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The Phoenix Process

July 2, 2008

…and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
-Anais Nin

I’m reading a book called Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow by Elizabeth Lesser, recommended to me by another wonderful member of my Resolve support group. The opening to this book has the above poem, the same one that is on the cover of my personal journal. I bought the journal and started writing in it after my first IUI failed. At that point, I was very scared to do IVF. I thought the blossoming might be the risk to do IVF to have a child. I express what the journal means to me in my first entry, saying it’s “my personal exploration journal, expressing itself through fertility.”

“The Phoenix Process” is the book’s term for going through any major life change, like divorce, illness, or death, and using it as a way of transforming your life. This book came to me after I started this blog. I feel like I am going through a Phoenix Process. I felt burned by IVF. Because of what I experienced, I feel a crack in my usual way of thinking. I have been broken.

The first crack was realizing that kids will not make me happy. This does not mean I will not have kids, but I do not want to have children from an egoic desire or instinctual drive. Is it possible to have children from an egoless state? Can there be any other purpose in having children other than the instinctual drive to procreate or the ego’s desire to have children? Am I just looking for one more thing to fill the holes in my life and make myself “happy”?

I am now wondering if the “risk” to blossom is the risk to find my True Self, my True Nature? Is it the risk to throw all my dreams and desires away and live a life from True Nature and Being, rather than filling it with one more thing, like children?

I have the perspective of growing up in a household with many children and seeing that it did not make my mother happy. My mom always talks about how she wanted a dozen children, though she can barely stand to have us and her grandchildren around now. I honestly feel that my parents should have stopped at child #4. I’m #6 at the end of the line. Sometimes, I do not think I should have been born. My parents were burned out by the time they had me.

I have lived with a lot of depression in my life, even as a teenager and probably as a child too, though I was not aware of it then. In the womb, I was searching for my mother’s absent heart – I was born breech, the only one of the six. I’ve been searching for meaning for a long time. My career has brought me happiness and a sense that I am doing something positive for the earth, but I long for something more. I thought children would fulfill that meaning and longing, but I am no longer convinced of that.

I am reading about this Phoenix Process at the same time I am reading about living a life from the present moment in Eckhart Tolle’s books The Power of Now and A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. I am reading these books as if I have never heard of living in the present moment, but I have! I’ve been on a spiritual path for the last nine years that focuses on this same teaching. I left my spiritual group between my two IVFs because I felt that it wasn’t supporting me, and that the teaching was becoming stale.

I have been enlightened, or I should say, I have had an experience of enlightenment. I remember how I felt that Being was enough. I did not desire anything else. I did not need a purpose in life. But that feeling did not last long. I was not truly transformed. What will it take to completely let go? Do I have it in me to go there? Do I have the same drive and passion for the Truth as I did to have a child? These are the questions I have.

Who will I be when I emerge from this Phoenix Process? How long does this process take? Several months or several years? I feel that I have not been completely consumed by the flames. I do feel a little crisp around the edges, but on days like today, I feel that part of me is still burning.

Broken Open has many inspirational stories and passages. This one spoke to me in particular:

“I do not wish upon anyone a descent into hell. But if your life has to be turned inside out in order for you to know yourself…I pray that you use its force wisely. I hope that you take the ultimate responsibility for your actions and that you consecrate any destruction to the rebuilding of your higher self and a more radiant life.”

I hope that what I have written will inspire you to share with me your stories of your Phoenix Process.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. loribeth permalink
    July 2, 2008 6:35 pm

    Sounds like an interesting book — I will have to look for it. In some ways, at the core, I feel I am the same person, but in other ways, my life has changed totally these last 10 years. I agree with you that we can’t look at children as “the thing” that will make our lives complete (that’s an awful burden for such a small being to carry!)… but at the same time, if parenthood is not in the cards, then what do we do to fill that anticipated space in our lives?? I’m still trying to figure that one out…

  2. Eurydice permalink
    July 2, 2008 8:58 pm

    I was terribly burnt in a relationship in 1990 and it just destroyed me. What killed me wasn’t THIS broken relationship per se, but for it being the umpteenth in a string of broken relationships. The straw that broke my back.

    Having just one more man I cared about “abandon” me cut too close to my childhood pain of having had a father who abandoned us/me when I was born.

    It wasn’t that I felt I needed a man to make me complete, but I hated to think men were not trustworthy and were really really stupid. It was an ego blow, too, in the sense I know I am a wonderful, loving, generous person and it hurt to think no one would want to share their life with a fairly “healthy” person. The men who left me dumped me for control-freak, jealous psychopaths and it hurt to think “evil” always got rewarded and being nice got you shafted.

    Anyway, I was a mess and I ended up reading a book a friend of mine had that I had once leafed through and liked. It was one of Krishnamurti’s “Commentaries on Living” books and there were a few segments dealing with terrible loss. His style is to describe a scene from nature then segue it into a Q&A with a person who is suffering or searching.

