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One of my clients, Haley, had a doozy of a 2019.
In April she found out she was unexpectedly pregnant with her second child. It felt like a joyful permission slip — she’d been feeling the urge to quit her corporate job since her first daughter was born two years before, but hadn’t been able to justify that decision.
By early May she’d given her two weeks’ notice, and by Memorial Day she was a full-time stay-at-home mom.
And then, in late June, Haley’s beloved Great-Aunt Mimi passed away … and left Haley her house. (If you need proof that things can change quickly, let Haley be your example!)
Haley and her husband decided to keep the house, renovate it, and move in after the new baby was born. She told me, “Aunt Mimi had been on the decline for a while. The last time I saw her before she died, I got to tell her that I was pregnant. She was so happy for us. I sort of wonder if that gave her some peace and allowed her to let go. I think she would have loved us making her house our new home.”
But as divine as the timing was, that didn’t stop Haley from having a near-breakdown over going through SO many transitions at once. It was at that point that she reached out for some coaching. She was struggling to process her new life, and also feeling guilty about the fact that she was struggling to process it all (classic, right?).
After all, women who inherit houses and are blessed with babies and get to quit their jobs don’t have problems, right?
WHERE’S HGTV WHEN YOU NEED THEM?!
Lest you think Haley inherited a modern mansion, I’ll let her correct you.
She told me, “My Great-Aunt Mimi never married and she never had kids. She was a real free-spirited hippie type. She never made a ton of money, but she worked a lot and always managed to get by. But home improvements weren’t exactly top of her priority list. Her house was frozen in the 70s. It was like a less-nice version of the Brady Bunch house. My mom was Mimi’s only niece, and I’m my mom’s only child. So, I was kind of Mimi’s de-facto grandkid, and I spent a lot of time at that house. I loved it, even though it was quirky and weird. But that does NOT mean I wanted to keep the nasty floral wallpaper and shag (yes, SHAG) carpets!”
We’ve all watched enough Fixer Upper to get excited about the idea of a massive home renovation, but the reality for Haley was pretty different.
For a hot second after she found out she’d be inheriting the house, Haley thought she’d just make renovation her new full-time job. But because of her pregnancy, her doctor advised against manual labor, so they ended up hiring a contractor to take on the bulk of the work.
All of a sudden, Haley found herself with a lot more time on her hands than she expected. Which was when her downward spiral really got going.
CUE THE BREAKDOWN
When we first met, she shared that, “I’ve been building a career for 15 years. Was I really supposed to have walked away from all of that hard work?? What will people think of me for just quitting my job and being a stay-at-home mom? Not to mention inheriting a house! It makes me look like I don’t have a strong work ethic. I’m afraid people are going to assume I took the easy way out. Or that I’m an under-achiever. All the women in my family worked so hard for me to be able to have a good life and career. Is this really how I repay them?? And also, who am I to complain about ANY of this? I sound so awful!”
I asked Haley to tell me more about the women in her family. She told me that they were a fiercely independent, prideful bunch. Her Great-Aunt Mimi helped raise Haley’s mom and uncle when they were little, after Haley’s grandfather left the family and Haley’s grandmother, Marlene, had to manage life as a single mom of two small kids.
I could instantly picture Mimi and Marlene. Two young sisters in the early 60s, coming together to support themselves and two little kids in a time where being independent women wasn’t common, nor very acceptable.
In turn, Haley’s mom had Haley when she was only 21, and her parents divorced shortly after she was born. So, the messages she inherited from the women in her family couldn’t have been clearer:
Work your ass off. There’s no room for relaxation. You do what you have to do to survive and care for your family. And definitely never, ever trust a man to take care of you.
Of course Haley inherited those messages. And for good reason! They served the women who came before her well. But is it any wonder that, sixty years later, Haley was having a hard time not having a career? Those familial beliefs run deep. Going counter to them can feel like breaking the law.
THE SHAG CARPET OF MY SOUL
When I heard about the women in Haley’s family, I asked her a weird question:
“So, when you inherited the house from Mimi, did you ever consider keeping the shag carpet?”
She almost choked on her answer: “Um, DEFINITELY not.”
I said, “I figured. But what’s funny is that you didn’t think for a second that you should keep the house as-is. But you inherited more than just a house from your family. You got all of these beliefs and inner programming from them, too. The stories about what it means to be a productive, independent woman are an inheritance. And you’re not questioning it the same way you are the house stuck in the 70s, even though they’re stuck back then, too.”
A few weeks later, she emailed me and said, “I couldn’t stop thinking about what you said. You’re right! I need to question all of these beliefs that I think make me who I am, the same way I’m questioning every part of the house renovation. So, I present to you a list. I’ve dubbed it ‘The Shag Carpet of My Soul.’”
On the list was a catalogue of old, worn-out beliefs that she’d nicknamed according to something in the house that was getting renovated:
- “I have to have a career to be taken seriously” was “The Faux Wood Paneling.”
- “I can’t trust anyone to take care of me” became “The Lime Green Toilet.”
- “Rest and relaxation are lazy” was “The Groovy Floral Wallpaper.”
- “Sacrifice is what it means to be a woman” was “The Shag Carpet.”
As the old beliefs would pop up, she’d refer to them by their nickname. “The Lime Green Toilet started acting up again,” and “The Groovy Floral Wallpaper was screaming at me today.” Over time, she couldn’t help but take them less seriously, and she started seeing them as entities separate from her and what her real beliefs were.
She started to see that it wasn’t disrespectful to her mom, grandmother, or Aunt Mimi to forge a different path. They taught her the only thing they knew, and that was understandable. She could honor their experiences without living out their beliefs.
THE HOUSE REVEAL
Toward the end of coaching together, Haley called me and said: “OMG. You are NOT going to believe this. Yesterday my contractor called me and guess what?? There are HARDWOODS under that shag carpet! I almost died laughing, and I immediately thought, ‘OK, I get it Universe!!! There are hardwoods under that carpet, literally and proverbially.’”
She took a beat and then said, “I hope my Aunt Mimi knows what a gift she gave me. Not just the house. But this physical manifestation of the work I really needed to do. It was like, as I was ripping out that old house, I got to rip up the stuff that wasn’t serving me anymore. And now I get to live in that house — the bones of it, anyway — but everything inside is new and me. Maybe that’s the best of what it means to inherit things from your family, huh? The structure and support stay, but the inside gets to be all you. And maybe that’s what it really means to be an independent woman.”
I wholeheartedly agreed. And somewhere, I think Mimi and Marlene are agreeing, too.
Rachel (& Kristen)
Leave a comment below to share how Haley’s story landed with you!
1-ON-1 COACHING IS OPEN FOR ENROLLMENT!
The doors are open for new coaching clients now through next Tuesday, June 30th!
A few pointers to keep in mind:
- We’ll be taking on about 15, max 20 people in this new wave.
- This is for people interested in getting started ASAP (within the next 4-6 weeks).
- You don’t have to know for sure that you want to move ahead with coaching. You just have to be serious enough about it to want to have a conversation.
- Our last coaching enrollment of the year will probably be in October. If you’re not ready now, or you’ve found us in-between “official” enrollment periods, then you can add your name to the wait list, and we’ll contact you if and when we have an availability.
If you’re ready to talk about the possibility of coaching, fill out the form on this page and we’ll schedule a brief call with you!