Let’s Stop Comparing Ourselves to Trees.

It’s fall in the Northern Hemisphere.

You know what that means, right?

Yup, pumpkin spiced everything.

And also blog post after blog post about letting go. Relaxing into the dark. Transformation. Transition. Change. About how we should be like trees and gracefully let the dead things fall away.

I’ve been guilty of it myself. (See header image.)

And yet. We’re not trees.

Please stop comparing yourself to a tree.

Humans and trees diverged very early in life’s evolutionary journey. Humans went on to evolve a large brain, with a cerebral cortex that knows it’s housed in a body that will die, and so the mind fears. A lot.

Maybe trees have fears, too, when fall comes and they feel their dead leaves drop away. Maybe they resist, too, just like we do.

I’ve been exploring ways to navigate transitions more kindly. My kids are self-sufficient adults, so I’m transitioning from active parenting to empty nester. I’m actively exploring nature-based spirituality, so I’m transitioning from Episcopalian to who knows what. I’m an entrepreneur, so I’m transitioning from fitting into a defined job to being in charge of my own work. My body continues to age, so I’m transitioning from young-ish woman to juicy crone.

Dying and rising and doing it all over again comes pre-installed in Earthlings. All Earthlings. Trees. Rocks. Water. Ravens. Humans. Change is not optional.

I’m finding that knowing who I am, having a sense of my core identity, the essence of “me,” is helpful. Knowing and staying in touch with my heart is one key to sane cycling and changing.

Just as a tree’s identity remains when it stands bare to the winter winds, I will still be “me” when outer identitifiers (mom, teacher, Christian, young …) fall away.

My heart identity lives in my body.  It makes sense to me, then, that deeply knowing myself and living from my core starts with loving and paying attention to my body.

Who you are lives in your body. Deeply knowing yourself and living from your core starts with loving and paying attention to your body, in whatever form that takes for you. I suggest regular body scans, baths, movement, sweaty work, long walks – whatever feels delicious. “Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” (Mary Oliver)

Be warned, though. Your body is wild. Paying attention to your body means feeling your feelings. It means sitting with your pain and your joy. Giving yourself the gift of self-compassion.

We are not trees. For humans, with these brains that scream fears night and day, it helps so much to know and trust our hearts. To know that our bodies tell the truth, while our minds often don’t.

When we know who we are, the stuff we cling to that isn’t ours anymore, perhaps never was ours, can fall away like last year’s leaves.

(Would you like to explore navigating the changes and seasons of your life with kindness? I offer a free discovery call. Click here for details.)

 

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?

If you’d like to continue the conversation, please leave a comment below. If you’re interested in coaching, I offer a free one-hour consultation. Follow this link for details!

Ordination

Swallowtail on thistle

 

ORDINATION

You say you’re waiting for permission.

You say you’re waiting for direct orders from an irrefutable voice.

A voice from Heaven:                                                                                                         This is my daughter, in whom I am well pleased.                                                                     Listen to her.

An ancient ritual, laden with pomp and circumstance-                                                   Proper form and order.

An ordination with weighty words and codified gestures,                                           Performed by men wearing heavy gowns and rings of gold,                                             Who seal decrees with wax.

You on your knees                                                                                                               On the floor of a long narrow dusty hall                                                                            Ruled by straight lines.

 

My love, that’s not how this works.

My ordination comes through rock and stars.

This holiness is swimming in the mighty river welling up in you that will not be dammed.

This holiness strips your old tough too-small skin from your body with gentle-edged hands you’ve forgotten you had.

This holiness is living in new thin porous skin permeable to excruciating joy.

I consecrated you with blood and salt water at your birth.                                                      I bestow upon you daily ordinations.                                                                                        I tell you of your belonging every moment.

Hear my voice in the pine wind, songs of birds and frogs, and laughter.                             Feel my hand as butterflies and bees, sun on skin, feet in cold river.                               See me in seasons’ spiral, cycles of day and night, everyday dying and rising.

Your sweat and tears taste like ocean.

You know my wordless urge and tug in a baby’s cry and the need of a friend.Or a stranger.

 

Here’s your permission:                                                                                               Daughter, you are here.

You’re flesh of my flesh and                                                                                              bone of my bone.                                                                                                           Breath of my breath.                                                                                                         Blood of my blood.

I feed your body with my body.

Anoint yourself with oil and honey.

Stand up, and walk.

Do your work.