Monday, October 28, 2013


Save for the year after being orphaned, this year has been the toughest of my life. I finished four years researching and writing my book, and I didn’t pay any attention to how completely burned out I had become. It certainly didn’t help that 40 was looming and, while I have no hang-ups with getting older in and of itself, it kicked off another cycle of grief.

At its core, grief is loneliness. Obviously you are lonely for the person who no longer shares life with you, but it is also lonely knowing there is no one else who misses her the way you do or remembers him the way you do. Even my brother and sister – the closest people to understand the early loss of our parents – have different experiences, memories and reactions as members of the Orphan Club. 

In this place of exhaustion and loneliness, things that I thought were foundationally solid have been called into question. When you are forced to take a pit stop in life, you actually have time to survey your surroundings. Sometimes you like where you have ended up and sometimes you don’t. This is terrifying for someone who has built a life and career as the how-to girl. Slowly and painfully, I began to see the world differently. 

During my soul searching, I realized how judgmental I have been. In my own defense, I honestly didn’t realize I was being judgmental – I thought very open to other experiences and perspectives. But I secretly thought I had it all together and when you think this way, it is seductively easy to slide into a condescending attitude. Over the last year as I have been shaken to the core, I realized that I don’t want to live like that anymore. I don’t want to be that person. 

I think we choose to be judgmental because it makes us feel safe – we can hide behind the walls of our belief systems, our ideals, our routines, our absolutes, our decisions. Coming out from behind those walls to question those things is deeply frightening because we have to venture into no man’s land. The Franciscan friar Richard Rohr calls this place liminal space – when we have left all that we know but we have not yet arrived at the next place. In liminal space we cannot be sure where we will end up when we emerge. In fact, we fear we will get fully lost and never emerge at all. 

I was chatting with a friend the other day about all of this “40 Stuff,” and he looked me dead in the eyes and said very calmly, “It is human.” Going through these times in life is part of our personal evolution. Learning to accept and embrace the process doesn’t always look pretty, but it is so very important. Somewhere along the lines, amidst all the how-to’s and rules and checklists, I forgot the beauty of being human and all the messiness and uncertainty that it entails. 

So I am surrendering to this season and have stopped trying to control or rush it. I suppose it’s kind of like giving up the expectation that my life will look like a Renoir depicting clear images to the world, and coming to grips with the fact that it might end up looking like a Jackson Pollock with random paint splattered on a canvas. Or it could just end up looking like a three-year-old’s drawing. I suppose there is beauty in that as well, but it is difficult to see when the work is not yet finished. 

So as I turn 40 today, I realize that I don’t know much. I don’t have a lot of answers. In the months of musing and reflecting, however, I have some thoughts. 

I think authenticity matters because it is the only way we can hear the hearts of people who believe differently than us as well as the voices of our own tribe. 

I think staying bunkered in “us vs. them” mentality – always defining ourselves by what we are not – leaves no room for our own growth as well as extending that same opportunity to others around us. 

I think real change, revelation and connection takes place when we ask more questions and give fewer directives. 

I think wisdom is mined in the dark places, and if we refuse to allow seasons of darkness dwelling, we miss out on some of the best stuff in life. 

I think we only grow more tired, tattered, impatient and unkind when we do not create quiet places for our souls to rest and reflect. 

I think vulnerability is worth the risk of getting rejected because when we spend our lives covering up what we truly feel and think, we only guarantee chasms of loneliness between others and us. 

I think it is brave to ask for what we truly want and need from those closest to us rather than expecting them to just intuitively know. 

I think it is only when we accept ourselves as good enough – not pinning that acceptance to elusive achievements but right in the here and now – that we can love ourselves and others well. 

I think we all need intimacy – the connection between two human beings with the ability to say I see you, I accept you despite all your imperfections, and I love you. 

I think cultivating patterns of forgiveness with others and ourselves is better than striving and failing under the weight of perfectionism. 

I think having the courage to linger in the questions is more powerful and transformative than rushing to find the answers. 

And I know it is scary as hell to take the leap to put all this into practice. 

That’s all I’ve got.

ERYN-FAYE FRANS, Canada's Passion Coach®

No comments:

Post a Comment