I Want Transformation and I Want It NOW.

The waiting part of transformation is HARD, at least for me. I want to just do the change, and do it quick. Unfortunately, that’s just not how transformation works. Unlike our get ‘er done culture, what happens in that chrysalis can’t be rushed. (See this previous post for more about change, transformation, and the difference between them. Today’s post goes deeper into #5, about the predictable pattern of change.)

My hypothesis is that the obligatory waiting phase is why I resist necessary transformations. I hate that in-between thing so much. (And if I haven’t done the grieving I need to do with any change, transformation pretty much stops.) All those messy feelings, when we just want to feel bright and shiny and good at life, right?

I’ve been finding these words helpful when I feel myself resisting the necessary waiting phase of transformation. It’s an excerpt from John O’Donohue’s blessing “For the Interim Time.”

As far as you can, hold your confidence.

Do not allow your confusion to squander

This call which is loosening

Your roots in false ground,

That you might become free

From all you have outgrown.

 

What is being transfigured here is your mind,

And it is difficult and slow to become new,

The more faithfully you can endure here,

The more refined your heart will become

For your arrival in the new dawn.

 

I love that the poet speaks of enduring faithfully. I love that he speaks of loosening roots and becoming free, and how he acknowledges that it’s a difficult and slow process to become new. Mostly I love that he describes the interim time as a time when our minds are being transfigured.

Stay present here and now, in your body. Spend time in nature, and pay attention to how this amazing Creation in which we are embedded actually works. A flower blossoms when it’s ready, and not a minute before. Hold your confidence. Allow your roots to loosen. Faithfully endure and allow your mind to be transfigured. You are becoming new, which is a holy enterprise.

Be faithful to your metamorphosis.

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Seven Things I Wish I’d Known about Change Fifty Years Ago

Swallowtail on thistleI’m 59 years old. Maybe I’m just a slow learner, and everyone else knows this stuff already. But, just in case, here are seven things I’ve recently learned about change that I wish I’d known fifty years ago

1. Change is normal.

Childhood is not an assembly line from which we emerge ready to roll at 21 years old. I know. This seems obvious, right? But this mechanistic model of human development pervades our culture. The idea that we should have our shit together and our ducks in a row by our early twenties is pervasive and harmful and everywhere. In this model, change feels like brokenness rather than aliveness. And women, because our bodies change more way than men’s, pay a steeper price.

Change is a big deal, and it can rock our world. We need to find ways to support and help ourselves through it, rather than beating ourselves up when we don’t navigate it smoothly.

We were not taught, most of us, how to do this.

Change is encoded into the DNA of the world. Even nonliving Earthly entities are constantly changing. Planets circle. Tides go in and out. Water cycles. Rocks become dirt.

 

2. Every change is loss.

Every change is a death and rebirth. Even the happy changes involve loss. “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end,” sing Semisonic in “Closing Time.” In this season of graduations and weddings, let’s acknowledge that even changes we’ve longed for and dreamed of require the death of something. Maybe it’s not much of anything, but there’s always something we leave behind that we value.

 

3. Change does not equal transformation.

Change is inevitable, but transformation is optional. And it’s transformation that we need to undergo in order to move forward. We need to acknowledge, and grieve, the death and loss inherent in any change so we can make room for new life. Yes, again, even the happy changes. (See William Bridges’ Transitions for a lot more on this topic. What he calls “transition” I’m labeling “transformation.”)

We can opt out of transformation, though. We can just let our physical realities shift while refusing to acknowledge and deal with the grief inherent in change. This refusal will bite us in the butt, eventually. Refusing to consciously transform, even when a change is unwanted, will leave us with a burden of bitterness, regret, and stuckness that will eventually require attention.

 

4. Change has resonance.

We tend to do change the same way over and over, unless we bring our patterns to conscious awareness. This is fine if we’re ninja change masters and we handle transformation with grace and ease.

The first big change I remember is when my family fell apart. My dad’s drinking and my parents’ fighting; violence in the house; my dad moving out followed by divorce; my big brother going to live with my dad; losing our house in the woods, our horses, and our dog –  all from 6th to 8th grade. I felt completely out of control, because I was. So I learned that I wasn’t in charge of my life. I learned to just close my eyes, keep my head down, and hang on, because there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about any of it.

