Retrograde: Using setbacks to step forward
by Kathleen Seeley
I entered 2018 in a great space…my kids felt settled after a long and conflicted parenting navigation post-divorce, an extremely busy year in business and a sense of now it’s time for me… I entered 2018 grounded and ready to find a partner to share my life or, a weekend with ☺.
Ready to meet love head on, I activated the Law of Attraction, I made my list, cleaned up my messes and incompletes and sent out the… ‘here I am, come and get me… you’re welcome world’ vibe to the Universe… and I waited! Confident it would not be long, after all, who wouldn’t want to date me…right?
I set my intention, I paid attention, and I opened my heart and I waited!
Out of nowhere, BOOM there she was! I attracted what seemed to be the perfect match… I remember thinking…holy sh#!t the Law of Attraction stuff really works! As we got to know each other I discovered she met most of my criteria except one, she didn’t have any tattoos. I was willing to let that go besides, it was nothing a black Sharpie and a bottle of wine couldn’t fix! I was swept away; my heart ran away on me! I was so captivated by what she seemed to be, I missed what was.
Have you ever done that? Wanted something so much you would overlook, what is right in your face and ignore intuition screaming at you to stop and reflect?
I was captivated. Anyone who knows me, knows this was big. Never had I jumped to this feeling so quickly. By nature, I am cautious, closed and very discerning when it comes to intimate relationships, or the potential for one. Not this time, after all, I specifically ordered her from the Universe, who am I to argue with destiny!
We chatted endlessly, shared meals, enjoyed Starbucks and walked her dog. Our conversations were deep, rich and stimulating… the likes of which I had never experienced. Having been a public speaker in her past, she understood my world completely. I remember I actually said out loud, this feels God endorsed, I was on board, 100%.
And then it happened, a few weeks into it, through those weeks many hot and cold moments, all of which I ignored, my world (fantasy world) changed with a text message. We had just spent a lovely evening together hanging out with a dear friend of mine…great conversation and making plans for the Easter weekend. It was getting late and she had to go.
Within 10 minutes of leaving, she sent a text message saying she was not ready for a relationship. This, after she told me she was ready, ‘daring greatly’ she had just read Brene Brown’s most recent work of art and wanted to ‘go for it’ with me. She told me she was not going to let me get away and she couldn’t wait for me to meet her family (her words).
I was all…umm when did you decide this? She said 10 minutes ago. I was breathless, stunned and sideways, to say the least. I replied, did it not occur to you to talk about this when you were here? To that she replied she said she was not willing to discuss it and blocked me.
How does one bring conclusion to something that ends so abruptly with no opportunity to inquire? This is not a unique experience, we lose jobs, loved ones die suddenly, the unexpected happens and sometimes we do not have the opportunity for closure, sometimes that person is unavailable. Whatever the context, closure is difficult and, what I believe to be true, is it is an inside job.
Stunned, confused and hurt I noticed a hint of curiosity, I watched myself search for solid ground. Within minutes, familiar voices began to emerge. The first was the “I’m not good enough, I messed things up, it’s my fault” voice. That part of me wanted to own it all, my martyr self… a great defense I bring out from time to time when the situation is ripe.
I then became present to another voice, this one was more familiar, she advised me to retreat, pretend I was fine and metaphorically flip the bird to the world and move on! I was in my sweet spot, my go to defense… yes, I got this!
Then a third voice emerged, it came from a much deeper place and became the loudest. She wanted to acknowledge my deep sadness, drop into vulnerability and own the fact that I was hurt. I felt compelled to hang out there for a while.
For many years I would not acknowledge my sadness, it seemed like a weakness. If it emerged I would brush it off like a fly landing on the hot dogs at a picnic. Sadness, I believed, was one of those irritating feelings that, up until now, served no purpose. This time I could not ignore it, my sadness manifested as, what felt like a physical blow to my chest.
These parts of me, twirling around causing confusion and curiosity a Paradox. What voice do I listen to? What was happening? What do I do?
