When a Life Change is Needed, Isolation is a Gift
Monday November 29, 2021

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“The caterpillar grows wings during a period of isolation. Remember that the next time you’re alone.”


Gradually, ever so tentatively, the world and its citizens begin to emerge as this year 2021 comes to a close. With cautious optimism, we place one foot out into the world of congregation and gathering we once knew, only to hear of a reason to not step so boldly.

While walking outside in Wallowa County this weekend, along the East Moraine and just below the treeline below Ruby Peak, with the snow not having arrived, the grasses were slowly emerging and revealing green spades of growth. Knowing that soon indeed winter would come, the snow would blanket the pastures, the hills and the rimrock for weeks and months, I savored what was a fleeting sight.

In many ways the confident, yet cautious emergence shown by Mother Nature reminds me of where the world stands today with the pandemic’s unknown variants. We each had an abundance of time to be in our own company, our thoughts, discerning of what is most important, what truly is needed to live well and with buoyant enthusiasm, but when we remain isolated for so long, we can begin to become too cautious, too leery and unwilling to step into the world we wish to be a part of.

The isolation’s benefits gift us with time to ground ourselves, become clear and to reimagine our lives, but then we must go about living and emerge with our new awareness, strengthened courage and curiosity as we engage with the world and dance with who arrives to live fully as well.

Yes, there is reason to be cautious, but we are wiser now, and to reflect on who and where we were pre-isolation, is to observe an earlier chapter of our lives.

The caterpillar requires time to evolve and change so to have the strength and the fortitude to emerge presenting its new self. So too do each of us. Whenever we deepen our awareness, step into a new chapter, become awake to a new chapter that must begin but we don’t know what it will be, or need to see who we have become so we can believe we indeed are more capable than we initially trust, the gift of isolation fortifies us to endure the metamorphosis process.

To undergo the metamorphic change without giving ourselves time to rest, to step away from the world, we draw on fewer reserves and can often disbelieve the change that has indeed occurred and all that we can be in a life we previously had only hoped was possible but now is indeed waiting for us to embrace as our very own.

Being isolated can be incredibly discomfiting. And while we cannot know what a caterpillar feels as it moves through this natural phase of evolution into a butterfly, we do know that cells die and new are formed. A letting go of the old to make way for the new in order for the growth to be possible. Thus is the purpose for bravely walking through our own suffering which is necessary in order to emerge into our new and more true and aware self, so we too can share and engage with the world more fully, more beautifully because we appreciate the humanness and the finite nature of our lives.

Our form of isolation will be unique to each of us. It may be literal, retreating to a sacred and private space; or less engaged socially temporarily as we have in the past, not because we do not enjoy the company of others, but rather, we need space to understand, feel and know our thoughts and emerging wanderings. Whatever gives each individual in need of isolating the ability to tap into reserves to navigate through rather than avoid the knowledge we will gain when we walk to and through what we discover, that is how we must isolate.

In many ways, unknowingly initially, choosing to dive into the remodeling of my house these past two years became my form of chosen isolation. My first thought was logical: I cannot travel, projects that contribute to my life and ones I can share with readers lift my spirits and engage my interest, and since I cannot travel, I will stay home and do what I can. However, I soon realized, the timing of tending to my home was quite serendipitous as it aligned with a needed time to rest, find strength and shift, learn and grow in ways I still greatly needed to understand and embody in my life if I wanted to be a part of the world and fully engage as I had always wished I could.

The good news to note and hold as truth is isolation periods come to an end, and again, we must gather up our courage, now newly found, and step bravely into what was so long prepared for us to savor.

In observing Norman’s enthusiasm in the above image, striding curiously and with undistracted focus into a new arena to run free, I find inspiration to do the same. Following Norman’s lead does not imply foolish action, but taking action and in so doing, doing it confidently with the newfound knowledge we have about ourselves and the life we have discovered brings us contentment.

Today, if you find yourself in an unwanted isolation as many of us did nearly two years ago, whether it is due to a relationship ending or needing to end, a job you no longer find your calling or anything that is holding you in much time alone, mine it for wisdom and give yourself time. Soon, you too will be able to emerge into a better life that aligns in stride with what up until now you may have thought but a dream.


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14 thoughts on “When a Life Change is Needed, Isolation is a Gift

  1. Ah Shannon, what a lovely inspirational post. I like that you describe isolation as not only necessary, but crucial as a means to take the time, however long or short, to digest, to assess, and then move forward with confidence. Absolutely stunning photo of Norman contemplating his path. May your week be full of lovely adventures. ?XOX Rona

  2. Beautiful post and photo. I watched the movie Land with Robin Wright on HBO Max this weekend, very much in this theme. Happy Holidays.


  3. Shannon,
    Another powerful insight! Isolation need not mean loneliness, but simply the solitude for reflection and growth as you point out so well. Sometimes it’s sought, sometimes it’s thrust upon us by events outside of our control. It’s what we do with it that’s important.
    Thank you,

    1. Jim,
      You are very welcome and thank you for spotlighting that it is what we do with it. We do have more control and input than we may at first realize. Have a wonderful week and thank you for stopping by. ?

  4. I realized this month that the forced isolation last year was a small bit of respite and yes, painful many times. I live a rather ‘noisy’ life what with grandkids, helping my aging Mom, & my husband’s business (which he is gradually retiring) and a full-time job. Maybe I realized what really didn’t sit well and I’m less likely to tolerate people’s shenanigans! My mom
    Is a bit bitter in these last years and I used to try to soothe her mind but I find myself just letting her talk and not getting as worked up about it as I used to. People feel how they feel, and I’m not necessarily responsible for that.
    On another note I saw a post where you had created holiday playlists while driving but cannot find it now…rats!

  5. So interesting to talk about this, the benefits of solitude. It can be pleasant or unpleasant, easy or difficult to bear, but I agree that it can bring great gifts to one’s life: the gift of patience, the gift of understanding, the gift of fortitude, … Loneliness is a totally different thing and can be very impairing.

  6. My period of isolation over the last 2 years told me I need… more isolation! Or perhaps just giving myself more time to be alone when I need to and to do what nourishes me. I agree, when given time, alone without the noise of the world, we can truly know ourselves and what we need. I find that when I reflect on busy days with a whirl of people around me, I feel I was rushed and not able to present my true self.. too caught up in the stressors of the day.
    Great post Shannon.
    Sarah x

    1. Sarah, thank you for sharing what you have learned. It can happen quickly or without our knowing, accepting a way of life we think works when it actually only fully works for someone or something else. I am so incredibly happy for you to have discovered what is true for you. Thank you again fir sharing. ?

  7. This post is a kind of confirmation about what I am considering for June 2022 (retirement from teaching.). I have been drawn to the idea of a type of silent retreat in the woods, small hermitage, a couple of days to regroup and reset. Looking for something to make the divide between teaching and my “next act” symbolic, I think I am on the right track with this. Have you ever done a silent retreat?

    Merry Christmas, Shannon; you spread your joy to all of us!

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