The Contradictions of Growth

Written by Maggie Gentry

I almost didn’t write this article. I was tempted to text Chelsea and let her know that I couldn’t do it. And then I remembered the reason why we have this space in the first place—to share these vulnerable moments so that we all can feel a little less alone, so that we can see our common humanity, so that we can peel back the layers from what our biases allow us to see and really explore the complexity and nuance of each individual, so that we can shine a light on our own experience and hope it helps at least one other.

So here I am—coming to you raw, unfiltered, still very much in process, and with the most tender of hearts.

Earlier this week, my husband and I mutually decided to separate.

I won’t go into the specifics because that’s between the two of us, but I will share this: It has been quite remarkable to behold how such fierce honesty has led to a respectful and loving decision that honors the need we both feel to explore this next step on our own, while also working through very visceral feelings of grief and loss.

Needless to say, these past few days have been an emotional roller coaster. I’m still in the thick of it, as I type this through tear-filled eyes and frequent breaks to cry some more when the tears completely blur my vision. I know enough about myself to know that writing helps me process, and it usually feels quite cathartic, so what follows is a straight-from-the-heart recollection of my current state of being and reminders that I’m coming back to again & again while I’m still very much in the state of feeling this very acutely.

What follows may feel contradictory, but I’m finding expansion in honoring the dichotomies that are present:

  • Fear of the unknown and excitement for possibilities yet to be imagined

  • Grief for the closing of this chapter of my life and hope for the blossoming of the next that has the potential to be a deep nervous system healer and profoundly nourishing

  • Sorrow for the disappointment we’ve caused to others in our life and pride for the two of us listening to our souls and taking steps towards honoring our deep desires

What I’m learning about myself in this process:

  • I can make a decision that I know to be true, and it can still be painful.

  • I can be scared of all the uncertainty before me, and continually remind myself that my job is to focus on the right next step.

  • I can stay present to the grief, and sorrow, and pain, without letting it consume me.

  • I can continue to love him while we both take steps to redefine our relationship in an untraditional manner that makes sense for us. And ultimately, nobody else need understand it, as long as we’re staying true to ourselves and what we need. As two people pleasers, this has been especially difficult.

  • I can allow others to express their disappointment and confusion in this decision, and feel solid in my commitment to follow the deepest calling in my soul.

  • I can allow my mind/my ego/my fear-based brain to voice its concerns, and honor the fact that it’s merely trying to protect me. In those moments, I can choose to pause and check in with my soul to see if any of those are in fact true. Often, they aren’t.

  • I can ask for the support I need, and graciously receive it.

  • I can acknowledge the fear that is ever-present, and choose to remain open to the possibilities of magic that are beyond my comprehension.

  • As I share so often in the work I do with my clients, I can remain steadfast in my dedication to WHY I’m doing this, and work towards releasing the tight grip of control around HOW it might come to pass.

Questions that have been helpful in this process (some are those asked by others, and some I’ve been coming back to again & again on my own):

  • During moments of paralyzing uncertainty: What do I know with certainty to be true?

  • When I’ve had moments of doubt: Is this still what I want?

  • After initially sharing with folks: What support do I need right now?

  • As I make decisions about what’s next: Is it my soul, not my ego, that’s saying yes?

  • As physical sensations, emotions, or unkind thoughts begin to arise: Where am I feeling this in my body, and what is that sensation trying to tell me?

  • When I begin to spiral into fear-based thinking, I first use a loving term of endearment* to address my pain and fear, and then ask: What’s underneath this fear?

  • To help remind me of the WHY behind this decision: What excites me about what’s possible now?

Reminders that I’m holding dear:

  • Emotional labor is real labor—a lesson I learned from my dear friend Barbara Erochina. There have been moments this week where I’ve been frozen, unable to do “normal life things”, and when I begin to feel myself slip into shame around not doing more, I remember this.

  • Another brilliant friend Iris Rankin shared this post on Instagram recently about the process of change and the reality of what it means to “listen to your heart”. Her words have reminded me that following your truth and relinquishing comfort and safety is not easy. And yet, the potential to rediscover true joy, unencumbered by social conditioning and layers of shoulds is ultimately quite liberating.

  • Growth isn’t linear. I started this article one day and simply could not finish it because I was feeling a lot of grief. And that day came sandwiched in between two days that felt quite light, buoyant, and joyful. There will be more difficult days ahead, and there will also be a fair share of effervescent ones.

  • Life is a series of life-death-life cycles, and I am currently in a death phase. But what comes next is rebirth. Similar to how a forest fire is utterly devastating in all that it destroys, but what comes next is fertile soil, ripe for regrowth. I can also think of this phase as being the chrysalis—as the caterpillar metamorphosizes into the butterfly, there is a period where it’s swimming in uncertainty, unable to see what’s next, and merely having to surrender to the active phase of transformation.

So this is where I am, in an active stage of growth, putting all of my inner resources to the test.

Earlier today during my meditation, I focused on The Four Immeasurables (Loving-Kindness, Compassion, Empathetic Joy, and Equanimity). When I finally reached equanimity, I had the most clear vision.

I saw myself barefoot in an open field, and I could sense this pull towards something magnetic—a pull towards my deepest Truth. As indicated by the foot path I had worn into the grass, I knew I had been too scared to approach it directly, so instead I continued to simply encircle it. And now as we have both spoken our deepest Truths to one another, I find that I am standing in the middle of that circle, anchored to this power source that emanates from deep within the earth. Roots grew quickly once I first came in contact with that Truth, and it’s this connection that continues to bring me an unwavering sense of strength.

I continue to stand there, as the wind blows incessantly, making my skin grow dry and chafed. As the rain comes, I allow it to soak my clothes down to the skin, which then often brings a bout of chills. The branches of a nearby willow tree take their turn slapping at my bare skin, leaving fresh wounds, some cutting deeper than others.

And yet, despite these current discomforts, I stay.

I stand in the middle of it all, acknowledging the discomfort and also honoring the power of this newly discovered Truth. It is my fuel, my compass, my certainty during this time of so much unpredictability.

And in honoring this Truth, I know it will take me precisely where I (and we) are meant to ultimately be.

*Dr. Kristin Neff (Associate Professor at UT-Austin) studies self-compassion, and her work has been extremely helpful during this time for me—especially this 5-minute Self-Compassion Break.

If you’re feeling like you could use someone to connect with to talk about how you’re actively evolving and working towards finding your deepest Truth, please know that I am here! Sign up for a free, 30-minute chat with me during my Virtual Office Hours. I’d love to connect and hold that gentle space for you.

Maggie Gentry Miller is the owner of and founder of the Own Your Why®: Community. She helps entrepreneurs who are standing at a pivotal moment in their business and who are ready to make that meaningful shift with their eyes, mind, and heart open. Her unique approach blends business coaching, marketing consulting, and loads of compassion so that you walk away with a framework to grow your business in a way that feels perfectly tailored to you. She is also the co-founder of Mindful Moments ATX, a self-care event series for self-identifying women and non-binary folks working to establish their own wellness rituals. Maggie enjoys yoga, hiking and deep conversations; she always has a few books from the Austin Public Library on her bookstand, and is always down for snuggles with her cat Waffles.

Chelsea Francis