Origami folds are deliberate and precise. Unfolding is neither—at least not as far as I can tell.
You see, I’ve been unfolding ever so slowly for more than a year, and I’m not a patient person.
I’d like to think I’ve been graceful about it, the way a flower slowly opens to finally reveal its colorful self. In reality, my unfolding has looked—and felt—a lot more like a crumpled wad of paper slowly expanding in the bottom of a waste can.
We’ve all experienced change, transition and adversity—those periods in life that force us into spiritual growth spurts akin to puberty. At first, we fight it, attempting to cling to familiarity like the beloved security blanket we had as a kid. But change always wins, pushing us to acknowledge and accept the situation.
Unfolding is what happens when we sit in our personal muck long enough to learn and grow from it.
My unfolding began about a year ago, when, exhausted by a manager, corporate crap and commuting, I quit my job. It was like taking a machete and hacking away at the invasive vines that had bound my body to the point where I no longer felt like myself.
There’s almost always something that wakes us up to the bullsh*t, driving us from our comfortable seat. For me, it was my sweet mother-in-law dying in a matter of weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It whacked me on the head sending my awareness to the surface. Suddenly, I was able to smell the bullsh*t I had been allowing myself to stand in for far too long.
These challenges—whether it is the loss of a loved one, divorce, a medical crisis or something else—propel us forward, when we’d rather remain in our safe zones.
Quitting my job felt both freeing and terrifying. Needing a way to cope with the dramatic changes, I turned to meditation. It helped me replace worry and anxiety with curiosity as I wondered what would happen next. I shifted from focusing on feeling crumpled to a feeling of expansiveness.
Of course, expansion doesn’t show up on demand like Netflix. We have to wait for it to arrive. And little by little it does, allowing us to rise up in the same way that daffodils slowly emerge as the ground thaws in spring.
The beauty in unfolding is what we discover along the way. Here’s what we gain:
That thing called self-respect. We don’t always realize how much of ourselves we’ve surrendered to the bullsh*t until we walk away. Often we stay in it so long that we can no longer smell the stench or locate our self-respect. Leaving my job was an act of self-love. It was about knowing my value. Sometimes we have to raise the white flag to take care of ourselves.
An understanding and acceptance that life is always in flux. Why do we spend so much of our time and energy resisting change? Nothing is permanent—no matter how good or bad it is. Even though I was miserable at work, I was paralyzed by the thought of leaving. I wasted years trying to dig my heels into piles of bullsh*t before finally accepting that its slippery nature made it impossible. When we feel like life is nudging us, it’s probably time to take the hint. There’s no moving forward without that first step.
A knack for finding the positive. The world opens us up to new perspectives when we pause to view from another angle. As challenging as I found it to deal with my manager, her behavior helped me realize it was time to go. Had I never worked with her, I might still be plugging away at that same unfulfilling job. Simply taking a step back can make it easier to find the nuggets.
The ability to lead with the heart. We’ve all thought I should do this or that. And when we didn’t, we felt guilty. In looking for a new job, I often saw positions that caused me to think, “I should apply for this.” Yet I didn’t. Doing so would have been repeating history by setting my sights on a job that mirrored my last one. Learning to follow our hearts instead of our should-ing heads changes everything.
The wisdom that forcing stuff causes it to break. When we force something, it tends to break, and that’s never a good idea. I could have forced myself to stay in my unhappy work situation, allowing fear to compel me to cling to it until I was completely broken. But I didn’t. We all need to learn to recognize when we’ve had enough. We never know what opportunities we might uncover by simply letting go.
We spend so much of our lives trying to reach some destination. And once we get there, we are off to the next one. We think, if I can just get through this, everything will be perfect. But it’s only when we relax and let ourselves unfold that we are able to realize that this is the beauty of life—these opportunities to expand beyond what we ever thought possible.
Life is about taking leaps and finding happiness. It’s about recognizing that, no matter how far we’ve come, there will always be room to expand, more leaps to take.
Everything in life is a choice—whether we are willing to admit it or not. We can choose to remain crumpled or allow ourselves to unfold, each day steeping in the uncertainty and expanding a tiny bit more.
Author: Beth Randall
Images: http://Steven Lilley // Flickr; Author’s own
Editors: Sarah Kolkka; Renée Picard