A few months ago I was asked to coach a youngish woman who lived in a long, gently curving corridor. She was perfectly normal it seemed to me when I spoke to her, but her whole life was ‘corridor’ based. She had lived in the corridor all her life. She was born there, by all accounts. Her parents had no recollection of living anywhere else and her brothers and sisters had been born in the corridor and lived there too.
To start with she didn’t realise it was so narrow, bearing in mind she was only little. But as she grew up she sort of got used to it, comparing it to the clothes she grew out of all too regularly – a little bit constricting, limiting, and getting more so – though at the time she didn’t realise how.
Mum and dad had been corridor dwellers all their lives – and her teachers too. The family had never lived otherwise. From time to time friends moved out. One or two people came back from somewhere else but no one really believed them when they said it was so much more of a richer and better life. Most avoided confrontation by changing the subject.
Then one day as she was getting on with her normal mediocre life she met a man who changed it all for her. His name was Mr Bitt – he explained that he was called that because he helped people who had ‘missed a bit’ – and he was a Powerchange Coach, (You may have met him coaching Rosie on YouTube.) He was a bit off-the-wall too, but had a knowing warm sparkle in his eye and she felt he understood her. He talked of a world beyond the corridor, a world without walls, without limits, a world with an ‘outside’ where the sun shines, and it rains, and where there are powerful emotions.
Mr Bitt explained that the corridor seemed real but those who stayed within its secure panelled walls were living in a cramped fantasy. With guidance and courage we could exit the corridor and live in the real world beyond the confinement of the corridor walls. He talked of a new sense of freedom, new responsibilities, new outlooks and the opportunity to live a better life. He explained that people who left corridor life found the new world scary to start with. They felt insecure, overwhelmed by the expanses of space, opportunities and choice. He said he would show her the way out if she wanted him to but she couldn’t live in two places at once. Living there meant not living here. Visiting was an option, but once the world beyond this corridor had been visited for the first time, a permanent return and reintegration would be very very difficult if not impossible.
Most of her friends thought he was kidding, but for her, as she lay in bed mulling over his story, she became disturbingly dissatisfied with where she was.
The corridor had no horizons to aim for, nothing ambitious. School in the corridor meant sitting down and doing what you were told. College was much the same, except that you were ‘told’ more subtly. Satisfactory results depended on a disguised need to conform. Work in the corridor had that ‘there and back’ quality to it. It seemed safe, but everyone knew where the ultimate control lay.
It was only a few weeks before she crossed her internal Rubicon and became a believer. She approached Mr Bitt the Coach next time he visited, and explained her new position. He smiled – with joy or amusement she couldn’t be sure.
“When are you planning on leaving?” He asked.
“Anytime.” She replied. “I’m ready.”
“Now?” He enquired firmly.
Without hesitation she agreed. Yes. Now.
“You know you will never be content here ever again once you’ve been there?”
“That’s fine.” She said, unable to conceal the nervousness she felt.
He looked at her for a moment, checking the strength of her intent. “Come with me, this way, now.”
She never did find out what he did to make it happen, but a moment later a panel in the corridor moved and revealed a concealed door in the wall. “Ready?” He asked. “There is no going back from here. Once you’ve been through this door and seen the other side you will never be able to say you haven’t.”
“Ready.” She gritted her teeth.
She was completely unprepared for the shock. The door opened, and it was as if a bolt of electricity hit her body. She was, for a few seconds, completely unable to breathe. Overwhelmed. Before her lay the most elaborately decorated, the most stunningly beautiful room she had ever conceived in her mind.
It was palatial in every meaning of that word. Huge lit gold and crystal chandeliers hung from the domed ceiling. Five casement windows, dressed in the finest silk curtains opened out onto a magnificent park, stretching toward the snow capped mountains on the horizon, with the sea just visible beyond. Rich tapestries and artworks (the very sort she would have chosen for herself only more so) graced the walls and at the far end of this heart-stopping sight were five steps covered in gorgeous deep-pile scarlet carpet, and set up high, alone, at the top of the steps, a gilded throne.
