Evolving in your life can often feel like an amateur game of yo-yo. You find yourself moving forward, flowing, and falling with exhilaration, then you hit the end of some string and come to a screeching halt. Maybe you were excited about a new job opportunity, a new class you were going to sign up for, or a needed change you were ready to make in your life. But changes sometimes come with challenges, disappointments, lulls and fears. Even when you’re moving in line with your greater purpose, there are bumps in the road that ask you to retreat and regroup. These bumps are necessary; they build your endurance, and provide you with a new set of muscles to use as you continue on your journey. And so, as needed, you step back to regroup from the jolt of the bump. You take some space to climb into your shell and find your center again. But be careful! The shell is there for protection and a peaceful pause. The tricky part is not making a habit of over-retreating.
As strange at is may sound, when I saw this little turtle image, I thought it looked a bit like my headshot. While I am aware that my life’s experiences are different than a cute little reptile, I can relate to the turtle’s desire to climb inside of that shell and retreat. The problem is when I get overwhelmed with my life, I am a master of overstaying my welcome in Shellville.
Don’t get me wrong, shells are an amazing gift; they allow us to take time to breathe, regroup and find a place of peace. The shell is our mechanism for pulling away, pausing from movement and getting clarity. The challenge is when the shell becomes our new place of residence. It often happens for me without complete realization. I turn my need for space and retreat into avoidance. While it is essential to take the time you need to calm down and re-center, you have to remember to climb out of that shell and move!
What I have learned from my own lifetime of over-retreating is that I often struggle to pull myself out of the shell on my own. I am a master of shell rationalization. I can creatively and convincingly explain to my inner self why I am fine inside the shell. “You aren’t ready yet…you need more time to think about things…you’ve been so busy with other things give yourself a break…you need to eat better and exercise regularly and then you will get moving…” So how the hell do I get myself to move when I can’t possibly win an argument with myself? I reach out to someone who I know is going to lovingly tell me to “get my ass out of that damn shell!” I turn to the people in my life whom, I know, will motivate me to move.
But, be discerning. Different people in your life fulfill different needs. Not everyone is the right person to call when you need an empathetic ear. Similarly, not everyone is the right person to call when you need to climb out of your shell. For me, my shell busters, are the family and friends in my life who bring me clarity. They hear me. They instinctively know what I want from my life and the direction I desire to move. Their advice and motivation never confuses me, rather it reaffirms what I know to be true in my own heart and gives me the focus and drive to get going again. They build me up and kick my ass right out of that shell.
Perhaps in time I will grow strong and insightful enough to recognize that I’m over-retreating and it’s time to pull myself out. But in the meantime, I have grown infinitely grateful for the relationships that I have cultivated with “can do” people who see through my shell rationalization and insist that I come back into the purpose of my life. The truth is, in the end, the shell is only big enough to provide you with a pause, it cannot possibly hold all that is your life. If you have been hiding too long, I challenge you to move. And if you cannot find it in you to do it on your own, reach out to a shell buster in your life, and allow them to pull you out of your shell rationalization and into your greatness.