LEARNING THAT GROWTH CAN BE A DANCE

No matter how much work you've done on yourself, you can still snap back sometimes. So be easy on you. Growth is a dance.

FROM THEN TO NOW

Life is a journey - I think we all know that, and I hope we're all progressing in a forward direction (even if it's two steps forward and one step back at times). I've shared quite a lot about my life journey here on the blog and last year I spent several months working my way through the trauma of my awful job imploding on me, my subsequent resignation, and the journey to finding myself again.

One thing I realized the other day is that we shouldn't expect ourselves to completely recover from a major trauma overnight. It can take months or years before we feel like it's finally behind us - we think we've moved on, but then we encounter something (or someone) and we're reminded that it's a process and not a done deal.

A VOICE FROM THE PAST

Out of the blue a few weeks ago, someone who was a witness to all the toxicity in my work environment sent me an email with some lovely tips on ways to cultivate happiness in your life. I thanked her, but just hearing from her reminded me of the difficult work colleague and I suggested she should send it on to them as well - because they might find it helpful.

My friend replied to say that she was worried that I would be stuck "mulling over my ex-colleague's destructive behaviour continuously for the rest of my life" and "did I want the name of someone to talk to to help put it completely in the past?" It was a lovely kindness on her behalf, but it made me stop and wonder whether we should expect people to have everything sorted, filed neatly away, and never referred to again - or do we allow for the ebb and flow that might be needed to recover from years of turmoil?

TRAINWRECKS AND HEALING

I rarely think about my old work days now, I've tucked most of it away and moved on, but I realized that exposure to long term toxicity was a little like being involved in a train wreck. You don't walk away unscathed and it's always a part of your life story. You  move on, but when you encounter someone who was also in the same wreck, or who watched the wreck unfold, it brings it back again. You're over it, but the memories and feelings are still a part of who you are.

Barbara De Angelis — 'The journey in between what you once were and who you are now becoming is where the dance of life takes place.'

I have nothing but good wishes to send in the direction of the damaged person who caused so much upset for those years. That person didn't do it deliberately to hurt anyone, it was just an overflow from the mess that they were living. I can be reminded of what happened if I encounter someone from that time, but it doesn't eat at me like it used to. Healing takes time, but it does happen - we look back and see how far we've come and the wisdom we gained in the process.

DANCING THROUGH LIFE

In the same week I received my friend's email, I read two excellent quotes - both referred to life as a dance - something we move through in steps. Recognizing that healing takes time, that we can think we're fine and then fall back a little, is where self-care and kindness come into play. Recovery certainly isn't a switch that you flip once and it's done and dusted, it's fluid and fluctuating - and that's perfectly okay.

"We all have 'issues' because we all have a story. And no matter how much work you've done on yourself, we all snap back sometimes. Growth is a dance. Not a light switch." ~John Kim

It was really empowering to be able to reply to her email positively, to say that I was fine and that work rarely entered my mind. I'd only been reminded of that trainwreck because she'd been a witness to it and will always be associated with that period of my life. She's someone who knows the details, but we don't need to talk about them because it changes nothing. To know that, and to accept that, and to leave it behind has been a lesson in boundaries and self-differentiation - I'm so much better at both of those now. Hopefully they'll help me dance past any disasters that appear in the future.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Are you a work in progress? Have you had times of difficulty that you've gradually worked through, and did you learn any lessons from those times? I love the idea of the dance of life - it has a beauty and symmetry to it that feels right to me.

RELATED POSTS


No matter how much work you've done on yourself, you can still snap back sometimes. So be easy on you. Growth is a dance.

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No matter how much work you've done on yourself, you can still snap back sometimes. So be easy on you. Growth is a dance.

34 comments

  1. Hi, Leanne - Great quotes! Life is a journey. Growth is a dance. Both statement ring very true to me.

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    1. I think that learning that it's okay to fluctuate in life is such a blessing - it reduces our expectations on ourselves and gives us the freedom to "go with the flow" and enjoy the dance.

