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Back to Square One

by Amy on October 11, 2018

Last week I wrote about my latest bout of depression.
I mentioned I had a theory about what led up to it…
But first you need to know about The Change Cycle. Martha Beck writes about it in Finding Your Own North Star, the book that, ironically, rescued me after a particularly nasty episode of depression.
It’s a model for coping with life change. There are four squares. But the important one for our purposes is square one.
We’ve all experienced something that has sent us reeling smack into chaos (aka square one).
Sometimes it’s a “cataclysmic event” we have no control over — for me that was the death of my mother.
It might even be something wonderful that fundamentally alters your world – for me that was the birth of my twins.
Sometimes though, the change that sends you “back to square one” is an inner shift that happens gradually rendering you unable to be the same person, live the same life.
I am the queen of this one. Let’s call it THE INNER SHIFT. Up until recently, however, my inner shifts did NOT happen gradually. Mostly because I spent my life trying to fit my square pegged ass into one round hole after another. (Get your mind out of the gutter.)
Like the time I worked for a company called mentor graphics that sounded interesting until I learned several weeks later that the company did not in fact mentor graphic artists but did something with semi conductors (I never figured it out).
My boss didn’t like all the time I spent organizing fundraisers on the side. One day she asked me to come in early for a “special project.” Then she never showed up. It didn’t take long for me to figure out the bitch was being passive aggressive. So I packed up my office and left.
I fled many a corporate job in this manner.
This was my pattern. Try to be someone else, become miserable trying to be this person, flee quickly and dramatically at any provocation.
I just wasn’t cut out for 9 to 5 work.
Like a wind up doll bumping straight into a wall, I’d crash back into square one over and over again.
After years of therapy, self coaching, psych-k, kundalini yoga, aromatherapy, Ho’oponono, colonics (just kidding I haven’t tried that yet), rigorous exercise and a lot of tennis, I’m still the queen of THE INNER SHIFT.
A few years back I was earning multiple six figures in my coaching biz and had just expanded my team only to realize, after two weeks of kundalini yoga in the jungles of Costa Rica, that I wanted to scale way back.
Yeah. That.
I forgot to mention that a huge part of the work of square one, outside of all the time re-evaluating the pessimistic, fear mongering, self destructive thoughts that come up once you’re there, is just plain grief work. You have to cry a lot — grieve the old you and the life you created which no longer works. Otherwise it’s square one purgatory folks. You’re never getting out. You’re a wind up doll crashing again and again into square one.
Which brings me to the present.
I just realized I’m in square one AGAIN. (It took me a while to figure it out, damnit.) I’m in a “liminal period,” or what Martha describes as “the bizarre, formless, zero-identity netherworld of Square One,” where you are “temporarily a kind of nobody.”
I got here via another inner shift. But this time the inner shift came in a way I did not expect…
It wasn’t a catalytic event.
It wasn’t a new job or a new baby…I didn’t win the lottery or experience some other kind of good fortune that changes everything. DARN.
It was an inner shift BUT it didn’t come from the same self destructive pattern of trying to fit myself into a life that isn’t right for me.
It came from self reflection.
And self coaching.
And all kinds of inner work.
That finally allowed me to break a life long cycle of looking for happiness outside of myself.
This is a major breakthrough, right?! Major!
Well, this “breakthrough” sent me smack into a depressive episode.
Because liminal periods suck. Being a “nobody” aka with no identity is practically torture to someone who has spent her entire life trying to seek significance in one way shape or form or another. What does one do with themselves? How does one organize her day when she has lost that drive, that ego-driven ambition that has been her faithful companion for-EVER?
I should have seen this coming. After all I teach a course called Being You Uncensored for people who identify as “approval addicts.” After they have done the work in this course, a lot of my people talk about feeling the same way, anchoress, lost, unsure of who they are now that they aren’t looking for other people to approve of them.
It’s a very good problem to have right?
I just find it odd that after all the self help, eight years of breakthroughs, ahas and “leveling up,” I am just now experiencing an inner shift so B.I.G. it has sent me into a dramatic square one melt down.
I suspect there are others, like me, experiencing this uber special (I’m being sarcastic) kind of square one liminal period. (They’re probably curled up in a fetal position wondering what the hell is happening.)
If this is you, know that there’s nothing wrong! This is actually normal! Phew.
You’ve got to unfurl yourself from the fetal position. You are not going crazy. You have some things to do… Grrl, you’ve got to cry! And rest and cry some more and make peace with the not knowing… who you are, what you want, what the hell to do with your non-self.
There is a magic in it too. “Being nobody nowhere, [you] can become anything and go anywhere,” Martha writes.
I”m starting to laugh a little more and my heart is pulling me in new directions. Now that I know I’ve been marinating in square one, I’m feeling better. Square two is on it’s way. It smells like wet dirt and grass and the center of a giant sunflower. And I’m gearing up to dream and plan.
For more info about The Change Cycle check out Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck. To check out my course called Being You Uncensored, click here:
#nofilter #thisisme

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

pascale October 11, 2018 at 10:18 pm

I’m there. With you. Now.
Square One, familiar as it may be, never feels good. Here’s to whatever comes next.


Sandy October 12, 2018 at 2:15 pm

Well, Hello Amy! So good to read you again! You never cease to inspire.

I have been vacillating between square 1 & 2 for about a year now. Mostly square 1. I’ve done the the grieving process many times. Getting to acceptance, moving into square 2 only to be sent back to 1. With each re-entry came another shift. I think I’ve finally his a solid square 2. I am finally at peace. I would say unshakeable peace for now. I have been in complete chaos for many months now which became a “normal” state of being. Now, in peace, I am not sure who I AM? It is like an identity crisis. I knew myself well in the chaos but this new peaceful me is quite unfamiliar. So this time in square 2 as I create a new dream, I am also meeting a new me. I AM Allowing Spirit to unfold me in into this new state of being. Like you, I have finally made the shift from seeking value and worth outside myself to REALIZING my value and worth inside out. The old way of “getting” is shifting to “giving”. The one thing I do know is that I AM One with the Universal Spirit, representing It’s Light and Love in this physical reality. I am learning that I am the creator of my dream and I can choose to be vulnerable to this world or I can choose my truth, that I am invulnerable. I am not at the effect of anyone else’s dream. And while this is a powerful feeling, it is unfamiliar. I dont quite know what to do with it. My ego would say, it is unbelieveable so just go back to that old way of being. However, I am patiently waiting, in faith and surrender, for the dream to unfold. It is ok to not know for a bit. It is ok to be in the “no-thingness” for awhile. It is way better than the chaos I used to live in. I dont have to force anything. Life now seems to be happening through me. Grace is a beautiful state to “be”. No matter what square one finds themself, surrender to the currents of life and allow the great mystery to unfold the new you. As the ugly duckling became a beautiful swan, so to will we all! Blessings be with you Amy! Thank you for your wholehearted share! ❤ Namaste


Flo October 12, 2018 at 2:41 pm

Dear Amy,
I love your blog. Thank you for helping us to go through depression. xx


Jennifer October 25, 2018 at 4:48 pm

Hi Amy, this is a beautiful post, thank you. I too am in Square One right now but didn’t realize it until I read this so very comforting. I also pulled up the North Star book and am re-reading. I look forward to hearing about your new adventures!


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