It's been almost four months since I relocated from the Bay Area to Los Angeles.
It was a huge deal to close my private therapy practice in Berkeley and release my coveted Mills College counseling position, let alone leave a community that I'd lived in for over twenty years and an irreplaceable tribe of friends!
Nevertheless, it was time for a change.
After getting divorced last year and all that disappears in your life when your marital status changes, it was time for something fresh. New territory has a sort of healing balm to it. Free of haunting memories, life is created anew.
At the same time, creating something new in the middle of your life can feel overwhelming, especially because rebuilding takes time and our egos are constantly reminding us of what was.
I've seen this pattern show up for a lot for people who have chosen to start over, as well as for people who were forced to start over when their companies downsized or contracts dried up. I've watched colleagues and clients alike, struggle with this. Somewhere along the way, we were taught that success is linear. We ascend the corporate or success ladder. Our models and metaphors only allow for three options: we are either up, down, or moving laterally.
Obviously, we've been indoctrinated to believe that "up" is the only acceptable option on the ladder and that if we aren't climbing the ladder, then our worth as human beings is lessened, similar to how stock is valued on the market. Our value is rising, staying the same, or becoming worthless.
Clearly it is time that this archaic, patriarchal, practice be tossed out like the torture chambers and thumbscrews of the Dark Ages. If we want to create a fair and equal world we must first stop defining our worth and our income and class status. This is radical social change.
Last week a new client said to me that she felt like she's been in "reverse" since being laid off and trying to find her next path. There was some static on the phone and I thought she'd said "rebirth." Rebirth actually made more sense to me because when we clear away all that we've been, opportunities for something new to come through us are created. Sometimes communications like this can be quite synchronistic because this reframe helped her begin to see her circumstances in a new light.
Do you need a miracle?
Marianne Williamson, author of Return to Love, a book read and quoted by Nelson Mandela in his inaugural speech in 1993 (see full quote below) talks about how miracles can simply be a change in our perceptions or thinking. "A miracle is a release from internal bondage." In this time of recession and change, a miracle can be how we choose to see or think about our circumstances.
Another new client of mine, a successful actor, is also going through a dry spell. I reminded him of Ellen's career path, how she appeared to lose everything in 1997 when she came out as a lesbian. Her show was cancelled, her relationship ended, and she became depressed. Her trajectory of success was anything, but linear, it was more like the Wheel of Fortune Tarot Card, where she went from the top of the world to under it. However, like the seasons, she made it through the darkness of winter and a dark night of the soul, planted new seeds for her life and today has cultivated even greater levels of success while being even more authentically herself.
While I'm sure that some part of Ellen wished she didn't have to go through those periods that looked like she was going in "reverse," sliding down the proverbial chutes and ladders of success, she's shared that it was the power of those dark times that helped her grow stronger spiritually and emotionally.
Cycles of Rest and Success
Since so many people are experiencing this sense of going in reverse, we can reframe this reality and see ourselves as going through a rebirth. Let's stop buying into the artificial linear model of success and back into seeing things in a more cyclical organic way.
We need periods of letting the old go, experiencing the vast emptiness of winter in our lives, so that there is space for new life to come through. The fields don't bemoan that they are failures because they are empty in winter, and neither should we. While we have less certainly about the length of cycles in our lives, we can trust that if we plant seeds, when the conditions are right, our lives will bloom again and we will gratefully reap the harvest.
So join me in continuing to know that you are loved, you are supported, and you are intrinsically worthy and worthwhile, no matter how much money you make or used to make, or whether or not you are one of the many Americans who've had to file for bankruptcy or had your home foreclosed on.
Don't let these experiences isolate you with shame and don't for a minute believe that you are a failure.
Let us judge ourselves and others by the content of our characters, not the contents of our bank accounts.
Marianne Williamson Quote from A Return to Love used in Nelson Mandela's Inaugural Speech:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
This is a powerful book, and I highly recommend reading it if you haven't already! I used to give handouts of this quote to my inmate clients at the federal prison to remind them of their intrinsic value and that the truth of who they were was not the dark things that they'd done, but the light of love in their hearts, and to stop pretending that they were "bad asses," if you will, and start being their true lovable selves.
Like most of the books that I am inspired by, I have already gone to town with my yellow highlighter pen highlighting the sage words on the pages. You can also check out more of Marianne's work at www.marianne.com and her interviews with Oprah.