel having stumbled upon your story…It is inspirational and written with such humbleness and honesty 🙂 ♥ We’re all angels in the making and I’m blessed to have read your story…Your soul/human story…We’re living in amazing times and all is going as planned…God bless you and love…Always love for One 🙂
    P.S. Do you happen to have a FB page? I’d love to friend you, or “like” your page…Good luck on your continued soul journey and I wish you the best in personal success 🙂 ♥

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