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  2. It's interesting. I had a post pop up in my Facebook memories yesterday (one I'd written a few years ago) about the weight loss surgery I'd had. I'd not kept the surgery a secret but had decided I didn't want my life to 'become' about that. Have that define who I was. I like that you've put your horrible work experience behind you. I'm glad the person who suggested you talk about it wasn't doing so nastily but thoughtfully as well.

    I think as we get older we realise that sometimes we will never have some things resolved. We just move onto more important things. xx

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    1. I think you're right Deb - and I also think that it's okay not to have everything tied up with a bow. Living through difficult times, rebounding, re-thinking, learning....and all the rest, add to our wisdom and compassion. I think if we got everything right and bounced back perfectly from every setback, we'd be awfully smug and not very relatable. I like that I'm now older and wiser from going through what I did - it taught me a lot about myself and also about the assumptions I make about other people's lives (not everything is as it appears!)

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  3. I think we're all works in progress. I had a similar issue in the workplace back in 2016 and most of the time I think I'm past it but seeing or hearing about others from the time take me back there - in the same way you were taken back. It doesn't mean I dwell on it, but it does mean that it's a part of my life that has influenced how I am now.

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    1. That's how I felt at the time Jo - my friend was quite concerned about me, but really I think it was a natural response to a conversation that initiated from what I went through. I like that it came up and then drifted away again - it's so nice not having it in my head every day and not trying to work my way through the mire - I can just say "Bygones" to quote Allie McBeal!

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  4. Hi Leanne, it's a bit like post traumatic stress. Some things will always be there in our unconscious memory and can be triggered easily. I was bullied out of my last job so I know how it feels to get through something like that. I'm fine, but I still avoid situations where I might encounter the perpetrators. Take care, Christina

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    1. Hi Christina - I think that's where I'm at now - not at all bothered by it anymore, but not wanting to encounter the "key players" and having to pretend that what went down was okay - because it really wasn't. I think there's a lot of ugliness in our world and I choose to not expose myself to it unnecessarily these days.

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  5. Yes, definitely. I needed years to heal my wounds and sometimes I still feel that those wounds react on triggers. In fact, triggers are showing me are my wounds healed or they need more compassion and love to be healed totally. I also practiced awareness about identification with my story. Once I realised that I an not my story, many things changed quickly. But it's not enough to do that just once, it's a process and I need to repeat, relearn, reread and be very patient. And not judgemental. Thank you for this beautiful post, I like your blog a lot . Big hug from Norway.

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    1. Hi Marinela - I love how we can encourage each other and that we share similar stories. You're right about not allowing an awful experience to colour our lives forever, but also allowing ourselves to acknowledge that it happened and that sometimes it will rear up again to remind us of that time. I still hold a kernel of resentment and disappointment with the people involved - but you can't expect others to hold the same values as you do and sometimes people treat us poorly - it's a learning curve for me and I know I definitely protect myself more carefully these days.

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  6. I love that John Kim quote Leanne - it's so true. A lovely thoughtful, and insightful post about things that we've been through as we age. I also like that the dance analogy fits in perfectly with your WOTY symphony :). I am definitely a work in progress!

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    1. Hi Deb - yes I thought dancing and symphonies were both very in tune with what's been happening for me this year - lots of highs and lows, and lots of steps forward with a few back again. I also think being a WIP isn't a bad thing, it means we're growing and becoming more atuned to ourselves and to those around us - becoming wise women!

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  7. I find it a bit shocking that anyone would think we don’t carry our past negative experiences with us. I do try to stay positive but I have my days where I can’t help but think about the past. I’ve loved watching your progress through this experience that you had.

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    1. Hi Jen - you certainly would identify with having the memories of trauma resurface at certain times. I think it's part of the grieving process and also part of how our hearts and minds process horrible events. Mine was much less significant than yours, but I think we both can attest to our growth and the empathy for others we've developed along the way.

