Thriving Women: Blooming...
Posted on May 24, 2008 at 11:10 a.m.
Dearest Thriving Women,
When my children were little, a beloved friend gave them a book called Leo the Late Bloomer. It is a story about a lion family with a young cub who just wasn’t doing what all the other lion cubs were doing. He could not run fast, catch a ball, sing on tune or skip. His father was VERY worried, but his mother would just smile and pat her husband saying, “Don’t worry, Leo will bloom when he is ready.” Father lion would just growl and walk away grumbling “What’s it going to take to get this kid to bloom??!!” As time went on, numbers and words were hard for Leo, he was still clumsy and slow, and his father grew more and more distraught and upset. Again and again, Mother lion would patiently smile and repeat, “Leo will bloom, I just know it.” Time went on and just when it seemed that Leo was never going to put the pieces together, he woke up one morning and he could skip! He could run! He could read and do his multiplication tables by heart! He could throw a ball and recite poetry….he could sing on tune at the top of his lungs! In short, LEO BLOOMED!!!
There is a wonderful phrase in therapy called equifinality. The way that I choose to define this term is that there are a million different paths that all lead to the same end point. Not one of them is more correct than another; rather, each lends its own unique perspective and experience along the way. There is another key phrase that tells us to “trust the process”. My own therapist used this with me countless times when I was desperate for an outcome, or feeling completely stuck. There are times when there is silent, unconscious, mysterious and internal processing going on within us. Imagine the tulip bulb closed up tight in the frozen dead of winter getting ready for its journey towards blossoming in the spring sun (or snow). We simply trust that, indeed, there will be tulips at the right time and in the right place.
Last week, I had the privilege of spending an evening with a close circle of friends who had gathered to lend celebration and support to the daughter of a beloved friend who is about to leave her home in Colorado and go off to college far away. This is a scenario that is going on in many homes…..a poignant and life changing moment for each person. In the case of our friend’s daughter, the evening held a special magic of its own. As we were chatting and eating, my mind wandered back to the first years that I met her mom at the athletic club where I also work out. This woman was a delight to get to know……straightforward, funny, energetic, down-to-earth and absolutely no BS about her! She began joining a group of us for our Saturday morning coffee-after-workout ritual. As we began to learn more about her, we discovered a very great love story. Our friend told us the tale of meeting the man she ended up marrying. They had met at the tennis courts, and shortly after meeting one another, they unequivocally knew that they were each other’s love of a lifetime. They were married, wildly in love, and within a few years were blessed with the birth of a daughter whom they adored. No family could be more grateful and happy. A few short years after she was born, John (I will now use fictitious names for family members) contracted a rare illness that required a lung transplant. He survived that and the family had a few years of healing before he was diagnosed with a cancer that he battled heroically for many years.
This was the juncture that I and my friends came to know Anne. She was very worried about her daughter Sam (short for Samantha). Sam had literally grown up in hospitals while her dad was receiving treatment, and had no memories of him as a completely healthy man. John was a brave and full-of-life kind of guy, but required a lot of medical attention and rest. Sam became withdrawn and angry. She directed this anger primarily towards Anne. Anne didn’t know what to do. She quietly sought advice from us, but our suggestions did not seem to make a dent in the armor that Sam had built around her heart. When they moved to a new house, Sam chose the basement room where she spent most of her time at home, almost completely incommicado. When she did emerge, she and her mom had heated and painful arguments, seemingly without resolution. John continued to fight for his life, and took the family on fabulous trips all over the world. These were the times that Sam would emerge and enjoy being part of this wonderful, lively family. As John’s condition grew worse, Anne tried to get Sam to go to therapy, but to no avail. Sam refused to talk to anyone at all. As a group of friends, we tried to engage her without success. She would politely talk to us, but remained walled off in her own world.
John died almost four years ago. Just a few months before he passed away, he rallied to take the family on one last adventure to Australia. There are still pictures all over the house showing the love and commitment that he had for his two beloved “girls”. Sam remained in the basement. When she would emerge, she was sullen, angry and miserably unhappy. Anne did not know what to do. None of us did. Sam lived life on her own terms. She chose her few friends carefully. In the exclusive environment of the private school she attended, she refused to capitulate to peer pressure and social norms. She eschewed style and convention, yet did not rebel in a usual teenage fashion. Sam’s spirit simply remained hidden to the world at large. None of us knew how to reach inside and comfort, cajole or touch her. During summers she would go off to Minnesota to a canoeing camp, and last summer spent six weeks on the water. I think that somewhere in those rushing waters, Sam came to her own terms with her grief, her painful questions and her anger. Somewhere, in the solace of her quiet basement at home, she worked through her loss and fears over so much exposure to pain and disease in her Dad’s life. Somehow, in her own time, in her own way, Sam stopped fighting with herself and the world, took off her armor bit by bit, and stepped into the light.
During this past year, what has emerged is a sensitive, funny, engaging, compassionate, grounded and intelligent young woman. She and Anne spent weekends in the mountains while Sam boarded and Anne skied along side. They tried new recipes every week, went to new restaurants and checked out the local cultural scene together. They laughed, teased, and mended the fabric of their mother/daughter love. We (the self-appointed Auntie/Moms) watched from the sidelines, amazed, delighted and awed by this miracle. So, on this evening last week, we gathered to celebrate the courage and tenacity of these two women. It was hard and wonderful to believe the transformation as Sam went from guest to guest, chatting and laughing away. It was heartwarming to see the two of them together as Sam and Anne worked in the kitchen. It was an honor for each of us present to be able to stand in the circle to toast Sam and wish her well as she ventures forth. It was indescribably over-the-top to listen as Sam was able to tell us how we had impacted her life and her mother’s in a way that had helped her to grow forward and heal to this moment.
I am once again reminded that we each contain our own wisdom within us. If we are quiet enough and listen, our own guides will lead us to the right place. It is different for each of us. Sam reinforced such a valuable lesson. She chose her own path….steadfastly remained true to her own timing…..remained dedicated to her own process. “Equifinality”……..”trust the process”……and guess what?……
With love and light,
Randi and Daniela