Everyone around me seems to be in transition - it's quite a buzz kill to be met by resigned nods of agreement when attempting to bemoan one's own liminal state. On June 30th I will finish my first rabbinic contract, and as of now, I have no idea what July 1st will look like. When fishing for sympathy it rather takes the wind out of your sails to realize that, in fact, everyone around you is at a crossroads, every moment of every day... actually.
Yesterday at a faculty meeting, a colleague suggested we use the transition of the seasons as the prompt for our personal check ins. Each person around the table, representing a range of ages and stages, shared stories of significant life change, or the contemplation of significant changes of one sort or another. It was the most personal check in that I have experienced with that group in over two years. We were vulnerable with each other in a way that I had not expected, and in opening up our inner-worlds just a crack, were able to share fuller pictures of our lives with each other.
Vulnerability sure is a tough nut to crack: it is essential to growth and change, but leaves us open to pain and sorrow. Just sitting down to write these words my inner critic wants to censor and edit before my fingers even strike the keys. I know the purpose he serves - he's there to preserve me from hurt, from pain, from disappointment and rejection. The grand irony is that the pain, the hurt and the disappointment - and yes, even the rejection - are the most fertile ground for change. A brilliant physician ("Dr. O" aka The Teen Doc) reminded me of this a few weeks ago. To paraphrase, she said that growth comes out of pain, rarely out of joy. Joy just brings joy - which is wonderful, but it's just not as generative as pain. Pain forces us into an uncomfortable position and asks us how long we can possibly keep it up. Pain teaches us about what is tenable, what is sustainable. A self-proclaimed eminence grise and mother of four adult children recently told me about bringing them all together, without the grandchildren, to spend a weekend reconnecting. At one point during the visit she asked them each to share a joy from the past year. To a person, each and every story was about joy born of significant struggle. Lifecycle milestones aside, the most profound moments of joy, it would seem, are those that are hard won.
Common amongst the teachers, seekers and the internet gurus who I find inspiring is a willingness to offer up their own vulnerability: the fitness coach who posts about falling off of a wagon of her own design, the entrepreneur who writes about her fears of failure, the teacher who is able to say "I don't know, but I'll look in to it for you." This work of being human is messy; we posture and position ourselves according to our achievements and acquisitions to give the world a show of strength and confidence. But what about the moments of fear, of doubt, of shame and guilt that so often precede real and lasting change? We fail to raise them up and it's to our detriment. It feels so much better to know that you're not alone in the trenches of transition - and that while we all face the pain of change we're also allowed the transgressive act of stepping out of the proverbial comfort zone.
And so here I go - back into the bloggosphere - uncertain and nervous of what people will think as I share what I see and experience, but determined to get vulnerable and crack myself wide open all the same.