Still, I Learn

Arthur and Andrea ChilcoteWednesday was my dear husband Arthur’s birthday. While birthdays are always a treasure, each of his are especially so, ever since a life threatening health incident two years ago. During this week approaching Valentine’s Day, I’m re-blogging posts that describe the ongoing lessons I learn about meaningful intimate relationships. Enjoy this one, from May 2012.

by Andrea Chilcote

I am in the 24th year of a happy marriage. While that clearly does not make me a marriage expert, friends often study our relationship for clues to success secrets in a world where so many fail for so many different reasons. As they study, I learn.

Most people notice our independence, our personality differences and our apparent love for one another. While I would not suggest the former two are essentials for happy long term intimate relationships as a rule, they are indeed essentials in ours. We share certain core beliefs and values, yet our interests vary. We give one another the freedom and space to pursue diverse interests independent of the other. A good example is that throughout Arthur’s entire car racing career, I rarely accompanied him. The simple reason was this: I don’t care for the sound or the smell of race car engines. When people ask me, an avid hiker, why Arthur rarely joins me and the dogs on our adventures, I tell the truth: he doesn’t like to get his feet dirty.

The secret to our personality differences lies not in the ways in which we are alike or different, but in that we know and are comfortable with ourselves. That’s the basic price of admission for relating to another person, especially one you live and share life with.

I’ve always been curious about others’ observations about the third theme, our mutual love. While I get it, I’ve wondered what other people see. This year, this very difficult 24th year, has provided insight.

I’m going to share something here for the whole world to read. (Indulge me please, as it seems like a big revelation). Arthur is 29 years older than me. Always healthy, racing cars and caring for horses, he never showed his age until one day this past October, when he nearly died. Emergency heart surgery saved his life, he recovered and is literally in better shape than before. As is our marriage.

So back to the question, how do people “see” our love? They see our kindness to one another. They see that we tolerate and even appreciate each other’s quirks. When I travel, Arthur quietly fills my inevitably (and sometimes purposely) empty gas tank, and I prep and plate his salads so he’ll remember to eat them. Oh, we get irritated sometimes, and I’m clearly the one who is less tolerant — but since Arthur’s illness, he will rarely engage me in pettiness. I am learning.

Arthur has always had more patience than me, yet now his seems endless. I am learning. When you live with someone who goes about his day as if every minute of life is precious, you can’t help but cherish the simple moments in life. Shared comfort in the simple moments, care for one another’s well being, and joy in the other’s accomplishments, define real intimacy for us. And still each day I am learning, as is he.

Our relationship is happy, not perfect. It is kind, yet human. It is flexible, generous and most of all it is uniquely ours. If others can gain insight from observation, we are willing subjects as we continue to grow together.



A Pack of Friends or One at a Time?

by Andrea Chilcote

There’s a saying I love to share, just to watch the puzzles form on listeners’ faces as they try to decipher the message. It goes like this:

“One dog, you have a dog. Two dogs, you have half a dog. Three dogs, you have no dog at all.”

The point, of course, is that due to pack behavior, the closeness of a human’s relationship with a companion dog depends on how many dogs there are. When there are several, you don’t have one-on-one relationships — you live with a pack. My neighbor observes this behavior in her husband and his two grown sons, with whom he is very close. When they’re away, she has a husband. When one son is present, she says she has roughly half a husband and when all three are together, she laments (but with a smile), that she really has no husband at all.

Even though I work with people day in and day out, am socially adept and enjoy interaction with others, I’m an introvert by nature. That just means I get my energy by being alone or with one very close, significant other. I expend energy in my work and in social interactions, and need time in nature or with one close (and quiet) friend to recharge. Extroverts, on the other hand, gain energy by being with people. I often tease a strongly extroverted colleague about the time she told me, in all seriousness, that she couldn’t wait to relax on a Jimmy Buffet cruise with 200 of her closest friends. “200 close friends?” I exclaimed. I could not imagine (though this was before Facebook) having that many friends, let alone consider being with them all at once “relaxing.”

