Last week I returned to Shadowcliff for the first time since the East Troublesome Fire ravaged Grand County last fall. It was the fastest-growing fire in Colorado history, consuming more than 120,000 acres in less than a day and burning a total of 193,812.
Bearing witness to the devastation was heartbreaking. As I hiked the Cascade Falls trail I found myself trying to piece back together what it looked like before the fire burned everything in its path.
There was a structure. I think it was painted green. The windows were always boarded up. And some posts were across the trail where people could tie up their horses. This was right before the trail became single track and entered a forest where I often saw Moose. Unable to walk on, I kept trying to visualize what it was like before as my eyes took in the total destruction.
It was all gone. The cabin. The posts. The forest. And I wished I had a picture but never thought to take one of that exact spot before. So my memory of it was smokey at best. Given the lack of evidence, I found myself questioning if my recollection was even true or a total fabrication. And I continued standing there, paralyzed by the change.
Observing such change is startling. It makes you aware of things once taken for granted and now gone, which is unsettling. There's a sense of loss that's discombobulating. And it can be hard to know how to proceed when we can no longer lean on the familiar.
This experience reminded me of the changes we continue to navigate with COVID. Some of those changes felt as drastic as the wildfire. Here one minute, gone the next. While other changes continue to reveal themselves like the plates of the earth slowly shifting below our feet exposing a hidden fault line.
Henry Levinson observed, "All change is loss and all loss needs to be mourned."
Taking to the pages of my journal helps me navigate change with more grace and ease by improving my AIM (Acknowledge, Inquiry, Meaning) moving forward. I start by Acknowledging the thoughts, feelings, and sensations brought on by the change. Journaling offers me a place to write without filtering myself. Giving voice to that which is inside me so I may take back control over how I am showing up.
From there, I dig deeper, as I pursue different lines of Inquiry. I reflect on what's different, which is often an easy and obvious place to start. Then I challenge myself to reflect on that which remains the same. The fact that the sun still rises and sets every day. Or I still have my family's love. Or my sense of purpose stands resolute. Recognizing the small and positive things that persist is grounding.
I often conclude my journaling by using my clarity to chart a direction that's Meaningful and actionable. Sometimes, finding the opportunity in change takes time. If there are layers of hurt or loss I am carrying, I need to honor that and heal. I might start small by articulating an invitation to practice self-compassion. While other times, I might find Meaning thru bigger actions - like deciding to host Journal Jams after the pandemic hit as a way to build community, offer a safe space for people to be real, and cultivate a practice for listening within for guidance during challenging times.
Either way, journaling enables me to claim my agency and move past the paralysis I may experience in the face of change. In my journal, I mourn the losses, make peace with that which I cannot control and find a purposeful path forward.
While the changes we have endured through the pandemic are hard, there's also cause for hope. Not even a year later, wildflowers burst through the ashen ground where the East Troublesome Fire burned. There's evidence of such rebirth elsewhere as a result of these changes, we just have to look for and nurture it.
Are you ready to make forward progress but feel paralyzed? Are you struggling to navigate change? Join us for the next Journal Jam, September 14th, and give yourself the give of listening to your own innate wisdom. More information and registration is available online here.