Every moment is a fork in the road.
The road you take will shape your future.
Choose love over fear.
- unknown source
You may know that I spent some of the last six years teaching/facilitating Driver Alcohol Education classes for First Offender Drunk Drivers. I always liked teaching the week 13 class the best. I started with the question:
"Is stress good or bad?"
Some answered yes, some no, while others wanted to know if it was a trick question. All of those responses were valid! The truth is, stress is good up to a point. It improves "performance" but as we all know, too much stress will have the opposite effect. This is shown in the graphic below.
The obvious question comes up -- why is this so? As I try to explain, it will lead me into what I really want to share with you this week; something I believe can change the way you live your life, something that is about your very own survival!
As I have grown, and learned to accept change within the outside world, and myself, my thoughts on the meaning of survival have also changed or what you may say "evolved." Ever since 1859, when Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life, we have learned that the survival of species is dependent on how well a species adapts, or evolves to handle all the threats to life that are constantly present in their environment.
It makes no difference to me whether you believe evolutionary or creationist theories as how the universe works. What I have come to learn is that the function of "stress" -- the beauty and the rush of adrenaline, and cortisol running through our bodies is to prepare us for survival from perceived threats in our environment. I am sure we all know that the immediate "stress" response is "Fight or Flight" witch has only one purpose -- survival!
However I began to question what survival of the species really meant to me as an individual. What did survival mean to me, when I spent so much of my life on "high alert" and hiding my truth? I was never very far from a stress response and ready to fight (verbally for me) or run away from people, dare they ever find out that I was not what I appeared to be. The levels of stress I was feeling internally for decades was ever so slowly taking its toll on being in relationships first and learning how to truly enjoy my life.
I could not understand why the survival of the species required me to hide, to be on constant alert and why this was useful to me as an individual.
In 2007 I read an incredible book that was published in 2001 -- A General Theory of Love by T.Lewis, F. Amini, and R. Lannon that changed my world. They elegantly, eloquently and clearly show how an individual's health and brain growth -- in effect the individual's survival, is dependent on relationships and relatedness, and that as human beings the need to be in relationship with others is part of our physiological evolution! Our emotions, our feelings, our connections with others and our need to be and live who we really are, are all part of our survival needs! In effect, they teach that love has a physiological basis for survival.
Some of us know how good it feels to be held, to be touched, to be cuddled. I am not talking about the culmination of intercourse and orgasm here, but rather that gentle and loving bonding brought by that other hormone -- oxytocin, that does it work slowly and without the rush of adrenaline. It was a pleasant surprise that slow and long lasting love is actually required for survival.
I started to look at survival in a different way. Stress was clearly needed for the clear and present dangers, but love is needed for long-term growth and survival. It was kind of that head-slapping moment for me. The revolutionary idea that I could live my life operating from a place of love more than from a place of stress all the time, began to change my life. Perhaps living my truth was the best way for me to survive! In a sense, over the past eight years I have become a revolutionary and changed the most basic way I live my life.
As a transgender woman who hid my truth for over fifty years, I well know what it is like to choose the path of fear believing that was my only path for survival. I am lucky that choosing to live in my true gender was not my only transition. I have learned to choose the path of love at every fork in the road I face.
Transitions come in many flavors. Some transitions may be simple and we think of them as an organic change or just simple evolution. Sometimes we are not even aware of these transitions. However, many transitions occur because we see them as our only path for survival. The path of fear will drive us to fight or fight or freeze. I have learned that there is always another path to survival and that is the path of love; loving yourself first, and then everyone else. For many this concept is revolutionary. To me, (R)evolutionary Love was my choice for survival.
I offer it for your consideration; it might work for you too!
Grace Stevens is a transgender woman who transitioned at the age of 64 and holds a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology. She is a father of three, grandparent of two, athlete, advocate and author of No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth, an intimate memoir of her personal struggle to transition and live her true life authentically as a woman. Grace is available for speaking about authentic living with Living on-TRACK, and Gender Variance Education and Training. Visit her website at: http://www.graceannestevens.com/. Follow Grace on Twitter: www.twitter.com/graceonboard .