Since then, I’ve left multiple homes and jobs I loved because my husband was pursuing his career. I did this willingly. I behaved as though I didn’t have a choice, and I didn’t thoroughly grieve those losses. I didn’t consciously refuse to transform, I just didn’t know any better.

 

5. Change has a predictable pattern.

A common metaphor for this pattern is a butterfly’s life cycle. It’s a really good metaphor.

First, the caterpillar has no choice. She simply runs out of steam and has to stop. Then she creates a chrysalis for herself, inside which she COMPLETELY MELTS DOWN. Next, she has to wait, be goo, and let the imaginal cells do their work of remaking her. This stage cannot be rushed, for butterflies or for people. Because we’re conscious beings, we’re aware of how uncomfortable and counter-cultural this waiting is. It’s an unknown territory, not-this-anymore-but-not-yet-that, and we often panic. Rushing is a mistake. This is where faith comes in. Finally, when it’s time and the work of the chrysalis is done, we are reborn.

This pattern of transformation is everywhere.

 

6. Change is cycles within cycles.

Change isn’t linear. See number one. We will almost certainly be in the dying phase of one cycle and be feeling reborn in another area of our lives. For example, I’m coming to terms with being almost sixty, entering the final decades of my life. I’m grieving the loss of my young body and the physical resilience I’ve taken for granted. At the same time, I’m experiencing a profound rebirth of purpose as I commit to my life coaching practice and to writing.

Cell turnover, cell death and rebirth, is going on at a furious clip within my aging body, just as the day cycles within the moon cycles within the cycles of the seasons, all within the context of Earth’s life and death, which is in turn embedded in a Universe with a beginning and an end.

If you believe there’s solid ground somewhere and all you have to do is find it, good luck with that.

 

7. We’re never done.

Simple as that. We’re never done changing, not until we die. Not even after we die, probably, because the atoms and molecules that made up US are entangled with each other even after our bodies decompose and return to Earth. They are reborn as something or someone else, which is always part of us in some mysterious way. So even after we die, we continue as part of the dance.

And isn’t that wonderful?

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You Don’t Have to Earn Your Easter

There’s a moment in the Easter Vigil that’s always struck me as wrong.

We’ve kindled the new fire of Easter. We’ve lit and processed the Paschal Candle. Someone’s sung the Exultet. We’ve sat for an hour in the darkened church, lit only by candlelight, listening to stories from the Hebrew tradition – Creation, the Garden, Noah and the Flood, the Exodus, and my personal favorite – the Valley of Dry Bones.

Then, out of nowhere it seems, the celebrant simply stands up and says “Alleluia! Christ is risen!” The people reply, “The Lord is risen, indeed! Alleluia!” and the organ starts playing and the bright artificial lights get flipped on and the altar guild carries out flowers and butterflies and suddenly, willy nilly, Lent is over and it’s Easter, even though outside it’s the dark of the night.

This moment has always seemed so wrong to me. It’s felt abrupt and fake and WAY too easy. Shouldn’t you have to work for resurrection?, I think. Shouldn’t you have to earn it somehow?

Then, this year, I got it.

No, you do NOT have to work for resurrection.

Yes, it IS just this easy.

All you have to do to get resurrection is show up and turn on the lights.

The hard part for most of us, I think, is letting it be Easter.

All we need to do to get resurrection, to let Love Life God Whatever flow, is go to our tombs, the places where we keep our dead things, allow ourselves mercy, then let go. Love will do the rest.

Resurrection is easy. It’s also scares me, just like it scared Jesus’s followers that first Easter morning.

I know the contours of my tomb and the heft of my dead things – my wounds and my stories and my suffering – all too well. They’re familiar to me. I know who I am when I’m wrapped in them.

Who will I be without my wounds and stories and suffering?

 

Who will I be if I’m not forever trying and working and efforting?

Who is Easter me?

Who will resurrected you be?

 

This is perhaps the work of faith – to show Love to the door of our deadness, allow her access, and watch her transform the dead things into Life.