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Reinvention vs Transformation

Hopefully this pic won't get me arrested

I’m focusing on transformation this month at RillPOWER- well, every month, actually, because that is pretty much the foundation of the whole mission here. But this month we’re doing it in a special way.

Last week I visited Bedford, NY with my girlfriend. Bedford is a charming town, but we weren’t there to see the sights- only one specific site: Martha Stewart’s house. The photo for this post will probably get me arrested for trespassing. Normally I wouldn’t have done this, but I actually got out of the car and walked up a little bank to the wall to peek over. I can’t believe it myself…

I was looking right at Martha’s oft-photographed, castle-like stables. Once the shock and awe wore off, I just took in the moment. The thought hit me that Martha earned all of this after her divorce, after her incarceration; basically, after her successes would theoretically have stopped coming. To think of the level of resilience that she has is humbling.

For those of you who aren’t uber fans of Ms. Stewart (I have every issue of her magazine ever printed- so I am…) here is a brief timeline.

  1. Marries, buys bucolic old farmhouse in Westport, Connecticut (we drove there afterwards!!)

  2. Starts catering parties and eventually becomes a sought after caterer and events planner.

  3. Becomes a lifestyle brand by just doing everything better than the rest of us. (HINT: she does everything better because of her extreme curiosity and willingness to learn from others.)

  4. Divorces

  5. Continues to grow her business into what we might call, oh, just an EMPIRE: Martha Stewart Omnimedia. PS- she soon became a billionaire. A self-made billionaire. Despite divorce, despite her relatively humble, middle class beginnings. She did it on her own.

  6. Does time in prison, which must have sucked.

  7. After her release, she took a brief step back from being the public face of MSO, but then returned bigger than ever. She continues to grow and reinvent herself and her little ol’ EMPIRE. C’mon- did you ever think she would partner with Snoop Dogg?!

Martha’s existence points to this fact: at best, transformation is a continual process. We idealize that moment when the caterpillar larvae turns into a beautiful butterfly as being the epitome of transformation. But then what? That’s it- the butterfly is done changing and dies soon after, anywhere from two days to 12 months, depending on the species.

How many times have you set a goal and reached it and then that was it? Did you go farther? Did you not want to or did you not even think about it?

Sometimes the goal or the impetus behind the changes we make was not something we set for ourselves. I didn’t want to get divorced, and suddenly, there I was. Lots of women embrace the concept of reinvention after the end of their marriage.

My argument is this: transformation and reinvention might not be the same thing. And, timing is everything.

Madonna is the embodiment of reinvention. Every song, every video was different. She could be anything and often was. Whether for artistic expression or plain old shock value, we never knew what she would do or who she would kiss next. Oops.

In the same vein, lots of women visit Santa Fe for the culture, art, etc. Many of them come for our annual festivals and look like they just arrived by stagecoach. Giant squash blossom necklaces, serapes, bolero hats. They look like Josey Wales’ sister and you just know they don’t dress that way when they’re home in Minneapolis.

There is nothing wrong with this, in fact, many of us creative types often change up our living spaces, hair color, wardrobe, whatever to express ourselves. But don’t mistake mere changing your wardrobe or your job for deep transformation. External reinvention is like putting on a different hat- the outside has changed, but we’re playing a role, not becoming the role.

After divorce, reinvention is celebrated and we are almost pressured to do it. Suddenly there we are- one day buying a motorcycle, one day planning a trip to Indonesia, one day moving to Tuscany. These are great things but they are at first, external things. Bucket list items alone won't uncover the essence of ourselves unless we undertake them with an open, curious and vulnerable heart and mind. Until we have an intention to go within, bucket list items will only leave us seeking the next item on our reinvention to do list.

I look at it this way: reinvention is a series of experiences, changes, or situations that we make, but we are looking at them all through the same lens, the same expectations, the same perspective. The experiences change, but we essentially haven’t. At the core, we are still the same woman, still rising out of that initial occurrence that pushed us kicking and screaming down the road to reinvention in the first place.

Transformation is growing from one self-discovery to the next, continually building on our energy to practice life in an evolving way. It isn’t linear mind you, transformation might call for us to backtrack once in a while, but hopefully we see the repeat experience with new eyes.

Reinvention and transformation can certainly take us to the same end point. If you want to become an attorney, a virtual assistant or an actress, you can choose either path. I believe that authentic transformation will feel more like you and be far more fulfilling. Feelings of worth are a clue: if you’re thinking your life is pretty good but don’t quite feel like you totally deserve it you might not be experiencing the beauty of transformation.

Transformation is realizing the power of our choice and our thoughts to shape our lives and staying conscious of the energy exchanges we make. The starting point is crucial to this journey. In my book, Love It Go, I touch on how reinventing as revenge or reinventing without releasing the pain you’re in can lead to some false starts. The false starts can feel like failures, even though they really aren’t.

On the transformation road, the only failure is stopping. There is no endpoint of transformation. It is infinite, just like our being.