A tree stands tall, strong, old from centuries of lives. It’s roots are deep reaching through soil, silt, rock – deep down to where water is found again. One day a storm from nowhere in particular lands on top of this tree. Lightning flashes and the top third snaps like a pea. Fire sparks from the birth and limbs burn. The roots reach even deeper for cool water to extinguish its inner burning. But the tree is changed. Half dead it transforms and tiny trees curl towards the sky with green leaves and white flowers that droop to kiss the dirt.
Change is so very interesting. We fight it. Reject it. Yet become bored to tears with routine and sameness. We want unique and original. And we like to fit into descriptive boxes that let people know who we are and what we stand for. We adhere to binary worlds yet crave diversity. Diversity of anything and everything yet nothing for multiplicity does not fit into descriptive boxes. A change that harkens upheaval is even worse than learning that your organization has yet another reorganization. Upheaval is negative, dangerous. Something bad must of happened in this place.
Creative destruction was coined by Joseph Schumpeter as a shorthand description of the free market. It is the essential fact about capitalism and describes the process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.
Creative destruction is used within facilitation and organization development believing that at times something must die in order to make room for birth. Applied to human beings rather than economies, creative destruction is a way to incessantly stop behaviors and practices — that when stopped — make space for new things. In this way, an act of destruction or stopping makes way for an act of creation or starting.
Five months ago I decided to have a kind of internal mental revolt. I have vesa vega syncope. It’s common and unique for each person. For instance mine looks like a seizure. For a brief moment as a kid doctors believed I had epilepsy. Thank god my parents asked for a second opinion first. My version of syncope is not caused by the typical seeing blood or standing too fast, no, it’s caused by what I can only deduce as anxiety, panic, a beating hot sun, not enough water, hangover or falling asleep on a plane apparently.
In this specific instance, I’m reading a book on the bus heading to work. Down I went right before looking out the window feeling quite peaceful. I felt it come on – I always do – and this has been my saving grace in preventing me from passing out most of my life. As of the last year I find myself feeling the oncoming of one but can’t seem to stop them. This time, I was trapped on a bus and trying to move quickly off the bus, well, I’d never make it that’s certain. So I leaned back in my seat and exhaled.
I woke on the floor of the bus. But this was different. My body was in a revolt for change. I spent the next four hours in the emergency room because my vitals wouldn’t recover. It took the next five months to be able to ride the bus at least 90% worry free. This blip on my life screen changed my transportation, my routines, and practices. I needed a support system via phone just to ride the bus (if I rode it at all) and for the first few weeks, I even needed this to drive my car. At the beginning, I started riding my bike to work and even that had me in a near blurry panic. All transportation was complete and utter panic inducing. It was illogical, I knew, and also uncontrollable.
Metamorphosis is a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism, as from the caterpillar to the pupa and from the pupa to the adult butterfly. In a biological process an animal physically develops after birth or hatching. An ancestral feature of all the numerous chordate family members.
In The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, Gregor Samsa wakes one morning from anxious dreams to find himself transformed into a huge insect.
One origin of the word metamorphosis is from the 1530s, “change of form or shape,” especially by witchcraft.
I was the burning and broken tree. We are all at different times this tree where our life appears to crumble around us. Or even worse, our own selves may seem to break in half. Change is relative and relentless. Mountain metaphors guide our persistence and routines. But storms crack and injure them, making us question why they even exist. In my state of upheaval which became creative destruction, my routines and persistence were torn down to their roots.
There was a new method to my life. Alcohol was reserved for only Friday, maybe Saturday but that could get dicey because Monday was the next day. I went to work later in the morning (mainly because I couldn’t face the passengers or the driver from the bus I used to take every morning after the episode). Having someone to call while on the bus or in my car. Medication to help me sleep and reduce anxiety – but caused dizziness. Counting the glasses of water throughout the day to ensure I drank enough. Going to bed at a decent time and having on hand all natural calming agents to help keep panic at bay. Then there were the tactics for riding the bus for the winter: find a seat where I can place my bag on the floor and have full access to my lap; after sitting down remove hat, gloves, scarf, and coat to prevent getting too warm; place head at my knees to keep blood flow level between heart and head and then call my support system, ride like this until arrive at work.
All of this became me with more solid roots than before. Some was simply transformation going from calling someone on the bus then graduating to listening to cello music then graduating, finally, to reading on the bus again once more within the quiet spaces. No cello or phone calls but remaining vigilant to my body, mind and breath at all times. Now that I can ride the bus like most other people do, it didn’t mean I returned to previous practices or routines.For the most part, I keep drinking to Fridays or Saturdays. These will always be the safest days. In fact the less alcohol the better in my new state. All the tactics only make me more confident, not less.
Within creative destruction something has to die to allow for something else to flourish. Death scares many of us, me included. We’re either choosing or forced to let go of something – maybe even something we felt crucial to our identity. Going through the process, we realize we’re so much more than that one thing. And just like the mountain, we may not internally change and yet we’re changing all the time. Regardless of my transformation, I’m still me simply because I can’t be anything else but me. I’m stuck with me for better or worse.
Octavia Butler writes in the Earthseed series: All that you touch you change. All that you change changes you. The only lasting truth is change. Even so, we don’t know how to know change or how to relax into emergence. How to let things happen whether seemingly labeled good or bad. Labels drive us. We want more of what is good and less of what is bad. It’s hard to see in the throes of bad, beauty may be unfolding and if we’re only looking for the negative then that’s all we see and the beauty becomes lost. But bad births good which are relative terms to begin with. We ebb and flow through it like a roller coaster ride of fear, excitement, smiles, and vomit.