“If you do that once you’ll spend the rest of your life figuring out how to make that happen every year,” said a friend. I was explaining that I was escaping for the summer with the kids to a shack near the beach on Cape Cod. Another woman we both knew had done something similar years before. My friend shared that this decision had altered that woman’s course from then on. My transition had just started. “Let’s face it,” I reasoned out loud, “no one is looking for me for the first time in decades.” Why not?…I said trying to convince myself.
At the time I was really struggling…under the radar screen of many I might add. Friends offered me their good wishes. Ice cream and sand pails. What could be better?
What they missed was my internal struggle. I couldn’t quite reconcile a sabbatical pace with my pivot away from a ‘full tilt’ pace. This full tilt existence was how I defined myself. It was a pace for which I had been rewarded countless times over more than twenty years. Without it I was racked with guilt and shame that I struggled to understand. It seemed impossible – could it be that not working made me feel guilty?
As I packed for our adventure I wondered if I could I bear my sabbatical’s silence? Silence.
Silence is a funny word. For me it doesn’t mean a moment devoid of noise…what with drum sets and sibling rivalry there is rarely a waking moment in our house without sound. Silence is something more, particularly in transition.
“Silence. That’s the gift I’d offer,” shared a former executive who participated in the Research Jam. We were talking about creating a gift bag for women just beginning transition.
This interviewee shared a question that she’d grappled with early on in her transition, “Who am I if I’m not me?”
For her silence served as a catalyst for answering that question. She was quick to add that anxiety was a constant as she worked through her answer. From her perspective anxiety was a given when traversing such terrain.
After four years in transition I believe that silence is a condition that allows us to listen. To ourselves. Carefully. Without Judgement. It is real work. Non-linear. Messy. Irreplaceable.
That first summer I embarked on the Summer Book Reviews, a weekly assessment of books related to transition. A few authors from that first season offered me a perspective on that sabbatical pace I so feared:
- In Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s A Gift from the Sea, written in 1955, she shared “Not knowing how to feed the spirit we try to muffle its demands in distractions.” (Gift pg 52)
- Eleanor Roosevelt, penned “It’s Up To The Women,” in 1933, “we should be able to realize that making up our minds as to what gives us the greatest amount of pleasure and then working for it, is one of the (great) satisfactions of life. Drifting along is too easy to do.” (It’s up to the Women, pg 9);
This July 4th weekend I plan to smile as I walk by women who may be taking a moment for themselves on the beach amidst the chaos that often characterizes our existence. I’ll hope that each has the courage to listen to herself and not tamp down her own unique voice.
I also plan to celebrate a moment over the progress that I’ve made since I met silence for the first time in transition. It has taught me a tremendous amount. To reach. To dignify what I hear when I listen. And to hope that the energy I derive from this pursuit will allow me to give that much more to those for whom I care.
Warmest wishes for a happy 4th and a few moments of silence….
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