This is the third and last in a series of posts about the process of intentional growth. I would like to warn you that in all posts there is potentially triggering content regarding eating disorders and abusive relationships.
Have you ever looked at a mosaic close up? If you did, you probably wouldn’t know what the bigger picture was. If you allowed your eyes to traverse the scene, you might start to understand elements of the depiction. It’s not until we see the whole mosaic from a distance that we really understand it. That’s called perspective.
Life is a mosaic. No piece stands independent from the rest. The color of particular moments means little without the context of past and future.
When life’s immediacy is particularly challenging, having perspective on the whole scene can be what carries us through. How do we step back from our lives enough to see the whole picture?
Start with recognizing patterns.
I’ve seen this before. I’ve seen this set of circumstances before. What were they trying to teach then?
Things were looking up in the fall of 2014. I was training for my senior year of ski racing at Dartmouth, and looking at continuing my athletic career with a pro team after school. I was living with two of my best friends. I was in a relatively stable period of eating, and I was putting some distance between myself and an emotionally and sexually abusive relationship.
Things didn’t pan out. My friend group, including prospects for a new (and, I hoped, healthier) romantic relationship, fell apart in a fiery mess of jealousy and betrayal. I became extremely ill, missed my entire race season, and then faced an identity crisis about whether or not I wanted to keep ski racing at all. I relapsed into my worst-ever period of restrictive eating, starving myself until I lost consciousness, enduring stabbing pains throughout my chest that may well have been signals of a heart under intense strain.
In times of difficulty, it is natural to want to return to the way things were. Return to normal. In my recovery from that two year period of destruction, I took every opportunity I had to return to normal. After the fact, I was proud of myself for having come out of that situation more or less the same person I had been going into it, with a slightly healthier relationship with my sport. Looking back now, I think my problem was that I came out the same person.
There is so much growth and radical change that can happen if we embrace whatever unknown thing is knocking. The difficulties in my relationships with both other people and my own body were there to nudge me into something better. They were an opportunity for me to change, to upgrade, to grow, and I didn’t take full advantage of it. By and large, I missed the chance. What happens in this case? Do we get another shot?
Amazingly, when I look back on my life I realize that this is at least the third time I’ve come through nearly this exact set of circumstances. I experienced the same thing as a high school cross country runner, in a series of physical and mental setbacks that permanently altered the way I saw my athletic identity, and caused irreparable rifts between my teammates and myself. At the time, I saw this as nothing but a painful set of circumstances.
The first two times around, I didn’t know what I stood to learn, and I missed it. I missed the opportunity for growth and it passed me by and I stayed in my old energy pattern for another four years each time.
This time, I recognized the opportunity. This time, I’m taking it. This is the mosaic of my spiritual upgrade.
The circumstantial challenges I’ve faced this year have been more severe and widespread than those of 2014 or 2009. The opportunity for growth and change is, I believe, proportionally greater.
The challenges are far from over, but I hope that the shocking and violent changes of this particular period are mostly done. It is true that I have worked through serious and deeply ingrained traumas, mainly regarding my intimate and romantic history. All types of relationships have been subject to this upgrade. I permanently ended one abusive relationship, and demanded that serious changes be made to another. I loved on a deeper level than I had ever done previously.
On the other hand, the work continues. My ski career is extremely uncertain right now, but I have the tools I gained through my previous Athletic Identity Crisis and I will use them as I face whatever changes are in store for me. I am continuing to learn how to balance my nomadic nature with the part of me that longs for the connection to place that I have felt in the past. The prospect of forming new relationships just about anywhere is almost prohibitively daunting, but time will help me learn to love and trust again.
When I left Oregon I needed somewhere to go to transition out of the period of loss and suffering, and embrace the positive side of this period of change. I needed a safe place to go, where I could be as quiet and scared and vulnerable as I needed to be.
As I’ve been hinting for a couple months, I am not in Montana, where I intended to go after leaving Bend. After my Europe plans fell through, I made a split-second decision to return to the only place that still felt remotely like home.
So where the heck is this nomad?! If you haven’t already guessed…
I came back to Moosilauke.
I came back to the only place that still feels like home, despite the many changes that have occurred there, despite the pain and loss these changes caused. I returned to the place where I had known the closest relationships of my life, despite the fact that many of them, along with most other of my close relationships, have ended or suffered permanent changes. I embraced the quiet and solitude of New Hampshire mountain life while I tried to recover mentally and physically.
In a way, it’s hard to be in a place that knew me so well in my old life. I knew this place pretty well in its old life too, and it has changed a lot in the intervening time.
As I recover from OTS, trips up the mountain have been slow and infrequent, whereas I’m used to being able to run on the mountain every day. Perhaps patience is one of the many things I am gaining through this process.
As I continue to move forward, I intend to do it with as much compassion and empathy as I can muster. For myself and for others. We all should have the chance to upgrade spiritually, shed our old selves. It shouldn’t always have to be this painful.
On the other hand, just because relationships were lost doesn’t mean something constructive didn’t happen. By far the worst part of all of this has been the gnawing fear that others touched by my spiritual tsunami suffered but didn’t grow as we encountered these challenges together. If this is the case, then I failed these people I loved.
To everyone and every place and every part of my identity I’ve said goodbye to this year, I am grateful for what these experiences are helping me create. My sincerest hope is that everyone who suffered with me this year is taking this opportunity to shed whatever part of yourself needs to go, and welcome in what wants to shine through. I wish I could have been a part of that process in a way that didn’t hurt so much.
To every person and every place: I hope I’ll see you on this side of things.
Think you’re ready for an energy upgrade? Old life systems not working anymore? I might be able to guide you. As always, if you enjoyed this, considering joining my email list or sharing with a friend.