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  8. Thank you so much, Leanne for pointing out that healing takes time and we need to allow ourselves to take all the time we need. As you may recall, I wrote a blog post about how my mother had disowned me. I heard from many people who could relate to my story. It helped me a lot to hear from them, but then I felt like I should just be able to get on with my life, and for the most part, I have. Now and again, my sister will post something about my original family and it still makes me feel bad since my siblings also treat me as an outcast. I've actually felt guilty about not being completely over the feelings of abandonment. you are right though, I can look back and see how far I have come. Thanks for sharing, Leanne. Again I'm posting under Perpetual Travel, my husbands site. This is Christina.

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    1. Hi Christina - life can deal us some very difficult cards at times can't it? Estrangement, death, illness, toxic friends, horrible work situations, and so many more horrible events. How we deal with them, how we grow through them, and who we choose to become as a result of that journey can shape us into much deeper and more compassionate people if we allow ourselves to work through it at our own pace. I think there's some things we never completely recover from and maybe that's part of the dance of life - it's not all sunshine and rainbows - but the clouds do have silver linings x

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  9. Leanne, I'm glad you've moved on from the trauma of your job and not let it define your career, or your outlook. #lifethisweek

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    1. Thanks Natalie - I think it did define me for a while - but working through it and learning from it, gave the difficulties a purpose and I look back now and feel like they brought me to a much better place.

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  10. I agree with Christina Henry, experiences like the stressful one you experienced at work can lead to a form of PTSD. Coincidental that you heard from that former colleague and that she reached out to offer you help but did not automatically think to offer that same help to the individual responsible for the trauma and turmoil.

    I heard from a former colleague, too, last week. She had dropped me like a hot potato when I retired after a similar experience to yours. I had tried to stay in contact with my friend but when I called her shortly after retiring, she was very strange on the phone, saying I had called her son's phone number. It was the same number I had always used for her. Oh, well.

    Last week she used my email address to contact me...it has been the same since the 1990s, but this was the first time Brenda had reached out to me in the 7 years since I left school. She needed some help, and I was glad to offer it. But a little sad that it took that to hear from her.

    I, too, have almost moved on from all of the circus that was the last years of my career. But now and then, I still feel a tinge of resentment and sadness.

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    1. Leslie you summed up a lot of what I felt in the words you've posted here - that little kernel of resentment and sadness - the regret that things turned out the way they did, the disappointment of seeing the true colours of workmates and colleagues also messed with my head for a while afterwards. I think we all want to see justice served and to have our wrongs righted, but sometimes we just walk away with our heads held high and know that we gave it our best shot.
      I read a quote the other day that said something along the lines of being grateful for the difficult times because they brought me to where I am now - and I think that sums up how I feel today - grateful that it's behind me and beyond grateful for the lovely life I now have - I don't miss those days at all!

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  11. I certainly am a work in progress. Very much so. When I think back to times in my life when I was negatively impacted by a toxic person, I usually think 2 things - why did I allow it to go on as long as I did? And how can I move on without feeling those little twinges of regret that I thought I was past. We are all human. If you are living your best life now, I think it is only natural that a reminder of a painful time in your life would bring back some negative emotions. As long as you don't dwell on them, I think you ar fine.

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    1. That's the conclusion I came to as well Laurie - every now and then there'll be a reminder - allowing those moments to come and go without them causing me stress is a good sign that I've moved on. Trauma and toxicity really do serious damage and the longer we allow it to go on, the longer it takes to feel like we're completely over it - I'm feeling pretty great and that time of my life is fading in the rearview mirror.

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  12. I'm always a little surprised when people tell me that it's time to 'move on' or 'forgive' and offer to broker peace! As you rightly said, healing takes time and each of us has our own way of processing experiences and working through them. Our pain shouldn't define us, but we cannot pretend that it's not part of our life and our memory. Another thoughtful post from you, Leanne. Thank you!

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    1. Hi Corinne - I think what you're saying is spot on - it's part of who we are, and our story, but it no longer defines us. I love that I can look back now with calm and acceptance - I don't even feel like I need to try to figure it all out, it just "was" and "is no longer" - and I'm good with that.

