Reflections on rest, renewal and renaming

Something I’ve been contemplating a lot lately is the way life works in cycles. The seasons of the year, the phases of the moon, the mostly cycle of my body. I am really connecting with and listening to these cycles, and the opportunities they provide for me. Within each of these cycles there is a time of high energy and action followed by a time that seems built for rest and reflection. One without the other is dangerous. Too much energy and action leads to burnout. Too much rest and reflection without any action leads to stagnation.

But life has larger cycles also. I am coming to the end of several of these cycles at the moment, I feel. Not only am I in the last year of my twenties, and possibly my last year of non-motherhood, but I’m also in my last few weeks of my teaching career. More on that later…

Another phase of life that just ended for me, officially, today, is my maiden name. Although we got married over 18 months ago, I only just officially changed my name this week (and only because my looming licence renewal notice prompted me to stop procrastinating!). This is significant I feel. It’s been a really big decision for me. I won’t go into all the feminist stuff that came up alongside (at least, I won’t go into it right now!) but it has also been a very large identity decision.

Before we got married, I thought I’d take his name and lose my maiden name altogether. But the day after we were married when I went to change my name on Facebook (Facebook official!) I felt sick. I couldn’t do it. So then for a while I thought I’d keep my maiden name. But that didn’t really feel right either.

It took me 6 full months to finally settle on double barrelling my surnames without a hyphen. So, I am Ellen Ronalds Keene.

Even though I’ve had that as my official Facebook name for more than a year now, and also as my name at work and at the hair dresser, I hadn’t actually legally changed it. Until today.

Do I feel different? I’m not sure. I certainly feel that procrastinating on the name change was initially vital — I had to figure out what I wanted, who I wanted to be. But lately it had felt more like resistance.

There’s a lovely metaphor I use in coaching sometimes about monkey bars. When you want to move forward on the monkey bars, you have to let go of one rung before you can grasp onto the next. For a moment, brief as it may be, you are hanging and swinging in the air with only one hand to support you. It’s fear of that transition phase that keeps you holding onto that earlier rung a little longer than you should. The longer you hold on, the more tired your arms get, and the greater your anxiety about having to let go.

That’s how I feel a bit about this name change. I know, logically it’s what I want. But a part of me has to grieve the loss of the old me. Not so much the single me, more the child/adolescent me who was far more carefree and blissfully ignorant about much of the world and its problems.

Who is Ellen Ronalds Keene? Well, she’s a woman, not a girl. She’s a professional, a business woman, a successful and wildly wealthy woman. She’s an author and speaker, a coach and a creator. She’s also a wife and, in my mind, a mother. She’s a mature, capable, intelligent, strong, decisive, discerning force of nature. She doesn’t take crap, she has exceptional boundaries, and she stands up for what is right. She’s in touch with her soul and her emotions and she’s giving and generous while being an expert practitioner in the art of extreme self-care. She’s brave, she explores new things and doesn’t let fear hold her back. She’s radiant and she lifts others into their own radiance too.

And yet, I don’t feel like those things yet. I so often still feel like a vulnerable little girl, an imposter and a wimp. But I’m learning and changing and growing and perhaps someday I will be the Ellen Ronalds Keene of my vision. For now, Ellen Ronalds Keene is just hatching out of her shell, trying to figure out who she is today, now that she officially has 2 last names (no hyphen!). It’s the beginning of a new phase, and an exciting one.

2016 is also the end of the first phase of my working life. My career as a high-school teacher is coming to an end. I have spent 24 of my 29 years on the planet at school. It’s time. I’m tired, very tired. I’m also becoming jaded and disillusioned which I don’t enjoy and I don’t believe is productive. Even apart from all that, I have spent 5 incredible years at my current school, which happens to be 100km away from my house. Environmentally, my conscience can’t and won’t keep allowing that because it makes my footprint far larger than it needs to be. Physically and emotionally, all that driving and the very long days also takes a toll. And cyclically, I’ve seen a whole cohort through their high school years at this school, and it just feels time to move on.

But with that comes a level of grief. I’m accepting of that and I’ve been contemplating it a lot in the last few weeks. Especially in the last week, as I have been recovering from a nasty virus. Even now, 11 days after initially falling ill, I am extremely fatigued. Tomorrow will be my first day back at work in a week and a half and I have to say, I’m nervous. My body is not yet 100% and I don’t like soldiering on, although I am feeling much more myself and I really do need to get back to work. But I know how my body recovers from viruses. I am going to be extremely careful in the next month, which also happens to be my last month in this job, to protect my energy as much as possible. I can’t afford to wear myself out any more than I already am and I certainly can’t afford to give myself post-viral chronic fatigue syndrome again.

This time of enforced rest and reflection has felt rather timely. Somebody told me recently that often we begin and end cycles the same way. I began my teaching career as a preservice teacher with a chronically sore throat and persistent fatigue. It seems apt that physically I am there again, at the end of my teaching career. And it confirms my decision to leave a profession that requires me operate in a system that is bad for my health. This is yet another opportunity to practice prioritising my health amidst a myriad of end-of-year pressures, many of which are increased because I have to tie up a number of extra loose ends as well.

It seems that this time of lower energy, need for rest and time for reflection is descending upon me at the end of this cycle and the beginning of the next. I had hoped to do so much on my website and business by the end of the year to really kick start 2017 with a bang. But I see now that isn’t going to happen. I intend to heed the warning signs my body is sending. The next cycle will begin when it begins and the time of high energy and action will return.

But for now, I allow myself to settle into this slower phase to allow my mind and heart and spirit to adjust to all the changes ahead: a new name, a new career, a new decade and hopefully in time a new season of life.

Grace and peace, darlings x

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