Category Archives: coaching

Coaching is about personal development, future, life, career and business. Isabella Strand is an experienced ICF coach.
Her life with her clients and exciting events that follows her are all related to her coaching skills and experience.

April 18 – Procrastinating or Just Waiting?

Monday. Isabella had to prepare a presentation on procrastination for a speech at the local ICF chapter but she had been putting it off for a while. “Ironic”, she thought, that a coach such as her should find herself as guilty as anyone else to procrastinating things – putting them off until the last minute, finding that she was running out of time and after finishing the presentation not having enough time to actually rehearse. Then perhaps excusing herself by saying that she had too little time to prepare. How common and how sad!

Yesterday in 1912 her newspaper Dagens Nyheter wrote about Titanic. Today Isabella was not facing icebergs but molehills of unsorted thoughts and letters trying to sink her. But she was not willing to drown so she kept swimming. The presentation just had to be ready today. Luckily she had no booked clients today and David was off to school. The chapter meeting was on Thursday for once. Usually they were on Wednesdays, a day which Swedes sometimes refer to as “Little Saturday”. A perfect day for many to go out for a drink or a dinner in the middle of the week. Isabella would have time during Wednesday to rehearse as her Tuesday was totally choked.

Isabella contemplated procrastination while doing research and jotting down what she found worthwhile to say at the meeting. She imagined many coaches who would attend the meeting were also prone to procrastination or had many clients that were. She had herself only been to one such meeting before even though she had told herself to go on more occasions than one. She had always found other things that she “had to” do or sometimes “forgotten” to actually go. When on that meeting she noticed that many of the coaches had been late or had not prepared much either.

Isabella realized that she had to say something about why people procrastinate, how it might be different from prioritizing or just waiting for the right moment. She was close to falling into the “It has to be perfect” trap. She remembered her ex Marcus before a deadline in his architectural office re-sketching, remodeling and re-everything until it was almost too late to actually hand something in at all. Later he always said “It would have been perfect if I only had a little more time”. But he never had. And Isabella had seen Marcus doing other things when he should have been designing on that project. A clear case of procrastination. And perhaps the inner demand to be absolutely perfect paralyzed him into doing nothing at first only to be stressed out of his wits during the last days before deadline making him work around the clock to avoid the pain and embarrassment of not handing in the project at all.

Maybe pain was one of the key factors to procrastination? And Isabella also thought that a person’s background was playing an important role in this combination of comedy and tragedy. Isabella had not really found that out for herself but actually read about it in a book. She believed what she had read though. The line she remembered was “the things you fear the most have already happened” and was attributed to the psychologist Donald Winnicott. Isabella smiled and jotted down the name knowing that a little “name-dropping” usually impressed coaches, even though they sometimes maintained that their coaching would come from within themselves and that they should be as empty vessels for their clients. Isabella knew that was bullshit for putting off reading the necessary material and doing the necessary research. Procrastination was again showing its ugly face.
“Yes – pain!” Not experiencing enough pain when not doing what you are supposed to or not feeling that it actually matters enough to be high enough on your list to actually be done in time.

But there was the background issue too. Winnicott said that previous relationships set patterns that you have a hard time breaking later on in life. If you expect to fail you might make just that happen. But Isabella felt that she should also put in a note or two about how life today is much more complex than ever before. We have thousands of things to choose from all seemingly just as important, fun or worrying. How can we pick the things that really are most important to do? Isabella of course had one thing she knew she would always choose first. The welfare of her son David. She even surprised herself after his birth feeling that she honestly would sacrifice even her own life to save his. When she was young she had never imagined that would happen.

She came to think of her client Harry. The cop. He had a hard time combining being both a professional policeman, a colleague, a manager, a husband and a father.

“We have too many things going on at the same time and no time to rest and to reflect on what to do next”. Isabella remembered that even during her last vacation she had both her mobile and her laptop constantly on alert. The curse of running a business perhaps, but she had talked about it with her friend Rebecca and she told her that the situation was similar for the employed. It is like the “Buridan’s ass” story – A donkey being placed between a pile of hay and a pail of water would die of both hunger and thirst because it would have no reason to choose one over the other. Today we are just like that donkey but there are thousands of haystacks and a million oceans of water.

But what should coaches do to bring a procrastinator out of the bewildering woods? Well coaches are taught to be encouraging and to see their client as able to solve matters and to take action if given the proper insights. Isabella knew only too well that this approach only worked for those who were not procrastinators. The procrastinators apparently did not take encouragement from the coach in the intended way. They smiled and said “yes, I will”, but nothing much would happen. They would not change their behavior. Isabella had been frustrated over this on many occasions, but had realized that her frustration did not help her, and of course not her clients.

Isabella nowadays usually takes on procrastination in several steps. First it is about defining if her client is procrastinating, what things the client is procrastinating and similar things. Then the task of trying to break that pattern can begin. The process of change is usually a long one and sometimes it fails. Sometimes a coach needs to face the music that coaching cannot cure everything. The client may have serious issues that only therapy can help, or perhaps not even therapy. The client has also be prepared to train hard on stop procrastinating. It is not different from going to the gym to lose ten pounds of weight. You get nothing for free. You have to keep on working hard. That truth is valid both for the client and for the client’s coach. If a coach is not ready to take on the hard work she or he should not be coaching a procrastinating client. A professional coach must also be prepared to fail with grace and advice the client to a good therapist. Perhaps CBT or even psychodynamic therapy might work. Isabella only had to structure her notes now to be ready for rehearsal. Fine. The right moment for that will be on Wednesday as planned. Having a structured plan and being able to stick to it was key qualities to avoid procrastination.

Waiting for the right moment is crucial. Even for murder. Today was not it. But a rehearsal learning to handle the ropes was in the cards. No gambling matter.

April 16 – Flashback towards a Backlash

Isabella picked up the little black box from her jewel case. Opened it and saw her wedding ring. Half a carat diamond and gold. A flashback struck her on the time before the divorce.

““Mom, isn’t it nice to come home?”
David had a smile all over his face. Isabella smiled back, but her eyes did not participate. Maybe eyes have their own happiness heart that could only be touched with enough joy. Now it was not even close. There had been a reason that Isabella had spent the summer in her mother Margaret’s summer house, which suddenly had become an option.

It was more a matter of what you longed away from than what you longed for. Isabella had divorce papers already folded in her handbag. David was six now, and after his pre-school period the relationship between her and her husband Marcus started to fuss – just as her father’s outboard motor. He was almost always had to pull the string at least twenty times before the engine started. And often fuel supply problems. Marcus was one of those outboard motors. Isabella had to nag twenty times for something to happen. And now, not a drop of petrol left.

The summer there in the summer house had been bearable though. Actually unusually good. Her grandmother had taken her role seriously. Had baked waffles and gone fishing with David at the pier. Isabella had been solo for several hours without demands. Hours for reflection, recapitulation and surrender. Required hours.
Isabella had put the kettle on, buttered a triangular Leksand crisp bread and added three cucumber slices. Just like she used to do at home. Her world was three. The family, Marcus and David. She used to forget to count herself. The kettle had hissed when the first drops of boiling water spilled over and landed sprawling on the plate. Isabella had been brought back from her brooding for a second. She regretted that she did not include some red tea bags from home, for Margaret only used Earl Grey. But you have to face reality. Earl Grey. And then the couch with an interior design magazine she had bought in the kiosk at the station in Katrineholm, before the bus to Österåker had departed.

The tea moment was perfectly OK, but her relationship was not at all OK. Quite the contrary. KO meaning Knock-Out. Perhaps the family was already counted out or at least knocked down again. That marriage was a “Rocky Road” had taken on a whole new meaning. Marcus had once tricked her to rent the movie “Rocky” on the pretext that it was a “classic”. She had not understood anything of the film and almost fell asleep before it was finally over. Rocky had been as bruised as Isabella’s marriage was now. And no, he did not win the match either. But in the film love had won.

Here in reality Isabella knew that she did not have Marcus in her corner. If Marcus at least once had shown an ounce of attention, a moment of tenderness, or one second of sensuality. The job and stuff seemed to be everything he saw.
Marcus had always got the latest mobile phones and those apps that “were good to have.” Isabella smiled to herself. Seemed like a man’s mobile phone was the same as a girl’s handbag. A lot of things in it that you think you may have use for but rarely use. Isabella sometimes wondered if Marcus didn’t see his family as one of all the apps – the one he used the very least.

Then it was all unpaid overtime, travel and that architecture kickoff. Marcus had said “no architects get paid for over time.” In Isabella’s ears it sounded insane to have to work around the clock without getting anything extra for it.

She sometimes wondered if the architectural profession was a kind of love calling that you are dealt through divine interference. The result was in any case she did not see much of him, and once he was home he was tired and irritable. Did not give the impression of universal love – not even in relation to the two people he lived with.
Lived? He slept in all cases at home most nights. The bed was unmade in the morning in the Marcus’s room. Since a few years back they had separate bedrooms. Marcus did not want to disturb her when he came home late or have to work early, he said. Isabella felt alone, something she had not imagined being when married. When David sometimes had nightmares and wanted to get into the mother on the night she welcomed him immediately. At least someone to share the bed with.
“Together” was a word that did not taste good in Isabella’s mouth any longer and nothing that she could relate to Marcus. Ensuring that David came to school, attending parent meetings, Doing laundry, dish-washing, making beds, cleaning and all that she naively thought that Marcus would also share with her – had ended up only in her lap. The only argument was that he earned more money per month. Money that was meant to pay for a new car.
Isabella had taken a sip of tea and the last chew on her bread. “A new car,” she thought. It was o crazy to even own a car if both of them lived and worked in Stockholm. Marcus’s father had always had great cars. Isabella had wondered if she had a man with the wrong father. Or the wrong father to her child. But David was in all cases the right kid – the best.

Then it had rattled outside. David had been proud coming home with their catch. No child was ever so proud of two minnows! His grandmother had been quite proud of herself too, of having made a successful last outing with David before he and Isabella were leaving for Stockholm on the afternoon train.

Now they stood outside the door on Södermalm in Stockholm. Marcus should be at work. It was just six o’clock. Marcus had the last year worked at least until seven and sometimes even later. “Home” as David said. The condominium she and Marcus had bought just before David was born. It’s been a while since Isabella felt that the apartment was a place to thrive in. There were too many black moments, too many sad hours in the wallpaper. Isabella’s fingers touched the divorce papers when she was digging for the keys.
“Mom, shouldn’t we enter already?”
Isabella could not find the keys in her handbag.
“Wait a minute honey. Mom needs to find the keys first.”
“But Mom – you put them in the suitcase because you would not have use for them for a while, you said.”
There, in one of the side pockets, they were. Perhaps it was Isabella’s subconscious that did not want to pass through that door. The apartment door was of grey steel. A matching picture. Cold, hard, impenetrable and dull.

