Can’t Change That, Can Change This

Read­abil­ity

Can’t Change That, Can Change This

The Jour­ney of Trans­for­ma­tion in Dif­fi­cult Times:

Rela­tion­ship, Resilience, Respite, Renewal (The 4 Rs)

 

In the span of a year, every major part of my life changed.

 

I left a long-term job, a mar­riage ended. I returned to Min­nesota and moved in with my par­ents to become a care­giver to my mother, who was dying of Lou Gehrig’s Dis­ease (ALS). A cou­ple of months into that I was diag­nosed with breast can­cer and began nine months of treat­ment. Two months later my mom died. I fin­ished treat­ment, looked after my father in his new life, and began to rebuild my own.

 

I found myself learn­ing to live more fully and con­sciously, as my mother was learn­ing to die grace­fully, and find­ing the way to my future, though it was painful, fright­en­ing and hum­bling. Shar­ing this story and the lessons learned through it is the pur­pose of this blog.

 

As a psy­chother­a­pist, recov­er­ing alco­holic and evolv­ing human I have always believed that a vital task in this life is to grow and learn. The chal­lenges we face can break us or pro­vide the oppor­tu­nity to become more than we were.

 

Like a Tree

I visu­al­ize this process as sim­i­lar to the life of a tree–emerging from an acorn, seed or pinecone, dropped from a full-grown tree, send­ing out roots, form­ing a trunk, branches, leaves and twigs. The tree is defined by its type, the soil it is in, and the cli­mate impact­ing it. Dam­age may occur, through no fault of its own, but by weather con­di­tions, envi­ron­men­tal impact or dis­ease. The tree bends as needed, adjusts its course reach­ing for sun­light, heals the dam­age as best it can. It is often liv­ing close to other trees grow­ing in their own ways. Even­tu­ally it, too, will return seeds to the soil, cre­at­ing new life. Every tree is unique, because of its indi­vid­ual jour­ney of life. Every day of that tree’s life impacts it, and it adapts and adjusts as required to keep reach­ing upwards.

Humans can also be sav­aged by life; branches break, drought occurs, blight appears, the envi­ron­ment changes. Find­ing nour­ish­ment, space, and adapt­ing to the new con­di­tions is dif­fi­cult. To sur­vive and not be felled is the key. For us, self-awareness is essen­tial. Through my per­sonal chal­lenges I con­tin­ued to observe what was hap­pen­ing inside me/to me. I was aware that a momen­tous tran­si­tion was occur­ring but I was not entirely sure if it was a trans­for­ma­tive one or not. I thought it might crush me, rather than enrich and enlarge me. I was going on instinct, feel­ing pow­er­less like I never had before, feel­ing afraid, over­whelmed, angry and sad.

 

Along the way, though, it did become a jour­ney of trans­for­ma­tion. My roots went deeper, I found more sun­light, I was nour­ished by my native soil. The prun­ing I had under­gone allowed me to branch upward and out­ward with renewed strength and vigor.

 

I found that there were impor­tant resources and strengths avail­able to me. These are illus­trated in four prin­ci­ples, which are:

rela­tion­ship, resilience, respite and renewal.

 

Rela­tion­ship

I dis­cov­ered the power of rela­tion­ship that sees us through our dark­est days. I wit­nessed kind­ness, cel­e­bra­tion and love. My con­nec­tion with my par­ents deep­ened. I wit­nessed the remark­able rela­tion­ship between them, and with those who loved them, espe­cially our large extended fam­ily. I was, in turn, sup­ported by those rela­tion­ships while going through my own painful transition.

Resilience

I strength­ened my resilience, learned new things, uti­lized pre­vi­ous teach­ings, leaned on my faith, found more clar­ity and under­stand­ing. I mas­tered skills and acquired wis­dom. I wit­nessed incred­i­ble beauty, syn­chronic­ity, and the bless­ings to be found in the most dif­fi­cult journeys.

Respite

I learned to let oth­ers be there to help me, and take the oppor­tu­nity for respite. Hav­ing per­sonal time and the free­dom to let go of the respon­si­bil­i­ties and demands at times is essen­tial to con­tin­u­ing. My fam­ily turned to and was greatly helped by pro­fes­sion­als and these resources became part of our sys­tem of sup­port as well. I leaned heav­ily on my friends and they fully sup­ported me.

Renewal

I expe­ri­enced renewal, with my life start­ing on a dif­fer­ent path. It became eas­ier to keep things in per­spec­tive and to live in the present moment. I found rich­ness in laugh­ter and tears and became more authen­tic. I returned to my pro­fes­sion and rebuilt my career, in a new way, in a new place. I began to more fully enjoy my life, with friends and fam­ily in my day-to-day life, “bloom­ing where I was planted.” I had a chance at a fresh start.

When I returned to my pro­fes­sion as a coun­selor, I found that my per­sonal expe­ri­ences had enriched my abil­ity to help oth­ers. I had more under­stand­ing of trau­matic change, loss and grief, deep emo­tional and phys­i­cal pain. I under­stood, more than ever, how vital it is to use the resources avail­able in all ways pos­si­ble. A great les­son I learned was, “If some­one offers help, take it!” There are many other lessons I learned and will share, as well.

I hope that read­ers will learn to apply these four prin­ci­ples to their own lives to trans­form grief, tragedy, set­backs and dis­cour­age­ment into pos­i­tive change and greater wisdom.

