On Metabolism: the important step of traversing change that most of us ignore

Jul 7, 2020

 

 

“Healer, heal thyself.

Use the wisdom you’ve collected

grains here and there

and pass them through the fire to bake a holy bread

that will nourish you and others for a long time to come.”

 

 

In the last seven years, I have started and quit three jobs, started a business, had a baby, built a house, wrote a book, had the dynamics of multiple major relationships in my life shift, moved to a new town, experienced baffling failures in said business, and traversed a healing journey.

 

In short, everything has changed.  Many times over.

 

I’ve come to realize that this experience is not exclusive to me:  there is a collective rumbling afoot, and there are many of us that are nudging our way towards a different way of living – one that centres our authenticity, community, environmental consciousness, and meaningful work.

And, for many of us, that journey involves a lot of changes.

 

We’re picking ourselves up, falling down, rerouting, backtracking, soul searching, listening hard, trying again.

 

As I traversed the healing journey I’m on right now, it started to become clear to me that there was something not-quite-right about my metabolism.  And though I have wonderful health care providers and healers helping me to explore what might be going on in my physical body, I felt deeply compelled to ask myself how my emotional metabolism was functioning.

 

Metabolism is, at its root, the function of taking in something (it might be nourishment or not), processing it, keeping the stuff we need and getting rid of the stuff we don’t.

 

My body and my psyche had been taking in a tremendous amount of change.

Though it’s somewhat laughable now, I do distinctly remember marvelling at how well I had just been rolling with the punches.  Adapting.  Pivoting when needed.

I was in awe of my resilience.

But it reality, I had not been metabolizing the shifts that were happening in my life.  I was just surviving as each wave of change rolled over me, barely able to catch my breath in between.

 

What does metabolizing change look like?

 

It starts with naming the shift that has happened.  Really naming it.  As in:  yes, you may have a new job – but maybe what’s also changed is the direction you thought your career would take, or the loss of dear colleagues at your old job.  Maybe you’ve just had a baby, but what’s also happened is that you don’t sleep very well anymore, and your body feels like a foreign entity, and all of your priorities seem to be shifting.  How you name it doesn’t matter, but be sure that you do:  tell a loved one, write it in your journal, share it with your counsellor or coach.

Next:  slow. down.  When change is afoot and everything is up in the air, we often get really uncomfortable.  We tend to try really hard to get back to normal, or try to establish a new normal.  What we miss out on when we do that is the ability to process the changes that have happened.  Rather than rushing to the next thing, give yourself a little bit of time to be in transition.  Give yourself time to grieve what’s no longer, if you need it.  In doing so, you’ll also give yourself time to hear the whisperings of a path forward that feels authentic and meaningful to you.

Reflect. We humans are meaning-making machines.  We have a deeply-held compulsion to create a story about the things that happen in our lives:  “It was for the best;”  “It wasn’t meant to be;” “It must be a sign I’m meant to go in a different direction;” “It was time.”  Also:  this is what I learned…..this is what I’ll miss about the old way….this is what this change means to me.  Take some time to reflect on and make meaning of the shift that’s happened in your life.

 

This is where practices that support metabolism come in.

 

My favourite recently has been writing morning pages.  Morning pages originate from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and are three stream-of-consciousness pages written every morning.  While originally intended to support the unblocking of creativity, I find the opportunity to write without censorship incredibly healing.  Without fail, every day I do morning pages, something surfaces that I didn’t realize was there.  It’s a way of accessing my subconscious that really works.

Other metabolizing practices might be walking or hiking, getting lost in an art project, or anything that creates a spaciousness within you so that you can process the experience you’ve gone through and the emotions that have arisen with it.

 

“if creativity is our default processing response, our ability to heal and transform is enabled.”  

– Lucy Pearce

 

Sometimes, being witnessed is what’s needed.  When I work with women to metabolize their birth experiences, being offered a new way to reflect on the story of their experience allows them to see it in a different light, and to process it more deeply.  But because their way of telling and re-telling the story of their birth is so deeply engrained in their psyches, it takes the gentle nudging of a witness to help them see new and previously unrecognized things about their experience.

In fact, I think that’s actually the deeper benefit of slowing down and metabolizing change:  the story we tell ourselves about that change becomes richer.  It becomes more than “I got a new job” – it becomes “I had to admit to myself that my old job was making me miserable, even though it paid well,” and “these are the values that my new work aligns with” and “I have agency in my life and am able to make decisions that honour who I am and what matters most to me.”

 

In this way, it’s often in the metabolism that simple change becomes radical transformation: the kind of change that brings you closer to who you are and what matters most.

 

Next, it helps to really honour the transformation that has occurred in your life.  In cultures far away and times long ago, radical life transformations were more commonly referred to as rites of passage, and there were rituals that surrounded these times in people’s lives that naturally helped them to metabolize change.  Now, our rites of passage are marked with honouring and celebration that has lost a lot of meaning:  every wedding, baby shower and birthday party looks pretty similar, and don’t necessarily help the person being celebrated to really honour what has changed, and what it took for them to get where they are.

Consider how to honour the transformation that’s happened for you in a meaningful way.  Maybe you’ll burn your old business cards or donate your business-casual slacks, maybe you’ll plant a seed or a tree symbolizing the new start you’re making, or maybe you’ll have a divorce party or make yourself an I made it through this cake.

(the possibilities are endless:  ritual design is totally my jam)

 

I realized that my metabolism was complete when I started feeling just a little more at home in my own skin.  At home in my new home.  At ease with the changes that had occurred.  I wasn’t obsessing over and trying to process them on my morning walks or in the shower anymore; my focus became more present and forward-facing than backward-facing.  It happened so gradually that I didn’t really notice it, until one day I realized that all the things I had been writing in my morning pages, wringing my hands about and trying to make sense of just didn’t resonate anymore.  They just didn’t hold any energy for me anymore.

But, regardless, I have continued my metabolism work, because I’m realizing that every single day presents me with a lot of information, a lot of change, a lot of decision making and joy and sadness and everything in between, and metabolizing that helps me to keep up with myself, in a way.  To be more present to my inner reality even when the pace of life seems mind-bogglingly fast.  And so it is that metabolism has become a part of my inner language, a practice that I am joyfully committed to, because it helps me to notice my life, to feel more agency and less like I’m getting dragged around by the hair from one thing to the next.  It helps me make meaning of challenges and celebrate triumphs, rather than merely overcoming or moving on to the next thing.  And when I slow down and metabolize my life, it helps me to look within to find the wisdom that is already thereif only I would give it the opportunity to surface.

 

Being witnessed can be a powerful experience when you’re metabolizing change.

 

I can help.

 

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