I have always been prone to metaphor. Ask anyone who knows me. So, in this vein, I have been thinking more and more of the changes that occured in my professional life this past year in marriage terms. And I say that I was married for twenty one years to a beautiful institution and that it was a love story. It started with a passion and continued with the triumphs and tribulations of any meaningful relationship. We spent most of our time together, many times we were together in my dreams (and nightmares) and we grew together. The growing just went in different directions at some point. The love was there even when we said goodbye – that made it really hard to part. We remained neighbors and that did not help. I still have to make myself look a different way each time I pass it by, for fear that one day I might just knock on the door and ask for my place back in its life.
In keeping with the metaphor, I can say I have been sleeping around over the past half a year. I threw myself wholeheartedly in relationships only to discover the other party was only after my body, my hard work, not interested in my mind or soul. I went out on dates, skeptical and planning to never call back and discovered I loved the company, built beautiful friendships. I signed off on mutual agreements for the sake of just income. While my heart is still heavy for the marriage I have left, looking back I can see that I learned more about myself in the past seven months of “sleeping around” than in the last seven years of the “marriage”.
The first thing I realized, to my surprise, was that all of that reading, paying attention, listening to people does matter. Many were the people who lifted an eyebrow or rolled their eyes at the time I spent reading, the amount of podcasts I listened to, the coaching, therapy and professional and personal development I invested into. “What is it all for?” – they asked. “This is lala land, it doesn’t apply to your reality.” – they cautioned. The meaning of it all revealed itself over the past few months: it all reinforced me for this time of … limbo. All of this work and renewal helped me understand so much about myself and helped in my constant angst that I am not such a smart person after all. A hard worker and a nerd, yes, a genuinely smart person, no. No false modesty here, just truth.
Over the past months I (re)discovered my family and my home. And not because they had not been there before (after all we worked and learned in the same place daily) but because I had very little mental and heart space for them previously. My professional marriage consumed me. I continue to be busy (after all, sleeping around does take time too) but the lack of constant, 100% professional investment and the ability to create my own schedule has positively influenced my being able to sit with my son and discuss books and homework, walk my dogs at noon without my phone(s), just looking at the sky or letting rain fall on my face, enjoy conversations and jokes with my beloved without pretending I was present. Lately, I have actually been present.
I understood the value (or lack thereof) of so many relationships which portrayed themselves as “friendships” but were in fact just based on need – which is fine as long as it is not disguised as anything else.
I understood that there are people who are truly looking for changemakers and some who only say they are and that my gut is pretty good at spotting them from the first encounter. It will probably take another personal revolution to actually go with my gut at the first signal.
Probably the hardest but the most valuable lesson has been learning to say no. To jobs, when the tune in my head was that I was not providing for my family any longer, to people, when the fear that my phone will never ring again was rampant, to projects, when the prospect of glamor and life in the limelight made me quickly forget that I am an introvert in reality and that something that public would deplete me quicker than I could effect any positive difference.
At the beginning of a new year I find myself at a crossroads once again. And I can see the roads diverging so clearly in front of me. There is the prospect of continuing to “sleep around”, enjoy myself, create my life throught the flow of each day, each project, each idea that comes to the surface. But surface is all I’d get. And there is the prospect of entering another marriage. Wiser, more cautious in some ways, more mature in others, but still a marriage. Also the prospect of keeping close to home, supporting family business, going back to a place I ran away from a long time ago, a different person – will I sink into the past or swim towards the future?
The other day I was telling my beloved, I feel like I am holding all the cards right now and I am so very grateful for this point in my professional life and at the same time so scared. It truly can go either way. It is hard to find the middle ground between cocky and a doormat. The only thing I can think of to do next, is slow down, slow cooker style. I have to make every next step yogalike, putting each toe down on its own, completely present and feeling all of the feels. Life is brutiful!