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  13. “Two steps forward and one step back...” Great segue from your title, Leanne. Your phrase “ebb and flow” is very wise. You also remind me of the concept of PTSD. Not a new concept. And, yes, I am definitely a work in progress. I think this phrase is brought up on my “About” page. (I need to recheck this page and see if it all still applies). Great thought-provoking post, Leanne. It definitely resonates with the challenges I have faced in my life. xx

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    1. Hi Erica - I definitely think I had some PTSD after all the bombardment I went through during that time and the conflicts of emotion and helplessness that went with it. Recovery from three years of stress takes time - I think my friend knew the damage it did to me at the time and was worried it still lingered - but I think it's the faint dregs these days and I'm okay with that - it reminds me to value myself more and not allow it to happen to me again.

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  14. I hope we are all a work in progress, Leanne. I'd hate to think that I'd arrived at the place (metaphorically speaking) that I will stay for the rest of my existence on this earth. I want to be continually growing. Of course, you were speaking in terms of healing, and I agree that our past experiences never completely leave us...they mold us and change us into the people we are now. I too am surprised sometimes when something I thought I had forgotten pops into my head...sometimes pleasant and sometimes not at all. Or maybe I'm triggered by something unexpected and when I dig a little deeper, I realize it's tied to a traumatic event from the past that I thought I was "over." Life is indeed a dance. Thanks for sharing another helpful insight you've had. Take care!

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    1. Hi Christie - I'm beginning to think that our really trying times are the ones that often shape us the most - they bring out of us qualities we didn't know we possessed - or they grow those qualities in us so we have them for next time. I have no regrets, a few memories, and a desire to never repeat that toxicity ever again. All in all, it brought me to a better place, so an occasional flashback is okay with me.

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  15. Ahhh yes, this is familiar to me. I've run into people who I used to work with at the 'toxic workplace' I left. One of them still works there and is traumatised and stressed and told me the awful stuff still going on there, and OMG was I every so grateful that I never went back there. I also saw in her face who I once was and am no longer. I don't think of that place anymore but being around someone who worked there with me at the time can bring back the feelings of how I felt back then and the feelings of ultimate betrayal that lead me to leave. So yes, I can relate! Love the quotes - you always find such great quotes Leanne! xo

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    1. Hi Min - yes that feeling of "ultimate betrayal" still surges up unexpectedly when I'm reminded of my time in that horrible job. I also look at the person I know who still works there and I have such a feeling of pity for her as she slogs away thinking she's making a difference - and really she's just being used up and will be forgotten as quickly as I was when she leaves or the business closes. I count my blessings for every day I'm away from that place!

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  16. This post resonated with many I see here. I took over 14 years or more to 'get over' the way in which I had to leave my role as a school principal because of the knock on effects of others' behaviour and my employer not fully understanding what a mental health breakdown does to a person. In fact, right now, a friend who is a principal is going through a similar thing and nothing has changed as workplace support or structures. I believe no-one really understands mental health. They say they do but they cannot find the ways in which to help. I ended up, over time, and with a lot of support from my GP, husband and returning to a school as a teacher to do my own recovery. However, every so often I can get very resentful about how my career was forced to end. Thank you for linking up for #lifethisweek. Next week's optional prompt is 43/51 Inside 26.10.2020. Hope to see you there. Denyse.

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    1. Hi Denyse - I think there are far more of us who've been badly done by - by an employer than I had ever realized. We all valiantly soldier on and work at recovering from something that never should have happened in the first place. I think ultimately we rebuild our strength and resilience, but it would have been nice to have not had to go through the "learning process" of how awful other people can be, wouldn't it?

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  17. Hi Leanne, To see our journey of life as a dance is a very uplifting analogy. The rhythm, the steps, the highs, the lows, the swirl -- all of them combining into a beautiful experience.

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    1. Perfectly said Pradeep - I hope you and your family are managing the dance during this sad time and that you're all keeping well x

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