Change… now here is a word I believe everyone can relate to today! What isn’t changing in the world today might be a better question. I don’t know about you, but I think I may have experienced more change in my personal life this year than ever before. To say that there is a choice in change feels like an oxymoron. When change happens unexpectedly, when we have no time to plan for it, is there still a choice? In this post I want to share how I handled unplanned change and grew from it even though it was painful, I hope to inspire and encourage you. Sometimes we can be frozen, stuck and be prohibited from creating what we would like to see in our lives because whatever is creating the change has caught us unprepared. I found myself in one of these overwhelming changes just a couple of years ago. My marriage of 27 yrs. was quickly coming to an end.
I have always had some kind of change happening in my life, either personal or professional. Truth be told, I think that I used it as a distraction from some of the other issues that were lying under my emotional surface and I wasn’t self-aware enough to grasp what was happening. I would never say I was one that found routine comforting. When it became clear to me that my marriage was not going to survive the latest blow, I was shocked. It was not something I planned or was in any way prepared. In the midst of the chaos I was fortunate to find support through different resources that helped me so much during that initial crisis. I was about to learn later that what I experienced is called betrayal trauma. The challenge for me was, do I continue to do what I have done in the past, or do I step out of my box and make a choice that seemed foreign and difficult? This to me was my choice in the change!
On this journey I have discovered many things about change, life and myself. Life… it has a way of moving on me. Being one with high energy and a need for exploration I have always been on to try new things. Most of them were changes and options I decided on. When the only choice in my marriage was to leave if I wanted to continue to keep that part of me, I learned that life doesn’t care if you are willing to lose yourself at the cost of tradition. It keeps going and moving even though I was confused, hurt, and alone. After taking some time and with the help of those around me, I regained my footing and I began to see that I did have choices. Those choices help me to learn more about myself. How did I want to come out of this change? My first thought was I wanted to be whole-- not just a trauma survivor, but someone who has healed and is living a life I love. I can’t lie, it has been hard work and I had no idea how to start. Taking time to lean on others, finding helpful resources, and becoming more self-aware were just the beginning, but it was enough that gave me hope that maybe the best was yet to come.
During the process of selecting choices and using options to make decisions, I felt empowered and could begin to lean into that change. Was it easy? Absolutely not!! Worth the effort and pain? Most certainly. I know that the quickest and easiest way to handle any type of change that we don't want or didn't expect is denial. Truth is even in that denial we are making a choice. If we are honest, we know the change needs to happen, but we are choosing to “hide” from ourselves, so we don’t have to face the difficulty of change. What is the reality in that? Some of these areas of growth can be personal, emotional and relational. I'm not saying we live our lives with rose-colored glasses, but I do think we can take lemons and make lemonade.
As women it can feel like we are juggling emotions most of the time; then when we are hit with the unexpected, it feels like someone gave us a knee lock. My hope is that by exploring our choices we can make decisions that empower us and keep the emotional train on the tracks and with that find some growth in ourselves. Emotional growth is the ability to perceive access and regulate feelings. What does it mean to perceive our emotions? The dictionary states that “these processes are to be aware or conscious of; come to a realization or understanding”. I do not know about you, but when I first heard that my thought was, “They don’t know my crazy emotional train!” It was difficult to think that there could be some understanding to the feelings that often raced through me. If I had to pick one thing that helped me the most in making choices was the ability to become more self-aware.
Self-awareness has given me the ability to find a base, solid ground so to speak, when everything seems to be shaking. Emotions are a funny thing, they are not always based in reality but they always feel real. I heard someone else who was trying to explain emotions say, “thoughts are the language of the brain where emotions are the language of the soul”. Our soul is trying to tell us something. Are we listening? We have labeled emotions good or bad making it clear which ones to want and which ones to stay away from. What if emotions aren’t good or bad but just data that you can learn from? Many times in my own life I wish I would have stopped for a moment and listened to my soul. Self-awareness helps me take that time to stop. It took some time and effort to become connected with myself to be empowered enough to deal with my emotions instead of letting my emotions deal with me. Let me just say, in my own life it was so worth that time and effort. I am more able to accept myself and others by owning up to what I can and cannot bring to any given situation.
What does it mean to be self-aware? To have a conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives and desires. This is where a time of self-exploration comes in as it helps us to learn more about ourselves. I did that by taking a personality profile and strengths assessment along with learning my own needs and values. These are things that most people don’t or won’t stop long enough to learn. If I could only put down in words the difference these things have made in my life I am sure you all would want to jump right in. Okay, now you are all laughing at me, right?!! With all honesty and sincerity, I have learned who I am and what I can and can’t handle and it’s okay enough for the rest of the world to accept me or move along. That, my friends, is empowerment in the truest sense of the word. How much attention do you give to your emotions, or are your emotions busy trying to get your attention? Life is made in moments and those moments need us to be there.
Here are a few tips I use to help with self-awareness:
1. Ask yourself what is making you feel the way you are, not why are you feeling this way.
2. Improve your own self talk -- let your words be that of someone you love.
3. Engage in reflective time -- take a walk, sit quietly for 15 minutes, learn how to connect with you.
4. Avoid Auto-pilot. We can get caught up in doing it for doing sake.
5. Pay attention to what you like and what you don’t like. Learn how to enjoy those things you enjoy