The Beginning of the Ending.
Parents breathe a sigh of relief and rejoice at their newborns’ first cry. Those silent few seconds after birth are the quintessential liminal experience. The cry marks the start of an independent life and is celebrated like no other birthday. Seldom again does crying bring sheer delight.
My MEA diploma is now framed, and I’m an imposter. The incredible 28 Degrees cohort graduated with flying ego-checked joy, full of wisdom and newfound peace, purpose and resolve. But for me, framing that diploma represented an aspirational act rather than a deserved milestone.
I had planned to write a post about insights I experienced during the 28 Degrees week this past November. As Hillary Clinton would have said, “I’m Michelle Paris and I have something to say.” I wrote that post. I believed I had gained some wisdom and curiosity, and was fully ready to move forward with my newfound knowledge. During the editing phase, I realized that I had written a nice post, but it didn’t represent my journey.. Sure, it provided a perspective that perhaps was novel, but it was an academic exercise, not an authentic meaningful piece of work worthy of electronic print.
Instead, I realize that those miraculous five days in Baja were just the beginning of an ending. “The Anatomy of A Transition,” an e-book by Jeff Hamaoui and Kari Henley, which can be found in the essays on the MEA alumni website, is particularly poignant. They write about the concept of the end, being the beginning of a transition, followed by a messy middle, and then new beginnings.
I realize that I have not ritualized an ending. Yes I sold a business, closed another, and believed that now I could move forward and pursue a new shiny objective. My time at MEA was spent actively listening, punctuated by internal, and sometimes external arguing about the virtues of not having purpose, not being of service to others, and wanting to pursue what my whole life I pejoratively described as being lazy. I processed my ‘learning’ in the same way I’ve evaluated entrepreneurial opportunities; using the frontal lobe and prefrontal cortex as my guide (rational, logical thought, reason and planning). The ugly amygdala was kept at bay; only rearing a portion of its head, literally in my brain, later.
I missed an actual ending. Selling a business or retiring, is not really an ending. It’s not enough to just have sold a business, for that represents merely a task. The bittersweet ending of what was known and the fear and thrill of what is not, must first converge and stew a bit.
Since MEA, while my compadres happily continue to find connection and communication, I feel like a bit of an outsider and find myself acutely aware of my shortcomings and deficits. This new process of recognizing the myriad of things that are wrong with me, is not pleasant. So many in my cohort are experiencing gleeful insight and curiosity, and I am experiencing uncomfortable curiosity about my sadness. Sure, I found new ways to communicate, and have taken direct lessons from the week, but what is unexpected is my own feelings of inadequacy. This must be the liminal phase.
Like a good Protestant, which I’m not, because I’m Jewish, I have tied my self-worth to my productivity. Since I was very productive, often working 16 to 18 hours a day, I did not schedule time to reflect, and, in fact, had judgment about the enormous waste of time that I believed self-reflection represented. Now, instead of basking in my accomplishments, and looking for the next point of purpose, I am distracting myself by remodeling a fireplace while wondering why the lack of gainful productivity has led to the indisputable recognition of my own faults. And, more significantly I’m stunned by the negative messages I repeat to myself. Jeff and Kari write that “change is situational and transitions are psychological.” I am a change expert, yet a transitional neophyte.
My time at MEA punctuated the start of my ending of the life I knew before MEA. I am in the messy middle, which includes tears, and I’m working on once again being grateful and glad for tears. Like with the newborn, one ending requires a brief pause before the next beginning.
Michelle is a medical practice serial entrepreneur who teaches continuing education mostly in dive medicine so she can travel to great scuba spots. In her spare time, she lectures to the heritage society on the greening of historic homes and builds green houses. She has two poodles, two parakeets, two children, and dances Tango—which also requires two.