Beginnings

tree blossomAfter four years of wonderful work within a large healthcare agency, I’ve been feeling called to step out from the safety of a big organization and explore having more power over my voice, my time and my energy. Ever since I became so incredibly lucky enough to get my heart broken wide open over 10 years ago, what I have loved most to do is to work with others to  make things better, so I hope to keep doing that.

I’m not exactly clear where this new path is going and I’m giving it time to unfold. It’s a bit awkward when someone asks what I’ll be doing next and I have to struggle to find an answer; I’m ok with that. But the practicalities of the everyday world force me to put words around ideas.

For example, moments ago I hit the send button and submitted the registration of a new business, a necessary step to be able to do some work I’m being asked to do. As I completed the field on the form asking for a business description using the language of industry and commerce, it started to feel like I was ruining a great detective novel by skipping straight to the end. So I split the difference and let it be playful. I do hope that should anyone ever read the form, they will accept this description of the venture:

“The business will conduct consulting and training for leaders who work with development and innovation, with a focus on developing health and social services with patients, service users, their families and their advocates. Consulting services include project and process management, coaching and guidance, and planning and moderating conferences. Trainings will increase participants energy and ability to create positive change for society.”

To myself though, I describe it like this.

I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.

–Dawna Markova

It may not be good enough for a form, but it’s good enough for me. If either description sounds appealing, let me know and maybe we can find something fun and useful to do together.

Spending some time at the Threshold

When my husband and I moved our family from Boston to Stockholm last week, we decided to kick the whole she-bang up a notch by getting ourselves to Europe by boat on the Queen Mary 2. A week-long break between the stress of saying good-bye and hello appealed to us both. As the granddaughter of immigrants who had made their way to Ellis Island decades ago by sea, there was the romantic symmetry of returning to Europe on a boat for me as well.

oceanMostly though, I looked forward to experiencing the passage of seven days of trans-Atlantic travel, allowing my body to really feel the geographic scope of the experience, allowing it to catch up to the emotional and spiritual journey that my heart and head already knew I was making.

During the decluttering and packing frenzy leading up to “Crossing 2013,” a friend and family member pointed out that the boat ride was the missing element to make our move a true rite of passage.

According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica in the ship’s library (satellite wi-fi being thankfully out of our budget here on the North Atlantic) rites of passage are “ceremonial events, existing in all historically known societies, that mark the passage from one social or religious status to another.”

Weddings, funerals, coming of age ceremonies, graduations – all are rites of passage designed to provide a productive outlet for the stress caused by major life changes. EB went on to say that folklorists and anthropologists break down rites of passage into three phases:

  1. the preliminal or separation phase,
  2. the liminal or transition phase, and
  3. the postliminal or reincorporation phase.

In other words, during this event one is before the threshold, at the threshold, and past the threshold. Anyone who has been on an odyssey knows how significant a threshold is, an invitation and a call to change.  Once crossed, there’s no turning back.

Apparently, all that decluttering I was doing back in Boston was the preliminal phase. In this stage, anthropologists note that we cut ties, we give things away, we fast, we mutilate our bodies with a good tattoo, piercing or even a good head shaving, as Britney Spears and the Army know full well. Getting rid of about 90% of my worldly possessions seemed to do the trick just fine, inducing a mental state probably  similar to an intense fast or mind-altering substance.

Then comes the limbo, the phase I have been in for the last 2000 or so nautical miles, literally and figuratively. This is the solitary walk in the woods, the 40 days in the desert, the vision quest. It’s the confinement before the birth, the hours during which the bride must remain hidden from her soon-to-be groom. It’s invisibility, it’s in between, it’s the period when the caterpillar becomes cellular goop  inside the chrysalis before reorganizing itself into a butterfly. In my case, that means being in between continents, in between jobs, in between communities, in between daily grinds and languages. There is no way to find solid footing here, no Facebook updates, texts or tweets in which to create a narrative to this truly plotless period of floating.

So here I am, in the doorway at the threshold. By the time you read this I’ll have taken the leap into the reincorporation stage, becoming reimbodied in my new role as just-off-the-boat immigrant, ignorant outsider, new hire, new neighbor, novice, beginner, a veritable tabula rasa.

But until then, there are waves to look at and miles to cross. Time to reflect and take in the physical and metaphysical significance of my adventure, to be freaked out by it and then to toast it with a glass of champagne. To all my fellow and future sojourners, seekers and pilgrims at the threshold, I raise my glass—cheers!

 “Come, come, whoever you are, wanderers, worshipers, lovers of leaving, ours is no caravan of despair, come, yet again, come!”

— Rumi