Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Phoenix

I have been thinking a lot about the mythical Phoenix and how it exists in our own lives - even when we have no idea that it does. Some one once wrote that the Phoenix represents, "our capacity for vision," and that it creates, "intense excitement and deathless inspiration." 

Now I am not exactly sure how this (the Phoenix) came up but it keeps returning to my mind once or twice a week. This weekend it was following a conversation with my sister. She said that moving to, and staying in, Portland took courage. Which is ironic because I moved here in large part out of fear. Fear to continue my life as it was and knowing that if I were anywhere near by I would go back to it. Regardless of all of the other things that were going on at the time, part of me had gone missing and I guess I thought a little could be found somewhere else. But I never thought of it as a courageous act to look for it - I thought I was kind of a coward and a disappointment. 

A small part of me believed that it was huge for me to be so far away because I had never done anything on my own before. I hated ordering food without someone else's opinion, mainly my sisters (still do really) and yet I did the unthinkable, I left my entire life. I am the only one in my immediate and immediately extended family to do that. We have always all been within a couple of hours of each other and here I require a flight or a looong drive to visit.

It was never my intention to stay. But it was my pride that kept me. I couldn't go back. I had done so much damage that the idea of returning to my own ashes was too hard. How could I? So I stayed. And here is where I feel like the Phoenix, though without the amazingness of being the Phoenix.

Things fell apart; I mean really, they were at their bottom. And for the life of me I could not imagine them ever getting better again. There was no reason to stay and there was no reason to go. I was such a wreck and so alone that going back would involve more humility than I could muster but staying meant more pain than I wanted to feel. Pain trumped humility. 

It is nice to hear it called courage. Then I could rewrite or reimagine my history as courage trumped fear. The courage to keep going and not stay in my loneliness but to keep going to therapy, to go back to school to cut out a hurtful friend when I really had no other friends to fall back on, to trust love, to carve out a life. Or to make a stretch here: To rise from the ashes anew, like the Phoenix.

I think my favorite Phoenix legend is the Greek one. In one telling of it the problem for the Phoenix is that it gets lonely because it is the only of its kind and for another one to be made it must die. When it feels death coming it builds a nest with the finest aromatic woods, sets it on fire and is consumed by its own flames. From the pile of ashes a new Phoenix arises, young and powerful. 

Whichever legend you choose the Phoenix is associated with starting over, resurrection, new beginnings or what not. For me, in my audacious claims of feeling a similarity to the Phoenix, it is that I had to know it was time to let things die to build that fire, embrace it, and begin to live again. 

Sometimes I am unsure of where I am in this process or if I am repeating it many times. But I know that there is courage in living life in general and it takes courage for me to be this far from home - and it isn't even that far - and to keep living and building. I guess you could say, to keep flying. 

Like the Phoenix I have felt so lonely. As if I was the only bird of my kind. Unlike the Phoenix I am not. But because I am the only me, I still needed the process - build the nest, go into the fire, start again. 

The first the nest was really, really hard to build - especially since I knew that once it was done there was fire waiting for me. It has been scary. But despite the pain of the consequences that I always feel the need to recognize, despite that, knowing the life I now know is worth stepping into the flames and starting over. 


Jenny said...

I am excited to see you rise from the ashes.

a work in progress said...

thanks jenny. that means a lot. i guess i've stepped out of that fire.
and i even found a new set of keys out here. who knew?

About Me

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Portland, OR, United States
I am a daughter, sister, friend, wife, counselor and colleague. I am a work in progress. There may be some pieces out of place and things might be messy, but it's okay. I would rather accept that I am still unfinished than think that this is it. You can find my comments on faith and spirituality on my blog: And my comments and anecdotes on life at:

Books That Matter. Well, some of the many that matter.

  • Magical Shrinking: Stumbling Through Bipolar Disorder, Chris Wells
  • Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen
  • An Abudance of Katherines, John Green
  • Dave Pelzer
  • Franny & Zooey, J.D. Salinger
  • I Was Told There'd Be Cake, Sloane Crosley
  • The Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris
  • The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are, Daniel J. Siegel