This introvert/extrovert concept is complex, because we need different things from groups than from our one-on-one relationships. In this world of never-enough-time, I tend to covet and protect time alone with special pals, even to the point of (I confess), sometimes resenting when well-meaning others join us. As an introvert, I tend to let the “pack” do its pack thing, with me on the fringes as a lone wolf. I can easily lose connection and drift away into my own thoughts while they carry on as a unit.

Susan Cain’s new bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking  does a beautiful job of helping introverts understand themselves a bit better and nudges their extroverted friends, partners and colleagues to consider a different way of interacting with them. Take her quiz to assess your own preferences.

If you need the absence of connection, the solitude of your choosing, to build the energy to connect with important others in your life, consider the choices you are making. Do you go along with crowd, later feeling exhausted or even resentful that your bucket is empty? Or do you make time for quiet, alone or with a quiet confidant? Honoring these core needs contributes to the quality of our lives.

One of the ways you can tell if you are introverted is that you need time to recharge your batteries and decompress after you spend time with others. – From The Introverted Leader by Jennifer Kahnweiler

Book Signing in Cave Creek

My co-author, Sara Burden and I will be at the Desert Foothills Library on May 18th for a book signing and discussion. Join us for a wonderful afternoon. Check out our calendar for more details.


From Desert Foothills site:

Date: Friday, May 18, 2012
Start Time: 2:30 pm   End Time: 4:00 pm (Time Zone: US/Arizona)
Category: Events for Adults
Description Life Lessons from a Wolf-Dog 

Local author and executive coach Andrea Chilcote shares a love story about her shelter dog, Erik. After a rocky start, Erik became Andrea’s best friend and greatest teacher — she learned to lighten up, feel true joy and find peace in the present moment. Erik’s eventual death was the catalyst that fully opened Andrea’s heart and led to a promise of hope that love never dies. Andrea will present Erik’s life lessons in a way that all can relate. Signed copies of Andrea’s new book Erik’s Hope: The Leash that Led Me to Freedom will be available for purchase.

A Timely Tip to Try

In the past month, I’ve spent much of my time working one-on-one with people from very diverse walks of life and with quite different needs. Even with the varied backdrops, a theme keeps reappearing: judgment. Self-judgment, judgment of others – that subtle process of forming an opinion that leads to even more subtle and often unconscious behavior directed at those we judge.

My work has always been about helping people change behaviors that are unproductive (and even destructive) in their relationships. Behaviors are tangible; they can be seen and heard. We can stop and listen to ourselves, or receive feedback from others, then make a choice to do something different and better. But if you have ever tried to act or react differently toward a situation or person that “pushes your buttons,” you know how difficult changing your own behavior can be.

Imagine one of those button-pushing people in your own life. Recall a touchy situation and then try to think of something you could have done or said differently. You may or may not be able to think of something. Even if you can, doing it is a whole different story. Right?

It’s hard to change how we act or behave because, if we really analyze it, we think our behavior is justified. This mind-trap is almost certainly being driven by a feeling. In a world where being busy is valued, rapid decision making is expected, and multi-tasking is rewarded, who has time to truly become present and feel? But that’s the key to the kingdom, so to speak. Lack of this simple presence can result in misunderstanding, or even disaster.

So take time out right now and get present. Take a breath, notice the sights and sounds around you. Recall the incident with the button-pusher. How does it feel to you? As you recall a past confrontation or presume a future interaction, what feeling do you have? What motive is driving you? Are you judging yourself or another, and if so, is it really fair and accurate? With new perspective comes transformation.

As I’ve done this work with clients (and myself) these last few weeks, we’ve unraveled many small mysteries that have led to breakthroughs in thinking and acting. Impatience led to inclusion, inadequacy morphed into acceptance, and a motive to highlight wrongdoing was converted into motivation to solve a problem. Small and incremental, one step leads to another.

Here’s another tip: be gentle on yourselves. When we take responsibility for how we behave in connection with others, there’s a tendency for more self-judgment. True responsibility includes conscientiousness in how we regard – vs. judge – ourselves.

Taking responsibility for your beliefs and judgments gives you the power to change them. – Byron Katie.

Letting Go

This past weekend was very special for my family. Our foster Husky dog, Lucky, went to his forever home.

