A Time of Nurturing Transformation & Growth
I’ve had this blog for almost 2 years now and I rarely, if ever, have shared a personal story. I intentionally tried to stay out of the way and just offer the learning opportunities to those who’re interested. That’s about to change and this account of my summer (like a Grade School assignment) is my first step. It’s very coach-like to stay out of the way but on this platform I’m starting to feel like it can be taken to an extreme that’s less courageous and authentic than I am. So, I’m allowing myself to be vulnerable and open because I truly value authenticity and the courage it takes to be real. So in short order you’ll understand why there’s a picture of my cat Samson as the featured image for this post.
How it All Began
It all started way before summer officially began with a truckload of landscaping bricks, topsoil and clay dumped in the middle of my driveway. It was the middle of March and we were hitting record high temperatures for that time of year so it was a great time to enjoy the outdoors. In a matter of a day and a half my wife and I, as well as my neighbor (ok, mostly me), moved a few tons of materials off our driveway and separated bricks from soil and stacked them in the yard. Then about a hundred wheelbarrow loads later, or so it seemed, I separated good top soil from clay (which I had no idea what I would do with later). A few weeks later, my brother-in-law and I got started on digging out a 16 foot long, 3 foot wide and 2 foot deep area where our new garden bed would be. Great – more dirt I had no idea where I would put.
So, we started laying bricks down just outside the huge trench we had dug but the earth kept shifting beneath us and slipping into the hole. So, after a tough day of work, we took a rest. A couple of days later, my wife and I got back to it and we made a reinforcement, like a retaining wall, to keep the ground from caving in and I was able to get back to laying bricks on a level surface that wouldn’t cave in.
My Lesson: dig deep, build a strong foundation, create support structures, start laying down building blocks on a surface that’s level and continue on a straight path. Have measurement tools to help ensure everything is just right. Correct when needed. Hmmm… sounds kind of like a journey of personal growth and transformation.
Samson the Cat
At around the same time, on a completely different note, I started noticing changes in my cat. He was losing weight fairly quickly, getting fussy about food, looking tired and even in some pain. I tried cooking him his own fresh, healthy soups with vegetables and chicken, which he took to at first but then shied away from. Eventually I took him to the veterinarian. I was going to take him in May anyway for his annual checkup but it couldn’t wait any longer.
A couple of vet visits later and with some antibiotics to take home, he was starting to do a lot better.
I want to share that in between the time I started noticing his suffering and when he started to recover, I was a wreck. He’s my baby (though he’s almost 16 years old) and I got really scared and sad that I would lose him. I broke down several times and cried – ok sobbed. I spent hours just lying with him on the floor, caressing him and giving him love. He was my top priority and one of the only things that mattered, everything else could take a backseat.
My Lesson: we may think it’s impossible to stop living on the treadmill but if we deeply know what’s important to us and we feel needed, nothing’s impossible, and we’ll get off that treadmill!
Taking a Stand
At the same time that all that was going on, I had one of the strangest work-related experiences in my life. I won’t go into any details but my integrity was challenged and I felt like someone was stomping on my heart for their own amusement.
I got to experience who my greatest champions were (my wife, my family, a few close friends) and it was so incredible to feel the support and love pour over me. At this point in my life I’m ready and grateful to receive it.
I was challenged, I felt bullied, and I was angry and disappointed on one hand and on the other hand, I felt strong, confident, clear, and ready for anything. I applied some of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the past 10 years and I knew that if I stayed out of my head and focused on my heart, my values and my purpose, this could be an important turning point in my life. Though I didn’t want it to happen, I found it a very important and engagin challenge.
My Lesson: we are stronger than we think. We can choose to see challenging situations in our lives as tools to help us grow and become the person we want to be. What will I stand for? What will I not tolerate?
Being in Flow
So here we are at about the end of May, early June. I continued working in the yard as much as time permitted. Regular work was starting to slow down as it happens in the summer and I devoted myself to doing other projects with my wife, connecting with nature, building things to improve our home, nurturing trees and plants, getting sun, fresh air and exercise, loving my cat (and my wife, family & friends of course), dealing with outside life in a centered and grounded way and enjoying every single day.
As I reflected throughout these months, I could sense a change happening within me – like somehow I had a compass inside me that was changing polarity. What was once north was shifting south. It’s hard to explain – it’s like planting a seed in the garden and watering it regularly but not really knowing if anything is happening until one day something sprouts out of the ground.
What I see more clearly now is that I wanted to give myself the space and time for one of my most cherished values – freedom. I see now that work wasn’t slowing down or at least it didn’t have to. I chose to say no to some opportunities that just weren’t in alignment with the path I wanted to take. Instead of choosing work out of fear of lack – I was choosing to only work on what was important or fulfilling to me.
The whole time I had an urge to share what I was experiencing on my blog but I was more in a state of flow and engagement and didn’t want to stop to find the words to describe it all. If I could have just downloaded my brain onto computer with a usb cable, that would have been much easier but that’s not possible just yet J
Whatever business I had, I handled. Whatever coaching sessions I scheduled I cherished. I was able each and every time to center myself, get focused and ‘be’ with my clients fully. That’s an amazingly valuable skill I’ve been practicing for a while now. Getting my own ‘stuff’ out of the way so I can help my clients.
