A friend saw a photo of me from 8 years ago, and she complimented me on how the person I am now seems to be so much more assured and beautiful from within and without. The comment surprised me, because that was a time in my life were it all clicked.
I used to think that growing up was about solidifying who we are. Adding wisdom. Adding experiences to a person that was constant. I now believe that life and identity occur in cycles. That photo came from a time of mastery. I felt like I belonged—everywhere. I felt at the center of all the parts of my life. I had the best collaborator in my research. I had friends and plans and had a clear purpose with my kids.
Eight years later, I find myself moving through a new cycle. We build until that form no longer fits. Much like a crab that has molted its hard exterior, we shed our skin and build anew. Over and over again. We build new versions of ourselves as we change and life changes around us.
Research on life cycles abounds. Astrologists view life cycles as as seven year patterns; numerologists have nine year patterns. Others focus on the framework of a life cycle. Molly Mahar offers a four part cycles of life that I find helpful. The parts are unrest, destruction, growth, mastery.
We begin a new cycle when we feel unease. The unease can come from within. It may also be due to all that is shifting around us. In times of unease and We can ignore the unease until the shift hits us over the head, or we can lean into it. Regardless, we have seasons of destruction. Some can be devastating. Some can be joyful. Some can provide clarity and sometimes confusion.
We are all emerging from the pandemic in a world in which hate is allowed to be spoken so freely. Many of us are questioning how we want to engage with the outer world after our time of isolation. For me, it is also a time when both my parents and my children have moved physically into new phases of their lives. My workplace also looks different and feels different. My colleagues and students are renegotiating their relationship to work, as am I. My own purpose in relation to all of these components of my life have shifted as they shift.
As I move from the “doing” phase of the destruction–the moving of family members, the masking and the vaccinating, the learning to teach online and then learning to teach in person again, the imposed removal of social interaction.
The constant doing of destruction has abated for me. And I am feeling the “now what?” growth phase. This phase feels vulnerable but also has more possibility to grow into a whole range of possibilities. Instead of feeling assured, I have a lot of questions about all of my roles, all of my identities, and who are my “people” in this new era.I have both endured, embraced, and even celebrated the destruction of old ways.
My growth this time will build upon former cycles. We don’t start over. It’s more of a spiral of building upon the foundations of the past. I will rebuild upon my own deep hard work of former cycles. Cycles in which I learned how to befriend my shadow self. How to find orphaned “parts” of my Self that have been scared and vulnerable since childhood. How to breathe. How to connect with my ancestors. How to use sound and rhythm and meditation to find deeper answers.
Enjoying the journey is all the rage, and yet I do admit I love feeling mastery. And the mastery will come again. Yet it is all the other parts of the cycle where the learning really occurs. Where I have the chance to show up and grow. To do better. Be better. As I move again toward mastery, I must focus on gratitude. On the evolving and emerging synergies. Thank myself for all of the work and evolving that I have done to allow me to serve the world and myself in a more authentic way.
Working through a new cycle? A coach can help you along the way. Contact me at email@example.com to learn more.