Isabella turned the key and opened.
The hallway did not look like usual. It was clean. And it smelled like homemade bread. For a moment she thought that Marcus was going to sell the apartment. Home staging. Then she saw it. The picture in a gold frame. And the text.

Sonnet 155 (one love, five elements, five senses)

It’s right to write a loving poem to you
So soft my thoughts has brought a feeling bright
At last I show my love and praise its lovely hue
Be gentle with my heart, my Love, tonight
Eternally a love for you I’ll feel
Lights shine so bright and makes me feel so good
Loud beats my heart and makes my life more real
And hours will fly before it’s understood

My Love I see that we belong as one
A life with you is still a dream for me
Relationship with you is always fun
Come here my dear young deer and set me free
United here we stand and see our fate
So grand to know our love is always great

Marcus had not only saved the text. He had hung it so it was the first thing everybody saw when they arrived. The sonnet he had courted Isabella with. Number 155. Shakespeare had only written 154. She saw a floury smiling Marcus showing up with a plate of cinnamon buns.
“Welcome home, family!”
The handbag was not meant to be opened again this evening.”

But this was an obvious flashback. Isabella also remembered the following backlash. Only the diamond lasted – the relation was not forever. But she had learned a lesson she could use later.


April 13 Acting as If by Coaching Detective

Church in a Park by Coaching Detective

While Isabella Strand had come to terms with being an unusual coach, but that she would probably never tell anyone about it similar thoughts were brooded over in Östermalm. There, in that small apartment, the concept of “normality” was also equally important. Perhaps even more.


What is “normal” really? Or even realistic? Or real for that matter? If a writer should write a murder plot and make the characters stick out completely from their context and still maintain that they will not be noticed in a crowd that writer would be exposed to huge amounts of criticism. On the other hand you would never expect Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple or Sam Spade to have a “real” life, would you?
Many writers have created pretty unrealistic characters. The character Lisbeth Salander by Stieg Larsson is a perfect example of this. And the Albino killer from the same writer or the other Albino killer by Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code. Then of course we have all our heroes: Indiana Jones, Lara Croft, John McClane and Ethan Hunt. They are supposed to live in the real world but do not behave as you would expect real people to. And they don’t even speak Klingon, use lightsabers or are born on Krypton.


In an apartment measuring 34 square meters with only a small kitchenette you can’t expect to find a large family in Sweden. Fine. No risk of that here anyway. But what can the neighbors expect to find? That is, what appearance can you assume not to be noticed? There are a few stories you could tell your neighbor if she or he would ever ask. They seldom do, actually, in Östermalm. One is to say that you are a student and that you make extra money working night somewhere. That would make it completely normal for you to come and go at any hour of the day. The other story you could go for is that you really work abroad but that you have this small flat to stay the night when you visit Stockholm on occasion. Also realistic. And the name on the door, at least in Östermalm, must appear European or Swedish.


Both stories have to look plausible of course. If you say you are a rich world traveler you can’t look like something else. And if you “are” a student you would not be expected to wear expensive brands. To be fully clothed in a nudist camp would draw attention to yourself, right? Or to dress like a clown in Parliament, even if some would say that such suits would suit politicians better than they think. So the What, Where and When is important. Even for Murder.


Even the inside of the apartment has to look right. A neighbor might turn up to make inquiries on tools, a cup of sugar or if the laundry room might be free. So your flat must fit your story too. In this case the student story was chosen, making it essential to make all the furniture look cheap, borrowed or found in a jumble sale or in a container somewhere. A student also has to have books. But not any books. There has to be a slant towards book in the field you pretend to study – in this case English. And there must be no trace of equipment used for dirty deeds of course. That must be hidden into the five closets or in well closed boxes in the basement storage room. And you have to have normal stuff too. A daily newspaper, a TV, a CD-player or something. And follow all the unwritten rules.


It takes quite a bit of preparation to act like a “normal” Swede today. “Acting as if” is not as easy as it seems. Perhaps you would need a mentor or coach to do it well?


Isabella Strand had never received any coaching request on that subject and perhaps never will. On the other hand every person had their own agenda. Isabella had just been to the local store to buy coffee, tea and some other things for the office and was mounting the stairs thinking that the charm from residing in a building from the late seventeen hundreds is well balanced with the lack of an elevator. Isabella felt that she had not been training as much as she would have wanted or needed for that matter. Suddenly her iPhone rang. David had adjusted her ringtone to that of an old telephone instead of the usual Marimba sound.

It was her next client Erica calling to say she couldn’t meet her appointment today. It was the second time she did exactly that, calling at the last moment to cancel. Isabella had very clear booking rules stating that you have to cancel at least 24 hours before the appointment or you would have to pay anyway. And that was not all with Erica. Erica had “forgotten” to appear several times and of course also not done her homework on occasion. A classic case of a client that will not continue her coaching eventually. Right now Erica was fighting the shame of not doing what was needed versus the shame of giving up on her coaching process. Erica was unhappy with her job, unhappy with her relationship and unhappy with her apartment. Everything, including herself. Isabella had suspicions of perhaps a drinking or another drug related issue, but she was not sure. But her intuition told her that something was seriously wrong with Erica, something that regular coaching could not fix. “But to put that question on the table Erica had to show up – and that is maybe why she doesn’t?” So Isabella had a free hour extra on her hands now. She decided to grab a coffee at her favorite spot in the Old Town and to do some e-mailing there.


Isabella had found a small café in a place that was also a hotel in an alley just walking distance from the office. Not many people had found that spot so it was ideal for taking a coffee and to do some thinking. It was also a fine thing just to take that walk and leave the office for a while. The Old Town had infinite possibilities for nice walks if you knew where to go. The alley named after a certain Sven who had been into wine turned up and Isabella made the few steps to the hotel. As she had been there several times before the owner greeted her in that manner you would a regular customer. “Returning clients are the ideal clients even for coaches.” Isabella smiled back and ordered her usual Caffe Latte made with low-fat milk and a sandwich with Salami and Brie cheese. A sudden Tuesday vacuum turned up in Isabella’s brain. A classic post cancelling syndrome. When a client cancels suddenly you are faced with a quick need to fill that space with something meaningful to do as you know you have millions of thing to do as an entrepreneur and mostly you deliver coaching hours. All other time available must be used purposely or you would be in trouble. But you could always clean out your inbox or at least skim over it in order to find the most acute issues. Cleaning it out is just a dream. Isabella sometimes dreamt of having an agent as she had seen on TV all the stars having. Agents making all dreams come true. Isabella came back to the real world pretty soon though, laughing at herself for dreaming of such things. The rest of Isabella’s coaching day was nothing like a dream.


Sometimes you get what you deserve, but sometimes you have no chance at all to realize it when it happens. Even afterwards can the lesson to be learned be hard to find. Isabella had two clients this afternoon before she could call it a day. The first was a job coaching client assigned to her through the employment office.


These clients came in very varying caliber. Some were pretty much aware of themselves and their situation and had some basic knowledge about how things work, but some had more problems to deal with. Lately Isabella had seen more and more of the latter category arriving at her doorstep.


“Hi. Elisabeth?” “Yes.” So far so good. The right client arriving on time. Isabella always wondered if that would be the case and this time the session started well. The first rule of a successful date is if both parties show up. A mild blond woman in her early forties stood before her. “Coffee, tea or water?” More and more clients chose tea or water these days. Perhaps they wanted to get calmer and expected coffee to excite them more or they had already had one cup too many this day. After all Sweden is placed at the top ten of the coffee countries in the World per capita. Finland leads followed by all the other Nordic countries. Only the Netherlands breaks the Nordic dominance by entering at number five. Sweden has been number two but has slipped down to six. “Tea, please.”


When it came to job coaching Isabella had long ago discovered that most job coaching clients did not need coaching, but concrete advice on what and how to go on from their present position. Their present position was “nowhere”. Just to accomplish a CV was sometimes impossible, they had none or little job experience, some had difficulties with Swedish as they had not lived in Sweden too long or had dyslexia. Some even had severe psychological issues on the border to therapeutic needs.”So Elisabeth, have a seat.” Elisabeth sat down and Isabella placed herself on the other chair in the room. She noticed that Elisabeth looked down instead of meeting Isabella face to face or instead of scanning the room to see what was in it. A sign of worry. She just sat there, waiting…Isabella decided to go slow not to frighten her. “Welcome Elisabeth. Did you have any difficulties coming here?” Isabella realized of course that the question was ambiguous. Elisabeth could answer with something about her process at the unemployment office or she could just say something about the actual travel to the office. There was a moment’s “Hamlet” silence. Elisabeth was trying to figure out the “best” answer. And Isabella had not really started with real questions yet – she was just making initial conversation. She knew that this session would be tough for both of them. But Isabella decided to act as if everything was fine. Elisabeth made the same decision. “No problem.”


Then Isabella started the session by asking her client what she knew about coaching and what she knew about Isabella and ISIS. Generally job coach clients are supposed to find the coach they wanted by looking into a search page on the employment office’s website. There were statements from every job coach plus links to their websites. There were several ways to make thorough research if you had the initiative or stamina to. “My contact person at the employment office suggested you.” Isabella was astonished. Again a client had said just that. Isabella had been told by the employment office that they had no right to suggest any specific coach and that they would leave all the decision making to the clients. But no.


Isabella would not call them to say “Please, don’t lead any clients this way!” She was not stupid. Not in that sense anyway. As a marriage consultant she would be no star with her track record – or on the other hand she might be just that, knowing all the snags that can arrive around the next corner.


“I’m flattered that they think I’m doing a good job.” Isabella did her best to hide her inner feelings. “But we are not going to be talking about me, are we?” “I guess not.” “So Elisabeth, what do you want us to start with? We have several things that should be included into job coaching and I guess there are also things that you would like to get into our process. We have three months for this according to the rules set by the Government. I would suggest six sessions which would be about twice a month. To start with a bit closer between sessions and a wider span towards the end. And finally a closing session in which we fill in a form of what we have done to send to the employment office. How do you feel about that?” I guess that’s OK.” Elisabeth was not really able to say anything about this suggested arrangement.


