The first business card I designed as a new counsellor was light blue and listed four or five areas of counselling in which I had had some experience. Although I couldn’t recite that exact list to you now, one item on it that I do remember was “Adjustment to radical change.” This was what I was most familiar with, having lived through it and then researched it during my studies. I was drawn to the word radical because it described so well the kind of change I meant – extreme. I liked it, but there was a harshness about it I didn’t like so I wasn’t all that happy with it. Unable to find anything better, I used it anyway. It wasn’t until sometime later when I looked it up while preparing a workshop that I discovered its full meaning and immediately fell in love with this perfect word. Radical is much more than another way of saying extreme.
It is a captivating mystery to me how things that define us sometimes find us, or we them, before we are even aware of their significance. The word radical is from the Latin word “radix” which means root. It also means “growing from the root”. As if that wasn’t enough to make me clap my hands in glee, it’s slang for “wonderful” and “excellent” too. I am someone who wholeheartedly believes in the possibility of people creating wonderful, excellent lives after the shattering effects of adversity, and that going to the roots of who you are and healing from there is a crucial part of the process. There is no better word than radical to describe the change I am talking about – extreme change from which wonderful, excellent lives can be grown from the roots up.
I don’t think there is a how-to formula for growing your life again after some radical adversity has knocked you down. There are ingredients for sure, but the mix is different for everyone because everyone is unique, as are their circumstances. So although an easy to follow, step by step process would be nice, I can’t provide that. But, I can share the stories of the experiences I’ve had along the way, and in them perhaps you will find the meaning and insight that is part of your mix. This blog is a companion piece to the Living with Heart website and I’ve created it as a way to combine my love for writing with a desire to pass on what I’ve learned.
My own run-in with adversity was over three decades ago (seems impossible) and took the form of becoming quadriplegic after an illness. A little more than ten years into the journey I found myself working with an employment counsellor as I apprehensively looked for a job. She had a disability very similar to mine and was more of a mentor to me than I think she knew. One day we were having an intense philosophical discussion that I can only recall seemed to be important in terms of quelling my anxiety. Suddenly she paused, looked directly into my eyes and said “I think we’re here to learn and to help each other.” Her words, so elegant in their simplicity, struck me as perfectly eloquent and starkly true. I think she was right. I hope you find some support for your journey in these posts. Adversity can be radical, as in extremely bad, but remember, so can life, as in reimagined, recreated and extremely wonderful.