A friend was explaining that S-curve diagram to me last week, the one, when it’s drawn, that looks like an S that fell forward and is lying on its stomach. Or you can think of it this way – it can also look like the hill from that Hugh Grant movie, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain.
If this was a food blog I would insert 6-8 photos here of me drawing this out on a post-it pad. Alas, I’ll have to settle for an important looking italicized mini-paragraph here and suggest you’ll have to plug in your imagination!
The point about this S-curve/English hill diagram is that we all expect to peak in life. That is, we go up the left side of the hill, hit the top of that hill, but then we expect to go down the right side – eventually – and decline downward, and “die.” Our life, our spouse, our job, our health, you name it, things just simply come to an end. We peak and then…slowly down the hill we slide in to the “end.”
That’s true, things do come to an end, but the hopeful part of this S-curve theory is that somewhere near that peak we can step up – either just before it or at the top of it or just after it – and make changes that re-start that S-curve again. We can, in effect, stop the decline and reinvent our life at a certain point. We no longer are required to go down the right side, but instead a new peak can come to life and spring out to the right, and then we head for a new peak…and then a new peak…and then a new peak….
My consultant husband says this is the Sigmoid Curve and what I just described is called “jumping the S curve” in consultant-speak. Aiy! Where’s that post-it pad and a Sharpie!
Anyway, in my friend’s office, as she drew that diagram out on a whiteboard, I noticed one thing and decided another. What I noticed is that my friend had a valuable insight about me as she took her dry erase marker and drew a little line just past the peak of that hill-diagram and stated, “This was probably you, at your former job. You had probably peaked and you were going down the other side.” (She’s an enneagram 8 so she speaks bluntly like that. ☺)
In a flash, I knew something to be true: two years ago I was saved by a little line that got inserted on my S-curve, even though I didn’t choose it. That line on the diagram saved me from staying where I was, in a decades long successful career in Christian radio that I really liked, although feeling a bit under-challenged by it, definitely more and more out of alignment with the management’s professional values and fundamentalist spirituality. That excruciating “Surprise! Your show is cancelled and you’re all being let go!” was actually a little line drawn just past the peak of my English-style hill…and a gift.
I softly said that to my friend. “The line was a gift.” And she smartly replied, “It is if you want it to be. Some people don’t want it to be.” And then I decided: even though the last two years had been all things grief and anger and rest and confusion and loss of personal and professional identity and lots of journaling, swearing, crying out to God while squished on the floor of my closet, weekly counseling, and all of Gilmore Girls, Hart of Dixie, Cedar Cove, and it’s-me-and-the-dog crazy-making long days of winter, I was absolutely going to call it. The line was a gift, and I was going to make sure it remained a gift, and work to enjoy every bit of that gift from now until I couldn’t stop from sliding down the hill. In other words, when it’s time to call the cemetery.
For me, enjoying that gift means two things: being absolutely sold on reinventing, and, actively experimenting. It’s not time for me to go down the right side of the hill yet. So I’m flinging out to the right of that little line my friend drew on the S-curve, and I’m shaping my life into another S-curve. I’m staring at another softly rising peak of which I have no understanding at this point in the experiment. But I know I’m one of the lucky ones. Have you ever been lucky like that too? The unwelcome line was a gift.