July 2024 Founder’s Corner: Transitions: The 200 Story Climb

The wayward breeze tickles my toes, my Birkenstocks strapped confidently to my feet at 7 a.m. There is an unusual sense of light and warmth this morning as I stroke the asphalt with my steps and make my way through the door. It’s like Me was on hold for the past 20 years as I inhale the hot air circulating in the fitness room, and a strange trickle of heat vines up my spine. It’s as if a frozen block within is thawing as I glide into the brightly, vaulted room; so familiar yet different.

I’m 50 now. Hmm. The thought attacks me for a quick second. For months I’ve detested the idea of such an absurd age, a witnessing that was a more like a scene out of Dead Man Walking. Then the strange and evident mental thoughts of my age seem to morph more into a scene from the hit series, Game of Thrones, where I’m suddenly an old witch: my skin thinning at warp speed, hot flashes burning me from the inside out, like I’m some kind of old toad being tossed into a slow, boiling pot of water. If I caught myself in the mirror, I was sure to glimpse the gray of Me smiling back, the young version of myself now permanently placed in the photos scrapped in boxes; the new me, just a slowly, paling version of who I once was.

And then, a few months into this so-called ‘horrible’ age transition, another strange adjustment took place. It was my son’s graduation day. He walked across that familiar stage and collected his high school diploma amongst the cheers of the crowd, and one weepy Me unsure what it would mean to have both my children now off to college. Truthfully, it wasn’t his college launch or his handsome smile as I snapped a picture with him that startled me. It wasn’t even the stubble on his face as he hugged me and I felt his manhood replacing the tenderness of his cheek. It was something else, something more inside me, like an exhale, like two hundred flights of stairs I’d been walking up for years, helping my babies’ become humans, little bits of me shedding in each step, had finally been reached. God, who would I find at the top of that long hike up to wherever? Would there be anything left of me at the end of the journey, when the kids finally made their own ascent and readied themselves to launch into the great unknown?

Parents talk of that infamous empty nester period like it’s some kind of curse and I’ve been no stranger to the expectation that my life, well, at least every flight of stairs I’ve climbed thus far, would simply mean a long, slow and lonely journey back down. 50. Perimenopausal and watching the second of my two kids leave the nest. Could there be anything crueler?

Then today, I step back through this door and say hello to old friends. What is this feeling, this surge of opening and resurrection, like somehow the stone to my own cave has been rolled back and I’m blinking into the unimaginable light of a brilliant sun? Not the absence of motherhood. Not the loss of what it was in raising my young children, but rather something so outside my expectation. Freedom, maybe? Honest, openness to myself?

Transitions are milky and at times barbed with loss. They can feel like weights around the ankles with a long walk ahead that seems to have no definition or map. Perhaps it’s in the unknown outcome where the truth lives; what we cannot plan for, but what remains possible even if obscure. I don’t know who I’m becoming in this new skin I’m wearing as I drop my yoga bag and roll out my mat. I don’t know what older will look like, after the births and growth, after the violent fears and triumphs of motherhood, the exhaustion of protectiveness, and development of love that cannot be contained.

I catch my reflection of my eyes in the gym mirror as I settle into my corner, and there I am. Odd, it’s like I’ve always been here, but have forgotten to look deeply at myself; at my own eyes. I grin, because, despite the extra smile wrinkles near my eyes, one thing has never changed: my Self. The same Self that was born into this world. The same Self who made a crescendo through the turbulence of childhood into adulthood. The same Self who fell in love with the redwoods and wrote poem after poem like a girl lost in the renaissance era. The same woman whose heart broke and rebuilt, found deep love, married, settled in, became a mother, watched my father take his last breath, my mother grow older, built a career, and grew up my children.

Hello beautiful Self. I know you. Thank you for sticking with me all these years.

Given my career choice as a psychologist and inevitable years of listening to so many client stories, I know I am not alone in my struggle to embrace change. Human experience breathes an endless fountain of uncertainly because it is hard to let the future feel safe when we cannot see around the corners of our life.  So, how can we do this with an increased sense of power? Can we each recognize our transitions and be open to what is just out of view? Rather than fall into the unconscious dive of discomfort, can we stay open and curious to what could be an important discovery? And is there room to allow these transitions to create space for possibility rather than simply loss?

Maybe we can let go a little at each turn; taste the air, feel the bend, hold the curve with gentleness because traveling right inside us is our magnificent, perfect Self, cheering us on, holding each breath in the tension, exhaling each breath once we’ve cleared the obstacle. Can you give yourself permission to sense this part forever with you at every move you make?

Whatever transition you are facing, know you are facing it in good company, not only with me, but more importantly with your most precious Self gliding with you. You might consider the truth that change does not have to mean loss, but can also become a means of return.

I wish you all the love in the world, no matter the climb. And always, always come home to You.

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