I’ve been getting sick this week. And when I’m getting sick, its fairly common for me to get all angsty and introspective and weepy before I realise what’s happening. Which I did. All about the FUTURE and where I was headed, and WHAT exactly I was going to do with my life now that I’ve voluntarily stepped out of a regular workplace and wage for an undefined time period and chosen to spend more time at home.
Sitting in (and enjoying) the moment is sometimes the hardest thing to do. In my vulnerable state I was craving some certainty, my head filled with what ifs, with all the things I don’t know, can’t know, and certainly can’t predict. This is when the journey is hard. Frightening. Discomfiting. It’s hard to pull over to the side of the road and take a directionless pause, while every one else appears to be whizzing along merrily, going somewhere.
I felt panicky. My internal narrative telling me: I don’t know where I’m headed. I don’t have enough clarity or enough that I can cling on to. There’s nothing for me to hang on to keep me from slipping under. No answers. Nothing for sure.
Or maybe there is.
Because where I am is where I want to be. This I know for sure. My home is the home I want. My kids and my husband are the kids and husband I want. My lifestyle is the one I want. The jeans I get to wear every day, and the office politics I don’t have to deal with every day. The energy to parent. The sense of hope and possibility, the creativity and the space. These are all the things I want.
But I struggle to sit comfortably with this. The messages around me are often saying something different; telling me I should be earning more, contributing to the economy more, planning for a future I can’t really control or predict. The news is filled with our need to prepare for the future. The mortgages, the pensions, the insurance policies, the kids’ university fees….There’s an uncomfortable tension with where I’m at right now. Today I am alive. I (usually) have my health, I have a home, I have my family.
The need to plan feels stifling. Full of ‘shoulds’ – the worst reason I can imagine to do anything right now. But when I’m not planning ahead, I get engulfed by waves of shame. Shame that I don’t know how it’s all going to work out. Shame that I am about as uncertain as I’ve ever been in my life, and definitely haven’t got a handle on it. Shame for floundering, for not knowing, for thinking and thinking but coming up with a blank. I get impatient for the comfort of certainty.
As I so often do, I’m borrowing from Brene Brown to help me make sense of all this. She writes about foreboding joy in Daring Greatly – the intense and deep vulnerability we experience when we love something or someone so deeply and fiercely that we realise what we have to lose – an overwhelming realisation that leads us to start panicking and imagining the horrors that could take that person or thing away from us. I have a bit of that right now. Life is good. In fact, it’s as good as its ever been. The kids are bigger and less draining, our work on the house is done, I’ve found some freedom from a working life that was sapping my soul. In so many ways I am where I want to be right in the here and now. And in many ways that makes me more vulnerable than I’ve ever been before. NOW is sweet. Now is where I want to be. And ridiculously, that’s unsettling as hell. It’s new and a it’s bit unfamiliar, but (when I let myself) I think I like it.
I’ve plunged myself into a brave new world of uncertainty of the like I’ve never ever experienced before. I’ve spent the best part of a year NOT knowing, after a life time of knowing more or less exactly where I was headed. It still makes me light headed, vertiginous even, thinking about that. But by not knowing, I’ve probably learned more than I have in a very long time. I’ve got clearer about my values and priorities, braver about sitting in the here and now, being seen for who I am rather than what I do. It’s sweet, it’s scary, it feels risky. But maybe anything worth doing should make us feel that way?