    I must have read this one case that was similar to mine 50 times and it slowly slowly sunk in. It took me at least 8 months to feel normal inside and a bit more than that to feel powerful and optimistic again.

    Healing takes reading or hearing something that resonates with your soul and watering that soul with it every day. Then it takes having good people, a good, stimulating environment around you (good soil, sunshine?) to help that tiny plant grow.

    I don’t think there is any one right or wrong way or one particular one-size-fits all truth, but there are infinitely wise women and men out there and caring people out there and I think we need reading time and face-time with them as much as possible.

    Here’s a random quote from his work:
    When you look at this life of action—the growing tree, the bird on the wing, the flowing river, the movement of the clouds, of lightning, of machines, the action of the waves upon the shore—then you see, do you not, that life itself is action, endless action that has no beginning and no end. It is something that is everlastingly in movement, and it is the universe, God, bliss, reality. But we reduce the vast action of life to our own petty little action in life, and ask what we should do, or follow some book, some system.
    — Krishnamurti, Bombay 1958

  3. The Muser (aka Beautiful Mama) permalink
    July 3, 2008 1:44 am

    Pheobe, this is so beautiful. It makes me ache and hope. For me, my Phoenix Process has been coming to terms with my trauma, with my depression, and with the possibility for healing. Having a child really pushed me into the most recent leg of that journey, and the most difficult and most healing. But I firmly believe that nothing in particular is that thing that is going to bring you growth or joy–not marriage, not having a kid, not anything–rather, it is how you embrace each new gift, painful or delightful that life brings, and how you live into that. Having a child did NOT transform me. Nor did it bring me the deep joy I now feel so much of the time. Rather, answering the call to growth, to transformation that I heard in having my child is what changed me. And answering that call in some other thing is what would have changed me and brought me joy had I not ever had a child. I adore my baby so deeply that I would go back and do every miserable, depressing, awful bit of prenatal depression and ppd again if I had to just so I could have her again. But I will never (to the best of my ability) foist upon her the responsibility for making me happy or making life meaningful. That is not her job. That is not her function. That is not what she brings to my life. She brings herself to my life, and that is so much more complex and beautiful and terrifying than happiness. The burden of finding happiness or meaning or fulfillment is mine alone to bear, and learning to do so has been a terrible, awful, painful, beautiful, joyful process. Thank you so much for your words. And for sharing your journey. Blessings and peace.

  4. Martha permalink
    July 3, 2008 3:14 am

    Thank you for so eloquently expressing what has been my world for over 22 years. I’ve mourned many losses; a narcisstic, burned out mother, the death of my brother(my best friend) at age 24 when I was 23, abusive relationships, my failed first marriage, a miscarriage seventeen years ago, and all the bumps and bruises on my journey. I wear these scars like a badge of honor, they define me, tempered me like steel from the flame, and have given me the gifts of compassion and caring. You might start out parenting from an egotistical place, but in order to engage in it fully, you do not have to Egoless, just somewhat selfless. Thank you and Best Wishes on Your Journey. Best, Martha

  5. calliope permalink
    July 3, 2008 3:21 am

    very interesting post. I feel like I am still in burn mode and not yet able to really see the changes infertility has had on me (despite the obvious physical). In fact this entire moment/stage of my life feels like a burn mode. Like these experiences: the infertility, the taking care of my grandmother, the dealing with daily humidity- they are all experiences that are actively shaping the future me. I imagine that in 5 years of so I will be a completely different person.
    Hopefully better. & less burned 🙂

  6. Rachel permalink
    July 3, 2008 7:32 am

    Miscarriage, failed IVFs and infertility in general has given me the ability to know that I can’t control everything and to let go. I was so determined that something would work when I started this process. I was sure because that I had been pregnant, there was no way I wouldn’t be able to carry a pregnancy to term and have a healthy baby. Now I know better. I am not certain of anything. I just have to take what life gives to me. I have no control over it. Being nice, good or hopeful makes no difference. Thing will happen eventually, but they might not be what I expected them to be. I am the same person I used to be over all, but I am able to let go in a way that I was never previously able to.

  7. Duck permalink
    July 4, 2008 4:47 am

    I want to share, because I can relate so much to this post, a horrid break up and a bad relationship was my first phoenix, and right now I’m in the midst of another (the realization that I will never be pregnant). I will post again when I can say something of more meaning.

  8. Lost in Space permalink
    July 4, 2008 9:40 am

    I read this last night, but had to think a bit and come back. I guess my Phoenix Process includes overcoming abuse, an 8+ year eating disorder, the loss of my dad and transformation of my entire family, and now infertility. All of it has taught me greater compassion and understanding for those in pain. It has taught me that I cannot control what happens to me, but only in how I react.

    I in no way feel like I am through this process and struggle daily trying to figure it all out yet. I like to think I will be a better person once I make it through, but until I actually make it through I will never know. I may never know.

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