When I manage to quiet the teeth grinding, the shaking and the anxiety of fear, the dance of change can look pretty fascinating. Something I only enjoy on hindsight, but a process that always brings my truth to the surface – fascinating! I am making a life altering decision at 45. Crazy, stupid, idealistic, privileged … brave, exciting, overdue … . Today … just a decision. A leap. The rest … just a guess … .
Over the past couple of weeks as the news of my leaving a job I have held over the past twenty-one years (a lifetime), so many reactions have ensued inside and outside of me. And I was reminded that making the decision is the easiest part – walking the path towards the new reality is quite a different story.
In the fairytales of my youth, the hero meets challenges along her way to becoming that eventually help break the cocoon of the past and give birth to the butterfly of the future. For me, those challenges are represented these days by voices, people and comfort.
My inside voices are a melange of who am I professionally, if not the manager of x?, do I really know anything worth while or was my seniority in one place my one and only plus?, who would hire a 45 year old? would anyone?, where do I even start putting myself out there again? and, most of all, is it allowed that, once again, I change everyone’s life for something only I want?
Outside of me voices come together to praise what I have done, get mad at the surprise and ask so where does that leave me (as if we ever owe each other anything … ), throw empty praises or look at me like I am an alien come from a different planet, giving up a lifestyle some would kill for (for everything looks shiny and nice from the outside looking in).
Making the decision was a long process but not the hardest thing I have had to do. The hardest thing is putting the decision into action, bringing the current situation to a close in a way that maintains bridges and moving on with grace and hope. The hardest thing is (isn’t it always?) to know which voices to listen to and which voices to ignore or sing over.
My only point of comparison for this momentous change in my life is my divorce over a decade ago. Saying I am done with this marriage was the easiest part, enacting it, living with the consequences and voices inside and outside of me was by far the hardest. It is very important to discern where these voices come from. In my case, there were voices inside of me that belonged to my parents, my grandparents, to my “village” and there were voices outside of me that belonged to their owners’ traumas and dreams. And there was only one, often faint, whisper that I could only hear in self imposed stillness – the voice of truth.
Two decades ago when I decided to leave a twelve year old marriage to the father of my child and, as voices outside of me were yelling shame on you for leaving and shame on you for breaking your family for a woman, who would have thought you of all people could do that! and voices inside of me filled me with fear for what may come , for who this person I had become was – for I did not know her – the voice of truth whispered almost imperceptibly keep going, THIS is the right way, the way to yourself is ALWAYS the right way. And it led me to the sunshine of a day in my life that I had given up dreaming about. And to honor the voice that did not let me die, I promised myself to return to it whenever I had a dilema – and never consciously lie to myself again. For otherwise, all the fight would have been in vain.
Today, as I am closing the door on who I have been professionally for the past twenty-one years, fending again voices, standards, shoulds and musts, I find it a bit easier to go back inside and listen to the voice of truth. The whisper seems louder and clearer, easier to spot. Or maybe I just learned the way. And it is telling me I know all you have for the future is hopes and dreams, but this tense has no certainties, just wills and maybes. All you have is present tense and today, all you KNOW is the freedom you crave and the fluttering in your heart at the perspective of a spring. Keep going, THIS is the right way. Same inexplicable certainty that something about this move was meant to be. And the same promise, that going forward, I will honor this voice inside that reminds me I am the most important and that I am a well educated, experienced and passionate professional. And that this is where my value lies, not in working myself to exhaustion.
When I was young(er) I used to think we meet people and they are our forever people. Right away. All of them. I now understand we are lucky if we meet one or two forever people in a lifetime. I am. Very lucky.
Everyone else is with us for a part of the journey. It has been hard (and it continues to be very hard) to leave people behind in my transformation. It is the ultimate exposure for a recovering people pleaser like me to look around and in the mirror and choose the reflection above anyone else. It is both painful and essential, to let go and let be and continue the journey on your own for a while (just until you meet the people who will walk alongside of you for the next phase).
I always wonder if I have left things better than I found them. And need to remind myself every time that, when it comes to my journey companions, it is not just about me, but also about them. And that my only duty in this world is to myself. For the only thing this world really needs is a collection of people who are alive and true.
We all crave comfort. And to some extent, it is understandable – this is the human default. It does get to a point where comfort just keeps us hostage and our growth is stunted. In a previous blog I was recognizing that one of my saving graces has been the nagging voice inside that asked – so, what if there is something better out there?
And because I am human, I always try to stay within the zone of my comfort and make small changes hoping they will bring the breakthrough. And they never do. Because it is either courage or comfort. Never both. And as soon as I remember that my fear is not a directive, just data, that it is a prerequisite to courage, I am prepared to take the leap – the only way to life affirming change.
Today, my stomach is still fluttering and it will probably be doing that for a long while. But drawing on my past and the lessons from so many I follow and learn from, I know the moment will come when, looking back, I understand that leaping forward was the only way – for the cocoon of comfort and sameness would have eventually killed my spirit. And it is only my spirit that brings light into my life, gives birth to hope and love and makes things worth while.