What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly
Transitions…we all know them and have experienced them. I am in one.
It feels really useful and liberating to remember that many things have just recently radically changed for me as a result of losing my longtime friend, collaborator, teaching and business partner, Doug Silsbee. I am navigating new territory.
Lately I’m noticing in my experience a feeling of being “on my own.”
This feels different from other internal spaces I’ve inhabited in my life that are close but not exactly like this “on my own” place. I am clear I don’t feel “abandoned” (familiar in years past), or “it’s all up to me” (familiar also from my years of being an entrepreneur and pusher of the river). I don’t feel longing, or lonely, or stark aloneness (sometimes called existential aloneness). As I step back and take a quick glance at my life, I actually feel very supported and surrounded these days, professionally, personally, and spiritually. And yet, here’s this “on my own” felt-sense that’s present.
Frankly, I think it has to do at least partially with Doug’s body no longer living on this planet. And I continue to grieve his loss. Of course, Doug continues to live in me, in my history and through those years that our collaboration and the work itself shaped us both. Those experiences support me in practical ways every day, both professionally and personally, and I am grateful!
From the Minutia to the Present
And when I’m in the middle of the daily grind of office days, sometimes I am able to wake up from my habitual focus on the minutia that make up my usual work routines. I find myself getting lost in checking emails, tracking progress of projects, delegating (and not being the bottle neck to other’s work!), and coordinating action between lots of moving parts of PBC training and my life as a whole. Reminders, such as my 2018 vision board sitting across from my desk, abound in my environment. They are calling me to be present, take a pause…and when I release my tight focus for a breath or moment, I can actually see them! Being present allows me to acknowledge my transition in leadership, and PBC’s transition as a business. As I start to relax a bit, I am able to witness a bigger view of the movement that’s always happening around, in and through me.
Insight: A Strong Wind Arrives
We had a cold front blow in over the weekend, and as I stood outside on a gorgeous, sunny day with the temperature in the 60’s, I marveled at how strong the wind was in my own back yard. Blowing the trees around, making a loud racket like a freight train. I felt excitement and delight at the wind’s heralding of the season changing into fall. I was imaging moving into warmer clothes, having a fire in the fire place, sipping some fresh, warmed apple cider. Once I came back inside the house, I realized that my relationship to this particular season change was very different to my relationship to the change I’m experiencing now around this transition at work. Especially around the “on my own” space.
Standing outside, I felt connected to the weather, to the earth, to the natural rhythms of the change of season. In contrast, the “on my own” space feels, well, on my own. I became curious: are the remnants of my historical experience, overlaid with old narratives of “I’ve been left” or “it’s all up to me,” driving a sense of urgency, of overwhelm? And the predictable and familiar reactive habits of focusing in the weeds of the daily grind? As I sense into it, this “on my own” feeling is quite neutral, in and of itself. Perhaps it is actually pointing to a growing sense of autonomy in me, as I move more fully into the #1 leader role at PBC? And with that independence comes a sense of more freedom to make my own choices. I am full of gratitude to have plenty of wise council, additional perspectives and support from many others who care about Doug, me and this work. And some of the hard decisions are mine alone to make.
Questions I Am Asking Myself
Here are some questions I am asking myself:
- How is my experience of the change of season different from this feeling of “on my own”? (Context)
- What makes it exciting vs overwhelming?( Soma)
- What assumptions am I holding about the season change, and about shifts in my work life? (Context, Identity)
- Who am I taking myself to be in this moment, and how is that shifting ?(Identity)
As you see, I can’t help myself in making distinctions around the Nine Panes, from Doug’s latest book, Presence-Based Leadership.The Nine Panes is the core model from the book that offers nine powerful distinctions, perspectives and practices around leading in complexity. As I tease apart these differences in the levels of systems of which I am a part (Context, Identity, Soma), these levels of scale continue to percolate into my consciousness. And I am noticing how they affect my experience, my perspectives.
As I said, it feels useful to acknowledge that I am still in transition and will be for some time. And perhaps that feeling of “on my own” will be present for a long while, too. There’s always more to explore as the seasons continue to change, and I continue to change with them. I can’t control the weather change. I can pay attention to my moment-to-moment experience. And as I do that, I notice an opportunity for choice: I can stay within the confines of my historical views and habits. Or I can practice resting into a more spacious perspective, like the change of season, and know I am a part of the bigger dynamism of life that is always happening within and around me.
A Question For You
If you (or a loved one or colleague) are experiencing any kind of transition, what questions would be useful for you (or them) to contemplate?
Feel free to offer your questions below…
Such a wonderful exploration. You may be on your own but, as you said, you are most assuredly not alone. ❤️
Bebe, This blog is so perfectly timed! As I’ve been going through my own transition, it is so wonderful to be reminded to actively more out of habit! Love the questions you pose. Others I’m using: what is the physical feeling when I think ability this direction or that? What are my word choices in my journaling telling me? What is trying to hold me in the old place and is that old or something to take with me?
Bebe – What a beautiful exploration. Your reflection and self inquiry that allowed for the distinctions between this current “I am alone” feeling and old “I am alone” feelings feels so useful. Important for all of us to remember that even if the sense is familiar, it can have different contours, edges, shapes that allow us to experience it in a new way vs. falling into our old patterns. Thank you, what a gift.
Thank you, as always, for prompting useful thinking, Bebe. Questions for myself and those with whom I’m working: How is my/your transition preparing you for what’s next in your life? What useful observations/learning can you take from this transition into your next season?
Thank you for this Bebe. Your articulate and vulnerable exploration of this transition is helping me to reflect on my own experience of feeling on my own after a beloved mentor moved to a new role. A question I used (in the occasional moments when I wasn’t totally hijacked by loss and fear) was “How can I best honor what was special about that season?” “What might be special about this new season when I look back on it?”
Thank you all for your comments and questions! They are sparking more insights for me (and hopefully for others reading this blog)! Keep ’em coming! Bebe
Beautiful Bebe. Thank you.
My favorite question in times like this — what part of me is fighting for its life?
I am also in the midst of transition and this question helps me pay attention both to the old parts of me that may be releasing and to the newness being born.
When I’m in these moments of transition, which keep coming – not unusual or isolated, tho the loss of a beloved is especially altering – I become aware that this is my time (Bebe – you’ve expressed a similar feeling with “I’m on my own”). My questions: What is the world asking of me? How will I step into and beyond this time with grace and integrity? What will my legacy be now?
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