Three weeks ago, late on Saturday night, I got an urgent email from a worker at the county shelter. They had brought in a half-dead Siberian Husky who had been attacked by dogs. He faced a certain death if not claimed, immediately, by a  rescue group. Fortunately, I was able to reach two such angels from and they arranged for me to retrieve him to the safety of my home. It turns out his wounds were serious but treatable, and he was a pup, less than a year old.

Happily, through anything-but-coincidental events, the perfect family came along to adopt Lucky. In three short weeks I had bonded with him as he healed, and shed tears as I prepared him for his journey.

That day I was reminded of the fleeting relationships we have with some people (as well as animals) in our lives. Of course, most of us are all blessed with life-long friendships and family bonds. And we also meet and connect with people who come and go. These brief connections offer us gifts in the form of life lessons or a simple helping hand when needed, and they take gifts from us. Have you ever wondered about the purpose of a transitory relationship? They’re easier to release when it seems we gave more than we were given, or when there was more hurt than happiness. But there are others that we try to hang on to, in order to recreate the magic after the magic has faded.

Consider this. There are people who enter our lives in pure synchronicity, for a clear and finite purpose, then exit. The purpose of the relationship may be ours or theirs, and we often don’t ever fully understand the “why” of it all. The important thing is the memory, the life lesson, or the gift exchanged.

In the animal rescue world, there are people called “foster failures.” These kind folks take in animals to foster, but cannot give them up – eventually rendering themselves unable to foster because their kennel is full, so to speak. For many homeless and helpless animals, it’s a blessing there is so much needed compassion. In human relationships, it’s a bit different. Some people need to be allowed to “fly away” and find the right connections for the next leg of their journey. (

I know in my heart that sweet Lucky belongs with his new family, even as I miss his sparkling blues eyes and loving demeanor. And, I know what we both meant to each other’s lives, however brief the interlude. Do you need to free the spirit of another to travel his or her own path?

Relating to Ourselves…Who Are You?

Norman Rockwell, MirrorThis post is the third of a three-part series entitled Relating to Ourselves. This segment deals with knowing and loving the uniqueness that is you.

By Andrea Chilcote

Want to know how to get what you need from the relationships you value in life? Know what you need. And, knowing what you need is a result of knowing who you are.

In my experience, an essential price of admission for healthy, satisfying relationships with others is a clear and grounded sense of self. I’m not talking about self-indulgence or selfishness – I’m referring to the settled sense that comes from knowing and loving the uniqueness that is you.

As a coach, I utilize instruments that help me quickly (and painlessly) assess clients’ core drivers, productive behaviors and the consequences of unmet needs. When revealing the results of these assessment tools, I’m sometimes met by a distinct response, a bewildered astonishment that I could reveal aspects of their personality so carefully hidden away. Often they themselves had not consciously considered these traits, but when faced with the data, they have a whole new world of choices. Recently I met with a new client over dinner to review the information I had compiled, a combination of feedback from others and her Birkman Report. At the end of the evening, she remarked: “Well it was very enlightening to have dinner with someone who knows me better than I know myself.”

While these tools are quite helpful, the fact is you don’t need a report to tell you who you are. You know when you are your best, most productive self. You know the activities and people from whom you gain energy vs. being depleted. You know what makes you feel most alive.

Do you let your true self be known in your day-to-day interactions with significant others? Is there some aspect of your personality – some core need you have – that’s hidden away? There’s a cost to holding back. At a minimum, when we don’t acknowledge and reveal who we are and what we need, we miss the most basic satisfaction in life. At worst, we find ourselves entangled in personal and professional relationships that can be destructive to body or psyche.

So, what is it that you need from a key relationship in your life? Take responsibility by naming it, then examine what you are doing (or not) to nurture that quality. A relationship is a product of the interaction of two parts. Changing your awareness alone can shift everything. My client has managed to change the perception of her work team by revealing herself in day-to-day interactions. What can you do to show up as who you are?

Revisit parts one and two of the Relating to Ourselves blog series:                                  Part One: Relating to Ourselves – Putting Self First                                                         Part Two: Relating to Ourselves – The Need for Renewal