This was not a ballroom as she first thought, but a throne room, silent, beautiful, and empty, awaiting the sovereign. Compared to the corridor – and just a wall away, she thought grimly – this was heaven compared to hell. In at least one sense of the word.
“It’s yours,” he whispered to her, a knowing smile playing across his face. “Go sit on your throne.”
This indeed was a trauma of the nicest kind. She felt a strange new emotion begin to well up from the deepest caverns of her soul. An overwhelming sense of joy mixed with incomprehension, awe and unbelief took hold of her and she fell to her knees and burst into an unstoppable flood of tears. How could this be true? And yet here she was staring at it. Was this really hers?
“Well, are you going to climb the steps?” Mr Bitt asked, as practical as ever, a smile playing gently over his face. “It’s yours. Your throne, your life, your kingdom. And it has been here all this time!”
He took her arm and helped her to her feet. “No one else has or can sit on that throne you know. It is yours and yours alone.” He paused, chuckled, and said, “Of course you could go back to the corridor if you like, but you will never be able to say you haven’t seen the throne, will you!”
She dried her tears. “Please take my hand.” She asked, but he refused. “No, I can’t do that. You must climb each of the steps by yourself, turn round and face the world, your kingdom, and sit down firmly on the throne. It’s yours, all yours, you know. I’ll be here though, to help you – particularly in these early days. By the way, there is a crown there too, just to the side. Wear it!”
It was just five steps away. It wasn’t possible to ascend to the throne without taking them one at a time, each loaded with meaning. Many years later as she thought back to that day, she remembered them. Most of all she remembered the decision to climb the first step. To sit on the throne of her life required that she accept these words, discretely woven into the carpet of each step. She viewed each sentence courageously – and noted each quietly and determinedly as she walked forward. First, step one…
“It is mine.” It was momentous. Like a mini explosion. Something leapt within her. Looking back she felt it was the moment she became fully a woman, leaving behind the child she had been. “Mine,” she repeated, trying to grasp the deep meaning. It is mine.
Then the second step. These words too were a revelation as she spoke them…
“I have been given it.” This throne, this realm, this sovereignty – this life – was hers by right as a human being. A gift. This realisation took her into a subtly new dimension. A gift! Who from? For what purpose? Me? She felt tears sting her cheeks again. She paused for a few minutes, yet Step Three was waiting to take her (literally) to a new level:
“I was born for this throne.” Yes, her kingdom had been there all along, run by others, waiting until the time when she was willing to take charge. The impact of this undeniable truth filtered into her thinking and made its home deep within. “Yes,” she said, “I really was born for this throne.”
The fourth step was now available – and seemed equally traumatic. This one challenged the thoughts she had had since she was little, yet it too was required. Without it she would never be able to sit comfortably on her throne and reign with confidence. She listened as Mr Bitt intoned the words for her to repeat for herself:
“It is possible for me.” She felt a smile creep across her face as she listen to him, then spoke the words out for herself, then a second and third time. Then again, more boldly. She made the sentence her own by changing it. Turning for a moment to look at Mr Bitt, she confirmed, “I can do this.” “Yes, you can,” he agreed.
Now the fifth and final step to the throne was available. Just one last step stood between her and the throne of her life and kingdom. It was simple now, and she realised how there was a natural progression up the steps to the throne. This last one was simple – yet so essential to her future reign.
“I accept it.” She said confidently, put the crown on her head and without more ado, turned and sat down on the throne of her life, her kingdom, her future.
Done. She stopped for a moment and considered the past. She was leaving behind so many things that had made her feel safe, and as she sat thinking she realised that she still had them, but they no longer had power. She no longer needed their security. They were the past, and this throne and this throne-room – and all that out there – was the future. She was finally sitting on the throne, looking out onto her new world.
“Now what do I do?” She thought to herself.
“What do you want to do?” Mr Bitt replied, knowing her thoughts. “The choice is yours. You can return to the corridor if you like, and return there at any time, but you will never be fully fulfilled and happy there again. You’ve been here, you have accepted responsibility for your life. Welcome. This room is for the woman who is prepared to explore a different future.”
(To speak to Mr Bitt personally on Skype, email email@example.com. You never know what may happen. By the way, he doesn’t wear glasses any more.)