Rising Strong

“In order to rise from its own ashes, a Phoenix first must burn.”

― Octavia Butler

        In her book, Rising Strong, researcher Brene´ Brown explores overcoming and emerging from shame.  She asserts that an individual must navigate this journey by bravely facing personal misconceptions and by choosing to be vulnerable enough to reenter the "arena" of life.  Ultimately, Brown outlines methods to gain the resilience that allows one to thrive, despite setbacks and failures.  

          Several years ago, I took a class, led by an Episcopal priest who had been trained in Brown’s methods.  I'd hoped this experience would help me work through the emotional fallout from a job I'd recently taken.  For the first time in a 23-year teaching career, my status as an accomplished and effective educator was called into question in my workplace.  Plagued by nightmares, consumed by self-doubt, and shaken to the core, I made the decision, after two years at this post, to retire early.  I did so because I believed that I had lost the self-confidence necessary to even interview for another teaching job, let alone to tackle the task of starting over again at another school.  

The pattern for this new design, entitled "Rising Strong" may be found on Ravelry

       What I learned about Brown’s methods helped me a great deal, but, at the time I studied her techniques, my eldest son, Jonathan, was struggling with substance abuse and addiction.  It was a gargantuan task to wrestle my own demons, while simultaneously coping with his illness and caring for my mother, who suffered from dementia.  During the same period, my husband, when not ministering to his mother's needs himself, managed her caregivers, as she suffered from Alzheimer's disease, along with a host of other physical ailments.  My younger son, too, didn’t fare well at navigating life during this season—it was difficult for him not to be angry and withdrawn.  

          It is now a little over two years since Jonathan's death from overdose at age 20, as well as the loss of my mother and mother-in-law within the 10 months following this event.  I will never be the same.  Current Facebook photos--revealing a much older-looking and heavier woman--attest to the external ravages of trauma.  The inward consequences, though, while not always manifested, are more monumental and are not easily understood by others who have not trod a similar path.  

          Recently, though, after a rather impetuous move to the mountains of North Carolina last year and a period before this move when I threw myself into so many activities I had little time or attention for healing, I am beginning to sense a shift in my outlook.  

          While I will never move on to a place beyond longing for my lost son, despite many setbacks, negativity releases its iron grip on me a little bit with each passing day.  In addition, I have learned that if I can impassively note the absurdity of the situation that led to my decision to cut short my career in education, rather than questioning and reliving this time in my past, I may gain a new peace in my consciousness and learn to live in the present.    

          As another season passes and as I continue to explore ways to hush the dark voices that have been my companions for so long, and, as I attempt to explore the deep reasons for the corrupting emotions of fear, shame, anger, and regret, there are more and more times when rising strong, albeit altered, seems possible.  

          The hat pictured here is an homage to overcoming adversity.  The flames represent the source of the ashes from which a phoenix rises, reborn with strength and beauty, each time ready to face the challenges of a new life.   



  1. Wow.... I knew the headlines, but I didn't know the whole (very well written) story. I know Cyndi and I will visit soon after my cancer treatment is done. I don't know if we'll talk about anything in depth, or just know it's there. Either way, I'm looking forward to seeing you again soon.


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