Phoenix Rising

Harry: Your bird. There was nothing I could do. He just caught fire.
Dumbledore: Oh, and about time too. He’s been looking dreadful for days. Pity you had to see him on a burning day. Fawkes, is a phoenix Harry. They burst into flame when it is time for them to die, and they are, reborn, from the ashes.
                                                                     -Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

                Ah, the Phoenix. What a fascinating creature from ancient mythology. Though they are immortal, they live an essentially “normal” lifecycle of youth, adulthood, and old age before bursting into flames and being reborn anew from the ashes.


                I feel as though I can relate to the Phoenix in many ways right now. Lots of things are changing in my life, all of them good, and it seems as though I am leaving the old me behind and starting fresh. Almost as if I am experiencing a rebirth that has come through hardship and hard work. What seems most strange to me is that this is not the first time my life has been turned upside down. Three and a half years ago I was struggling mightily with a divorce, a move, losing a large number of friends and positive activities I once engaged in, health changes, and the stress of working a job that had long since lost its appeal.


                While these experiences were incredibly painful, they shaped me as a human being and led me down a different path than I was on previously. Today my life is a complete reverse from what it was back then (much to my relief!).  Now I am preparing to graduate from my Masters of Social Work program with honors, start a job in an area of social work that I actually want to be in, planning a wedding  to the kindest and most generous man I’ve ever met, and preparing to close on a new home for myself and my little family. If you had asked me in 2012 where I thought I would be in four years I could have never imagined any of this. I have been very blessed and it finally feels like things are starting to fall into place in my life. However…


                Me being me, there is almost a primal level of fear that begun to settle around my brain. You can thank my anxiety, who is always being able to come up with the worst case scenario in every situation, for that one. It’s almost like this feeling that some giant shoe is hovering overhead waiting to fall because right now is when I would least be expecting it. In the tarot, the Wheel of Fortune card symbolizes this feeling. Sometimes you are on the top of the wheel, and sometimes you are on the bottom. The only thing that is for certain is the wheel is constantly turning, therefore, whoever is down will come up and whoever is up will come down. Right now I am on top and I feel like I am leaning over the precipice fully expecting someone to sneak up from behind and shove me over.


                Honestly? What a shitty feeling!  I don’t want to walk around for the rest of my days worried about some imaginary misfortune that may or may not come to pass. What sort of life is that? I would much rather hold onto the feelings of abundance and learn ways to cultivate it while things are going well, in the hope that it might inoculate me to overwhelming negativity that can come with setbacks. Almost like an unhappiness vaccination. The more I have thought about it the more I realize that if I am to continue focusing on goodness in my life I need to resurrect an old idea from the flames as well.


                Back at the end of 2012, when everything felt like it was falling apart, I started a project, an adventure year of sorts. It started out as a way to occupy my time and, quite honestly, avoid thinking about the loneliness I felt from being alone for the first time in my life. However, it soon became a great source of fun, personal enlightenment, and joy in an otherwise dark time. Every month I would focus on a new virtue or personal attribute I wanted to cultivate, such as generosity or gratitude, and I would research it and base my monthly activities around that theme. This process went really well for the first third of the year when something *cough MICHAEL cough* came along and derailed the entire project.


                After getting swept up into a new relationship I never did go back and complete the year. I look back on those four months now and everything I accomplished in such a short time and regret that I didn’t finish it. So, inspired by the book “TheHappiness Project” which I have been reading lately, I have decided to plan and implement an Adventure Year Part II.


                The format will remain mostly the same as before. Each month will have a focus topic that I will examine and practice for that time period. However, in the spirit of “The Happiness Project” I have also decided to add a set of resolutions that I will keep track of for that month, and then for the remainder of the year. My hope is that when I am done I will have built a series of habits that will (hopefully) contribute to my ongoing sense of well-being.


                Or I might fail miserably to keep all of them and learn something from that too, who knows?


                What I do know is I am determined to stick it out the whole year this time and actually finish something that I start. Looking back over the last year and a half of grad school and all the work I did while working full time and having a family, I believe this project should not only be easier but definitely a lot more enjoyable too. Not to mention I have the support of Mike this time who will be cheering me on rather than distracting me from doing what I need to do.


                An extraordinary life can be built on the foundation of itty, bitty, extraordinary things we choose to do each day. I don’t want to look back on my life someday and regret all the things I didn’t do, or realize I missed out on simple moments that could have brought so much happiness. No my friends, I want to look back exhausted and satisfied that I had wrung out every last joy I could in life before my flame is extinguished from this world and I am reborn into whatever adventure lies next. That to me is the very definition of a good life.


                Stay tuned for next week when I officially start in May and if you are interested in following the project and want to receive new posts directly to your inbox by sure to subscribe before you go!