Burn Like a Phoenix

W hen I was a little girl, I was taught to never play with fire. But what if I told you jean_grey___phoenix_by_elezar81-d4gmkkbthat I made the biggest leaps in my life by making the decision to walk through fire?

Though I’ve talked about the demise of my marriage and how much I love my day-to-day life, I haven’t shared much about the time between then and now.

After my divorce, I dated. A lot. Though some guys came and went, one of them stuck around for six years of on-again-off-again romance.

To be honest, I used this relationship as an excuse – a way to really allow myself to not get too close to a man emotionally.  I loved him. He loved me. But both of us had been burned by the fire of soul-love and played this fire dance – getting close and backing away when it got too hot.

Around the time my mother was diagnosed with cancer, the on-again-off-again nature of the romance had become just too exhausting (that’s what I told myself) and I made the decision that I was “done with relationships”.

And while it was true that the sizzling-hot-sizzling-out nature of the romance was exhausting, the deeper truth was that I had finally realized that I held more value than to be the on-again-off-again girl.

I threw myself into work and travel as a way to escape feeling. I had always been good at numbing, and though I had learned a bit about the art of feeling, I threw all of that learning aside and proclaimed that Busy WAS the New Black.

And, baby, let me tell you, I was a pro at compartmentalizing. I could bring logic into any situation. I could separate sex from love. I could meticulously remove any feelings of grief by living out of a suitcase.

And then I met JB.

What began as someone to just “have fun with” and “have dinner with” when I was in DC for work, transformed into something unexpected. Feelings surfaced. I can still clearly recall sitting on the bed in his guest room in DC, texting a girlfriend about how frightened I was: How dare my heart betray me and begin to have feelings beyond fondness!

But, of course, being a logical creature, I avoided the flames so I could be safe, and pushed those feelings away.

If I challenged my beliefs (I didn’t desire a real relationship, I didn’t deserve love, I was unlovable, I was done with men, etc.) I would run the risk of having to grieve any potential losses. I wanted to play it safe, but what I really desired (love, a companion, a partner) was on the other side of the fire.

I avoided any serious conversations with him for months, and then we had this amazing weekend together.

By all logic, I shouldn’t have time for feelings. In a 6 week time period, I had been to New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and DC three times. My mother had died, my oldest daughter had gone through a crisis, and I was battling all my demons by spending as much time as I could by traveling for work non-stop.

Yet, here we were at Mount Vernon,  and I can still recall standing under the hot sun as sweat dripped down my spine yet I was shivering at his touch on my arm and his breath on my neck as he whispered in my ear. And the following evening, at the Point of View lounge, overlooking the White House and the Washington Monument, we finally had a conversation, not about the logistics of our dating but about love and faith and fear.

No matter how scared I was, it was time to walk through that ring of fire.

Martha Beck describes the ring of fire as “the emotional process we must go through in order to reach the core of peace.” It was then that I truly learned a lesson that I always knew: in order to have what I desired, I had to allow myself to burn.

If you want to get to the very core of who you were born to be in this world, then you must embrace the concept of becoming a phoenix. You step into the fire, knowing that it’s going to be hot and scary,  yet necessary in order to strip away the layers of protection and “beliefs” that you have about yourself.

It is in this moment of decision that you take a leap of faith and choose love.

The life that you deserve to live is on the other side of the fire. There is immense power in allowing yourself to burn.

When you walk through the ring of fire, here’s what happens:

It burns up all the beliefs and excuses

Want to live a life you love? Then, darling, you are going to have to discard the beliefs about yourself that are keeping that life at bay. The beliefs about who you are and the concepts of the world you live in – beliefs like the fact that you are unlovable, undeserving of joy, unworthy of being loved and belonging, or unable to access joy and grace.

When you burn those babies, you can see your path. As the beliefs begin to go up in smoke, you begin to embody the words of Eleanor Roosevelt “You must do the thing that you think you cannot do.”

It forces you to choose love over fear

I wish I could tell you how many times I flirted with the fire and chose to live in the smoke because I was too afraid to walk through. What if I didn’t like to be a freshly reborn phoenix? Change is damned scary, and so often we decide we’re rather live in a crappy situation than risk the unknown.

It forces you to choose having a life instead of a half life

I wish I could tell you the number of times I got close to the fire and stopped on the edge and went back to simply existing. Walking through the fire forces you to live full-out instead of in the space of excuses.

It forces you to feel those shadow emotions

There is no way you can walk through the fire and not feel pain. But here’s the truth of the matter, kitten: there is more pain by staying away from the fire. There is the pain of not feeling any of the good stuff, the pain of simply existing, the pain of denying yourself joy.

When I see people go through the ring of fire, they get angry, they cry, they withdraw….most often it can seem like a big hot mess. And, baby, it’s supposed to be.

Sometimes, you have to deal with and feel that pain in order to let it go. But you grab your faith and your courage and continue to walk through, and then you realize that you have emerged.

It allows you to be reborn and feel excited about your life

Life feels different after you burn. When you’re going through it, it’s looks like a burnt field of grass, all black and messy. Then, one day, a bright, little green blade of grass sprouts up, followed by another and another until it’s so vibrant and fresh.

There is peace and love and joy on the other side.

Eventually, you must go through

There is a saying, “The only way out is through.” All the quick fixes, numbing techniques and running can’t get us where we want to go until we’re willing to burn. We can’t continue to run and struggle and hide. Eventually, we must surrender.

I believe that in my life, I’ve actually walked through the fire multiple times. It’s part of the process of living. The difference in being forced through the fire and choosing to walk through aren’t that different, but I can promise you that creating awareness around your choice will allow you to take that phoenix spirit with you.

Like me, I’m willing to bet that you’ve walked through the ring of fire before, even if you haven’t given yourself credit for it!

The purest form of you and a daily life you love is on the other side

Going through relationship hell – the feelings of never being enough for anyone, of feeling no one would ever love me as much as I loved them, that I was supposed to be the giver and never the receiver – was worth it, baby.

Because here I am, reconnected to myself. I’m loved. I’ve learned that relationships are not always toxic. And I have learned that I am loveable as I am and incredibly worthy.

This isn’t the only time I’ve walked through the fire.  And it won’t be the last. The ring of fire was gift.  I emerged as a Phoenix.

Think about all the things that you most enjoy now. Did you have to go through some hard times, some pain, overcome fear or go to some sort of hell to have this thing?

Now darling, what beliefs do you need to burn?

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By Debra Smouse: Writer, life coach, and Tarnished Southern Belle, Debra helps people fall in love with their life. An expert de-tangler, she believes in busting clutter as a path to greater clarity and that within every woman is vibrant, passionate, and sexy being just itching to make their inner sex kitten roar. A native Texan, she resides in Ohio with the Man of her Dreams.

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