I saw myself in my confusion, hurt, anger and curiosity. So taken by surprise with this turn of events, I was left to my own resources to figure out wtf happened. Tempted to retreat to my comfort zone of being alone, independent and ‘successfully single’, I chose instead, to answer the call for self-examination. I was sitting in a Paradox between feeling stuck and inspired, foolish and confident, sad and fulfilled…seemingly opposite states at the same time.
I was definitely at a metaphorical crossroads. I picked the bits of my heart up and put it back into my chest…I began to explore my options…Self-blaming was not an option, I quieted that voice a long time ago…nice to have her visit but I was not willing to enroll in the ‘its my fault story’ however, I remained confused. The biggest battle I was waging was the one between personal responsibility and withdrawing.
I could look at how I colluded to create the experience… what was my part? This presented a great opportunity to look inside my patterns, possibly celebrate growth, grace and the very gift of simply feeling. I could take the conscious route, the mature path and look to the learning. At the same time, I wanted to drink wine, eat a pizza and throw things…I chose to become present to both, what seemed to be, opposing impulses.
I remember a brief moment of considering this high road approach. Heck I’m a transformational trainer I teach this stuff, its easy. I did what any normal, mature, transformational teacher, highly conscious aware person would do; I opened a $200 bottle of wine (one I was saving for that very special person, turns out that special person was me), put a $5.00 frozen pizza in the oven and while the pizza cooked and the wine breathed, I ate the chocolate Easter bunny I bought her. I then proceeded to binge watched an entire season of Line of Duty.
The next day, I woke in a fog (probably the wine), still confused… it was evident the wine and Netflix binge did not help at all… this caused me a tinge of guilt for my regression and had a little suck it up chat with myself. I convinced myself there were better ways to cope with these matters of the heart!
I rationalized and rated this situation as pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. After all, everyone gets their heart broken; it was time to get it together and look for the learning. That lasted until about 4:00 PM when suddenly I found myself opening yet another expensive bottle of Cabernet, curled up with my son’s dog on the couch and watched season 2!
The third morning I woke up knowing this pattern had to stop, drinking alone was not a healthy strategy, so I did what I had to do, I went to my neighbors and drank wine with them! I made a commitment to not drink alone; a big step in my growth!
Oh, and no need to send me links to help with my drinking…I’m not a heavy drinker, I had a very intimate relationship with wine and pizza with a hint of chocolate for a weekend, all is well!
By the fourth day I noticed a real shift and was determined to figure out what happened. These questions kept rolling around in my head; what did I miss? How did I collude? I also noticed a nagging sense I was missing a piece of the puzzle.
I reached out to my friends who all supported me in my vulnerability. That was new to me, I generally keep these things to myself and simply don’t reach out for support. I had this moment of realizing that no longer served me. I need my girlfriends, no one judged me… ahh now that was progress!
I decided to feel it all, to look at myself and understand how I colluded, examine what I ignored and find peace in it. The two words I could not shed were Paradox and Retrograde.
I am a problem solver, a thinker, an avid reader and I love juicy questions… especially the kind when answers aren’t easy to find but when they are found a new level of awareness is reached.
My research began, with Google of course! Retrograde is ‘to go back in position or time’ and Paradox is described as ‘a situation, person, or thing that combines contradictory features or qualities’. This all made sense!
The Retrograde represents the times when we go backward, we retreat to the safe spaces of the predictable and familiar. Maslow says to go forward to stay back into safety, the choice is ours to make. The Paradox, that exists in all situations, can be recognized when you are able to sit in the uncomfortable feelings and allow for the emergence of some emotional variability… rather than react with a habitual response, the ability to refrain, just a little bit, press pause and have the courage to see yourself in the moment with a little bit of distance, compassion and humour.
Allow yourself the space to see beyond the extremes of this or that, good or bad, right or wrong and more options emerge for consideration… sitting in our sh#$!t takes courage. It allows us some distance from the trigger opening a broader view of the situation.
I became present to the space between feeling sad and curious, foolish and confident, vulnerable and closed. It could be described much like that of the transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly. The stage between is the Chrysalis, its nothing really, just goo…not a caterpillar, not a butterfly…just goo; the in between space. Nature unfolds naturally, it become a butterfly, or it ceases to exist, it can’t go back to the caterpillar.