“Good. So who are you Elisabeth?” Isabella tries this approach now and again knowing that is one of the toughest questions to answer. A client could go anywhere from that question or nowhere. Mostly nowhere. “I’m divorced.” “What does that mean for you?” My husband left me for his thirty-two year old colleague saying she was prettier and smarter than I.” “That was not very nice. And how long have you been out of work?” “I’ve never had a job, really. Apart from taking care of the home and my husband. I married him when I was nineteen. He was a young lion at the stock exchange, extremely rich, handsome and had a fancy car and everything. I was pretty, I guess.” “Have you any education at all?” “High School. Then only a couple of classes in cooking, interior design and painting.”


Isabella tried hard to keep from sighing and said “Would you ike another cup of tea?” “Yes, thanks.” Isabella left the room to make the tea and wondered how on earth she was to help Elisabeth to produce a CV and also wondered what the contents of it would be.

This called for something extra. The ordinary thinking hats would not suffice. Thinking outside the box was impossible as there was seemingly no box at hand at all.


In the 34 square meter apartment “box” we now know quite well there was also plenty of thinking going on. And secret smiles about all the splendid plans already made for the near future to compensate for the bad plans made in the past. But outside the “box” it was important to act as if everything was normal. Schedules had to be maintained, dress code kept and everything had to look as if not under pressure.


April 12 – Is there a Letter Man? By Coaching Detective

Centralabadet - the place of a murder

Harry was back on the job. Sunday had been OK and a quiet family day. His mind had been elsewhere though, circling like a helicopter closing in on a landing site or four vultures over a fresh carcass. Harry amazed himself being so predictable in his metaphors, so boring, so male. No chance of Harry imagining butterflies around a daffodil or a swallow diving to its nest. Alas, he was a cop, a man and born in the industrial town of Eskilstuna. Steel and machines. He had, of course, an EKA knife in his pocket at all times as a reminder of his father who worked for EKA most of his life. A bit of a paradox for him to carry a knife around as it was not even allowed to carry one in public since 1990. Amazingly enough every builder and carpenter wares his outfit, including a knife, everywhere. “Strange exception”, Harry thought. He could imagine criminals dressing up as carpenters just to carry knives around.


Harry metaphorically shook his head to lose that thought. He had more interesting matters at hand. The “Tenth of April Murder”,  the “Pond Murder” or perhaps the “Johanna Murder”. The press usually found some half-witted title to every crime and was always trying to do the investigations and the trials themselves instead of leaving that to the professionals. In fact, Harry thought, the press more often than not was both interfering and counter-productive in relation to solving crimes. He wished the press would leave crimes alone. The press always hid behind “the public need to know” argument when creating leaks from the police just to sell papers.

“The press trade cops for copies!” Harry would rather see every crime investigation done before even letting the press know it exists. Often the revealing of names involved in the investigation to the press disturbs the process to the extent of perhaps jeopardizing the whole investigation making it impossible to convict anyone.


And this murder was his murder. He didn’t want anything or anybody to interfere with him solving it. And definitely not any private investigator. This was his chance to prove himself. A matter of pride. He had discussed how to handle the press with Stig and they had agreed to call it an “accidental death” for now. No point in making journalists interested. “Let sleeping dogs lie” Stig said. Harry knew that Stig did not like neither the bark nor the bite of journalists. Stig had been a “cop victim of the press” before. The tabloid press of course did what they could to sell and didn’t care who or what was sacrificed in the process. Stig’s marriages was, and perhaps even his possible police career. Harry easily had an ally against press interference in Stig.


This morning’s running through what they had, had to do next and possible leads was at hand in Harry’s office. For now there were only Harry, Stig and the young assisting officer Sahra present. Sahra had been hand-picked to Harry directly from the Police School being the possibly smartest cadet that year. She was a second generation immigrant, born in Sundbyberg. Her parents had left Isfahan in 1978, before the revolution in Iran. Her father had been recommended to the dentist training in Stockholm by a friend who studied there already. In 1980 the parents married and Sahra saw daylight in October 1981. She was still an only child. Harry had learned from Sahra that immigrants from Iran were a complex matter. You could never know why a Persian person had decided to leave Iran or what relation he or she had to any present or former government in Iran, any present of former religion och any present or former political movement. In short – you are lost. Unless you take time to get to know the person really well, ask the right questions and be prepared to drink enormous amounts of tea.


But generally most Swedish police officers preferred coffee and did unfortunately not really like to ask too many questions. Harry was somewhat an exception to the rule. The right coffee and huge amounts of questions. That was Harry. This morning he was bursting with questions on the mysterious woman in the pond. Stig and Sahra tried to provide him with some new information. Sahra begun:”We went to the woman’s apartment, which was quite close to the spot where she was found – in Wallingatan.” “And…?” Harry was as impatient as ever. “ A pretty clean apartment, really.” “Meaning…?” “Nothing really telling that any crime had been commited there, but…..” “Yes?” “Well, have you tried to buy a new apartment? “ “Of course, once or twice as a Sunday part time entertainment.” Harry saw the boring scene of such a show. “It was like the place was staged in a way – too clean and every detail put there for a purpose.” “Couldn’t it be that this woman had a pedantic streak?” “You have to go and see for yourself!”

Along Drottninggatan

Harry decided to do just that. He got keys from Sahra and was out of the office before Stig’s second cup of coffee was about to be on its way down. Harry took a short walk up to Fleminggatan and took the number 1 bus there, got off by Hötorget and walked from there. He strolled up Drottninggatan and passed the crime scene on his way to Wallingatan. Harry noted the quotes put into the street from books by the famous and infamous author/painter and alchemist August Strindberg. The quotes were not so flattering towards women. Harry would never ever think about his mother-in-law as stinking like a killed snake or the there had been no Hell before women were invented.
Strindberg quote - There was no Hell...

Strindberg certainly had women issues. Perhaps the murderer had that too. He stopped at Centralbadet for a while to get another feel for the place. He could the smell of food in the air, reminding him that he had forgotten to have any lunch. It was not the first time. There were several restaurants here. A Pizza place which served pretty good pizza, a few others and there was Rydbergs. Rydbergs was a bit more expensive the the other restaurants around Centralbadet and somewhere you did not go for lunch every day. But this day Harry decided to grab a late lunch there as it was possible to sit outside for one of the first days this year looking straight at the crime scene. Harry ordered what you should order at Rydbergs – a “Beef Rydberg”. Diced meat and diced potatoes and a raw egg yolk. In spite the name there was no connection between the dish and the restaurant. The dish had apparently been created at a hotel Rydberg built in the nineteenth century and demolished in 1914 to make room for a bank. Harry started to enjoy his lunch pouring the egg yolk over the diced food. Amazingly there had been water in the Centralbadet pond Johanna was found in as early as in April. But the fountain was not running yet. Usually the town waited until May before letting water into fountains and such. But there it was. He had seen archive photos obviously taken in midsummer or even after that, with all the trees having foliage and flowers all around. Now it looked a bit barren and cold. Not a place you would like to die. But admittedly a nice place to have lunch in.

Rydbergs Restaurant by Centralbadet

Harry’s phone rang. It was Sahra with more information. “Harry, she died in the water, but it is more to it than that. Apparently she had been given something to make her sleep first. Then injected a paralyzing drug into her. The lab says it’s curare or something similar. Then she was strung up over the pond helpless and acid was poured on the rope.” “Acid – why?” “To make the rope break and drop her into the water after a while.” “After a while?” Harry felt stupid repeating everything Sahra said but he was confused.


“So you are telling me that the rope was set up to break, but not right away? How long did she have to wait to die then?” “The lab doesn’t know. Perhaps half an hour or so.” Harry tried to imagine how it would have felt hanging there waiting for to be drowned, but failed. He thought the murderer had taken a huge risk too. Someone could have walked by and rescued Johanna before the fatal drop. Or was that part of it all somehow? Helplessness, chance, risk and something very elaborate. This was no impulse driven crime.

A Place for a Murder - Pond outside Centralbadet

After finishing his “luxury lunch” Harry left the scene and moved on towards Wallingatan and Johanna’s home at number 40. Harry noted that no “Isaksson” was on the plaque just inside the front door of the building. Johanna lived in a second-hand flat. Sahra had told him to look for “Gustavsson” instead. He took the stairs. His wife had told him to get some exercise this was about it right now. The blue and white striped band gave the apartment away. He got in, took off his shoes and coat in the small hall and went to work. This was a typical apartment from about 1930. In Sweden houses were just about to embrace Modernism, but in a Swedish variety called “Functionalism”. This building was at the crossroads. There were still strong echoes from the style known as “Swedish Grace” in Sweden. Harry didn’t know if a similar style existed anywhere outside Sweden. On the other hand he was no architect.


Sahra had been right. There were not many objects on display in the apartment. Harry also got a feeling that something was not entirely authentic here. On the kitchen table was almost nothing, but the something that was on display there was quite something. First, there was a vinyl record – an EP by David Bowie where Bowie is doing Berthold Brecht. Second, there were two hand-carved black and white dice both with the number six on top.  Last, there were quite a number of lottery tickets.


Harry knew that the other guys had done their bit, taking photos, getting prints and stuff so he was not worried. He noticed two glasses on the stone bench, newly washed. Not much chance of getting any prints from them he thought. He put the dice in his pocket and decided also to take the record with him to the office. Harry noticed a laptop in the bedroom/home office and a printer. There was a printed paper, looking as it had come out of the printer just now, but of course it hadn’t. As a matter of fact, when Harry took a look at it, it had been printed from a laser printer. The printer here was an ink-jet. Weird. And, come to think of it, another thing was a bit odd. Johanna had no record player either. Well, she had one for CDs, but nothing to play that EP on.

The printed paper read:


“It happened quite slowly that she gently slipped from gods thoughts
First with her face, then her hands, right at the last with her hair”


Harry immediately connected the note with death. Was this just a coincidence or was the note meant to be read? He took the note too. He wondered from where it was taken or if Johanna had written it herself? Or the murderer. He quickly left the apartment and headed back to the office only to be interrupted by a “beep” from his smartphone. Harry almost “Beeped” himself realizing that he would not only be late for his coaching session with Isabella, but also realizing that he had no idea what he was supposed to be preparing for the meeting. Up “beep” creek without a paddle.

Coaching Stairs

As Harry slowly mounted the stairs up to Isabella’s office a clear sense of shame came upon him as a 10 pound weight. Little did he knew that Isabella had huge experience from clients not doing their homework. At least four out of five client missed on at least one occasion. Many clients shamelessly never did their homework.

Harry, on the other hand, was a responsible guy normally and did not like to fail. He promised himself that this would be the first and last time he didn’t do what he was supposed to.


