How Did I Get Here and Where Am I Going?
On January 18, my colleague Cathy Meerbergen and I facilitated a workshop entitled “How Did I Get Here and Where Am I Going?” at the home of Dot, a generous friend of RCWMS. The goal of this workshop was to help women explore “Where we are and how we got here, and what we need to enrich our days ahead.” Twelve, wonderful women joined us for a day of self-exploration, conversation, and artistic expression.
When Cathy and I arrived at Dot’s home, Dot warmly greeted us and let us know that she was worried about her cat, Sasha, who had been ill for several days. It seems that Sasha had lost her appetite. As our workshop day began, we wondered if the cat would be okay or need special attention.
Twelve women arrived, eager to listen, learn and share. As our day unfolded, these women were so brave, sharing their innermost feelings about life transitions and the accompanying waves. We were impressed by their resilience and inner strength as they described experiences that were clearly painful, unexpected, confusing, and life changing. As a wise woman once said to me, “We don’t get to pick what comes our way.” We were committed to helping them to recognize their own resilience, despite the difficult waves that they encountered.
In Danaan Perry’s book Warriors of the Heart (2010), there is an essay entitled “The Parable of the Trapeze: Turning the Fear of Transformation into the Transformation of Fear.” I recommend that you read the essay in its entirety (http://www.earthstewards.org/ESN-Essenes&DP.asp). We read that essay as a group in our workshop. The last paragraph illuminates what we hope we helped the participants think about during our special day together. Perry said, “Transformation of fear may have nothing to do with making fear go away, but rather with giving ourselves permission to ‘hang out’ in the transition between the trapeze bars. Transforming our need to grab that new bar, any bar, is allowing ourselves to dwell in the only place where change really happens. It can be terrifying. It can also be enlightening, the true sense of the word. Hurling through the void, we may just learn to fly.”
Perry’s words hold much wisdom, which in some ways may seem contrary to the messages society sends for us to be “strong,” find solutions quickly, and move on. We know, in reality, that this is not easy, nor emotionally realistic or wise. Many women are raised and taught to be caretakers of others, though some of us need to learn to care for ourselves. This includes, allowing ourselves to experience our emotions, without judgment. Emotions come and go like waves. We could liken this process to the ocean tide as it goes in, and it goes out. We encouraged women in our workshop to embrace the transition, the waves of change. This led to a richness of conversations throughout our day.
Throughout our workshop experience, women expressed heartfelt sentiments that could help one another to navigate the waves of transition. These included statements such as: “I need to listen to my inner voice.” “Here is an opportunity to create something new.” “I want to be intentional.” I am responsible for my future.” “I need to let go of what doesn’t serve me.”
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder and Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine at the UMass Medical School said, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” We spent our day talking about how the waves of transition can be challenging for sure, yet there are ways we can approach them with curiosity, developing new skills to “surf” along the way.
Cathy and I were honored to be surrounded by a circle of wise, warm, authentic women who are learning to surf the waves of transition. We’re all doing the best that we can, and we need to give ourselves the care and nurturing that we are so skilled at giving others.
If we can be brave enough to see our transitions as learning opportunities, might this lead us down a new path? Poet Mary Oliver so wisely asked: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” In healing, there may also be discovery. Perhaps we’ll develop a new interest, or rediscover something we used to love.
As it turns out, we embraced a day of healing for all. (And, in case you are wondering, cat Sasha was eating again and happy.)
With enough interest, we would be happy to provide this workshop, and others, in the future for RCWMS. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity, wise women of RCWMS!
Dr. Lisa Baron is a writer, workshop leader, college instructor, and social worker in Carrboro, NC. She is in the process of creative reinvention. Having moved to the Triangle from the Chicago area eight years ago, she is all too familiar with the waves of transition.
Photo credit: melissamn/Shutterstock.com