 

 

The Jour­ney of Trans­for­ma­tion in Dif­fi­cult Times:

Rela­tion­ship, Resilience, Respite, Renewal (The 4 Rs)

 

In the span of a year, every major part of my life changed.

 

I left a long-term job, a mar­riage ended. I returned to Min­nesota and moved in with my par­ents to become a care­giver to my mother, who was dying of Lou Gehrig’s Dis­ease (ALS). A cou­ple of months into that I was diag­nosed with breast can­cer and began nine months of treat­ment. Two months later my mom died. I fin­ished treat­ment, looked after my father in his new life, and began to rebuild my own.

 

I found myself learn­ing to live more fully and con­sciously, as my mother was learn­ing to die grace­fully, and find­ing the way to my future, though it was painful, fright­en­ing and hum­bling. Shar­ing this story and the lessons learned through it is the pur­pose of this blog.

 

As a psy­chother­a­pist, recov­er­ing alco­holic and evolv­ing human I have always believed that a vital task in this life is to grow and learn. The chal­lenges we face can break us or pro­vide the oppor­tu­nity to become more than we were.

 

Like a Tree

I visu­al­ize this process as sim­i­lar to the life of a tree–emerging from an acorn, seed or pinecone, dropped from a full-grown tree, send­ing out roots, form­ing a trunk, branches, leaves and twigs. The tree is defined by its type, the soil it is in, and the cli­mate impact­ing it. Dam­age may occur, through no fault of its own, but by weather con­di­tions, envi­ron­men­tal impact or dis­ease. The tree bends as needed, adjusts its course reach­ing for sun­light, heals the dam­age as best it can. It is often liv­ing close to other trees grow­ing in their own ways. Even­tu­ally it, too, will return seeds to the soil, cre­at­ing new life. Every tree is unique, because of its indi­vid­ual jour­ney of life. Every day of that tree’s life impacts it, and it adapts and adjusts as required to keep reach­ing upwards.

Humans can also be sav­aged by life; branches break, drought occurs, blight appears, the envi­ron­ment changes. Find­ing nour­ish­ment, space, and adapt­ing to the new con­di­tions is dif­fi­cult. To sur­vive and not be felled is the key. For us, self-awareness is essen­tial. Through my per­sonal chal­lenges I con­tin­ued to observe what was hap­pen­ing inside me/to me. I was aware that a momen­tous tran­si­tion was occur­ring but I was not entirely sure if it was a trans­for­ma­tive one or not. I thought it might crush me, rather than enrich and enlarge me. I was going on instinct, feel­ing pow­er­less like I never had before, feel­ing afraid, over­whelmed, angry and sad.

 

Along the way, though, it did become a jour­ney of trans­for­ma­tion. My roots went deeper, I found more sun­light, I was nour­ished by my native soil. The prun­ing I had under­gone allowed me to branch upward and out­ward with renewed strength and vigor.

 

I found that there were impor­tant resources and strengths avail­able to me. These are illus­trated in four prin­ci­ples, which are:

rela­tion­ship, resilience, respite and renewal.

 

Rela­tion­ship

I dis­cov­ered the power of rela­tion­ship that sees us through our dark­est days. I wit­nessed kind­ness, cel­e­bra­tion and love. My con­nec­tion with my par­ents deep­ened. I wit­nessed the remark­able rela­tion­ship between them, and with those who loved them, espe­cially our large extended fam­ily. I was, in turn, sup­ported by those rela­tion­ships while going through my own painful transition.

Resilience

I strength­ened my resilience, learned new things, uti­lized pre­vi­ous teach­ings, leaned on my faith, found more clar­ity and under­stand­ing. I mas­tered skills and acquired wis­dom. I wit­nessed incred­i­ble beauty, syn­chronic­ity, and the bless­ings to be found in the most dif­fi­cult journeys.

Respite

I learned to let oth­ers be there to help me, and take the oppor­tu­nity for respite. Hav­ing per­sonal time and the free­dom to let go of the respon­si­bil­i­ties and demands at times is essen­tial to con­tin­u­ing. My fam­ily turned to and was greatly helped by pro­fes­sion­als and these resources became part of our sys­tem of sup­port as well. I leaned heav­ily on my friends and they fully sup­ported me.

Renewal

I expe­ri­enced renewal, with my life start­ing on a dif­fer­ent path. It became eas­ier to keep things in per­spec­tive and to live in the present moment. I found rich­ness in laugh­ter and tears and became more authen­tic. I returned to my pro­fes­sion and rebuilt my career, in a new way, in a new place. I began to more fully enjoy my life, with friends and fam­ily in my day-to-day life, “bloom­ing where I was planted.” I had a chance at a fresh start.

When I returned to my pro­fes­sion as a coun­selor, I found that my per­sonal expe­ri­ences had enriched my abil­ity to help oth­ers. I had more under­stand­ing of trau­matic change, loss and grief, deep emo­tional and phys­i­cal pain. I under­stood, more than ever, how vital it is to use the resources avail­able in all ways pos­si­ble. A great les­son I learned was, “If some­one offers help, take it!” There are many other lessons I learned and will share, as well.

I hope that read­ers will learn to apply these four prin­ci­ples to their own lives to trans­form grief, tragedy, set­backs and dis­cour­age­ment into pos­i­tive change and greater wisdom.