Savoring Each Moment
As more time passed my cat started showing signs of illness again. He needed more tests and more treatment. He got more meds and now I was giving him medication and food 4 times a day. It became a loving ritual – 7am, 8am, 7pm & 8pm (or thereabouts). Each time the world would stop (in my head) and I would just be in the moment with my cat – savoring our time together – ever so grateful for every single minute we had. And, he got better. So much better that aside from gaining weight and energy, he was back to his old antics like hunting around the house for his toy mouse and bringing it to us, enthusiastically meowing at the top of his lungs until my wife and I cheered him on and praised him. The three of us together, so close in proximity and in heart. More beautiful moments than I can count.
Later on in the summer we built a new fence. We tore down an old, dilapidated fence that was a complete eye-sore (as seen on the right) and created something fresh, new and strong. Our reno skills have improved over the years, and so has our way of working together. It was more of a pleasure and a delight than a challenge to complete it. We do have this pattern of starting a project, putting everything we’ve got into it until just about the end and then leaving at least a few final details till sometimes months later (or perhaps never). Not this time. We finished everything we knew we had to do in one fairly straight shot. Our whole back yard looks different now and is actually a living space we can enjoy. We were once cramped in to a small, tight area and now it was all open to us. I felt rewarded every time I sat down in our new outdoor lounge!
Then, we got to building our vegetable garden, which we had wanted for several years but never had the time to get it done. We took an area of land that has been a lumpy weed bed for a few years and turned it into a zen-like garden where we planted whatever we could still buy in the garden centers. [Digging in the Dirt again] Apparently everyone else plants this kind of stuff early in the season but we just couldn’t get to it in time so we took what was left and planted it – tomatoes, onions, eggplants, escarole and endives (which I don’t really like but since we were growing it ourselves, I savored it and I could feel how hearty and flavorful everything was). It’s a wonderful feeling to grow your own food. We nurture the plant and it feeds us – how cool is that? It’s a much more gratifying experience than shopping in a grocery store (even if the vegetables don’t come out looking as perfect as they do in the stores but they do taste better and are much healthier for us). Hmmm, there’s a lesson in there too.
Remembering Past Lessons
Business (consulting, designing, marketing, etc.) was slowing down some more and normally by this time in previous years I would have gotten fairly stressed and scared that I wouldn’t be able to pay the bills. Been there, done that. It’s not a stressor for me anymore because I trust that everything has a way of working out for the best. So, I told myself just to enjoy this time, cherish and savor it and it will be its own reward.
My Lesson: Remember past lessons and in this case it’s that stress, worry, anxiety, frustration will only make things worse and prolong how long it takes, or even prevent, things from turning around.
Practising Past Lessons
My cat had one more dip in health and this time it was really scary. He needed to be hospitalized for a couple of days and they discovered he had pancreatitis. Maybe that was it all along? Maybe it came as a result of another system breaking down? We’re not sure but I thought this might be it – the time I’d have to say goodbye to my baby.
However, within a week or so, he was getting better again. It seems we’ve found a fairly good cocktail to keep him as healthy and comfortable as possible. We added one more loving ritual to our week, which was very challenging for the three of us – giving him subcutaneous fluids every few days. Which means gently holding him in one spot as I inject a fairly long needle under his skin and providing him some additional fluids to help his systems stay hydrated. Yikes. The both of us remain calm and centered and we shower him with love for a few minutes and then it’s all done and he gets a treat.
I questioned how many of these bouts I could handle. The end is inevitable, I know it and am realistic about it, but in the meantime, I’m going to do whatever I can to help him. For now, it’s working and there’s nothing else I can do but be grateful for every minute.
My Lesson: We’re given opportunities each day to put our lessons into effect. It’s nice to know about the Power of Now and it’s another thing to practice it in the hardest and most challenging moments. Take each challenge as a sign we’re ready to practice what we know.
Doing Something Special
One more important thing happened over the summer – my sister and I threw a surprise party for my mother’s 65th birthday. My dad is about 6 months older than her and of course would always reach the milestone birthdays ahead of her and we’d celebrate them in a special way. We’d always celebrate my mother’s birthdays too but with slightly less extravagance. This year, we told my dad in advance of his birthday that we’d like to do something small for him but save up a little to do something really special for mom. In 65 years she’s never had a real birthday party. It just wasn’t important to her family growing up – surviving was important. So, we made a commitment to surprise her and invite family and friends together to celebrate how special she is to all of us. It was a lot of hard work and it was completely worth it. It wasn’t comfortable for her to be the center of attention but she valued it and was so grateful. We feel we did a good thing and that feels really good
As I reflect back over the whole summer – no vacation, no travel, no adventures, but it was a healing and transformational time. A time when nurturing myself and others, learning, practice, rest and renewal was occurring within me. Now it’s just about time for harvest, literally and metaphorically, and I feel it could go very well. This is my start and I’m feeling inspired to gather the learning pieces (pick the harvest) and share them with everyone.
What’s to come? Wait and see, or better yet, take part and share a comment below – make a request for topics you’d like to read about here on the Breakthroughs Blog. I would be happy to share whatever I can with you.
Enjoy the rest of your summer and the new season ahead!