2017: Adventures in Reinvention

Here’s the thing about reinvention — it’s a pain in the ass. No, really, it takes a lot of work, focus and exploration.

People love throwing around the word “reinvention” as in: After going through months/years of cancer hell and not recognizing the image in the mirror, I’m going to reinvent myself. I’ll make a whole new me that’s far more suitable and a lot more fun than the pile of ashes that presently is. I shall rise like a phoenix from said ashes and fly away in glorious freedom. Such will be the new me.

You can see where that’s a lot of expectation. In my version, you do rise from the ashes, but you don’t necessarily fly away, inspiring awe as you flap your enormous wingspan while riding the wind. It’s more like rising from the sludge and gook, catching your breath, and stepping forward, albeit with a limp. That limp doesn’t have the majesty of the phoenix, but it’s beautiful in its own way because it tells your story. You may feel daunted by the myth of the phoenix as though such success and beauty are unattainable. A limp, however. Now that’s something. That’s something we can all aspire towards and more easily attain.

So why do it?

If it’s a pain whose only assurance is hobbling with a limp, why bother?

Simply put, it beats wallowing in the gook. What worked before doesn’t fit with who we are now. As much as we’d like to recover from whatever ails us and go back to what was, what was may no longer exist.

Observations About Reinvention

  • Reinvention means change, which most people resist.
  • Even happy changes come with some degree of stress and effort.
  • Even when we know what we want, often we don’t know how or where to start. What we see is our lack of resources to make things happen whether those resources be money, energy, health, or assistance from others.
  • Sometimes a hand reaches out to lift us from our darkness, but we become afraid because change is scary. At least our misery is familiar and comfortable. We can become habituated to misery because that’s what humans do. They adapt. It seems one way or the other, we can’t avoid adaptation. Isn’t it best to adapt to something better?
  • Everything is a trade-off and we don’t know the outcome of our changes. Our present misery is not only dependable, but probably not 100% awful. There’s always something we like about our current setup and it might be that something will not follow us into the realm of reinvention. We may have to say goodbye to something good in order to go for the perceived greater good, which is not guaranteed to be so great or good. What if there are regrets and we can’t go back?
  • We often need help to make big changes, but sometimes a hand reaches out like a lifesaver. You may question whether the time is right. Consider that extended hand or open door a signal that it’s time. You may choose to reject the change, but if you’re considering it, it’s important to be alert to green lights because like all green lights, they eventually turn red if you don’t take advantage of them when they occur. It may not be right for you, but often it’s just fear that keeps us from moving into the unknown. It’s sad to regret a missed opportunity while seated in the same stagnant place. In the words of Charles Bukowski,

Be on the watch. The gods will offer you chances. Know them. Take them.

–The Laughing Heart by Charles Bukowski

2017: My Year of Reinvention

Reinvention can take many forms and certainly doesn’t require a major move or other drastic measures, unless that’s what you need. For most people, it can happen right where they are with little adjustments. For me, it meant an enormous change. After living in California the last 40 years, last April I moved to the island of Kauai in Hawaii.

When my cancer treatment ended in 2011, people assured me I would get my old self back in time. While some things improved, I never returned to the old me. I won’t rehash everything, but if anyone needs more background into my story, you can check out the links at the bottom of this post. Basically, after years of struggle, I finally realized there was no getting back the old me. She doesn’t exist anymore. Who I am now isn’t a good fit for the old mold.

I had plenty of naysayers, people who discouraged me from making such a radical move for their own reasons, reasons that would apply to them if they were contemplating the same move. The people who knew me best encouraged and supported me in my choice.

The funny thing about happy changes is they often happen so seamlessly, you forget you’ve turned a corner. The street back there dims in your memory as it blurs into your past.

Recently I came across a list I’d made a year ago when I had contemplated the pros and cons of moving to Hawaii. Whenever I have major decisions to make and I’m torn between two, I make such a list. This list had eight entries equally on both sides, but the entries under the Pros were far more important to me. Ironically, on this side of the move, I noticed six of the eight Cons were not even a thing. They were just my fears that never came to fruition, but all of the eight things in the Pro column had come to pass.

