Friday, September 18, 2009
Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes, Turn and Face the Strain
In Elizabeth Lesser's book, Broken Open, she refers to times of extreme change in our lives as Phoenix Processes. Times when the events in your life cause you to transform the way you feel or think or even how you look. In most cases, some life crisis or upheaval is the catalyst for such a process and depending on your own individual perspective it can be monumental or less so. As I have been reading her book recently, it has shed much light on my own Phoenix Process that is taking place right now in my own life and given me much food for thought. I am in a state of heightened awareness 24/7 it seems these days. I have been seeing a wonderful therapist that has been helping me navigate my mid-life crisis as I question just about everything I once thought to be true or certain in my life. I started down this path many years ago when my first marriage ended, but somewhere along the way, I veered off the path, and now I have gotten back on that road and it is the most alive I have felt in as many years. It is also frightening and demands close attention. Recently, in my many conversations with other women my age, I have found I am far from alone at this crossroads in my life. My therapist has suggested that my Phoenix Process has been jump-started by the simple fact that my daughter is now an adolescent. When children begin to need us less, it gives us the opportunity to take a look at our own lives and reassess, something we have not had the luxury of time to do as we were all caught up with the priority of raising them. When that spotlight turned on me last fall, the light was so harsh, I knew I had to do something. I had been so lost in my role as a mother, I had forgotten who I was. I started to take steps toward rediscovering Deb. It had been awhile, so I had my work cut out for me. At the time, I wasn't sure exactly what I needed to do, other than some of the obvious things like lose some weight, change my hair, exercise more - the simple things. My fear of aging - or becoming redundant pushed me toward social media - Facebook, LinkedIn and starting this blog. I was certain of one thing - I would not be left behind - I was moving forward with the times and would never become my parents. Re-connecting with the world in that way has been a wonderful journey. Old friends and acquaintances I might never have been in contact with again, have resurfaced and I have even gotten together with some over lunch or dinner to reminisce. My friendships with my female friends have become deeper and more meaningful as we all seem to be charting this unfamiliar territory together in one way or another. Last fall as the financial markets tumbled and it seemed life would never be the same again, I tumbled along with them. I sank into that dark hole right along with the TSX and as the markets began to slowly recover this year, so did I. However, I don't watch those numbers any more as I have come to the realization, I have absolutely no control there. It has reduced the importance I once placed upon money and I now know that no matter what happens, somehow I will survive. (with fewer pairs of shoes perhaps, but not destitute) As I sense I am only about half way through my current Phoenix Process, I am hopeful that the bumps and potholes along the road will eventually lead to a smoother surface to cruise along. I also know there are no guarantees that road will be obstacle-free. There is a chapter in Lesser's book that addresses one of those bumps in the road, in this case more like a giant pothole, with little chance of driving over it unscathed. It is the story of a family facing the journey of a child diagnosed with leukemia. If you have ever known or experienced this type of crisis in your life, you know it is something that can act as a catalyst to put just about everything in your life in perspective. The following excerpt from Lesser's book is worth sharing in my humble opinion. "So much of what we do each day is a diversion from what our lives are really about. A traumatic event is like a knife slicing through our diversionary tactics and exposing the vein of truth-the truth of what we really want, of how we really feel, of the wrongs we have visited upon each other, of the love we crave from each other. In our habitual lives, we exercise the foolish luxuries of complaining, avoiding, and blaming. We gossip about the annoying behavior of friends or colleagues, shutting them out of our hearts, turning our backs on their complicated beauty in favor of their obvious flaws. It seems easier to do this than to move toward each other, to take responsibility when it is ours to take, or to speak directly to others when it is theirs. All the while, the truth waits patiently, until it shows up in the eyes of a frightened little boy." As I stumble and trudge along my current path, these will be words well worth remembering. Thank you Elizabeth Lesser - your book is extraordinary.