“There is always hope your life can change because you can always learn new things.” -Virginia Satir
Evolution is sometimes revolution, not in the sense of anarchy, but in the completion of a circle, the way the earth revolves around the sun or how it spins about its axis. Here, it has to do with learning, with coming full circle to that place we recognize because we have been there once before, only this time, round, we are different because of what we have learned on the excursion. Synonyms for evolve are progress, develop, advance, and grow.
I choose this word, evolve, over transform, or transformation, which connotes a more sudden and radical alteration, a metamorphosis, the caterpillar and the butterfly, an emerging from the chrysalis moment.
Either would do for what I am trying to explain here, but as I look back over my life, it seems there have been many more evolutions than transformations which in my case usually meant a more liberal application of cosmetics, a dressier dress, new hair, and a rather predictable return to my untransformed self at midnight.
Wow, lady. You are OLD.
I am looking back from a perspective of a seventh decade. As these words move onto my computer screen, I am stunned. Wow, lady. You are OLD. But truthfully, that is the fun of this blog, a relished opportunity to step out of life’s slipstream, and reflect on the journey, on the evolutions that have landed me here. Being OLD brings opportunity.
We are not insentient, but thinking, learning participants in life. This innate compulsion to learn is what propels my writing.
I ask you to return to the late 80s. I was deep into my practice of Obstetrics and Gynecology but unhappy and discontent, not unlike that good old cow who kept eying the neighbor’s greener pasture. I was looking around for something else to do when I had the idea of becoming a family therapist. This led me to Virginia Satir, an internationally renowned family therapist so insightful and daring she literally worked miracles. I heard she was coming to Tucson and signed up for her workshop.
I watched enthralled as she took a family of four frozen in dysfunctional communication and over a three hour period, warmed them until they thawed, and taught them how to be genuine and honest with each other. There were tears, hugs, and great relief as these people were able to be who they were and find acceptance. It was a powerful demonstration.
Virginia Satir who was nearing 70, as I am, and was six feet tall, as I am not, shared her wisdom. One of the things she said resonated profoundly with what I believed. She said, “There is always hope your life can change because you can always learn new things.” Depressed, sad, frustrated, I was looking for change.
I was not a good family therapist. There was probably too much surgeon in me by then. If there is a problem, identify it and cut it out. Be done with it. Therapy is a timeline, perhaps of years. I was seeing a couple when, talking to each individually, I learned both had been praying one of them would die to end the marriage. “Why are you still married?” I asked the first time I saw them together.
A week later, they had filed for divorce. Chalk one up for Dr. Allen.
Implied in Virginia Satir’s statement, is the ability to make a difference for yourself. Sometimes it may mean rethinking something, often those old messages about self-worth we carry with us from childhood. It means self-talk, self-encouragement and above all, believing you are worth whatever effort it takes to change.
I celebrate that kind of evolution that is chosen, directed and accomplished. Too often we fail to look back at where we have been and acknowledge the distance we have traveled. I have hiked the Grand Canyon, down the South Kaibab Trail, and the next day, up the Bright Angel Trail. Since I weighed over 200 pounds, you must realize I didn’t set any time records but I had prepared by exercising and hiking shorter distances at home. It was a huge effort with breath-taking rewards. Once of them was standing at the top of the Bright Angel Trail and looking back. True, there were switch backs and steep, interminable climbs, but there was also the magnificence of the canyon, and I had been there. And in a grand gesture of heavenly magnanimity, I was given a rainbow.