Just about the only exercise I get is in the form of hiking. Thankfully my husband and I found our dream house just an 1/8 of a mile from a network of trails. It’s pure bliss for me to head off into the woods. This particular set of trails winds through the woods surrounding a large cemetery. In the quietness you can’t help but realize the dichotomy between the living forest and the symbolic headstones.
In the midst of these two seemingly mutually exclusive things is the beautiful concept of rebirth. That refreshing sense of life that gives us opportunity to begin again. In today’s societal version of rebirth, we love to tell the story of triumph, all encompassing energy, and unhindered motivation. We see and share stories of overnight success, something from nothing in a heartbeat. Unworthy to worthy. We skip over the parts of success stories that deal with the loss of energy, the death of things that give way for rebirth.
Let me start by sharing my own story of rebirth. Exactly one year ago, I found myself in one of the most tumultuous upheavals. I was dealing with the fall out of a professional failure, as a result I had a total mental breakdown, almost all of my possessions were packed away while we moved out of our first home and awaited the moving day into our new home, and I was interviewing for a position that put me in the company with some very prestigious professionals (like the head of the Cincinnati Children’s NICU). At the time I thought to myself, “if people knew what I was going through they would wonder how I was even standing upright, much less attempting to move forward.” The truth is, I was barely upright. I was struggling. Seriously struggling.
Thankfully I found myself in the presence of my steady spouse who surprised me with a vow renewal for our 10 year anniversary which also fell dead smack in the middle of my mess. My in-laws created a temporary home for my family that was so thoughtful that it brought me to tears. My parents came to my rescue over and over again. They showed up for late nights of packing and moving when we called out of desperation because we miscalculated our own capacity. My mom answered every teary, angry, out of control phone call when I needed her. And out of no where, I had this troop of women that peppered my past who intuitively thought to call or send an email or a random text only to find a lost soul on the other end. Then they kept showing up. They kept sending kind notes with warm thoughts to let me know that they were there, behind the scenes, rooting for me.
Within three weeks, I had resigned from my job, moved into my new home, and created a plan to start my own business after securing an investor. This is where we start the story of success when we share our stories. But allow me to fill you in on what happened in the following months. I recovered. I slept a lot. I listened to Brene Brown’s new book Rising Strong and then Paulo Coelho’s the Alchemist. I took really good care of myself. I had to get in the habit drinking less, because I had been drinking a lot to cope in the previous year. I shut down every negative, nasty personal commentary and forced myself to say awkward things like, “hey babe, you’ll be okay.” I learned to sit still on the floor and build legos with my kids. I went hiking when I could and followed it up with yoga on my back deck over looking the lake.
This was not a kick-ass, move mountains, kind of summer. This was a “to everyone else I look like a lazy, kinda crazy, boob” kind of thing. There is no doubt I had many moments of doubt. My ego would kick in and say stupid things like, “if you need to sleep so much, how will you ever be successful.” or “what if that last gig was proof that you’re a fake. You can’t hack it.” I had to battle back with mantras and an amount of self love that I knew was necessary to get back on my feet. I had to let that ego voice die. I had to let go of what other people thought of me. I had to let those recent memories of failure die. I had a whole host of new lessons to learn. It took months.
As summer turned to fall, I slowly started venturing back out into the world. But, again, this was not a “now it’s go time!” movement. This was slow and steady and careful. With each new experience I had to practice what I learned over the summer. This story of rebirth is so valuable to me, because every person I coach is asking to go through the same thing. In one form or another, they say to me, “I am struggling with some past choices and behaviors, but I am ready to move forward.”
Some people are grateful for this slow, steady recovery and subsequent rebirth. Others struggle, believing and insisting they are failing if they aren’t moving mountains. But rebirth takes time for decay, for the rot to give way to a nourishing potential. And rot doesn’t happen without lots of intentional input. Then it takes time for growth. It’s slow and deliberate when it’s healthy growth. It’s a beautiful thing.
I want to celebrate each and every person’s vulnerable, messy, slow, beautiful rebirth. We only get so many hikes before we get one of those headstones. We had better take care of ourselves and each other along the way.
p.s. I thoughtfully left this blog unedited because life is unedited.