Monday, May 24, 2010 – Rites of Passage

It’s that time of year…the cool, breezy weather of spring has transitioned into the balmy and warm days of summer.  Kids are closing their school books and jumping in the pool.  Families are leaving their homes and heading for the open road, sandy beaches or trips abroad.  And brides-to-be are picking wedding dresses and tasting hors d’oeuvres in preparation for the transition from Ms. to Mrs.   

This year, amongst the high school and college graduations of relatives and the children of friends, was my little Catie.  Over the years, I watched her transition from a bright toddler to a curious but determined child to a smart but messy teenager. And this weekend, I got to witness her transition to adulthood. She graduated with a B.S. in Geology from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. During the past few days, her parents and I spent many moments telling “Catie” stories, which resulted in her lowering her head and sighing or just briefly walking away until the moment of embarrassment was over.

Fireworks went off when Cathryn Scott Philabaum was born…because she was born on July 2nd.  Her parents, Margaret Scott and Eric Philabaum, and I became friends while working in the hotel business. Catie was born…and I was asked, for the first time, to be a god parent. (NOTE: I now am a god parent for a small village for Catie was soon followed by Sterling Lawrence Daniels, Nubia Imani Sykes, Kenya Nia Sykes and Zaire Amir Xavier Sykes.)

Signs of intelligence and determination came early with Cate.  She would get a certain expression on her face when she was trying to figure out things.  And she declared at a very early age that she wanted to be president of the EPA.  And look who’s now a geologist!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about all of the rites of passages we travel during our time here on Earth.  There are so many types and phases that can occur.  Some are wonderful celebrations and some are painful experiences.  Over 50 years ago, French ethnographer Arnold van Gannep, describes three steps in the passage: separation, transition and re-incorporation. 

  • Separation is leaving the old world, role or persona, in preparation for the new. 
  • Transition is, of course, the phase in between the two worlds.
  • Re-incorporation is re-entering in to the world in a new persona once the transition is complete.

Rites of passage can be tough.  Poor Cate had to maneuver the passage of graduation along with the stress, anxiety and expectations of her parents meeting her boyfriend’s parents for the first time.  Which is how life is.  Sometimes we have several passages traveling along side or colliding into each other!

So, I’ve come up with some basic Rules of Passage to go along with the Rites.

  • Cuts ALWAYS Hurt – The first step of separation is probably going to hurt somebody.  It may be you or it may be those around you..or both.  Be prepared for a range of emotions. 
  • Be Here – The ride from old to new is very important.  Stay present as much as possible and don’t get lost in or distracted by what’s going on around you.  Taking time to recognize where you are in the journey helps you keep the lessons from the past that will be helpful in the new world.  It also gives you time to mentally, physically and spiritually, prepare for the new world.
  • Embrace Your Arrival –  Once you have transitioned, take stock again of where your are in the journey.  Understand why the passage was necessary.  And if you haven’t done so throughout the passage, talk through your feelings with a trusted and close friend.  Processing your emotions is cathartic and may also strengthen your friendship.  Above all, understand that rites of passage are opportunities for God to prepare and take us to our next level of growth. 

I have always been a fan of Mary J Blige.  She came onto the scene back in the early 90’s as a young girl from the projects who had a voice strong enough to handle Sweet Thing, an old Rufus and Chaka Khan song.

MJB on the 1st album/CD, What's the 411?

Her voice carried with it a style of her own, an echo of singers from the past and years of painful relationships and situations.  And I still listened to her songs when she got bad press for her rude attitude.  But as a new millenium approached, things changed.  There was more hope in the lyrics.  Even the song and CD titles reflected the change…Breakthrough….Growing Pains.  The music changed, too.  The songs were no longer just urban anthems such as Real Love – Mary was starting to stretch her talent to tackle songs like U2’s One.  And as she spoke about the songs and CD’s, evidence of the rites of passage were obvious.  Cutting herself free from drugs and the people from that world…finding a different way to manager her life and her career…and finally arriving as a new woman experiencing life and love as she never has before. 

Mary J, Catie, and I are ready for our next level of growth.  Are you?

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