Isabella was read for him, coffee and a little cake followed by her usual smile. “Everything OK, Harry?” It seemed like Isabella had already seen right through him, or did he imagine things? “Well, a bit stressed at work, twin birthdays so I have unfortunately not done my homework for today. Sorry about that.” Isabella smiled again, knowing that a brilliant coach meets her client where he was at this point. No point in trying to force the client into a mold he would not fit anyway. “So Harry, where are you today?” “Hmm, here I guess, but also deep into a mystery.” Isabella, who was a keen mystery lover, took the bait – hook, line and sinker.


Harry decided to take a chance with Isabella. “Isabella, can you keep what I am going to tell you between us?” Isabella, knowing her coaching ethics, had no problem with that. “Of course Harry! It will not leave this room, but first I have to challenge you!” “OK…” Harry wondered what was coming, knowing that he had not done what he was supposed to do – making those notes they had agreed on. “Harry – are there a couple of minutes just before you go home each day and do you have a Smartphone?” Harry was stunned.”Yes, I suppose so, but what do you mean?” I want you to start an “electric diary”!” “A what?” Isabella had just with the help of her friend Rebecca entered into the Web 2.0 so she wanted to flash her newly found knowledge of the Internet. “I want you to get a Twitter account, a Facebook account or a Blog and each day I want you to write something there.” Harry started to fidget in his chair, really uncomfortable with the idea of writing. Writing had not been his strongpoint at school. He quickly went for a possible escape. “Well, Isabella – I don’t think my employer would appreciate me blogging.” “OK Harry, but you CAN get a Twitter account. I know at least two cops who tweets as we speak so there is no Cop Policy against that if you only tweet outside Police matters.” Harry knew that he would be a “Tweeter” or whatever they are called soon. Isabella was apparently not willing to let him off the hook. “Alright, I will.” “Good, Harry.” Isabella knew that some clients wanted; no NEEDED to be pushed a bit before they actually started to push themselves. “So now Harry – what did you want to expose to me?”


Harry smiled and took out the dice from his pocket and placed them on the coffee table between them. Then he opened his laptop case and took out the printed note and laid it next to the dice. “These items were found in the apartment of a woman who was found drowned somewhere else.”


“It looks like a suicide note.” Isabella had read quite a few detective stories at the family country cottage when she was younger. The talk of “the suicide note” was often there. “Perhaps, but the lady was murdered.” Harry had also read a few Agatha Christie books too and the murders often took place in upper class environment. Isabella took the hint. “OK, Harry. What can you tell me about the content of the note? What does it tell you?” Isabella almost bit her tongue for asking more than one question at a time, one of the deadly sins a coach could commit. But she was so caught up in this mystery moment she almost forgot being Harry’s coach.


Harry took a deep breath. “Looks a bit poetic. Could be a quote. Or perhaps the murderer is a writer or a letter man. I don’t mean Letterman. Or it is just something he has found in the flat and decided to play with.” “How do you know that it has something to do with the death of that woman?” “I just know it. It was placed oddly to be seen in the apartment and it says something about dying I think. What do you think?” Suddenly the roles were inverted. Isabella read the note and nodded. “Definitely about death. Have you Googled it?” Harry was taken by the simplicity offered by the suggestion. “Actually no.” Isabella turned to her laptop she usually kept by her side at meetings just in case she needed to look up some recruiter or something else for her clients or rather showing her clients how to do that for themselves. She entered the sentences from the note into Google and pressed the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button. And there it was. It was a David Bowie quote from a song called “The Drowned Girl”. Harry was almost stunned. Death by water. “What does this tell you Harry?” Isabella chocked him back to reality again.


“Good question.” Harry paused and touched his chin as he often did when trying to think hard. “The water must be important here. He has gone very far to emphasize water.” Are you sure it is a male killer?” “Pretty sure. It would take someone strong at least to rig the woman over the pond to her death. Or someone with some technical know-how.” Isabella smiled but noted that Harry was very much a man, with all the concepts of what he thought was manly firmly built into his fabric. He assumed that a woman could not have technical skills or be strong for that matter. He should know better, but Isabella decided to let it go for now. “And how about the dice?” “They were placed on a table. Both sixes showing.” “Meaning?” Harry had wondered a bit about that too. In fact Johanna worked at Aftonbladet with the gambling pages. The dice could have a connection to that. In addition, the acid and rope construction actually made room for the chance of somebody rescuing her if she had been lucky. “The victim is connected to gambling so the murderer could be a frustrated gambler or some kind of nut obsessed with gambling ideas.” “Who do you think did it Harry – a nut or a normal person?”


The eternal discussion of murder and normality showed up again. Could a “normal” person really commit murder? Isn’t murder in itself an abnormity demanding that you are a nut to be able to commit one? The law had an opinion of course. Anyone can commit murder, but some murders are surely committed by crazy people.

Regular murderers were sent to prison and the mental cases should be sent to a mental institution. Of course reality seldom was as a crystal clear cut as that. Some completely normal criminals, if a normal criminal is possible, try to explain their deeds by insanity hoping to avoid prison. Harry decided to be a diplomat. “Hard to tell. I guess that we can rule out manslaughter anyway. This was extremely well planned.”


Isabella felt honored to be let in backstage of a police investigation. She guessed that this was extremely unusual. Harry – do you think that how that dice were placed has significance?” Another beginner’s error by a coach – asking questions that could be answered with a yes or a no. Those should be avoided as they sometimes lead to stopping the conversation and development. Sometime they could be used of course – especially if a clear standpoint is needed from your client. This was not such a moment.

“I get two possibilities right now: One is that sixes are considered lucky and that after rolling double sixes you are allowed to roll again. The other thing is that in Swedish the word for “six” and the word for “sex” is the same one. And yes, I found another thought now! If six is up – one is down!” Harry suddenly realized that all criminal investigators should have a coach opening up the imagination doors for them. Harry and Isabella both knew of course how dice were numbered.  If you add the opposite sides they should add up to seven making the total 21.


Isabella glanced at her watch seeing their time running out fast. One last question maximum left before Isabella’s next client would arrive. “Harry?” “Yes?” ”I have to tell you that I am glad that we made this an unusual coaching session and that you let me get a glimpse of your daily life. I would very much like to continue to see more of what makes Harry tick and explore it further if that is OK with you. How do you want to proceed from here?” Harry knew that this was completely non-police procedure but he felt that it somehow worked having Isabella to confide in. He decided to continue with her as a “secret criminal speaking partner”. He would of course never mention this to anyone. Not even his wife. Harry would have a “detective coach” and Isabella would have a “detective coachee”.  “I guess that this is interesting for me so I hope that we can continue speaking of this in our next session.” “OK, Harry. You know the rules and that I have made you promise something to do right?” Harry remembered that he should get a Twitter account and nodded. “Good. Then we will meet same time next week then.” Harry and Isabella went through the normal ritual of the small hug and a small wave before Harry went back to work.

Outside Isabella’s place a blackbird was singing, threatening his rivals with violence and flirting for possible sex with the ladies using the same song. Perhaps this murder also has several sides to it. Just like blackbird songs or dice. Harry decided to think some more about that.


Isabella also had some thinking to do. “Was this really coaching?” “Could she really coach on police work?” “Was this kind of session really in line with their coaching agreement?” And those questions were only for starters. The agreement was to deal with Harry’s personal and professional development. Isabella decided to use a wide interpretation of that to include helping Harry to do his job better which must include solving this crime too. And to solve a crime you need knowledge on human behavior, life experience, imagination and curiosity. Isabella had plenty of that. In addition, she usually described coaching as “detective work into human experience”. Isabella had already in fact used the word “detective in her Twitter account @coachdetective so in a sense, and a bit prophetically, she was already there. She was not only a coach coaching a detective – she was from now on also a Coaching Detective!

April 10 – Twin Lives and a Single Death by Coaching Detective

Isabella’s cop client Harry had a busy morning. His twins had their birthday and there really should be lots of presents, ice cream and singing. Their tenth birthday on the tenth of April. But they were no fools – they wanted real presents thought out exclusively for them. Daniel wanted a skateboard with a special pattern and red wheels. Alexander on the other hand was more of an intellectual wanting all of the Star Wars films I-VI. Being a cop made it easy to perform an investigation on these matters. He found a Skater’s shop in Södermalm, locate in the mall called “Skrapan (The Skyscraper)”. He knew that Daniel would want to choose for himself both the board and the wheels so Harry chose to buy a skater sweater and a gift voucher for “Any board and any set of wheels”. When he had his latest session with Isabella he had passed an SF shop in the Old Town and they had a complete Star Wars set. Harry felt relieved and happy as the boys opened their gifts. Ellinor, Harry’s wife looked happy too even though she had been up since four to prepare everything from coffee, ice cream, un-hiding the gifts and so on. She had left Harry sleep until six. Even though Easter was last week the kids had Easter Holidays this week too, making them both actually do something this week had been somewhat a challenge. Ellinor and Harry had taken turns on looking after the “DeeAys” as Harry called the twins. AS both Harry and Ellinor were working they had to make it possible to do some work from home. Their terrace-house in the northern suburbs of Stockholm had four bedrooms on the second floor and they had made that into a study. Harry had on more than one occasion asked himself why they had decided to get a house in Suburbia when both he and Ellinor worked in the city. There were of course several reasons. Buying a flat in the city would cost about a million crowns per room and the family needed at least three bedrooms, a study and a living room. So a house for two or three million or a flat for five? And there was the thought of having small children in the city or closer to nature. They had also found a very nice private kindergarten close to their house too on the way to the local commuter train station.  But there were downsides too. Both Harry and Ellinor had to spend hours commuting to work and back so the idea of spending time with their children in the countryside was limited to weekends and during weekends they both needed to work to compensate for the huge amount to travelling and still being able to pay for the house. Two rats in a pretty cage hoping that their boys were OK anyway. Right now mama and papa rat were giving them quite a treat. Everything seemed to run smoothly. Harry remembered Isabella and her way of making him realize how much his family really meant to him. He might, if he had chosen the “glamorous” super cop job, not even been here this morning to celebrate. Probably out at some crime scene in Scania or wherever securing footprints or tire tracks already taken by others. The super cops were only to be called on after thirty days. Not really “Cold Cases” but at least lukewarm. Much better to stay in Stockholm to enjoy happy faces. Harry thought that coaching had been a surprising experience for him. He went there with the sport vision of what a coach was and had expected to be told what to do. Instead Isabella had given him the lead, making him realize that he was in charge of his own process. Harry had found that a refreshing contrast to all the people telling him things all the time. He longed back to Isabella’s office and their next session. Nothing sexual of course. This was something completely different. Just trust. Ellinor had also noticed that Harry was happier than before.