The space between being one thing and another…to stop the growth is to die. Neal Donald Walsh calls this committing spiritual suicide, when you see your possibility yet hold yourself back. We are designed to grow, it takes courage to lean into the unknown, to risk our past to seek our potential. In that space between there is no indication to what may emerge…it’s the beautiful mystery of letting go.
I was in this space, I chose to grow, to see what was on the other side of the goo! I sat in my retrograde for a few days, I did…I was hurt, embarrassed and felt like a fool. My guard was up, people stand back!
I moved through it. Not resentful, not jaded; I’m an optimist, confident I will find my match. I was not going to let this event be bigger than my desire to share my life with someone.
Ready to re-engage with the world, my friends helped me create a profile on Match.com… I swore I would never online date but as Spencer and Mike (you know who you are) told me; it only takes one, I went for it.
Yet when I reflected on the situation and there was still something about it that confused me. At every turn I was patient, authentic, kind and honest, I lived up to my own expectation, which can be difficult.
Then the penny dropped, so to speak. My dear friend, demonstrated complete respect, compassion and trust in our relationship. She sent me an image of the woman who captivated me, in a loving embrace with the ex-girlfriend. That one, the one who treated her so poorly and how wonderful I was in comparison. The ‘ex’ wasn’t an ‘ex’. BOOM!
The moment I looked at the photo, I felt light; immediately lifted from any sense of ‘I did something wrong’; I actually felt free. John Adams says, facts are stubborn things. I saw, right in front of me, the irrefutable fact; she was with someone else; and likely had been for some time.
Clearly, she and I had a different relationship with the truth. Was I right she wrong? Was I a better human? I could go with that and be a victim, or I could look a little deeper at who was lying. I was lying to myself. I ignored all the signs, I did not want to see that this was a disaster waiting to happen. We all do our best, she did and so did I.
I am not angry, certainly hurt, but now I feel clean. I am able to see how I colluded to the whole situation. I ignored my intuition, I was blinded by my wanting something that never was…. Facts are stubborn things.
I allowed myself to feel sadness, hope, confusion and frustration. I leaned on my friends for support. My vulnerability allowed me to free the restriction I felt in my heart, I could now breathe fully. Our wounds naturally want to heal, our stories get in the way. Allowing what is real and present to emerge and flow through allowed me to open to the learning. Being present to the full experience allowed me to tap into my humanness, my vulnerability and possibility.
10 years ago, I would have fallen apart, lashed out, said mean things…unforgettable mean things and played the victim role with beautiful precision; Oscar quality performance. Today I dove into vulnerability, acknowledged my pain, was clear on how I felt and the trail I left behind was one of kindness, compassion, clarity and still a desire to meet my match. I am an optimist!
I know for sure we all regress, we all experience Retrogrades. Our own evolution is dependent upon us seeing ourselves, in our fears and our fierceness, our transparency and our secrets; those we keep from ourselves and those we keep from others; our Paradox.
When you feel you have regressed or are particularly triggered by an event, hang out there for a while. It’s in the hanging out you can notice how far you have come. Without the Retrograde sometimes we forget our progress… take it in and allow whatever shows up to flow through and maybe just maybe a beautiful butterfly will emerge.
- Trust your intuition. When your body is aligned with your mind and your soul, choices in service of you, will emerge.
- Cherish the people in your life who are willing to tell you tough things.
- When you Retrograde, be present to it. Listen to the voices in your head, question your stories; take a breath and lean into your next evolution.
- When you are triggered, be curious and sit in the restlessness of the energy allow for emergence.
- Appreciate the Paradox. When you learn how to sit in, what may feel opposing, new insights will emerge.
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About the author
My name is Kathleen Seeley and for the past 25 years, I have used my curiosity to create safe spaces for individuals to examine their thinking, to face their disturbances, to question their stories and through their own awareness breakthrough limiting patterns and beliefs to unlock their potential. To be Massively Human in their life and their work.