While living on an island took some getting used to for this former urban girl, in reality, it’s who I am now. Physically, I still have my good and bad days, but my new environment is far more accommodating to “one who walks with a limp.”

Hawaii tree

Christmas Eve, Kalapaki Beach. Santa dons a Hawaiian shirt and traded in the sleigh for a boat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My little grandson, now four months old, has opened my heart in a new way, filling it with a spark that had long been dim.

David (3 weeks) and me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My life is by no means exciting or glamorous. I live a simple, peaceful life. In some ways I’ve checked out, especially politically. Last year’s election season took a lot out of me and I don’t have it in me anymore. It’s not that I don’t care, but I’ve had to step back. I relate to John Lennon’s “Watching the Wheels.”

No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go.

–John Lennon

A happy, healthy 2018 to all.

Love and peace,

Eileen

Watching the Wheels by John Lennon

Back Story:  Hawaii Move, Part I, and Hawaii Move, Part II, Beyond Survival

Comments

  1. Lot of wisdom here, Eileen. Hard-won, I’ve no doubt. I’m glad the pros outweigh the cons. Happy New You. <3

  2. Preach it, girl!

  3. GREAT article Eileen! This morning I am sitting in Santa Fe. I have my moments of freaking out, but I’m moving everything down here this month.

    And I especially appreciate the perfectly appropriate music!

    Happy New Year! Put Santa Fe on your list of places to visit!

    • Pat, knowing your journey, both literal and metaphorical, I can see why this post resonates with you. We’ve been on different but similar paths. I will put Santa Fe on my list of places to visit. Love the geography and its new inhabitant!

  4. Omigosh, that is the cutest baby ever! I just want to kiss those cheeks. I’m so happy you opted for the move and that you get to enjoy him during his babyhood and beyond.

    Have a very Happy New Year, my friend.

  5. Happy new year in the new land with that beautiful new baby and new trees, and new peace. I love you!

  6. I enjoyed reading about your transition. Thanks for writing about your life and sharing wisdom gleamed along the way. You are an inspiration!

    Donna

  7. A wonderful post and very inspiring, Eileen. I wish to take more chances, more risks, but it has been difficult for me. I admire and respect what you’ve done for yourself. It does take a lot of effort to make changes, and yes, many are afraid of it.Like my old boss used to say, “the only person who likes changes is a baby with a dirty diaper” (something like that, haha!). I agree it is all worth it. The hardest part is to initiate it. I am going through this right now and I am scared. I’ll take one day at a time and hope for the best outcome for all of us. Congratulations again for your new life and your beautiful grandson. He is so precious! Hugs my friend. And stay well. xo

    • Rebecca, if it’s of any encouragement, my big change happened only after years of frustration and struggle. For much of that, I didn’t even see the light at the end of the tunnel. Things will happen for you because you’re seeking to make them happen, despite your fears. You’ll know when the time is right. xo

  8. nancyspoint says:

    Hi Eileen,
    Gosh, there’s a lot of truth and learned wisdom tucked in this one. I am so glad you made the big move and more importantly, that you are happy you did. Wishing you and your dear ones a wonderful new year. I have a feeling there will be lots of cuddle time with that beautiful grandson. Looking forward to reading more of whatever you write about – limping included. xo

  9. Eileen,

    This is a fantastic, insightful post. First of all, your grandson is beautiful.

    I like your analogy of “walking with a limp.” I find that this is so true for me, and it seems to be true for many people out there. Like you, I am no longer the same person since cancer. In many ways, my life is better, and in many ways it is worse.

    Adapting to change is difficult for so many people, including me. Before cancer I embraced change. Now I’m much more tentative.

    Thank you for your wise post.

    • Beth, despite the limp so many of us share, you exemplify what I talked about in my post. After the cancer fallout, you also reinvented your life in a beautiful way.

  10. I wonder if you know just how much you have inspired others to take a leap of faith and reinvent themselves! Wishing you good health, happiness, and contentment in your new life xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    • Marie, I really do hope you’re right. I’d like to think my experiences have inspired others who need a change but don’t know how to begin. xoxo

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