Suddenly Harry’s mobile made a familiar weird noise. One of those signals that came with the phone but nobody wanted to have activated. Harry had chosen that one because nobody else had it at work. He could tell the call was for him just by the signal. Who would call him at seven in the morning on an Easter Holiday Saturday?

Stig Lindberg link from Wikipedia by Coaching Detective

It was Stig Lindberg. One of his colleagues at work. Not the famous Swedish designer who had the same name. And was dead. “Hi Harry. Sorry about this, but you really have to come in today.” Harry was amazed. He was the boss, right? ”What do you mean Stig? What can be so urgent that you want to drag me from my family on a Saturday? And when my twins have their birthday? Has someone killed our Prime Minister – again?” Back in 1986 the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme had been shot, leaving Sweden shocked. Sweden was still shocked by this, really. “No Harry, not that exactly. But it is  a murder for sure. A journalist at Aftonbladet. It is the weirdest thing I’ve seen in a long time.” “But, why do I need to come right away? Isn’t the man dead? Will he suddenly take off?” “It’s a woman  and dead for sure, but placed in a position you just have to take a look at and in a place that is a bit special too.” Harry began to realize that he would not be able to stay at home this time. “OK.where are we talking about?” “Outside Centralbadet in a pond. Drowned.” And she couldn’t have drowned all by herself?” Harry really tried to get off the hook. “Nope. You’ll see.” OK Stig. I’ll call you back in ten.” Harry turned to Ellinor and the twins. ”Sorry guys, but I have to pop into town for a little while.” Ellinor’s face changed from harmony to something Harry knew he would not appreciate very much. Disappointment. “So my dear Harry will prioritize the dead over the living again, is that so? Another corpse fiesta, I suppose?” Harry knew that he was in deep trouble and quickly needed a quick idea to compensate for him leaving his family now. “How about us celebrating by going to a restaurant this evening – you choose where and then we can meet there?” Ellinor was not satisfied but decided to play along for the twins. “OK, Daniel and Alex will decide.”

Harry left the house, got to the family car and hastily drove south for Stockholm city. This time on a Saturday the roads were pretty empty. The ordinary queues on that way to work were not to be seen now. “Always something.” Harry found himself talking to himself again. He decided to turn the radio on. He had it adjusted to one of the channels playing old songs, some even older than he was. He heard the familiar sound of “China Girl” and thought that he was also “stumbling into town” and perhaps even stumbling through life knowing very little about himself. The meetings with Isabella had opened him up a bit though. Formerly he would just follow the advice of the Chinese girl in the video. Keeping his mouth shut. Harry smiled. The next song was ”Light in Your Heart” with Hanne Boel, the Danish singer with enough soul in her voice to get to his heart too. And of course a vivid memory. Songs have strong powers for many people and for Harry too.

Harry parked the car in Drottninggatan, just outside the gates to Centralbadet, knowing that it was not a great spot to park in. He saw the blue and white plastic police ribbons placed to prevent people from entering there and destroying possible evidence on the ground. And he spotted Stig talking to one of the police women in uniform at the scene. Harry noticed that Stig needed a new coat more than he did and sent a thought of gratitude towards Ellinor who always tried to make Harry look his best. Stig apparently had no wife. “OK Stig, tell me all.” ”Right. Apparently this woman was drowned or so we think right now sometime during the night. But the weird thing is that she seems to have been positioned just over the water surface in the pond at first with ropes. The ropes were then to slowly break dropping her bound body into the water.” “What?” Harry didn’t understand a word. ”Someone had poured some acid or something on the rope for it to eventually break.” “Are you telling me that some weird person first bound and gagged her, then left her hanging there alive to drop to her death in the water later?” “I guess so. And on her birthday too.” Harry thought about the twins back home. ”Why didn’t she managed to get out of the water then – this pond is extremely small and the water can’t be more than 60 centimeters deep?” “I don’t know yet, Harry. Seems weird to me too. And why was she not killed immediately? Why let her hang there a while first?” “How long do you guess?” “Hard to say. Depends on the acid involved of course.” Stig had been right. A very strange death by water indeed. But in a beautiful spot just outside the building where the bath an spa known as Centralbadet was located. The building was in Art Noveau style. A style that most Swedes would call Jugend. Harry had mixed emotions towards Jugend. On one hand it was very elegant, but on the other hand it seemed a bit overloaded with ornament. A bit too much. This murder was a little too much too. Ropes, acid, a peculiar public space and Harry felt there would be even more oddities about this one later. Harry turned to Stig. “Who was she?” “A Johanna Sofia Isaksson, born in 1951. Worked at Aftonbladet. They have a special part of it that is about gambling. There.” “So she is fifty-nine?” ”Depends on the time of death. Today is her birthday as I told you – remember?” Harry didn’t bother to reply. He was thinking that what a weird coincidence to drown by a placed designed for swimming. Perhaps the killer had some weird sense of humor? Or was there something more to this? The murder had been planned to say the least. This was no spur of the moment thing. “Did she have any family?” “As far as we know yet no. We have not spoken to anyone yet though. A bit early for that yet.”  Harry saw in the reflection of restaurant Rydberg close by that some people had stopped to see what was going on already. Harry begun to consider the complications involved with murdering somebody in  place like this. First you have to make your victim appear here, then binding her, then hanging her up above the water, then pouring the right amount of acid on the rope and then get away. Harry guessed that it would be too complicated. So how? “Stig, have you thought about the crime scene?” What do you mean?” “Do you think that she was captured here, bound here and then drowned here?” “No, maybe and don’t know…we will probably know more by Monday when forensics have done some work on it.” “It’s not an “it” Stig it’s a “her”. Never forget that.” Yes, a probably single woman dead in the middle of Stockholm and lively twins waiting to have a feast in suburbia. Harry knew what to do. Coaching had taught him to make the right priorities. With a few exceptions of course…

March 22 – Lonely Hearts and Black Ones by Coaching Detective

Can alarm clocks have a sense of humour? When they play “Monday, Monday” followed by “Manic Monday” at 6.30 in the morning as a wake-up call you might wonder. Is it irony or just a coincidence? Isabella woke up with more of a Boomtown Rats feeling than that. “I don’t like Mondays.” Especially of course when she knew that she wouldn’t spend it in the company of her son. David will be with Marcus this evening and the rest of the week. Isabella knew that she would miss him like crazy. Not Marcus – David. To be separated from your children is painful even if it is only for a week. She remembered, back in the days she and Marcus were still together, that when Marcus had to leave town for a few days he hated that more than anything. The same kind of torment Isabella was going through every other week. Many people told her “Isn’t wonderful to have complete freedom every other week?” and even other separated parents tried to maintain that in order to rationalise things. The other mantra separated parents usually repeated was that “the children are better off this way as they do not have to see their parents fighting”. Isabella had tried to believe both these phrases but had failed miserably. She couldn’t really feel that she was free when she was without David but rather trapped by loneliness and a bad conscience. And as for David being better off moving between two half homes fifty-two times every year? The answer was no. The relation between her and Marcus was only about her and Marcus. David was a result at first, but now an innocent victim of it. An innocent victim feeling guilty. David had more than once asked if he was to blame for the split. Isabella knew that David was scarred already. Still, a small mercy was that the separation was not because of a betrayal. If Marcus had found someone else and left because of that, things might have been worse, or if she had. Such patterns are hard to erase in a child’s mind. Isabella and David had their Monday separation breakfast both knowing that again they would not see each other for a week. As many children facing these circumstances they are forced to grow up very fast. David too. He was a normal kid in most situations but he had learned to handle the separation process better than Isabella had, at least on the surface. Isabella noticed a tendency in David seeing everything as more fragile, more unstable and more unreliable than before. He had lost quite a bit of his initial trust in life. Marcus and Isabella had stolen that from him and they both knew it. Perhaps Isabella knew it a bit more, but you cannot measure pain can you? The old saying “You made thy bed, now lay in it” was a bit too simple. It should read “ You both made the bed, made love on the sofa, received a child, crashed the relationship and now You will ALL feel alone – including your innocent child”. Isabella snapped out of it. Not because she was good at it, because she must. David had to get to school. She could have a break-down later. If her calendar would permit of course. After Easter perhaps. Isabella thought “If Jesus could die and then live again so can I”. Isabella had always had a complicated relation to religion, Christianity, Islam and Judaism. She was of course officially a Protestant as she was born in Sweden, but felt that Protestantism was a bit boring and that Catholics seemed to have more fun. She also more than one close friend that was a Muslim and she also knew at least three Jews. Isabella thought they would all fit in at one of her parties and that they would all be good friends. She had named her son “David” knowing that it meant “beloved” in Hebrew and also knowing that no matter what religion that name might be OK. She wanted him to be loved by everyone. Isabella had taken a glance or two into the Bible, the Koran and the Torah texts and realized that they were written by people in a context. She also realized that the priests, imams and rabbis of today are very much in a context too. Amazing how matters of faith have come to be mixed with politics and how politics has turned into ordinary marketing and sales. Isabella had nothing against God, but she didn’t trust that ground crew longer than she could throw them. She had always found it weird that the Almighty God was such a lousy manager. He, presumably male of course, did not manage his office very well as he could not make the office managers work together. He could not make his company “The World Unlimited” prosper either even though he had a total monopoly and he did not even manage to make his officers realize that they were actually part of the same crew. “Laissez-faire management” apparently does not work here. God has to realize that good staff is hard to find. The crew seems to be busy selling products like “jihad jello”, “crusade crackers” and similar products. Whatever happened to the “silly love songs” and “give peace a chance”? Isabella sighed. She had started to look for meaning elsewhere as so many of her clients also did. She met so many people in her work that were fed up with markets, politics, religion and their daily life. All they wanted was to find an escape from it all. Something or someone to free them from the constant information attack only there to sell them products. The product could be anything of course. Lately one of the products had been “coaching”. Coaching had quickly become the new cure for anything, but nobody really knew what “coaching” was or believed it could apply to everything. In a way to get a coach had become something between getting a guru, a teacher  or a healer. On the other it was also similar to getting a dentist, a doctor, a hairdresser or a new handbag. The experience of actually being a coach was a mix of all these and working at the ER.

To Isabella’s astonishment she found that many clients treated their coach like they would a handbag rather than they would a doctor or dentist. If your dentist or doctor made you realize that you needed to take some steps to get better you would do it. At least Isabella would. But a handbag, no matter how sophisticated or expensive you just take for granted. After the first joy of buying it has worn off nothing really happens. Isabella had recently tried real hard to make her clients understand from the start that personal development is not a product given to the client at the first meeting, but a process over time where the coach and the client are equally responsible. She usually added that the process should continue even between the meetings. And of course she wanted to tattoo her clients with “NQFTL!” on the inside of their eyelids. So many clients seemed to believe that a single coaching meeting contained a “Quick Fix To Life”. Isabella had to write a big “NO QUICK FIX TO LIFE!” on her Whiteboard ever so often. Reality issues were hard to handle in life.

