Life transitions occur over and over in the course of our lives. I found additional insights about the process when I recently revisited the works of author Gail Sheehy. In the 1980’s she introduced a generation to ways of thinking about change that would foster adult growth and meaning.
Today’s times may have changed, but her words still contain timeless wisdom for all of us working our way through the passages and pathways of our lives.
With each passage of human growth we must shed a protective structure (like a crustacean). We are left exposed and vulnerable, but also yeasty and embryonic again, capable of stretching in ways we hadn’t known before. Gail Sheehy
When I first read these words, thinking about feeling exposed and vulnerable made me want to run and hide. Just the thought of being so open was daunting.
The fears that we hold about vulnerability can paralyze us. Why take the chance of trusting and being hurt? The discomfort of staying stuck in hiding can seem much safer than taking that risk.
Each transition we experience returns us to that exposed and vulnerable place. It doesn’t happen just once or twice in our lifetime. It occurs over and over with each new situation. Divorce, job loss, bereavement, retirement and aging are just a few of the roads that we might find ourselves traveling on.
In acknowledging where we are, we also feel our vulnerability. We have been hurt by the life circumstance that has happened. As much as we want to fight it, the only way to move forward is to trust. We need to trust our ability to be resilient and persevere.
When we add that “yeasty and embryonic” state that Sheehy describes, can’t you just feel the stretch and possibilities? In each life stage we can choose to shed or let go of something and take the risk of being vulnerable in order to find possibility and meaning.
Think about the changes that have happened in your life. Maybe they were expected or unexpected. Change and transition presented you with the challenge of choice. What path did you choose? Did you hide and close down or did you confront your fears and risk traveling in a new direction?
Throughout the story of our lives, these choices to stretch and grow or run and hide are always present. How can we come to know ourselves more fully in order to help us on our journey? What insights and tools can we use?
Helping my clients discover those insights and tools is at the core of Women Reshaping Lives, LLC. On April 25th at Tunxis Community College, I will be offering a workshop about the Passages and Pathways of our lives. More information about it and the link to register is on my Events Page.
This month I encourage you to think about your life and how you have navigated your life transitions. What did you learn about yourself? What personal growth was the result of that change? The passages and pathways of our lives can be challenging, but they can also bring us to new heights that we never imagined possible when we follow the path of learning and growing.