In the second of Kathy’s articles, she poignantly tells us how she managed change in her life and now lives solo after a complicated divorce.
Wayne Dyer suggests that “if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at, change.” While looking at things differently is key to the process of managing change in life, change is really not that simple otherwise none of us would ever be stuck, and peace would reign.
Change is messy. At best it is a bit grey with some sticky bits. Often it is a pile of manure that encourages you to steer clear, maybe navigate around it or slosh right through. Whatever it is, to make changes in life takes immense courage and enormous amounts of energy to recognise, contemplate, prepare and take action. Then there is the maintenance and endings. All in all exhausting, even if a change is desired, necessary and ultimately positive.
Change requires intention, a commitment to take action and an ability to contemplate the problem that exists. Lewin likens contemplation to an ‘unfreezing’. Often this might be seen as a shakeup, ‘turning on the light’ or exploration of new ways to understand. For me, significant life change has resulted in divorce, career transition, homelessness, bankruptcy and now finds me in a new landscape.
I’m back at university, living and working with Freshers. All precipitated by the need to manage health issues impacted in my past by emotional, social and environmental problems and dilemmas. Making change hasn’t been a comfortable ride or without curveballs – however, the intention was much needed and thankfully, has now been achieved.
In yoga, an intention is set while the yogi/yogini endeavours to meet themselves on their mats. Working through breathing work, holding positions and increasing flexibility takes focus and concentration – a personal test and journey. Taking a similar kind of intention and peace outside the studio space and into our daily lives is taking intention and change to another level. Undeniably, requiring more energy. ‘Unfreezing’ or contemplation, takes a similar level of effort and energy to focus on the positive and eliminate the negative. My body was screaming out at me for the need to make changes in my life. My spirit was tired, and as for my mind…well, that was somewhere else, overly focused on other people’s needs.
For me, contemplating change meant taking time to reacquaint myself with my own personal values. It also required determination to maintain my own mindset and manage firm boundaries that would eventually enable the change I desperately needed and subsequently allow it to flourish. At the same time, I was processing my emotional reactions as and when they occurred. Inevitably it was a very bumpy ride.
For a long time, I refused to accept the need for change, believing myself to be creative and strong around managing my own circumstances. I was proactively resistant and declining to engage in conversations around close relationships, a change of environment or ways to seek a reduction in cumulative stress. For all sorts of reasons, there was little time to spare from everyday living to even take the first step and contemplate the need for change, let alone make it.
But that’s not to say, I was not unaware of the need for change in my life. Neither was I unwilling, but I was completely and utterly emotionally exhausted, uncertain, anxious and sometimes undecided about the best course of action. Why? Because any decisions I might make for my own wellbeing would naturally impact, (most likely negatively, to begin with), on the welfare of all the people in my life. So I did the flamingo thing. Buried my head during the storm.
Then in came the tsunami. It wasn’t overnight, but I took action. I made the changes I needed to make. For every decisive and confident step, they say there is a significant consequence. “The Butterfly Effect” suggests that each flight of a butterfly contributes to the weather system. Using this analogy, I most definitely created a major storm in my life that has only recently calmed.
I walked out of a marriage where for 20 years I had been the primary carer – for a disabled spouse and young daughter. Many people could not see beyond my departure as anything other than a purely selfish act. For me, it was nothing other than an essential act of self-preservation. I needed space and time on my own to recover. Finding myself on the pathway to a stroke following seven years of health issues that included swine flu, an epic, whole-body allergic reaction to bee and then a jellyfish sting, alongside several close bereavements all threatened my own wellbeing.
The lack of proper rest and recovery time resulted in my body entering a revolution making itself heard – It was telling me I was neglecting myself. So, what did I do? I hit it with everything holistic treatment I could find! The body stores emotion – both negative and positive. If we ignore those emotions or allow it to spill, it becomes unhealthy and sooner or later there will be consequences, most likely of the kind not to be encouraged.
But before I left, I did just what I should not have done and blocked those deeply challenging emotions that eventually caught up with me and my health. I had to confront my choices. I could either keep pushing through or stop, listen and give myself and my body the respect it deserved. I came to feel there was no choice and I started listening to my body.
Health is always about simple biology. Without significant basic needs being met, you cannot hope to operate effectively at any level. However, health is also about you, your surroundings, lifestyle and mental wellbeing. Changes to one area will have implications for others, so it became paramount for me to effect positive change as a means to self-preserve.
On making the decision to leave I armed myself with important life aids – my friends, my courage and my resilience. I had nothing else to take with me other than my life and professional skills. All those aids came into play. During periods of great lows, I experienced unexpected and overwhelming kindness as I consequently lost people, anchors and confidence. I had to work harder at gratitude and mindfulness for what was around me, and now while I am living in the moment more than ever before, I leap into the unknown, faith first, fortitude second.
Every time I reach a turning point or a corner I proceed ahead without knowing what’s on the other side, and sometimes feel sorely tested by other peoples thoughts, opinions and agendas. The biggest challenge is managing my own positivity and mindset. It is not without considerable difficulty and strength that I remain focused, unswerving and determined to push through. Rarely do I consider turning back and whenever I do, I realise I have ventured too far.
Today I am on the other side of a long and incredibly thorny tunnel that frequently offered little light. I have been living solo for two years this January, having made it through the legal hoops and living within a new community. I’m working academically with my own pool of students and a new professional mindset. Despite fatigue, my health is the best it has ever been. Because of change, I now have more opportunities to self determine my own life, some astonishingly great friends and a new life vista is opening up.
I do realise this is a pause. It is not a ‘refreeze’ since I suspect there will be further change to contemplate and encounter before I settle into a new home space. A new home which will hopefully allow me to put down real roots and do more of the ‘Kathy Like’ stuff that feeds my soul. However, where I am now is in a good space because wherever I go next, I will take my health, peace and self-love with me. That’s happiness, and I’m grateful.