When life itself was an issue that really was outside handling there were only three ways to react: To fight, to flee or to play dead. Sometimes all of these patterns may apply, perhaps in a certain sequence. In the apartment in Östermalm lay someone who had already played dead before and had fled more than once too. Enough of that now – Time to fight. And time for a hearty breakfast. On a mission all the depots must be filled. When you are on a tight schedule getting flu could spoil everything. That was not going to happen. Not now. Not ever. Physical and mental strength were the keys to success if you could speak of success here. It was more about setting the records straight.

In Södermalm, after leaving David at school, Isabella went straight to her Old Town office to meet her first client. Again it was Camilla, who she had seen once before and had not been straight at all. Not in any sense of the word. Isabella wondered how Camilla had dealt with her infidelity issues, her bisexuality and her wife. Isabella reflected on her own mistakes at their first meeting too. Of course, marriage between women being a fairly new thing, her mistakes were understandable but not excusable. A good coach should always meet her client where she or he is at the time and never jump to conclusions. Camilla was her first client explicitly lesbian, semi-lesbian or bisexual and officially in a gay marriage. Isabella had a hard time choosing between different terms to call her client in regards to this subject. There was always a possibility that Camilla wouldn’t identify with whatever term she decided on. Isabella eventually settled for “Camilla”. The simple solution.
Camilla was on time again. Today she wore a sporty extremely yellow down jacket, a blue tight stretchy pair of jeans and black boots. She looked at least ten years younger than last time they met. She was smiling and gave Isabella a hug too. A happier client, Isabella thought at first. Then she begun to wonder if that was actually true. She would not jump to conclusions with Camilla again and she was really curious to find out what had happened since their last meeting. Isabella had to admit to herself that her Sapphic experience level was low, limited to what she had read, seen in films and a few experiments at thirteen with her best friend limited to kisses and a touch of breasts. Isabella had read somewhere that almost every young woman, and man for that matter, has thoughts about having sex with the same sex at least once and that does not mean that they are gay at all. But Camilla was of course in another division. And now equipped with a nice cup of herbal tea in Isabella’s office confidently placing herself, crossing her legs getting ready for her next session. Isabella smiled, realizing that Camilla had placed her legs exactly as she had. Mirroring another person is usually a good sign of liking. And Camilla HAD returned for her next session.

But Isabella knew that it was seldom the second session that was the hardest. She knew that it was the third and forth. The first two usually were easier for clients. The first two were filled with curiosity, novelty and fun. The third often meant really starting to get down to what really mattered and the fourth usually meant that the client started to realize that she had to actually make some effort herself. If a client managed to overcome this obstacle and start to make things happen between sessions then she would return for her fifth session. Isabella had noticed a pattern in the clients that would break the coaching relationship. They usually didn’t do any of the agreed assignments decided on in the sessions and if they had made notes they usually forget to bring them to the next session. When they enter the room they started to excuse themselves even before taking a seat. “I haven’t done anything.” The vision of hard work apparently prevented  the client from continuing her coaching process. Then there was usually a period of self-deception. The client would start putting off appointments, finding different excuses for not being able to show up or forgetting the appointments all together and finally saying that perhaps she did not have enough time for coaching at this point due to boyfriends, work or something and would return later. The “later” would never happen of course.

Isabella wondered if Camilla would have the mental strength to continue beyond her second session. But she was here now. Sitting calmly, but with her left thumb and index finger fingering a pendant in the shape of a green Fabergé egg. Isabella thought “If that thing is real it would cost a bit.” She had seen a real item such as this one at an auction once in New York at it went for five thousand. Dollars. That would be around thirty-five thousand Swedish Crowns. Isabella recalled that Marcus had about that gross salary per month as an architect. She found it kind of funny that a pendant around a woman’s neck would remind her of her ex. The pendant was more beautiful than Marcus though. Isabella forced herself to focus on Camilla instead of letting her mind wander off like this. “Respect your client.” Isabella’s coaching teacher’s words brought her back on track. “Welcome back Camilla. How has things been for you since we last spoke?”

“Well, you remember that I had been unfaithful with a man at a conference?” “Yes.” Well that man and I have come to an understanding. No more sex between us if my wife cannot either know about it or take part in it.” Isabella felt a bit uncomfortable speaking so freely about sex. “And?” A classic non-demanding question where Isabella did not have to reveal her feelings much. There was a second of silence. “I just love being penetrated sometimes with something alive. Cecilia’s dildos are not the same for me. But I feel ashamed of feeling this way. I don’t want to cheat on Cecilia. I love having sex with her and I love her. When it comes to nearness and caressing me with her fingers and tongue, no man could ever replace her.” If Isabella ever blushed outside a bedroom this was such a time, but she managed to keep her cool. At least on the surface. “ I assume than that sex plays a very important role in your life?” “Sure does.” Isabella started to suspect that Camilla’s image of coaching leaned towards her session being similar to a confession booth. “So, Camilla, what do you want to take with you from today’s session?” Camilla smiled. “I am a bit confused. Well confused may not be the right word. I feel torn between telling Cecilia the full story about Peter and the conference and the understanding, or if I should try to ease Peter into our marriage without mentioning that we have actually met already. And I don’t know how I should go about doing that either, really.” Isabella thought hard. “What would be the advantages if you tell Cecilia everything?” “I would feel more honest.” “So if I interpret your answer you feel that telling is best for your peace of mind?” “Yes, I suppose so.” “Yourself aside, what would be the best situation for Cecilia?” “Good question…..I haven’t thought of it like that before.” “Would you consider doing that now?” Isabella tried to penetrate Camilla in ways she might not quite like as much and Camilla’s fingering of the egg pendant became even more intense as she tried to find a sentence within her that could make sense. “ I guess that there might be a risk that Cecilia would be very hurt by that fact that I have made love to Peter already behind her back.” “What would happen then, you think?” “She might leave me, or we would at least have huge issues between us.” Isabella let Camilla stew for a second before she put the next question on the table. She chose a question that could be answered with yes or no. “Is risk important to you?” Camilla stopped breathing for at least two seconds. Nobody had asked her this before. She hadn’t even asked herself that. Camilla had seen Peter on the sly knowing there were risks involved. Well, realizing it after a while anyway. And her last relationship had ended after an affair, then with another woman. “Yes, I guess I have to admit that – even if I don’t want to.” Camilla smiled in a way that Isabella didn’t know how to interpret. The smile was a combination of surprise, bewilderment, seduction and embarrassment. Or something else. Isabella penetrated Camilla a bit more. “What does that result in for you?” “I feel like a blackheart but also a bit more alive too, I’m ashamed to say.” “So Camilla, if given the hard choice between keeping the kick of the risk plus the shame of liking it and possibly losing Cecilia and stop having affairs on the side and to make your relationship with Cecilia more stable – what would you choose? I don’t want you to answer right now but to consider the question and what you would do to create the best environment for both outcomes. Can you do that for me? And then we will discuss your choice in our next session – OK?” Camilla looked both happy and in despair. Isabella knew that this was a delicate moment in their relationship. Camilla could easily choose to flee after this session as Isabella demanded something from her a real decision leading into the future. “OK” Camilla said it and Isabella only hoped that her client would stick to her promise and return for her third session. But this was also what coaching is about. To dig into the client’s mind to find out what the core of the matter really was. And dare to plunge into the client hearts, both black and lonely. Just sitting there being nice would not lead her clients anywhere. Better to walk down Inferno lane for a while than to only sip a sunny drink in the shade learning nothing.

Camilla rose, put her yellow appearance back on and left giving Isabella a hug and an elegant kiss on her right cheek. AS she hadn’t when they met, Isabella interpreted it as a vote of confidence.

Later, when at home after her four clients and completely alone her encounter with Camilla returned into her mind. Isabella sighed and was a bit envious on Camilla. Nor only had she someone, but there was also the fact that she also got some. S.E.X. And it had been a while now for Isabella. She had not had much time to really think about it before. David, work and everything had taken up all her time. If she HAD lived with someone she would not have had the time to be faithful, let alone unfaithful. But now, all alone in her apartment, she wanted hands on her, lips on her and more. Even in her. And all she had to make do with was some boring film showing off a beary Swedish Crusader in the twelfth century.  Not so sexy, not so exciting. With a warm blanket and a cup of comforting green tea she would be alright anyway, she thought. And then the silence of the black winter night would sweep her away into a hopefully dreamless sleep.

There was no room for sleeping for our killer. A detailed map had to be constructed with all the important spots marked in blue, all the routes marked in green and all the risky intersections marked in red. A list with all the items that should be used in each phase was slowly being completed too. There would be at least an hour before it would be honorable to take a nap. Still time to back down, settle for what had been accomplished so far and to quit.  But realistically – the job had to be done. No real peace would come without that. But fear of both failure and fear of the job itself could easily take the better of anyone. A focusing meditation was in place, as always.

March 17 – Saints and Sinners by Coaching Detective

Time for a Saint?

3.00. The small apartment in Östermalm was dark and silent. The murderer could not sleep. Attacked by just as dark clouds of dreams. The same content as almost every night and the reason for all the thorough plans. Those dreams must stop once and for all. There was no longer an inner debate if or not it was a good idea – it was the only idea…
Only the other day some personal development company shouted that “it is never too late to have a good childhood!” brought on the instant response: “Yes it is!” No way to re-live that time again in a better way. The die was surely cast back then and only a snake eye was seen and sometimes more than one. Those slithering snakes all over, penetrating everywhere leaving a mark of filth and vomit that never seemed to go away during that day and exploding every night making sleep impossible and a need to change sheets and pillows at least once a night. In short – it has to stop now…To the outside world everything seemed OK. Only the amount of psychofarmaca in boxes everywhere could give reality away. The inner self was hidden behind a Darth Vader mask of indifference. Unfortunately there was no real possibility to create a light sabre even if that symbolically would have been nice. The murderer smiled knowing who would get a close encounter with “The Force”, making them say goodbye for good.

