My Barn Has Burned Down, Now I Can See the Moon

Recently, a client of mine who had previously found success in using the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy in her life asked me the question, “How can I reframe this?”

Her life circumstance involved a very deep depression which came over her as a result of many significant changes in her life, converging all at the same time:  a recent move, the giving up of her teaching job, the youngest child leaving home, husband taking on a very consuming job.

These circumstances left her nearly immobilized and unable to get out of bed.   I responded to her about how she might look at this period of life as being a  transition to a new phase of life, and gave her some tasks to begin looking at new pathways for her future.  And we will continue from there.

Many times I find that a person who has had multiple losses or changes cannot conceive of what his or her life could look like if it were to be better.  In such cases, I try to help that person to imagine the possibilities of what a better life could be.  This might involve finding some new resources that could help them, or it might draw on strengths or attributes from earlier successes in their own life.  Someone once said to think of your life as an artist’s palette:  you paint the picture and then you go in.

I have a great interest in learning about some of the recent discoveries of modern science.  Nowadays, we do have amazing capabilities to soak this in, with the availability of numerous sources in the media at our very fingertips.  A recent PBS broadcast on cosmology and quantum mechanics showed how our experience of life might really be like this.  In manifold ways, we are really creating our own reality!

There are some things in life that we can control, and there are some things we cannot control.  Recognizing which is which is a start  We cannot change the past, but we can change how we view the past.  We can intend many things for our future.  Therein lies a lot of hope.

Many years ago, I had a period of my life during which many bad things happened. (Actually, there has been more than one such period).

Around that one particular time, I recall having read a small article in a magazine which had the same title as this article.  I believe it had been a saying written by a monk.  I can recall wandering around on an evening, after hearing just one more piece of devastating news, holding my then infant son to my chest, repeating this phrase:

My barn has burned down, now I can see the moon.

I think I was in a bit of a stupor at the time!   There was a clear moon on that evening.  But I was wondering how I could see my way during those difficult times.  Somehow I did….here I still am, older, maybe a bit wiser.

I find that people can open to new possibilities and see and do what they could not previously do, after they have experienced some of the bumps of life.  E. M. Forster wrote a  phrase that is on a sign in our driveway:

We must be willing to let go of the life that we have planned, in order to have the life that is waiting for us.