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from recovery to discovery

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For many months now, the central theme in my life has been recovery. I’ve been recovering from the sudden loss of my father in February, illness and surgery in May, and the unpleasant relationship with work I have relied upon for fifteen years. It has been a difficult process of reflection and redefinition. It took a lot of courage to take the steps to give this recovery the attention it needed, I stepped away from a successful and rewarding (albeit stressful) position as a high-level administrator at a tribal college. I spent many days working on “me” while my husband began to wonder what happened to “us.” I continue to face the sadness, fears, and anger that compulsive behaviors allowed me to ignore for years and years.

As difficult as this work continues to be, I know that I am progressing. The other day I gave myself a hug—telling myself that I am worth whatever life has in store for me. I’m not sure I had ever done anything like that before. But I did so just before I was about to share my business ideas, hopes, and dreams with a total stranger. I was glad that I took the time to show myself a little compassion, because two hours later I came out of the New Rockford Area Betterment Corporation having made two wonderful friends and developed a plan that was suited to my strengths, values, and passions. My entrepreneurial spirit was born.

I was so full of excitement and esteem to start making a dent in this project of life. I wanted to do ALL the things on my to-do list at that very moment. But I did not. I took the opportunity to not react or even respond the excitement. Instead, I became mindful of it. I experienced it for what it felt. I made the effort to just try to absorb and feel the joy and anticipation of all the things that are yet to come, this winter, this spring, this summer, and everyday in between. The experience of resisting reaction was not an easy one, my hands and feet rattled with excitement as if they were contesting, trying desperately to find the old, comfortable me. But the “old” me wasn’t exactly comfortable- she was overworked, stressed, wrought with anxiety, disproportionately driven to prove something, ANYTHING about her value in life.

This was the point that my process of recovery became one of discovery.  I cannot help but think of Mary Catherine Bateson and her father, Gregory Bateson. For those of you who might have read the work of either, their premise is that productivity (of any kind) depends on the discovery of new forms of flexibility. The most recent work I have read (again) is Composing a Life by Mary Catherine.  GB and MCB are two of the most influential people I have never met in my life. My interactions with their writings have, over the past four years, assisted me in navigating my path in life.

Gregory Bateson with his daughter, Mary Catherine

This was no time to react. It was not the time to begin working on the business plan, updating my curriculum vitae, or making a list of all the possibilities that lay ahead. It was the time to feel it out and discover which possibilities felt the best for me. The reactions that I have come to know would not have facilitated this means of discovery. They would have left me exhausted and empty feeling. The time to respond might have allowed me to the experience the opportunity as a means to achieve in new ways. But a mindful approach to the sensations that were generated by respect, encouragement, and acceptance provided profound insights as to how models of possibility flourish.


About Rachel

Rachel is an independent artist and writer who thrives on sharing her deep appreciation for the natural world. She has taught college courses in wildlife identification, ethnobotany, environmental science, natural resource management, and cultural studies. She lives in North Dakota with her two boys, husband, dog, and cats. She enjoys gardening, cooking, drawing, writing, hunting, hiking, and snowshoeing, but is usually too tired to do any of these, except for writing...

7 responses »

  1. Rachel, this is beautiful. And inspiring. And I might have teared up a little reading this.

  2. Pingback: “Recovering a Sense of Abundance” « Pages of Paradigm

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