Realizing the absurdity of reflecting on old SF movies three o’clock in the morning a trip into the bathroom getting another Propavan to get by for another 6 hours. It was Saint Patrick’s Day but time for this Sinner to strive for some sleep – or at least go down trying…

6.30. Isabella’s alarm clock was singing “ Time to say Goodbye” this morning. She had become tired of the old buzzer and had bought a clock which could be set to start playing some radio channel or even a CD instead. She had found a radio channel that played rather soft music and kind of liked the idea that she would wake up to a new song every morning, A nice metaphor for every day being a new start. And that song started with, Isabella not knowing much Italian in spite of her name, being alone with dreams on the horizon. How appropriate that was!

But of course she was not completely alone in the apartment this morning. Her small man was fast asleep in his room and no alarm in this world or the next could wake him up. Only a human contact could manage that. And she was his. “David…time to wake up now!” After a few minutes the boy actually rose from his bed and stumbled off to the bathroom. It was a perfect metaphor for the initial slowness in which we humans take on life and sometimes we do need to be shaken a bit to snap out of it to actually start doing what we need to do. Things that make take a bit more effort from us than a brief visit to any bathroom. Isabella heard the familiar sounds telling her that David soon will be ready for his breakfast. The usual ritual was to ask him what he wanted, teaching him from early years to take decisions for himself.  The result could, however, be that he wanted hot dogs with chilli sauce every morning, or pancakes with apricot marmalade. This morning he went for two fried eggs. And children’s TV. Many parents prevents children from watching too much TV – but how much is much? And there are actually some fairly good programs which kids learn more from than they learn at school. So the “sin” of letting your child to watch TV might actually be a virtue. And how a bout “grown-up TV”, as David used to call programs he found boring. Maybe he is even on to something there – there are quite a few programs containing very little that adults seem to be addicted to. “Friends”, “Seinfeld” and “Frasier” are only too good examples of “nothing TV” that captured millions of viewers. Isabella had a hunch that Bruce Springsteen was right at least on one occasion. Isabella really only liked one Springsteen song, finding him a bit too macho and wearing ugly clothes on stage too. But “The River” was fine, she thought and smiled when he came up with “57 channels and nothing on”. She thought that that was one of the truest statements made in the media industry. Isabella took a glance at this morning’s paper looking for a film to watch this evening when David had gone to sleep. She had not yet succumbed to the more modern video-on-demand or downloading films via the Internet. She had, however, just received a box through DHL containing her new Smartphone. The decision process had been long and troublesome – she had for a moment almost decided to keep her old phone. She had talked with her best friend Rebecca about it. Rebecca said” Maybe you should have a phone coach!” and almost laughed her ass off. The absolute nightmare was of course two coaches planning to go out together for a meal and then see a film. Isabella just imagined how many counter-questions such a scenario would line up before some real decisions were actually made. Being laughed at worked well for Isabella spearheading her forward towards a decision. She would never try that method on a client though. It could only work between very close friends. She wondered which method she should use for indecisive clients. She had quite a number of those these days. For herself the Smartphone issue boiled down to if she needed such a phone at all or not. Did she really need to read e-mails and go surf the Internet on her phone? Or was that just a created demand by the phone companies or the manufacturers? To make us buy new products once a year at least?
Isabella was new at all the technology side of having a business or even a life these days. Seemed like everybody used Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn but her. And some even blogged! Isabella had been busy trying to get clients so she had not even thought about those things. Then Rebecca, who was a keen blog reader, said that “if it’s not on the Internet it has not really happened”. It was a kind of joke, but still…Isabella begun to think that she, too, must get onto the Social Media scene. She hadn’t even a website right now. Rebecca said that she could skip that and go for a blog instead that could double as her website. “No problem”, Rebecca said and also told her that she could get a blog for free too if she could accept not having the top domain. Isabella almost cried. “What in this world is a top domain? And is there also a middle and bottom domain?” A coach must not be afraid of stupid questions. Rebecca explained that there were a few places where she could get a free blog and even volunteered to help. Isabella was only too happy to let Rebecca lend a hand in this. Rebecca promised to throw in a Twitter and a Facebook account as well. “What shall I do with all this?” Isabella had no idea. “Well, Facebook is from the start mainly for expanding your private network but some actually manage to generate business through it too.” Isabella looked bewildered and as she wouldn’t grasp the idea of Facebook in a million years. “You can add people as friends and even get a fan page there.” “Do you mean I shall add people I don’t know as friends?” “No, but the people the ones you know know – how can you expand if you don’t?” “Hm…and a fan page – what is that?” “It is a page either for something you really like or for your company where people can become your fans.” Isabella burst out laughing. “I only have one fan and that’s my son. I hardly think people would storm the fan page of a forty-two year old single mother to become loyal supporters. It’s not like I am the local football team exactly, right? Or Lady Gaga.” “Well, fans in facebook are not really fans in the conventional way. To become a Facebook fan you only have to locate that page and press a button once. No real devotion is required which maybe devaluates the word “fan” quite a bit. But once you have fans you can provide them with all sorts of information, sales arguments and whatever. But you can place an ad in Facebook too but that will cost you money.” “How about that “Tweeter” then?” “Twitter.” “Yes, sorry.” “That is a micro blog.” Isabella sighed “So you mean I should have two blogs, one big and one small – and also a Facebook something and a fanpage?” “Yes, of course.” Rebecca was only too keen on arranging for Isabella to be the next Social Media Guru or trendsetter at least. Isabella felt like a complete virgin in comparison with Rebecca who seemed to have sinned on the Internet for quite some time already. Isabella realized that she needed to update herself to her next version and quickly too. The Isabella 2.0 had to be created for her company’s survival and to preserve and develop her trademark. Gone were the times of paper ads and flyers. Now it seemed like you had to make “almost friends”,  “almost fans” and “followers” in the virtual world  instead of making real connections in the physical world. It was all so strange for Isabella. The extroverts, who could handle social interaction and had the upper hand before, were being surpassed by the introverts who, even if they weren’t really sociable, could handle the Webb. “The Revenge of the Shy” if you will. “The Nerds will inherit the earth” was a phrase that came to Isabella’s mind. And they ran around with iPhones or other Smartphones. Some even packed a Netbook, those small ten-inch screen laptops that weren’t capabable of much more than Internet surfing or e-mailing. Isabella wanted more than that for her money. She wanted a good keyboard, light-weight, good graphics and fairly good capacity too. A Netbook was out of the question. Cheap yes, but as a computer no. After quite a bit of research she found her answer. A Sony Vaio X. It was too expensive really, but her body would thank her for the investment later. And as for mobile Internet she didn’t need a dongle either. The SIM-card could be placed within the Vaio. But back to the DHL box and her new phone. Well it wasn’t really a new phone it was a semi-old iPhone. Isabella had been planning on an iPhone but Rebecca had said “There is a new iPhone coming real soon which is much better than the old one.” Quite a dilemma choosing between a fair phone and waiting for the better one Many of Isabella’s clients had the same choices in their lives. To keep their fairly good  job or replace it with a possibly better one. Or to stay with their husband or fall for the young lover. To be a saint or a sinner, preferably both. Or perhaps neither. To eat the cake and keep it. So Isabella went for that solution. She bought a used iPhone now and would transfer to the new better when that was released. Apple bragged about a date shortly after the summer. The seller had told Isabella that he was going to buy an Android phone instead. He, it was a he, had been getting annoyed by Apple and their policy on Apps and content. He had said that Apple took thirty percent of the turnover on every App and also claimed the right to refuse Apps which content they didn’t like. Isabella agreed with him and remembered something about Microsoft trying to censor the search content in their search engine Bing too as many totalitarian states are censoring their people’s right to expression. “The so-called democracies are always extremely shocked when the Chinese or any such country is repressing the free word, but extremely less shocked when they do the same thing themselves.” But the freedom of speech comes with responsibility. The Internet was full of stupid, ill-written, irresponsible material. But none of that was illegal. Isabella had the strong opinion that if something was legal it had a right to exist. If you wanted it to disappear you had to change the laws or not to use it making it go away by itself. She knew that most Internet sites were there to make money, nothing else. And if the site didn’t make money it will be closed down. As easy as that. As the old saying went: “If you don’t like shark bites, don’t do swimming in the shark tank”. But on the Internet, as in real life, it is only too easy to become a sinner – and extremely hard to remain a saint.

The same could be said for the tenant of a certain apartment in Östermalm, Stockholm this minute. Or more appropriate – It was already too late.

March 16 – Secrets & an Impossible Mission by Coaching Detective

The Old Town seen from the south

A Tuesday morning, having breakfast with David, is normally a quality moment. He is looking forward to school today as he is learning English on Tuesdays. The week is still young so he is not as tired as later in the week and neither is Isabella. But this day something seemed to bother David even though he did not want to tell. Isabella, being who she is, tried to lure it out of him without success. They had their pancakes in silence that morning and during the transport to school they talked on something else. Isabella thought that if it was important it would be impossible for David to keep it all to himself. A secret or worry is unbearable to a child of eight so she decided to wait him out rather than put pressure on him to start his school day off badly.
As a coach she had also applied waiting out her clients for them to let their thoughts and feeling mature a bit before pursuing them with additional bombardments. A moment’s silence can be just as fruitful as any clever question at times. And as for secrets Isabella knew only too well her level of responsibility. Confidentiality is a key factor in a coaching relationship. “Without that you cannot have the trust you need between you and your client” one of her teachers used to say. But that teacher also continued by saying that you cannot keep your mouth shut if something illegal is going on. So a coach is not exactly a Catholic priest, but a similarity exists. Isabella always smiled when she imagined herself as the Pope or a High Priestess. According to a legend there has been a female Pope once, so why not? It was mostly about the fancy clothes of course. Being Swedish, she was brought up with a fairly secularized protestant tradition where God was invited for Christening, Confirmation, Marriage or Death. And of course as an excuse for Christmas presents, Easter Eggs and Lucia. In Sweden there are especially two celebrations that differ from other countries. The famous Midsummer fertility Celebrations when Swedes dance around enormous phallic poles filled with flowers – the poles are even equipped with symbolic “balls” – and the other is a light festival called “Lucia”. Lucia was a saint from Syracuse, Italy and has really nothing to do with Sweden. But the saffron buns are divine and so are the gingerbread biscuits. That is probably as close to God Swedes ever get unless you speak to a Swede about Nature. Deep in the dark corners of every Swede lurks a farmer, fisherman or hunter. You simply cannot wipe out the Swedish love for Nature. In Stockholm they try to pretend that they are so urban, so city like and so modern. Every weekend they still long to take a boat out into the archipelago, go to the summer cottages they all long for or just reading magazines about it. So every Swede has a secret. At least one.

