Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Emergence - The Chrysalis Factor

Several blog-posts back, I talked about making changes. I wrote about taking a trip with a friend of mine and how that trip turned into the epiphany of my adulthood. Although that trip was an eye-opening experience, there was a catalyst behind my taking that step.

I was inspired to do something with my life by my hero, Buckminster Fuller.

At the age of 32, bankrupt and jobless, having never accomplished a useful thing in his life, he was living in squalor in cold and windy Chicago. His daughter had died of pneumonia and he felt responsible because he was unable to provide better living conditions. He began to drink heavily and eventually decided to take his own life. But standing on the frigid shores of Lake Michigan, ready to take the plunge, he had a sudden epiphany. Before he would take his life, he would try "an experiment, to discover if a single individual could actually change the world and benefit humanity."

With that decision, Buckminster Fuller set out on the long journey of change. He soon found that he could not change anyone else, and it was even hard to change “things’ but he could change himself. Everything he accomplished from that point forward was due to his own personal evolution. He studied and became an architect and engineer who invented the geodesic dome, just one of dozens of technological advances for which he was responsible. He also held more than 50 patents, published many books and lectured all over the world.

About the time I turned 40, I found myself at a point in life where I was stagnant and questioning. I worked a 40-hour week, came home and vegetated. I ate to ease my boredom, my pain, to commiserate and to celebrate. I had always been heavy, but after a while, I could not deny that I had become obese. I wasn’t living my life anymore. I was just existing. Then I saw a documentary on Buckminster Fuller. Curious about the man, I began to research his life. I was so inspired by the way he made a completely useful life out of a completely wasted one, that I decided I could, and should, try to do the same. So first, I took a trip.

Then I began my real journey, my personal evolution, my emergence from the cocoon of non-existence. I call it the chrysalis factor. Chrysalis is the stage of evolution when an insect, a moth, or butterfly becomes the creature it was meant to be.

In order to become the creature I was meant to be, I had to approach changing my life on several fronts simultaneously. First there were the health and weight issues, then the reclusivity problem and finally the lack of change and growth…stagnation. All of these problems were intertwined.

I began by addressing my health and weight issues: diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. These are not things that are easily or instantly fixed; therefore, I wrote out a plan for eating that I thought I could live with over the long-term. I implemented the plan and began a slow and steady reduction in weight as I turned my attention toward the other problems.

Reclusiveness was my next problem. I was horribly uncomfortable in social situations. Up to that point I had restricted my forays into the outside world to those I deemed absolutely necessary…work, groceries, the bank and church. Slowly I began to attend other types of functions. This became easier as I lost weight and became more comfortable with myself. Still it took tremendous conscious effort on my part, to force myself out among people. As a writer, reclusiveness is almost a requirement of the trade. And I found myself writing more and more. To achieve balance between being social and being a recluse, I spent a measured amount of time each day strictly for writing.

The third issue was the lack of change and need for growth. In order to make strides in this area, I had to push myself to try new and different things. I began to talk to people on line and expanded my world exponentially by doing so. I met hundreds of people I would otherwise never have had the opportunity to meet. One such person was a publisher. He liked my writing style asked me if I thought I could write a book on women and the internet. I set aside the writing projects I was working on and wrote the book, which he subsequently published. I flew to Seattle for the launch of the book (a woman who had not been out of Ohio in 30 years.)

Then I found myself launching a professional singing career. I went from hiding behind the entire choir at church to being a solo vocalist in a musical duo. Suddenly I was out there at center stage, singing my heart out and not worrying about being the largest person in the room. Again, performing became easier to do as the weight disappeared, because I was less self-conscious and because I had more breath behind the voice.

I’ve come a long way in the intervening years, and I have fallen in love with change and my own personal evolution. Thank you Buckminster Fuller!

So, what is your chrysalis factor? Are you flying about as the creature you were meant to become, or are you still in the cocoon, stuck to some dead branch, buffeted by the elements and going nowhere?