About three months ago, I got the feeling I was completing a cycle.
That something is finishing within me, that something is shifting, that I’m about to emerge into something new.
I realized that it was seven years ago that I quit teaching and embarked on a new life. I also realized that I’ve read about seven-year cycles, that some say seven-year cycles run throughout our lives.
When I did the math, it matched up. I completed my seventh seven-year cycle during the middle of my last year as a high school classroom teacher and had already made the decision to leave teaching. I turned 49 and was beginning a new way of thinking and of seeing the world.
Now, seven years later, I’m 56 – completing one cycle and beginning a new one.
For these three months after my realization, I’ve been pondering the theme of these last seven years.
What has been the predominate pattern I’ve experienced?
What came to me was that these past seven years have brought me a lot of failure and fear.
When you read the words “failure” and “fear,” don’t assume that I’ve hated these past seven years or haven’t found them fruitful.
Because they’ve been the seven years of the most soul growth of my entire life. I’ve said in this blog before that I’ve learned more in the last few years than the rest of my life put together.
What I’ve realized is that I don’t experience a lot of soul growth if things are rocking along smoothly.
If I’m not pushed into new areas, I can become complacent, passive, satisfied (in the worst sense of the word) – and I lose my appreciation for the gifts that this life offers.
This past seven-year cycle has pushed me in ways that I never would have chosen – but in ways that have forced me to evaluate myself with a critical eye, to see where my weaknesses are, to see where I must grow if I’m to become the soul I’m meant to become, to become the person I was born to be.
And to do that, I needed to experience failure and some pretty severe fear.
I had to fall.
A breast cancer diagnosis and a three-pronged treatment journey (of chemo, surgery, radiation) were a part of it. That brought me a lot of the fear. I had to confront my fear of illness and dependency on others – and my fear of death.
And along with the fear that cancer brought me, there was also failure.
It seems that nothing I’ve tried professionally has worked during these past seven years. I’ve tried two businesses with partners, and neither one worked out for me. I’ve tried different ways to make money – and have been an abject failure in each.
These have been hard lessons, particularly hard because in the first part of my life I had many successes. I did well in high school, graduating third in my class. I was selected to play on the first state all star girls basketball team.
I did well in college. I graduated magna cum laude. I applied to one law school – and got in.
And when I was miserable practicing law, I switched to teaching, where (in the first 20 years) I was happy and successful. In my first year as an assistant basketball coach, our team won the state championship. And in my second year as head softball coach, our team won the state championship. And our softball teams won two more state championships.
Yes, I had a good work ethic, but success just seemed to fall into my lap.
And when I decided to quit teaching, I really thought that good things would come to me. After all, they always had.
But that’s not what happened.
I tried a project in education. Nothing lined up. I tried starting a business with a friend. It didn’t go very well.
And then I got a breast cancer diagnosis.
Through all of these difficulties, I had to take a hard look at myself, to see where I was flawed, to feel fears that I’d run from or avoided by being busy, by being in a steady job which provided money and security.
I thought I’d made progress after the first failures and the cancer journey, but then I took a job that didn’t align with my soul. It didn’t go well, and I had to quit.
For seven years I’ve tried this and that, here and there. And have failed every time. Nothing worked out the way I hoped.
I kept thinking something would shift. I clung to the hope that something would shift. I tried to make something shift.
Something on the outside.
But the shift needed to happen on the inside.
And the only way that would happen was for me to experience failure, to have to face some of my fears.
And that’s just what I’ve been doing for these past seven years.
What have I learned?
Well, I cling less now to the hope that something will magically shift, that there is some future time when all will be perfect.
I know I won’t always be “successful.” I now see success in very different ways.
I know I can get by on – even be happy with – a lot less.
I no longer hope for a charmed life – because it’s hardship that has broken me open, gotten me in touch with my heart, helped me see my flaws and try to change them, to lessen them, to become a better person.
I’ve had to grow up. To choose maturity over childishness, growth over avoidance, open-heartedness over security.
Fear and failure have pushed me into the soul expansion I needed.
Expansion I’d never have chosen if my life had continued to rock along with a steady income and good health.
Life’s ironic like that.
What you most fear can be what brings the biggest gifts.
So this cycle of failure and fear, am I glad it’s ending?
But I don’t expect the next cycle to be rainbows and unicorns. It might be, but I don’t expect that.
I do expect opportunity for growth, to continue on the path toward wholeness.
And I have a feeling I’m going to find my way to a new incarnation.
One that has less fear, one that embraces vulnerability, one that is happier with each day’s gifts whatever they may be.
As I pass from one cycle to the next, I know that the path will be revealed little by little.
I’m more comfortable with not being able to see around the bend.
Because the view now, today, in this moment, can be pretty wonder-ful.