At least one had more than one secret right now to keep and was adding them by a slow but steady rate. But the secrets were not directly related to Nature or Lucia although the mission at hand had everything to do with the elements as such and a remembrance of a certain Lucia celebration brought up the actions that must follow upon that event. There is nothing like a candle for certain things. And the white linen is good too. A hemp rope or two, a car end some other stuff were neatly and secretly placed to come in handy when the time arrived. Amazing how a car apparently out on a mission would not be seen at all but a car with no apparent mission would be spotted immediately. A skilled craftsman knows the tools and how to sharpen them. This one did too.

Isabella was expecting her first client this morning. A lady that after a lifetime of studies suddenly realised that she had forgotten work at all. She had inherited a large amount of money, a small but classy villa and she had loved an entrepreneur. He had worked eighty hours a week, but still had the time to make his personal assistant pregnant. After kicking him out she found herself alone, with no working experience and the money slowly running out. She needed a job. Isabella took a glance at her wristwatch, a small but elegant slightly blingy item from Dolce & Gabbana and stated “She is late.” Isabella was not especially surprised by this. Some clients were procrastinators. They made a fine art of putting things off, especially important stuff. There was a certain destructivity involved according to Isabella. Forgetting about appointments were only the tip of the iceberg for those clients. Isabella sighed, but made herself ready for her next client instead. It was Harry Andersson again for session number two. Isabella wondered if he had done his homework. And also if it was a good thing to continue from the point they had finished at the last time. This was not always the case as many things can appear in a person’s life in a week or so. A parent could die; you could get fired, and so on. A coach has to be prepared for anything, but nobody can. But Isabella did what she could to make the best of her preparation routines, making coffee, bringing out papers, pens and other things that might come in handy during a coaching session. Sometimes even a box of paper napkins was a welcome item. Tears were not as uncommon for Swedes as you might think. Even a Swedish man could shed a tear on occasion. The Finns were a more macho crowd though. A Finn is a bit more heroic than a Swede. Self-sacrifice has never been any favourite hobby for Swedes. Isabella heard noises from outside. Harry arriving on time. A good sign.

“Hi Harry, everything OK?” Isabella saw a light flicker in Harry’s face telling her that he had something on his mind that would take precedence over what they had discussed the previous session. As always it is always the client that owns the agenda and Isabella knew that this session would start a completely new line of investigation. “Well, almost.” Harry smiled and went straight for the coffee which he accordning to what he said before usually took straight with no sugar and no milk. Isabella noted that this time he poured some milk into his coffee and guessed that Harry had a hard time right now. After a few years she had developed quite a good “third level” of listening using her intuition, her eyes and ears in a more precise way not only listening to what is actually said  in words. Human communication is so much more than just plain words. Body language, eye movements, use of fingers, tools, ticks and numerous other signs. And if you took a closer look on the words you could make a novel out of the actual choice of phases and the use of pauses and hesitations. Not to mention the tone of voice. A person could say “I am used to work in teams” and Isabella could decipher if that person liked working in teams or not or if the person was lying to her. It was of course harder when the person lied to herself. Or himself. Isabella had not seen Harry lie at least to her the last time and it seemed like the truth would appear this time too, or so she hoped anyway. Right now Harry just sat there slowly sipping his milked-mixed coffee which he didn’t seem to like very much and waited. Isabella waited too, and just let him be in the moment for a while as it appeared as Harry had a hill to climb before daring to challenge the session before and start fresh on a new track. Isabella saw him taking a few short breaths followed by a long one. “Well Isabella, something has come up that I need to discuss.” Isabella smiled as the room relaxed again and the normal communication could start. “Good, Harry. What has happened?” Harry took out a notebook from his jacket and opened it. In it Isabella saw a number of names of which she immediately recognized one. “Leif G W Persson”. Harry asked her “Do you know who these people are?” He continued without waiting for her reply “The professor of Criminology and Author Mr Person has created team of twelve “Super Cops” that will take over if a murder hasn’t been solved in thirty days” “And?” Isabella needed more to understand what Harry was on about.”And I have the choice of being an assistant to this Super Team. But I have also the choice, due to replacements, to head the Stockholm City Police investigating all violent crimes in the Stockholm area which is also a great honour.”

Isabella realized that Harry had the hard choice between two good things. Always a tough choice but coaches are mentally prepared to lead their clients into dealing with hard choices. “I see. Tell me more.” She would not let him off the hook yet – she wanted him to reason for himself. A short fruitful “Gloria” silence spread in the room making the walls wait in anticipation for the next sound.
Harry turned a page in his notebook and scribbled a few words a pair of circles and a few letters in them. A “T” a “C” and an “M”. “As I see it there are a few factors involved and it is hard for me to make out which alternative is the best one” Isabella was surprised to see that notebook in use as many clients really had a hard time visualizing what they thought or felt. Isabella had tried to introduce journal writing, the use of poetry and images and other similar tools but only a few of her clients responded well to them. Here she had a client that tried to visualize even without her suggesting it. She started to like Harry.
“What do the letters stand for Harry?” Isabella was truly curious about that.
“Well, the T stands for “travel”, the C stands for ”cases” and the M stands for “money”.” “How do they differ?” Isabella knew how to make her questions open and short as she was told to during coach training. Kiplings old poem was a good reminder to keep:

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

The only friend of Kipling’s she was a bit cautious about using was the “Why”. That word sometimes had the effect that clients, and others too, started to defend themselves even if no real accusation was uttered. “Why” can be used in at least two ways. Of course as a challenge, questioning the decisions taken in the quest of either a defense or clarity. The value of that approach could be questioned in itself. The other use of the “why” is about really wanting to find out the reasons behind a decision and contains no questioning at all. The hard thing about that kind of attempt is getting your client to see that he or she is not challenged. Risky business, but fun.
Isabella couldn’t help but quickly reflecting on her discussions with David, or with Marcus, learning the hard way that “why” was a mine field, a swamp or a sure road to hell – of course paved with good intentions. Sometimes you just mean well, but things go bad because the method you choose is not really working. The “why” method can sometimes be like that. Isabella’s reflexion was suddenly ended by realising that she actually had a real client present. “If I start with travel I guess that being part of the Super Cop Team would mean spending more time on travel as cases would be all over Sweden and not only in Stockholm as it would be if I choose the other position.” Isabella sensed that Harry kind of liked travel, but there was an obstacle there too. She decided to get the other aspects on the table first before exploring this one further. “How about the cases and the money aspects?” Isabella made the terrible mistake of asking two questions at once and realized it a second too late. She just had to live with it. And so would Harry. Hopefully it would work anyway. Harry gasped and took a look at his notes. Just as a gymnast before making a difficult jump with spins he tried to focus before answering. Isabella felt a little guilty, but pushed those thoughts aside. “Well, if I do the Super thing the cases would always be special and my focus would probably be more on those cases than on admin. If I stay in Stockholm there will be ordinary cases too, and a bit of admin as I would be the boss. As for cash – being the boss would certainly be more profitable than being an assistant for the Super Group.” Isabella took her time thinking about a proper response. “Would you like for me to sum up what you just have told me to see if I got it right?” Harry nodded. “OK Harry. Seems like the Super Group will have more interesting tasks, more travel, less admin but less power and less cash. Stockholm has more power, more cash, more admin but less interesting cases and less travel. Is that right?” “Yes I guess so.” Isabella knew there was more to this than Harry had said so far. “Are all the factors positive ones?” Harry was silent but Isabella could see him getting a bit disturbed by her question and waited for what he would say. “Not really. You probably guessed that I do not fancy admin all that much. The toughest nut to crack is travel. I do like to travel and hotel breakfasts but I have a hard time leaving my family behind. When I got the twins my world changed. So travel is not so attractive any more for me.” Isabella smiled and remembered their last session. Harry had thought a bit about his family that was obvious. “What choice would you have made if you had been single?”
“Then it would have been easy. I would have chosen less money and power for more interesting work and no admin.” “And now?” “The travel is less attractive and the money more attractive as I have a family to support.” Isabella decided to try the classic “miracle question”. “What if you wake up tomorrow and the problem is somehow solved by an act of God or some Fairy Godmother wawing her wand – how would you notice that the miracle had happened? What would be different?” Harry’s first reaction was a combination of confusion and something Isabella could not make out yet. A minute of silence. “Perhaps a letter on my desk at work appointing me to either position making the choice for me.” “Interesting.” Isabella got something from Harry to work with. “Can I interpret you answer so that both options are so good options that you might be happy with either of them?” Sometimes Isabella found that it was OK to deliver questions leading to a yes or a no even if it was not completely koscher. “Yes I think so.” “So what are the two most attractive factors – one in either option?” Harry started to scribble in his notebook for a while making different frowning faces combined with a little humming sound. Isabella tried to keep a straight face and almost succeeded. “Well it seems like being the boss calling all the shots is the most attractive feature in the Stockholm alternative and the interesting cases in the Super Group alternative.”  “I see. For the sake of the argument – how many murders are there in Stockholm compared to let us say Malmö?” “I would guess that there are four times as many murders in the Stockholm area as in the Malmö area.” “If you consider those numbers – what result do you get?” Harry was stunned that his coach could ask such an insight question about crime rates. “God yes – being in charge in Stockholm would get me control over a majority of the murder cases and I would get to keep them for at least thirty days too!” All of a sudden Harry’s shoulders became more relaxed and Isabella saw him make an exclamation mark in his notebook. “What does that mark stand for Harry?” “That you just helped me make both me and my twins happy.” “How is that?” Isabella would not let him off just yet. “I have now realized that working in Stockholm is more attractive in every aspect. I can be close to my family I get a great portion of challenging cases and I get to be in charge. “Cold Case Investigation” looks better on TV than in real life.” Isabella couldn’t be happier with the result and was proud of her client and needed to tell him so. “Great thinking Harry – I am glad. What would be your first step after we part this time?” I will tell my family tonight and tomorrow I will tell those involved at work.” “How does it feel now?” “Brilliant – I want to start right away with a complex case.” “So Harry, let us wrap this session up and make a decision of when we should have our next. I would like to give you some homework, just like back in school. I want you to use your elegant notebook and make a note everyday on things you feel and things that might turn up. Then we can use those notes next time – OK?” “I’ll try.” “Good. And good luck with your next really complicated case. Feel free to discuss them too – we have complete confidentiality. You remember that, right?” Isabella astonished herself by saying that Harry could discuss cases with her. On the other hand she had always liked a good detective story so why not? Hell would freeze over before a cop would discuss a murder case with her, or so she thought.
After letting Harry out, putting her things together and closing the office for today she went out to the cool air in the Old Town and started her walk towards David’s school – She had promised him sushi that evening. Raw dead fish, dead squids and dead shrimps on rice. “Very pretty death.”

But death is not always pretty or even appetizing.