The last thing to leave the home in which I lived the longest in my life was my bicycle. After several days of packing, a day of moving belongings out and a day of cleaning, I locked up this home and got on my bike.
Spring wheels in the fresh air feel fantastic. This year it came with a little extra meaning — it was the means by which I closed off a chapter of my life to begin another. I rolled across the street to say goodbye to neighbours, then crossed again to say goodbye to other neighbours and shed a few tears. I rolled a few blocks north to leave a gift for a new baby, then a few more blocks north to my old neighbourhood hardware store for some things needed to set up the new home. Fighting back tears, I got what I needed, then got back on my bike and let tears come down as I headed down into the river valley.
About three years ago, I stopped spending much time on social media. My blogging activity dropped, from four posts a week to one every month or so. I showed up sporadically on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter because I didn’t have the energy for it as I cocooned, to figure out what was happening with my life and what I needed to do about it. I wrote about it in oblique ways, but was otherwise quiet to the outside world in social media, keeping my hopes and fears close, sharing and exploring them with the people closest to me and able to hold space for me: partner Peter and dear friends.
What was happening behind the scenes: challenging events related to my work and professional identity, the end of my marriage and the end of relationships with people unable to cope with the end of my marriage. Also happening behind the scenes: a stronger sense of personal sovereignty, new and renewed relationships with people able to hold space for Beth-in-transition (and vice versa), and an unabated thirst to grow and evolve into the emerging me, for my own growth and evolution.
I write to make sense of myself and life conditions. I’ve shared little bits of that here on my blog, but I write about specific people only if I have their permission. I do not write publicly about the people I am struggling with because I do not want them to experience shame or guilt from me, and I do not want to create the conditions for others to pile on. My intention is also to make sure that the writing I share is not from a defended place; I am not defending myself, nor am I on the attack. When I share publicly what I write, it means I have learned something about myself and how I relate with the world around me.
As my marriage was ending two and a half years ago, these were the questions I was asking myself (the Hamilton series):
- How do I make room for me to be ME, for “it” to happen? (Oct 24, 2016, Room where it happens)
- Who gives me the space I need to figure out who I am growing into? (Dec 1, 2016, Stay in it)
- What did I say no to that changed my life? (Dec 5, 2016, Say no to this)
- Is there an ending I should be paying attention to? (Dec 13, 2016, How to say goodbye)
- What is the story to choose for yourself? (Dec 17, 2016, Who tells your story?)
- How do I make room in my life for people with other, crazy points of view? (Jan 11, 2017, The world is wide enough)
After having sorted out all the details of our uncoupling, my partner Peter and I sent a message out to the world in February 2017: (INSERT link to Beware listening through stories)
Several blog posts over the last two years reflect what I was learning along the way and I reached deeper into myself, my longings and learnings in my interwoven personal and professional life. Some highlights:
- Beware listening through stories. It is not possible to know what is going on for someone else by looking at them, or having simple and shallow conversations with (May 2, 2017).
- Self-empowerment threatens. We all have the same choice, whether the change comes from within or without: resist our transformation or allow it (June 30, 2017)
- Harm happens, intended or not. Harm is not decided by the person causing harm, but by the person harmed. Admitting that I have caused harm means I have to change. This is a good civic practice. (Nov 13, 2017)
- Care out in the open. To care out in the open means I am willing to be changed by what I hear. (Nov 28, 2017)
- Colonial blind spot. For relationships to repair, I need to be ready to hear about harm, receptive to having my sense of identity be shaken, and willing to step into a relationship with reciprocity. (January 20, 2018)
- Welcoming outsiders. As we find ourselves increasingly challenged with the pace of change and conflict in our world, being deeply held and having the capacity to hold and examine conflict is essential. We need to do a better job of meeting and finding each other. (April 2, 2018)
- Sovereignty is necessarily disruptive. Telling each other what we need to tell is uncomfortable and necessary. Hearing what we don’t want to hear is uncomfortable and necessary. It hurts. We may feel—or be told—we are causing harm by doing this, but we are causing more harm by not speaking and receiving what needs to be said. (May 1, 2018)
- A castle’s not made for everyone – is a city? Making a city (or a family or an organization) that’s made for everyone involves trusting others’experience of the city. We find it hard to believe in the existence of barriers named by others if we don’t see that barrier, or experience that barrier ourselves. (May 3, 2018)
- Accommodate or exclude. When I know what I need to do to accommodate people, then I am consciously including or excluding them. If I do not ask, do not listen, do not accommodate, I exclude. (Feb 6, 2019)
And since my personal and professional lives are interwoven, my decision to leave the home I’ve lived in the longest in my life is also about my city – and who I want to be in my city.
That series of posts from when my marriage ended – the Hamilton series – shone light on questions I will welcome for the rest of my life:
- How do I make room for the Me I am growing into?
- Who holds space for me to figure out who I am growing into?
- Is there an ending that needs my attention?
- What am I saying yes/no to?
- What is the story I choose for myself?
On my way into the river valley, I followed a path that bends back and forth through a ravine. The spring melt made it treacherous earlier that week, the warmth of the day melting snow and covering the path with ice overnight, each day the path getting more and more clear. I rolled down until I came to the shady patches of ice, to walk beside my bike. On and off and on and off. Near the bottom, as I gingerly stepped down a narrow channel of concrete, I spotted an abandoned shopping cart. In it: two huge bags of dog food and a gym bag.
I made my way by the cart, a bit puzzled until I stepped back onto the clear concrete and got back on my bike. I realized the cart was aiming uphill. It was abandoned because it was not possible to push it any further. I imagine the human making the choice to stop, to take what was most important to them on her way up the hill and leaving the rest behind. Perhaps they came back for it, or perhaps she left it for others to carry. As I headed down into the valley for my next chunk of life, I realized I left a burdened cart behind. I didn’t need the cart or its contents. I didn’t need any longer to push a laden cart uphill through ice that made it very difficult to make headway. I turned to a new direction, releasing the need to make something happen that doesn’t want to happen.
This embodies many choices I have made over the last several years, personal and professional: I choose not to push my cart uphill.
If something doesn’t want to happen, I’m not afraid to notice this, to say so, to not spend energy making it happen.
This does not mean I don’t work hard—it means I notice when there is resistance and choose to work with it or against it. I am smarter about it. When there is resistance, in me, in others, I take the time to notice what it is and why.
I notice where there is resistance to explore the resistance, and I dig in. I enjoy spending time with others who are willing and able to do the hard work of digging into their resistance, or our resistance. This is the flavour of the next part of my life, with fellow citizen who also enjoy this exploration, in a new part of the city.
After leaving the burdened cart of resistance behind, I made my way along the river valley. A long and flat path, full of ease. I floated along, enjoying the crisp air of the misty morning. I found a river crossing, found my way through a wee neighbourhood to the road that makes its way uphill, to my new neighbourhood. I stopped halfway to enjoy the view, now clear of the mist. A new view of my city and my place in it.
I have acknowledged what has ended and is ending. I am clear about what I say no to and what I say yes to. I have acted on what I need to do to be the Me I am growing into.
I have moved to a new city—without moving to a new city. I am a new me without being a new me. I chose to be here. I chose how to get here.
Post script – After finishing this post, I started to organize my post-move bookshelf. These words fell open to me:
Resistance is an inner contraction, a hardening of the shell of the ego. You are closed. Whatever action you take in a state of inner resistance (which we could also call negativity) will create more outer resistance, and the universe will not be on your side; life will not be helpful. When you yield internally, when you surrender, a new dimension of consciousness opens up.Eckart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose