"I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be." (Einstein)
Ouch! Giving up what I am is hard. Letting go is hard. Change is hard. Well, let me rephrase that a bit: often the changes that come with personal renewal are enjoyable, but I don't like changing. Changing is painful and scary; I am giving up the familiar for the unknown. I am stepping out of my comfort zone into something uncomfortable and unpredictable.
I wonder: what does the caterpillar feel like when it spins its coccoon, when its body turns into mush in the process of becoming a butterfly? What does the snake feel like when its old familiar skin splits down the back and begins slipping off? What does the baby in the very act of birth feel like as it comes down the birth canal, leaving a quiet, dark, symbiotically-secure life forever behind it?
How do I feel?
As I confront the issues of midlife, I feel kind of like I am in the throes of being re-born. Like I am "turning into mush" in the process of becoming, I don't know what, something else. Like I am shedding my skin. I find this moment in my life kind of scary. What I know about change helps me understand that I must first let go of one trapeze before taking hold of a new one, that I must go through "endings", then enter the "neutral zone" of uncertainly before embracing "new beginnings" (William Bridges model of transition) -- but it's scary just the same. My work in therapy is all about "the business of change", but that doesn't mean that I do not myself have to go through the dark corridor into the unknown. I know about change, but I am still affected by it--and scared by it. I suppose my fear is partly because I don't know if the changes I am experiencing and contemplating are leading me in the right direction; if I will look back in a year and feel that I've taken the right path, or if I'll feel that I've wandered off the path, gotten even more lost, in the middle of my life, in that "dark woods" in which I now find myself.
In my case study of one, I am working with a few tools and strategies to help me as I change. I find it helpful to keep a journal to chart out my course and mop up the blood of my more difficult emotions. (A paper journal, that is: I'm not yet quite comfortable sharing everything within me with the blogosphere). I find it helpful to share what's going on inside me with trusted friends, to remind myself of just what in my life is not changing: what remains solid and predictable. I hope that I can take this light with me -- the love of my closest friends and family, the depths of my self-knowledge, my capacity for gratitude and appreciation, my compassion, my insight, my confidence in my abilities to learn and adapt -- into the darkness of the unknown. . .