The Architecture of Reinvention

I love a remodel. I love the before and after photos of old houses and television programs on HGTV. I love magazine makeover articles about women who have let themselves go and decide to take themselves back. I love second marriages (that stick). I love second careers and reclaimed identities when the nest empties. I love the reinvention of a grownup going back to school. I love comebacks and transformations, rehab and redemption, and the endless possibility of a do-over-whether it’s a person, a building, a relationship, a decision, a direction, a spiritual path, or a career.

I have been in several transition zones in my life. Each time I was utterly terrified, but also electrified with energy. Transition zones become construction zones to growth-minded souls. What looks like ruin becomes renovation, and what looks like the compost of one's life becomes fertilizer for next season’s harvest. What looks like the end is always another beginning, just ask the tadpole or the caterpillar as they learn to hop and fly. Ask the phoenix, as it unfolds its wings from the ashes and emerges — reborn — from the fire. (P.S: If I ever have the urge to get a tattoo, it would be a phoenix.)

In the midst of a transition/construction zone it’s easy to lose hope and heart. In the same way that ripping out old cabinets and tile, peeling aged wallpaper and tearing down walls creates debris and dust, the remodeling of a life creates so much mess before the hidden vision begins to appear.

There are very few things I love more than to roll up my sleeves and put on my hard-hat and walk with someone into their life renovation. I’m going back to school to become a therapist, but what I would really love to be is a “Transitional Consultant,” if there were such a thing. Maybe I will invent it. I always want to know the bigger picture; Who do you want to be on the other side of this? Tell me about yourself over there, afterwards. Who are you? What are you like? How do you spend your time? What is your dream? If the shackles of fear fell off, who would you be and what would you do if you were totally unencumbered? What might you need in order to get there? Amazing lives aren’t built by default, they are built with direction, diligence and dedication.

Most people (including me, once upon a time) haven’t thought much about renovating their lives, because all their energy is consumed with fearing the wrecking ball and the bulldozers, or bottlenecked by their stubborn resistance to a redo. They wander in circles in a state of stunned inertia, overwhelmed by the mess of it all. Unlike a house where we have an architect and a builder, and are armed with a crew and a plan, we often go empty-handed, empty-hearted and empty-headed into the remodel of our life. It can feel like too much just to get through the day, let alone have a vision about tomorrow.

In times like this we all need architects: a therapist, a friend, a mentor, a guide, a guru, or a wise counselor to help us see beyond ourselves and beyond our present circumstances. We need someone to help us decide which walls need to stay put in our remodel, so we don’t lose the stability and charm of our original frame and foundation. We also need to know which walls should come down, so our rooms can open up and life inside can freely flow. With some thoughtful design, we can install more doors and windows to let in the light — and the love.

Unlike new construction, the beauty of a remodel is in selecting and retaining the finest and most functional attributes of the old and blending them beautifully with the vision of the new. The result is a place both intimately known and undeniably different. Just the kind of place you would want to call home.


Illustration by Joy Gallagher


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